Mind the Glitch, the Ambient Mixtape

Chalk it up to high tech’s growing pains. In the late 1990s, media weren’t quite as frictionless as they feel today. CDs skipped; dial-up modems gurgled; and hard drives hiccupped as they whirred. Out of this jittery din came artists like Oval, who scribbled in Sharpie on his CDs and then sampled the attendant stuttering, and Pole, who harnessed the clicks and pops of a broken filter unit to create a kind of dub techno as grainy as the ocean floor. Mark Fell and Mat Steel’s duo SND took the style-often dubbed “clicks and cuts,” after the name of a compilation on the Mille Plateaux label-to its shivery limit with tiny pinprick noises that could raise the hairs on the back of your neck. And Carsten Nicolai’s Raster-Noton label used the aesthetic as the jumping-off point to explore a spine-tingling fusion of ambient and techno.