Mark So
“Reading Illuminations”

When looking at the history of notated composition, one can ultimately sum up the basic role of musical notation as conveying how to set a sound-producing action of some sort into motion. In classical terms, this can be seen through how various dynamics and articulations, in conjunction with given notes, force performers into motion with their instruments. Of course, in the 20th century and onward, this realization/reduction of the “score” led to its manipulation, and everything from graphic notation to text scores and process music developed out of a desire to play with these ideas of action and sound.

However, one particular facet of this notational aesthetic that hasn’t yet been explored enough is the potential for all things visual/literary to be interpreted as a score. Technically, almost anything could turn into a musical score when certain parameters are applied to it, and with his latest cassette, Reading Illuminations/ A Book of Palms, Mark So showcases two of his compositions that do just that.

“Reading Illuminations” takes Robert Ashley’s notion of text/speech being a form of music in and of itself and carries it to a completely new level. The piece utilizes John Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud’s “Illuminations” as a score of sorts, combining cassette recordings of So and the always awesome Julia Holter reading the text with brief field recording snippets into a dizzying tapestry of monolithic lo-fi sound. The constant flickering of the tapes turning on and off is reminiscent of So’s Wind Measures release with Patrick Farmer, but the motion’s far more active this time around. And with Ashbery/Rimbaud’s text being used to determine duration in both reading and sound production, the work takes on an effect similar to that of Ashley’s operas.

Also on the cassette is the mesmerizing “A Book of Palms,” which uses drawings of palm trees on graph paper with note-heads as the basis for what turns out to be a very beautiful solo piano work. When taken together, the two compositions show that, despite the highly conceptual methods used to create these works, So still excels at creating beautifully spare music.

Reading Illuminations/A Book of Palms is out now via Recondite Industries. You can stream “Reading Illuminations” in its entirety below:

• Mark So:
• Recondite Industries:

Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier

“The Orchid Cantata”

French visual artist Félicia Atkinson has been exploring dark drones, synth tone psalms, and other ambient journeys ever since her trailer park summer in upstate New York a few years back. Yesterday, she posted “The Orchid Cantata” under her Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier moniker, hanging a chasmal canon of delayed sing-speak above one of her deepest, dimmest clatters yet. The soundwave bears the sibylline inscription: “more infos soon.”

Listen to the track at Atkinson’s SoundCloud.

• Félicia Atkinson:

Naysayer & Gilsun

NGTV - Vol #5

I love/hate writing about music because there’s always someone suggesting something, and t’s usually more taste-driven than anything else. Not to say friendship isn’t found, just sometimes it’s hard to enjoy, cover, and frequent every thing. Well, our man Nico Callaghan (he reviewed Falling in Reverse on TMT; BIG UP!PS) sent me a link to NGTV - Vol #5 by Naysayer & Gilsun, stating, “Don’t know if you choco [peepz] are in on this duo of DJs: But they are pretty fantastic. And those images were very nice while they lasted. Please continue if you get the time.” (That last bit is because I had spammed TMT writers with random Google-found pic links.) And when “Do you ever miss having someone to talk to?” is asked around the five-minute mark and beyond: shit gets real.

So, I’m dancing around my living room naked at noon. So it’s FUCK WEEKDAY. Feel that cinematic energy. We’ve all met before. Be now. With me in words on here in this mix. Hi!

• tNaysayer & Gilsun:

RM Francis

Recycled Sleep

Last we heard from Jeffrey D. Witscher, he was kicking it with Oneohtrix Point Never as Rene Hell for a split on NNA Tapes, but after a brief hiatus, he’s returned to his Agents of Chaos label for a new tape by RM Francis. Titled Recycled Sleep, the cassette is inspired by Stockhausen’s “moment form” concept — most notably heard on Kontakte — with pieces “generated automatically in a probabilistic synth patch via Max/MSP” and then “run through another wave shaping patch that used the amplitude & frequency information of the recorded sound to determine the playback speed, position, and direction.” Recycled music. Get it? Hear for yourself:

RM Francis’ Recycled Sleep is now available in an edition of 100

• Agents of Chaos:

Chocolate Grinder Mix 86

Rising Damp

Music is full of insular types. Recently, such types have been quietly releasing music that focuses on the wonders of the mundane. Ashley Paul sounds like she recorded Line The Clouds in a creaking bedsit, while Dead Machines appear to be recording the dismantling of it. Meanwhile, Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin have left their bedsit to inspect the broken plumbing outside.

Having said this, introversion is not always so dreary. Rale’s excessive use of silence is a soothing antidote to CAPITALIST INSANITY, while Sean MCann’s one-man orchestra provides some sonic space for contemplation.

Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.

[00:00] Ashley Paul - “Falling”
[01:50] Phillip Corner - “Concerto For Housekeeper - Strings”
[03:43] Joseph Hammer - “Philadelphia”
[07:30] Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin - “Making A”
[10:04] Tsembla - “Hirtetty”
[12:26] Dead Machines - “Gelatin Wide Teeth”
[15:01] Jennifer Veillerobe - “luftlocher”
[16:09] Rale - “Probability A”
[18:53] Giuseppe Ielasi and Kasserl Jaeger - “Parallel”
[22:16] Sean McCann - Conclusion - “Our Days Of Generosity”


probability a: three studies for compositions of infinite length

Even though William Huston might be better known to a lot of folks as one third of noise rap pioneers clipping., the dude has been releasing excellent slices of minimal ambiance on and off as Rale since 2006. Huston’s music as Rale may be one of the most complete convergences between the more academically minded experimental music of the Erstwhile scene and the current New Age-influenced synth drone work of various American underground labels. Even though Huston’s work often incorporates beautiful sustained harmony like many of his ambient peers, it’s his use of negative space that put his Rale compositions closer to the works of Michael Pisaro or Eliane Radigue than Emeralds.

The music of Rale is all about ADSR, particularly how the attack and decay of Huston’s synthetic sounds enter and leave the natural sound world around them. In Huston’s live performance, this effect is absolutely stunning: Huston’s beautiful chords crescendo until the space physically rattles with sound and then slowly fade to near silence before beginning the process again. When I recently saw Huston perform a set of material at the wulf., it seemed like his synth playing truly interacted with the space; it was a rare instance of harmony and rhythm affecting the physical space in a natural, non-confrontational manner, where both the musical material and the physicality of the space itself seemed integral to the set.

With probability a: three studies for compositions of infinite length, Huston has created another superb recorded work out of this same material. probability… very much builds on Huston’s equally negative space-obsessed The Moon Regarded, and the Bright One Sought from last year. However, probability… is perhaps the most eloquently articulated of his Rale albums yet. The notion of Huston’s synth harmonies emerging from the space itself has been taken to a near psychoacoustic height on this record. One look at the waveforms from this excerpt on SoundCloud can confirm that Huston has found a way to constantly keep sound flowing, even when it feels like nothing’s happening. In this way, the dichotomy between sound and silence narrows further from The Moon Regarded, which found the composer using extremely quiet high frequencies to similar but lesser effect. In this way, probability… takes the Wandelweisser collective’s notion of “silence as sound” and redefines this statement quite literally. Huston’s music shows that sound can still exist within the decay of a particular digital sound, even when the listener perceives what they’re hearing as silence. Ultimately, these differences between the digital near-silences of Huston’s compositions and the natural “silences” of the listener’s space become almost imperceptible, allowing for “compositions of infinite length” to exist even when the record itself ends.

probability… is out now via Senufo Editions. You can stream an excerpt of the album courtesy Experimedia below:

• Senufo Editions:


CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we'll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.