By Sunken Foal
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A mix of old and new experiments in electronic and acoustic music
focussing on the composition of resonant, percussive sounds.
1. Daphne Oram - Melodic Group Shapes
Simple, primitive synthesis and effects, and all the better for it. Daphne Oram had a unique method of drawing shapes on 35mm film and covering it to sound. I’m not sure if his is an example of the method though.
2. Raymond Scott - Sleepy Time
Some of the tracks of this ‘Soothing sounds for Baby’ album are perhaps a little harsh and piercing for today’s infant but I think this one has a comporting warm tone. I love how you can hear the difference between each voice of the synth sequence.
3. Monoton - Jsca
I became aware of Konrad Becker’s early 80’s synthetic soundscapes some years ago and I’ve been a huge fan since. Mono Tone / Monotonous: however you want to take it is fine by me.
4. Bernard Parmegiani - Jeux de Configurations
Parmegiani is kind of a Daddy for me. By simply deviating from conventions in art you can pretty easily come up with something considered Avante-Garde. I find that sometimes the emperor is wearing no clothes. But making that work compelling, absorbing or transcending is another matter. I listened Parmegiani’s ‘La Création Du Monde’ in college in a pitch black room played back on a big set of Genelec mid field monitors and it spoke to me in volumes. Hope it speaks to other people just as much.
5. Arnold Dreyblatt - Luftmenschen I
Minimalist composer Arnold Dreyblatt explores the psychoacoustic properties of prolonged stringed instrument techniques on his ‘Second Selction’ LP. Well worth lying down for.
6. Rashad Becker - Dances V
This is kind of ‘The New Music’ for me. Really descriptive synth work-outs with little or no spacial affectation. Lots of dynamics and energy. The absence of regular rhythm and melody is so welcome.
7. Duane Pitre - Section IV
Big lovely acoustic drones. Exploring layers of harmonics with washing movements. This is from 2012’s ‘Feel Free’ and is totally worth a listen.
8. Meyers - Inhaler II
Another artist I kinda think of as ‘The New Music’ ; ). Apparently, Meyers was struck down with a bad illness and relegated to a small computer/contact mic set up and set about making a bit of a masterpiece in his ‘Negative Space (1981–2014)’ LP.
9. Roly Porter - Birth
Roly Porter’s ‘Life Cycle of a Massive Star’ is a massive, massive album. Originally a member of Planet-Mu’s Dub Step visionaries Vex’d along with Jamie Kuedo. Kinda does what is said on the tin.
10. Lasry / Baschet - Quatuor Pour Trois
The opening titles to early 80’s children’s television show ‘Music Box’ are forever inscribed on my brain. A few years ago I found out the music was by Jacques Lasry and played on the Cristal Baschet (invented by the Bashet Brothers), the creepy sounding glass & metal rodded instrument. So unique sounding and beautifully composed to get the maximum ‘odd’ but memorable recordings. This track is from ‘Les Structures Sonores’ album and is well worth checking out.
11. Autechre - Mirrage
Taken from Ae’s latest ‘NTS Session (part 4)’ LP. People have been crying out for Autechre to make more legato music since their ‘Vletrmx’ opus in 1995. We got a couple of hours of it this year and it’s deep to say the least. This is probably my favourite track from the eight hour album put out this year (2018).
12. Kate NV - BUG
Really charming, free sounding compositions from Kate NV. Beautifully illustrated postcards to go along with all the tracks from her для FOR LP.
13. Brian Eno - Innocenti
Eno seemed to have really codified his ambient approach by 1992’s ‘The Shutov Assembly’ LP. So much patience and space and still so slick. I go back to this LP a lot. Neither happy or sad, just right ; )
14. Pole - Klettern
From ‘Pole 3’, one of my fave albums ever. Completely unique sounding. Stefan Betke pulls you into a singular sounding space with his stuff and it’s got a sneaky funk too. This track sounds like there’s velcro sticking between each rhythm point.
15. Pauline Anna Strom - Rain on Ancient Quays
Sweet harmonic descending patterns and comfy tape saturation to give you a hug.
