1. The Beautiful Hell Sound of a Tickled Penguin

    I admit the shame of having no immunity to Cute Animal Doing Cute Thing videos. It’s my burden to live with and it keeps me out of the death metal bars. But yet, that can’t be the entire explanation of why I can’t stop watching this clip. That sound! It’s like the skin of the plane peeling back midflight and Steve Vai’s up there playing arpeggios through an amp he made out of chrome plated dolphin skulls.

    If you’re the remixing type, nab that beautiful/awful sound below and send me your creation. MAKE ALL MUSIC SOUND LIKE THIS FROM NOW ON!

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    Download


  2. 1981 Post-Punk Boxed Set For Free Download

    We all know it and we all complain about it: the internet tends to privilege the up-to-the-second cult of newness in it’s music delivery methods. Blogs killed albums, everything’s a badly ripped leak, and kids these days are all listening to MP3s compressed to shit. Grumble grumble grumble, get off my lawn, etc.

    But it’s not all gone to hell. The same gifts of compression, free storage, and sharing have enabled the quiet obsessives, the crate diggers, the mix makers. Case in point: Musicophilia’s 1981 Boxed Set. 10 discs and over 400 bands from that year, documenting the energy and variety of what is very loosely termed ‘post-punk’.

    Why 1981?

    1981 probably wasn’t the peak year for any sort of “pure” cultural or musical strain of what defined “post-punk” as an ethos or as a sound (I’d give that title to 1979).  But I chose to focus on 1981 in such depth because it seemed to me the year that that sound and way of looking at music had spread farthest without diminishing in intensity (few would argue, no matter how much they love the music of 1982, that even in that one year later there was not a bit of a come-down, or at least a diffusion into more disparate strains).  The heroes of the first wave of post-punk were about to retire (like Wire, Buzzcocks, first-run Pere Ubu) but still hadn’t lost a step, and so many others were at their peak (and still many more greats just getting started).

    This is a true labor of love, compiled from the original records and painstakingly cleaned up to take out the pops and hisses. Better yet, each mix has a flow and purpose that makes it less a file dump than a unified listening experience and a true education in the sounds of the era. Gang of Four, John Foxx, YMO, New Order, and Talking Heads share space with lesser known groups like Weekend, Liquid Liquid, and Bush Tetras.

    Presently exploring disc 2 myself. Check it out and get educated.


  3. Squarepusher is back with a new band ‘Shobaleader One’

    2010 is turning out to be a great year for IDM/Braindance/whatever fans. Two albums by Autechre including their triumphant “Oversteps“; Wisp’s We Miss You, the perpetual hope of new Aphex Twin, and now today new Squarepusher. There’s been a short clip up for awhile, but today we get the track Megazine in all its glory.

    This time around though the multi-instrument and normally mildly dressed Thomas Jenkinson aka Squarepusher is in a band called Shobleader One with forthcoming release d’Demonstrator. Or so he claims.

    According to a Q&A on Warp’s Squarepusher page the band is composed of Squarepusher (Bass/vocals) Strobe Nazard (Keyboards), Sten t’Mech (Guitar), Arg Nution (Guitar) and Company Laser (Drums). Mr Jenkinson goes into more detail on its founding and purpose.

    Given this genre’s artists penchant for gags, hoaxes, and jokes this could be a one man show by Squarepusher– much like The Tuss might be Aphex Twin. Either way, its some great new stuff from a talented artist.

    If you have never listened to Squarepusher, give Hello Everything a shot. You might like it.


  4. New Aphex Twin? Nope, Tshe Tsha Boys of South Africa

    Now that the bad taste of the vuvuzela has left the mouth of those who watched the World Cup, check out this track by the Tshe Tsha boys of South Africa. It’s a mashup of Shangaan music from northern South Africa and Braindance/IDM electronic. The dancing– well that speaks for itself.



