Archive for February, 2008


Magda Cordell McHale


Magda was one of the few people who got what I was talking about in terms of trying to create an ineffable experience before I even got it.

Thank you for all the listening and advice over the last few years. I am going to miss you. A


irritated with no place to go….

Seriously dudes, I have been working a blog entry since 12:30 pm today. It’s now 5:01 pm and this is how far I have gotten. Right here, right now this is my 4th attempt. I have a variety of open Word documents on the desktop all kind of hanging out in multiple states of semi done, and none of them anything worthwhile.

Basically yo, I want to talk about the sublime, I saw a show in London not that long ago and I was both let down and angry. I know-don’t take it so seriously, chillax. But the thing is I put a lot of effort into this PhD-I ponder the ever living crap out of stuff most people only think about when they are high, or drunk, or both. And I am constantly let down by a lack of rigour within work that is going to hold hands with the word sublime which I associated with the ineffable in a loose way (more to come on this).

Basically long story short-I saw a blurb for Katie Paterson’s show at the R O O M space in Time Out London, and it was selling it well, sound art (check), records made out of ice (check), the word sublime (check), time to get on the bus and go have a listen/looksie.

(I should say it now, I’m not slating Katie Paterson or the show, the work is interesting and has a lot to say, but the use of the words sublime, ephemeral et. al sometimes make me think that there is a cover for a lack of critical rigour within work, almost as if it can be added afterwards as an after thought.)

It doesn’t matter to me who chooses to use these words, Time Out, the artist, or the gallery, but when I read the word sublime in any blurb art related and there is a sound connection I am going go, and I am going to take my PhD baggage with me. For better or worse since starting this research I will question every little thing…who, what, where, why, and how.

At the end of the day the questions are directed so much towards the work-it’s an interesting concept I felt it suffered a bit by the fact that the gallery isn’t the largest space so audio was difficult. What pissed me was the language surrounding it. I have pasted below this paragraph the writing from R O O M’s website, the same material that I read whilst listening/watching the work.

Katie Paterson brought back the sounds, and also the water, from three melting glaciers in Iceland. The sounds were pressed into three LP records – ice creaking, cracking, hissing. Then, after several months of experimentation, moulds were made from them using a very sensitive casting technique, the meltwater from those same glaciers poured into those moulds and frozen, creating ‘ice records’.

These ‘ice records’ were then played on three turntables, playing the sounds of the melting glaciers from whence the water/ice had come, until they had completely melted over nearly two hours. Miniature landscapes were formed as the needle traced over the ice as it was worn down. The sound is embedded, locked, inscribed into the material itself. Playing out the dissolving landscape. Nothing remained.

The work speaks of the ephemeral, notions of immateriality, formlessness; the slow imperceptible decomposition of things. In a sense, the work is a description of death. The record revolving slowly like the globe, having played its music, it’s caught on a dying loop.

She says “I’m interested in the notion of ‘geological time’ – a vast span of time difficult to comprehend, in relation to ‘human time”. She wanted to bring the scale of the glacier, an immense, remote, geological form, to the ‘human’ scale of an LP.
She refers to the sublime, and the futile attempt of the artist to ‘represent’ or allude to something that is ultimately unrepresentable. This act is in itself a failure.

I know I am coming from a particular context, but when I hear the words ‘futile attempt to ‘represent’ that shit just pisses me off. I don’t know to much, I mean I know what I know-but part of why I why make work which feeds into why I am doing this PhD is because I want to make my futile attempts, well not futile. At the end of the day what the fuck am I going to do if everything just falls short of the mark?

I know this is a strange post and kind of has an all over feel, but I really seriously feel lost in how to frame my thoughts on this. I mean I am not mad, but it’s more about being frustrated-I am frustrated by what I sort of feel is an easy approach. I think that sublime is a ridiculously complicated tag to place on work because it has so many connotations, and then there is the whole idea of the unrepeatable. Dude if you are artist what are you supposed to do? I mean if the point of your practice is to engage in courting failure-so be it, but this kind of rhetoric is lazy and I sort of debases something without engaging in it.

