Archive for January, 2008

I found my dog!

January 31, 2008

I spent the majority of last night searching for my dog, Max. He’s not the most creatively-named animal, but as dog specimens go, he’s tops. My first encounter with Max was actually over the phone. My wife had called (way back when we had a land line!) to say that she was considering adopting a dog from a nearby animal rescue.

She told me she’d found one she really liked, but that he was a little different. What followed (accompanied by barking in the background) was a grab-bag of worst-possible pet descriptors– a large, unfixed male dalmatian; two different colored eyes; abandoned as a chicken-killer; previously hit by a truck.

She might as well have said she wanted to adopt a potentially blind, crippled version of Cujo; and I advised against it. With a three-year-old in the house, every negative story I’d heard about dalmatians being as quick to bite as they are to go deaf, I just didn’t see the draw.

Boy, was I wrong.

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In the five years I’ve had this wonky-legged beast, he’s been one of the best dogs ever. He’s relaxed; enjoys taking walks; can retrieve a ball; has champion slobber genes; and will happily wait three days to defecate while on a car trip, no matter what you feed him.

I can easily imagine Max speaking with a high-class British accent, and know from experience that if you mount a teddy bear to his back like a cowboy, he will proudly strut his stuff around the neighborhood– even in my daughter’s old pink-flowered capris. It’s not metrosexuality, it’s pure balls.

(And don’t get me started on his balls. This dog is half-tanuki, no kidding.)

I know that when you take Max for a walk, every kid wants to pet him… right up until Kid’s mommy sees his pit-like head, and pulls lil’ Junior back:

“Leave the doggy alone,” they plead, knowing that Max could eat two kids this size for a snack. “Let’s go home and see Rags, okay?”

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You go home to Rags! I’ve got Max. He’s the one who sits in his yard, at attention as my wife comes home. He could easily walk through the fencing, but he seems to know that he’s got a nice thing going, what with his personal living quarters being nearly twice the size of any efficiency apartment.

Max has been to more U.S. States than most adults, and has given the Fear to panhandlers and window-cleaning bums in half of them. Hotel maids won’t come near the door, and you better believe he gets the lobby elevator all to himself. As part of our ongoing Max-is-the-Best Outreach program, we’ve encouraged him to make his mark on fire hydrants from Lynchburg, Mississippi to Las Vegas, Nevada.

You can imagine how I felt last evening when I went to check on him, and he wasn’t there. The door to his barn was open, the concrete block by the door was missing, and Max was nowhere in sight! Within minutes, my wife and I were out searching– we drove all over town, wondering why our “elephant on a string” would run away, especially in the middle of a thunderstorm.

That’s when it dawned on me… someone must have stolen him. Barn doors don’t blow open against the wind. Concrete blocks don’t just disappear. Happy dogs who are reluctant to leave their couch on a nice day surely don’t walk out into bad weather. By this time, it had been hours. We had contacted the police, the local convenience store, and questioned every person we saw on the street. We had even taken a drive to a nearby town, where we had previously heard rumors about dog fighting, taking a headlight-less drive into someone’s backyard to scout around for our beloved furry family member.

The possibility that I might never see Max again hit me hard. I didn’t want to picture him, frightened and alone, being tortured for some redneck’s kicks. I was in despair when we got a text message from the folks who ran the convenience store– they had Max, could we pick him up?

I hit the gas, and blew a red light. 1 AM, who cares? My Max was alive! The couple had found Max wandering in the street across town, miles from our home. Pretty weird for a dog who has never run away, or chased an animal (except one donkey, but that’s another story) during the five years I’ve known him! My suspicion is that someone attempted to steal Max, but couldn’t get away with it.

Max is back home now, and as happy as ever. Following his bath today, I took some photos of him. The camera makes his eyes the wrong color, but the I think the total magnificence of Max comes through just fine. Take care, –DaveX

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I have fans.

January 29, 2008

Sonney Dey recently wrote in with a strange-but-true story of how he came across my Electric Kitten Vomit “Avant Garde Revolts” album from 2001. It sort of reminds me of Trash Ant’s similar experience with finding my “PZEK!” tape in an abandoned trailer early last year… but even more weird.

