Experimental


So first a little housekeeping. Sorry I’ve been a little lax on posting things here. Been busy and, besides, microblogging (see Twitter feed) is more up my alley (haiku is my favorite poetry form). On the subject of music, which this post will concern itself with, I should point out a few things:

  • My radio show isn’t dead, just been busy. That, and I’m waiting on Mixxx to fix the bug with my microphone so I can use voice over. But that’s really an excuse. I’ve been planning on doing another show, for weeks. So I have lots of fodder for it. Also been thinking about doing a noise show.
  • This year, my friend Jon 7 aka President Blair who runs the Timetheory netlabel and subsequently released my first noise album as Brownian Motion, started a project called The ERNIE 4 and played a couple local shows. In the spirit of Future Sound Of London’s “ISDN,” we did a little “tour” via Icecast. As the year is drawing to a close, we should be releasing the archives of this year’s tour soon. Keep an eye out.
  • Also keep an eye out for the second Brownian Motion, More Culture Than A Pint Of Probiotics, soon to come from Bleak netlabel.
  • The biggest show The ERNIE 4 had the delight in playing was with noisers from across the country at the 2011 Eugene Noise Fest. It was a lot of fun and we had an opportunity to test out some new equipment which worked out really well. We released the rather short set for free which you can find here.

On that latter point, I had finally decided to put Linux on my G4 Mac. It worked, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. After mucking around with it quite a bit, I realized how I could make an old Thinkpad R60 do the trick. Merely days before. I got Lubuntu, JACK, Pure Data, JACK-Rack, Patchage, and a bunch of LADSPA plugins set up. I brought a contact mic along for fun. The flexibility it offered, especially via Jack, was awesome. Best of all, Patchage made virtual cabling super easy. I was able to run multiple inputs any which way I want. Through this process, I got Jon interested in pd and he used it, too.

The more I contemplated this the more excited I got: I had a completely free system. By this I mean not that I got the computer without cost (this is not about money), but that my entire set up, down to the operating system, was entirely open source. Free for anyone to investigate, distribute and modify. Why is this important?

There’s a reason why I’m so adamant about Creative Commons licensing with my work (including my radio show). It’s the same reason why I’m so adamant about using freeware. I don’t believe information should be “owned.” It’s like Monsanto trying to patent DNA. There is only one goal from this– greed. Music should be about your passion to make it. Not greed. If you want to be greedy, go be an investment banker. I do believe that artists deserve recognition for their works and I do believe that artists have the right to profit from their works, even make lots of money from them. When you make it only about profit, however, then you are, in my opinion, not art, you are simply another commercial juggernaut. Go make jingles for McDonald’s.

There is that phrase: if you love something, set it free.

Meanwhile, I became a member of Hal McGee‘s Contact Group of Homemade Experimental Electronic Music and Noise on Facebook. I missed an option to add a track to his recent compilation series of 60 second tracks. In the process of discussing this and lamenting that there were some missed opportunities, it was brought up that the group was about the free change of ideas, not about the compilation. The gauntlet was thrown down.

So I picked it up and offered an idea of my own: a free electronics compilation. Made with free software, distributed in a free format, with a free license, offered through a free host, and released for free. By all of those except the latter, I meant free as in speech, not beer (i.e. not about money). This led to some lively discussion and ultimately some decisions were made:

