Friday, August 11, 2006

Ambient Punk

Having just finishing the recording for our second shwantology mix a couple of months back, we were approached out of the blue to play avant-garde and ambient music for this exhibition opening in the National gallery in Dublin. For me, coincidences don't come much happier.

After some discussion we both decided that for this gig we should use (or reuse) tunes from shwantology 1 and 2 (but without really reusing mixes), as well as some other tunes that didn’t make it first time round and a few new things we had picked up in the meantime. In theory, studio mixes are blueprints for live performances, so the idea was to use the experience gained in recording the Shwantology mixes and make it work in a live setting. We also spent an evening before the gig going through records searching for more material (the more the merrier!). All that remained was a little web trawling for a few more bits and pieces - we specifically went looking for recordings of Beckett plays (and any other spoken word niceness) that we could use as part of the mix. This led us to the wonderful Ubuweb and Pennsound archives, which both host a whole lot of ‘arts’ material - writing, poetry, plays, sound recordings, musical pieces, soundtracks – I could go on for a while. Ubuweb in particular is an incredible resource - from interviews with John Cage – to papers on musical theory, to mp3’s of Beckett plays – it’s worth spending some time checking these sites out. The actual area we played the gig in is normally the restaurant at the entrance of the new extension of the National Gallery in Dublin – the space (when cleared of tables etc, as it was on the night) opens up to a large open room with a ceiling height of about 100 feet – which makes for a nice large echoy space. It’s connected to the rest of the gallery via a very large hallway and staircase; the photo below gives a view from the staircase looking back to the entrance hall. It gives you a good idea of the scale (the restaurant area is to the left near the entrance).

Positioned in a secluded corner, our set up consisted of a deck each, (both 1200’s) a CD deck each, (both pioneer cdj1000’s), a mixer each – Droid with his Stanton plus kaoss pad and me with the supplied pioneer (without full kills on the bass, mid and high unfortunately). Lastly Droid had his laptop with his mp3 mixer do-dah/software plugged in and I had my I-pod in the third channel on my mixer.

So - 3 sources each with both mixers in turn plugged into the supplied desk/PA, not as comfortable (or hot!) as the studio, but a reasonable mirror of our home setup.

Being asked to play at this opening gave us the opportunity to experiment with the notion of music being supplemental to an experience/performance and not the experience/performance itself. The idea that music can be background noise that floats under the conversation of people who have the choice to pay attention or not. With the ambient noise of 250 people moving around this large space, the music on the night faded in and out of their hearing. (Droid Says - The irony of this is that we’ve played in bars and backrooms all over Dublin down through the years, and the usual scenario involves a kind of struggle with the audience to make the music audible whilst still allowing them to converse – usually a fairly disheartening experience if you attempt any serious mixing…)

In terms of the overall event, the musical performance (should read -the hectic mixing by Droid and myself) was almost an afterthought and was pretty much ignored (an effect that was aided by the fact that we were placed behind a large screen). Too much attention to our mixing (or the performance) from the attendees could have given the music a focal point and probably would have made the audience them think too much about how the music is getting to their ears, which in turn would have subtracted from the event itself. (This was after all an exhibition opening and not a musical performance). Instead, the music, with its peaks and swells, pushed itself softly into audibility, lightly distracting as well as easily being ignored at the same time. We purposely tried to keep the volume low, just reaching over the chatter of the attending guests and we also focused on less of the dark or noisy pieces, and more on warmer music, including a lot of spoken word (or purring cats!) in the mix to provide those moments of focus. An often habit of mine in the past (when I used to live in a bigger house), was to put music on in one room and settle down to listen to it in another, (Aphex’s SAW 2 was a favourite for this) resulting in a sort of instant muffle with the other sounds in the house “mixing” in with the music as well. This would allow my concentration to wander from the tunes, to a conversation, or a book, or making a cup of tea etc. This is the kind of effect I was hoping to achieve for this set, this sense of background warmth, of a song not quite heard but enjoyed none the less.

This idea of the song not quite heard, when put in the context of the music we played, how it was presented, and its presence in this large space, lends itself to viewing the performance as a whole as a form of non linear sequence, that is - music that doesn’t have a start, middle and end or a logical progression. The end result is something a listener only tunes into for short periods of time but can still figure out or recognize its form/type from this minimal exposure. (Barney Stevenson's talks about this concept and Eno’s thoughts on it in his interesting Thesis on Eno) I think that ambient/classical etc... music is now a lot more accessible, more easily accepted and in a way recognised (by its form), by a much wider spectrum of people, without requiring an encyclopaedic knowledge of the field itself. In my mind these genres have entered the popular consciousness, mainly through use in advertising and the media – be it Eno’s music in adverts, or corporate branding and its use of “emotive” strings or “godlike” ambient surges - meaning it is more familiar and can be more easily enjoyed by a random group of people, attending, for example, an exhibition opening. During the night we were both quite surprised by the wide range of people that showed a real interest and enjoyment of the music, without any of them being closet ambient train spotters.