In an awesome act of fandom, Sonney Dey has even made a video for “Purification,” which you need to see:

UPDATE: Sonney reports an 18-year-old Californian using “Electric Kitten Vomit” as their MySpace user name. Shit has officially become BIZARRE.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 1/26/08

January 26, 2008

It’s about -70 degrees here tonight; I’m surprised I even came in. Who knew Southern Illinois could get this cold? I guess it is cold enough that all of downtown has been experiencing intermittent power failures, so there is apparently a very real chance that I will type something amazingly transcendent, only to have it vanish during a blackout.

Oops, it just happened. Right when I’d just discovered the language of the gods, too. Oh well.

Anyways, I kicked off tonight’s show with Mammal, and what has to be one of the heaviest tracks I’ve heard in a long time. No, it’s not strictly experimental, but I really get a kick out of how the sound is allowed so much breathing space. Right now, I’m playing some of The Transhumans disc “Into the Maelstrom,” which has the right sort of intensity for following both Mammal and Tuft. Not sure where I’m going after this, but I doubt it will be in the same direction.

Or maybe it will be! Got sidetracked on a technical phone call– somehow, word has gotten out that I’m “the podcasting guy” at the station, so now everyone wants to know my arcane process. Had to let The Transhumans roll– luckily, I really like that album. Moving on to the Ctephin side of “Sand of Ages” now… I have the feeling I need to cram in a bunch of new stuff, ugh.

Resisted the urge– I’m happy because Karthik dropped by. All thanks to Mama Karthik for driving him over… it’s way too cold for walking. No download this week, due to random computer failure. Ha, ha– some guru I am!

Mammal — Repulsion
Tuft — Finally, The Mighty Sinkholes Opens Up and Swallows You All
The Transhumans — Descent: Approach
The Transhumans — Descent: Passage
The Transhumans — Descent
The Transhumans — Descent: Forgotten Memories
The Transhumans — Drunken Boat: Perilous Journey
Ctephin — Circumference of a Djinn
Ctephin — Traveling to Bubastis
George Korein — Gleaming Corpse
George Korein — Singsong Corpse
George Korein — Gleaming Corpse II
George Korein — Singsong Corpse II
Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Matt Hannafin — All the States Between, part 1
Climax Golden Twins – Untitled (Testing Ground)
Bryan Day, Alex Boardman — One to Seven, part 1
Bryan Day, Alex Boardman — One to Seven, part 2
Bryan Day, Alex Boardman — One to Seven, part 3
Bryan Day, Alex Boardman — One to Seven, part 4

A whole lotta Mystified reviews, pt.1

January 25, 2008

I’ve been listening to Thomas Park’s Mystified recordings for over a year now, with his unique takes on ambient and noise peppering many of my broadcasts. Oddly enough, I have yet to review a single one of his discs– the plan was always to do the first few I owned in a small lump, but Mystified’s punishing release schedule (and enormous back catalog) often meant I was listening to more Mystified as soon as I put another down!

Between the fact that I can’t keep myself away from STL’s Apop Records, and Park generously making so many net-releases, what once was a small group of reviews has become an unwieldy archipelago. As you can see, I’ve already had to split it!

Let’s dive right in, okay?

“Think Cosmically, Act Locally” is a double 3″ CDR from Roil Noise, and is an excellent place to start for new Mystified listeners as it effectively gathers many of the elements used throughout Mystified’s catalog. “Think Cosmically,” is also a nice starting place because it is less obviously repetitious, a key facet of Park’s work that could easily be misunderstood or under-appreciated in an initial listen. Although ultimately a non-narrative work like most of Park’s outings; the evocative sounds of broken and mis-formed communication, “field recording”-like drain tunnel sounds, and wind noises are tantalizingly simple to begin assembling into something of a story. Like the discs themselves, the tracks also form a kind of dichotomy– more natural elements interspersed with similar sounds heard in a “re-broadcast” or “second-generation” way, like shy aliens eavesdropping on a lonely military installation. A more traditional road might have led listeners to a confrontation between these two groups, but if anything, “Think Cosmically…” puts listeners sympathetically in the aliens’ shoes, content to listen and wait.

“Mellow Utility” is a CDR on Oslo-based Ambolthue Records, Mystified’s second for the label, both released in 2007. This recording isn’t quite as strongly repetitive as some Mystified discs, though the repetitiousness is definitely beginning to set in– particularly with tracks like “Don’t Ask,” featuring down-pitched sirens and restless phase waves. “Mellow Feed,” sounding much like a series of very slow tones blended end-to-end; creates lovely harmonic effects between stereo speakers, sort of a phantom “second voice” in the mix. Where “Mellow Utility” suffers, though, is with it’s identity. After listening to enough of Park’s work, it’s abundantly clear that he’s fascinated with sounds of all sorts– for someone picking up a first Mystified disc, though, Park’s enthusiasm for different sounds may be a bit too scattershot.

