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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » David Abravanel

A year overflowing with electronic sound: 2018 music we loved

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Labels,Scene | Tue 1 Jan 2019 1:11 am

Happy weird rockin’ New Year’s Eve. In a continuing tradition, CDM invites back resident music curator David Abravanel to single out some beloved music of 2018. We live in fortunate times; that job is deliciously hard. But it’s a chance to discover and rediscover some great sounds.

Without exaggeration, I cannot remember the last time I’ve had such difficulty paring down a year-end list. It’s not that I necessarily heard more music in 2018 – rather, it really did seem like everything was just that much better musically. Most likely it’s the product of turbulent times – and certainly, many of these albums are neither fun nor relaxing.

Getting this down to 35 has taken me far longer than any task should take any person. I’ve removed albums which, on any random day, I might decide is the best thing I’ve heard in a decade. But here’s what’s hit me the hardest in 2018 – all lists alphabetical:


Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra – LAGEOS (Ninja Tune)

Aisha Devi – DNA Feelings (Houndstooth) Pictured, top

Aleksi Perälä – Moonshine (AP Musik)

Alva Noto – Uniqav (Noton)

Autechre – NTS Sessions 1 – 4 (Warp)

Beans – Someday This Will All Be Ash (Hello L.A.)

Brian Jonestown Massacre – Something Else (‘a’)

Concubine – 2018 (self-released)

Derek Carr – Contact (Subwax Excursions)

DJ Healer – Nothing 2 Lose (All Possible Worlds)

France Jobin – Intrication (No.)

GAS – Rausch (Kompakt)

GusGus – Lies are More Flexible (Oroom)

Inigo Kennedy – Strata (Token)

Jason Forrest – Fear City (Cock Rock Disco)

Low – Double Negative (Sub-Pop)

Meat Beat Manifesto – Impossible Star (MBM)

Mika Vainio + Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto – Live 2002 (Noton)

Morphology – Traveller (Firescope)

Noah Pred – Homeworld (Modular)

Positive Centre – Forever Optimum (Horo)

Pulsewidthmod – Serpentine Servitude (Detroit Underground)

Robert Lippok – Applied Autonomy (Raster Media)

Shinichi Atobe – Heat (DDS)

Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones – Vicious Circles (Planet Mu)

Skee Mask – Compro (Ilian Tape)

Stefan Goldmann – An Ardent Heart (Macro)

Steven Julien – Bloodline (Apron / LuckyMe)

The Black Dog – Black Daisy Wheel (Dust Science)

The Breeders – All Nerve (4AD)

The Field – Infinite Moment (Kompakt)

Thomas Fehlmann – Los Lagos (Kompakt)

Tom Mudd – Gutter Synthesis (Entr’acte)

V/A – Air Texture Vol. VI (Air Texture)

Wanderwelle – Gathering of the Ancient Spirits (Silent Season)

EPs / Singles

Alis – Begin (Complete) (self-released)

Aphex Twin– Collapse (Warp)

Barker – Debiasing (Ostgut Ton)

Fanu– Black Label EP (Metalheadz)

LA-4A – Slackline (Central Processing Unit)

Róisín Murphy – “Jacuzzi Rollercoaster” / “Can’t Hang On” (Vinyl Factory)

Rothko String Quarter & Kaan Bulak – “Hain I” / “Hain II” (Feral Note)

Steven Rutter & John Shima– Step Into the Light (Firescope)

umru – Search Result (PC Music)

Underworld & Iggy Pop– Teatime Dub Encounters (Caroline)

Reissues & Retrospectives

B12 – Time Tourist (Warp)

Higher Intelligence Agency & Biosphere – Polar Sequences (Biophon)

Pixies – Come On Pilgrim…It’s Surfer Rosa (4AD)

Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks (Deutsche Grammophon)

Susumu Yokota – Acid Mt. Fuji (Midgar)

This Heat – Repeat / Metal (Modern Classics)

Tin Man – Acid Acid Acid (Acid Test)

The 7th Plain – Chronicles (A-Ton)

VA – Scopex 98/00 (Tresor)

V/A – 3AM Spares (Efficient Space)


There were a number of common trends and feelings with some of the best music of 2018. Some stray observations:

  • Outrage fatigue was on full display with Low’s magnificent Double Negative and Beans’ personal Someday This Will All Be Ash.
  • Exciting new explorations of Electro came courtesy of LA-4A and Morphology, coupled with reminders of classics from the Scopex label.
  • Taken together, Róisín Murphy’s four incredible single releases (in collaboration with left-field house/ambient stalwart Maurice Fulton) could make an AOTY candidate. Eight tracks of solid gold that should be on every dance floor.
  • Fantastic year for reissues of classic ambient techno – B12, The 7th Plain, Higher Intelligence Agency, Biosphere, and Susumu Yokota all still sound vital.
  • The 3AM Spares compilation was a fun discovery – picking gems from the after-hours house and breakbeat sounds of early-mid 90s Australia.
  • At the risk of understatement, it’s difficult to keep up with Aleksi Perälä’s overwhelming output. That said, Moonshine was a real winner, combining his spiritual Colundi Sequence with classic jungle rhythms.
  • Speaking of spiritual, it took a while to come around to it past the hype, but that DJ Healer album was something special. A real mood and atmosphere from start to finish – listen with your eyes closed.
  • Some real sleeper gems from Inigo Kennedy, GusGus, The Field, and Derek Carr – RIYL techno with feels.

So dig it. And here’s to some hope in 2019! Love to you and yours.

Listen now

Want more of a sampling? David has put together a Spotify list, too:


Of course, buy stuff you love from the labels.

Bonus: editor’s picks

As an addendum, I will re-gift the lineup I’ve sent to BTS / Behind the Stage, the Poland-based collective. It’s worth following their whole series, in fact:


We actually had to cut that list a little, so here’s my lucky number (13) worth / directors’ cut:

ИНФХ – Fences of Metal (ГОСТ ЗВУК Records)
BC: https://bit.ly/2QeqZ9n

Richard Devine – Opaque Ke (Timesig)
BC: https://bit.ly/2SxhGTW

Wiktor MilczarekUntitled (Brutaż)
BC: https://bit.ly/2CHiZdj

Robert LippokApplied Autonomy (Raster)
BC: https://bit.ly/2Tk5shs

Barker – Debiasing (Ostgut Ton)
BC: https://bit.ly/2LD8bzT

KATE NV – для FOR (Rvng International)
BC: https://bit.ly/2Rph4Ch

The AllegoristHybrid Dimension I (DETROIT UNDERGROUND)
BC: https://bit.ly/2BQmOLF

Christina VantzouNo. 4 (Kranky)
BC: https://bit.ly/2AlWOrk

Gabber Modus Operandi – Puxxximaxxx (YES NO WAVE MUSIC)
BC: https://bit.ly/2CGEXgr

Debashis Sinha MusicThe White Dog (Establishment)
BC: https://bit.ly/2LKiz92

Senyawa – Sujud [Sublime Frequencies]

Lara Sarkissian – Disruption [Club Chai]
Nadia StruiwighWHRRu [Denovali Records]

The post A year overflowing with electronic sound: 2018 music we loved appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Generative music from Shanghai’s AYRTBH: interview, download

Delivered... David Abravanel | Scene | Mon 17 Dec 2018 9:07 pm

The mysterious, murky, glitchy-future sounds you hear from, AYRTBH, Shanghai’s Wang Changcun, emerges from an algorithm. That software can make this album over and over again without sounding the same. The artist explains – and shares a specially generated exclusive for CDM readers.

