Wobbly – Monitress

To be released on CD, cassette, and digitally on 11/8/19. CD packaged in a six-panel wallet. C54 – Blue shell with black imprints – super-ferric stock. 2-sided 7-panel J-card with artwork by HausMo Max and Amy Freibertshauer. This is the catalog page with album information and artwork. To view the store page, click here.

San Francisco-based multimedia artist, composer, and improviser Jon Leidecker makes music under the pseudonym Wobbly. He currently records and tours with seminal experimental group Negativland, and with the Thurston Moore Ensemble. Over the course of a varied musical practice that began in the mid-1980s, Wobbly has collaborated with artists including Matmos, Dieter Moebius (Cluster), Tania Chen, Fred Frith, Tim Story, Thomas Dimuzio, David Toop, Zeena Parkins, and People Like Us. Leidecker has released recordings on labels like Illegal Art, Important Records, Bureau B, and Tigerbeat6. His podcast Variations, which explores the history of sampling and collage music, was originally commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona in 2009 before evolving into a lecture series at Mills, Stanford, Oxford, and Peabody Conservatory. After contributing extensively to Negativland’s live-mix radio program Over The Edge, spearheaded by the late Don Joyce and broadcast from Berkeley’s KPFA FM, Leidecker inherited the program in 2015.

Monitress is Leidecker’s first release with Hausu Mountain. Outside of his wide slate of collaborations and a number of self-published digital releases, the long-gestating album represents the first physical release of a Wobbly solo work since 2002. To create the takes that populate the album, Leidecker developed a process that exploits an arsenal of software on devices like iPads and iPhones. Mobile applications generate MIDI information from the external audio that Wobbly feeds into them, and then he retranslates and synthesizes that data into mutated semblances of songs. Given a chunk of audio as source material, these devices join together to produce densely stacked unison melodies, or spiral out of control when presented with complex polyphonies. In practice, Monitress explodes into every direction at once. Wobbly’s pieces highlight hyper-detailed rhythmic grids built over spastic, bludgeoning drum tones, unpredictable chromatic lead lines, and swathes of cybernetic noise texture. Most of his tracks prove completely unable to sit still for any amount of time as they speed through fast-shifting narratives of spontaneous electronic bursts and beats that crumble into dust before reshaping themselves into expanses of queasy atonality. When Leidecker dials back the manic energy and allows his machines to sink into a state of ambient drift, surprisingly melodious fields of sound emerge that maintain the album’s high-definition digital timbral palette while blossoming into rich harmonic structures. Though created primarily with randomizing and disfiguring processes, Monitress feels unquestionably human and openly humorous, as Wobbly’s approach to process-based composition and improvisation remains rooted in a sense of playfulness and bliss far from the surgical sterility that often characterizes music in this style.

Conceived primarily for live performances that allow a network of devices to “sing along” and react to each other, the recorded version of Monitress began in the form of improvisations on keyboards and touchscreens, which later became foundations from which to trigger additional layers of machine-enabled ornamentation. The improbably intricate and gleefully chaotic pieces that make up Monitress fall into place as Wobbly’s gadgets listen to each other sympathetically, or produce happy accidents when they are unable to “faithfully” process what they’re asked to. While the album fits within the realms of glitch music, improvised electronics, and collage-based recording that Leidecker has explored across his career, the plunderphonic processes of Monitress exploit modern mobile technology and render pre-existing audio into its most fragmented and disfigured forms. At the same time, the process calls back to the origins of Wobbly’s sound sources in the kernels of melody, rhythm, and harmony that come to roughly shape his pieces. In the words of Leidecker himself, Monitress is the “result of the relationship developed with a machine that is always present, and always listening. This was the project I dug into as we woke up to the true owners of these tools, a frame to make the relationship between ourselves and our machines audible while we think about the necessary steps to take next.”