Sarah Davachi has collected five CDs as a box set of recent interrelated works that engage with various organs in the context of other instruments, notably synthesizers. A key track is “Accord of Voice I,” off the album Laurus, released last December. It is a procession of held notes, their rich tonalities layering deeply, the result being beautifully impure harmonies, dense slow motion cacophonies that achieve something almost celestial. The collection is titled Cantus Figures Laurus and it includes two previous double-CD sets, Cantus, Descant and Figures in Open Air, as well as Laurus and what Davachi describes as “an extended EP of early sketches for the music fully realised on Cantus, Descant.”
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.”
The widespread isolation of pandemic culture provided the natural incubator for DJ Krush to spin echoes of turntablist gestures alone in a Japanese temple as winter turned to spring.
Please trust me that while I’ve only seen Krush live a handful or so of times, I have listened to countless hours of his recorded concert performances, and this is, I believe, one of his finest. Krush originated as a Japanese hip-hop DJ, and from the beginning emphasized abstraction and atmosphere, as well as utilized regional music and sonic culture as source material and inspiration.
This hour-long set was first streamed in late February as part of the MUSO Cultural Festival, broadcast from the temple Daichuji, located in the Japanese city of Numazu, Shizuoka, by the foot of Mount Ashitaka. A brief accompanying statement explains: “Within the temple, a conceptual live performance was filmed as if to experience the essence of Zen through sound.” The festival takes its name from Muso Soseki, who founded Daichuji in 1313.
The show opens with an exceptionally sparse seven minutes of elegant, cautious play, then ratchets up to something closer to the smokey, noir quality of his early work. From there the pace slowly builds, remaining downtempo throughout, but gaining depth: more sounds, more motion, more contrast. Even as the audio accrues, there remains room for the slightest hand gesture to bring a warble to the surface, for his wrists to syncopate martial drums and drop in quick samples. So much gets folded in: dance music, chanting, birdsong, and rapturous percussion stuttered in his mixer.
The show ends as it began, with choice bits of sound, wooden flutes from some of his most famous music, until the beats drop out. From there on, for the last five minutes or so, the work is Krush at his most ghostly, not mournful so much as reflective, peaceful, finally resolving in a climactic drone before dissipating like a candle blown out.
This is the fourth episode of the Disquietude podcast of ambient electronic music.
The goal of the Disquietude podcast is to collect adventurous work in the field of ambient electronic music. What follows is all music that captured my imagination, and I hope that it appeals to your imagination as well.
All six tracks of music are featured with the permission of the individual artists. Below is the structure of the episode with time codes for the tracks, the spoken annotation of the tracks, interviews with two of the musicians (Jeff Rona and Patricia Wolf), and a brief essay about voice assistants.
02:07 Belly Full of Stars’ “Pattern 5”
06:20 Christian Carrière’s “Sacred Acoustics T004”
08:02 Femi Shonuga-Fleming’s “Ambient Live Looping Drone with Eurorack and Elektron Octatrack”
15:50 Jeff Rona’s “Vapor 6”
23:37 Jostijn Ligtvoet’s “Twilight and Fire”
32:02 Patricia Wolf’s “Snow Falling on Rough Horsetail and Dead Oak Leaves”
33:28 Annotation Begins
35:25 Patricia Wolf Interview
43:23 Jeff Rona Interview
46:11 “OK, Giggle”
49:10 Closing Music
All the music here happens to be by solo musicians. These consist of Belly Full of Stars (aka Kim Rueger), of Nashville, Tennessee; Christian Carrière, based in Montréal, Québec; Femi Shonuga-Fleming, a RISD student based in New York; Jeff Rona, a favorite film composer of mine, who is based in Los Angeles; Jostijn Ligtvoet, a cellist based in the Netherlands; and Patricia Wolf, who provided a wintry field recording from near where she lives in Portland, Oregon.
All the music heard here is instrumental, which is to say there is no prominent vocal part – or at least there’s no intelligible vocal part – and thus it’s suitable for background listening. It’s all ambient, which is to say it’s also suitable for close, concentrated listening. That dual sense of potential uses, both inattentive and attentive, both background and foreground, is the hallmark of fine ambient music.
Belly Full of Stars’ “Pattern 5” is off the album Aura: triplicaterecords.bandcamp.com.
Christian Carrière’s “Sacred Acoustics T004” first appeared on his SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/christiancarriere/.
Femi Shonuga-Fleming’s “Ambient Live Looping Drone with Eurorack and Elektron Octatrack” first appeared on YouTube.
Jeff Rona’s “Vapor 6” is from his forthcoming album, Vapor, due out March 5, 2021.
Jostijn Ligtvoet’s “Twilight and Fire” first appeared, at roughly twice the length heard here, on YouTube.
Patricia Wolf’s “Snow Falling on Rough Horsetail and Dead Oak Leaves” first appeared on her SoundCloud account, soundcloud.com/patriciawolf_music
Thanks for listening.
Produced and hosted by Marc Weidenbaum. Disquietude theme music by Jimmy Kipple, with vocal by Paula Daunt. Logo by Boon Design.
I live-tweeted this livestream this evening. Here it is, lightly edited:
Lesley Flanigan is performing live (at 8pm East Coast, 5pm here in “we make the future but we live in the past” San Francisco).
I highly recommend tuning in. She’s looping her vocals, creating beading layers of choral intensity.
There are also sine wave generators in the mix.
I noticed she’d donned headphones at the start, despite the space, Roulette, being devoid of a live audience.
Explanation from the video note: “Though Flanigan will be performing live at Roulette for this event, there will be no sound amplified within the performance space. Why should there be? There is no audience to hear it.”
Also: “Playing with the closeness, directness and stereo image of the headphone space, Flanigan brings the intimacy of performing alone with her headphones to the solo listener at home.” (A livestream that is cognizant of its livestreamness.)
I love drones. All the more, I love music that takes drone as the foundation, and grows from there. That’s what Flanigan is up to here, singing atop and amid the hovering clouds she has patiently summoned.
The beading has hardened, has been focused into something pulse-like now, the minimalist of minimal techno, underlying some ancient folk hymn.
This may not be the exact model of audio generator she is employing, but it’s close. She’s using two of them, and adjusting during the performance.
I always say Twitter is my public notepad. This may be the most true that statement has been. Aside from Google image search, these are the sorta notes I’d be taking in a notepad if we were all sitting in the audience. And you might complain about the scratch of my pen on paper.
And now the glitch is on.
And now the glitch is off, supplanted by a hybrid of classic minimalism and early polyphony.
Presumably, roughly 40 minutes in, it’s coming to a close now, though perhaps not. The density has softened considerably, reduced virtually to a hum, maybe just one vocal line and one oscillator now.
This is so beautiful, both rapturous and restrained, deliriously so in both cases.
These aren’t exactly the notes I’d be writing down in a live auditorium, because they’re in full sentences and have fewer spelling errors, and are entirely legible. But this is an interesting experience, using my public notepad as a public notepad during the performance.
I’ve reviewed several livestreams during the pandemic. I just submitted a review for publication in The Wire this week. This, though, is the first reviewstream I’ve written.
Speaking of spelling errors, here’s a circuit diagram of a progenitor of the brand of audio generator, a solid state oscillator, that Lesley Flanigan employed a pair of during the concert.
And here’s one more shot from the ancient manual, this one of the “waveshapes” produced by the audio generator, of the sort Flanigan used in the show.
And that’s it. The concert has ended. And thanks to the magic of livestreams, I can immediately go do some dishes without having to bother with public transportation.