A member of a radical editorial collective on the cutting edge of British music criticism in the 1970s, later a critic for more standard papers, including the Times
, David Toop'S second book covers a vast expanse of music. His tour-de-force survey describes a dissonant and invigorating clash of music and noise from western classical to Javanese gamelan, from Claude Debussy to Miles Davis to Brian Eno, from disco to techno to ambient. He discusses the changes in our sound world caused by the global reach of radio and recordings, and shows himself a rigorous pluralist, open to all styles and forms, but unafraid to offer robust criticism in any musical sphere.
Ethereal, ambient sound is a passion in certain circles in England and the U.S. Toop traces the twentieth-century history of music that "could be characterised [sic
] as drifting or simply existing in stasis rather than developing in any dramatic fashion." For Toop, the lineage of such music includes Javanese pulsation, the recording-studio-as-instrument excursions of Jamaican dub pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry and Beach Boy Brian Wilson, John Cage's Zen composition theories, and a plethora of jazz players, most notably Sun Ra and Miles Davis. Toop argues that these disparate influences are incorporated in the work of such contemporary "techno" musicians and DJs as Aphex Twin and the Orb. Toop does not use recordings as his only references but, like the wandering music he describes, touches on science fiction, semiotic theory, and his own travels in this expansive treatise. He incorporates all these subjects into a clear and direct book that may appeal even to readers whose listening preferences are more conventional. Aaron Cohen