Post-classical ambient minimalism for crepuscular airports

Fake Orchestras

Suss Müsik has been doing quite a bit of composing lately. Much of the material falls under the category of what we call “fake orchestras,” often involving some combination of digital and traditional strings, piano, woodwinds and percussion. We think of it as something like a broken consort. We explored this concept on a couple of Disquiet Junto projects over the past year, and we’ve expanded upon this dynamic to create new pieces of increasing depth and complexity.

In order to fully pursue this new approach, Suss Müsik has once again (to the probable dismay and irritation of our seven fans worldwide) delayed the Decatenation project for the short-term future. It makes more sense thematically, since the final track listing of Decatenation skews more toward definable song structures, with at least one piece resembling what could almost be considered a “single” in some weird parallel universe.

It’s interesting, upon reflection, the somewhat convoluted path Suss Müsik has taken over the past eighteen months from ambient minimalism (i.e. music as meditative furniture) to something more structural and intentionally arranged. We think it’s a good progression, and Suss Müsik embraces the challenge that the interplay of instrumental voices presents when working more acoustically.

In other news, Suss Müsik is exploring the possibility of playing some live dates in 2018. We are not yet certain how this will work logistically or what it will involve, but we’ll let you know.

Artistic Collaboration: Limitrophe

A border is a sort of marker between two systems that share common attributes. While national law varies between territories, organic science has no respect for governance. Which begs the question: does the universe abide by its own set of rules, to be unearthed through examination, or does discovery occur by chance?

“The way different people have come to the same discovery independently,” wrote William H. Whyte in his 1956 book The Organization Man, “refutes the ‘great-man’ concept we cherish. It’s mostly luck who makes a discovery. If there had been no Einstein there would, in all likelihood, still be a relativity theory.”

piece by Bernard Madden

Artist B.G. Madden explores systems in nature as would a scientist, revealing hidden information and transforming meta-relationships into a new visual language. His work extrapolates these meanings into renderings of graphite, pigment and plaster, resting comfortably between avant-garde experimentation and traditional formalism. The piece Madden creates are beautifully disquieting yet energetically precise.

This piece, titled Limitrophe, is the first of a collaborative series between Suss Müsik and B.G. Madden. The first half is a series of layers: electronic fields of Moog-enhanced static, generated by an audio “scan” of Madden’s image. A base melody is performed on strings and accelerated during the piece’s coda, performed for fake orchestra using strings, brass and percussion. One field’s relative attributes informs the other, forming a clear delineation between the two approaches while maintaining their connective bond.

We are looking into possible performance/exhibition opportunities in which to further this fruitful experiment in cross-pollination. Stay tuned.

Next “Singles Project” Release

As part of a continuing effort we’re calling The Singles Project, Suss Müsik is developing an extrapolation of musical motifs centered on the invention of the telescope. The release will consist of two short pieces built around the same sonic framework with different arrangements: one performed solely on piano and violin, the other using more ornamental instrumentation (keeping with the “fake orchestra” concept) and electronics. The basic structures are in place, now on to finalizing the composition and recording/mastering the output. The release will be titled Lippershey.

Junto Project 0332: Lucky Numbers

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

Given a room containing 23 people, there is a better-than-half probability that two of them will share a birthday. This is due to a set of mathematical laws described by David J. Hand as the Improbability Principle, which is why he insists that coincidences should never come as a surprise. “Given enough opportunities,” writes Hand, “we should expect a specified event to happen, no matter how unlikely it may be at each opportunity.”

In September 2009, the Bulgarian lottery randomly selected 4, 15, 23, 24, 35 and 42 as its winning numbers. Precisely four days later, those exact same numbers were drawn again by the same lottery. Hand believes that this event was due to something called the “law of combinations,” in which each time a lottery result is drawn, there’s an increasing chance that it will contain the same numbers produced in any previous draw. The formula is n x (n –1)/2, if you’re interested.

For this nauseatingly jolly piece, Suss Müsik explored the music of coincidence through forced combinations. The Bulgarian lottery provided the inputs; the numbers 4 and 15 were extracted to arrive at a 4/4 time signature in nine segments. The numbers 23 and 24 were added and multiplied by two to create a tempo of 94. The numbers 35 and 42 made a sum of 77.

An electric guitar phrase was looped and sliced at key intervals according to the numbers: 5 second loops consisting of silent breaks at exact intervals: 1m10, 1m40, 1m50, 2m00, etc. The softly modulating background are two Moog devices operating at an LFO of 7.7.

Most of piece was played live and recorded quickly to 8-track. A little sketch indicates cues for when the guitar cuts out and the fake orchestral bits (strings, brass, percussion) come in. Here, have a look:

chart

The piece is titled Shans, which means “chance” in Bulgarian.

