Posted by: Dominic Umile | 02/19/2009

Close Listen: A Setting Sun and More

Empty Sound‘Listening’ is a sort of ongoing series of posts I’ll add that concern three records to which I’m paying a lot of attention at the moment, be it new or old releases.

Jay Bodley’s Empty Sound is anything but. As A Setting Sun, Bodley makes a strong argument for Kiln’s clicking shapeshifters or the transcendent glory of Belong’s guitar-based still lifes. The Michigan ambient artist sculpted a series of marvelously resonating pieces for Empty Sound with treated guitar tracks and a library chock full of hardware synth samples. “Bruteforce” and “Garmonbozia” unexpectedly open their dissipating edges up to a muted kick here and there, but the main thrust of Bodley’s work is front and center. If he isn’t topping his treble-heavy washes with live piano and chimes, he’s messing about with the levels, so that creepy surges like those in “Sangha” sound like a Hammer Studios film is playing in the next room. Incidentally, I was assigned to write about this for an editor of mine late last year, but the review was lost and didn’t run…so here ’tis, y’all. Right click, “save as” to download “Bruteforce” from Empty Sound here. Preview all of it here.

On his mostly instrumental third album, Stephen Bibio Wilkinson again looks to 60s English folk via frail, painstakingly lo-fi recordings of acoustic guitar, field noise, and woodwinds. While Vignetting the Compost differs little from 2006’s Hand Cranked (I wrote about that one here), Wilkinson’s petite offerings are captivating, peppered with lots of backward-rolling swirls and tape hiss, and are as brittle as an old glass bottle. A lot of these pieces could’ve landed on his previous full-length endeavors; Wilkinson’s “Dopplerton” is blissful and gauzy — its central melody sounds looped, bookended by warbled bits of reverse guitar — but tracks like “Under the Pier,” which doesn’t land far from Fi‘s “I’m Rewinding It,” play with the malfunctioning radio charm that Boards of Canada or Fennesz evidently so admire [BOC’s Marcus Eoin recommended Wilkinson to Mush years ago] . Detuned electric piano tones are barely intact on “Under,” and they resonate about as well as the audio from your fourth grade classroom’s film projector — when you were young, it was a miserable sound. Now, it’s serene and wonderful. Right click, “save as” to download “Mr. & Mrs. Compost” here, and watch the video for this track here.

Beat Konducta 5 & 6

The fifth and sixth installments of Madlib’s Beat Konducta series are bountiful collections of cut-n-stitch mastery. The West Coast selector, hip hop producer, and sometimes-emcee (with help from J. Rocc) pays tribute to his friend and dearly missed talent James “J Dilla” Yancey in the latest entry of oddly edited beat collages, with endearing nods to Dilla’s Donuts LP as well as to the lauded Champion Sound LP, Madlib’s teamup with Dilla in the early 2000s. The Dil Cosby & Dil Withers Suite CD culls two separate Beat Konducta releases that originally saw vinyl-only release in 2008, a very busy year for Madlib that included, but isn’t limited to, a mix of Brasilian joints and an appearance on a pretty sweet DVD.

I wrote about the ongoing Beat Konducta experiment of Madlib’s a couple of times when the first several volumes were collected for CD, and I return to them often; they’re the musical equivalent of satisfying but extraordinarily short fiction anthologies. In some ways, it’s distracting that the ideas end as quickly as they’ve begun; vocal snippets are trimmed abruptly, drum breaks are perpetually unpredictable, etc. In essence, though, each few Beat Konducta moments are distinctive — linked only by a theme or a recurring quick sound effect. The brief instrumentals that populate the series zip in and out in usually of handful of minutes or so, powered by Madlib’s nimble beatmaking and sample selection. Volumes five and six seem to be even more compelling, particularly with the knowledge of the impetus behind these works. It’s obviously a lot like Donuts, loaded with buttery soulful brass and dramatically chopped string samples (check “The String (Heavy Jones)”), and Madlib’s newest doesn’t rattle the listener as easily as Movie Scenes does, the first collection of Beat Konducta pieces. When I find myself wishing that one of these homemade grooves lasted more than a few minutes, I feel pretty satisfied by the time the next drum break rumbles in. Slick stuff here. Download an MP3 of a full 2004 show featuring Dilla, Madlib, and J Rocc here.

James “J Dilla” Yancey passed away three years ago this month; Stones Throw and some others have a lot going on memorial- and benefit-wise, as Yancey’s mother has now been diagnosed with lupus. Check out events and other items on the label’s site.



  1. dude… Beat Konducta 3-4 is off the hook… INDIAN STYLE!

  2. I love that one, man. Make sure you get Oh No’s ‘Dr. No’s Oxperiment’ — a ridiculously interesting beat record from Madlib’s brother.

  3. I am loving bibio and while on mush peeping the video I checked out new Clue for Kalo with ten different voices…beautiful.

  4. Thanks so much for reading, pal. And yes, CTK’s vocal arrangements are mind-blowing on the new one. You’d love that Bibio record if you haven’t gotten it yet.

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