DJ Krush in the Temple by the Foot of the Mountain

An hour-long live set recorded in February

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.

Video originally posted at YouTube. More on the festival at

Loraine James and the Art of the Skeletal Beat

This is simple stuff, true, but not easily achieved.

There’s a new Loraine James album, Reflection, due out June 4, which fast as 2021 feels is far too far away. Fortunately, one track is already up. “Simple Stuff” is little more than a spartan beat and a mumbled mantra monologue, but that’s more than enough to tide a fan over. The calisthenics of its percussion are a marvel, even by the high standards James has led us to expect on previous releases like her 2019 breakthrough, For You and I, last year’s Nothing EP, and her superb remix of Lunch Money Life’s “Lincoln.”

“Simple Stuff” has the jerky start and stop, the asymmetric yet perfectly balanced form, of an expert breakdancer backlit by the setting sun, of a Calder mobile in a delicate breeze. Even more than usual for James, the metrics are here reduced to their skeletal core, each triggered impulse an isolated action. There are no percussive chords, just a sequence of precisely poised sonic objects, each given room to breathe before the next arrives. This is simple stuff, true, but not easily achieved.

Like “Glitch Bitch,” the lead track off For You and I, “Simple Stuff” has essentially just a repeated two-word phrase as its vocal material. There’s a bit more to it here, but less, too, so muffled is it for much of the track, like she’s got her mouth under a jacket collar while navigating a dense sidewalk headed somewhere. That Loraine James is headed somewhere has been clear for some time now. Our next glimpse of where comes June 4, unless she reveals another cut in the interim. Meanwhile, we have “Simple Stuff.” It’s a phenomenal piece of work, and there are 10 additional tracks due when Reflection finally arrives.

Album available for prerelease at More from James, who is based in London, England, at

Disquietude Podcast Episode 0004

Ambient music by Belly Full of Stars, Christian Carrière, Femi Shonug​a-Flem​ing, Jeff Rona, Jostijn Ligtvoet, and Patricia Wolf, plus interviews and commentary

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”

48:11 Credits

49:10 Closing Music

49:36 End

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:

Christian Carrière’s “Sacred Acoustics T004” first appeared on his SoundCloud account,

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,

Thanks for listening.

Produced and hosted by Marc Weidenbaum. Disquietude theme music by Jimmy Kipple, with vocal by Paula Daunt. Logo by Boon Design.

Livestream Reviewstream

On Twitter of Lesley Flanigan at Roulette

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.

Scanner Modulates the Source

Using a brand new synthesizer module

Robin Rimbaud goes by the name Scanner due to his early work, which involved snatching people’s conversations from the ether and lending those often fraught words new emotional meaning by composing accompanying soundtracks. His atmospheric scores deepened the words’ presence, turning domestic squabbles into radio dramas, monologues into manifestos, idle chatter into comedy of the absurd. This work was intimate and abstract, trenchant and seeking. When I think about early Scanner recordings, which I do often, in my imagination they sit alongside the output of other artists whose unique vision connected human speech and composed music, notably the way Dennis Potter’s screenplays gave voice to the inner turmoil and fantasies of his characters by having them lip-sync popular songs, and how the composer Scott Johnson transcribed the ticks and nuances of human utterances and wrote settings that were, in effect, arrangements fleshing those words out to the scale of a chamber ensemble. Potter found the big dreams within small lives. Johnson found the density in the linear. Scanner found the spectacle in the everyday.

And so it was a huge pleasure today when one of Scanner’s old voices appeared in a new piece, albeit a brief one. Today is Fat Tuesday, and perhaps by chance or perhaps by perfect design, the music synthesizer company Mutable Instruments, based in Paris, France, released a new module called Beads (having lived in New Orleans for four years, I found the connection natural, but it was likely coincidence). The module had clearly already been in the hands of many forward-thinking synthesizer musicians for some time, because right on cue YouTube and Instagram (as of this evening, I couldn’t find any on Vimeo) were filled with video demonstrations of this new module’s features. (Full disclosure: the four-panel comics I created last year were done so with illustrator Hannes Pasqualini, who, with his wife, Elizabeth, designs the interfaces at Mutable.)

For one of his Beads pieces, Scanner took a spoken voice that will be recognizable to fans of his 1997 album, Delivery. In the original, titled “Heidi,” the backing music is a moody, melodramatic bed, like some slurry hybrid of Angelo Badalamenti and Bernard Herrmann, while an unnamed man both pleads his case to and verbally assaults the titular woman.

In Scanner’s brand new track, “Heidi Concrète,” the man is back, nearly a quarter century later, as if caught all along in some mythic limbo, ever ruining his own chances at reconciliation. Now, however, in place of the original music is simply the voice as it is transformed in the Mutable Beads module (hence the “concrète” in the title, borrowed from “musique concrète,” or music made from preexisting sounds). The voice in the new “Heidi Concrète” is fractured and looped, battered and frayed, and ultimately utterly dismantled into a pool of splattery assonance. And because it’s a video, the viewer can associate the varied treatments to specific actions: buttons pressed, knobs turned. While many other musicians are exploring the tonal possibilities of the new module, a common mode for such first-patch videos, Scanner dug deep in his personal crate.

Whenever I hear Scanner’s early work, I wonder if the speakers ever recognized themselves in it. Musicians coming to “Heidi Concrète” to witness an accomplished musician’s initial take on the new module will, I hope, recognize new creative possibilities in what Scanner has done.

Video originally posted to Scanner’s YouTube channel. More from Robin Rimbaud, who is based in London, England, at