  5. Half-Remembered and Half-Right: The Bullys “Sluts”

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    I’ve been looking for this track for about six years now and I just found it on an old data CD I just dug up out of an eternally unpacked cardboard box.  It stuck in my head for a few reasons:

    1. About damn time there was a good honest anthem about preferring ‘em promiscuous, nicely under two minutes.  Know thyself, said that famous Greek.
    2. The heart of this band was Johnny Heff, a NYC firefighter who died when the Twin Towers collapsed.

    The spring of 2001 was my first headlong dive into punk rock appreciation, coming to it from the nerdier side of things (being a long-time Sonic Youth fan, going through that awkward ska face in high school and then, finally, wolfing down Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces in about three days).  This being the heady early days of file sharing, I took what came along over the token-ring network (yes, token ring).  The one lone random track from the Bullys that made it’s way to me was this one.

    Scroll forward a few months  to October 2001 and for whatever reason I decide to look up this band who so eloquently warns off the decent women from their animal lusts.  I was listening to his voice when I found out Heff had died in the rubble.  Real strange to encounter that, a sort of missing feeling, knowing that someone you appreciate is someone you’ll absolutely never meet.

    Apparently his band mates are still soldiering on.  Going to have to see if I can track down a show this summer.  I  you dig what you hear above, they’ve got three albums out, available here.


  6. Song of a Weakling Child: The Dispute Between Aphex Twin and Stockhausen is over

    This clever video fuses two masters of electronic music together: Aphex Twin‘s “To Cure a Weakling Child” and Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s “Song of the Youth”.

    In 1995 BBC Radio 3 recordings from several electronic artists including Aphex Twin, Plasticman, Scanner and Daniel Pemberton for a story called “Advice to Clever Children“.

    What Stockhausen had to say about Aphex Twin:

    I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy’s voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would lookfor changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeatany rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations.

    And Mr. Richard D James’ (Aphex Twin) response:

    Mental! I’ve heard that song before; I like it. I didn’t agree with him. I thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: “Didgeridoo”, then he’d stop making abstract, random patterns you can’t dance to. Do you reckon he can dance? You could dance to Song of the Youth, but it hasn’t got a groove in it, there’s no bassline. I know it was probably made in the 50s, but I’ve got plenty of wicked percussion records made in the 50s that are awesome to dance to. And they’ve got basslines. I could remix it: I don’t know about making it better; I wouldn’t want to make it into a dance version, but I could probably make it a bit more anally technical. But I’m sure he could these days, because tape is really slow. I used to do things like that with tape, but it does take forever, and I’d never do anything like that again with tape. Once you’ve got your computer sorted out, it pisses all over stuff like that, you can do stuff so fast. It has a different sound, but a bit more anal.

    I haven’t heard anything new by him; the last thing was a vocal record, Stimmung, and I didn’t really like that. Would I take his comments to heart? The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion. For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It’s a bit hard to have a discussion with someone via other people.

    I don’t think I care about what he thinks. It is interesting, but it’s disappointing, because you’d imagine he’d say that anyway. It wasn’t anything surprising. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I expected him to have that sort of attitude. Loops are good to dance to…

    He should hang out with me and my mates: that would be a laugh. I’d be quite into having him around.

    From: “Advice for Clever Children


  7. 1-Bit Symphony: Jewel Case as Orchestra

    Tristan Perich is releasing a live performance that creates itself within the confines of a CD jewel case.

    Though housed in a CD jewel case like his first circuit album (1-Bit Music 2004-05), 1-Bit Symphony is not a recording in the traditional sense; it literally “performs” its music live when turned on. A complete electronic circuit—programmed by the artist and assembled by hand—plays the music through a headphone jack mounted into the case itself.

    Reminds me of of the Loud Objects Noise Toy, albeit in somewhat more elegant packaging¹.  It’s available on pre-order for $29.  Would love a kit or an Instructable to make my own.

    Saw this over at notcot.

    ¹Edit: That’d likely be because Tristan Perich is a member of Loud Objects.  How foolish am I?


