Play One Note

Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

Posts tagged with ‘Drone music’

In Bb 2.0

July 30, 2010

By my calculations, there are 1.5511210043 × 1025 songs available on In Bb 2.0, a collaborative music project spearheaded by Darren Solomon from Science For Girls, which I’m gonna go ahead and show that I’m not a musical omnipotent presence and say I’ve absolutely never heard of.  Regardless, with In Bb 2.0, Mr. Solomon has hit on something wonderfully elegant and gorgeous.  (For the record, my figures are probably really damn wrong.  I just calculated 25!, which, I mean, sounds about right.  Mathlords, feel free to correct me.  Or not.  To paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Whitney Houston, it’s your prerogative.)

You like this buried lede?  You know you do.  Here’s what In Bb 2.0 is all about.  It’s 25 video clips of various performers playing different instruments in the key of Bb.  They are user-triggered.  That means, when I navigate to the site, I can pick and choose which ones play, when.

Most of the clips operate in the same vein, with performers opting for ambient textures over concrete melodies.  That’s a blessing, since none of the performances dominate the proceedings, and the user can layer at will without making something sounding overly busy.  The results, though I have admittedly only heard a minuscule fraction of them, become a subtly engaging ambient piece that lasts as long as you, the user, want it to.

In Bb 2.0 is a fundamentally user-controlled musical endeavor, more akin to an instrument than an album one passively listens to.  Even though you may just be clicking randomly to begin with, due to the brief nature of the video clips, it’s virtually impossible to listen to In Bb 2.0 for any given period of time without tending to it.  With apologies to Ron Popeil, you can’t set it and forget it.

With my first In Bb 2.0 experience, I started hesitantly, triggering videos more or less at random.  Like one’s first experience with any tool for music-making, my first clicks were ones of discovery.  I would play one, maybe two, videos at a time, determining what was played when. After they all loaded, it was on.  I spent a good half-hour just sitting there, clicking different videos, and seeing what sort of unexpected beauty I could create.

Of course, I had my favorite performances and ones I wasn’t as keen on.  In particular, I kept returning to the first video I clicked on, of Solomon playing the glass marimba.  It served as the backbone for the rest of my ever-changing, quietly reassuring drone-song, and provided continuity to my experience.

Some people will obviously have different videos they favor.  Some people may hate the Solomon’s marimba playing, near to my heart as it was.  But that’s exactly the beauty of In Bb 2.0.  Anyone can sit down, click on whichever videos they want, and listen to what they created.  It’s crowd-sourced, user-directed ambient music, and it’s beautiful.

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Michael Stearns – Planetary Unfolding

May 22, 2010

michael stearns planetary unfoldingLet’s go with something a little more left-field here: this is Planetary Unfolding by ambient composer Michael Stearns.

I’ll be blunt, right out of the gates, here: this record is fucking massive.  It’s impossibly rich and deep and creates a sonic environment so palpable, so galactically leviathan, that it should be measured in light years, not decibels.  It absolutely puts Tangerine Dream and “Thus Spake Zarathrustra” and 9 Beet Stretch and “Echoes” and maybe even the KLF’s Chill Out, my previous candidate for the most immersive, nebula-reaching bliss on record, to shame.

A term like “soundscape” does not do the all-encompassing, cavernously deep and toweringly tall synth explorations on Planetary Unfolding justice.  Soundplane?  No.  Too earthbound.  This record’s downright interstellar, all about dimension, size, and presence, and it towers over you like a glacial, crystalline tsunami miles high, an always-cresting, sparklingly otherworldly wall of sound.

And when you listen to Stearns’s masterpiece, you definitely want that wall of sound cranking as loudly as possible.  Planetary Folding is maximal ambient music, the kind that positively demands impressively loud listening volumes.

Take a step back from the rather pedestrian, kinda cliched album title and look at it with a fresh set of eyes.  Planetary Unfolding.  This album is every bit as epic, expansive, epochal, ambitious, star-reaching, and jaw-droppingly huge as that title suggests.  It suggests a cataclysmic genesis, creation on an astronomical scale.  I already used this word, but I’ll use it again: Planetary Unfolding is a masterpiece, an ode to distances and places far beyond our quotidian world.


If that all sounds like a bunch of breathless hooey, listen to the record and tell me if you disagree.  I’m serious.  It’s the greatest find in recent memory.  Major kudos to Mutant Sounds for unearthing this thing.

I know I promised some Pram, and it hasn’t happened yet.  Sit tight.  Shit’ll go down soon enough, I promise.  Also, more psychedelic delicacies are on-deck, including, perhaps, a breathless rush of adulation for those lords of minimalist psych, Spacemen 3.

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Charlemagne Palestine – Continuous Sound Forms

March 27, 2010

charlemagne-palestine-continuous-sound-formsCharlemagne Palestine’s Continuous Sound Forms might be a somewhat surprising lead-off post for a psychedelic music blog, but I don’t consider it too much of a stretch.  After all, this music–immersive, hypnotic, and droning–certainly has more than its fair share of psych signifiers.

This recording is a compilation of two different performances.  The first consists of three excerpts from a dual harpsichord session, which certainly has its moments.  However, both the choice of instrumentation and the stark rigidity of the composition itself tends to leave me cold, and it’s definitely not what moved me to begin writing this.

The motivation for that belongs to the second piece here, a 1972 performance entitled “Piano Drone.”  A more generous exercise in classical minimalism does not come to mind.  What we have here is brilliantly luminescent clusters of sound, a clear-eyed and generous space that inhabits the intersection between Lubomyr Melnyk’s torrential cascade of notes and LaMonte Young’s stoic mysticism.

I already used the word, but what I really want to point out and emphasize here is the generosity of this recording.  I mean, we can be frank here: to give an entirely cynical, negative, and closed-minded reading, “Piano Drone” is 22 minutes of highly repetitive meandering on a piano.  An argument can be made that very little actually happens here.  And yet, being fair to Charlemagne Palestine, it’s fairly easy to get lost going down the deliberate, hypnotic, and inviting path that this piece takes.  After a delicate intro, trills and currents of notes begin to slowly but definitely coalesce, forming, at their thickest, a rich haze of interlocked melody.  At its deepest, “Piano Drone” becomes an absolute pleasure to listen to closely. I never get tired of teasing apart threads of tone and observing the place of each in this dense weft.

Even at its most complex, the piece is still harmonious, with any dissonance only alluded to and never engaged.  “Piano Drone” concludes as delicately as it begins, with individual runs of melody wisping away into the perfumed air.

I know, I know, overwrought critical language.  But engaging this kind of studied beauty practically demands it.  Plus, the “wisping”/”perfumed” air thing is at least somewhat literal.  Though this performance is not ambient, it closely hews to that genre as defined by Brian Eno: this is music that can completely diffuse into the background, filling out the space of whatever room it’s played in.  And yet, when stopped abruptly, the ensuing silence is both deafening and somewhat unwelcoming, a testament to the pervasive goodwill of “Piano Drone.”  It’s a learned piece, but it’s beyond that: it’s beautiful, inviting music.

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