“Instability” is Park’s first CDR for Ambolthue, and also from 2007. If any Mystified album could garner a larger response for Mystified, it would have to be this one, and easily the most harsh of the bunch. Sounding like a more aurally-concerned hybrid of The Haters and Muslimgauze, “Instability” features record-needle-dragging noise, distorted city buses (seemingly, a Mystified fave source for some reason), eardrum-piercing tones, and even a little induced nausea for the listener when some of the standing waves start infiltrating the Eustachian tubes with overtones. Listeners should also note Park’s tendency to revisit certain sounds/sources, such as the growing chaotic qualities of “Brannon Construct” versions 1, 2, and 3; all of which appear on the disc. As a side note, Sandy Spreitz’s collage cover art for “Instability” is really cool.

“Iron” is a CDR on Turgid Animal Records, Park’s second for the label since his split CDR with Coco and Fiend Friend, “Hamburger Horizons.” You’ll find “Instability 2” (and 3!) on this disc, as well as “Into Static,” the number 2 version being found on “Mellow Utility.” One of these days, and extra-obsessive fan will do the legwork and draw me a diagram of these sorts of things… Until then, back to reviewing. One interesting thing about re-listening to so much Mystified material at once was realizing that I had started to develop my own internal vocabulary for sorting and describing the discs: “Think Cosmically, Act Locally” was a mix of “indoor” and “outdoor” tracks, with “Mellow Utility” being mostly “outdoor.” If you’re following along much with how I think about these things, you can see how “Iron” would have an “indoor” sound– less focused on sourced-sounds, more attention to pattern, and an increased palette of tone due to processing.

It’s not a hard-and-fast decree– “The Edge of the River (edit)” features very prominent water samples surrounded by a fast-moving miasma of electrical discharge, and “Rubber Cats 2” manages to jar me with a transient “bump” sound that comes out of nowhere and quickly disappears. And really, that’s the most tricky thing about listening to Mystified– superficially, almost every track is a series of looping elements– but when you wade out into them, you hear how what appears to be a loop is actually a collection of sounds undergoing a constant change… much like a swarm of flying insects, recognizable as a group no matter their exact position within it.

“Displaced Assemblage” is a CDR release on Bone Structure, one of three Mystified releases for the label so far. A split with Roto Visage is scheduled to be released later this year. If Mystified has a blues album, “Displaced Assemblage” is it. Aside from the weird side-trip of “Scientific Barrage (dance mix),” and it’s abstract beat, this is a fairly depressing album. “Empty Nest” practically sighs with a soundscape of birds, trains, and quiet desperation. Beautifully pieced-together, it’s a real high point of the album. “Dronefield” follows suit, with drawn-out elements tinged with ennui. Even “Please Remain Calm” seems too worn out by life to really tear the roof off noise-style, and instead settles for a circular scraping sound, like caged bears pawing on concrete. The final track, “Feed and Drone” has the feeling of an enormous being, settling down for sleep. Great stuff! I think it’s a release of 80, so hopefully, it’s not sold out.

“Strange Traffic 1 & 2” is a bizcard CDR on Roil Noise. Clocking in at under 5 minutes, I suppose it’s more of a curiosity than anything, but still sounds pretty damn good. Great mastering delivers a powerful bit of volume for this snack, which seems primarily comprised of road noise– the whine of tires on grooved pavement, truck horns, and the sympathetic hum of highway bridges– processed and blended into ringing tones and noise. Cool!

“Granular Cloud” is a bizcard CDR on Serpent Movement Recordings, and the second in their “Black Plague” series of bizcard releases. Serpent Movement plans to release a Mystified/The Sleeping Room split CDR later this year. This one is a Mystified oddity– what sounds like fragments of disperate Nine Inch Nails track elements are rebroadcast in a strange, un-worked mash. A greater form of repetition holds things together, with serious tension ultimately arising from Park’s steadfast refusal to adopt any song structure initially suggested by the track. With only a release of 10, a little shame should go to Serpent Movement for such poor execution of the cover art– a rather poorly-printed pixel-y image of some sort of Grim Reaper. Hopefully, this sort of thing has since been taken care of, or the design farmed out.

