…a novel’s a novel, regardless of how it’s displayed. I don’t think about the container at all. It’s words on a surface. Digital doesn’t actually change that. The only real changes digital have brought, as far as I’m concerned, are delivery speed and the ability to lift three Neal Stephenson novels at once.
Every year, Ian Hodgson of the magnificent Moon Wiriing Club tells me about the six strange records he loved the most in 2012. Here we go:
Biosphere ~ L’incoronazione di Poppea
Biosphere’s Bandcamp page presented a number of delightful archive releases during 2012, and while every home should own a copy of the flawless Kill By Inches Theme, the most puzzling artefact to emerge was L’incoronazione di Poppea, comissioned for a theatrical performance inspired by Monteverdi’s opera of the same name. Samples of the original opera (presumambly taken from vinyl) are isolated and looped into increasingly fragmented states. While this might recall the work of Philip Jeck, William Baskinski, The Caretaker and Biosphere’s own (deeply splendid) Shenzhou album of 2002, the application of a peculiar ossilation effect coats everything with an audio zoetrope of flickering disorientation. At first, learning to love Poppea is a little like learning to love motion sickness, and the suspicon arrises that something hasn’t downloaded properly or of rum equipment happenings at the Biophon studio. But after repeated listenings the beauty and simplicity shine through, and you’re left with an album of deeply rewarding post-queasy bliss that unquestionably puts you in mind of cold sunlight eternally filtering through the fingertips of a rotating marble statue.
Suzanne Ciani ~ Lixiviation
Retrospectives of seldom-mentioned, slightly unknown electronic musicians can occasionally be formidable or strictly academic in their sequencing. Nothing wrong with that, there’s never going to be 10 CD GRM collection that isn’t emotionally welcomed or worthy of time investment. But Lixiviation is an immediately interesting proposal; an archive release that spans 1969-1985 with music ranging from experimental ballet commissions to PBS tv spots. Suzanne Ciani is well known as a New Age composer, and there is a unique, dreamy deeply splendid calmness filtering through many of these pieces. You can loop ‘Second Breath’ all day and never tire of where it takes you. But it’s the cohesive consecution of shorter, corporate logotones between these wistful reveries ~ Princess With Orange Feet is a joy of experimental tape-delay drift charmingly sandwiched alongside ultra-polished Atari & Coca-Cola idents ~ that gives the feeling of being absorbed by a 1979 sentient Sears catalogue. What a treat!
(Note from Warren: not crashing that guy’s site by linking his self-hosted audio from here! But listen to “Cuckoo and radiometer, Pripyat” over there for a moment. Eerie.)
Albums of environmental/sound recordings are often all about context. Curious noises that suggest ghostly harmonics or distant constellations can be swiftly altered when you read about the expert use of contact microphones and a faulty hairdryer, or the idiosyncratic malfunctions of the air conditioning. While this is part of the appeal, Sounds from Dangerous Places quietly opens and captivates with what could only be some form of radiation detection equipment, whilst wind whispers through trees and a man reads out an increasing series of numbers in an ominous voice. This potent album presents a thoughtful guide to Chernobyl and how the nuclear disaster of 1986 has effected the surrounding area in a way uniquely suited to the medium. While the expected sounds of empty, echoing spaces are represented, folk songs and wildlife make this a recording rich in varied atmosphere and also highly informative. Questions are also posed. Do bird sounds recall the crackle of power lines and faulty radiometers only because of what has been played before? Does the recording of a skipping cd player in a Chernobyl bar slowly suggest an altering of the entire environment? Repeated listenings provide further details and connections. A supremely rewarding and often unsettling listen, this album also contains a second disc of recordings from Caspian Oilfields and UK Nuclear sites both deactivated and active.