Here at CDM, we’re no strangers to experiments with iterations in music. Icarus’ 2012 release Fake Fish Distribution used custom Max for Live devices to produce 1,000 generative variations, each sold to one customer and providing an individualized experience.

Six year later and Shanghai-based Wang Changcun aka AYRTBH has released Song of Anon, an album available in two formats: as an eight-track traditional listen, or as a stand-alone generative app.

Listen and download (M4A) via SoundCloud:

Or download lossless FLAC from WeTransfer.

I spoke to Wang about creating such a unique listen, and how it challenges our perceptions of authorship, what constitutes a piece of music, and composition.

Generative app.

How does the Song of Anon app work?

The focus of Song of Anon both App and album is the construction and dividing of rhythm. The App is not a “tool” software; it can only make Song of Anon-alike music. After a pattern is played many times, the App will re-generate a new pattern based on the packed-in JavaScript file. The synth parameters of the App are also randomly locked in a specific range. The listener can toggle the App on and off 🙂

Why did you decide to distribute Song of Anon as both an app and an album?

The App is a prototype of the album track’s rhythm algorithm, though for convenience all sounds in the App are synthesized through [Max/]MSP. Before recording Song of Anon tracks, I use the prototype system for testing.

Inside the Max patcher for the Song of Anon app.

Where would you draw the line of authorship using algorithmic software with user controls? If I adjust the controls on the Song of Anon app, is the song mine? Is it yours? Is it a collaboration between the two of us?

Song of Anon app is not a “tool” software. It’s not supposed to be controlled, it runs in its own world outputting sounds. I think outputs of the app belong to the Song of Anon album. Yeah the app can be adjusted and interfered with, but after a certain duration of time it will go back to its own logic again.

Song of Anon the App is composed and synthesized entirely in Max. Do you normally prefer synthesis over samples, or was this a choice relating to making Song of Anon its own system?

Song of Anon Prototype the App is made entirely in Max, but not the album. In the album I also used the Madrona Labs Aalto synth for more complex sounds. For Song of Anon yes I only use synthesis, but in my 2017 EP MTK I mainly used samples.

Is performing Song of Anon different from performing around previous albums?

Yes, it’s a new performing system I built for Song of Anon. But basically the software (Live, Max, Numerology) are the same; the ways of using them are changed.

Currently my performance setup is: Ableton Live as the central host, some selfmade M4L devices, [Five12] Numerology which is synced to Live’s clock, and sometimes Terminal and Max for generating parameter values of Numerology’s sequencer.

AYRTBH live.

How does Numerology fit in to the workflow? Are you using the generative/algorithmic features of Numerology, or just the basic step sequencing?

I’ve been using Numerology since maybe 2009, and it’s still my favorite go-to sequencer if I want to quickly implement a sequencing idea. The modulation system of Numerology is very powerful, and you can even make a synthesizer in it using the LFO as an oscillator; there are envelopes, VCAs, and filters after all. Normally I use Numerology and Max together, learn things/transfer ideas from each other. Yes I also use the generative/algorithmic features of Numerology, and sometimes if doing something is not easy in Numerology I’ll make a Max patch as a helper.

Have you thought of making/selling software (standalone, plug-in, or perhaps Max for Live devices) based on your sequencing work for Song of Anon?

I do have a plan on making/selling software (standalone and Max for Live device) with another Shanghai-based electronic musician Gooooose, but not the patches I used in Song of Anon. It should be something can be easily “shared” to others, patches/devices from Song of Anon are too personal, they can only make Song of Anon tracks.

What are you working on next?

I just finished the work for my first solo exhibition in Shanghai’s OCAT museum last month. Now I’m working on two live computer music sets next month in Shanghai and Beijing, improving the Song of Anon system.

AYRTBH live.

During the interview, Wang directed me to Zhao Yue, who runs the Beijing-based label D-Force, on which Song of Anon was released. I spoke briefly to Zhao about her label, and she offered some perspectives and excellent recommendations for further exploring what D-Force has to offer.

How do you go about marketing a release like Song of Anon, knowing that there’s also an algorithmic app version of it out there?

The algorithmic app is a major part of our promotion actually. To us, the release works on two levels: the musical level and the conceptual level. On the music side it is a bit weird, but humorous and chill, and it speaks to fans who already know and trust Wang. But we did put more emphasis on the concepts and technology behind the record, which has more of a wow-factor.

>We deliberately contacted more media in the IT, art and academic circles than what we’d usually do for a release. They responded very well to this and helped a lot with putting out press releases and giving us interviews. To be honest we were expecting obstacles “selling” this to media and platforms but their enthusiasm gave us a pleasant surprise. One contact from a major media platform gave us this feedback: “Of course we are tired of reporting on the idols and pop stars everyday. Something fun like this is refreshing for us too.” We have since realized that the Chinese audience have a very open mind when it comes to technical ideas, and this “art meets algorithm meets AI” idea really fires up people’s imaginations. Perhaps we should thank the general emphasis on tech and science in the Chinese society for this? The strong concept helps to get Wang Changcun’s idea over to more people than our usual music fans.

How did you first get connected to Wang?

We have heard of his name quite a long time ago. He’s considered to be one of the gurus in the field of experimental electronic music. Then we were introduced by one of our other artists called Han Han (he also produces and performs under the name Gooooose, and is the frontman of the band Duck Fight Goose). Han Han connected us because he felt that we were one of the few labels that were open to more experimental releases and, simply, that we could be personal friends. And he was proven right.

What are some other artists/albums that you’re working with that you’d recommend, especially for fans of Song of Anon?

For fans of Song of Anon, we could certainly recommend:

Synthetic China Vol.1 by Various Artists
This is a compilation curated by Han Han, and it is a collection of tracks from the pioneers of Chinese electronic music. Wang Changcun and Han Han (Gooooose) all contributed.

They by Gooooose
This is a concept album about an imagined synthetic alien lifeform that exists in Han Han’s mind. Each track depicts one aspects of their lives.

Listen to Song of Anon on Spotify

Download the standalone app [Cycling ’74]

The post Generative music from Shanghai’s AYRTBH: interview, download appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Remembering The Residents’ Hardy Fox, enigmatic vaudeville futurist

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Scene | Wed 31 Oct 2018 4:24 am

Today saw the loss (for real this time) of Hardy Fox, the pioneering artist from The Residents. We look back on the irreverent, surrealist work the band produced and Fox as enigmatic anonymous multimedia ringleader, projecting mystery to the very end.