I don’t know-this is something I am going to keep coming back to, this post and the material within it. Today’s a strange day, I am irritated and itchy but I want to be engaged. It’s tough though to be engaged all the time-part of me would prefer to stare at the wall and listen to the new Ultralyd album I downloaded for hours on end.



Jersey City

hair shirt!

22 Feb 2008

2:45 pm

Most of this post has absolutely nothing to do with the two pictures I posted above; I just think they are indicative of a state of mind. ADD…like I have it. Sorry if this post is disjointed, I am doing a little experiment. Usually I post before or after I finish something, today I am doing whilst. At the moment I am trying to work in Pro Tools on some arrangements of things etc, and whilst it bounces to disk depending on the size of the file (the bouncing happens in real time) I’ll reflect. So 53 seconds is no biggie. 10 min = major boredom. In these times I tend to read blogs, look up inane things on the web, send emails to my mates, and in general do everything but focus. Is this useful to the way I work or not? Is it good to shut down thinking about the work you are making whilst making the work?

3:49 pm

It’s raining like a bastard. I have gotten no work done-instead, all I have done is listened to M83’s new single on Myspace and bliss out. Oh yeah I have googled stuff, and planned my Carling Cup(football) get together. But I swear I have been thinking about work. Kinda, sorta, oh who am I trying to fool? Oh wait, me.

Well I have listened to the entire Vampire Weekend album and it’s actually pretty good. As well I have been updating my blog feeder through Google Reader……Now everything’s organised, but once again no closer to getting a fucking thing done…. When it’s all said and done I will definitely have a PhD in procrastination and time wasting.


I am actually watching Pro Tools open right now……


It’s kind of a miracle but I have been working and not working at the same time. Mainly copying folders and moving stuff around so I can do some real work…..

Shout outs to M83’s newest.
Listen now….seriously, what are you still doing here?


I am actually now working….miracles do happen kids. No really, today I am focusing on the audio I did whilst I was home at my parent’s house since then and seeing how I can expand upon it. At the moment what is most crucial is building up source material and not yet worrying too much about what order it’s going to go in. AM suggested that I look/listen to what I had and push the boat out a bit with where I have taken it. Not to be so polite with my choices. Partially things are polite because of a minimal aesthetic, partially they are polite because I tend to trust my first instinct, but I have fuck all to lose by going for it.

Of the cuff assessment whilst listening to the track as it bounces to disk. Before, when I made this-it was the same guitar bit layered on top of itself 3 times, now with 10 tracks all coming in and out at different times there is a different sense of weight. Like the sound feels heavier. It’s more hypnotic which I like….you know has a slightly druggy claustrophobic feel.



Now I am bouncing it to disk with no filters, just two reversed tracks… I think if I can do 100 different things to one sample why not try? As well it might help me figure out why I like to work a certain way and why I don’t and at the end of it-why certain sounds lend themselves to the ineffable more ably than others. I am listening to the 10 tracks 10 guitars with nothing else on top of it. Just 10 tracks layered on top of each other in a arbitrary fashion, nothing to decided why track 1 is here vs. track 2 etc….I think they next layout should come via dice or coin flips or something, and then the 3rd should be really considered and decided upon.




In the mean time I spent some time looking at shit online, chatting with my sister on Gmail chat, and more disk bouncing, whilst working on 20 rules for sounds to be worked on soon. It consists of 20 numbers each assigned a task and the whole composition will be made up of that. 10 tracks not to exceed 20 minutes. But I want to keep working with the present layout, adjusting the sound levels and seeing what that brings forth first before I move on. It’s interesting to listen back upon it, because it’s like quasi performing and makes me wonder what would be of this material in that kind of setting? I mean already I can hear in some of the tracks adjusting the sound that my hand has a heaviness… I need to work further at making my fades more fluid. I have to say I kind of like this format, working and writing about it at the same time, it allows for a very realistic assessment. At the moment I am just using a mouse and controller one fader at a time, I already want this to be more tactile, to actually feel it. With the mouse it’s removed thus allowing for what feels like really abrupt spikes in the sound. But I really like the movement that the faders give; I just wish they were real. Am going to just listen to the sound and research if the fader box I have is MIDI enabled….







