Sounding

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Miss Dinky up close

by on Oct.27, 2010, under listening

The call burst across as I was sitting in the datacenter.

“LIHSTEN MAHN!” came the south London accent, and I could barely discern the tones of a minimal dubby Dirk Diggler broken beat track that I used to play all the time back on the turntables we had set up at the office… “IT’S TAHT ‘UN TRAC OO PLAHAY.”

When I walked into this place somewhere in SoHo, there were beams of light being reflected from everywhere around me. In every conceivable surface was plastered thousands of square mirrors, and opposite the back of the bar to the immediate left was the woman herself, Miss Dinky, in the midst of another one of my favorite deep house tracks I was currently dropping back home, very likely Hakan Lidbo or something of that sort.

Naturally this wasn’t even the first time I had heard of her. In fact, living in Chicago at the time I only knew her from the select vinyl releases I picked up downstairs at Reckless Records. Working occasionally in New York meant I could be close to that part of the dance music scene at the same time, so it was an exciting event to actually run into Dinky at a bar-cum-club no larger than your average corner deli.

Recently I’ve been listening to the beats on Anemik and they remind me of that night, grabbing the cab downtown to go where I knew one of my weirdly found idols of techno was spinning that very night in a tiny location nobody else knew about. Actually, it’s a strange coincidence this same friend of mine and I happened upon Deep Dish at a similarly tiny club in Chicago… but that’s for another blog and another glass of chartreuse.

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Downtempo from the Studio

by on Mar.17, 2009, under Craque, listening

I’ve set up a set in Soundcloud called “Downtempo Excursions” to post some sonic paintings created with free improvisation and minimal beats.

Let me know what you think! These are sort of what I’d call “composting” of materials, kaleidoscopically tapestristic, experimentally structured.

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i don’t know how to do anything

by on Mar.02, 2009, under Craque, creativity, listening

at times i get overwhelmed by possibilities. the details drag me down, and i lose sight of the path. what causes this?

for instance, what music do i choose to write? do i use electro-acoustic elements, or do i stick to raw sound design? do these ways of working always produce the same results, even though i cannot hear them? do i limit myself by focusing on a working method that could easily shift into tunnelvision? why is it i think like this in the first place, because i hear opportunities of sound in what others are doing? because, hey, that’s a great sound, why didn’t i think of that?

we artists ask these questions. it takes a lot of self-confidence to go out there and sell yourself, but i’m still not sure what it is i do that makes my music what it is. i certainly try to find unique, DIY, individual ways of doing things, but i turn the corner and find someone building it better. some of the electronics instrument/effects building going on around the electronica community blows me away.

but what makes the music change? how does it develop? we’re moving into a world where musical styles – and listening – is more and more splayed, there are almost as many “genres” as there are individuals making music.

there is still something in the music that grabs the mind. it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what “inspiration” or “genius” a particular piece contains, to different folks these mean completely different things. i usually can’t locate it in my own work, i certainly don’t know where it happens or how to identify it. regardless, it shows up.

so, in a very real way, it doesn’t matter what it is i do, or how i do it, just that it is me doing it, in the most genuine way i can.

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New improvisations on SoundCloud

by on Feb.21, 2009, under Craque, listening, Music Tech

Freely improvised one-takes. Instrumentation includes homebuilt instruments, sampled objects and looping hardware.

This music sharing site is a great tool for posting various non-published tracks, as well as released stuff, and has a nice embeddable player and comment system. Really nice for being able to just slap some stuff up, I have one friend who has recently been doing the same with sessions on his new Serge Modular Creature, and another who posted “in progress” snapshots of a track he is working on.

Feel free to download and remix, just give the proper attribution. 🙂

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My best 24 hours of music in 2008

by on Jan.05, 2009, under External, listening

I like to make myself feel as if I’m somehow close to the elusive community of electronic music. My problem, however, is that I am way too interested in multiple facets of music releases to pay attention in any style for very long. I seek out what really turns my ear, the gems of sound that are unique statements of purpose or individuality. Since I desire great pieces of listening, I spend time searching for it, which means I listen to a lot of not so great things too, and that goes double for netlabels. Needless to say I associate my music activities in a very close circle, I do very fringe stuff, really of a limited appeal on the grand scheme of things. My listening is only very more or less fringey than that, but I thought, well hell why not, I listen to all this music I may as well review it (however briefly) and share my twisted sense of what’s good music to the dozen people who bother to look at my blog (and if you do, i thank you for at least being interested). And yes you guessed it, listening to all 24 albums shown here will take you almost exactly 24 hours. So enjoy!