CDM music writer-at-large David Abravanel offers this obituary.

To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, the rumors of Hardy Fox’s death have been greatly self-exaggerated. Early this year, Fox posted a “1945-2018” epitaph on his website when revealing the diagnosis of an undefined terminal illness. The epitaph was later taken down. Now, the band and loved ones confirmed Fox passed away earlier today.

“As a child I would always describe my nightmares to my mother by banging on the piano and talking in strange voices.”
Charles Bobuck (aka Hardy Fox), This is for Readers (2016)

For five decades, The Residents chose to remain anonymous. Sure, you could figure things out easily enough – there was The Cryptic Corporation, “representatives” who spoke for the group and whose main mouthpiece, Homer Flynn, sounded an awful lot like the singing/reciting voice on The Residents’ albums (late publicly named as “Randy” and still a recording and touring member). But from mid-1960s inception to the present day, the band officially remains The Residents.

There was freedom in that anonymity – free from the expectation that comes with celebrity and hero worship, The Residents followed their own path. 1979 saw the release of the darkly ambient and creeping Eskimo, while the following year’s Commercial Album consisted of 40 short and digestible songs. In 1976, Third Reich ‘N’ Roll presented an often atonal and satirically repellent take on rock n’ roll classics, while later-career masterpieces like Wormwood (1998) and Voice of Midnight (2007) found a renewed focus on theatrical storytelling.

Anonymity also granted freedom to explore technology. The Residents weren’t stars nor were meant to be – so who was going to stop them from making the next project a film (ill-fated 70s project Vileness Fats), or a point-and-click adventure game (Bad Day on the Midway with artist/designer Jim Ludtke, published in 1995 by Inscape), or, hell, a book based on that video game (2012’s Bad Day on the Midway Reconsidered).

Bad Day on the Midway.

Bad Day on the Midway.

While Randy might have spent the most time in the spotlight (and remains the sole original member in the current incarnation), until 2016 he was joined by co-founder Chuck aka Charles Bobuck aka Hardy Fox. Responsible for the majority of the compositions and musical direction of the Residents, Fox’s music was equal parts Vaudeville, nightmare, future and ancient past. Filled with uncomfortable dissonances and unsettling sounds, but almost always darkly humorous, it seems more than fitting to celebrate Fox (and the perpetually-masked Residents) on the eve of Halloween.

After retiring from The Residents in 2016, Fox published a book, This is for Readers, which details his life story. Certainly, it’s a creative interpretation of the truth, filled with legend but revealing some personal details from Fox’s life: his homosexuality, a strong link between orgasm and music composition, the cast of characters that entered his life as he and his husband settled on a rural chicken farm, stories of going on wild adventures with Randy. It’s ultimately a tender and very human read of an extremely avant garde life, complemented by an original soundtrack of solo material, and available for free on iBooks or via Fox’s website.

“My set-up was computer based. I had programmed what I imaginatively called my “space machine.” I had prerecorded hundreds of two-minute loops and had instantaneous access to them by punching buttons and twiddling knobs. I ran a local area network from an Apple Airport hidden under my table that gave me wireless access to a shitload of noise.”
(about the tour for the Talking Light album)

“The idea of working on music without being bothered by people was utopian. Even close friends and neighbors didn’t know what I did for a living. The brief explanation, that I scored gay porn films, usually kept people from wanting to know more.”

And this one is a good commentary on 21st century cities and the Bay Area in particular:

“I had decided some time ago that cities were no place to grow old and I could have orgasms anywhere. I did the civil thing. I bought a farm and became a chicken lord.
Beware of chickens.”

Fox’s 2016 release

There’s no easy way to wrap up an article about Hardy Fox. Between what is known about him (little), what can be inferred (a little more), and what may be creative stretching of the truth (likely lots), he wasn’t exactly transparent. But in the masks, and the animation, and the creative fictions, Fox probed some very unsettling, challenging, and ultimately very human aesthetic worlds.

The sheer overwhelming volume of Residents and Charles Bobuck releases makes it difficult to point to where to start in looking at Fox’s legacy, not to mention Fox’s work is far more often geared toward album rather than cherry-picked “best of” format. That said, I’ve taken a (duck) stab at compiling a friendly introduction to this mad, inspiring world:


The post Remembering The Residents’ Hardy Fox, enigmatic vaudeville futurist appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Here’s the music in 2017 that gave us strength

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Labels,Scene | Tue 2 Jan 2018 8:46 pm

Music can make us stronger, helps us face challenges. So forget talking about which music was “best.” Here’s some music that made us better.

For guidance, CDM turns to its resident music contributor David Abravanel, whose background spans music writing and technology alike. He walks us through some selections for challenging times – some of which you’ve no doubt seen elsewhere on lists of stand-out music from the year, but some of which you probably haven’t.

And if this is electronic music in many cases, that’s not just because we’re nerds (though indeed we are), but because new times and new expressions call for new sounds, and we’re lucky that machines give us a pathway to find them.

Framed this way, of course, this is immensely personal – but that’s by design. These lists should always be filled with blank pages at the end for you to fill in and reflect, holes where we missed music, because music discovery should never become a competition for a limited number of slots. It should always be boundless. So sound out on comments.

Here’s David:

2017: A … ??? Odyssey?

It’s hard to think of a good person for whom 2017 didn’t feature a bevy of turmoil and stress; as such, music was more important than ever. As an agitator. As a uniting force. As a challenge. As comfort. As sense in a confusing world. As further confusion to prove that, yes, things could always be worse. As celebration to remind us of the good that still happens among the bad. As love, hate, and everything in between.

For me, 2017 was also the year when music technology finally caused me to retreat a bit and pause. Since my early teens, I’ve obsessively followed new music, seemingly devouring more each year. This year was the first time that I took a step back and tried to refine my focus. As such, there are pillar albums from this year that I perhaps just flat-out missed, or ones which I could appreciate but didn’t force myself to come back to. There’s a lot on this list that is personal – perhaps it’s a sign of 2017, turning to the voices of friends, or perhaps it’s also that so many acquaintances live in similar worlds.

While I listened to fewer albums this year, I formed stronger attachments to more of what I heard. As such, pairing this list down to 25 was an unforeseeably difficult endeavor. I’d love to just list all 116 albums that I heard this year, but that wouldn’t do for a list, would it?

B12 – reissued.

As per usual, I haven’t ranked the lists, but if I had to pick number ones, it’d probably be Alexi Perälä’s Paradox for album, B12’s Electro-Soma I & II Anthology for reissue, Patten’s Requiem for EP, and KiNK’s “Yom Thorke” for track.


The award for “I do not understand how they aren’t huge” goes, much as it probably did in 2014, to A/T/O/S. Outboxed one-upped the debut as a leaner affair with a looser and more frantic feel, climaxing with the overwhelming vocal effects on “Blackout”. People, Mala has great taste. He signed this duo for a very good reason and we all owe it to ourselves to pay more attention to them.