  8. My Reignited Theremin Obsession

    Just had my theremin lust reignited by this 3 minute history/build video from G4′s Attack of the Show, via Create Digital Music.  Oh man.  I’ve been planning to build one of these since a random reference on the Slanky-L* to a theremin sample sent me off in search of just what this weird musical instrument could do.

    Turns out the history is just as fascinating as the ghost sound machine’s electronic guts.  Here’s an excerpt from the first interview with the Theremin’s inventor, Leon Theremin, after he first emerged from the U.S.S.R. after 51 years of state arrest:

    Mattis: When did you first conceive of your instrument?

    Theremin: The idea first came to me right after our Revolution, at the beginning of the Bolshevik state. I wanted to invent some kind of an instrument that would not operate mechanically, as does the piano, or the cello and the violin, whose bow movements can be compared to those of a saw. I conceived of an instrument that would created sound without using any mechanical energy, like the conductor of an orchestra. The orchestra plays mechanically, using mechanical energy; the conductor just moves his hands, and his movements have an effect on the music artistry [of the orchestra].

    Mattis: Why did you make this instrument?

    Theremin: I became interested in effectuating progress in music, so that there would be more [musical] resources. I was not satisfied with the mechanical instruments in existence, of which there were many. They were all built using elementary principles and were not physically well done. I was interested in making a different kind of instrument. And I wanted, of course, to make an apparatus that would be controlled in space, exploiting electrical fields, and that would use little energy. Therefore I transformed electronic [equipment] into a musical instrument that would provide greater resources.

    Mattis: What did Lenin think of it, and why did you show it to him?

    Theremin: In the Soviet Union at that time everyone was interested in new things, in particular all the new uses of electricity: for agriculture, for mechanical uses, for transport, for communication. And so then, at that time, when everyone was interested in these fields, I decided to create a musical use for electricity. I made a few first apparatuses that were made [based on principles of] the human interference of radio waves in space, at first used in [electronic] security systems, then applied to musical purposes. I made it, and I showed it at that time to the leaders. There was a big electronics conference in Moscow, and I showed my instruments there. It made a big splash. It was written up in the literature and the newspapers, of which we had many at that time, and many doors were opened [for me then] in the Soviet Union. And so Vladimir Il’yich Lenin, the leader of our state, learned that I had shown an interested thing at this conference, and he wanted to get acquainted with it himself. So they asked me to come with my apparatus, with my musical instrument, to his office, to show him. And I did so.

    Mattis: What did Lenin think of it?

    Theremin: I brought my apparatus and set it up in his large office in the Kremlin. He was not yet there because he was in a meeting. I waited with Fotiva, his secretary, who was a good pianist, a graduate of the conservatory. She said that a little piano would be brought into the office, and that she would accompany me on the music that I would play. So we prepared, and about an hour and a half later Vladimir Il’yich Lenin came with those people with whom he had been in conference in the Kremlin. He was very gracious; I was very pleased to meet him, and then I showed him the signaling system of my instrument, which I played by moving my hands in the air, and which was called at that time the thereminvox. I played a piece [of music]. After I played the piece they applauded, including Vladimir Il’yich [Lenin], who had been watching very attentively during my playing. I played Glinka’s “Skylark”, which he loved very much, and Vladimir Il’yich said, after all this applause, that I should show him, and he would try himself to play it. He stood up, moved to the instrument, stretched his hands out, left and right: right to the pitch and left to the volume. I took his hands from behind and helped him. He started to play “Skylark”. He had a very good ear, and he felt where to move his hands to get the sound: to lower them or to raise them. In the middle of this piece I thought that he could himself, independently, move his hands. So I took my hands off of his, and he completed the whole thing independently, by himself, with great success and with great applause following. He was very happy that he could play on this instrument all by himself.

    Read the whole interview here.

    A more thorough history can be had in the 1995 documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.  Oddly, I can’t find any video clips of it online, but if you’re dying to see it, I’ll gladly mail you my VHS copy.  Just leave a comment and I’ll email you for mailing details.

    * remember listservs?  remember Soul Coughing?  that’s ok.