I need a freakin’ Coke, and I don’t have any. That being said, let’s examine the tapes:

“I Died/Mystified” is obviously a split cassette, on the Black and Purple label. It is his first release with the label, with both releases being split C30s. The “I Died” side is terrible, I won’t kid you. I really didn’t like this side at all; it seemed artless and derivative. When it wasn’t mindlessly chugging forward, some voice would pop in and yak for a while in an effected voice. Saying this openly means I can effectively count on never receiving a promo release from Black and Purple, because as I understand it, I Died is also the label owner. However, I am otherwise totally unfamiliar with I Died’s recordings, and am still open to hearing more of his work– if I’m wrong, and you can prove it– do it!

Thankfully, the Mystified side kicks ass, so it wasn’t a waste of my $3. Thank you, Apop, for keeping tapes cheap. There’s an edit of “Rubber Cats” from “Iron,” and “Brannon Construct 4,” which you may remember had three separate versions on “Instability.” A nice proto-bassline pops along in “Holy Smoke,” making for a bit of an unusual, but enjoyable cut. Levels on both sides of the tape are pretty hot, and have decent mastering– it’s noise, so I’m assuming any hum is half-intended/half-equipment.

“Sand of Ages” is Mystified’s other release for Black and Purple, as a split with Ctephin. The mastering of this tape is quite a bit better than the other, with a very clear sound throughout, though with a bit less volume overall. Mystified’s side features a lot more percussion elements, but less of the subtle changes that inform so much of Park’s cuts. It’s almost a bit too straightforward, but enjoyable nonetheless. Ctephin, however, just about rips the top of my head off! Although the tape doesn’t have the hottest levels, Ctephin’s drones simply permeated my home– there was nowhere I could go that I couldn’t hear this roaring cycle of noise– even outdoors, enough shot through my old house that I had to pause and reflect on how effective certain sounds are at getting one’s attention.  As a quick note, classy cover art too!

“Krellmuse” is the last freakin’ thing I’m reviewing today. It’s a C52 from Abandon Ship Records, who have a lot of really nice-looking tapes and CDRs I’d love to have. First person to send me a copy of Bjerga/Iversen’s “Empire of Dirt” wins! “Krellmuse” is kind of like a companion tape to Mystified’s brand new “Planete Interdite” CDR on Roil— but whereas “Fatal Planet” is a reworking/re-imagining of the original “Forbidden Planet” soundtrack, “Krellmuse” attempts to inhabit the collective mind of some of the film’s unseen characters and create something of their music. As the title indicates, this would be the Krell– highly advanced frog-creatures now long extinct. To this effect, Park presents a well-blended fog of mostly-relaxed drone– as a fan of the movie, you have to notice the layer of turmoil under the surface of many portions of the tape, such as “Deep Trouble.” If such underlying tension could destroy the Krell in one night, what could it do here?

Whew! All done for now. In my next installment, look for reviews of: “Balam,” “Planete Interdite,” “Mystified vs. Ghoul Detail,” “Rough vs. Smooth,” ‘Layers & Levels,” “Diminished,” “Spacewater,” and “D-Program.”

Desktop noise warfare

January 21, 2008

Here’s a semi-useful tool, freely given to those trapped with less-than desirable co-workers or roommates… a pink noise generator for masking their chatter/driving them from the cubicle. Be careful your target isn’t a Merzbow fan, or your plan may backfire on you. Click in the glittery unknown for the download.

Glitter Text Generator

I <3 Improv

January 21, 2008

While you’re waiting for me to do something incredible, go check out Of Sound Mind’s entry about falling in love with improvisation. It’s one of the nicest things you’ll read today. Don’t miss the gratis mp3, either!

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 1/19/07

January 19, 2008

Update: This episode is now available for download. As always, I encourage you to support the artists and labels in the links below– this file is no substitute for the real recordings! 

Well, I’m definitely getting off to a late start with the liveblogging this week, sorry! Sweet Action Radio host Nick and friends stayed by to chat, and do the usual DJs-trading-music-knowledge thing that makes working at a community radio so much fun. As always, I shared a lot of info, but I also picked up a good amount of interesting names and labels to follow up on.