Speaking of which, bass – didn’t it take some new shapes this year? Emptyset tweaked the formula to embrace new instruments and produced some intensely sandy rattles, while Jana Rush continued her slingshot back from a 20-year hiatus for an album that proves that anyone getting “tired” of footwork just has lazy ears. This makes a good segue to Jlin, whose own album just missed the list, and who appears alongside an ensemble cast including Scratcha Dva, Zora Jones, Sinjin Hawke, and more on Visceral Minds 2, a sequel to Fractal Fantasy’s 2016 compilation which managed to Empire Strikes Back the whole formula. And hey, let’s see Sophie’s “Ponyboy” sounds on cheap bass stacks.

Ed.: Shout out to say these artists – and Jlin, and Emptyset – were all just as thrilling live, and easily make my live highlights of the year, naturally. Assume that’s true of many of the others I didn’t see. Kudos to Atonal Festival and CTM Festival Berlin, Lunchmeat Festival Prague for some real highlights. -PK

Jana Rush.

Zora Jones.

Some of 2017’s best also reduced (or outright eliminated) percussion to focus on atmospheres. It was an especially daring move for King Britt’s Fhloston Paradigm project, and one that seriously paid off. Elsewhere, Dopplereffekt further the Calabi Yau Space mythos with arpeggiated science fiction, and GAS showed that Wolfgang Voigt still had plenty of ambient classical … gas in the tank (sorry for the pun).

Aleksi Perälä.

Aleksi Perälä is a fascinating fellow with an intriguing premise and insane release diarrhea. Even the two Colundi Sequence compilations couldn’t stop the feeling that we were hearing the arpeggiated bells experiments of a person who couldn’t quite separate the wheat from the chaff. Then came Paradox, where just a little more adherence to techno structure resulted in magic. Further, let’s have some hands up for [record label] трип this year. Kudos to [label boss] Nina Kraviz and her collaborators for bringing forth such a consistently enjoyable stream of experimental dance music (hey PTU!).

I’ve read a bit about the demise of indie rock, and while I don’t much have an opinion there, I heard plenty of brilliant songs this year – whether from the aforementioned A/T/O/S, the ever-reliable Goldfrapp, or returning champs Slowdive.

Lastly, for certain Gen-Xers and Millennials, 2017 was definitely “The Year We Started To Feel Old Because Of Anniversaries And Stuff™.” The bright side was that we got a steady stream of excellent reissues – from Roni Size to Underworld to Leftfield, it was a dynamite time to be a 90s “electronica” classic.

Oh, and listen to that COH Cohgs album too. There’s some real minimalist beauty, plus a wrenching collaboration with Jhonn Balance.

(all lists in alphabetical order)


Fhloston Paradigm, by John Kaufman.

Top 25 albums

Actress – AZD (Ninja Tune)
Artefakt – Kinship (Delsin)
A/T/O/S – Outboxed (Deep Medi)
Biosphere – The Petrified Forest (Biophon)
Björk – Utopia (One Little Indian)
Call Super – Arpo (Houndstooth)
COH – Cohgs (Editions Mego)
Dopplereffekt – Cellular Automata (Leisure System)
Duran Duran Duran – Duran (Power Vacuum)
Ekoplekz – Bioprodukt (Planet Mu)
Emptyset – Borders (Thrill Jockey)
Fhloston Paradigm – After… (KingBrittArchives)
GAS – Narkopop (Kompakt)
Goldfrapp – Silver Eye (Mute)
Robert Hood – Paradygm Shift (Dekmantel)
Aleksi Perälä – Paradox (трип)
Jana Rush – Pariah (Objects Limited)
Shed – The Final Experiment (Monkeytown)
Slowdive – Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
Special Request – Belief System (Houndstooth)
Steffi – World of the Waking State (Ostgut Ton)
Tobias – Eyes in the Center (Ostgut Ton)
Alan Vega – IT (Fader)
Various – Visceral Minds 2 (Fractal Fantasy)
Zomby – Mercury’s Rainbow (DDS)

10 Great Reissues

B12 – Electro-Soma I & II Anthology (Warp)
Thomas Brinkmann – Retrospective (Third Ear)
Leftfield – Leftism 22 (Columbia/Hard Hands/Sony)
Theo Parrish – Parallel Dimensions (Sound Signature)
Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain (Warner Bros.)
Radiohead – OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017 (XL)
Ron Trent – Word, Sound & Power (Rush Hour)
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (Warner Bros.)
Roni Size/Reprazent – New Forms (UMC/Mercury/Talkin’ Loud)
Underworld – Beaucoup Fish (Warner Bros.)

Top 10 EPs

Burial – Rodent (Hyperdub)
Inner8 – Myths (In Silent Series)
Kuyawow – Dark Days (Kuyawow)
Lorenzo Senni – “XAllegroX” / “The Shape of Trance to Come” (Warp)
Lrusse – Part of the Plan (Nite Owl Diner)
Nu Era – Geometricks (Omniverse)
Objekt – Objekt #4 (Objekt)
Patten – Requiem (Warp)
PTU – A Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day (трип)
WK7 – Rhythm 1 (Power House)

Top 10 tracks/songs

Björk – “Sue Me” (One Little Indian)
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – “Resist Much Obey Little” (‘a’)
The Bug vs. Earth – “Snakes vs. Rats” (Ninja Tune)
Goldie – “Horizons (ft. Swindle)” (Metalheadz/Cooking Vinyl)
Robert Hood – “Nephesh” (Dekmantel)
Jack Peoples – “Song 05 Vocal” (Clone Aqualung)
KiNK – “Yom Thorke” (Runningback)
Peter Kirn – “This Circle in All” (The Establishment)
Shackleton & Vengeance Tenfold – “Dive into the Grave”
Sophie – “Ponyboy” (Transgressive)

Ed.: Ha, I really did NOT put David up to including me or expect that, so … here it is so you know what the heck he’s talking about!

Listen Now on Spotify

The post Here’s the music in 2017 that gave us strength appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Aphex Twin gave us a peek inside a 90s classic. Here’s what we learned.

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Scene | Fri 21 Jul 2017 5:25 pm

Aphex Twin’s “Vordhosbn” just got a surprising video reveal, showing how the track was made. So let’s revisit trackers and 90s underground music culture.

You’re probably familiar with the term “white label,” but where did that term originate?”? Back in the early days of DJing, DJs were very territorial about their crate digging. Sometimes, in order to avoid rival DJs looking at their decks to ID their selections (this is way before the days of Shazam, remember), DJs would rip off the labels of a particularly rare record, leaving the white label residue with no identifying information.

Similarly, the 90s were an interesting time for music production. With the advent of computer sequencers, music became more complex – and in the wild west days before YouTube tutorials, concert phone vids, and everyone using Ableton Live, there was legitimate mystery behind how some of the most complex electronic music was made. Max? SuperCollider? Some homebrew software unavailable to the plebs?

