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


Deerful, aka Emma Winston, is a singer-songwriter gone mobile tech

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Thu 28 Sep 2017 6:50 pm

Deerful is the singer-songwriter imagined by mobile developers, found in real life. She’s not just another producer, but an earnest lyricist.

You can follow Emma on her YouTube channel, crooning covers to Game Boy accompaniment or deftly playing with a Novation Circuit in place of guitar. And now she’s got a full-length LP to her name, called Peach, released on London indie label wiaiwya (CD/vinyl/download).

Ed.: With Emma’s unique take on music production with apps and mobile gear, we turn over interview duties to the writer who turned us on to her work – and who foresaw just this kind of creative application for such tools. Ashley Elsdon, recently joining CDM and helming our Apps channel, having built the influential Palm Sounds blog on mobile tech, understands the advantage of mobile instruments, apps, battery power, and simple design empowering creativity. So, he’s the ideal person to lead this conversation with fellow UK resident Emma Winston. -PK

I’ve been following Deerful for some time now. Mostly people who make music with the kind of gear she’s using tend to electronic and dance genres, rather than the kind of singer-songwriter material she’s creating – producing more melodic output than you might associate with apps and mobile gear. And I’ve found her lyrics quite unusual, and her musical voice unique.

So, I took the opportunity to ask her about reflect her creative process, how tools fit in, and her sources of musical inspiration.

CDM: How do you make the decision to use a particular technology or instrument in your music?

Deerful: I am actually not very logical or rational about this. Almost every instrument I own, I own because I fell in love with it. (I think the only exception is the [KORG] Electribe 2 I use live – it’s a bit of a pain, but I absolutely could not find a practical alternative which wasn’t wildly expensive.) Consequently, my gear collection is pretty quirky. Nobody needs a [Teenage Engineering] OP-1 or a Pocket Operator or a [Critter & Guitari] Septavox or a Game Boy, but I adore all of them, and it makes me even more excited to make music. It’s also because I feel like a lot of staple gear can be covered by software much more cheaply, so if I’m going to buy hardware, I want it to be special.

You seem to use a lot of mobile gear in your music. Is that a conscious choice?

It’s more that I really love miniature things, and also producing in bed and on the sofa. I definitely like not having to think about wires/speakers. It’s cool to be able to get down ideas with very little gear, but I think it’s more that the tiny, compact, quirky gear I gravitate towards is often mobile, rather than that I consciously look for mobile gear.

Being able to run off batteries also helps when I’m dealing with a live sound engineer who’s never seen an electronic instrument before and wants to have as little to think about as possible, but again, a lesser consideration!

How do you approach the writing process in technology terms? Do you start with a device or a specific technology, or does the song / track come first and the technology support it?

It depends. Sometimes the song comes first, and I’ll decide later exactly how it gets made or arranged. But if I have absolutely no ideas and a deadline to meet, my first recourse is always to pick up a device and see where it takes me. Something always comes from it.

This also varies from device to device and app to app – Korg Gadget, for instance, is an app I pretty much always go to when I already have an idea and want to flesh it out fast – I use it pretty much entirely as an ultra-fast DAW. The Pocket Operators are the opposite – I think of them primarily as idea-factories and a jumping-off point.

Aside from Gadget, do you use other iOS, or indeed Android apps? What’s your motivation for using them? How differently do you find using apps from using hardware?

I definitely use Gadget more than anything else. It’s funny, because I see people talking about it as a groovebox app that’s best for looping, and that’s not how I use it at all. It essentially replaces Ableton for me when I don’t want to haul my laptop around, or if I need to get something that sounds fairly polished together fast and don’t have much time to do lots of production on it.

For actual idea-generation and more groovebox-type applications, my favorite app at the moment is Studio Amplify’s KRFT; it has a really nice interface that’s flexible enough not to just lock you into endless looping, which is what I feel like a lot of iOS apps veer towards. (They also have a more stripped-down free version called NOIZ, which is fun). For more experimental stuff, I love Samplr. I made my first EP mostly in Nanostudio, so that one’s worth a shout-out, although I’ve had a bit of a break from it since – it was the thing that was finally both flexible enough and un-intimidating enough to stop being scared of trying to produce and actually do it.

Every app is different, just as every piece of hardware is different, which is one reason I find the idea that one is somehow inherently better than the other and that you have to pick to be extremely strange. The fastest thing I can do to generate ideas when I’m stuck is switching to a new interface, whether that’s on a touchscreen or on my laptop or boxed up as a dedicated synth. It depends how I’m feeling and where I am and what I need.

I don’t own an Android device entirely because of the relative lack of music apps. I’m really hopeful that will change as their issues with audio improve – mobile music was a huge part of getting me into production and I would love it if that experience was available to more people on a platform with broadly much lower-cost hardware. I said this in an iPad music forum once and people were amazingly defensive about it. As far as I am concerned, all access to music-making is good, and if the 70% or so of smartphone users who own an Android device had a music market as rich as the App Store available to them, I would be stoked about it.

If you could design an app that would be perfect for you, what would it look like and what would it do?

Terrible response, but it would honestly just be Ableton optimized for a 10” touchscreen. Ableton, if you’re reading this, I’m your mobile market.

How do you approach writing lyrics? Do the lyrics come as part of your overall inspiration for a track, or is that something you find separately? What makes you feel like you have a great lyric?

I have recently started referring to myself as a singer-songwriter-producer, because honestly that’s what I am. I’m a songwriter who tells my own stories in performance, but does it with a box with buttons on it instead of a guitar. The lyrics and the song itself and the details of how it’s put together are equal parts. Sometimes a lyric comes first, sometimes a riff, sometimes a chord sequence – sometimes they’re simultaneous.

It’s very much a symbiotic thing. I’m constantly looking for ways to balance the abstract and the specific in my songs – describing moments and fragments of time in detail, but without so much specificity they become alienating.

Who are your influences musically, and who do you find inspiring in terms of technology and approach to process?