  • Contributions are open. Anyone, Contact Group member or not, can contribute.
  • There are no limits on genre or genres. Doesn’t just have to be noise.
  • There are no limits on time. Doesn’t have to be 60 seconds. It can be. Doesn’t have to.
  • Deadline is January 1. February 1.
  • Release will be offered through Bandcamp (technically not free, but their API is freely available). Reason is that we can offer it for “name your own price”which means it’s free as in beer if you want it to be, but if you want to contribute, great. The money will be equally split between all the software projects used.
  • More specifically, it will be released on my own Bandcamp page under the “Brownian eMotions” label. Cuz it’s funny.
  • Must use free software.
  • Must use a free format. MP3 is not free and, besides, we need lossless to make Bandcamp work. I highly recommend FLAC because it is free and lossless and compressed, which makes distribution easier. Other alternatives are WAV and AIFF, but they were originally proprietary formats developed by IBM/Microsoft and Apple, respectively. In general, these should not have licenses or patents, but there are some patents on some extensions, so it may be difficult to be certain that you’re using a free version. FLAC is definitively free.
  • Contributions can be made available any which way you want: file sharing services, email, etc. Leave a comment here with how you’d like to do it and I’ll email you back with the necessary information.
  • Remember, this is free as in speech. Open source. We’re not talking about price. If you stole Fruityloops off of some Torrent site, that’s not the free we’re talking about.
  • It is highly preferable, but not necessary, to use a free operating system. Windows and OS X are not free.
  • Also preferable, but not necessary, is the use of open source hardware. If you want to use your guitar, go for it. But if you want to make an electronics project out of this, knock yourself out.
  • For many people, this will be a dramatic change. It’s meant to challenge you. Try something new. I WILL be happy to answer technical questions.
  • All tracks will be licensed with a by-nc-sa license which allows users to remix and share the track given that re-use or re-distribution is non-commercial, that the original is attributed, and that the new work or distribution is similarly licensed.

That being said, we already have some takers. As I hear from more people I will add them to this list. Here goes:

  1. Travis Johnson (track received)
  2. Jack Hertz
  3. Nuno Maltez
  4. Ronny Wærnes (track received)
  5. Post-Avantist (track received)
  6. Herv
  7. Halluciphile (track received)
  8. Antiquematter
  9. President Blair (track received)
  10. The Cheshire Dragon (track received)
  11. Centrescape
  12. Ganglion Cyst (track received)
  13. Hobo Liked Gnomix (track received)
  14. hiyohiyoipseniyo (track received)
  15. Astrometria (track received)
  16. Hollywood Video Game Kill-Bot (track received)
  17. d0x10 (track received)
  18. Lackthrow
  19. RJ Myato
  20. I Died (track received)
  21. John Dunlap (track received)
  22. Nick Bailey (track received)
  23. Elizabeth Veldon (track received)
  24. Pulsewidth (track received)
  25. Carl Kruger (track received)
  26. Somnaphon (track received)
  27. The Implicit Order (track received)
  28. Shaun Sandor (track received)
  29. Marax (track received)
  30. The Last Thing I Said To You Was (track received)
  31. Loopool (track received)
  32. noish (track received)
  33. Jukka-Pekka Kervinen (track received)
  34. Arvo Zylo (track received)
  35. Brownian Motion (track received)
  36. The ERNIE 4 (track received)
  37. Precocious Mouse

So get out there, make some noise, and spread the word. Bonus points if your piece is on the subject of freedom 🙂

P.S. This post has been done by email so if it sucks, blame WordPress. 🙂

Update 29 December 2011: make sure to read the comments for some further clarifications.

Update 2 February 2012: A few loose ends left in bold. Revised to include all previous candidate contributors. I struckout the ones who either I lost contact with or who said that for whatever reason they couldn’t contribute. This is mostly for my own desire to document. There may be a volume 2 and 3… Meanwhile, expect this out relatively soon. I’m aiming for mid-February, probably consistent with the release of the new Brownian Motion.

Update 14 Febuary 2012: Come get it!

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My first album has been released.  Not for the faint of heart, it’s a rather noisy eighteen-minute manipulation of some very high frequency electromagnetic waves I found floating in the air one day.  It can be listened to here and can be downloaded directly here (for free!) along with the fantastic artwork by Timetheory label owner and good friend Jon 7.  I named my little project Brownian Motion after the random movement particles in suspension and a little bit of double entendre.  The title of the album, “Midnight Vawk In The Park,” you’ll have to figure out for yourself.  Let’s just say the mispelling is intentional but doesn’t lead directly to the meaning though the timing is about right.  All in all, it’s a little bit serious and a wee bit tongue-in-cheek.  Enjoy!

r-608620-1176983843The rain and cold are here at last, a perfect time to go a little slower and switch the iPod over to a more contemplative selection.  So I finally got around to listening to Nurse With Wound‘s Angry Eelectric Finger series.  And that’s no small feat as there are five albums to deal with, all slightly different but based off the same material.  It’s an interesting story…