Laurel Halo ~ Quarantine
A year ago, I pondered where Laurel Halo would go next after the Hour Logic EP. The answer was into deep space, and to discover a new genre of music ~ Space Dementia. A lonely astronaught wanders a starship with only her memories for company. Vocals seem to be unconsciously sung in an upfront, direct and often off-key manner, giving the impression of being recorded unaware, seemingly uninterested that anyone else could be listening. Someone accompanying the sound of their environment whilst plugged into headphones. Quarantine organically lurches around and fizzles, hardly ever forming into a solid song structure, often suggesting a pulsating sci-fi atmosphere of data-capture rooms or the holodeck drumming it’s fingers. Wow sounds like a sympathetic lifeform floating in the blackness, singing along whilst folding in on itself. To my ears this was a splendidly confusing record, and doesn’t really sound like anything else currently orbiting. Of course it could all be taking place in a launderette or be a dysfunctional break-up/down record rather than a thought experiment in spacial relativity, but if inventive music allows you to conjure up your own narrative then this could well be the new Silent Running or Time for the Stars and a most delightful/disturbing perplexment.
(Note from Warren: Laurel, I still owe you that book list, I know!)
Max Richter ~ Recomposed: Vivaldi the Four Seasons
Re-togging your old relatives can result in the unwelcome lucidity of touched-up Laurel & Hardy, or a chorus of affronted griping so loud it makes the whole potentially worthwhile endeavour nowt but a tedious chore. So it was with some surprise that Max Richter caused extreme and delightful temporal displacement with Recomposed: Vivaldi the Four Seasons. Rather than serving up the expected polite remix and coaxing, this album masterfully plays with expectation and familiarity. In many ways The Four Seasons are as recognisable and unremarkable as your shadow. Here they are lolling around an advertisement. They’re waiting at the dentist. Yes, I will hold, and what a touch of class they provide. No, I don’t really want to specifically listen to them. The conversation has dried-up. However, by re-splicing the DNA an audio hall of mirrors appears, allowing you new rooms to stroll around in the most familiar of places. Overfamiliar apathy is extinguished ~ by the time you’ve realised where you are the funfair has rolled smoothly along, and you happily jog on to catch up. I can’t honestly recall experiencing this sensation before in music. It’s very nearly a remix, very nearly the extended version, but slyly skips through the gaps in the fence to build a classy new pad of its own.
Hacker Farm ~ UHF
How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm / after they’ve seen Paree? sang Nora Bayes in 1919, precisely pre-empting the media interest that now deservedly envelopes this curious-murky, rich hooch-broth mutating hot pot of an album. Trapped in the countryside, getting off the wrong bus at the wrong stop, menaced by scraggy bullocks, vaulting a fence into a bathtub of dung, impaling wellingtons on submerged antique-rusty thresher components and staggering to an abandoned out-house festooned with arcane insignia whilst reclaimed VHS surveillance equipment skipped by Rumbelows in 1992 tracks your every move. All of these things happened to me as I listened to UHF. A quagmire delirium of a record and the finest proper industrial album in many a moontime, EU farm subsidy regulations calmly dictate that every home requires a copy by 2014. Send your complaints to http://exoticpylonrecords.greedbag.com/buy/uhf-4/
It would be amiss not to mention essential work from Mark Van Hoen, Time Attendant, Laurie Spiegel, Pye Corner Audio, Nina Kravitz, Georges Vert, Datassette, Motion Sickness of Time Travel, Belbury Poly, Terrence Dixon, the primal wallop of Carter Tutti Void, exceptional archive releases from Death Waltz Records, and most certainly The Wyrding Module, whose Mellifluous Ichor From Sunless Regions is well worth a free DL from http://www.upitup.com/catalogue/release.php?cat_id=62
Whether consciously or subconsciously, during the past year the influence of the much-missed Coil seeped into music (and the language of music) more than ever before, and It’ll be interesting to see how that continues to manifest. England’s Hidden Reverse (David Keenan’s influential and long OOP guide to Coil, Nurse With Wound & Current 93) is happily due for a re-print by Strange Attractor sometime soon, and remains a favourite book about music(k). Other points of 2012 interest include the myriad proliferation of broken reverby techno (not a bad thing) and it’s possible forthcoming mutation into a new strain of Electronic Listening Music, last spotted in the early 90s. (1990s).