The Postal Service was the band that started me out wanting to make electronic music, and I still adore them. I feel like there’s still this idea that electronics are not particularly well-suited to singer-songwriters, which I find so strange because it gives you so much opportunity to design, right down to the sonic building-blocks which make up the song. It becomes part of the storytelling, and I think the Postal Service did that in such a beautifully tactile and warm way. I can literally point to the sample that comes in at 0:28 of ‘Nothing Better’ as the moment I realized I wanted to make electronic music myself – it acts almost like a third vocal melody but also this kind of plaintive emotional punctuation, warm and bit-crushed and sad.

I’ve been listening to a lot of the stuff that’s come out of the label PC Music over the last couple of years. I feel like a lot of what they’re doing is almost the polar opposite to Deerful, which is an almost embarrassingly honest project – they’re very self-aware, very detached, very cool, all things I’m not. A lot of people seem to respond to their artists as if the whole thing is completely ironic, but I hope (and believe) it’s not, because they’ve released some of the most intensely joyful pop music I’ve ever heard, and I desperately want that intensity of happiness to be real on some level.

EasyFun’s “Full Circle” is the track I’ve had on repeat for the last few days. It’s hyper-fun EDM-pop, but there are all these odd details thrown in, strange pitch-shifted samples, bizarre non-functional harmonies that are thrown into the chord and never repeated, weird, unnatural reverb tails and a lead vocal that’s chopped up and treated like a synth. I don’t sound anything like EasyFun, but I really want to get to the point where I can marry full-on unashamed fun with bizarre experimentalism in a similar way and have it all hang together.

In terms of process, I also find Grimes hugely inspiring – she made Visions in three weeks, in GarageBand, because it was what she knew, and she smashed it. She works fast when she needs to, but she knows when to zoom in, when to work on detail, when to really hone in on sound design and tone and tempo. (There’s a great interview where she talks about using samples of dentist drills to add aggressiveness to an 808 in ‘Venus Fly’, and it’s something I never would have even thought of.) I find her confidence and adaptability and willingness to move between pop and noise really impressive. It seems like she’s never held back by limitations or expectations; she just ploughs in and makes what she wants to make and it’s always brilliant.

Finally, let’s talk about your new album. When you set out to create it, what were your specific inspirations? What were you looking to achieve and how successful do you feel you’ve been?

Stylistically, Emily Reo’s gorgeous fuzzy alt-electropop has been a huge influence on all my releases so far (I also accidentally stole the album title, Peach, from one of her songs – it genuinely was an accident, but I think it probably speaks of how much her work has lodged itself in my creative brain.) I credit her music with finally giving me the push I needed to start writing and performing myself. Owen Pallett’s songwriting and storytelling has also always been a huge inspiration, but I’m not sure if that really comes through in the resultant album – I wish it did!

What was I looking to achieve? God, I’ve no idea. Everything is an experiment and an exploration. Everything I release, I do so having no idea how anyone’s going to react to it, and being excited to find out. It’s a brilliant lesson in exactly how bad at mind-reading I am. In general people seem to have liked it; I’ve no idea how it’s sold, and from an artist perspective that doesn’t really matter. When I listen to it now three months after release, I hear a lot I would do differently – I’m very proud of it but also excited to move on to the next thing!

CDM: Thanks, Emma!

It’s been an enlightening experience talking to Deerful. It’s shed light on her music and I’m certainly looking forward to listening to whatever the ‘next thing’ is she’s got planned, and also understanding how it was put together.

Deerful’s latest ablum can be found at wiaiwya and is available as a download, CD, or vinyl.

The post Deerful, aka Emma Winston, is a singer-songwriter gone mobile tech appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

How magnetic oscillations of a comet became a new album of music

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Fri 15 Sep 2017 8:45 pm

In Francesco Novara’s new EP Astron, space exploration is both inspiration and the literal source of all the sounds you hear.

There are few moments in our generation of spaceflight quite like the Rosetta mission – buzzing past Mars and asteroids to land on a comet. And sound played an unexpected role in the discoveries of the Rosetta Plasma Consortium (RPC) investigating the comet.

Indeed, you can think of the comet – that’s Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko or “67P” for short – as a kind of oscillator. The magnetometer on board the Rosetta spacecraft detected a major variations in the magnetic field around the comet.

Translate those oscillations into sound, and 67P “sings”. This isn’t an artificial thing to do, either. Just as a lot of space imagery translated unseen spectra (infrared, for instance) into visible colors so we can see, reinterpreting magnetic oscillations as audible sound means we perceive this reality much in the way the magnetic detector does.

ESA’s Marco Trovatello explains to CDM: “It’s being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the
frequencies have been increased.”

German composer Manuel Senfft created that first sonification, in collaboration with the Technical University Braunschweig:

You can read a detailed explanation of the physics involved:

WHAT MADE THE COMET SING? [European Space Agency]

Working with the European Space Agency, and CDM’s label Establishment, we released an EP of music derived from that experiment by Italian composer Francesco Novara. The music makes use of the Creative Commons-licensed data and sonification – and, in turn, is available to you to share, remix, and reuse under a Creative Commons license.

What’s stunning is that Francesco didn’t just pluck a couple of samples on top of some music and call it a day. Instead, pretty much everything you hear (minus one vocal) is created from that one singing comet sound. (There’s also some audio from the mission on one of the tracks.)

The result is a cool, collected downtempo album with one earworm single at the end. It’s to me the perfect musical embodiment of ESA and modern spaceflight – less Major Tom trip, more mission control.

It’s also some seriously awesome sound design work. Francesco, apart from having been the first composer to score an ESA launch, is a gifted sound designer and prolific TV and film composer. It’s part of what I wanted to do with Establishment – shine a light on musical craft and not just musical personalities.

So, I asked Francesco to walk us through just how he turned this one eerie sample into a full meal of music. We get a nice quick master class in Ableton Live:

Take a listen to the full musical release on Bandcamp:

It’s been great to have an ongoing collaboration with European Space Agency, as well as a friendship with ESA’s resident music lover and Creative Commons advocate, Marco. Open licenses for materials from space bring together the handful of explorers, engineers, and scientists with the public and with artists.