A few things on the recording itself: it was taped live onto DAT from the PA desk (3 DAT’s in total and unfortunately Droid’s mixer was not in stereo on the desk - so the mp3 is in mono as a result) and I also took a recording of the room for about an hour onto a minidisk with a binaural Sony mic attached. (This is where the room mp3s are from) The set is approx 2 hours 10 mins long and consists of a splice of the 3 DAT recordings and a bit of the room record from minidisk. The first splice is at approx 31 mins where I fade down into the room recording and back up to the second DAT (with the room recording from the same time, mixed in for good measure). The splice between DAT 2 and 3 is at approx 1 hour 17 mins, where I did a simple fade between the Talvin Singh and the Eno.

The end product, out of the context of the space it was performed in, is not perfect, there are a few glitches here and there, but we did have a few technical/monitoring difficulties (I couldn’t hear a thing! – Droid) on the night and as a result the set relies a little to much on individual tracks and meanders slightly – but, on the other hand it was not designed for headphone listening, (having said that after repeated listening on my ipod it works much better on headphones than I originally thought) it was intended to provide underlying background atmosphere, so in that respect I think it works very well, and it is considerably more relaxed than our previous excursions into this territory.

Droid + Slug vs Beckett - 140606: 130 minutes approx (180mb.mp3)

