2022

Illustration by Edward Gorey.

If the amount of time, attention and money spent on the death of a monarch had instead been focused on inequality and sustainability, we might not be in quite as much trouble with national economic and global environmental crises. It’s too late to achieve the climate target of staying below a 1.5–2.0°C increase in global average temperature. Tipping points are already beginning to happen, and they interact, so others could be brought about quite suddenly. Some of these will accelerate or intensify the impact on greenhouse gases, biodiversity, ice loss, sea level rise, floods, drought, loss of habitat, crop failure and famine. The morbid negativity of these facts doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do; on the contrary, the need for a reshaping of society and economy is ever more urgent. The counterpoint to this worrying stuff is recent research showing that rapid transition to sustainability is possible technologically and economically: https://www.cell.com/joule/fulltext/S2542-4351(22)00410-X

This year I turned 50 and quit smoking. I moved from Twitter to Mastodon. I’d set up my Mastodon account a couple of years ago but hadn’t really engaged with it. After moving from one of the larger servers (mastodon.social) to a smaller and more specialist one (post.lurk.org), I now feel like I’ve found a good home and a welcoming community. My Twitter experience had been almost entirely positive, so I was reluctant to move. Quite a few of the albums listed below are things I first discovered thanks to Twitter friends.

…………………..

A LARGE SHEET OF MUSCLE – THE POLICE ARE SATELLITES (Bandcamp)
Relatively sparse compositions that together feel like a soundtrack to a disturbing film. It reminds me of Gruppo Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza or the solo work of some of its members – Ennio Morricone and Roland Kayn. Unlike the raw phone-recorded monologues and field recordings of some previous albums by Lou Johnstone (WANDA GROUP), this is closer to music concrete made with recorded and synthesized sound, carefully shaped and arranged. It’s comparable to Jim O’Rourke’s Steamroom compositions.

Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak (1984)
A new-to-me thing via Twitter, where Marc Masters and Seán Clancy both said that their kids loved the song Sharkey’s Day. I do too.

ANMA – Envlps (Syncopathic)

Yara Asmar – Home Recordings 2018 – 2021 (Hive Mind Records)
My favourite is track 2, called ‘sleeping in church – tape 1 – on a warm day i turned to tell you something but there was nothing there’.

Autechre – ‘Ask Me Anything’ stream (Twitch).
We got loads of insights into Autechre’s approach from these streams. Like how they developed their current software-based setup (“the rig”), how their versions of it differ (mainly in terms of display and control: one is minimalist; the other is always adding extra bits), and how it works when performing live. I transcribed the answer to a question about Autechre’s use of reverb: https://aestheticcomplexity.wordpress.com/2022/06/06/sean-on-autechres-reverb/ The mix CD that @hellospiral asked about in the first stream got released a few weeks later, before the second stream. Someone in the chat who was involved in the production of Grace Jones’ latest album asked if Autechre would be interested in remixing one of her tracks, and Sean was well up for it, which would be cool. The two streams are up on YouTube here and here. A final treat, on 30th December, was the live-streamed mix of music contextual to the 1992 Warp compilation Artificial Intelligence. The mix is available to listen to here: https://autechre.mixlr.com/recordings/1977679 And here’s a track list, including a link to download the mix as MP3: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Fy1mZkeMTI1CvLWmPy7NOAwFkFu-a6FHrx2EMgt4_3w/edit#gid=0


Burial – ANTIDAWN EP (Hyperdub). Nice cover artwork by Maya Hewitt. This EP is almost entirely without beats or basslines. It’s 99% atmos and ambience made of the usual Burial material: vinyl crackle, re-pitched vocals, and soft plaintive chords, all smothered in foggy reverb. It sounded fresh in January, but the subsequent and similar Streetlands EP released in October already feels like a tired formula. I’d like to hear the opposite kind of thing, with a focus on the beats, because Burial does that complex skittering stuff better than anyone since Photek.

Freur – Doot-Doot (1983). Another discovery via Twitter, mentioned by Andrew Male in response to Dale Cornish, if I remember correctly. Overblown 80s vocals that actually work well in the context of glossy, slightly edgy synth-pop. The singer, Karl Hyde, and one other member, Rick Smith, later went on to form Underworld, a name they took from a film they did the soundtrack for. ‘Doot-Doot’ is the name of both the song that was their biggest single and the album it’s on. It’s the kind of track you could imagine being a resurgent hit if it featured in Stranger Things.