For today’s show, I wanted to work with the theme of “joy.” Early yesterday, I e-mailed an old soul cut to a friend, for inclusion on her new iPhone. I was surprised when she wrote back a few minutes later to say she loved the song. Sometimes, listening to a steady diet of the avant-garde makes you forget how instantly a good pop song can work its magic. It’s really the opposite type of listening that I encourage for this show, but definitely appropriate for pop sounds… if you had to think about a doo-wop song, you’d be missing the point, right?

Anyway, that got me thinking about joy. Surely, there is joy in experimental music as well. Surely, there are examples where the listener can feel that passion, and that happiness in the mix– whether its an unrehearsed bit of improv, or an intensely-processed field recording, I think that joy can come through. And of course, there is joy for the listener! What recordings make me feel great to hear them?

So that’s what today’s show is all about, and hopefully, some of that joy rubs off on you too.

Here’s another cool thing: Marina Hardy was trying very hard to send me a song for tonight’s broadcast. The trouble was, nothing seemed to be working for her. Something seemed to continually go wrong with her uploads, and I was getting very strange bits and pieces of files instead of the lovely multi-track experiments of hers that I have been enjoying for the last week or so. In a beautiful burst of thinking outside the box, Hardy made the song its own MySpace page, “Song For ITDE”. I’ve added it as a friend, and I hope you do too. Everyone should have a song for a friend, especially if it is a song for ITDE.

John Cage, Lejaren Hiller — HPSCHD (extract)
Larry Kucharz — 1990 no.4
Larry Kucharz — 1987 no.11 (extract)
Frederique Bruyas — Christophe Tarkos
Marina Hardy — Red Teeth
Harold Schellinx — Ranks
Harold Schellinx — Kitty Knew
Lance Olsen — Edges (extract)
A_dontigny — Koons
A_dontigny — Pruitt-Igoe
A_dontigny — Tatline
A_dontigny — Aufbau
Anla Courtis — Jarabe de Llanura
Anla Courtis — Respire un Cordero
Michael Graeve — Live at Impermanent Audio, 8/26/01
Kenneth Gaburo — Fat Mille’s Lament
Kenneth Gaburo — The Wasting of Lucrecetzia
Christian Marclay/E.T. — A walkthrough recording of C.M.’s “Ensemble”
Sabrina Siegel — Ring
Sabrina Siegel — Fire
Sabrina Siegel — Big Electric Rose
Chica X — Everybody’s Gonna Fite!
Chica X — Throw Her Over
Chica X — Hey Girl
Beth Anderson – Torero Piece
Beth Anderson – Yes Sir Ree

Who wants a nice book?

January 17, 2008

Let’s be quaint for a moment– I enjoy reading books. Actual paper books, not the PDF or audio sort. (And as a side note, I hate PDFs. They’re only exceeded by .rm files as the most worthless bullshit file format in existence.)

That being said, I’ll admit that I don’t much like keeping books around. They’re heavy, they take up space, and I rarely read anything more than once. On the other hand, I read a lot… so new books have to arrive at least as often as old books depart. That’s why I’m giving away one of my books– it’s my blatantly cheap method of getting something new to read all while avoiding crowds of people at a bookstore.

So here’s what I’ve got: “Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America,” by Jesse Walker. The book is about 300 pages, hardback, and quite interesting. It’s in very nice condition. Obviously, it deals mostly with American radio history, but also has a good amount of information about foreign radio activities.

For anyone interested in pirate broadcasters, micro-radio, the FCC, freeform programming, or just wanting to get up-to-speed on radio’s “backstory,” this is a good read.

The deal is that I want to trade this book for another equally interesting book. Leave a comment with your offer, or send an e-mail– I’ll choose someone to trade with in the next 10 days. If things get hot and literary, we may work out a three-way trade.

Being the obsessive person that I am, I’d highly prefer books related to music or sound in some way. Just for fun, though, I’ll list some books I do NOT want in trade:

1) Anything with elves, dragons, or chaotic half-dwarf mage healers.

2) Anything that is part of a series, or set in its own “universe”.

3) Anything with “8 pages of COLOR photos!” in the middle.

4) Fan-fic! (Unless it is John Cage fan-fic.)

5) Anything that changed your life, and made you buy 25 copies that you now give away to complete strangers.

Now go! Search your bookshelves and return to my comments section! Fly! Fly!

