Watch a beautiful meditation on the function of music

As co-host of the American public radio show Radiolab, Jad Nicholas Abumrad is usually in the business of giving you sounds on their own. You provide the mental images. But in a stimulating new film from director Mac Premo, thoughts become images as well as sounds. It’s a fitting conversation. Abumrad (a Lebanese-American, as I am) comes from a background in music composition. Premo, apart from being a filmmaker and commercial director, is an artist. Both live in New York. So what we get is a counterpoint of two imaginations running at once: sonic and visual, musical and optical. And …


Lesley Flanigan’s ethereal music mixes singing and vibrations

There’s no oscillator quite like your voice. And sometimes the simplest techniques can yield elaborate textures. Lesley Flanigan has built a body of work out of an elemental approach to electronics, and her new release Hedera is to me the most beautiful yet, transporting us somewhere truly sublime. The source, in addition to singing, includes feedback, a broken cassette player – but evolves into mists of sound and space, shifting from the delicate to the raw.


On women’s day, imagining a new future in sound

Let’s be clear: there should be no excuse for the press in our sphere, including this outlet, to treat International Women’s Day as a chance simply to talk about women in music. That obligation is year-round and daily, or we simply aren’t doing our jobs. But that’s not the origin of Women’s Day, anyway. The history, rather, is one rooted in organizing for change. (Like so much modern grassroots advocacy, indeed, it comes from the labor movement just after the turn of the last century.) It’s about people working finding fair opportunities for their work. Focusing energies around an annual …


Critter & Guitari’s new music box turns into anything, with Pd

What makes something a “computer”? In practical terms, the definition is getting steadily blurrier when it comes to music. With computation sipping power, generating less heat, and costing far less than before, that “computer” may find itself in places other than a big folding metal typewriter with a spendy display and a picture of a bitten fruit on the back. But the power of the computer – the ability to turn a magic box into the instrument or effect of your desiring – that stays. And that’s something that’s beginning to remake musical objects.


Watch Battles Reflect on Loops, Ableton in a Live Band Setting

On some deeper level, maybe it doesn’t matter how something repeats – whether it’s looped in a pedal, looped in software, or simply repeated by a human player, for instance. On another level, given just how much repetition matters to music, maybe that’s why we care so much about how it’s accomplished. Ableton this week released a visit to New York’s experimental rock trio Battles, in a film and interview under the header “The Art of Repetition.” There, we get to learn more about the process behind Battles’ dense, hypnotic sound. The film is a bit long, but there are …


“Raving with Tweens” Is What Dance Music Culture Needs Right Now

“When you grow up, you can be whatever you want. you don’t have to be a dj.” “This is lit.” “It’s just really fun dancing and stuff.” I’ve spent some time at Cielo and – all due respect to the residents – these kids. It’s funny, my Dad and I were on the phone yesterday and somehow wound up in a conversation about SFX Entertainment, and he asked me about their confusing use of the acronym “EDC” for electronic dance culture. It’s this. Then everything else will work out. There’s hope for all the rest of us yet. And, uh, …

moderna_main copy

Jetset Futuristic Dance Sounds for Summer with Moderna

It’s a long weekend in America, many bits of Europe, and other parts of the world, and that inflection point has arrived where the Northern Hemisphere looks forward to summer. So, let’s celebrate, turning attentions from dark, moody techno and experimental ambience to some splashes of color – techno plus all its further branches and blossoms. And that means turning again to our friend Moderna, aka Missy Livingston, of Ghostly International.


Jazzy Jeff, Shiftee Show Us Turntable as a Musical Instrument

Serato and Native Instruments may have a fierce rivalry when it comes to tools. But at the end of the day, the leading DJ vendors exist for one reason: they’re there to support musicians. And I do mean musicians. Watching new routines from Jazzy Jeff and Shiftee, you really see the turntable emerge as a virtuoso musical instrument. They’re released as promotions for Serato (Jeff) and Native Instruments (Shiftee). And the tools are important: they’re there to allow these players to make use of their skills, to do more than just select tracks like a jukebox. But this really is …


On the Eve of New 808 Film, Techno’s Roots Matter More Than Ever [Videos]

If rock music had the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster, hip hop and dance music have the TR-808. And if its sound seems sometimes overly familiar, even that is in some sense a hat-tip (pardon the pun) to its enduring ubiquity. Now, the Roland TR-808 gets its own full-length documentary, told primarily through the eyes of the people who repurposed its idiosyncratic sound to spin new musical genres and start a revolution. The film features extensive input from Arthur Baker, who acts as a centerpiece for the movie. Baker was the producer behind Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock,’ a record …


This Is What Happens When Vintage Robot Voices Make an Album

We hope that music will always have tribes of people keeping esoteric traditions alive – your Renaissance musical ensemble, your Slovenian folk instrumentalists. It just happens that electronic technologies have attracted their own followings, cultivating knowledge of Texas Instruments chips found in specific arcade games the way some people might maintain a balalaika. Chip singers have never gotten the kind of attention synthesizers have. But if Moog – and the synth itself – can look to Keith Emerson’s “Lucky Man,” fans of robotic sung vocals will always have Humanoid. The seminal acid track “Stakker Humanoid” was the work of artists …