2018 Refresh

Now that Zygotes has been released, Suss Müsik is exploring new paths in sound creation. We learned quite a bit making music for fake orchestras, and we’re looking to expand that palette into new realms and languages.

In no particular order, here is what has Suss Müsik excited for the time being:

Creating rhythmic signatures involving tuned and found percussion. This comes from a long fascination with non-western musical influences, including the drumming practices of such artists as Babatunde Olatunji.

Use of the Slonimsky-Schillinger symmetric system for creating notation logic using randomized scales. We don’t pretend to understand quite all of it, but it’s an interesting way to work.

Extrapolation of live recordings into sequential patterns. In other words: playing live in a studio for some amount of time and drawing small bits of material from the session. For example, the results of what happens when a digital delay artifact is compressed and randomized with other voices (not unlike the work of Markus Popp, only using instruments rather than software).

Greater accessibility. Suss Müsik was encouraged by the response to our most recent Disquiet Junto submission, which has us thinking that it might be fun to create a series of quirky, danceable dub compositions. Think early 1980’s bands like Maximum Joy or The Pop Group.

A New New Album to Replace the Old New Album

Cover of Zygotes Suss Müsik is preparing a proper release entitled Zygotes. It will consist of six compositions for “fake orchestras” using strings, piano, woodwinds, percussion, sound collage, little electronic doodads and (in one instance) a Roland CR-78 rhythm machine. It could be our best effort or our worst, or perhaps somewhere in the middle. A preview track entitled Mersozhaun is available on SoundCloud, so you can judge for yourself. The cover is a picture of a newly-cracked egg with its yolk oozing all over the place.

Update: the track has been removed as we are getting closer to official release.

Suss Müsik and Other Lůno Releases

All Suss Müsik releases are available for purchase on Bandcamp and available for streaming on Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music and Google Play. Suss Müsik material is self-released and distributed under the net label Lůno.

Ex Post Facto

Ex Post Facto cover

Ex Post Facto is a 34-minute album of reworked and previously released material, some of it dating back nearly 20 (!) years, including new arrangements of Disquiet Junto projects. Compositions for strings, piano, woodwinds, percussion, a bit of synth, and (in one track) a table saw. Read the liner notes describing each track.

SixOverEight

SixOverEight cover

SixOverEight is an homage to life-as-prototype. Sequences of notes or chord progressions (the “eights”) were performed using customized or handmade instruments. The most workable bits were then developed into short offerings (the “sixes”) and recorded live. Instruments used include: prepared piano; piezo-amplified kalimba; homemade sawtooth synth; distressed fake marimba; open D-tuned Artiphon INSTRUMENT-1 (3D-printed frame) with custom voices; photo-sensitive synth played with a flashlight.

Co-Process Volume 2

Co-Process Volume 2 album cover

Co-Process Volume 2 (not to be confused with Co-Process listed below) is another offering of glitchy, droney, ambient weirdness. The music is based on audio scans of B.G. Madden’s visual art, which was provided in the form of postcards delivered via US mail. The scans were then manipulated using all sorts of technical gadgets, from grain synthesizers to DIY electronic devices.

Quiescent

Quiescent album cover

A number of listeners report that some of Suss Müsik’s output has a calming effect on them, a sort of vibroacoustic conditioning that elevates concentration, improves mental outlook, and reduces stress. Quiescent is a Bandcamp-only release offered for free to anyone who wants it. The running time is exactly 55-minutes. It can be used as background while you work, meditate, mourn, heal or rest — a mentally therapeutic diversion for those who need it.

Co-Process

Co-Process album cover

Co-Process is a collection of live improvisations played on grain synthesizers, using audio scans of work by visual artist B.G. Madden. Madden had this to say about the album’s contents: “I keep returning to an imaginary experience of Richard Serra’s work at Tadeo Ando’s museum in Naoshima, Japan. When listening to these tracks, I am transported to an island in the Pacific where Naoshima is located. I hear the rhythm of the surf. I feel the breeze and am dazzled by the shifting light. This music, as complimentary data, adds time, color and movement—all key elements for the Serra/Ando experience.”

NON

NON album cover

NON is a four-song album of electroacoustic pieces based on live improvisations conducted throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2018. Instrumentation includes piano, percussion, Moog synthesizers, electric guitar, primitive electronics, sampled wind instruments, hitting things, obfuscation. Much of the material was recorded live to 8-track in demo form and recomposed as a series of fields. It’s probably the best “sounding” recording Suss Müsik has released. Listen to NON on YouTube for free (seriously, we don’t care).

Misophonia

Misophonia album cover

Misophonia is the second in a series called The Singles Project, each release consisting of two short works composed as a suite. For this offering, Suss Müsik sought to explore the spiritual significance of the pineal gland as a possible gateway through to communicate with non-human lifeforms. The two pieces are composed for marimba, slide guitar, processed vocals, fake orchestra (primarily violins and woodwinds) and birds outside Suss Müsik headquarters. Read more on the background behind this release.