Still researching but also listening to the M83 new song again via his Myspace. It’s so damn good.


So I am bouncing to disk yet again, and I think that I may have found a pretty nice cheap used fader at sound-control.

I made all the tracks auto-write and basically tried a bit of volume adjusting on each one. It will be far more interesting and dynamic when I can manipulate more than one track at time, so for tonight I am going to wrap it up after this track is done, but continue on in the same way tomorrow.




No Sleep to Brooklyn…..

Do you sleep? Like get into bed and within a reasonable amount of time you fall asleep and wake up relatively refreshed or whatever. I don’t, and my lack of sleep is starting to shape have an effect on how I look at all this stuff.

This past summer I got one of those 331/3 pocket books, which look at a particular band and their seminal album in depth. I bought the My Bloody Valentine, which explored their album Loveless. I am not going to go into to deeply here why I love them and this particular album, but I’ll throw some YouTube clips at the bottom. Kevin Shields one of the founding members of the band also had a great deal to do with the shape of Loveless’s sound. In the book Shields’s talks about sleep deprivation and how by pushing himself to the physical limit, he felt he was better able to create a dreamier kind of music, one where the lyrics and the sound became almost one thing, but yet very much remained separate, if that makes sense?

For the most part I have crap sleep: 3.5-5 hours a night depending on the night, but lately I have been sleeping just enough to kind of function and the rest of the time I think, and the thing is I am starting to understand this reality that Shields was talking about. It’s hard to explain because a lot of what happens whilst trying not to think is thinking-but last night I was laying there thinking about what does it mean to construct an ineffable experience? What factors have to be taken into account, what is the context? What exactly does it mean? And in a strange way it’s a way of hallucinating without ‘assistance’ things become less formal and slippery, I don’t know, thinking about the ineffable experience became/becomes ineffable. It wasn’t like I jumped out of bed but I laid there listening to the audio samples I have amassed thus far and they began to become tangible in ways they hadn’t been before-but I was also so much more cognizant of where they failed. Is it possible if you know where you want to go, to get there without knowing how? I mean if my aim is to produce either A. aims to replicate this state, or B. aims to recreate it, how do you do it, without asking people to not sleep or take drugs?

*Listened to the Best of the Tea Party


MP3’s Galore….

Yo, I am posting like out of control today. Had to make up for all the silence last week. As promised more MP3’s to bring us up to date, and tomorrow more screen shots and AM’s additional comments. Followed by a run down of my album plans and general hilarity and foolishness…..if you’re lucky. These two samples are the latest things I have worked on. They are not called sinister for any other reason than I have no title even a working one at the moment, and my friend GvN who is producing these albums said they sounded a bit sinister. Actually she said threatening and restless. I just like the word sinister.




4 Songs, 4 Videos….time for sound and vision.

In my last post I made reference to techno music and it’s structure. In my tutorial today AM and I talked about techno’s relativly simple structure and how effective it is at creating an immersive sound bubble. Big simple bass beats that lay a foundation until the break when the listener is sucked in. I am not claiming to be an expert on house or techno by the way. I like what I like and I don’t like a lot of stuff. My commentary might seem a bit odd, but I am doing it whilst listening to the tracks as they play.

I thought it would be useful to post some YouTube clips and go through them a bit. (Aren’t you excited……sound and vision!?!)

First off Lil Louie-French Kiss

(sorry this one can’t be embedded).

