Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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37 Responses

  1. aaron david says:

    Needs more cowbell.Report

  2. Chris says:

    Damn. That’s all I can say.Report

  3. krogerfoot says:

    Good call on the parallels with Konono No. 1. Why was I not informed about this before?Report

  4. Glyph says:

    This has been getting a lot of play whilst I work; and live, it must truly be something to behold.

    In a way, it IS a little demented though – this took 3 guys 2 years to make, when 1 guy with the right software and equipment maybe could have produced something similar-sounding in 2 weeks.

    I don’t know whether to applaud their dogged, epic persistence, or take them aside and give them a good talking-to; similar to how if you saw someone digging a long ditch with a spoon, you’d try to talk them into buying a shovel.Report

    • krogerfoot in reply to Glyph says:

      This took 3 guys 2 years to make, when 1 guy with the right software and equipment maybe could have produced something similar-sounding in 2 weeks.

      One guy with the right gear might make a reasonable facsimile, but those sounds and that composition came from all those hundreds of rehearsals and sessions, leading up to that one 45-minute performance captured on a two-track.

      A lone composer with Pro Tools might make something similarly complex and interesting, sure. But Dysnomia sounds the way it does because of the way it was conceived and performed.Report

  5. BlaiseP says:

    From Bang on a Can, an acoustic performance of Brian Eno’s 2/2 from Music for Airports.

    Eno did the original with tape loops. The acoustic version is indescribably odd in my ears: I’ve been coding to the original since it was released.Report

    • Glyph in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I just learned of this: Detroit garage band records covers album of Detroit techno classics:

      For reference:

      Something odd in the opposite direction:


    • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Something from my very distant past you might like. It’s from Niger Republic, drumming and singing. Knew this song when I was a kid. Very good version of, too. Topic: different kinds of Hausa delicious food.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

      … just realised I left a bad link to 2/2 and fixed it. The first bit by the Dirtbombs was mighty fine. Much superior to the original in my ears.

      The elektro-fried Iron Maiden is hilarious.Report

      • Glyph in reply to BlaiseP says:


        I see what you did there. (I love that they came up with Eddie-appropriate art for the cover).

        I wasn’t expecting much from that Dirtbombs (I like Cybotron a lot) but it was a pleasant surprise. Made it sound more like Gary Numan (appropriate, given the subject matter).

        RE: your link to the Nigerian music. In the linked interview with the DOM guys, they talk about two drumming traditions – one that is a folk tradition, where people just sort of play with rhythm with their friends and families and neighbors every day, because that’s their life. It’s not “rehearsing”, and they may not even have the words to describe it, it just is; it’s what you do.

        And then they talk about a form of drumming from Ghana that dates back a few hundred years called ewe, where there is no improvisation at all – they liken it to drum corps, every hit is meticulously planned and rehearsed and worked out in advance.

        Also, more songs should be about food (and maybe buildings):


  6. LightsOut says:

    Just…thank you!Report

    • Glyph in reply to LightsOut says:


    • Glyph in reply to LightsOut says:

      @lightsout – this is sort of embarrassing, because Reich gets name-checked a lot, in the electronic music I listen to and also on the dronier end of rock music where I spend a lot of time. But I’ve never actually listened to Reich.

      Music for 18 Musicians appears to be the consensus starting point, so I am probably going to pick that up, but I figured I’d see if you agreed, or would suggest something else?Report

      • LightsOut in reply to Glyph says:

        Yeah, that would give you a good sense of his technique and characteristic sound. You might also find tracks from Drumming interesting, as well as Electric Counterpoint (especially the version on the album Different Trains with Pat Metheny), Violin Phase, and of course, New York Counterpoint. I also like Octet, and Music for a Large Ensemble, which were both explorations of some of the ideas in Music for 18 Musicians. They’re also quite a bit shorter and more digestible for someone new to Reich. Oh, and if you want to hear something really haunting, listen to the actual piece Different Trains.

        I bought the Dysnomia right away last night and listened to it straight through 3 times. I really like it—thanks for sharing.

        Comparing it to Reich, I’d say it sounds more organic and human, at least for a minimalist piece. Reich’s works tend to be very precise and mechanical, and he lets ideas take a very long time to unfold and evolve. (This is not a criticism, by the way, at least not for me. Just an observation.)

        On Dysnomia, however, DOM lets things take shape a bit more quickly, and they transition to new ideas sooner. They also play around with the groove, and clearly have more of a jazz influence. Plus, many times the interplay between the drums and bass seems to mimic a racing heart beat—again, organic. It’s sort of a dynamic minimalist sound, if that makes any sense.Report

      • LightsOut in reply to Glyph says:

        Also, by the way, if you just want to dabble around with Reich before buying anything, try something like spotify. You have to put up with ads, and the selection isn’t complete, but it’s free and a great way to explore. Plus there’s a bunch of Reich’s works available, including most if not everything I mentioned.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Listening on Spotify to the first track on Music for 18 Musicians right now and…yeah, this is right up my alley.Report

  7. zic says:

    Quite wonderful. I love the sounds they’re working with. Will have to listen on the big speakers.