Hiko

Hiko album cover

Hiko is Suss Müsik’s first release under the Lůno label and first in a series called The Singles Project, each release consisting of two short works composed as a suite. For this offering, Suss Müsik sought to represent varying textures of glacial ice using sound: the viscous, wintry state of glaciers traveling at the speed of molasses, the thawing and breaking of glacial ice during summer. etc. Hiko I is composed for cello, violin, Moog synthesizer, ice cubes, flute, organ and piano. Hiko II is composed for violin, viola, cello, vibraphone, vocals, mellotron, piano, tuba, trombone, Moog synthesizer and ice cubes. Read more on the background behind this release.

Zygotes

Zygotes album cover

Zygotes is Suss Müsik’s first “commercial” release in the sense that it is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, YouTube, and other distribution outlets. The album is six compositions for fake orchestras. You’ll hear strings, woodwinds, mallets, piano, percussion, brass and maybe even a flute or violin solo. Fans of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Mikel Rouse’s Broken Consort, Wim Mertens or Meredith Monk may enjoy this bit of symphonic minimalism. Read the liner notes describing each track.

Eclipsa

Eclipsa album cover

Eclipsa is a 50-minute piece that operates as both distraction and sedation. Instruments are buried under a thin veil of amplifier noise, creating a restful calm despite the unrelenting dissonance. The piece is titled after the word meaning “obfuscate” in the Catalan language of eastern Spain. Read more on the background behind this release.

Paraphasia

cover of Paraphasia

Paraphasia is named after a neurological speech disturbance, caused by brain damage, in which words are jumbled and sentences are rendered as meaningless. The pieces in this offering by Suss Müsik concentrate on fragments: the audio detritus created from malfunctioning systems, moments lost in idle activity, shards of regret manifested as tone. This is music for ticking off random days until something happens; meanwhile, life moves forward through the particle haze of decisions never made.

Quorum

cover of Quorum

Quorum is a compilation spanning the best of Suss Müsik’s early output. “The intention is clear,” wrote Marc Weidenbaum of Disquiet. “The ‘post-classical’ aspect is the presence of static violins and receding timpani. The ‘ambient minimalism’ is the overall sense of hovering waveforms in favor over active, self-evident melodic or thematic development. The ‘crepuscular’ is the way such a still piece can bring to mind moments in the day, such as that of twilight, when things seem to pause on a psychic, emotional, and sensory fulcrum point, with an underlying and intense momentum toward what might come next. And then, of course, the ‘airports’ is a nod to Brian Eno’s foundational work, where he likewise likened the travel portal to a unique mental juncture.”

Exploring Shackleton

Exploring Shackleton album cover

A seven-song release by Egret Zero, something of a “concept album” based on themes regarding leadership and execution under pressure. Loosely based on the life of Ernest Shackleton, the album attracted this lovely review by Jake Collier of Spill Magazine (4 1/2 out of 5 splats): “Although their sound is hard to describe, it is very easy to listen to, a mix of soundscapes and experiments … Egret Zero have put on notice the experimental music scene with this release, and I cannot recommend it enough.”

Wait, For Now

Wait, For Now album cover

The second Egret Zero release titled Wait, For Now refines concepts explored on the first EP. It takes the listener on a journey through quarantine life, hopefully with an outcome that rewards humanity’s patience with our own survival.

Egret Zero EP

Egret Zero album cover

May 1988, on a humid night in Baltimore, two friends meet in the back room of a mutual friend’s apartment. Thirty-one years later, a strange encounter with a spirit entity initiates a new sonic alchemy between the two. The result is a crepuscular project titled Egret Zero. The first release takes listeners through a series of mental landscapes ranging from the ethereal to the photorealistic: mirages on an alien desert, moments of clarity from some alternative past. For more than three decades, this music has been gestating within the minds and hearts of its creators, a constellation of ideas jostling for release. Now it’s yours.

Suss Müsik and Marc Manning

cover of Suss Müsik and Marc Manning

Suss Müsik collaborated with Dragon’s Eye Recordings artist Marc Manning to produce this four-track offering. “A flowing amalgam of overlaid guitar patterning: strumming electric beneath louche waveforms amid spaced-out echoes,” wrote Marc Weidenbaum of Disquiet. “It’s like the midpoint music from a Michael Mann film, a moment of reflective calm before all hell breaks loose. The track [Melting Square], which teams Suss Müsik with musician Marc Manning, itself gets calmer as it proceeds, the strumming eventually fading out entirely in favor of the voluminous echo, that echo then fracturing into a quietly intense, psychedelic field of ghostly twinkling.”