ESS engineer Alex Inglizian on the synth module that changed his life | In Rotation | Chicago Reader

ESS engineer Alex Inglizian on the synth module that changed his life 

Plus: Rob Frye of Bitchin Bajas on a violinist who plays bicycle wheels, Reader music editor Philip Montoro on Houston’s favorite defunct noise-rock deviants, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

click to enlarge The Pain Teens released Born in Blood in 1990.
  • The Pain Teens released Born in Blood in 1990.

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Pain Teens Guitarist Scott Ayers and vocalist Bliss Blood formed this almost comically lurid Houston band in 1985 and soon joined the likes of the Cherubs, Crust, and the Butthole Surfers in the circle of noise-rock perverts signed to Austin label Trance Syndicate. The Pain Teens had a weakness for collages of "edgy" samples, but when they fired on all cylinders—combining filthy guitar fuzz, junkyard industrial beats, sinister psychedelic fuckery, and icy, sneering vocals—they transcended their adolescent fixation on depravity and evil. I'll stick up for "The Basement," "Shallow Hole," and "Daughter of Chaos" any day.

MusicRepublic: World Traditional Music From LPS and Cassettes The anonymous founder of this amazing blog aims to "highlight the great diversity of our traditional music heritage, to bring rare and little-known recordings to the music-loving public, and to offer a doorway for people who have an interest but don't know where to begin." In the past two months, MusicRepublic's posts have included 1930s Indian recordings on sitar, surbahar, and sursaptak; a 1970s album by a 35-member trans-ethnic Malian ensemble; and a 1960s Mexican split LP of indigenous and mestizo music. I hope they never stop.

Shows in conservatories Last year I saw Lykanthea perform in the Lincoln Park Conservatory twice, and a couple weeks ago I caught Mulatu Astatke and Angel Bat Dawid at the one in Garfield Park. I think I'm ready to say: more live music in places that actually smell good, please.

Philip is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

click to enlarge The Morphagene synthesizer module - COURTESY MAKE NOISE
  • The Morphagene synthesizer module
  • Courtesy Make Noise

Alex Inglizian, head engineer at Experimental Sound Studio

Iannis Xenakis, Concret PH This 1958 composition by Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis is one of the quintessential examples or early sound art employing the technique of "microsound." Using only the noise of burning charcoal on analog tape, Xenakis splices, loops, and transposes recordings to create a granular cloud that transforms and modulates throughout the composition. The texture and density of the sounds are absolutely beautiful. Concret PH debuted at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958, projected through an 11-channel system over 425 loudspeakers.

Curtis Roads, Microsound This seminal 2004 book by Curtis Roads covers the history, theory, and compositional practice of microsound—which not only dissolved the familiar building blocks of music but also laid the groundwork for what we now call granular synthesis. Roads lays out meticulous recipes for exploring the realm of sound particles briefer than one-tenth of a second—a kind of quantum sonic world.

Make Noise Morphagene It's rare that a single piece of gear can completely change the course of my output as a sound artist. The Morphagene by Make Noise is one such piece. The mad scientists at Make Noise have created a sound sampler/granular synthesizer that's inspired by the musique concrète and microsound composition of the 1950s but seamlessly fits into a modern music-production workflow. The Morphagene can generate soundscapes and textures unlike anything you've heard, limited only by your own creativity.

Alex is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

click to enlarge Sylvia Hallett bows a bicycle wheel at London’s Vortex Jazz Club in 2011. - MOPOMOSO/YOUTUBE
  • Sylvia Hallett bows a bicycle wheel at London’s Vortex Jazz Club in 2011.
  • Mopomoso/Youtube

Rob Frye, member of Bitchin Bajas, solo as Flux Bikes, resident artist with Inferno Mobile Recording Studio

Ida y Vuelta As the band Ida y Vuelta, Laura Cambron, Jaime Garza, Daniel Villarreal, and Zacbe Pichardo present live son jarocho music on the first Thursday of every month at Honky Tonk BBQ in Pilsen. Son jarocho is a regional folk style from the Mexican state of Veracruz that fuses elements of indigenous, African, and Spanish cultures. Besides taking audiences there and back again each month and staying true to the roots of the music, the band's members are also activists and educators (and play in Sones de Mexico, Dos Santos, and other projects).

Voices of the Peruvian Rainforest This humbling listen into the sonic world of the Amazon, recorded mainly by Ted Parker and released in 1985, is available for free through the National Audubon Society. A legendary ornithologist, Parker developed the Rapid Assessment Program to document threatened species in the tropics—and around 10,000 of the sounds in the Macaulay Library are his contributions.

Sylvia Hallett I learned about this British violinist and composer from Tom Relleen of UK duo Tomaga. He mentioned her work because of her use of bicycle wheel. On Hallett's 2001 album, White Fog, she bows a wheel, an eerie-sounding technique that brilliantly complements voice, violin, and tape collage. A supporter of experimental music since the mid-70s via the London Musicians Collective, she improvises regularly and collaborates with loads of other top-notch musicians, theaters, and dance troupes.  v

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