    Jazz and classical music have a slow reach into the computer as a performance tool; I suspect that this has as much to do with the difficulties of audio processing and the potential that things won’t work as anything. (I’ve heard that the audio processing for C+ is being re-written so that audio programming will function independently of environment. While that seems the standard, it’s not yet the standard for audio.) For improvisation, it’s crucial that things work and respond live; it’s no fun to watch musicians diddle with their lap tops for ten minutes before they can perform. It is an art form in its infancy; I expect tremendous strides over the next few years.

    I recently found this, which I quite like:

    • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

      The electronic instruments respond quickly. They were never the problem. The “laptop” operating systems can be tuned to respond more quickly — but nothing is instantaneous. The laptop can be made respond faster than human can perceive but it’s not quite as simple as opening the lid of a keyboard and starting to play. Even a piano’s elaborate lever-and-hammer system isn’t instantaneous.

      Consistent is better than absolute speed. Beyond a certain point, to get things any faster, you have to build specialised hardware and delegate to it via device drivers. Even a low-level language like C++ does not write directly to the hardware. It can only write to logical devices — again, that’s what operating systems do, give you access to devices. Everyone’s tried to write some standard interface so audio programming will function independently of environment. Some actually worked out fine: MIDI is just such a standard. PortAudio is coming along very nicely. It’s what underlies Audacity, my tool of choice.

      Laptop musicians are more conductors than musicians. Which isn’t to say they’re any less musical: you’d still have to be a first rate musician to be a good conductor. But the analogy is exact: those who want to listen to orchestras must first understand the oboe has to first blow an A for everyone else to tune up. Then, and only then, can the conductor walk out onto the stage.Report

      • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

        It’s not about speed, so much as consistency, as you note.

        When my b-i-l developed max, he choose did it on macs because the pc environment did not allow direct access to the internal clock, something that has to take precedence in audio processing; since max is now ported to the windows environment, I assume the problem’s solved, though I never bothered to ask. My husband would prefer to develop applications/devices/sensors in PD or Max because, like port audio, the problems are down a level. The c++ issue was something he had to deal with yesterday, though the development environment was chosen because the language supposedly eliminated the problems of hardware differences. For audio, it’s actually being developed now, or so he told me.

        I’ve seen too many musicians having to deal with issues on stage; performing with a laptop is risky; for example, security protocols on college wifi systems can cause unexpected last minute problems, a security check should be as important as a sound check, with access to the sys admin. to resolve them before the show starts.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Max is an interesting toolkit. Kit, because it’s a collection of things, all wired up like we used to do with the old synths.

        I’d love to meet up with your BIL. I’ve been plotting out a scheme to use a Kinect as a music controller. The old button and fader metaphor is all played out. Here’s a pretty good interface, lots of them around for cheap, make a dandy interface for the hand-waving crowd. My old man used to “conduct” things he liked.Report

      • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

        all wired up

        That is it’s founding design principle, hooking things together.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I’m working over

        3.11.3-201.fc19.x86_64 GNU/Linux
        gcc (GCC) 4.8.1 20130603 (Red Hat 4.8.1-1)
        and the OpenKinect toolkitsReport

      • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

        makes sense, for Max isn’t ported to linux.Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    It’s experimental, to be sure, and not at all unpleasant,* but is it jazz? I’ve been told “this is how you know you’re listening to jazz” to be when the emphasis is on the upbeat rather than the downbeat. But I can’t discern which is which here, even if that definition were to be given more credence than I suspect it deserves. I don’t know how to define “jazz.”

    * I don’t see myself buying the album. “Not unpleasant” is not necessarily “good enough that I want to listen to it again.”Report

    • zic in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I’ve been told “this is how you know you’re listening to jazz” to be when the emphasis is on the upbeat rather than the downbeat.

      For years, the jazz mag of choice was DownBeat.

      But snare hits on 2 and 4 in 4/4 in rock, jazz, blues, gospel, as long as it’s in standard 4/4 time. But time sigs are for exploring and experimenting. Seven’s a fine signature to play in, often used, and quite danceable, too. Lot of Latin jazz is defined by the clave rhythm.

      It really depends on how you’re defining jazz. As a specific genre of music based on instrumentation and rhythm or as a improvisational music. Genre jazz includes swing, bop, fusion, Latin (not smooth!), etc. By that measure, no, this isn’t ‘jazz.’

      But as process of improvisational music, yes. I prefer the process definition, myself.Report

      • Glyph in reply to zic says:

        This is sort of tangential, but it’s “beat”, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

        Thursday night I went to see a rock band play. I’ve seen them several times before, and they were always a good proposition live. But now they have a new drummer – their old off-again-on-again-has-drug-problems guy is seemingly gone for good.

