Current Favorites: Cooked Viola and Buddha Machines, Thawing Ice

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them.

▰ On the double album If Not Now, released at the very end of 2020, Meredith Bates sends her violin and viola through a range of processing, yielding echoes and textures, layers and atmospheres, stutters and breakage. It somehow manages to be both intimate and orchestral at the same time. Bates is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.


▰ Three field recordings of what’s going on under the ice, captured by Ivo Vicic of Rijeka, Croatia, on Under the Ice – Secret Sounds of Nature. As Vicic describes it, what we’re hearing is a water stream, amomg other activity, recorded at a lake that has frozen over during the winter. Released earlier this month. (Thanks for the recommendation, Patricia Wolf!)


▰ In a 10-minute live video, Poland-baed Grzegorz Bojanek makes rough-hewn ambient music in realtime with a handful of Buddha Machines and effects pedals. Even if you’re entirely familiar with the source audio, you’ll be enchanted by the new territories Bojanek explores.


▰ The cacophonous fragility of Marcus Fischer’s mid-February “Thawing” is a field recording made during the Portland, Oregon, winter. Writes Fischer of the brief track: “Thawing ice releasing itself and falling from a large oak tree onto the snow-covered street below.”

Dobrawa Czocher x Deutsche Grammophon Project XII

The Polish cellist contributes to the monthly series


The Deutsche Grammophon label, its bright yellow logo long associated with the warhorses of the repertoire, has been exercising its experimental impulses in various ways, like the excellent “Recomposed” reworkings of Bach and Vivaldi by, respectively Peter Gregson and Max Richter, and more recently the Project XII series. Project XII introduces a newly commissioned composition each month for the year, and then collects them into an album at year’s end. It’s run twice thus far, in 2019 (which included a piece by Rachel Grimes, a pivotal early figure in the overlap of indie rock and classical) and 2020 (which included a piece by Christina Vantzou), and we’re now three months into 2021, a highlight of which is “Timelines” by Dobrawa Czocher, the Polish cellist. It’s a gorgeous, sweeping work, slowly flowing layers of cello wafting over each other in a state of classic minimalism repose.

Video originally posted at YouTube.

Current Favorites: Synth, Cello, Code

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them.

▰ Jostijn Ligtvoet’s “Twilight and Fire” combines live cello with synthesizer accompaniment, the blinking lights matching his four strings drone for drone.

▰ I caught Chiho Oka’s set during the recent No Bounds Festival event (a livestream), hosted by algorave figure Alex McLean, and several of the pieces she performed then are on her forthcoming album, Manipulating Automated Manipulated Automation. The record isn’t due out until February 28, but four tracks are already streaming, and they evidence the combination of rigor, humor, and pathos she brings to her work.

▰ Omri Cohen’s Meditation Spores is deep-synthesis ambient, brimming with digital artifice, and vibrant in its doleful melodic lines and tonal processing.

twitter.com/disquiet: Slough, pentatonic, Stravinsky

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating the tweets I made at twitter.com/disquiet (which I think of as my public notebook) that I want to keep track of. For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. I sometimes tweak them a bit here. Some tweets pop up on Disquiet.com sooner than I get around to collating them, so I leave them out of the weekly round-up. It’s usually personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud, especially these days, when a week can feel both like a year and like nothing whatsoever has happened or changed.

▰ Yes, I’m enjoying the new Mick Herron novel, Slough House (seventh in the Slow Horses series).

▰ Close-up of the speaker grate on the back of a battery-operated alarm clock. The speaker grate is 7 millimeters in diameter. (Insert grating joke here.)

▰ As someone who lived in New Orleans for four years, I appreciate that Mutable Instruments released a new module named Beads on Fat Tuesday.

▰ Today in guitar class pentatonic education. (Jeff Rona joked in reply: “A potentially great companion to my upcoming book ‘5 Things I Like About the Pentatonic Scale'”)

▰ Alternately alarmed and amused by (while also trying to focus on some still hazy metaphorical meaning to) the idea that it is mid-February 2021 and my phone claims to not recognize this word

▰ Nothing says “frictionless user experience” like a button that reads “Sign up with SAML SSO”

▰ 8:12am sounds: hour and a half in, the house still creaking as it warms; mechanical whir in the distance; interior echo of something a neighbor has dropped; white noise of cars passing in opposite directions (clearly one ignored the stop sign); hum of refrigerator two rooms away

▰ That moment when you’re using an online tool to sign something and the automated signature looks like Ralph Steadman scribbled it while under the weather

▰ “Random method generates the same numbers” is my kinda first thread to read on a music message board in the morning over coffee

▰ Today I learned that the modernist squiggle that’s always featured on the cover of the journal Perspectives of New Music was a scribble by Igor Stravinsky. (And they all look like Alexander Girard sketches to me.)