If mystery in electronic music production was a game in the 90s, then Richard D. James was its undisputed winner. As Aphex Twin and a host of other pseudonyms, he created mind-bending sequences. As an interview subject, he was equal parts prankster and cagey. Sure, there was an idea of what the IDM greats were up to – Autechre and Plaid used Max, Squarepusher used Reaktor, Aphex used…something? The mystery has always been part of James’ appeal – here is a man who has claimed to sleep only four hours a night, or to have built or heavily modified all of his hardware, or to be sitting on hundreds if not thousands of unreleased tracks, among other tall tales.

Around 2014, something flipped with Richard D. James. After releasing Syro, his first album in 13 years as Aphex Twin, he unleashed the floodgates with a massive hard drive dump onto SoundCloud – seems he wasn’t lying about all those tracks after all. Following up with this, today you can see the debut of a custom Bleep store for Aphex Twin, including loads of unreleased bonus tracks to go with his albums.

Of most interest to the nerds, however, has got to be this seemingly innocuous video, in which we get a trollingly-effected screencast video of Drukqs track “Vordhosbn”, playing out in the vintage tracker PlayerPro. James had previously identified PlayerPro as his main environment for making Drukqs – now we have video of it in action:

So, there we have it. A classic Aphex Twin track with the curtain drawn up. What can we learn from this video? A few things:

  • PlayerPro’s tracks were all monophonic, so the chords in “Vordhosbn” had to be made using multiple tracks
  • As expected with a tracker, it’s largely built from samples – likely from James’ substantial hardware collection
  • Hey, those oscilloscopes and spectral displays are fun

Perhaps what’s best about this video is that it shows an Aphex classic for what it is – a track, composed in much the same way as any other electronic musician might do it. It doesn’t detract from the special qualities of Aphex’s music, but it does show us what was really going on behind all the mystery – music-making.

Keep Track of It

It’s worth spending a moment to celebrate trackers. Long before the days of piano rolls, trackers were the best way to make intricate sequences using a computer. YouTube is riddled with classic jungle tracks from the mid-90s using software like OctaMed:

For a dedicated community, trackers are still the way to go. And there’s no better tracker around now than Renoise – whose developers have done a fantastic job bringing the tracker workflow into the 21st century. Check out this video of Venetian Snares’ “Vache” done in Renoise:

Like most trackers, Renoise has something of a steep learning curve to get all the key commands right; once you’re there, however, you’ll find it to be a very nimble environment for wild micro-edits and crazy sequences. There’s definitely a reason why it remains a tool of choice for breakcore producers!

Do you use a tracker? What do you think of the workflow? What’s the best way for someone to get started with a tracker? Let us know in the comments!

Ed.: PlayerPro is available as free software for Mac, Windows, Linux … and yes, even FreeBSD.


Returning CDM contributor David Abravanel is a marketer, musician, and technologist living in New York. He loves that shiny digital crunch. Follow him at http://dhla.me

The post Aphex Twin gave us a peek inside a 90s classic. Here’s what we learned. appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A year in music starts 2017 with the best of 2016

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Scene | Thu 5 Jan 2017 2:14 pm

The early days of January – the email inbox is still quiet, things are for many still moving slow. But if musical perspective is possible only with hindsight, it’s a moment when the picture of a moment in musical history has first crystallized. The zeitgeist of an era starts to reveal its footprint.

This isn’t a look back. It’s a round-up of the music we believe looks forward. Tellingly, too, the music that’s most effective at doing that also has studied their history and developed their art – multiple artists show up on our reissues and new lists.

It’s a chance to consider what inspired us – and where that inspiration could take us in the months of production to come. Because while many may forget their gym memberships or other resolutions, music making is something that really will drive us, that deserves moments of mid-winter reflection.

Of course, you’ve got to get someone to navigate all that – obvious and obscure choices alike. So we turn to our regular contributor David Abravanel for an extensive list and analysis of the big picture.

Lamin Fofana.

Lamin Fofana.

The cross-generational collaboration of Kaitly Aurelia Smith with Suzanne Ciani inspired us all, a duo of modular divas that wowed everyone. 2016 saw the passing of Buchla, but Buchla lives on.

The cross-generational collaboration of Kaitly Aurelia Smith with Suzanne Ciani inspired us all, a duo of modular divas that wowed everyone. 2016 saw the passing of Buchla, but Buchla lives on.

Top 30 of 2016, alphabetized
AGF – Kon:3p>UTION to e[VOL]ution (AGF Produktion)
Autechre – elseq 1-5 (Warp)
Barker & Baumecker – Turns (Ostgut Ton)
Biosphere – Departed Glories (Smalltown Supersound)
Boris / Merzbow – Gensho (Relapse)
Chrissy & Hawley – Chrissy & Hawley (The Nite Owl Diner)
Clarke:Hartnoll – 2Square (Very)
David Bowie – ★ (Columbia)
Deftones – Gore (Reprise)
Demdike Stare – Wonderland (Modern Love)
DVA (Hi:Emotions) – NOTU_URONLINEU (Hyperdub)
Floorplan – Victorious (M-Plant)
John Roberts – Plum (Brunette Editions)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy (Rvng. International)
Kate Bush – Before The Dawn (Fish People)
Kerridge – Fatal Light Attraction (Downwards)
LA-4A – Phonautograph (Delft)
Lamin Fofana – Doubleworld (Sci-Fi & Fantasy)
Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker (Sony)
Lisieux – I (self-release)
Matmos – Ultimate Care II (Thrill Jockey)
Monolake – VLSI (Imbalance Computer Music)
Occult Oriented Crime – Just A Clown On Crack (Dekmantel)
The Orb – COW / Chill Out, World! (Kompakt)
Patten – Ψ (Warp)
Sea Nymphs – On The Dry Land (Alphabet Business Concern)
Shackleton – Devotional Songs (Honest Jon’s)
Shinichi Atobe – World (DDS)
The Field – The Follower (Kompakt)
Underworld – Barbara, Barbara, we face a shining future (UMG)

For a rich multi-course meal of music, techno and otherwise, Ostgut satisfied with Arc Angel.

For a rich multi-course meal of music, techno and otherwise, Ostgut satisfied with Arc Angel.