“Collaboration with artists as well as free and open access to scientific information and data are important building blocks of ESA’s Space 4.0 strategy to innovate, inform, inspire and interact,” Marco says about the project. The license here opens up other possibilities – “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike”.

We really do appreciate your support for this album and independent music. Because the music is all under a Non-Commercial license, any proceeds from sales we’re using to cover our costs on design and mastering, and then using the rest to fund more Creative Commons-powered space music projects. Of course, that means we’d also love to hear any remixes of this music, if you’re so inclined. (There’s a lot of talent in our community, I know.)

Comet photo: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

The post How magnetic oscillations of a comet became a new album of music appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Yves Tumor’s new free LP is an ethereal reverie for late summer

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Wed 13 Sep 2017 11:50 pm

Yves Tumor, aka Rahel Ali, has garnered attention in a crowded music landscape for sonic tales that are personal and poignant.

And as we enter autumn, with its orchestrated parade of releases, this new one has an informality to it – the emotional immediacy of a demo tape. Ali (aka Sean Bowie) is an artist who seems made for an Internet audience, intimate in recorded form, in some blurred place between localities. Ali is American, raised in Tennessee, but now is based in Turin, with recording sessions spanning the USA and Leipzig.

And now, Experiencing The Deposit Of Faith is some sort of daydream, beautiful and sad, looped textures that grow in urgency as the record progresses. It’s a half-remembered drama, a series of warm tableaus made soft by dusty fuzz and fragmented into unresolved questions, unstable nostalgia.

No doubt the free self release will get some deserved attention, the third release from the artist. (#1 was self-released, #2 got a bigger spotlight thanks to label PAN.)

That antique, analog quality seems not pastiche but earnestness. A worthy download:

From earlier this summer, unsettling (and, warning, sometimes graphic) video, to arresting and asymmetrical sounds featuring Oxhy:

(Video – Sam Dye & Bliss Resting.)

https://www.facebook.com/yvestumor/

The post Yves Tumor’s new free LP is an ethereal reverie for late summer appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

TĀLĀ is right – Teenage Engineering OP-1 is a great desert island synth

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Wed 23 Aug 2017 1:02 am

It could have easily been a cute design toy. But the compact, crazy-fun OP-1 synth has stood the test of time.

FACT have added to their roster of clever video ideas with a series asking artists which instrument they’d take with them on a desert island. But maybe the most convincing of these comes from London artist TĀLĀ, who chooses the sweet, surprisingly powerful OP-1 from Teenage Engineering.

And the thing is, I’ve heard similar sentiments from other OP-1 owners. The OP-1 has had a strange life – the center of attention at its launch, then falling out of favor almost immediately, but then becoming beloved to those who hung onto them, particularly as the Teenage Engineers piled on smart updates.

Watch TĀLĀ sum up why it’s cool:

Now we just need to check in on their upcoming OP-Z.

More music:

The post TĀLĀ is right – Teenage Engineering OP-1 is a great desert island synth appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic label gets its own sound pack

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Labels,Scene | Tue 15 Aug 2017 10:57 pm

The California-fresh mystic futurism of Jimmy Edgar now finds itself in sound pack form, by way of Web subscription service Splice.

I’m normally loathe to write about soundware, but this one gets a particularly synth-y good flair. It’s interesting to hear a label identity that might work as a sound pack, but Ultramajic has enough of a sonic signature to work. (Actually, the weirdness of the labels – something is techno and minimal and tech house – kind of speaks to that.) And there’s some nice gear. It strikes me as the rare sound pack that might help jolt me out of a rut.

Their description covers the gear; you had me at Serge.

Ultramajic Sounds Vol. 1 is the first pack from Jimmy Edgar’s innovating electronic label, Ultramajic. The label brings its artists’ together with samples from 90s digital hardware, including a TR808, vocoder and the renowned Serge Modular. All sounds were recorded through top end equipment such as Neve preamps, vintage Lexicon reverb, and API eq/compression.

More:
https://splice.com/sounds/splice/ultramajic-sounds-vol-1

The post Jimmy Edgar’s Ultramajic label gets its own sound pack appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

In Moscow, a major convergence of synth makers and lovers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Events,Scene | Tue 15 Aug 2017 3:20 pm

One of the year’s biggest events on the synthesizer calendar isn’t in the US or Germany or the UK. It’s an event called Synthposium, in Moscow next week.

And where better? The city is dotted with monuments to cosmonauts; the country gave birth to Theremin and Polivoks, to ANS and optical synthesis, and spun fantastic science fiction tales that inspired the invention of the laser and dreamed of futuristic utopias.

Now, a younger, post-Communist generation is taking up the task of generating new futuristic musical energies. They’re mixing an enthusiasm for the avant-garde of the past and its heroes with a the latest technologies, patching connections between their countries and the world.

Well, the world seems to be taking notice. Synthposium, a packed art festival cum expo/conference next week, balances Russia’s own industrious community of artists and builders with counterparts from around the world. Alongside Berlin’s SuperBooth and Anaheim’s NAMM show, it might just be one of the big events on this year’s calendar in adventurous music technology.

The annual event hits next week, 24-27 August, at WINZAVOD Contemporary Art Center and Moscow Film School.

East coast and west coast synthesis? Try Eastern Bloc. On the hardware side, you get makers like the reborn Polivoks, the former brand reborn as a coveted 21st century brand, one that retains its original character but can be breathed in the same sentence with Moog and Buchla. But you also get an introduction to other makes, like Sputnik Modular, SSSR Labs, or Latvia’s Erica Synths (which inherits some of Polivoks’ former Riga legacy). There’s America’s TipTop Audio, too, plus MDR.modular, VG-Line, L-1 Synthesizer, Pribore Electronics, DNGR:TECH, Svarog Audio, and Uoki-Toki. Experimentalists and educators Playtronica join in, too.