Beyond the little bit of noise at the very very beginning, this song opens with a repetitive 4/4 bass beat. There is a little break at the 1 min mark, but for the most part the layering is minimal until about 1:29. I ain’t going lie kids, I freaking love this track. It’s a bit rude but it’s a classic, but I don’t love it until it until the 1:29 mark. Listen the bass is the foundation. It builds the house (snicker) for the reset of the song. It provides the place from which to work. In a way you can break it down back to the bass and it will still be good, but it’s building up. The bass sets the mood, gets you in the mindset-the stuff that happens at about 2:30-4:00 is interesting but fleeting-but then the bass sort of changes about 4:20 for 10 seconds or so but it doesn’t throw you. This song was massive for the real break down that happens at about 5:15 where the layers becomes less and less and even the foundation of the bass begins to loss itself to the ecstatic moaning, and eventually that’s all there is moaning until 6:14-then it builds back up and if possible I would like what it is she’s having. Dude, it’s totally like sex if you want to make the obvious conclusion, but unlike sex (well hopefully) it never really gets off, at least for me it doesn’t, it builds and builds but doesn’t explode. Do you need to explode to feel like you have gotten somewhere or is the getting there just as good?

So does that break the bubble or only increase the pressure inside? There is a moment when the bass stops at 7:07ish and I do find that particularly jarring. What is a house when it has nothing to stand upon?


Dudes, this is one of my favourite albums ever. I’ll cop to it-I like to get fucked up to this, but that’s not important. What’s important is the whole structuring of this album, and the careful way that Plastikman creates the songs. AM was saying to me today sometimes that repetitive sound, can become redundant. You don’t want to lose the listener through redundancy, but yet I don’t know if Plastikman would ever be redundant. The album is called Consumed and you can get it on iTunes etc.

Ignore the Proteus bit at the beginning it’s naff….the song comes in with a throbbing bass line, and an over the top almost vocal. It doesn’t take long to start the layers either 58 seconds the second throbbing bass line comes in, and it’s intense. It has the ability to create a world that is both expansive yet claustrophobic. The second line comes in and out whilst the first bass line is consitent. Plastikman breaks it up with boom that fragments off every so often, one at 2:28, directly after another layer comes in, then there is more fragmentation at 2:44, then more fragmentation at 3:09ish. I didn’t look at the video whilst listening, I closed my eyes and it’s almost as if I could see the blood pumping inside of my eyes. This particular track is heavy in the sense that it’s minimal than the Lil Louis, and darker. It’s also far more sexual without being overt. Plastikman breaks the bubble at the 4:16 mark. The throbbing bass lines give way to electronic scraps and scratches, but does it break the ‘music bubble’ for the listener?

Boards of Canada-Sixtyniner

This track starts off quite simply with some beautiful sounds; the bass track kicks in at 27 seconds. The simple repetition allows one to sort of fall into a hole, there is a change at about 1:09-1:29. The bass disappears and we are left with sounds that occupy the inner ear with their harmonics. At about 2:15ish a low male voice comes in and the bass track is dropped out, and at 2:42 the voice stays but the higher pitched notes we have been hearing since the beginning drop off, to allow for totally new sounds. There is another change at 2:58 back to the original bass and sounds. It may seem jarring in comparison to the throb of Plastikman but I find that this particular Boards of Canada track has quite a transportive quality, even though I find this video naff. There is something particular to the sounds used that give the music a sense of lightness. Yes the sounds are bright, whilst the Plastikman had a darker more mysterious atmosphere; in particular the bass creates an aural almost tactile space physicality, whilst the Boards of Canada has weightlessness. They access different aspects of the same space. If you close your eyes whilst listening it’s like being anywhere, in a different room, in a different place outside of your own body. The bass runs at about the 4:57 mark and the track ends with the higher sounds.

Lastly for today a little something different but kinda the same.