1. Eddie Newmark - Serenity: The Silent Surf - Audio Fidelity (Ambience: An Adventure in Environmental Sound LP)
2. Deep Space Network - Ten Waves (Live at XS) - Rising High (Chill out or die Vol.2 LP)
3. Cluster and Eno - Fur Luise - Water (Cluster and Eno LP)
4. Terry Riley - IN C - CBS (IN C LP)
5. Stephen Vitiello - Light of Falling Ears - JDK - (Light Of Falling Cars LP)
6. Heldon - Fluence A/B - Urus Records (Allez-Teia LP)
7. Brian Eno - Future Light-Lounge Proposal - Installation at Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepubilk Deutschland, Bonn Germany
8. Bang on a Can/Brian Eno - 1-2 - Point Music (Music for Airports Redux LP)
9. Hex - Felt - Ninja Tune - (Digital love EP)
10. Yoko Ono - Cough Piece 1961 - UbuWeb
11. Ruben Garcia/Harold Budd/Daniel Lentz - Pulse Pause Repeat - Gyroscope (Music for 3 Pianos LP)
12. Biosphere - Startoucher - Apollo (Patashnik LP)
13. Autechre - Yulgen - Warp (Amber LP)
14. Sigur Ros - Síðasti Bærinn - - (Síðasti Værinn OST)
15. Robert Ashley in Conversation with Terry Riley - Landscape - UbuWeb (Music with Roots in the Aether)
16. Roger Eno - Through the blue - Editions EG (Voices LP)
17. Brian Eno - Thursday Afternoon - Editions E.G. (Thursday Afternoon LP)
18. Tod Dockstader - Four telemetry tapes, no.3 - Starkland - (Apocalypse LP)
19. DJ Food - The Sky at Night - Ninja Tune (Kaleidoscope LP)
20. Le Monte young - Drift - UbuWeb - (Aspen 40 Kbits)
21. Burial - Forgive - Hyperdub (Burial LP)
22. Brian Eno - Dunwich beach, Autumn, 1960 - Editions EG (On Land LP)
23. Aphex Twin - Track 8 CD 2 - Warp (SAW2 CD)
24. Peter Green - Witches - Rephlex (Macbeth EP)
25. Samuel Beckett - Rule Number one - Ubuweb (The whole thing)
26. Brian Eno - Dunwich beach, Autumn, 1960 - Editions EG (On Land LP)
27. Harold Budd - Abandoned Cities - All Saints (Abandoned Cities LP)
28. Brian Eno - The quiet club - Opal - (Music for Civic Recovery Center LP)
29. Brian Eno/Harold Budd - Foreshadowed - Editions E.G. (The Pearl LP)
30. Philip Glass - Building - Electra (Einstein On The Beach LP)
31. Bedouin Acent - Beyond The 7th Gate - Rising High (Science, Art And Ritual LP)
32. Brian Eno & Peter Shwalm - Faraway Suns - Jvc Victor (Music for Omnyo Ji LP)
33. Gavin Bryars - The Sinking of the Titanic - Venture (The Sinking of the Titanic LP)
34. Yoshi Wada - Side B - UbuWeb (Lament For The Rise And Fall Of The Elephantine Crocodile LP)
35. Carsten Endra - Untiled (A2) - Markant (Cat M-13 LP)
36. Samual Beckett - Side 2 - (Beckett/Macgovern LP)
37. Toshiro Mayuzumi - 01 - ECJC Japan (Concert: 20-21)
38. Harold Budd - The Kiss - All Saints (The White Arcades LP)
39. Aphex Twin - Side D Track 2 - Warp (Selected Ambient Works 2 LP)
40. Brian Eno - Discreet Music - Obscure (Discreet Music LP)
41. Terry Riley - Shri Camel: Morning Corona - Ubuweb (Music with Roots in the Aether LP)
42. Oliver Messiaen - Oraison, 1937 - Ellipsis Arts (OHM - The early gurus of electronic music 1948 -1980 LP)
43. Hex - Interferance - Ninja Tune - (AntiStatic EP)
44. Pete Namlook - Escape (Trip To Mars) - Rising High (The Definitive Ambient Collection Vol.2 LP)
45. A Silver Mount Zion - 13 Angels Standing Guard 'Round The Side Of Your Bed - Constellation (He Has Left Us Alone ... LP)
46. Sons of the Sun - Heavenlamp - FatCat (Heavenlamp EP)
47. Brian Eno - Condition 4 - OPAL (Compact Forest Proposal CD)
48. Morton Feldman - Denmark - UbuWeb - (Aspen 40 Kbits)
49. cLOUDDEAD - And All You Can Do Is Laugh (1) - Big Dada (cLOUDDEAD LP)
50. Janek Schaefer - Startle Bather - Fat Cat - (Fat Cat 023 12")
51. Harmonic 33 - Planet 54 - Warp (Music For Film, Television And Radio Volume 1 LP)
52. Samuel Beckett - Cascando - UbuWeb (Two Radio Pieces by Samuel Beckett, Performed by Theatre for Your Mother, 1979)
53. Heldon - Trapeze/Interference - Cobra - (Rhizosphere LP)
54. Autechre - Overand - Warp (Tri Repetae LP)
55. Pauline Oliveros - Sound Patterns - UbuWeb - (Extended voices 1)
56. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - Amygdhala - Planet Mu (Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble LP)
57. Terry Fox - The Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Cats - UbuWeb (Long Version)
58. David Bowie - Subterraneans - RCA (Low LP)
59. Talvin Singh - Traveller - Island Records (Traveller 12")
60. Tod Dockstader - Track 1 - Sub Rosa - Aerial Vol.1
61. Brian Eno - Lanzarote - All Saints (The Shutov Assembly LP)blue jam
62. Autechre and The Hafler Trio - Êo≥ - Die Stadt (Êo≥ & ≥hÊ CD)
63. Autechre and The Hafler Trio - ≥hÊ - Die Stadt (Êo≥ & ≥hÊ CD)
64. Fleishmann - The rise and fall of a drinker - Leaf (Invisible Soundtracks 4 EP)
65. Muziq - Sick Porter 2 - Rephlex (Bluff Limbo LP)
66. Hex - Dust - Ninja Tune - (Digital love EP)
67. *** ******* - ********** * * - ***** (*** ***** *****)
68. Yves Klein - Monotone Symphony 1 (excerpt) - UbuWeb - (Prince of Space LP)
69. Alice Coltrane - Going Home - Impluse! (Lord of Lords LP)
70. Brian Eno and Jiri Prihoda - Music for Prague - (Music for Prague)
71. GodSpeed - The Dead Flag Blues - Kranky (F# A# 8 LP)
72. Kopernik - Ondyant Et Divers - Eastern Developments (Kopernik LP)
73. Aphex Twin - Track 1 CD1 - Warp (SAW2 CD)
74. Brian Eno - Discreet Music - Obscure (Discreet Music LP)
75. Gyorgy Ligeti - Lux Aeterna - MGM/Polydor (2001 O.S.T.)
76. Augusto De Campos & Caetano Veloso - Pulsar - ?? - (Lunapark 0,10)
77. Daniel Figgis - My Poor Little House Without Me In It- Rough Trade (Skipper LP)
78. Charles Bernstein - 1-100 - Ubuweb (Class)
79. Decal - Moylough - Planet Mu (404 not found LP)
80. Autechre - VLetrmx - Warp (Garbage EP)
81. Kohachiro Miyata - 4. Shika No Tone - Nonesuch Explorer (Shakuhachi - The Japanese Flute LP)
82. Jon Hassell /Harold Budd/Brian Eno - Chor moirÈ - Editions EG (Dream theory in Malaya 1 LP)
83. Jana Haimsohn - Hav'a Lava Flow - One Ten records - (Airwaves LP)
84. Eyvind Kang - Innocent Eye, Crystal See - Ipecac Recordings (Virginal Co Ordinates LP)
85. Howie B - Music For Babies - Polydor (Music for Babies LP)
86. Gordon Mumma - Mumma - UbuWeb - (Aspen 40 Kbits)
87. Bernard Herman - Theremin remixes - Varese (The Day The Earth Stood Still OST)
88. Godspeed - (Middle of) BBF3 - Contellation (Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP)
89. Luc Ferrari - Hommage Luc Ferrari par David Jisse - Rediffusion - (France Culture Champ Documentaire Hommage à Luc FerrariEmissions du 27 et 28 Août 2005)
90. Michael Brook/Brian Eno/Daniel Lanois - Distant Village - Editions EG (Hybrid LP)
91. Metamatics - Piano 2 - Hydrogen Dukebox (Evening Star / Piano 2, 7")
92. Samuel Beckett - Words and Music - Ubuweb (Two Radio Pieces By...)
93. Harold Budd - little heart - Samadhi Sound (Avalon Sutra LP)
94. Metamatics - Evening Star - Hydrogen Dukebox (Evening Star / Piano 2, 7")
95. Brian Eno/Robert Fripp - An Index Of Metals - Editions E.G. (Evening Star LP)
96. Brian Eno - Sparrowfall 1 - Editions EG (Music for Films LP)
97. Polygon Window - Quino-Phec - Warp (Surfing on Sine Waves LP)
98. Sigur Ros - GÌtardjamm [Live Clip]
99. Brian Eno - From the same Hill - Editions EG (Music for Films LP)
100. Terry Riley - IN C - CBS (IN C LP)
101. Chris Morris/Aphex Twin - Blue Jam Track 15/SAW2 Track 5 CD1 - Warp (Blue Jam LP)
102. Charles Bernstein - Goodnight - Ubuweb (Class)

