the power nine

A nostalgically named but forward-looking set of sets for 2018, starting with TIMETWISTER:

It is maybe worth me thinking about how much I still process music like I might need to DJ with it – which is patently ridiculous, as I don’t DJ any more.  There’s lots of knowledge about how people’s music tastes are set in their teenage years and in their early 20s.  I wonder how much people’s habits around buying / listening / learning about music are set in those selfsame years – or if I’m just stuck in my adolescent ways.

how to solve problems

This is a book by a man with the fantastic name of Wayne Wickelgren – and I want to mention it because Wickelgren was a psychologist and a cognitive scientist, and the problem-solving methods he discusses all tend to map one-to-one to the algorithm design methods that are taught in computer science.

In CSC, the main three are:

Brute Force

Enumerate every possible combination, solution, or problem state – then optimize to determine the actual solution.  This is very slow, but is usually the easiest to think about.  Wickelgren talks about “classifying action sequences” by trial and error, including random trial and error.  A key note from Wickelgren is the idea of limiting your action sequences by ignoring things that have the same result – which is also about the same as memoizing a function.

Dynamic Programming

Solve a smaller version of the problem, then use the result of that to (inductively) build up the solution that you want.  Usually involves some tricky ways of storing the results of the smaller version of the problem.  The book talks about “hill climbing”, mentions getting stuck in local maxima, taking odd detours (sound like graph theory, anyone?), and so on.  Wickelgren likewise points out that evaluating what your end state should be can be tricky.

Divide & Conquer

Split the problem into smaller version, the combine them (usually in a recursive way) to find the solution that you want.  Wickelgren mentions “subgoals”, which are distinct from hill-climbing, as they’re not inductive – there’s even a binary tree as an example!


So those are the big three, which each get a chapter in the book.  The book also mentions proofs by contradiction, and “working backward”, which relates to both dynamic programming and divide & conquer solution – if you start from your solution and work “down”, or start from nothing and work “up”.

There’s likewise a chapter on “relationships between problems”, which is a thing that happens in computer science all the time – both in the software engineering sense of having done this before, and the computer science sense of being able to solve a known or simpler problem to get to the problem you want.

The most striking two points in the book that are not in typical computer science theory are a section about how if you can’t solve a problem, take a break, and all the reasons why taking a break is good for you.  The other point is about inferring new information from the given information, which is a constant bugbear of mine.  What information do you need to have that you don’t have?  And can you get that information from the given data?  Or, (in the software engineering sense) do you need to obtain it from somewhere else?

software & experiments: the archives

I had the pleasure of doing a radio show on kpiss.fm for most of last year – you can find the archives on this server, or on the Mixclouds.  I’d recommend both Morocco Specials, (No. 8 and No. 9), the closing show (No. 13) and the Funk Special (No. 11).

one more time

Happy solstice, everyone.  2018, we’ll make it happen.

2017: tracks of the year

Benjamin Brunn – Plastic

One of those tracks that you think is a deep tune, and that you end up playing at peak time, and people freak out, and then you play it basically every radio show for a year.

James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through The Fire

One of those records that picks you up by the scruff of the neck and leaves you hanging a good 18 inches off the ground by the time it is done.

Four Tet – Scientists

There is not a single thing wrong with this stupidly clever tune.

Penny Penny – Shibandza

Oh no, it is a cheesy steel drum record from West Africa, this is super lame, why is the DJ playing this, WHERE DID THAT BASS PART COME FROM, this is amazing, let’s all party.

Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover

All I want is a Prince pop song with a four minute proto-house vamp on the outro.

The Black Madonna – He Is The Voice I Hear

A tune that never stops peaking / slow burning / rising.  A fantastic thing.

Ola Szmidt – Autumn

A late entry into the “sublime ambient” category, but a very welcome one.

Big ups to Dina Maccabee – Push Me, Superlife – Go Bananas, Object – Theme From Q, Omar S – Set It Out, and Not Waving – Where Are We?

2017: albums of the year

A bumper crop, this year.

Xylouris White – Black Peak

Sonically astonishing, musically exceptional, and not a weak track on the album – special thanks to Arkadiy for turning me on to this one.

Hite – Light Of A Strange Day

Julia Easterlin is the best singer.

James Holden & The Animal Spirits – The Animal Spirits

If this is Holden’s final form, it is a pretty amazing one – landing square on the intersection of techno-synth jams, moroccan folk music, free jazz, and psych freakouts.

Tuarrah – Tuarrah

The best sounding album you’ll hear all year, from the Van Kirk / Marion axis.

Laurel Halo – Dust

Sublime post-techno in all ways.

The most honorable mentions to Wally Badarou’s Echoes, to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s The Kid, JLin’s colossal Dark Origami, Colleen’s A Flame My Love, A Frequency, and Nidia’s – Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida.  Special bonus thanks to Fernando Diaz for ripping all of my tapes from Morocco.

2017: sets of the year

Ben UFO, Four Tet, Floating Points & Pearson Sound – Hessle Audio, Rinse FM, 2017-07-13

This set is so obviously four people just fucking around, and yet also a total benchmark in how far afield you can go without things coming apart into total chaos.