First, to the uninitiated, Nurse With Wound is something of a cult figure in the world of experimental music.  Stephen Stapleton has, with the help of a whole circus full of people, created a distinctive blend of free improv, ambient, noise, krautrock, psychedelic, dada, surrealism, musique concrète, and general weirdness since 1978.  His discography is insane in breadth, but perhaps even more remarkable is how he got started.  He was talking to this studio engineer about the guy’s frustration over either the trite nature of the business he got or the amount of money it was bringing in.  The guy decided he wanted to work with more experimental bands to shake things up a bit.  So Stephen said he had a band.  He didn’t, but the guy arranged a time for him to record.  So he got together a band and made it happen.  And the world hasn’t been the same since.

Fast forward to 2004.  Stephen with the help of droney Monos member Colin Potter samples some one of his inspirations, a krautrock group known as Xhol or Xhol Caravan or Soul Caravan.  They then manipulate these samples to create an homage to the death of Xhol saxophonist Tim Belbe.  The album includes some “apocalyptic” guitar work by neofolk god David Tibet from Current 93.  It was slated to be released by World Serpent Distribution (an awesome label and distribution center of some of the most fascinating avant-garde music) but they were going out of business then.  Luckily it was taken up by Beta-Lactam Ring, another remarkable label.  This leads us to the Raw Material – Zero Mix which is a total gem, even among Stephen’s vast range of impeccable work.  

Ominous blasts of ringing drones fight for dominance with what seem to be bike freewheels whirring; bells frolic among what sounds like Tibetian horns or tubas on nitrous; waves of processed digital static wash over rumbling synth whilst some nervous beast rattles its metal cage; then it all starts swirling and spiraling into a maelstrom; and yet we pop out the other side to blissful harmony.  And that’s just track 1.  Then we are faced with the moanings of a tortured upright bass, filtered through a haze of delusion, portentous cymbals, the cassette cogs again, some monstrous daemon groaning– then, shots ring out– a pig squealing at the edge of consciousness, a tumultuous sea of sounds churns backwards and forwards, the flotsam and jetsam rising up and being drowned; then it all begins to go quiet except for a faint heart beat rhythm and, at long last, the work of Tim Belbe and Hansi Fischer come into play whilst some shadowy sounds babble in the background, eventually taking precedence again; charcoal brushstrokes of weary ambience hobble along and then are turned inside out until they finally devour themselves.

But it’s only begun to get interesting.  Stephen then calls up his buddies irr. app. (ext.), Jim O’Rourke, and Cyclobe and asks them to finish and/or remix the work.  This is where we get the three main parts of the series, Mute Bell Extinction, Tape Monkey Mooch, and Paraparaparallelogrammatica, respectively.  There are also some outtakes known as Spitch’cock One which give a good taste for the tone of all of the above.  I must say, though, I found the first one to be pretty similar to the original with some extra speaker panning.  Jim does a little bit better with some spacey guitar bits, but overall maintains the same general theme.

And then there’s Cyclobe.  First off, one must understand that Cyclobe is one half Stephen Thrower and one half Ossian Brown aka Simon Norris, both ex-members of halluninogenic experimentalists Coil.  Now anyone that knows me knows I LOVE Coil.  Their blend of dark and light, experimental and accessible, electronic and traditional, yin and yang, just rubs me the right way.  I am only too sad that they are no longer.  Needless to say I’ve been looking very carefully into related projects so I can continue my Coil fix and of all the projects out there, Cyclobe, certainly comes the closest (with CoH being a close second).

And what do they do with it?  The absolutely obliterate it, turning it into a nightmarish daemon. At times the original sound source is apparent, but it’s constantly being turned over, fiddled with, warped, processed, scrambled, recycled, reconfigured, re-imagined.  It constantly walks a fine line between insanity and reverie, constantly threatening to fall too far on either side.  Where will we end up: dream or delirium?  There’s only one way to find out and it’s a bad trip well worth taking.  It’s an incredible remix of an already incredible piece of music.  Certainly Paraparaparallelogrammatica is a must have so go buy it!