Engineer Roman Filippov of Sputnik Modular will premiere his “Deckard’s Dream,” a Blade Runner-esque 8-voice polyphonic analog synth. Talks and workshops from the likes of BBC’s Matthew Sweet and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens) and former KORG analog maven Tatsuya Takahashi will add to the discussion.

There are also a whole lot of artists, mixing local and international personalities. The lineup looks like headliners from a major electronic festival, if that electronic festival were, well, sort of hyper-nerdy. Ulrich Schnauss and Thomas P. Heckmann join Max Cooper and Richard Devine and many others. (Yes, that also includes me – and of course expect plenty of CDM coverage of the event.)

See the full list below, plus some images of what’s coming.

Music — Expo — Conference — Interactive — Art — Festival
Tickets — https://goo.gl/0aLc9M

Line-up:

101 — LT
Alden Tyrell — NL
Ave Eva aka Ghostape — CH
Barker — DE
Baseck — US
Biodread — FIN
Conforce — NL
Denis Kaznacheev & Fake Electronics — RU/DE
Denny Kay — UK
Ekke Västrik — EST
Frank Muller aka Beroshima — DE
Felix K — DE
Interval — US
Jacek Sienkiewicz — PL
Kadaver — CZ
Karsten Pflum — DK
Konakov — UA
London Modular — UK
Max Cooper — UK
Mehmet Aslan — CH
Morgan Fisher — JP/UK
Morphology — FIN
Mustelide — BLR
Opuswerk — CH
OGJ — CZ
Peter Kirn — DE
Plast — CZ
PRCDRL aka Procedural — DE
Richard Devine — US
Richard Fearless of Death in Vegas — UK
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe — US
Solar X — UK
Synxron — UA
Taeji Sawai — JP
Thomas P Heckmann — DE
Throwing Shade — UK
Todd Sines — US
Ulrich Schnauss — DE
Vertical Silence — US

Abjective
ADIL
Alex Pleninger
Alexander Ivanov
Alexey Yepishev
Algo
Ambidextrous
Amnfx
Analog Sound
Andrei Orlov
Anton Lanski
Art Crime
Artemiy
Bad Zu
Black Lenin
BMB Spacekid
Boorane aka Boora & Krane
Boris Belenki aka C-Rob
Caprithy
Celebrine
Chizh
Compass-Vrubell
Corell
Dasha Redkina
DBaldokhin
Defaultman
Dessin & Peterkan
dHET
Dmitri Mazurov
Dyad and the Sleepers Club
DZA
Egor Sukharev aka Khz
Eldar
Eye Que
Estafet
Fedor Vetkalov
Fizzarum
Fung Bui Lao
Gamayun
Gestalt
Grisha Nelyubin
HMOT
Hombao
Honealome
Id303 & FMSAO
Igor Starshinov
Iiilljj
Indeepend
Interchain
Jekka
Karina Ratiani
Karolina Bnv
Kovyazin D
Kubrakov
Kurvenschreiber
Laiva
Lapti
Lazyfish
Leafage
Linja
Lubish
Magnetic Poetry
Maria Teriaeva
Maksim Panfilov
Meow Moon
Midimode aka MDMD
Misha Alexeev
Mr. Pepper
Nairi Simonian
Nevospitanii
Nord City
Normality Restored
Odopt
OID
OL
OTRO
Operator Uno
Perfect Human
Phayah
Pinkshinyultrablast
Places and Stuff
Playtronica
Prisheletz
PTU
Rewired
Redeuce
Rhizome aka Nikita Zabelin
Roma Zuckerman
Roman Filippov aka Filq
Rozet
Saburov
Sasha Prana
SCSI-9
Secrets of the Third Planet
Sestrica
Shadowax aka Ishome
Sickdisco aka Cross
Sil
Sirius C
Slow Life Program
Sofist
Suokas
Symphocat
Timur Omar
Tripmastaz
Unbalance
Unbroken Dub
Valya Kan
Vanya Limb
Vlad Dobrovolski
Vladislav Interesniy
Vtgnike
Wolfstream
Yu

Expo — music tech interactive exhibition and showcase:

ПРИБОР
Alex Nadzharov
Alexey Taber
AllforDJ
ASD — Analog Sound Devices
Bastl Instruments — CZ
Compositor Software
Deckard’s Dream
DNGR:TECH
Erica Synths — LV
Eternal Engine EMI
Eugene Yakshin
Evgeny Yakshin
ezhi&aka
Gieskes — NL
Igor Varshavets
Keen Association Moscow
L-1 Synthesizer — BLR
Leonid Vasilyev
Logich Synth Service
MDR.modular
Motovilo Audio Lab
Peter Kirn
Pioneer DJ
Playtronica
Polivoks
Popobawa Sound
Pribore Electronics
Roland
SOMA Laboratory
Sputnik Modular
SSSR Labs
Steampunk WSG synth
Stone Voices
Sur Modular
Svarog Audio
Synthfox
Synthman
SYNTHMECHANIC
Synthstrom Audible — NZ
Uoki-Toki
VG Line
Zll Modular
Zvukofor Sound Labs

On Air — lectures, workshops, public talks, various educational events:

Alex Pleninger
Alexander Grigoriev (Pribore Electronics)
Alexander Serechenko (Solo Operator)
Andrey Orlov
Andrey Smirnov
Baseck
Beroshima (Frank Muller)
Biodred
Danila Plee
Dmitry Churikov
Dmitry Morozov (::vtol::)
Ekke Västrik
Gijs Gieskes
Gleb Glonti
Ildar Yakubov
London Modular
Matthew Sweet
Maxim Zaharchenko (Svarog Audio)
Misha Alekseev
Morphology
Nick Zavriev (Ambidextrous)
Oleg Makarov
Opuswerk
Peter Kirn
Philipp Alexandrov (Bad Zu)
Richard Devine
Richard Fearless
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
Roman Filippov
Sergey Kasich
SILA SVETA
Stain
Stanislav Charifoulline (HMOT)
Taeji Sawai
Tatsuya Takahashi
Thomas P Heckmann
Ulrich Schnauss
Vadim Epstein
Valentin Zvukofor Victorovich (Zvukofor Sound Labs)
Vladimir Kuzmin