        But he was a GREAT drummer.

        This new one, just didn’t work for me.

        And I think what it is, is that the new one played exactly-on-the-beat.

        Now, you’d think that’d be great – after all, the drummer is responsible for keeping time. You WANT precision and consistency, right?

        But when I think of rock drummers I really like, they tend to be just a fraction ahead, or behind, the beat. Charlie Watts is not flashy in any way, but he appears to somehow be pulled along in the beat’s wake, and that’s why the Stones swing (Charlie puts the “roll” in “rock and roll band”).

        Janet Weiss or Jimmy Chamberlain (absolute monsters both) appear somehow to be surfing on top of the beat, as though *it* is pushing *them*.

        There are exceptions – Stephen Morris (New Order) or Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem) are able to do an unvarying metronomic precision; without which their respective bands couldn’t do those 10-minute trancelike grooves. They are able to locate a beauty in that precision and consistency (and in fact, that is what I get out of a lot of more electronic-based music, or what DOM is doing here).

        And back in the rock world, Steve Shelley was SOLID, which allowed Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo’s guitars to spin off in random directions, knowing the groove was always safely anchored and they’d be able to find their ways home.

        But in this band’s case, that solid consistency just did not work. I kept waiting for the songs to catch fire, and they just didn’t.Report

      • zic in reply to zic says:

        And I think what it is, is that the new one played exactly-on-the-beat.

        I don’t like it, either. I like people who play loose, way behind the beat. When you’re right on it, you’re way to close to rushing it, you sound like a metronome. That’s actually my biggest complaint about much of electronic music; and it’s funny to listen to programmers talk about how to control that.

        Drummers. Spinal Tap hit that beat perfectly.

        For live jazz, I generally prefer hearing a group where the bass player keeps time and the drummer paints color. I think this also works best in rock; if the bass player’s physical groove doesn’t reflect the time, it puts it on the drummer, and saps the potential energy. But I suspect most drummers are taught to be time keepers early on, and some habits are hard to break. May be why they have so many drug and alcohol problems.Report

      • Glyph in reply to zic says:

        re: the division of labor between bassist and drummer.

        Stewart Copeland (Police) is on most any reasonable person’s list of great rock drummers – he’s terrific, distinctive, inventive, and does a lot of “coloring” as you mention (not coincidentally, he cut his teeth in jazz).

        Anyway, he and Sting famously didn’t get along (he cracked one of Sting’s ribs in a pre-show fistfight backstage once). But I remember Sting snarking about Stewart at one point (maybe at the reunion tour?), something to the effect of “Stewart was rushing the beat, like ALWAYS” and it just floored me, that here’s this drummer widely acknowledged as one of the greats, being belittled as being unable to keep time.

        I think it was more than just Sting’s ego and their past rivalry/history (though that was undoubtedly part of it). The fact that Sting was also the band’s bassist probably placed them at loggerheads.

        Here’s another rock band that did the jazzy, laid-back “coloring” thing with their drums:


  9. dhex says:

    it’s not bad, but i think it’s mostly notable because they did it the hard way. it does remind me a bit of the longer, less ugly moments of factory floor or mika vainio.

    speaking of electronics and improv, pansonic at their height was amazing to see live because their machines were always a bit off and yet they kept striving for that head nod/fist pump moment.Report

    • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      they did it the hard way

      From the linked interview:

      NAQVI: We also recorded every single rehearsal.

      ISRANI: Yeah. We would sort of isolate things that we liked that we were working on and we’d use those as a reference.

      NAQVI: How many recordings do we have?

      ISRANI: Probably about 150.

      NAQVI: We rehearsed on average three times a week for two years on this.

      EISINGER: Do you have any interest in releasing those 150 recordings?

      ISRANI: I think it would just be better for us to get into a fist fight after each show on stage. That would be a better depiction of the process.


      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        “ISRANI: I think it would just be better for us to get into a fist fight after each show on stage. That would be a better depiction of the process.”

        ha! it’s definitely dedicated.Report

      • zic in reply to Glyph says:

        We rehearsed on average three times a week for two years on this.

        This might be the not-jazz piece of it. But I mostly know studio musicians who show up and play. No rehearsal, at best, just a quick run-down of the tune before turning the mics on. Often happens on stage at a live gig.Report

  10. Glyph says:

    To all who are enjoying it – it was convenient that the whole record was on YouTube for easy listening; but this does represent 2 years’ worth of work for these 3 guys.

    So if you like what you are hearing, I’d ask you to please consider throwing some dosh their way.

    Their bandcamp site:

    It’s also available on iTunes and Amazon, as well as on Spotify; if you listen through that, they get a small (not much, but maybe better than nothing) amount that way too.Report

  11. Reformed Republican says:

    I listened to that Radiolab episode, and I found it interesting, but somehow I forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder.Report