16. Laurie Spiegel - Clockworks
This track is probably at this centre of this mix. The descriptive nature of the resonant pulse points. Kind of pinnacle electronic music in my mind. Perfection and imperfection having a dance off. The ‘almost’ wood and ‘almost’ metal facsimile going on. A million miles from an acoustic percussion ensemble and right beside it at the same time.
17. Tim Hecker - Keyed Out
I’m so happy Tim Hecker exists and releases music. It’s always a massive sigh of relief listening to his music. I know many say his earlier work is where it’s at but for me he’s in his heyday. This is from 2018’s ‘Konoy’.
18. Hans Otte - Wassermannmusik V
This is nice isn’t it?
19. Aleksi Perala - uk74r1510029
I believe Alelsi Perala (formerly Ovuca) and Rephlex records boss Grant Wilson-Claridge came up with a unique octave tuning system they call ‘Colundi’. Perala has been exploring this system prolifically and enthusiastically for last few years and seems to refer to it as a kind of religious devotion. It works for me.
20. Raymond Scott - Rhythm Sample #2 (Half-Speed Demo)
I could sit and listen to Raymond Scott’s early commercial experiments with his bespoke synthesisers all day. His approach was really playful and never seemed to get to bogged down in perfection. This is from the ’Three Willow Park’ collection.
21. Daphne Oram - Four Aspects
From 1960 and drenched in tape echo. I can only assume the farther away in time we get from these cumbersome but primitive sonic setups the more charming they’ll sound. Really exploratory stuff from somewhat simple (albeit esoteric) means.
22. Bernard Herrmann - The Stars
Chord progression master. From Herrman’s excellent score for ‘The Lonely’ episode of the Twilight Zone in 1959. From IMBD: “A convict, living alone on an asteroid, receives from the police a realistic woman-robot.”
23. Freeform - A.T. (Autechre Remix)
For Freeform’s ‘Audiotourism: Vietnam And China’, 2001, he travelled parts of Eastern Asia with his brother and collected audio recordings and photography of indigenous musical instruments. He then composed an album on his return with the recordings and used the photography on the sleeve to indicate where each instrument came from. It seems to me that there was an abundance of audio material and Autechre seemed to use only a couple of milliseconds of it. But it’s what they do with that tiny amount of audio that’s the key here.
24. Benge - 1977 Yamaha CS30
From a fascinating album ‘Twenty Systems’ where Benge takes twenty commercially available synthesisers produced in consecutive years between 1968 and 1987 and composes multitracked works focussing only on one synth at a time. With sexy results.
25. Mark Fell - Intra-2
Using an ensemble of micro tuned, resonant percussive instruments designed by Xenakis, Fell put out this beautiful album ‘Intra’ this year (2018). Mark Fell is really, really cool isn’t he?
26. Suzanne Ciani - Sound of A Dream Kissing
Fair play to Finders Keepers for putting out this lush collection ‘LIXIVIATION’ by Suzanne Ciani of stuff from the 70s. Lots of really cute commercial sound idents for tech companies at the time.
27. Aphex Twin - Beetles
Maybe the only Aphex Twin track featuring a straight up vocal. I love the interplay between the two synths. There’s lots of spring reverb on this mix of tracks I’ve just noticed.
28. Gunner Møller Pedersen - March
I can’t remember anything about this album but I could listen this those percussive randomly tuned synthetic water droplets all day.
29. Kaboom Karavan - Gemoet Klaar Zien
Neoclassical detuned plucked pensive funk from 2013. There’s a bonus track by Dublin’s Zvuku on the DL of ’15 Shades of White’.
30. Phoenecia - Frendano
2011’s ‘Demissions’ By Phoenicia sounds like the Miami electro-glitchmeisters had calmed down a little and started to explore a more immersive sound, compared with their early naughties output, while still using there fragmentational skills.
31. Ron Grainer - The Spirits Still Linger
From the soundtrack to one of my favourite movies ‘The Omega Man’ from 1971. Since I was a kid I’ve loved the sound of what I can only imagine is a large bowl full of water being struck and moved about. It’s probably just a bell. Sweet sounding organs on this piece too.
32. MG - Exalt
I didn’t hear much about Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore releasing this LP of modular synth compositions a few years about. Well worth checking out. Composed yet experimental, it still somehow manages to sound like him.