100,000 lights = creepy drone sounds

January 13, 2008

You know a blog entry will be interesting when it starts off with an atheist, an agnostic, and the daughter of an ex-nun rolling up into a Catholic National Shrine parking lot. That was yesterday’s scene– about 15 minutes into Missouri at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, following lunch at my favorite pizza restaurant.

Crossing the Chester Bridge, original photography by DaveX

In truth, we’d been driving rather aimlessly when we ended up in Perryville. I recognized it from another aimless drive taken a few years prior, this being the home of the “freaky light room,” which I later learned was properly called a “votive light sanctuary.”

Basically, it’s a room adjunct the Saint Mary’s of the Barrens Church, at the National Shrine. Inside, along the walls of the darkened chamber, are racks and racks of flickering electronic lights. It’s rather like something you’d find in an old sci-fi movie, just before the hapless explorer is forcibly strapped to an operating table. Being the rational person that I am, I naturally assumed I had stumbled upon the “brains” of the operation, and made myself scarce so as not to be found out.

National Shrine, Perryville - Original photography by DaveX

Still, the chance to check out the otherwise-beautiful shrine (and pipe organ!) was pretty cool. That’s why when we happened upon Perryville again yesterday that I suggested checking the “freaky light room” out again– partly to assure myself that it was still as strange as I remembered, and partly to get some video of it now that I knew it was nothing more than a cheap modern-day substitute for having 100,000 burning candles.

As a side note: what a shuck! For $10, the folks at the Shrine will turn on a small LED for you, as a “silent sentinel” representing your intentions at the shrine. For the next 60 days, your LED will be on, until the next installment is due, or Big Miracles Happen. I need to get one of these sanctuaries going in my shed out back– if you order now, I’ll turn on two LEDs for you, and you can badger the god of your choice for as long as you want– just slip me a twenty.

Seriously, I can’t fathom how people fall for this.

But I digress. The point is that the “votive light/vanishing money pit” has a great, droning sound. Credit seems due partly to the machinery controlling the light racks, and partly to the domed ceiling, which disperses the subtle click and hum into the highly-reflective walls and floor.

You’ll notice that the video is rather dark. I assure you that this is due to no trickery on my part– I just shot it a little later in the day, and the room is fairly dark already. 100,000 LEDs just don’t give off that much light!

Upon returning home, I finally signed up for a YouTube account so I could share this with you all. Hopefully, it will be the first of many interesting sound-related videos I’ll be able to post– and be sure to leave a comment or a friend add so I know you’ve been around to see me! Without further ado, here’s my video:

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 1/12/08

January 12, 2008

I’m getting off to an odd start– today’s show doesn’t seem to have a lot of internal flow between one track and another, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. Also not doing a lot of actual liveblogging! Hope I’m not letting you down too much…

I wanted to mention the Maurizio Bianchi disc, “Zyklusters,” on Lona Records. I’ve been playing it quite a bit; it is a challenging listen. Naturally, I’ve been inspired to check out some more Bianchi recordings… gotta see where he’s coming from, or at least try. So far I’m not making a lot of progress!

Sweet Action Radio stayed over during the first hour or so of the broadcast– kept joking me that “Zyklusters” wasn’t on– that’s what I get for playing subtle stuff. Hopefully, the low throb of No One Pulse’s “Tele” 3″ and Hal McGee’s circular saw/theremin noises will convince them I haven’t “broken the radio.”

Speaking of Hal McGee, did you know his 50th birthday is coming up?

I pulled a little prank towards the end of the show, with LATRALMAGOG’s album and a vacuum. From a mail I sent LATRALMAGOG member ET:

“I pulled a prank on the DJ after me (Mama C, who runs “Kids Kamp”) during your LATRALMAGOG album… Basically, I was listening to the album while I was straightening up the station’s CD/record vault. We recently had a lot of old records donated, and they’re filling up the room. After I made about 10 square feet of floor space, a huge accomplishment, I decided to vacuum the area as best I could… which is when it hit me– it would be really fun to prank Mama C, and act like I was making the show live with the vacuum.

I knew she’d be showing up any minute, so I ran into the production room and got a mic and a stand, and set them up next to the vacuum– in the hall, so she’d see them when she came in. When I heard her unlocking the back door, I grabbed the mic stand, and held it up in the air with the mic pointing at the vacuum. This was during some sort of tapping and droning on the disc, so I would kind of tap my hand on the mic stand at the appropriate time. When she saw me, she had this puzzled look, like: “what the heck is DaveX doing THIS time?” cause she’s walked into some pretty weird shows/configurations of equipment before!