Art — installations, a/v performances & experiments, objects:

√1
Abram Rebrov
Alexey Rudenko aka arhew0
Anastasya Alekhina
Andrey Guryanov
Ekaterina Danilova
Formic Acid
Ildar Yakubov
Galina Leonova
Grigoriev Misha
Misak Samokatyan
Noa Ivanova
Pasha Seldemirov
Stain
Vahram Akimyan — ARM
XYZ

Venues:

Winzavod Contemporary Art Center
Moscow Film School
— more TBA

Initiative – Main In Main

https://synthposium.ru/ [in Russian]

Facebook event

The post In Moscow, a major convergence of synth makers and lovers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Radical electronics on a grand scale: Berlin Atonal in its fifth reboot year

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Events,Scene | Thu 10 Aug 2017 2:22 pm

Berlin’s idea of a summer holiday is a bit different: shroud yourself in black, retreat into a giant concrete bunker, and prepare for an onslaught of experimental sound and light.

But that’s Berlin Atonal Festival in a nutshell. It’s what Tresor entrepreneur Dimitri Hegemann calls “a platform for radical ways in electronic music … in an industrial cathedral,” a packed-solid schedule of music and media art in the hulking abandoned shell of the power plant above the techno club.

This film affords probably the best insight into that

And now, Atonal is at an interesting inflection point. While the festival had its roots in the former West Berlin, 1982-90, it got a fairly significant reboot after a 13-year hiatus. So, sure, Hegemann himself carried over from the festival he first started. But a new curatorial team, a new context, this whole, uh, computer thing that happened, the reunification of Germany, the transformation of Berlin into international capital, the explosion of techno – these are non-trivial changes. That’s to say nothing of the move from a fairly conventional club (SO36) to a DDR-constructed behemoth that is literally used to record reverb impulse responses.

And the festival that once hosted the likes of Einstürzende Neubauten now treats listeners to a brand of experimental music that, while still adventurous, is starting to become commonplace in the festival circuit.

But maybe that’s the state of “radical” electronic music in general, certainly in Europe and the islands of media art chic around the globe. A fifth year festival isn’t going to be a shock that the first-year one is. But more than that, there’s a brand of violently sensory, retina- and eardrum-blasting but intelligent and high-concept experimental festival fare. And it’s grown popular. That popularity also transforms at least a circle of people making it. Their sound may be distorted and aggressive, but now it’s out of the tiny basements and blown-out crap PAs, and onto expensive speaker arrays, surround sound. There are sound technicians, even.

I’m of the opinion this doesn’t make experimental sound less experimental – on the contrary, it ups the acoustic and optical firepower and precision available to artists, which gives them a wider spectrum to exploit. It inarguably makes it less underground, but it also need not destroy underground aesthetics – and I think artists being able to eat is a good thing.

Of course, the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed yet. So I’ve watched curators cherry-pick their favorite acts from past Atonal, then import them to their own festival the following year. But that’s in something of a bubble, centering around Berlin (and London, and Amsterdam, and other capitals) in Europe, and festivals like MUTEK in the Americas (now a kind of pan-American festival franchise, in fact). It’s to the point where I can’t recall which festival discovered whom.

That consistency is easy to criticize, particularly for anyone jealous of Atonal’s grand spectacle (as a curator), cool crowds (as an audience member), or artist opportunities (for music and media art makers). But on the other hand, for this circle, it can begin to allow refinement. Audiovisual works in particular benefit from repetition and iteration, as you rely on multiple media to mature in parallel, collaborations to deepen. And a certain oneupmanship among lineups can drive artists to hone their craft.

This leaves us the question, what makes Atonal special?

Well, the obvious edge is its space. The artists interviewed aren’t kidding: you can’t imagine how big Kraftwerk is until you enter. It’s bigger than cameras can capture, vaster than words can convey. The Atonal organizers have found a way to tune the experience for listeners center stage, amazingly stopping it from turning into mud. And artists are adjusting their sets, too. But I agree with Sam Kerridge – it’s a unique pleasure to wander the space. Festivals are so often a pre-packaged, linear experience, a proscenium blasting a pre-determined significance to a packed crowd. In Kraftwerk, you can explore a set the way you would an art museum after closing. You can stand under the stage. You can find a sweet spot by a wall where reflections transform your perspective. You can find yourself gazing in complete stillness at some installation. And Atonal combines this with Ohm (the former battery room of the power plant, an intimate tile-walled affair) and Tresor (the basement, with its famous metal-bar booth).

That says something about Berlin as it is now, citywide, year-round. It’s too much music, and it’s dark and industrial and sometimes monotonous. But you’re free in that overabundance to chart your own way, to come and go in a music culture that seems to have no beginning, middle, or end.

Photo: Helge Mundt.

And this year, Atonal seems poised to build on what the festival has constructed after four editions. In short:

Back to experimental music’s roots. I always have a historical bias, so this is what I’m excited about. For both Atonal and The Long Now (two Kraftwerk-based festivals sharing some of the same curators), attendees are treated to a mix of historical concert music / new music / historical works and new commissions. In this year’s Atonal, it’s Stockhausen‘s turn. His 8-channel spatial OKTOPHONIE is inspired by the sounds of warfare (a tradition itself with threads back to Italian futurists). Stockhausen collaborator and director of the Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Kathinka Pasveer, leads that recreation, and younger composers will try out the system, too.

Rashad Becker + Ena on those eight channels should be especially good. But it’s nice to be treated to Karlheinz, too – having heard Cage and Reich recalled in this space, I can’t wait.