Things to deliriously anticipate in 2013 include the first vinyl releases from the always exquisite Clay Pipe Music ~ both Shapwick by Jon Brooks and Plinths Small Lighthouse should be snapped up as soon as they emerge from the harbour. The Elektrik Karousel, the new album by The Focus Group (and friends) should be a whirligig of confusing fun, while absentee music-box tinkerer Colleen returns from an extended holiday with The Weighing of the Heart.
soundcloud.com Igaluk – To Scare the Moon with its own Shadow Igaluk is the creation myth of the Inuit moon. With simple words, the story reveals the complexity of our morals. It inspired me to create a music that, I hope, retains the enigmatic beauty that the moon bears. This live electronic piece was developed in collaboration with the pianist Sebastian Berweck. It is the sonic result of a reflection on performance in electronic music. The performer manipulates (with a keyboard and midi controllers) piano recordings he has previously done in the studio. Igaluk was realized in 2011-2012 at the studios of Technische Universität Berlin, University of Huddersfield and University of Montreal. It was premiered during the Piano+ festival 2013 at ZKM | Institue for Music and Acoustics. Thanks to Sebastian Berweck and Stephen Harvey for their help. piano, live, moon, ambient, electronics (tags:musiciftttsoundcloud )
Roko’s basilisk – RationalWiki "According to the proposition, it is possible that this ultimate (future godlike artificial) intelligence may punish those who fail to help it, with greater punishment accorded those who knew the importance of the task. This is conventionally comprehensible, but the notable bit of the basilisk and similar constructions is that the AI and the person punished have no causal interaction: the punishment would be of a simulation of the person, which the AI would construct by deduction from first principles." (tags:aifuturemadfunny )
New Publishing Hybrids | desktop "And let’s not forget, magazines themselves are still an incredibly fluid idea. We must keep exploring, especially as there will be even more incredible hybrids around the corner, when the so-called “internet of things” really kicks in." (tags:magazines )
Circus Maximus – By Gianni Riotta | Foreign Policy "In January, former Italian prime minister and current candidate Silvio Berlusconi praised Benito Mussolini, Italy's dictator for some 20 years, saying that the racial laws of 1938, which barred Jews from universities and many jobs, "are the worst fault of Mussolini, who, in so many other aspects, did good." A few days later, Berlusconi questioned a young woman in front of a laughing crowd, asking, "Do you come? Only once? How many times do you come? With what sort of time intervals?"" (tags:pol )
THREE PANELS OPEN is an open invitation. Perhaps you’d like to do one. A comic that is three panels in duration and 640px wide. I’m only going to run the ones I like best, I’m afraid. However, there’s no time limit on submissions. You can email the image firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your name and the website and/or twitter account you’d like it to be associated with.
SoundCtrl – Zankme: A New Spin on Digital Download Cards "Zankme’s digital download card service allows musicians to upload music, videos, or photos and print custom download cards right with real-time customization. Fans can redeem these cards, while artists can gather information on their fans including email addresses and location, helping them to pinpoint solid target markets for future tour plans." (tags:marketing )
Time reversal findings may open doors to the future "Imagine a cell phone charger that recharges your phone remotely without even knowing where it is; a device that targets and destroys tumors, wherever they are in the body; or a security field that can disable electronics, even a listening device hiding in a prosthetic toe, without knowing where it is." (tags:timetimetravelscitech )
What’s a download wristband? Simple: imagine a sleek, customized download card you can wear around your wrist. Each one comes with a unique code, redeemable on CDBaby.com for a free album or single download. Use download wristbands at your next concert. Instead of stamping wrists or using the venue’s wristbands, you can arrange for the door-person at your next show to put a download wristband on everyone who comes into the venue. Then your fans can take your music home with them after the show.
Now imagine that for digital books, of all kinds. Imagine handing those out at a launch party or speaking gig or panel appearance or some such, or seeding them at a show or other event or gathering.
Somewhat more interesting and elegant than being given a scrap of paper. A hell of a lot easier than shipping a few crates of books (especially if you’re a self-publisher or, of course, a digital-only publisher).
There’s something to be said for learning from the awful, twisting spasms of the music industry.
WARREN ELLIS is a graphic novelist, author and columnist. His new novel, GUN MACHINE, available now from Mulholland Books, is being developed for television by Chernin Entertainment and FOX. His first non-fiction book, from FSG, is due in 2014. RED 2, the sequel to the Bruce Willis-Helen Mirren film RED based on his book of the same name, will be released in August 2013.