Top 10 EPs/single of 2016, alphabetized
Aphex Twin – Cheetah (Warp)
Burial – “Young Death” / “Nightmarket” (Hyperdub)
E.R.P. – Ancient Lights (Solar One)
Graze – Xup (Dekmantel)
Jay Haze & Kaan Bulak – 1840 (Contexterrior)
Lush – Blind Spot (Edamame)
Monolake – G M O (Imbalance Computer Music)
Plaid – On Other Hands (Warp)
Rian Treanor – Pattern Damage (The Death of Rave)
Zeno van den Broek – Shift Symm (Establishment)

Top 5 reissues of 2016, alphabetized
A Made Up Sound – A Made Up Sound (2009 – 2016) (A Made Up Sound)
Altern 8 – Full on Mask Hysteria (Bleech)
Biosphere – Patashnik / Patashnik 2 (Biophon)
Mike & Rich – Expert Knob Twiddlers (Planet Mu)
µ-Ziq – RY30 Trax (Planet Mu)

Ed.: I was blown away by how complete David’s list was, but just one missing here that I thought was one of the most important reissues of the year – Luke Slater’s 90s-era The 7th Plain got a gorgeous reissue from A-TON, the cleverly-named new imprint of Ostgut. I wouldn’t want A-TON to be all about reissues, but more like this would be welcome. -PK

Top 10 tracks of 2016, alphabetized
Beyoncé – “Hold Up” (Columbia)
Deftones – “Prayers / Triangles” (Reprise)
De La Soul ft. Rock Marciano – “Property of Spitkicker.com” (A.O.I.)
John Tejada – “Integrator” (Kompakt)
Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker” (Sony)
Lorenzo Senni – “emotiva1234” (Warp)
Lush – “Burnham Beeches” (Edamame)
Machinedrum ft. Ruckazoid – “Morphogene” (Ninja Tune)
Nick Hook ft. Novelist – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (Fool’s Gold)
Xeno & Oaklander – “Virtue and Vice” (Ghostly Intl.)

2016 was a year for a lot of old favorites – whether it was Suzanne Ciani, Autechre, Leonard Cohen, or The Orb. It was also a year in with some surprises from artists I thought I “knew” – Patten, Scratcha Dva, and John Roberts all released left turn albums that are among their best.

Unquestionably, David Bowie’s ★ cast the longest shadow on the year – the the extent that it wasn’t hard to consider Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker as something of a spiritual successor (and, sadly, Cohen similarly died shortly after delivering his final masterpiece).

2016 might have been a grim year politically, but I’m left with hope for the role that art will play in 2017 – as reflection of reality, as charge for resistance, and as escapism. AGF remains a prescient political voice – not only did she arrive at many of the cyber-political explorations before other artists, she’s still doing it better than most. Lamin Fofana followed up a series of unique EPs with a devastating full length – futuristic techno with an unflinching global eye. Floorplan’s spiritually positive Victorious will remain in necessary rotation, as will Machinedrum’s Human Energy.

On the escapist end, Lorenzo Senni continues to deliver distilled rave, now with a cyberpunk bent. The return of The Sea Nymphs was more than welcome – symbolizing as it did that Tim Smith is well enough to begin revisiting recordings (and suggesting even more Sea Nymphs – and possibly Cardiacs) yet to come. That On The Dry Land was just as magical and captivating as The Sea Nymphs 24-year-old self-titled album (not to mention the 32-year-old Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake album that first saw the three Sea Nymphs together) was icing. Lisieux’s I, a lovely bandcamp find, shows that there is a future for neo-folk that isn’t quite as problematic as its past.

Finally, I’ve got to acknowledge the heavy emotional hits from Shackleton’s Devotional Songs and Barker & Baumecker’s Turns. The former saw the veteran bass outlier team up with versatile classically-trained singer Ernesto Tomasini, for perfect and challenging fit. If you thought Thighpaulsandra was “a bit subtle”, Shackleton and Tomasini were there so seriously smash you over the head with drama. Barker & Baumecker, meanwhile, followed up last year’s transcendent “Love Is A Battlefield” with an album that showed that single to be a sign of fantastic things to come. Possibly the best album I’ve ever heard on Ostgut Ton (it’s neck-and-neck with Shed’s The Traveller), Turns injects intense emotion into its interconnected techno pieces. It’s easy to hear Barker and Baumecker challenging themselves to go further – and succeeding with flying colors.

Goodbye 2016, and hello uncertainty. But we’ve got tunes.

The post A year in music starts 2017 with the best of 2016 appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The human voice and trance, as Lichens challenges how we listen

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Scene | Thu 31 Dec 2015 12:26 pm


Much can be said and felt with the human voice without words – and that’s where Robert AA Lowe comes in. With his solo drone/improvisational project Lichens, or lending his talents as a singer, synthesist, and instrumentalist to the likes of OM, Lowe has carved out a unique and powerful space as an artist with a deep focus on vocal exploration.

Before we move further, put this on while you read:

Lichens played an especially entrancing set during the opening concert of Ableton’s Loop event in Berlin – starting a fully unpatched modular rig complemented by subtle vocals, building to some incredible psychedelic drones and crescendos. Still recovering the next day, I had the chance to sit down with Robert for a discussion about hypnagogia, collaborative improvisation, and performance.


There seems to be this spiritual, almost holy element in your performance. How do you get yourself in the mindset for this performance? It seems like, in additional to the technical preparation, there’s a mental and spiritual preparation?

Well I guess, for me, a lot of where I’m coming from, and a lot to do with my process, has to do with circumstance and environment. Also, patching the synthesizer is something that, in a way, is very soothing for me. Because I do improvise, and every patch is done from the ground up. I was speaking with James Holden last night and he said, “I saw you open your case, and nothing was patched”, and I said “yeah, that’s how I work”.

This idea of predestination is uninteresting to me. So, in that moment, I will make that decision on where to put that first patch cable and go from there. It’s something that’s nice because I’ve been working with modular synthesizers for quite a few years now, and I’m very comfortable with them. And I’m very comfortable with the choices I make for modules. Even if I’m not fully understanding what they are, it’s the idea of the sense of discovery that comes along with patching them, moving them around, seeing what happens.

Even before that, when I started to engage this particular process as a solo artist, something that was very important to me was an idea of moments. This idea that you create a space, you create and environment, you create an atmosphere in this particular moment, and it’s something that’s happening in real time. Therefore, you will take that with you in a very specific way – as will the audience, in a performative situation. It’s something that’s interesting to me, is the fact that the human mind, and memory – these moments, or these memories, are approximations. They’re not exactly how they happened. Dealing with these ideas of perception of illusion, you get into this zone where you will revert back to that memory at a later date and remember it in a very specific way. For the individual it’s really nice, because it will hold something very singular for that particular person.

I think the human voice is an incredible instrument, and something that has not been utilized and really pushed.

Something that I thought was very important to me was this idea of trance, and losing the self, in a way. Even before I was utilizing modular synthesizers, I was focused on the human voice. The human voice is one of the most fascinating things to me, because they are unique – and they are. In my estimation, a little more so now than the time I started doing this, I’ve seen a lot more people utilize the human voice as an instrument.

I think the human voice is an incredible instrument, and something that has not been utilized and really pushed. You could look at artists like Meredith Monk or Diamanda Galas who have used the voice compositionally and instrumentally. My idea was to further this process, but, of course, cultivating my own technique. That’s also very important to me – this idea of not remaining inside of any sort of a box. One of my biggest problems – and when I give talks and lectures, I talk specifically about this – when, say, a young person goes to a conservatory or gets inside of academia, not every time, but I think more often than not, they’re taught that, “you are meant to utilize these tools in this specific way. You are meant to create in a very specific way” within these sort of rules that have been handed down.