New stuff. There’s too much here to mention, but it’s fair to say this year’s Atonal promises more emerging artists and premieres, and might be one of the breakthrough festivals in 2017 generally. I’m curious about the “composed live act” of Chinese performance artist and composer Pan Daijing, the collaboration of Renick Bell (live coder) and Fis (sound designer). Sophie Schnell (PYUR) I’ve followed since her first AV show, and she has a unique and sensitive approach to her solo audiovisual work – this seems one to watch. Turkish-born Nene Hatun has a Rumi-inspired work.

I’m keen to see LCC (Ana Quiroga and Uge Pañeda) plus Pedro Maia; these Editions Mego-recorded artists are at the top of their synth game, and it’ll be spectacular to see them on this grander scale.

One sure-to-be-poingnant moment is Argentine-born installation artist, instrument builder and clarinetist Lucio Capace, who will have a trio doing a remembrance of the late experimental legend Mika Vainio.

There are also just a lot of new live shows. There’s a reason curators scout out Atonal for talent; there are few chances to see this many new AV works anywhere. (Another chance this fall will be Prague’s Lunch Meat; I’ll be there, too.)

Another easy bet: go see anyone Japanese. Thanks to collaborating with the New Assembly festival in Tokyo, Atonal is fresh with a bunch of legendary Japanese talent not normally seen in Europe. (I’d like CDM in general to get a little closer to the Japanese scene, and since I can’t always jet over to Japan, this will be a nice shortcut.)

All stars. Okay, and there’s more Puce Mary, more Roly Porter, more Shackleton, more Emptyset, etc. etc.. But with new premieres and such from these artists, there’s a reason to bring the all-star quasi-residents back. Some possible highlights – the combination of Shackleton’s music, Anika‘s voice over, Berlin artist Strawalde, and live visualist Pedro Maia is on my must-see list – partly because that combination sounds like it’ll either be transcendent or a cluttered mess, and that uncertainty ought to be why we go see stuff. Emptyset is doing something with architecture – and architecture is what Kraftwerk is about.

We’re Northern Electronics fans around these parts, so a program by the label’s Jonas Rönnberg aka Varg is a must on Sunday.

I’m skipping the DJ lineup, but it’s also really robust.

Photo: Helge Mundt.

Some free sounds

Can’t fly to Berlin? (or, uh, walk across the river as you don’t work for Ableton or Native Instruments?) Fret not.

The Wire has a special, free download of a number of wonderful live recordings from 2014, 2015, and 2016.

And, okay, basically these are all favorites here – note Peder Mannerfelt, PYUR, Ena, and so on returning in 2017.

It’s their Below The Radar Special Edition

Alessandro Cortini “Perdonare” 0:04:56
A Vision Of Love “Rose Transept” 0:06:49
Marshstepper “When Misfortune Confounds Us” 0:10:23
Felix K + Ena “Live At Berlin Atonal 2016” 0:03:55
Pan Daijing + JASSS “April” 0:05:23
Abdulla Rashim “Live At Berlin Atonal 2014” 0:04:49
SUMS “Budapest” 0:04:52
Peder Mannerfelt “The Theory” 0:04:41
Orphx + JK Flesh “Light Bringer” 0:04:42
Caterina Barbieri “Human Developers” 0:12:41
PYUR + Fis “The Pact”


Below The Radar Special Edition: Berlin Atonal: Force Majeure

https://berlin-atonal.com/

The post Radical electronics on a grand scale: Berlin Atonal in its fifth reboot year appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This Uber driver techno producer on Instagram is our zeitgeist

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Mon 7 Aug 2017 9:23 pm

If Millennial electronic music had a poster child, tchntx would be it. Self-released techno meets Uber meets social media and … oh God we’re all doomed.

“Techno Taxi” (once you add those vowels back) is the personal diary of “akaysha” (as per her Snapchat ID, anyway). If the accent didn’t clue you in, one map puts her rides outside Melbourne, somewhere around Geelong, Victoria. I have no idea how I even found this account*, but I was suddenly mesmerized. Instagramming the saga of techno “bangers” melded with failed Tinder drama, all behind the wheel of an Uber between calls, the account would probably be repulsive if it were a gimmick. But it’s not. It’s totally honest and unedited, which somehow makes the results appealing.

It’s the social media apocalypse, and it’s everything you thought it was. And it’s somehow … funny? Like if Sex in the City were documentary, not fantasy, and if it were written twenty years later, like … now.

You can just needle drop and get pure gold. This is the latest post as I write it, which features the polyamorous doctor ex nicknamed “Scrubs.” (Like I said, eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw.)

Back in the stu…by unpopular demand #techno #taxi #uber

A post shared by Tales Of Techno Taxi (@tchntx) on

It goes on like this, in a Tinder soap opera that takes place offscreen, trapped cinéma vérité-style behind the wheel of an Uber car, in the moments of life stolen by algorithms and the disruptive power of Silicon Valley’s taxi replacement.

I've said too much…. #techno #taxi #uber

A post shared by Tales Of Techno Taxi (@tchntx) on

That is, I find this poetic because I can relate. Anyone making music at this point may find themselves vying for the social media spotlight just to avoid invisibility – and from those Uber calls to SoundCloud plays, the Algorithm has us. Behind the gloss of social media success, I talk to an alarming number of techno producers who find themselves spending way too much time maintaining accounts as they pretend their careers are going better than they actually are. (I’m not being dramatic here, either – I’m super totally cereal.)

Techno Taxi just makes this self-referential and self-aware. But adding to the self-referential tragedy, then the result is kind of … an empty diversion. It’s a gimmick, but it isn’t working. (And so it tells this story even better in the process.)

On Instagram, you get the usual response and … the odd stalker response.

On SoundCloud, there are a few dozen followers. Somehow, she got into a collective, but… it seems the gig is still Uber. (Sound familiar?)

The tracks are fun, though – quirky and raw a bit like the videos. Perfect track names, oddly compelling production. “Beware” – awesome. (The mixes are dark, IDM-ish, relaxed apocalyptic lullabies, music to drive algorithmically-summoned cars to.)

I might ruin this and have it blow up, but for the record, as I’m writing this, no other press seem to have noticed.