Anyways, I put my finger to my lips, and said: “Shhh… I’m making this whole show with a vacuum. It’s going great!” and then proceeded to go back into intensely manipulating this mic stand up and down the length of the vacuum, despite the fact that it wasn’t even on. She’s standing there watching me, and finally I just cracked up laughing– couldn’t keep the joke up any longer!”

George Korein — Quiet Now
George Korein — Writhe Sally, Writhe
Crank Sturgeon, Novasak – Untitled split CDR
Maurizio Bianchi — Zyklus
No One Pulse — Tele #2
Hal McGee — Live at the Atlantic, Solder Fest V
Jack Wright — The Indeterminate Existence (extract)
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Refutable Melodies
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Tyranny House
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Laticer Nworb Lrae
Little Ricky’s House of Chankletas — Opening Passage…
LATRALMAGOG — A Finger Pointing to the Stars

Can there be meaning in noise?

January 8, 2008

Xdementia’s thread, “Just about the sound” at the Troniks board has provided me some really interesting thoughts to chew on for the past few days. Originally started to pursue the tempting idea that Noise works are perhaps more entangled with overall concept, packaging, and presentation than works in other music circles; I ended up posting about my concept of Noise being meaningless by nature:

 As I see it, when you’re trying to say something, that’s not noise. It’s purposeful, it’s directed, even if at first apprehension it seems chaotic. the INTENT is to communicate. Music is a form of communication, and I think all music attempts to be meaningful– I say “attempts,” because obviously some fails. I don’t think it’s important to consider how much, or how complex this meaning is.

On the other hand, I believe noise is sound without intent. Regardless of its complexity, if no message is intended, it’s not communicating anything– even if the listeners chooses to appreciate it as they do art. It is much the same as I might appreciate an interesting mineral or seashell… I can enjoy its form (and perhaps even its sense of order) but I can’t rationally believe that the mineral is communicating something to me.

I’m still very much undecided about whether this makes noise “art” or not, so I’d rather not go that far in the discussion yet.

For me, part of the allure of noise is that, in the most enjoyable instances, it is far too much for me to take in. I become highly aware that I am unable to really hear all parts of the work at once– like trying to hold onto too many items, it seems a few parts are constantly being dropped in order to grasp others.

In this way, I find noise to be a very humbling thing. It resists the urge to for me to understand it, or for me to control it in some way. It is senseless and incoherent, like the ocean– seemingly existing on its own terms, regardless of my will.

Putting meaning to noise fundamentally changes it, because it provides a way for our self to understand it, thus asserting a measure of control. The sounds themselves may remain the same, but the overall experience is quite different. It is very much like bottling sea water… yes, it is still salt water from the ocean, but could we properly call it a sea?

So far, the idea isn’t meeting with much of any positive reception… it’s been called everything from pointless to pretentious! Hal McGee had a few nice things to say, and at least seems willing to consider it… although he seems to feel I’ve painted too bleak a picture to be useful:

DaveX does make some interesting points, and I think that his definition of what Noise is (or isn’t) is compelling. But I can’t say that I agree with it. Noise as he describes it really only exists outside the sphere of human influence. Noise and music as we know them clearly do exist within the realm of human activity. When I walk down the street and I hear birds singing, and a baby crying, and an automobile engine starting up, etc., I can organize these sounds in my mind.

I make choices about how the sounds correspond to one another. If, for example, I decide that I am going to make a recording of sounds that occur in spite of me or without my involvement, it’s still no good… because the very act of turning the sound recorder on and off are based on choices. Turning the recorder on and off is like putting a frame around the sounds. It’s framing them in a certain way that says these sounds recorded during the time that the recorder was on are part of the audio work and sounds that occurred before and after are not part of the audio work.

Noise in the sense that DaveX explains it clearly exists outside of art, outside of music. Once you record something it’s not noise any more.”

What do you think?

It’s Too Damn Startling #6!

January 5, 2008

I missed contributing my “It’s Too Damn Startling” guest portion of Tony Youngblood’s “ORE Theater Intangible” last week, as you may have noticed. This week, I’m back with a nearly twelve-minute blend.