Autistici : Volume Objects : 12K
Subtle explorations of sound relationships and rhythm, blending elements of recognizable instruments and easy going synth gestures with elegantly placed electro-acoustic underpinning. I imagine a conductor with the most supreme control of his sonic elements, swirling around in a glaze.

Various : Favorite Places : Audiobulb
A wonderful concept! Recordings and compositions from favorite places of the included artists, a very personal record, wide in breadth. Equal parts phonography and arranged constructions, in some cases I feel like I become part of that place. Eerie and magical.

Ellen Allien : Sool : BPitch Control
Count this one as a surprise indeed. I’m used to a heavier hand when it comes to bpitch and this gal, so a well-crafted minimal techno album with some actual musical interest was the last thing I expected. The tunes are understated but driven in a way that especially matches the style, engaging but never harsh.

He Can Jog : Middlemarch : Audiobulb
There is a finesse with which HCJ can blend noise and consonance that’s infectious and maybe just a little frightening. He shares the same ranks with other electro-acoustic artists here that like a tasty blend of percussion with their textures, and I think he does it quite excellently with a sparing amount of sugar on top.

Ilkae : Light Industry : Eerik Inpuj Sound
Just one person now, Ilkae has released one heck of an outing that mixes pure abstract expressionism with a smattering of melodies and structures that stick in my ear until I’m humming it when I wake up in the morning. LSK and Magnesium are both choice cuts.

Proswell : Cyclothymia : Eerik Inpuj Sound
Over 65 tracks between 0 and 6 minutes. Inspired miniatures, fully rounded songs, brief brightly colored sketchings; some of the best work he’s done to date. A lot of the songs appeared in a podcast over the course of the year, but it is great to have a full collection of them under one cover. Randomized listening highly recommended.

Various : Format : Fällt
Along the same lines of the miniatures Proswell and Ilkae (and myself, inspired by thus) have done, one of my favorite pieces of this comp is Tonne’s “Paper/Pixels”: a corrugated 71 tracks at only 7 seconds or less apiece, from tiny little beats looped once to bursts of noise or nearly silence. Taylor Deupree and FourColor also stand out on this one, wonderful collection!

Tape : Luminarium : Häpna
Polished construction and structure, with a perfect balance of acoustic and electric. These guys know how to make an ensemble be an ensemble and not just a band trying to add computers. The compositional acumen stands on its own in a collection of poignant, soft melodies and instrumentation that I haven’t quite heard before in this context. Looking forward to more from this gang.

Various : Magnetism, That Electricity… : HighPoint LowLife
All the HPLL artists shine on this comp, but I especially like the dark analog synth contributions of Fink Industries (check out the remixes of his tracks too) and the contrasting bubbly lift of The Marcia Blaine School for Girls. There is such a wide range of styles on here that it’s difficult to describe, but it’s fantastic listening with a tropical forest of influences and approaches.

Anders Ilar : Sworn : Level
Moving to the 4×4 side of things, a flawlessly constructed set of tracks. Haunting would be a good word to describe the melodies and dub feel, but really it’s just good smooth techno with a nice groove and peppered funky.

Various : Terminal : Narita
This does have an Ilar track on it that could have easily been on Sworn, but it features so many other great techno folks that it deserves a place on my list for sure. Not to mention it’s supposedly the very last release from the depths of Merck/Narita. I like working in the garden with this one thumping out to me… Senior Frio, Blamstrain, Arctic Hospital, Brothomstates, Yard, Adam Johnson… grow plants grow!

Byetone : Death of a Typographer : Raster-Noton
I was pleasantly surprised when hearing this mechanical beast roar in my studio. Pure waveforms have become the subject of extreme grooves and almost downright hooky harmonic form. It’s good to hear these guys move on from their surgical masturbation to something more substantial. I’m all for delicate glass soundscapes but you can only have so many before the personality is literally worn thin.

Ø : Oleva : Sähkö
There are times when blocks of sound and imagined landscapes go hand in hand. Just wonderfully alien and funky, stuff that makes your torso vibrate. Contains probably my favorite Pink Floyd cover ever; “set the controls for the heart of the sun” is perfect for brooding, dark-sparked audio.

Various : Round Black Ghosts : ~scape
I have to be honest, the output of this label has been questionable for the past few years, so it’s good to hear this collection of experimentally tinged and dub-inspired dance grooves. Pole stands out of course, but 2562’s “Channel Two” is probably my favorite.

