Microsound Autumn Sale Now On

By Ian Trowell, 28 November 2002

Ian Trowell on the demise of the Microsound genre


The microsound genre, fleetingly seen by both postrock overstayers and electronica entrepreneurs as a next level of development/survival, is now experiencing the same symptoms that pre-empted ambient’s famous ‘Black Monday’ in the 1990s. Even worse, the 15 minutes of fame afforded to the genre translates despairingly to the 15 minutes that seems to infuriate the writers of letters to Radio Times who demand to know how an episode of the cult drama 24 can suddenly compress 45 minutes into representing one hour of ‘real-time’ US action. With corporate giants Calvin Klein and Levis keen to use the glitch and minimal soundscape as advertising drive, microsound is the story of a music that, having used the artworld as a device to leave its mark, fell victim to the ultracommodified packaging of its own scene.

The sound/package emerged through the same process that filtered techno into electronica, dragging along a hardcore of design fetishists and obsessive collectors. Thus, the precisely detailed work of producers such as Carston Nicolai (Raster-Noton), Deupree/Chartier (12k and Line) and Kim Cascone has an enthralled audience whose purchasing patterns hang on every release. Whilst the genre limps forward with a standardised design of barren CAD architectures and various grey-scaled pixels, the public execution of the music is best summed up with artist Terre Thaemlitz’s description of the ‘bored expression of the laptop orchestras as they fence us in with mindlessly formalist walls of dull grey sound.’ What’s the alternative? To get disruptive on the dance floor or to make noise that is uninhabitable to almost all advertising executives (apply below):

a) GCTTCATT, AmpErase, Mego 021b) Various, Selection 1, Trapez

Ian Trowell <>