Invisible Blog is staggeringly lax about the International Day of Slayer sometimes. Thusly do I present to you my thoughts on the opposite of Slayer.
My buddies would say I am under-Aphexed if they knew this was the only work by Richard D. James I’ve ever sat down and listened to. Admittedly I’ve heard strains of “Windowlicker” and some of his other more commercially successful singles drifting out of public places, but if that was what passed for street cred, I would be wearing much baggier pants. I don’t even have the deep knowledge of this album’s genre that helps me review metal albums. This was a problem when I was writing about Tri Repetae by Autechre, too, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped me from at least trying.
As the title might lead you to believe, this is less a coherent album than a compilation, and it tends towards the softer and gentler side of RDJ’s output. Selected Ambient Works also (and perhaps shockingly) tends towards repetition and emphasis on texture over song structure. I don’t know how many of these were actually written towards the “85” end, but I’m inclined to think that by virtue of such hypothetical tracks being included that it’s not too important. The sound on display here is relatively aesthetically consistent, with even the more abrasive tracks (like “Green Calx”, “Schottkey 7th Path”, etc.) still fitting in with their companions. Given the staggering variety of sounds electronic musicians sometimes throw into their recordings, this is probably an achievement of some sort.
Based on this, I’d suggest listening to this album as a whole whenever the time presents itself, even though the songs don’t fade into each other like they would on, for arbitrary example, a Magma album. There are some problems with this, the greatest of which is a significant quantity of relatively uninteresting ‘filler’ tracks, mostly towards the second half. It’s hard to determine what raises one track over another when the writing remains so consistent, though. Personally, I’d guess which specific instruments and sound patches I like plays a role in this, but if I have to go on in that vein, it pushes me way too far from the analytical mode I prefer for these writeups and reviews. That’s a serious problem!
While it’s probably due to the limits of my electronica knowledge, Selected Ambient Works is thusly notable for defying my attempts to analyze it beyond its surface. I find that based on my preferences, it could be cut down to about 2/3rds of its length without losing its choice tracks, and that portion makes for good listening. It’d still be longer than the EPs that surround it, but remember, you can’t always judge music by its length.
Highlights: “Tha”, “Heliosphan”, “Schottkey 7th Path”
Tracker2D is a program where a bunch of smiley faces run around a field of colorful dots and cacophonous noise plays.
It occurs to me that the summary I just wrote for this program may be intentionally inaccurate. Whether Tracker2D is a toy, a digital audio workstation, or a visual programming language, it’s still a browser-based music creation program I’m working on that you can check out here. As of today, it is in very active development with new features being added all the time.
If there’s any one philosophical point underpinning Tracker2D, it’s the idea that a musician’s output is shaped by… well, the shape of their instrument. A pianist is going to have a different approach than a guitarist, or a violinist, or a percussionist, and so forth. More subtle, however, is the influence of your composing tools. Having written a lot of music, I’ll note that I underwent pretty massive paradigm shifts when I made big changes to my workflow – from notation in Sibelius, to step sequencing with Famitracker/OpenMPT, to piano rolls in REAPER, and so forth. Even subtle things like how these programs map keyboard shortcuts to editing functions have probably altered elements as fundamental to how I work as, for example, tonality and rhythm.
You might be wondering what this has to do with the actual software at this point. Tracker2D is nonlinear by design; you cannot determine the order of execution for musical events you input into the software simply by panning your eyes in one direction. Instead, your musicians (“bugs”) travel over a two dimensional field and can end up all over the place depending on what sort of instructions you paint on the field. At this point, there’s even some basic programmatic ability with counters and teleporters; at some point, you’ll be able to create relatively complex musical machines of a sort; how Turing-complete these are depends on how much work I’m willing to do in the future. The entire visual<-> sound relation concept is inspired by Toshio Iwai’s work, especially Simtunes. Tracker2D is intended to be more complex and “useful”, though – it’s going to implement a larger soundset, bugs aren’t tied to specific instruments, you can have up to 8 simultaneous channels instead of merely 4, and so forth. Then again, Simtunes was explicitly marketed towards children, so it was kind of simplistic in a lot of ways. The people whom I’ve discussed this with probably know what I’m talking about.