Bike Friday has been alive with activity lately, so much so that this blog is a nagging memory every now and then while I ride to get to work, so I can in turn work like crazy and then finally get to ride home into the sun to my beautiful family.

Needless to say, things have been good. We had a nice vacation on the beach in Newport. We flew kites in a state wayside right down from our hotel that thanks to knowing the right people was less than it costs to stay in the Motel 6 on the freeway here in Eugene. We didn’t do much of anything. That was a nice change of pace.

After which, Bike Friday went to the Oregon Country Fair in custom-built (folding, too!) tie dyed polo shirts and showed off the bikes. We showed Ted White‘s classic “Return Of The Scorcher,” a movie that’s not only well known for showcasing bike culture around the world (read: see it if you haven’t!) but also for inspiriting the first Critical Mass (and also much less so for including a little interview with Kash, who runs our SF tikit agent Warm Planet, as he washes some underwear on tour). We made a whole skit out of it, explaining that our power source wasn’t working and that we’d need to bring in the back-up ROB unit.  As it turns out, the “ROB unit” was Rob English, fastest British man and 7th fastest in the world according to the hour record, atop Hanz’s desk which is entirely pedal powered.  He was all decked out in a huge Union Jack in the form of full-on time trial gear.  Anyways, it was a blast, but we didn’t get to camp because the Fair’s weird like that. I guess.

The girls left me last weekend and I went to Paul‘s well-named “No Car Party” as well as the even better-named “Kidical Mass.” The latter really sticks into my memory because it was a heck of a lot of fun on bikes. I’ve appeared at a Critical Mass or two and kind of like it. The police reaction to it I don’t like. But Kidical Mass was none of that. Just a family-friendly group touring about the neighborhood with the kids, enjoying the ride and following the traffic laws along the way. It was not like we were blocking traffic (yes, yes, I know, “we are traffic”), but it was like the other traffic didn’t exist. We went down to the Whiteaker Neighborhood River Festival I didn’t even know existed and then rode all over. Then they were playing “Labryinth” at the park and the plan was to go to Laughing Planet beforehand but I thought the dog might miss me.

In the Bike Friday front, we’ve never had a July like this. Usually things start slowing down now. They’re ramping up. In other news the tikit line hit a real milestone in production today, being a sure sign of the ease at which we’ll be able to keep up with the increased desire for transportation solutions. Season tikit? Yeah, it’s pretty much ready. We’ve got a blinged-out fiber Express tikit in the showroom we’ve been calling the Carbon tikit. Kind of like a carbon credit, but much more useful for getting the groceries.

I’ve just been riding (actually so has Sierra, both on the Tug-a-bug and on her own Bantam NWT) and hope that I’ll take the Pocket Llama to Cycle Oregon Weekend and the tikit to the Bridge Pedal. The 54×15 will be perfect. Hope to see you there!

In honor of the Last Friday Artwalk (the much better of the two in Eugene) as well as Critical Mass, I propose we change the name of our most ridiculously-category to “Bike Friday Fabulous First/Final Friday Fixed Gears.” There will be one every month or else!

Lastly, go see/hear Panasonic‘s new release if you haven’t. Yes, I know they’re now called Pan Sonic because of that silly electronics company, but I still remember them at Panasonic when I saw them play with Merzbow and Masonna. Indeed, that was probably the most memorable show of my life. Their cold, mechanical, form of minimal techno is unlike anything else, all pink-noise and square-wave. The latest is another live set, just brimming with raw, powerful energy, like a technology-current Esplendor Geométrico. I just wish it were a LOT louder. Just put it on headphones in the dark on turn to tracks 8 until the end to feel the full frontal force.

On the same trip, 1/2 of the aforementioned, aka Mika Vainio, who usually seems to have more in common with minimal glitch composers like Ryoji Ikeda or Alva Noto than anything else, also put out a great album called Oleva under his alias that even has a cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” to rival Psychic TV‘s. It’s dark, throbbing, almost ambient at times and highly recommended.

What’s new in ya’ll’s world?