I already had a food delivery guy give me a SoundCloud link. I’ve certainly randomly given out my own music. Maybe that’s enough. This thank-you note is nice, and I’d be happy to hitch a ride with a producer.

I can’t decide if this is a harbinger of our future, or if someday we’ll look back at Instagram, Uber, SoundCloud, and this entire piece in the way we look back on AOL, MySpace, and Napster – ancient history from the Bronze Age, less enlightened times.

Jeez, now I’m a little scared of winding up in an Instagram post. (Sorry, don’t take this meandering editorial too seriously! Hey, CDM bump, maybe?)

But kudos to the Techno Taxi for actually just saying what’s going on. If we’re going to survive social media at all, a little honesty might be necessary – or at least might let us entertain one another when we’re bored.

And the band played on.

Mood about working the long weekend #techno #taxi #uber #technotaxi #mood

A post shared by Tales Of Techno Taxi (@tchntx) on

*Update: answer to this is, well, Melbourne circles / social circles / friends in common. Facebook uses your social graph on Instagram, so because I know people who know her, she showed up on Instagram somehow. See also her “ok sure whatever” project, which does have more likes behind it:

http://oksurewhatever.com/

And in fact she’s got a load of accolades to her name, as a DJ and remix producer. Plus a team of people did “SEO” for that site. And… yeah, okay, well, now techno taxi it is.

More unintentional poetry from that site: “Add Ok Sure to your Spotify Playlist now pitched by PlayList Pump on behalf of Upside Music.”

The post This Uber driver techno producer on Instagram is our zeitgeist appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Going deep in techno technique and technology with Denmark’s CTRLS

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Tue 1 Aug 2017 6:54 pm

Keep techno nerdy? We go in the studio to find out how Copenhagen’s CTRLS [Token] has developed his own sound, and how it relates to the tech he uses.

Away from the whims of techno fashion and its potential for cookie-cutter aesthetic chasing, there are cats like CTRLS, aka Troels Knudsen of Copenhagen. With some nine EPs to his name, he’s been steadily honing a craft – one with roots back in 90s trackers. In other words, he’s just the person to ask about process, because his sound is built from inside out instead of outside in.

And Routing is a song of experience – never overcomplicated, always clear, always groovy. You know, smart. And from that foundation, it gets to be weird and original. This is Troels who loves sounds making sounds you’ll love.

It’s also label Token Records (led by artist Kr!z) at its best. I thought Danish rush hours involved bicycles or something, so I suspect Troels secretly lives in the future. “Rush Hour” has a timeless groove going:

“Crash” is also heavy and grimy, with an off-kilter gesture that makes it keep falling forward, like some more industrial take on those Drinking Bird toys:

“Highway”‘s glitchy, weird noise percussion takes on this 90s IDM feel, but perfectly mixed I think and with a sense of both space and friendly shuffle:

“The Shortest Path” comes closer to what you might associate with the Token sound, but places it in Troels’ sense of wit and charm – at just a moment when the “serious” European techno scene threatens to get incurably gloomy:

(Also welcome: when you buy the album, you get “locked grooves” to use as DJ tools – leaving the tracks themselves to be more headphone-listening friendly.)

An older release, but I really love the concept, sound, and video (a reactive visual installation by Rune Abro & Yonathan Sonntag) – check out “Incoming Data” from 2015, also on Token:

So with that in mind, I got a chance to give us a look inside his studio and tools. And I was curious how that path led from machine to musical voice, from esoteric tracker knowledge to Internet-enabled music culture, because it speaks I think to other musicians, too.

Of course, for all that Internet power, I’m indebted to another obsessively hard-working Copenhagen techno talent, Anastasia Kristensen, for connecting me with Troels. I’ll say this about both Anastasia and Troels: these are people who are disciplined, and whose discipline then enables them to really play.

First off, your work is full of detailed rhythms and a wide sonic palette. What are you working with, in terms of vocabulary? How does your technology impact that vocabulary?

I spent a couple of years taking keyboard and piano lessons and I’ve got a bit of academic audio engineering under my belt, as well as the experience I’ve got from my part-time mix work. In general, I guess I’ve become the guy people ask for technical solutions, locally, so there’s rarely a mix issue I can’t work my way around these days. Everything else has been uncovered on the Web and by generally making sure I have some skilled people in my circle. Learning synths and sound design has been a very personal journey — as it should be, if you ask me — and I came out the other side as a bit of a synth nerd. I generally like to be a bit effective about it all, as well as understanding what I’m working with. So that combined with me being naturally curious tends to lead me towards more modern techniques and gear.

I also had some great mentors that showed me a lot of interesting things like polymeters, but other then fun tricks like that, I don’t tend to get too deep into music theory with Ctrls tracks. For example, scales feel a bit restrictive in that context.

Take us back a little bit. I know a lot of our most avid audience are deeply rooted tracker and demoscene and the sort of IDM niche communities of the Internet … some of them back to the early BBS days. At what point did you get your feet wet in that Internet world?

A friend introduced me to the tracker scene in the mid 90s. The BBS scene was still alive at the time, and I don’t think many artists in Denmark realized that trackers were, as such, fully fledged samplers. Also, the modules were wide open: sounds and techniques were right there to learn from. Today, people would kill to look into their heroes’ projects, but that was normal for us. Ed.: That was certainly the response recently to Aphex Twin showing off tracker secrets.

And it’s information that wasn’t really available in any books. When I made my way onto the actual Web, it was even easier to access. For a while, that was my main inspiration and I’d look to new tracker releases more then I would commercial releases. I also remember my music teacher being shocked when I showed him Fast Tracker 2 compared to the thousands of euros he had recommended me to spend on hardware samplers and synths.

I still sometimes try to think back to how I’d solve problems or how the tracker artists had their workarounds. For example, you didn’t have any swing/groove control in Fast Tracker 2; instead, you had to manually delay every second 16th with a command, throughout the entire track. It felt very empowering and inspiring, but that being said, I don’t want to go back to hex note editing and automation ever again.

Did it make a difference, having that more international, Internet-driven culture at your fingertips, coming from Denmark?