As a lot of this tracks feature in Shwantology 1 and 2 and have already been described in those posts, rather than do a description of the mixing, I’m just want to highlight a few items or artists and impart some info about them.

My first exposure to Terry Riley and this track was through the culture show on BBC2 – they did a piece on IN C and it’s influence bands like the who in the early 70’s as well as how it laid the foundations for repetitive forms of music (dance music?). There are numerous recorded versions of it from the original to a Chinese version (produced by Eno and Jon Hassell) to a Bang on a can version, the great thing about it is that every version is (due to the nature of the piece) unique.

Bang on a can are a musical “society” / organization that have put on hundreds of musical events since their conception in 1987, including the above mentioned performance of In C and a tour / recording of Eno’s Music for Airports. This recording is a rearrangement of Eno’s ambient opus (but very much in keeping with the original), recorded on live instruments, in a similar vein to the Alarm Will Sound remixing Aphex Twin – i.e. great stuff!

La Monte Young – Apart from the recording in the mix and this written work on Ubuweb, I’m pretty new to La Monte Young – I do recommend checking out this post on Confucius’s blog, it’s about “Well tuned piano” which, judging by the first CD sounds amazing. Also for anyone that is interested, here is an explanation of his tuning for “Well Tuned Piano”.

Harold Budd – We have used quite a few pieces of Harold Budd’s large body of work in this and in the shwantology mixes. I discovered Budd’s work through his collaborations’ with Eno, the first I heard being the sublime “The Pearl” (which is one of the “Eno” LP’s that has been issued and repackaged this year). I went on a bit of a search on line and in the local tower’s and HMV’s (and I was very surprised to find quite a lot) in Dublin and found out a bit more about the man, and his other recordings – here’s a shortlist of what I think is (at least) worth checking out – this is by no means complete as there are still quite a few to track down:

The White Arcades

The Pavilion of Dreams – got this a short time ago and was surprised to find it was much more of an arranged piece – with harps, piano, choir singing – it’s very good though.