Not only with music, but any sort of artist endeavor, these things can’t be qualified or quantified because they are creative. You can’t qualify art – it’s done, but it doesn’t make any sense to do so, because it’s an individualist expression. This individual expression is something that that person sees through, and they are compelled to do so in a specific way. If it is truly coming from a place of expression, then you couldn’t say that it was wrong. There is no rule. So, that’s a whole lot of my process.

IMG_4875 copy 2


You mention the struggle in teaching people how to make art. It reminds me of William S. Burroughs – as a professor, after a while, he wasn’t sure it was possible to teach creative writing. That he’d rather teach creative reading or listening. You talked about the moments – do you come with an intention of how the music or your performance will affect your audience? Do you ever talk to audience members about how your performance affected them? Are you ever surprised by what they take away from your music?

I think for the most part, something I’ve been concentrating on for the last year and a half, has been creating performance pieces to induce a hypnagogic state – a sort of waking dream. That’s something that I was always hinting at from the beginning, because of these ideas of trance. Before I was, say, utilizing modular synthesizers, where I had to be aware of what was happening in front of me, and aware of the instrument itself, I would do performance pieces where I would get completely lost. I would, myself, go into a trance, and just be gone. I wouldn’t be aware of what my body was doing, or how it was doing. These are all things that are important to the performative and experiential aspects of what is happening. I think that those things still exist – I find a different way in to trance.

Patching and moving the synthesizer is something that’s very zen for me. This idea of patience, and unfolding these things in a way that don’t lend themselves to maximalism. I think a lot of the time, when people get into modular synthesis, or synthesizers in general, it becomes very maximal. All of the sounds are happening and moving very quickly. It’s not necessarily the antithesis of the way that I work, but it’s definitely not in my realm. I wouldn’t say it’s outside of my wheelhouse, but it’s in the corner, at least.


Lichens – “Kirlian Auras”


The follow up from this, then – how do you approach recording? Do you ever feel like it’s stifling to have to record something that people can listen to in perpetuity? How would you approach that differently than you would a performance?

Honestly, in most ways, I deal with performance the same way I deal with recording. Recordings that I do are generally real-time. There are certain times that I decide to do multitrack recordings – but, always, these parts are improvised. I’m listening to these things as I’m doing them in real time. As I record them, and hit the playback, I’m listening to the layers as they build. But I’m not necessarily thinking about…I don’t necessarily have an end game. Once I reach a point that I say “okay, it’s finished”, then I’m done. It’s really that simple.

I also am of the mind that over-analyzing recordings, or thinking about things too much, is a detriment to the life of that particular recording. Generally, when you have an idea and you play through it or record it for the first time, it’s the freshest and most interesting iteration of that idea. The more that you try to recreate it, it lessens it, in a way.

I think that’s actually very different than, say, if you look at this idea of “ecstatic truth” that Werner Herzog will talk about, when he’s doing interviews for documentaries. He’ll interview someone, then interview them again and again, asking them the same questions, until he gets to the meat of the matter. I think it’s sort of the opposite of that when you’re looking at recordings. I feel like, generally, people drill themselves into a hole – and they’re unlikely to find this epiphany and say, “now I got it!” Sometimes it happens. But, at least for me, the earlier the idea, the freshest it is. This is my particular opinion, and this is dealing specifically with my process.




You acted in and composed for the film, A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness. To what extent did the film and the ideas behind it inform your performance and your music?

The film itself was made collaboratively by Ben Russell and Ben Rivers. They asked me to collaborate with them in seeing it through. Their idea for the film was basically to pose the questions – “what is utopia?” and “how to humans live in the world?”

I think that the film poses these questions, but gives no resolution. There’s no answer, there’s no specific way through. It’s a creation in a triptych form – the film is following my character through these three landscapes. They could exist in a linear mode, they could exist simultaneously, like three different universes happening in real time. It’s basically just posing these questions, and not necessarily leaning towards one particular mode of thinking. Instead, it examines this idea of idea of utopia or commune – or failed utopia. This idea of solitude, and this idea of the sublime, or the transcendent.

As far as how the film was made…people ask me about acting in the film. It’s technically not a documentary – it’s a document, a construction in a way. They like to call it an “unfiction”, which I think is really nice. I looked at it very much as performing actions – it was acting, technically – but the way that we would talk about it would be as a person setting out to do certain actions, which would eventually become the body of the film.

How does your music change when you’re working on a film, as opposed to your own performances or recordings?

When I work on film, specifically, it’s a collaborative process no matter what. Therein lies this idea of compromise – you have to take a different viewpoint when you aren’t working alone. You have to be malleable in those situations. Definitely, I operate in a different way when I’m working in the realm of film or even in collaborative performance, to a certain degree.

One thing that most people don’t understand about improvisation is the fact that the most important thing is listening. I’ve come to this general overview that many people either overplay or get really crazy. It’s all about listening to your collaborator – understand what they’re doing, where they are. It’s a dialogue, not a racket – it can be a racket, but it has to be a dialogue first. You have to be able to bend and move and be malleable in these situations.


OM’s “Sinai”, featuring vocals from Robert


That’s an interesting point about listening. It seems like that’s also a valid point when you’re performing solo. I noticed that when you were playing, it seemed like each section evolved from the last one – it wasn’t a setlist-style format. How do you balance that in performance – do you take the time to listen to what you’ve made and then move on?

Absolutely. Also, with individual performance, in the realm of improvisation, you do have to listen to yourself. You have to listen to what you’re doing, and follow whatever path you’ve arrived at. Whether that, in your mind, was where it was meant to go, or where you had anticipated, or whether it had thrown you a curve ball and taken you down a different road. It’s all about following the framework as the bricks are being laid.

One more thing I wanted to talk about – the visuals in your set. There’s an unfolding psychedelic feel to them, not as much “in your face”. How does that relate to what you’re playing?

The visuals that I created specifically for the performances that I’ve been doing lately are done with analog video synthesis. The last few months, I’ve been working with a modular system that runs at video rate – creating these video pieces with colors and shapes morphing and changing. That’s also meant to become additive to the entire sonic process, and this state of hypnagogia; it’s meant to really push you into this state of dreaming, but awake.


Lichens on Kranky


David Abravanel is a digital marketer, futurist, and musician immersed in creative technology, currently based in San Francisco. dhla.me

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We got to talk to anonymous project patten about the future

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Scene | Mon 7 Dec 2015 2:41 pm


For nearly a decade, patten has evolved as a project from one artist’s music – initially released on CDRs – to a group signed to Warp, with expansions including a pseudo-label, Kaleidoscope, and a series of club nights called “555-5555”. While some collaborators of the wider patten circle reveal themselves publicly – like video artist Jane Eastlight – the core artists divulge little about themselves.

