🌱 52. Darksynth, Filthstep, Italogaze
Every Noise at Once
(File under: music, taxonomies, data visualisation)
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (hi, hello), but I love an elaborate system of classification. Anything that takes an unwieldy field and makes it seem palm-sized and knowable, while still inspiring awe at its size and complexity. Anything that says, That thing you noticed? There’s a word for that. Were you aware there are almost 400,000 species of beetle on the planet, yet they all belong to a single insect order? Yell ‘coleoptera’ in a bar and a lot of beetles will turn their heads.
I particularly love systems that exist outside the scientific world, where the rules that govern them are murkier, more subjective. Every Noise at Once is the perfect example—a single web page that plots over 5,500 musical genres in a billowing word cloud, like a murmuration of algorithmic starlings.
Linger anywhere on the page and you’ll begin to see patterns: All of the various metals congregate in dense clouds, from the familiar (heavy metal, death metal, black metal) to the more esoteric (war metal, sludge metal, lovecraftian metal), while more singular genres float alone on the peripheries (filthstep, warm drone, dungeon synth, jug band.) Some are grouped by instrument (jaw harp, slack-key guitar, classical bassoon), some by location (new orleans blues, midwest emo, french techno), and others by function (spa, bible, sleep, healing).
Not only is Every Noise a collision of art, language, and data visualisation, it’s also a brilliant tool for discovering music. Click on any of the names and it’ll play you a short sample of one of the artists working in that genre. Click the » to the right of any genre and you’ll find a smaller word cloud with all of its main proponents. For every genre it even generates a playlist representative of its most popular artists—The Sound of Tropicália, The Sound of Doomgaze, The Sound of Bubblegrunge.
Almost a year ago I shared a playlist called Greenhouse, a collection of songs grouped by nothing more than a vague feeling. Searching for some of the artists in that playlist, Every Noise revealed they could all loosely be working in a genre known as Fourth World, and promptly recommended dozens more like them. That feeling you had? There’s a genre for that.
Some other enthusiasms from the last month:
Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi was almost implausibly up my alley. A beguiling, tragic, fantastical puzzle of a book. If you’re an audiobook person, or perhaps even if you aren’t, Piranesi‘s is read by Chiwetel Ejiofor, and I’ll say this: More audiobooks should be read by Chiwetel Ejiofor.
If the universe is good and just and true, Wet Leg’s catastrophically catchy ‘Chaise Longue‘ will be on every year-end list of best songs.
Having watched very little TV over the course of the last year, I suddenly found myself binging both seasons of Apple TV+’s For All Mankind. It’s a big budget period retelling of the space race where the Soviet Union beats the USA to the moon, and the finale of the second season is one of the most audacious things I’ve seen on TV in years.
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