The Plateaux Of Mirror (another one of the repackaged Eno LP’s)

The Serpent (In Quicksilver) / Abandoned Cities

Music for 3 Pianos (which is my favourite)

As far as I know nearly all of the first 20 releases on the Markant label are produced by a certain Carsten Endrass, who happens to own and run the label as well. I remember they where, at the time, very hard to find, although I do have to admit being disappointed when I did find them, as most of them where not half as good as I was led to believe. Saying that, Number 13 was of a fine pedigree, although one or two of it’s tracks hasn’t aged that well – but the premature aging (or blandness) of late nineties electronica is a discussion for another time.

Silver Mount Zion are another off shoot (is that the right word?) of Godspeed, that is, there are a few members that are also in Godspeed (and a few in Set fire to flames). The featured track is from there first LP, which you may recognize from shwantology 2 – droid called one of the standout tunes in the mix and for me it remains one of my favourite pieces of music.

My interest in cLOUDEAD comes from self titled LP on Big Dada (which was kind of a shared release with mush) and the few 10” they have released. These offerings have very little in what can be called hip – hop on them and are more sound plays of sorts, with lots of field recordings and confused stuttering beats. The soundscape stuff on the LP is what features in the mix.

Harmonic 33’s CD seems to be paying homage to the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in some way. If it that stands up with the spirit of the originals or not is something I’ll let you judge for yourself. The featured track, Planet 54 is the haunting piano track that finishes the album.

Ae3o/h3ae (not to be confused with the other one they did - aeo3/3hae) is a collaboration between Autechre and the Hafler Trio. As you might expect the resulting output is challenging to say the least – two long tracks of quite murmurings, searing noise and demanding drones. Nice.

Alice Coltrane recorded about 16 LP’s in the late 60’s and early 70’s of her own particular version of Jazz. Lord of Lords is probably her most symphonic, each track heavily dosed with multiple layers of strings over harp, piano, bass and drums. This LP also features a wonderful reworking of Stravinsky’s “the Firebird”

Godspeed – We took tracks from both the EP Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada and from F#A#∞ for this mix (I had really wanted to get either of these into one of the Shwantology’s but it was not to be) and both are of a similar vibe. Godspeed do this kind of thing very well, (although some might say they are somewhat pompous) moody strings, pianos and guitars with politically minded (or ironically minded) spoken word samples leading up to huge crescendos. I came very late to the Godspeed party but was an instant convert, obsessively getting all their LP’s and side projects (like this and this) alike.

Kopernik – Don’t know much about these guys other than this LP was a real surprise (in a good way!) and is on Scott Heron’s interesting Eastern Developments Label which has a few other niceties on it.

Decal - 404 Not Found – One of my favourite albums of recent years, 404 was a departure from Decal’s (info + info) usual excellent techno / house fare and is an essential “buy on sight” if you don’t own it.

Eyrind Kang - Virginal Co Ordinates – I was introduced to this album through a Mike Patton obsessed friend of mine. (Mike does the vocals on this lp for Kang) Eyrind (one time musician with John Zorn) is one of those artists that puts together a group of different musicians for each album or recording, he does and see’s what happens – this one is a must in my opinion.

Metamatics – Evening Star / Piano 2 7” – this red vinyl 7” was part of the Neo Ouija double 10” pack and is Lee Norris at his very best. (there’s also a couple of nice tracks on the 10” themselves). Metamatics initial releases on Neo Ouija with (and without) Clatterbox and releases on District 6 were of top quality but after that I kind of lost interest.

To conclude, i hope you enjoy the mix, again not perfect - but an interesting one at the least. Also just a word for you all to keep your eyes peeled for the weareie 1st birthday celebrations, coming up in the next few weeks. I know it probably feels more like about 10 years that you have been listening to Droid dribble on his obsessions (it's about 50 for me) but it has only been a year. Judging from the quality and quanity (12 mixes in all!) of the posting of the last year we can surely look forward to what Droid promises to be a celebration worthy of song.

Or not...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is great! nice to hear SO MUCH of In C in there, since I recently performed it a bunch of times with some friends... (the performances ranged from a super brisk 20 minutes to a painful - for the performers - 1 hour...).

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know that Terry Riley is coming to Ireland in May 2007. so you will be able to here In C live.

4:42 PM  
Blogger droid said...

Thanks for letting us know Anon! That should be a good one. Any idea where he's playing?

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is playing in drogheda, St peters church on Friday 4 May 2007. Solo piano and then singing and piano with the Swiss Arte Quartett.
He will then play on Sunday 6 May 2007 with Crash Ensemble.
you can email me at and I'll post you a flyer etc when i get one.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is magic. thanks for this mix, never thought I'd hear AE and Beckett in the one mix. Cheers, Kilian

4:30 PM  
Anonymous mxxx said...

sweet mix guys. really digging it.

12:39 AM  

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