All disquiet

A new look at a 20-year-old nightlife masterpiece. Plus: Martyn, Modular, Mighty Real, Rita Moreno, Portable aka Bodycode, more parties

|
(1)
Rhubarb and Radiator: Writer Marc Weidenbaum takes on Aphex Twin's seminal ambient works.
PHOTO BY JORGE COLOMBO

marke@sfbg.com

SUPER EGO "There is no previous book to this book. There is no Selected Ambient Works Volume I book, just as there is no record by the musician Aphex Twin bearing the title Selected Ambient Works Volume I. There is, however, a Selected Ambient Works Volume II album, released by the British record label Warp in 1994, and this is a book about that album."

So begins the latest entry in the great, ongoing 33 1/3 book series from Bloomsbury Press, which unleashes one notable writer on one seminal album and prints the often-poetic results. In this case, the "extravagantly opaque, willfully vaporous" chillout room masterpieces of electronic composer Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin -- basically what everyone in the 1990s listened to as they swept up/came down after the rave -- get the business from incisive SF writer and archivist Marc Weidenbaum. And really, the pairing couldn't be any more delicious.

Since 1996, Weidenbaum's been quietly documenting from the Richmond District all manner of experimental and electronic sounds on his incredible Disquiet.com site. (Some have referenced the site as one of the earliest blogs.) It's one of our great sonic secrets: Pretty much once a day for the past 18 years he's been opening ears to everything from random satellite-based sound sculptures and square wave coding antics to looped Sumerian myths and compressed Fugazi-discography experiments.

ego1Named after mysterious early 20th century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa's "factless autobiography" The Book of Disquiet, Disquiet.com itself had a disquieting beginning. "When I founded Disquiet, I had quit a job I'd had for seven years," Weidenbaum told me by email. He'd started at Tower Record's Pulse! Magazine as an editor, then went on to launch its classical magazine and found its first digital publication. "I'd joined Tower because I wanted to work for a magazine that covered all music, which back then was quite an unusual thing. But in time I realized that my seemingly disparate listening had a core thread: that which I first thought of as electronically mediated sound, but eventually I recognized as 'technologically' mediated sound.

"Aphex Twin was part of a new generation of musicians who helped focus my ears. Wagon Christ. Shinjuku Thief. DJ Krush. Skylab. Oval. Spring Heel Jack. DJ Olive. Grassy Knoll. They were layered on top of the earlier generations of electronic experimenters, who I was already fond of: Brian Eno, Gavin Bryars, Pauline Oliveros, Laurie Anderson, Robert Fripp, Nicolas Collins, Ikue Mori.... Recognizing that technological focus gave me the comfort to move on."

And now he's written a book channeling his feelings for the technological mediation that Aphex Twin brought to the fore. The tricky thing, of course, is that Aphex Twin — who's recently reemerged to perform with and produce insane South African zef-rave act Die Antwoord — is known not just for ethereal, era-framing atmospheric ambience, but satanic electronic audiovisual combustions like "Windowlicker" and "Come to Daddy" as well.

Comments

Marke B.'s take on Marc Weidenbaum's take on Aphex Twin is the opposite of ambient: clear, direct, persuasive and energizing. Nice work, all!

Posted by Lee Stevens on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Related articles

  • Get read

    SUPER EGO: Great new books on nightlife and music, plus Green Velvet, Cajmere, Fog Rugby, Friends With Benefits, MOM on Mars, more parties

  • Far afield

    SUPER EGO A healthy lifestyle should never interfere with your nightlife schedule. Plus: Moon Boots, The Field, Tony Humphries, Summer Sundays, more parties

  • Party Radar: Basement Jaxx, Outpost, Clockwork, Bardot A Go Go, more

  • Also from this author

  • Get read

    SUPER EGO: Great new books on nightlife and music, plus Green Velvet, Cajmere, Fog Rugby, Friends With Benefits, MOM on Mars, more parties

  • Lean in

    Go out already, why don't you? Magda, Glenn Jackson, Just Be, Julio Bashmore, Outpost, Made in SF, more parties

  • Track record

    A marathon weekend with Sunset Campout and Up Your Alley Fair. Plus: J.Phlip, Braza!, Too $hort, more parties