Juxta Phona & OffTheSky : !Escape Kit! : Somnia

Unquestionably the best new thing to come out of Evan Bluetech’s new label. There is a hefty amount of experimentalism balanced out by beats, supported by (of course) a dub atmosphere, but further punctuated by a free jazz influence. Right up my alley, the vibraphone work is especially sublime. Somnia has turned out not to be a hyper-ambient thing like I feared, I’m encouraged by the diversity of their CD’s so far, and I love the beautiful packaging. Some of the only CDs I still buy, in fact.

Brassica : Microvictories : Tartaruga
Another CD I had to buy because of the packaging, Calika recommended this album, calling it the best thing he had heard this year. As you can see I had a hard enough time narrowing things down to 24, so naming something numero uno isn’t really my bag. However, I absolutely love the approach in this music. The same sort of collage-inspired acousmatic blending but with his own unique voice in a way that draws you into what’s happening, and before you know it the album is over. And you get an oragami turtle with it! How awesome is that?

D’incise : Les Restes du Festin : Test Tube

This music reminds me the most of music school, I’m not sure why. I think there is a connection with composers I studied that made a subliminal crossing to the work of d’incise, but it could be the natural fluidity of the sound that works the most like a classical string quartet. I enjoy the fact that he uses less beats but arrives at the same atmosphere as earlier albums, carrying the listener along in what seems to be a storyline that never quite reveals itself.

Fennesz : Black Sea : Touch
Finally a Fennesz I can listen to all the way through without thinking it was on repeat the whole time. There is a lot more diversity in this record than any other, showing a real willingness to develop beyond the distorted-guitar-drone rut. I’ve heard other die-hard Fennesz fans poo-poo this album, so it’s interesting I think it’s more mature than others. It’s similar to how I think Murcof has grown, I’m looking forward to what he’s doing this year as well.

Portishead : Third : Universal Island
Uniquely spectacular in their own way. It thrills me to no end that they employed their own studio recordings for this instead of the sample-based thing. Not that Dummy isn’t the best triphop album ever, but they’ve shown here that the band is really a group with something musical to say, not just push out badass basslines. Beth Gibbons has the most sultry voice ever, I cannot get enough of her inflection.

Autechre : Quaristice : Warp
Say what you will, the “bonus” CD for this album is so much better than the “original version” of the tracks. I think it’s an amazing escape into surreal dancescapes and fractured electro, it’s very mature and non-egotistic Booth’n’Brown just having fun and making some cool ass tunes. The reason people hate these guys for doing things like this is because they won’t drop their expectations and just listen to the sound, and want it all to be like 1997 again.

Flying Lotus : Los Angeles : Warp
What I had always wished Prefuse73 was. And now I no longer have to! Artists who pull out just the right elements of hip hop that I like and pull it threadbare through an electronics sieve are A-OK in my book. It also helps this is not an hour of the same approach to beatcutting and voice splicing over and over again. I concede people are into that. I’m not.

Deadbeat : Roots and Wire : Wagon Repair
If you couldn’t tell there is a definitely swing towards the reggae side of things in my library. Swelling basslines and rim snaps, echoes filtering every which way, the sort of limping I love most. What starts off as a minimalistic break-beaty sort of dancehall album assuredly melts into easy rolling dubhouse. I think it’s the most well put together Deadbeat of any.

Letna : Tisza Meets Dunav : Zymogen
Ah some of the most beautiful drones of the year. Very popular this style, it’s only really successful when done with detail and depth. This album imagines me drifting between layers of impossibly smokey silk.

Jimmy Behan : In the Sudden Distance : Zymogen
A sort of minimal chamberwork, with an unevenness and simplicity that mingles the sound as if it belonged there the whole time. Definitely ambient, but more personal than a pure drone album, with smaller spaces and more intricacy.

Some others worth mentioning:

Implex Grace : Through Luminescent Passages (I & II)
HRSTA : Ghosts Will Come Kiss Our Eyes
Hol Baumann : Human
Fly Pan Am : Ceux Qui Inventent N’Ont Jamis Vecu
Evan Marc + Steve Hillage : Dreamtime Submersible
Electricwest : Divine de Vice
Alva Noto : UNITXT
Wilder Gonzales Agreda : Se Tu Propio Totem
Trivium : Shogun
Tanox : Astronomia de Balcon
Secret Chiefs 3 : Xaphan: Book of Angels Vol. 9
op.cit. : Under the Sweel
naw : vague terrain 10: digital dub
Motionfield : Optical Flow
Model 500 : Starlight remixes
Lone : Lemurian
Various : Dame Citrus

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Coming soon… Craque on Audiobulb

by on Dec.17, 2008, under Craque, listening

So my new full-length album, Supple, will be released by Audiobulb in March of 2009. Ain’t that awesome! It’s a real honor to be joining in the ranks of Autistici, HeCanJog, Ultre, Calika, and so many others.