33. Oren Ambarchi / Kassel Jaeger / James Rushford - Face Time
A seductive soundscape released this year. A nod to Frozen Reeds on twitter for illuminating this one.
34. Raymond Scott - Idea #36
Now You’re Swingin’
35. Akira Tamba - Étude N0.2
From 1962, Japanese composer Akira Tamba studied under Messiaen in the Conservatory of Paris and made great strides exploring the musique concrete techniques of the time.
36. Bernard Parmegiani - Poursuite
From the original soundtrack to the film ‘Rock’ in 1982. This was reissued in 2017 and was accompanied by some photographs of Parmegiani in his studio at the time. Kinda blew my mind to see how similar his setup was to many bedroom producers in the 90’s til now. If you listen in to this one you’ll hear a straight up Roland 808!! This track is very much proto Autechre I think.
37. Tom Dissevelt - Whirling
Top Skit! I love the rolling electronic percussion pattern clicking this one along.
38. Laurel Halo - The Sick Mind
Laurel Halo’s stuff had not fully clicked with me before this year’s ‘Raw Silk Uncut Wood’. Meditative and malevolent at times, there’s a steady flow of drama in this record.
39. Jon Brooks - Mr Brooks I Presume
There’s lots of music coming out that’s been made on Buchla synthesisers these days. Thankfully.
40. Pauline Oliveros - Mnemonics III
Just a flavour here of a sprawling piece of frequency modulation that’s yet again being made all comfy and warm with the saturated tape delay. Recorded in 1965 apparently using two oscillators that were manufactured by Hewlett Packard. Like your mom’s laptop.
41. Delia Derbyshire - Quest (Fast)
Top Skit again. Delia is the queen. So measured and contained yet so playful and exploratory.
42. Roland Kayn - Teil 2
I don’t think this kind of music should be written about. Go listen to more it!!
43. Linda Perhacs - Spoken Intro To Leonard Roseman
I love this. You can hear how excited she is to be messing with a tape recorder. I love hearing the artist right in the middle of their process kinda blowing their own mind a bit.
44. Pauline Oliveros - Beautiful Soop
More lush Don Buchla designed tones with Oliveros at the helm in 1966.
45. Pye Corner Audio - Sleep Chamber
A particular strain of hauntology made famous by Boards of Canada harking back to the thick synthesiser sounds used in children’s and teen’s television programmes in the early eighties. Matin Jenkins ’Stasis’ from 2016 is full of gentle, simple synth melodies and well rounded atmospherics.
46. Zandvoort & Uilenbal - Pour Morton Feldman
Zandvoort & Uilenbal’s 2016 LP ‘Geruis Uit Somberdorp’ focuses on the use of both a 19th century acoustic harmonium and a 20th century trautonium synthesiser. The trautonium was made famous by German composer Oskar Sala who famously used the instrument to synthesise the sounds of birds for Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ movie.
47. Caterina Barbieri - Virgo Rebellion
Big confident synth patterns slightly augmenting over time from Italian composer Caterina Barbieri on her ‘Flowers from the Ashes’ LP from this year. The huge sound of the pulse width modulation going ’neeeeeyyyoooouuuuwwwww’ on this is so evocative.
48. Pariah - At the Edge
From one of my favourite albums of 2018. It has that edge where I completely forget that there is an artist responsible for what’s evolving and I can give myself over to it like it’s always been there.
49. Else Marie Pade - Glasperlespil II
Really advanced synthesised harmonic control from 1962.
50. Seefeel - Utreat
At least there’s always Seefeel if the rest of music isn’t floating your boat. Succour was released in 1995 on Warp records. A magical year for the label.
51. Raymond Scott - Carribea
Here he is again - hero.
52. Sunken Foal - Pearl Bearings
This is an the intro to ‘Pearl Bearings’ from my ‘Mother of God’ EP on Acroplane from 2011. I built a patch in Max/MSP that could cycle through large libraries of acoustic percussive impulses I had recorded. All of the impulses were tuned to the same note but each strike of each instrument was recorded at a slightly different angle so as to avoid the ‘machine-gun’ effect of retriggering the same sample over and over. I implemented a simple sequencer that could be sped up smoothy and easily to the speed of a tone. I think is resulted in some interesting timbres.