Explosions in the Sky-First Breath After Coma (Live)

This music falls into what we like to call the post rock genre kids, and is basically emotive rock music without lyrics. I love them but admit songs with titles like this tend to walk a thin line. (Ignore the crowd if you can….sorry this one was the best I could find)

The song starts off with some plaintive notes being played on a guitar to be some followed up by a booming bass drum, after the drum kicks in the first guitar becomes more complex before the second guitar which acts like a vocal comes in at 30 seconds. The music builds upon itself in a much different way then techno or house but lets keep in mind the idea of the break, the first minor break is at about 1:35ish with some minor guitar changes. EITS are known for creating long pieces and time allows for the sound to spiral and gather almost physically. At 1:50 the drummer kicks in with some snare fills, which remain restrained and structural. Whilst all this is happening a sense of urgency continues to grow within the language of the song. You know something about to happen (not lyrically kids, I’ll save you from having to guess-there are none) but within the music itself. The first major break comes at 2:20 when the second guitarist whom I compared to a vocalist begins to play what could be thought of as a chorus….meanwhile the other musicians remain restrained behind this guitarist. The song continues on as such until about 3:08 when the rhythm stops and the guitars continue until 3:13, the sound comes crashing back in, and the first guitarist has a more prominent role for a wee bit. The notes are high and have a sense of warmth. The music breaks big style at about 4:11 when it almost seems to stop…the drums the guitars everything. (Ignore the punter in the crowd who goes wheeee hoooooo-or join him, whatever moves you). The band begins to build up the spiral again within a few seconds 5 or 6, whilst it’s not techno, it’s actually not that far off in a particular way-the layering, the breaking, the use of rhythm for structure etc. It doesn’t peak or anything but slowly layers upon itself until 5:15 when guitarist 1 has a chord change. At about 5:50 the music begins to form a dialogue between the musicians, and from 6:35 onwards there is a mini explosion within the music every few seconds or so….it builds up just a wee bit but not to much, and it really begins to break from it’s form whilst still retaining it’s structure when it hits 8 mins. Then it goes from a delicate sense of notes and dialogue to a more heavy use of noise and blending of guitars. All the while the drummer is holding the music together until he tapers out at about 9:25ish. He doesn’t cease but the foundation is lesser…..and the piece ends in a cloud of feedback.


Questions from AM about exisiting MP3’s.

Below are questions from my supervisor AM on the MP3’s I posted on this site earlier in the month.  If you need to refresh your ears with the sounds etc., feel free. There are more comments and MP3’s to come in another post.


referential qualities of guitar – obviously a guitar – why?

cyclical – why this length? there is rhythm, or at least a sequence of
attacks – along with the guitar association we expect “musical meaning”
so duration is an issue
…things don’t change in time – it’s not immediately obvious if
there’s synchronisation of the guitar, the thinner attacks & the high
buzzy material, but the nature of the material (essentially
statistical/static) means that nothing SIGNIFICANT changes.. why? what
is this saying about time? what do you want it to do in and to (our
perception of) time – how differently should we feel 10 seconds in, 2
minutes in, at the end?

it’s all one note so pitch has no particular significance (fine)

dynamic profile – all the fading in & out – do you want it to imply
presence & distance? or do we imply somebody with a volume control?
there’s nothing about the sound itself which implies that kind of volume
so that structure feels external to the material…

piano plus a context of ?stretched noise

more pitches (F, G, A) seem to imply a major key (F) and ends
conventionally on the F…

the piano attack always seems “normal” but the decay starts to break

nb several distorted attacks – overload digital, not nice guitar type
distortion – but doesn’t seem integral to the material – so I listen to
them technically – breaks the illusion – no easy way of fixing, better
to re-record

what does the reverb mean? big space, but what space? how are we to
imagine the piano? in a concert hall?

again, how do you want to structure time here? the ending on the F
gives (musical) closure, but before that the ordering seems arbitrary
(mostly because of the length of time between events)

what do you want the artifacts of the (stretching) process to signify?
– they always stay slightly behind the piano sound…