Musically and theoretically, “A” from patten hits the nail on the head in referring to “the future within the past”. With video art drawing on old computers and cassettes, and the decayed sounds of vintage analog and digital formats, there’s a feeling of the past in patten. This feeling is juxtaposed with a cutting-edge blur into the future, however – whether in the overwhelming cluster of found sounds that can take over a track, or the digital overload that accompanies patten AV sets.

patten’s “Drift”, dir. by Jane Eastlight

patten’s anonymity is, in itself, another bit of the past into the future. Coming from a world swimming in social media, data, and research myself, it’s a bit of an unexpected challenge to assess the work of artists about whom I know nothing personally. It’s an interesting contrast to the personal experiences central to our interview with Kiran Gandhi, conducted around the same time (and no, this is not a “better or worse” value judgment).

patten live AV show for Boiler Room

Ultimately, I’ll admit that I enjoy patten’s output all the more for it – I can draw my own emotional conclusions, accept that the art exists in its own form, and not worry about the age, money, culture, or frivolous opinions of its creators.

patten’s “Plurals”, dir. by Jane Eastlight







This article was produced with support from Ableton.

The post We got to talk to anonymous project patten about the future appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Got a (bit) crush on you: TAL-Sampler, Lil’ Kim, and digital crunch

Delivered... David Abravanel | Scene | Thu 12 Nov 2015 12:00 am

Kim-TAL 2

For me, it goes back to Lil’ Kim.

Let me back up. Much as we take it for granted in 2015, once upon a time in a far-gone decade called the 80s, sampling was a new technology. Groundbreaking (and expensive) instruments such as the Fairlight CMI and Synclavier brought new possibilities for playing with recorded audio. Suddenly, sounds and sequences which used to take days of work from skilled tape manipulators became keyboard-mapped.

Here’s Herbie Hancock demonstrating sampling on Sesame Street with a Fairlight CMI (watch for guest appearance from a very young Tatyana Ali):

Click here to view the embedded video.

Into the late 80s and early 90s, samplers got smaller and more affordable. But sampling still wasn’t “perfect”. Most samplers were 8- or 12-bit, with noticeably low sample rates. This bit and sample rate crunch – in addition to digital hiss and other jittery ghosts in the machines – is part of what continues to make artifacts like the Emulator, Linndrum, and SP-1200 so desirable to this day.

And here’s where Lil’ Kim comes in. Check out “Rain Dance”, by Jeff Lorber Fusion:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Now, listen to Lil’ Kim & Lil’ Cease’s “Crush on You”, a classic 90s Bad Boy production from Fanatic of the 3 Boyz from Newark collective (watch for an Aaliyah cameo):

Click here to view the embedded video.

While “Rain Dance” is clearly the sample source, it doesn’t sound so much like a jazz fusion combo on “Crush on You” as it does like a fuzzy flute synthesizer. That’s the magic of old samplers – that digital grit which could truly transform a sample and apply a unique stamp of imperfection. Pitch- and time-shifting also served to exaggerate these artifacts.

In 2015, our sampling options are many – most DAWs have samplers built-in, and hardware samplers are at or above CD-quality audio – the Elektron Octatrack, for example, samples audio at 24-bit / 44.1 KHz, with sophisticated algorithms for time and pitch stretching (to be fair, there are also bit crushing effects on the Octatrack). There’s still the curiosity of that digital charm that’s the default in an old sampler, however; in fact, for many musicians making music that celebrates the digital past (e.g. vaporwave or anyone releasing on Death of Rave), we want it more than ever.


TAL-Sampler CDM


That’s where TAL-Sampler comes in. Coming from TAL – a company renown for its free plugins, as well as its excellent models of the Juno 60 and SH-101 – this isn’t just another software sampler. The plugin emulates a few digital/analog convertors, including those of the Linndrum series and Oberheim DMX (via the AM6070 8-bit PCM DAC), the E-mu Emulator II, the flexible “sample hold” mode, and the straightforward (and less vintage) “linear” mode. With controls specified by DAC model, you generally get the self-explanatory sample rate, hiss, and saturation, plus some added nonlinearity in “jitter” (sample clock) and “offset” (table scaling – just trust us, it sounds more vintage) controls. As a trip back in time, TAL-Sampler is a pretty sweet experience – and the flexible control routing isn’t bad either (see GUI shot above).

Check out some of what TAL-Sampler can do in our audio demos:

In these examples, you can hear a demonstration of the “Crush on You” sample, a wildly time-stretched beat, and some classic jungle-style pads and breaks – here’s an example of the original article in A Guy Called Gerald’s “So Many Dreams”:

Click here to view the embedded video.

TAL Sampler isn’t the first plugin to do this – 112db’s Morgana is another option – but the specific controls for each model are particularly nice. While there are plenty of other options for getting the sound of old samplers – there are more than enough bit-crusher plugins out there – TAL Sampler does have a special feel to it. It’s also, like most TAL plugins, on the cheaper end of things, at 60 USD.

So, the problems of the 80s and 90s have become carefully modeled features in the 2010s. This Brian Eno quote has recently been making the rounds, and seems to sum up how imperfections turn into desirable qualities:

Eno quote

Good food for thought. In the mean time, TAL Sampler, borrowing from Biggie: I gotta let you know that I got a (bit) crush on you.

The post Got a (bit) crush on you: TAL-Sampler, Lil’ Kim, and digital crunch appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Confidence, humanity, and drumming: Kiran Gandhi interview

Delivered... David Abravanel | Artists,Scene | Tue 10 Nov 2015 11:35 pm

It’s clear right away that Kiran Gandhi is an “always-on artist.” We’re sitting down with the drummer/singer/electronic musician/businesswoman at Ableton’s Loop conference, and as she reflects on the acoustics of the outdoor tent where we’re recording, she sings an impromptu recording into her phone. There’s even a lyric reminding her to write about tents.

The tone is set for our whole conversation: as Kiran longs for a higher-fidelity phone microphone, technology alone can’t keep pace with her spontaneity.

By now, Kiran’s story as a radical polymath has made its way around the creative web – not least of which thanks to her TEDx talk about “Atomic Living” (above). As Madame Gandhi, Kiran’s music is electronically processed and arranged but heavily reliant on (and sourced from) the human voice, and human drumming. In our interview, she addresses this balance – you can hear it in musical form in a recent Madame Gandhi track, the intimate “Wazey”:

For a visual look at Kiran’s music, here’s a taste of her drumming with M.I.A.:

After a number of years spent working with others – whether it be her consulting clients or musicians – Kiran seems to be honed in on her own voice now. In person, she was almost overwhelmed with ideas. With a debut Madame Gandhi album and associated performances in the works, it feels like this will be something big – for her, and also for listeners and the landscape in which she’s releasing her music. Based on the music and ideas that we’ve gleaned from her, we’re excited to see what these next steps look like.




We proudly welcome David Abravanel in his first byline of CDM – more to come. -Ed.

Disclosure: This interview is presented with support from Ableton.

The post Confidence, humanity, and drumming: Kiran Gandhi interview appeared first on Create Digital Music.

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