Dub
While trying to cope with the intense heatwave that we suffered in July, when irritability increases in proportion to the temperature, and when music that’s otherwise usually enjoyable begins to grate, dub music was my go-to. I’ve been working my way through Snoopy’s list of the top 125 dub albums. Only two of them were already in my collection (#20 Skin, Flesh & Bones – Dub In Blood, and #29 The Upsetters – Super Ape). I enjoyed the series The Strangeness of Dub by Edward George on Morley Radio, an educational journey into dub culture through social history and critical theory. https://morleyradio.co.uk/series/the-strangeness-of-dub/ And I’ve been tuning in to On the Wire, the long-running dub and reggae show on Radio Lancashire by Steve Barker, who put together a list of dub & reggae specials here: https://otwradioarchive.blogspot.com/p/reggaedub-and-other-specials.html

Mark Fell – Structure and Synthesis: The Anatomy of Practice (Urbanomic)
This book is an anthology of Fell’s thoughts on music and music practice. Edited by Robin Mackay, it collects together and expands upon essays and other bits of writing that have been published in various places, like the Collateral Damage article for The Wire that analysed DJ Pierre’s use of the TB-303 in making Acid Tracks by Phuture. The book includes a glossary of terms that defines his neologisms, including Ambient Togetherness, Awful-atarian, Bell-endism, and Shitegeist. ‘Just turning knobs (JTK)’ is another of the stand-out entries in the glossary, derived from the aforementioned article on Phuture: “Pierre explains how he couldn’t figure out how to work the 303 – it didn’t come with a manual – so he just started to turn the knobs.” The book is designed by Joe Gilmore, who reveals that: “the typesetting and layout are structured with a very tight set of rules which were designed to give the book a focused, cohesive aesthetic and visual rhythm”.

Rhiannon Firth – Disaster Anarchy: Mutual Aid and Radical Action (Pluto Press)
A book about how people support each other in times of crisis. It relates to a Guardian article by Nesrine Malik, which notes that the UK economy is looking more like an emerging market (what used to be called a ‘developing country’) than the developed market it supposedly is:

Lockdowns and a lack of in-person contact during the pandemic smothered anger and civil action. These are the forces this crushing cost of living crisis is now unleashing. Another feature of some of the economies of emerging markets, in addition to trade volatility and high inflation, is a realisation on the part of an exploited workforce and stretched citizenry that the government will not deliver. One outcome of that is the emergence of an informal parallel system of support, one in which people share resources and donate their time to help each other out.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/22/england-citizens-ungoverned-unstable-strikes-civil-disobedience

Robert Fripp / The League Of Gentlemen – The League Of Gentlemen / God Save The King (1981)
God Save The King is a compilation of remixed tracks from The League Of Gentlemen and contemporary singles. As such, it’s less structured and conceptual in comparison with the original album, but it’s cleaner and punchier. Robert Fripp posted a few videos throughout the year, and on this one he plays the repetitive rhythm part from the track ‘God Save The King’.

Machine – Machine (1972)
Re-released by WeWantSounds this year. Another good one from the same label is Mawood (1971) by Abdel Halim Hafez.


Minced Oath – Superstrate / Smoke and Scissors
Superstrate was released at the end of last year, while Smoke and Scissors came out in October. Minced Oath is Dunk Murphy, AKA Sunken Foal, who also runs the label Countersunk.


Anthony Moore – CSound & Saz (Touch)
Whenever I’ve played this to friends who aren’t particularly into drone music, they’ve been surprisingly impressed by this music and have commented to say how much they like it. I like it a lot too.


Nik Colk Void – Bucked Up Space (Edition Mego)


NOXIN – Dream Sequence (EVEL RECORDS)
Glitchy gongs, pitched percussion and dubby delayed horns surrounded by digital clicks and cuts of high frequency noise and booming resonant bass tones. Made with Max MSP. Great stuff.

Julian Oliver – Knotworks
Accessible and informative video guides to tying knots. https://julianoliver.com/knotworks/

Gascia Ouzounian & others – Female & Gender Non-Conforming Sound Studies List
Originating from a tweet by @gasciaouzounian, the crowdsourced list was uploaded online by @lutlopl: https://ethercalc.net/rwwkg3scy4sa

Gavilán Rayna Russom – Trans Feminist Symphonic Music (Longform Editions)
This is a beautiful piece of music. An extended synth performance in four movements, based on difference tones – artificial tones that are subjectively perceived when two tones are played at the same time.

Samplebrain
Designed by Aphex Twin and built by Dave Griffiths, this is a free app for mashing up audio samples. It works by chopping up audio into pieces and matching these pieces by similarity to a target sound. https://gitlab.com/then-try-this/samplebrain

Source Direct – Snake Style 2 (Source Direct Recordings / Tempo Records)
A belated proper release for a mid-90s tune. Dark and menacing, like the best of their stuff, it goes hard. https://boomkat.com/products/snake-style-2

Thinking Plague – Moonsongs (Endemic Music, 1984).
I first heard this band thanks to Helena Celle tweeting the track ‘Warheads’. I feel like I should have heard them before, because they sound like they might have influenced a few different bands, like Battles, The Mars Volta, and Mr Bungle. There’s a long interview with the band from last year, with details about the recording of Moonsongs here: https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2021/03/thinking-plague-interview.html

Jim O’Rourke – NTS Radio
https://www.nts.live/shows/jim-o-rourke


UAN0014 – UAN0014 (UAN)
Masterful minimalism from the absolutely anonymous label.


Iannis Xenakis – .Electroacoustic Works (Karlrecords)
Many of these compositions I first heard and got to know as MP3 rips of scratchy vinyl albums, so listening to these remastered versions is getting to know them all over again. The added depth and clarity give these well-known compositions a new lease of life.

Tom Zé – Estudando o Samba (1976).
A final discovery thanks to Twitter friends – this one from Jen / @JSpacewoman.

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