▰ Favorite Yoko Ono factoid: she was apparently Kobo Abe’s translator the first time he visited America. Happy 88th birthday to her.

▰ The new TV series Debris (starting March 1, at least in the U.S.) looks like someone sneaked in at night and asked me while I was sleeping what I wanna watch once a week. Which means that like Counterpart, Intelligence (the one with Ian Tracey), and Travelers it’ll have a short run. Maybe it’ll last as long as Fringe, which it most resembles.

▰ Just proofread some liner notes I wrote. Very excited for when this physical object is released into the world.

Aphex Twin on Nylon

Simon Farintosh talks about arranging classic tracks like “Avril 14th” and “Alberto Balsalm” for classical guitar.

Almost three years ago, back in April 2018, Simon Farintosh posted a two-minute video of himself performing an Aphex Twin song in his own arrangement for classical guitar. The video was 10 days late. That is, it was posted on April 24, 10 days after April 14, the date from which the song in question, “Avril 14th,” takes its title.

Since then, Farintosh has more than made up for that slight delay. In a little more than half a year, he has posted to YouTube one by one a half dozen live video performances of Aphex Twin tracks, including an updated version of “Avril 14th” (see above), mixed in with what might be expected from a classical guitarist (Bach, Scriabin, Villa-Lobos), plus more modern works by Philip Glass, Thelonious Monk, and Nils Frahm, and even “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” from David Lynch’s Eraserhead (humorously, Farintosh opted to do this last one in black and white).

The additional contemporary material gives some aesthetic context for what Farintosh is up to. I was intrigued by his Aphex Twin project and sent him an email. He had mentioned online that he was collecting the six pieces into an EP, and replied to my email with an advance copy. I spent time listening to the tracks and comparing them with the source material. I grew interested in the decision-making entailed in Farintosh’s effort, and we agreed to do the interview that appears below.

There is no shortage of Aphex Twin covers, from post-classical ensembles like Alarm Will Sound to adventurous jazz groups like the Bad Plus to countless amateur piano and guitar players who post videos of their homemade performances. I wrote about several of these in my book on the album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Few have the sustained attention to detail that Farintosh’s exhibit. As he explained, “I think that in a sense, every transcription is a cover. … The reverse is not true, however.” (There’s quite a bit in the book about the correlation of the music of Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, and classical music, so I won’t go over it in this brief introduction.)

“Arranging electronic music for guitar is similar arranging orchestral music,” he told me our back and forth, “as there are so many moving parts and subtleties within the textures.” Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview, which took place over email. Farintosh, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in music at the University of Toronto, talks about learning difficult time signatures, what tracks didn’t make the cut, keeping in mind that pianos are a kind of percussion instrument, and branching out into his own electronic music.

Update: The album is now on streaming services, as of February 5, 2020, including Spotify and YouTube Music.

Marc Weidenbaum: How did this project come to be?

Simon Farintosh: I arranged “Avril 14th” back in 2018 as an encore piece to use in concerts. Upon uploading a recording to YouTube, I quickly became inundated with requests for tabs and sheet music. This outpouring of interest encouraged me, so I invested in better recording equipment and began to work on “Kesson Daslef” and “Flim.” Before I knew it, I had the better part of a digital release arranged and recorded.

Weidenbaum: I believe that you were born in 1995, the year “Alberto Balsalm,” one of the tracks you perform here, was released. How did you become exposed to Aphex Twin’s music?

Farintosh: I don’t remember exactly when I discovered Aphex Twin, but the music has been with me for a long time. The song “Rhubarb” was definitely my gateway to playing Aphex Twin. I’ve had bad insomnia for a while, and I used to listen to this track for up to an hour on repeat in an effort to fall asleep. I quickly became entranced by the more cacophonous side of Aphex Twin, as well, and listened to the album Drukqs in its entirety many times. As a classically trained musician, I was extremely impressed by the harmonic and rhythmic ingenuity of Aphex Twin’s music. His synthesis of the minimalist classical aesthetic with modern hip-hop elements bridged two seemingly disparate worlds, and helped me imagine the nylon string guitar in a non-classical setting.

Continue reading “Aphex Twin on Nylon”