Months have gone by (actually, no, YEARS) where I have absorbed things, seen new parts of the world, learned new techniques, sought out what’s further; and this album evolved alongside me. The entire work has grown from single tracks and loose groupings to continuity and connection through thematic reverberation, it’s been fun and full of discovery. There are parts which stand alone but don’t feel complete without the context, it’s a “large work” in every sense of the word. I even managed to squeeze a few vocal bits in there – yes! my voice! real melody!

Look out for it in March, 2009. Craque: Supple.

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DataCent Failed HD Sound Library

by on Nov.17, 2008, under External, listening, Music Tech

Check this out… DataCent, a data recovery company, has started a catalog of common sounds heard on failing hard drives, and it covers multiple vendors and situations where things can be heard going terribly wrong. Best of all, they give full permission to use the samples as long as you contact them about it.

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Craque: Gamma out now on Test Tube

by on Nov.04, 2008, under Craque, External, listening

Photo by Kamaco

October brought many exciting things for me, including not only a new job, but also a new album that I’m very excited about. The Test Tube netlabel is featuring this new release, called Gamma.

Six tracks, mostly beat-driven, of downtempo styled expressionism ripe with electro-acoustic improvisation; acousmatica for the brainwaves.

I was also honored to have Matt Mercer (of Microfilm) write up the release on Under the Lens, here’s an excerpt from the full article:

Craque [is] a project of highly abstract instrumental electronic music that often defies easy categorization. He’s not afraid of melody or traditional rhythm, even at times can lay down a healthy groove, but most of his music is characterized by heavily processed and manipulated sounds derived from everyday objects. Typically, though, these sounds are far removed from the source and take on a weird, synthetic life of their own.

Also from the release page:

…Craque assaults our senses with an eclectic amalgam of rich rhythmic patterns that derivate from dub, hip hop, techno and other urban languages, but instead of driving us straight to the physical emotion center, they drive us to the ‘braindance’ center… Excellent and extremely elegant electronic music.

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Craque: “Tekuchesti” out now on Constanta

by on Oct.03, 2008, under Craque, listening

I’m very happy to announce the release of a project I did this summer called Tekuchesti (a transliteration of текучести, which is a Russian word meaning “fluidity”), a piece in shuffle time for listeners and improvisers.

Download the entire work, and remember to listen on shuffle. Weird request you say? Read the liner notes below for more detail…

Please also visit the release page at Constanta and check out the other artists on this new boutique netlabel, which features some unique approaches to the microsound/glitch/experimental/drone genres; beauty through subtlety and simplicity. I personally enjoy op.cit.’s and To4ka.Dna’s most recent releases.

Here is my description and instructions for performance (these notes are also available in Russian through Constanta):

In tectonics, slices of the earth can be reduced bit by bit to their constituents, all in motion consistent with the plate. Below these fractured mantle pieces is a thick world of geology: elemental chemical reactions, intense temperature changes, varying strata of materials. There may be violent upheaval or capitulation of forces, or just still and silent veins of metal. If we could travel as a massless beings through the earth to the antipodal, each layer of Hell opens not a Dantean dream, but a surreal tour of random pockets describing the origin of the solar system.

Tekuchesti represents “fluidity” in physics, describing instability or fluid states. The piece consists of constructions mostly taken from free electro-acoustic improvisations, first recorded to create large elemental plates of experience, and secondly edited and combined into subdivisions of space. There were no structural or material limitations placed on the recording or editing of the improvisations, they simply happened.

Just as there are myriad structures and surprise events, there are the lack of these events, represented by the isochrons; dating scatterplots of history, constructions made from the lack of material to represent that which has passed on. The sonic architecture of each isochron in this piece is taken from relationships found in the five Platonic (or “perfect”) solids, found everywhere in nature, above and below the crust.

This piece is meant to be played in random order, where the slices intermingle anew each time to create an emergent form. Playing it in order will reveal some of the underlying structure, and is a perfectly acceptable way of listening – the shapes of the plates become much more clear, but it is an altogether different listening experience. Improvisers are encouraged to play along as well, but if done in a live context, it must be played on shuffle, as this will give the improvisers less expectation of what sounds will appear.

The work also ties in an immediate tectonic experience: I live only 10 miles from the epicenter of the 5.4 magnitude earthquake which hit the LA area on July 29, just shortly before the album was finalized. It also represents the “solid ground” – both as shared vision and literal Earth – between me and the constanta-label.ru headquarters in Perm, Russia.

Constanta on the web: http://constanta-label.ru
Constanta on myspace: http://www.myspace.com/constantalabel

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