Björk – The Cover Mix

“it is most definitely flute and air themed and perhaps reveals the sonic environment my ears were in last year”.  We don’t deserve Björk, but maybe we deserve this astonishing 45 minutes.

Vektroid – FACT Mix

You think you’ve heard everywhere that post-dubstep and vaporwave and etc etc can go, and then something like this comes out and whaaaaaaaaaat.

Deathprod – FACT Mix

No, you want some crackly and lush mountain music while you live in a giant city.  I’m fine.

Honors out to The Black Madonna’s RA 600, to Mike Servito’s acid-tinged work for The Bunker podcast, Powder’s sublime Beats In Space mix, and Courtesy’s scorching-through-below-the-waves RA podcast.

2017: concerts of the year

Hite – Light Of A Strange Day album release at C’Mon Everybody

I was lucky like the stars to see Julia Hite Easterlin do her thing maybe five times this summer – each was amazing in its own way.  The album release, however, with the full band and the dancer, was the mystical, magical winner.

Tanya Tagaq at the Appel Room

Seeing Tanya Tagaq as part of “The American Songbook” series was a little ironic … but oh my god, what a performer and what a musician and what a singer.

Maalem Rachid El Hamzaoui, Asmaa Hamzaoui, at the Essaouira Festival Gnawa

We saw a lot of Gnawa and a lot of fusion and a lot of that shuffly 6/8 beat – but we also made it to one “proper” sit-down indoor concert, with Maalem Hamzaoui opening, and then his daughter and her band (who are the only female ensemble in Morocco) following up.  She can, of course, shred – both players had a few people in front of us literally entranced.

Shout out to Leila Bourduiel at Issue Project, Thomas Adès Exterminating Angel at the Met, Alan Gilbert doing Beethoven 9 and A Survivor from Warsaw with the NY Phil, and the Christophori piano hall in Berlin for their Ravel / Bartok joint.

2017: shows of the year

Perverelist, Steevio & Suzybee at ://about:blank

I’ll level with you: I had a weekend in Berlin, and I meant to go to Berghain. But a huge & static mine at 0100 lead me to about:blank. I knew Perverelist would be at least good – he was great. I was skeptical about Steevio & Suzybee – instead of bringing hippie noodling, they summoned up super tight, Mathew-Jonson-esq techno.  And, of course, Berlin never lets me down.

Jlin & Foodman at Brooklyn Bazaar

I hope I’ve talked about Jlin enough that you know she is amazing – and she was.  Jlin is maybe post-footwork … whereas Foodman adds at least one more “post”.  He also stole the show a bit, if the dude in front of me shouting “Future of music!” was any indication.  Beats that you can’t count, weird FM melodies, production so clean it becomes polite, and so on.

Mr. Sunday at Nowadays

Justin Carter & Eamon Harkin have so much to be proud of, and this is such a great party.

Actress, DJ Marfox, Via App, at Good Room

Three great people at the height of their powers – especially, DJ Marfox should be shouted out for playing three accordion-based bangers near the end of his set and freaking us all out in the best possible way.

Honorable mentions to that one salsa band in that one bar in Paris, to The Black Madonna at 1896, to Planet Giegling at Good Room, to Egyptian “The Dick Is Real” Lover at Fabric, to running into The Drifter at Farbfernsehrer seven years later, and to Ellen Allien & Kim Ann Foxman at Good Room

the internet vs music, 2017

How do you release music on the internet in 2017?  We’ve got at least:

  • Bandcamp
  • Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal
  • SoundCloud
  • iTunes
  • Resonate.io
  • Mixcloud
  • YouTube
  • Patreon
  • DropBox
  • Self-hosting
  • ?????

Now let’s look at the tape:

Bandcamp is probably my favorite, but it lacks a bit of jazz, and is more of a store than a place where things can gather momentum.  

Spotify and the streaming services are not really great for bootleg stuff or for things aimed at DJs. (Disclosure:  I’m a Spotify employee, and it’s not perfect, but I don’t think it is bad.)

SoundCloud is probably dying.

iTunes is boring as six horses, and most people don’t buy music.

Resonate is adorable, but is even more niche than Bandcamp.

Mixcloud is designed for radio sets (and has iffffyyy design).

 YouTube makes you no money.  

Patreon doesn’t work for shy people, and has no hosting.

Dropbox and OneDrive and Google Drive are pedestrian.

Most people can’t self host.


So is the answer, as ever, for artists, to do everything?  Cut your 200 vinyl or cassettes, push it to Spotify and everywhere else with DistroKid, put a video on YouTube, link it all to your Patreon on Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat?  

It probably is, really.  As someone who’s been around this field for a minute, it is sort of frustrating that there is no easy answer for me wanting to upload a few edits where they might get a tiny amount of attention organically.  (I am, of course, probably just a lazy old man.)

But along these lines, what’s an instagram record label?  What’s a Snapchat record label?  Is AR / VR stuff going to do anything?  What about Twitch?Will there be a boom in compact-disc (or minidisc!) nostalgia soon?  What about the newsletter trend?  The blockchain?  What’s next?