For this mix, I chose to work with the theme of human reaction to tragedy. Starting things off is Potpie’s “Blues for the Lower 9,” on “Proud To Swim Home,” a compilation from the New Orleans-based Backporch Revolution label.

An extract from Darren Copeland’s “They’re Trying to Save Themselves,” found on his Empreintes Digitales release “Perdu et Retrouvé,” follows. Constructed from recordings of news broadcasts made during the 9/11 attacks, Copeland’s composition is among the most heartrending works I’ve ever encountered.

Pogus Productions artists Dimitri Voudouris’ “Praxis” is the third piece, heard here in extract from the full 14’30” work. “Praxis,” meaning action, is partially created from a damaged recording of a memorial church service dedicated to the victims of Croatian genocide. As an example of a highly-complex electroacoustic composition, listeners need look no further– “Praxis” utilizes 556 separate “sound compartments,” each individually constructed and edited.

Finally, the mix closes with “Some Vowed Abstinence,” a disturbing track from the Edgetone release of “The Generation of Our Grandfathers.” Inspired by a documentary of the Nazi-era law which would lead to homosexuals being imprisoned and murdered by the German state, Conure’s album is an excellent (and sometimes reactionary) sound companion to the sense of absurdity and disbelief learning of such things can engender.

You can download this edition of”It’s Too Damn Startling” now, or catch it live Sunday morning from 2-4am on WRVU-FM, Nashville.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 1/5/08

January 5, 2008
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Update: The download for this week’s broadcast is now available as a single mp3 file. Enjoy! 

Coming off last week’s somewhat sedate broadcast covering for “Music From Beyond the Lakes,” I’m ready to play some noisier material this time around. Unfortunately, it smells like a rank dormroom in here, and nothing seems to want to cover it up.

Glad you’re enjoying things, Joe. I saw your bit about coming up with your band name the other day, I’ll definitely be checking it out when I get a chance.

Okay, I finally just had to toss the chair mat and rug completely out of the room. Enough bad smells! I already get shocked using most of the equipment here, I shouldn’t have to smell somebody’s yak on top of that.

Currently playing from Conure’s album, “The Generation of Our Grandfathers,” which was inspired by the documentary “Paragraph 175.” Apparently, this was a portion of code in the Nazi regime which would lump homosexuals in with all other “undesirable” persons. It’s a pretty rough album, one of the noisier ones I’ve heard from Edgetone, but definitely worth picking up. It’s sort of a backward way to go about things, but I know I’ll be tracking down the documentary as soon as I can.

I was just thinking about how terrible these studio monitors are. Did someone put pebbles in the, or are they filled with dried leaves? Hard to tell. It sure isn’t doing justice to “Repercussions,” an album of solo and “hyperpiano” from Scott R. Looney. I’m actually playing from one of the less experimental tracks– it’s still fairly wild as far as jazz goes, with a lot of frantic runs, flashes of Sun Ra (especially in some of the more reflective moments,) and even a spot where Looney throws out some lines that seem more appropriate to a harpsichord. I suppose I’ll let this run through the next track as well, “Discurses,” to let you hear the prepared elements that pepper this disc. Good stuff!

Only one bad thing about this Curia album from Fire Museum– I can’t read the type on the back! It’s in something like “Edwardian Script,” and it’s tiny. Yes, I am officially too old to read liner notes. Just shoot me now, okay?

Following this Robert Ashley, I’m going to play a recording from Henri Chopin, who passed away two days ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t previously aware of his enormous body of work– art can come to us in so many ways. I’m taking this as simply another example of why I should be learning to speak French, which I’ve been putting off for far too long.

DaveX — Improv for Folded Signals
Praew Jik — Providence and the Pounding Fist
Anla Courtis — Asma de Tia de Alga
Anla Courtis — Rastrillo-Termotanque
Frank Rothkamm — XFM OR New Encounter Architecture
Frank Rothkamm — Reality OR Room in Hollywood
The Air Conditioners — Depression Fits
Conure — The Generation of Our Grandfathers
Conure — Some Vowed Abstinence
Scott R. Looney — IuxtasEnTemporae
Scott R. Looney — Discurses
Ductworks — tkcrdsuow
Plasmic Formations — Untitled (from ESR064, split with Zemekky)
Curia — Curia
Robert Ashley — Now Eleanor’s Idea, Act III: Questions and Answers
Henri Chopin — La Civilisation du Papier