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Hey microtonal gang. Here are two new releases of xenharmonic electronic music that have come out in the last month. I’ll have both of these in rotation as we go into 2019.
Elaine Walker’s space-pop band ZIA had been mostly quiet since their last album Drum’n’Space in 2011. Seems Elaine was very busy writing and publishing her first book as well as being a mom. I guess that’s a good enough excuse! Four-Momentum is an instrumental album inspired by space-time. The album uses various equal tempered scales (16edo, 17edo, 20edo and Bohlen-Pierce scale).
Jacky Ligon’s new record Transition is a mix of ambient and dub that could very well be described as ‘drum and scape’. Various just intonation scales are in play here. The rhythmic layers in Jacky’s music are deep and complex – like scapes all of their own. Same for the microtonal pitch structures which could also be imagined as scapes. Everything about this record is deep.
Transition is also the debut release on ScapesCircle Records. Seems they’re off to a very promising start indeed.
I always wanted to hear a podcast that discusses microtonal music and plays some tunes. Now Stephen Weigel and I have started such a podcast and invite you to listen to the first three episodes of Now&Xen below:
The pilot episode covers some introductory topics and is fairly short. The next episode “1/1” is already recorded and is much longer, going in depth about how to start making microtonal music and what tunings would be good for beginners.
For the third episode we had our first guest, Elaine Walker of ZIA.
Four concerts, ten lectures, two workshops, and a roundtable discussion exploring music outside the standard western tuning system.
UnTwelve, WWU, and Sound Culture present the Microtonal Adventures Festival, May 18-20 on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham (USA).
I’ll be on the microtonal electronica panel discussion, May 20th 2-3pm (UTC-7). The panel includes Bruce Hamilton, Brendan Byrnes, Igliashon Jones and Sevish (via Skype).
There will be other workshop events and concerts so check it out if you’re in the area.
Happy to announce that I finally finished a new collection of microtonal electronic music, Harmony Hacker, and you can hear it now:
9 tracks of microtonal bass music, in much the same style of Rhythm and Xen, Golden Hour, MK-SUPERDUPER, Human Astronomy… The download from bandcamp contains PDF liner notes, where I discuss a little about each track and any processes/tunings used.
Spotify/iTunes/YouTube/Soundcloud release forthcoming – for now grab Harmony Hacker from Bandcamp – enjoy the sounds and thanks the support!
Before I start sharing all this amazing stuff I found, please help me out. I’m trying to verify my Spotify Sevish profile, but it requires 250 followers. If everyone could hit the green “follow” button (and tell your friends) I will be able to get verified. This gives me more control over my artist profile, which will be useful because there’s a new Sevish album on the way.
A while ago I realized that a tonne of people are still using Spotify, so I started exploring the platform for myself. Of course, I wanted to see how much microtonal music was on there, because it’s the FUTURE (and past) of music. Would you believe that no playlists for microtonal music show up in the search results?
Well, I took care of that. The new playlist is aptly named Microtonal Music & Xenharmonic Music. I have tried to order new releases at the top, such as Brendan Byrnes’ Neutral Paradise, and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s 70’s Anatolian rock inspired Flying Microtonal Banana, which both came out this month. But scroll down past that and you’ll hear over 500 songs which will take over 2 days to listen through. A mix of genres of microtonal music were included, though mostly non-traditional musics (otherwise the playlist would easily be dominated by world music).
Marcus Satellite’s From On High is also on the platform, which was exciting for me as I never had the chance until now to hear it in its entirety. For me it already ranks amongst the most well-developed late-90s electronica. On top of that, I found that Stephen James Taylor, David Fiuczynski, MonoNeon all have their work up on the ‘fy. No doubt there is a lot more out there that I wasn’t able to dig up.
Hope you enjoy the playlist!
It’s time for celebration today, as Brendan Byrnes has just released a follow up to his album Micropangaea. Titled Neutral Paradise, it is every bit the stunning journey that its predecessor was. Brendan continues his exploration of xenharmonic avant-rock while developing his instantly recognisable and intense sound further.
Neutral Paradise features a variety of songs and instrumentals that are inspired by the “hybrid landscapes, cultures, energy, and complicated beauty” of Los Angeles. Most of the pop-friendly tracks come at the beginning of the album, with more exploratory works coming in later.
The gradual shift here from the familiar to the new is genius, as it gives the ear time to adjust. If you are just discovering microtonal/xenharmonic music for the first time, it can be quite an ear-bender. The melodies are novel and have an aesthetic that can feel strange at first. But Brendan makes it work, guiding you along with his vocals and the driving rhythms. It all makes musical sense when you listen to it. So when that more exploratory “Side B” comes in, you are all the more ready for it.
For me, the highlight of this record is the 6th track, Paradise. It’s a super dreamy song backed by steady rock groove, yet still manages to ramp up a few times to this powerful chorus that shimmers and glitters with sweeping synth lines and Brendan’s echoing falsetto. Despite my love for this song in particular, I have a feeling that others will take their own favourites, because there are so many strong songs on the album.
You can get Neutral Paradise now from Brendan Byrnes’ Bandcamp, on a pay-what-you-like basis. It will be available on Spotify, iTunes and the other big music platforms within the next couple of weeks.
What makes me hopeful for the future of microtonal music, is that people like Brendan are popping up with increasing frequency. They know how to write a song that is listener-friendly, a song that makes you feel something when you hear it. They know how to explore xenharmonic territory where few people are treading. They are keen to present their music in the highest quality way possible. And they know how to put all these things together into one package that everyone can enjoy. It’s takes a wide range of skills and a great deal of time to make all this come together, so it’s little surprise that we had to wait 4 years since Brendan’s last solo album.
So the next time somebody says “microtonal music is just out-of-tune, we use 12-equal for a reason, let’s stick to our traditions”, you just point them over to Brendan Byrnes and have their world turned upside down.
It’s been a long while since I uploaded any sounds and I couldn’t resist. This is the ending and fadeout to a tune I’ve been working on.
Just a reminder that I am working on a new album, however slowly…
Increasingly, people in this crazy world are looking for something positive, something uplifting so they can get reprieve from the chaos around them. For some, that comes as an addiction to sharing inspiring quotes on Facebook, while others find peace meditating to mass-produced new-age music.
But we understand that not everybody is in that boat. Some people are actually looking for more DOOM in their lives. This is where Cryptic Ruse’s Wasting & Thirsting comes in.
Wasting & Thirsting is an album of microtonal doom drone metal. It is an atmospheric dark-zone where down-tuned distorted guitar and a ton of processing create the entirety of the music. I could barely tell where one track ends and the next begins as the effect is so hypnotising. Each of the 3 tracks uses a different microtonal tuning system, and yes Cryptic Ruse had a custom guitar made for each tuning.
This music throbs, beats and moans as clusters of sludgy microtones overlap each other. There is no percussion. There are no vocals. Just a droning anti-aum to help you fade away into t h e a b y s s o f d e s p a i r.
Like any good drone, you sorely miss it once it ends. The only solution is to flip over the mp3 and play it again.
Wasting & Thirsting by Cryptic Ruse was released on August 14, 2016. You can download it from their bandcamp.