The internet made a huge difference for me when I started. We were into bass music at the time and were finding the UK scene ridiculously hard to break into. Granted, the vibe is more open and international in Europe, but the UK labels at the time had no faith in producers not from there. But through the net, I had access to a much deeper network then you were likely to find just by partying and traveling to London, and so I got one of the first (maybe the very first) proper Danish drum’n’bass releases off the back of that. Other then that, it is of course extremely convenient to be close to some of the most significant scenes, but it took a long time for it to properly rub off on traditional and conservative little Denmark.

What was your first encounter then with making music with machines?

A couple years of piano and keyboard lessons and I headed straight for computer sequencers. I was lucky to have a music teacher that really encouraged my curiosity for technology and production. My first tunes were done with an old Roland arranger keyboard, [Creative Labs] SoundBlaster 16 and a Windows 3.11 sequencer called Musicator, that used staff notes instead of piano roll. [These tunes] were recorded (mixed down is too generous) onto cassette. Then trackers and samplers came into my life, and things got a lot easier.

Now, there are some pretty quirky vibes on this latest Token outing. What’s the spirit of this record; where did you draw that inspiration from?

I just don’t want to sound like everybody else, and I guess my palette has evolved around that ethos. I definitely have a thing for very mechanical and futuristic (to my mind) grooves, but I spend a whole bunch of time trying to make sure that the sounds have a realistic quality to them, even though they’re likely to never occur in nature –
particularly sounds that resemble the human voice is something I seem to steer towards.

How did you set up the album conceptually – particularly the flow, as far as lengths, grooves, and so on?

It was actually set up to be a fairly straight club record with variety spread out across the tracks, especially as far as intensity and rhythms go.

In general, I tend to focus more on what I don’t want a record to do and how I avoid those things while still making high quality dance music. Things come together much easier for me that way. There’s a traffic theme to the whole thing simply because I’m looking to make things move, within my self-defined futurism framework.

What will we find in your studio now; what machines are currently meaningful to your music?

Right now, the centerpieces are a [Mutable Instruments] Ambika [synth] and my LXR drum machine going into Rostec preamps and converters. They’re very versatile instruments and most of the new Ctrls tracks are sourced just from those two with all sequencing, effects and processing running off the computer. I’m really into Unfiltered Audio plug-ins for processing lately. They seem to be some of the ones that gets the closest to nice digital hardware boxes, in terms of anti aliasing and overall definition. There’s nothing like a processor that can turn a sound completely on its head and still sound good. I do still use a few VST synths, mostly u-he zebra2 and bazille.

[Ed.: The Ambika is now no longer made by Mutable Instruments, but as it’s open source hardware, it lives on as a DIY project maintained elsewhere.]

The most esoteric piece is an old Kurzweil K2000 [sampler], which sounds absolutely phenomenal. It’s got this magic ratio of grit and definition and depth that you just don’t find in most modern instruments straight out of the box. Being an early 90s digital workstation it is a nightmare to program, so it’s not made it on to a lot of Ctrls tracks because of that, but I’m still keeping it until it breaks and I can’t get it fixed anymore. I’ve not heard any plug-in that gets even close for strings, textures, and atmospherics. If your voicing is good, it just blends straight into the track without any processing. It’s one of those pieces that can make you think the developers’ industry aren’t being half as ambitious as they should be. Ed.: This is an interesting point here – apart from making me feel a little old now that the K2000 and 1990s are vintage or esoteric. I suspect details of Kurzweil’s architecture as well as good sound design and preset voicing, so readers, feel free to discuss in comments.

The most important kit is probably the monitors. I’m working with a customized set of small speakers that, to my ears, outperform other brands in the same price range I spent on them. Most important being that they’re not fatiguing, so I can work on them all day. If you’re mostly in the box, I think a good monitoring situation makes things a lot easier, and customizing can make that much more affordable as you’re not dealing with mass production issues but can just focus on pure quality and omit a lot of the compromises. Also, should they break I can have ‘em up and running again the same day. In general, most things in my studio can be fixed without having to be shipped off.

I really like that your live approach feels really improvisational. And it’s very digital. How do you set up your live set? How do you relate it to track ideas without, you know, getting stuck playing tracks?

I’ve been through a bunch of iterations: prototypes running everything live off VSTs, just DJing my own material, bit of hardware, just Ableton and controllers etc. Right now, I’ve basically set Ableton up to be an extended version of Traktor [DJ] to play loops and use effects along with jamming on the LXR [drum machine]. I also drag my nice converters out to make absolutely sure that if the system is great, I’ll be able to take full advantage. Going through a preset playlist was never that attractive to me; it gets old so quickly. And Ableton being Ableton, it does require some engineering work to get it to sound like a DJ set with mastered material. But with that out of the way, I can really relax on stage and just vibe.

Inside the CTRLS live set – simple, but with stuff to control.

As for being stuck playing tracks — it’s pretty important to realize that your recorded music is what most people go to see you for, or at least that seems to be the case with me. And to a point you can have a more profound impact if there’s that connection of elements that the crowd can recognize.

I learned this after my laptop almost died right before a Berghain live set. I had to dj my own tunes off my iPad, and somehow got a bit of LXR going on top. It felt a bit underwhelming to execute after all the preparation I’d done but nobody noticed anything, the set got a great reaction and I got a bunch of compliments for my poker face. So, after that I started to tweak the setup to capture that feeling but still provide something people wouldn’t have heard before.

I STRONGLY advise all live performers to have a simple plan b, and not just give up if something goes wrong. It takes away a monumental amount of stress and disappointment if your setup is very complex.

Okay, interesting. And yes, I love redundancy. Actually, maybe the fact that I got the improv bit wrong says something – I thought it was improvised, but in fact preparing the tracks in this case allowed more play on top, which can also be useful. I see you’re making use of the Livid BASE controller, too; how do you have that mapped?

It’s basically set up to be an audio mixer: four track/loop channels with three effects sends and a looper with adjustable length, and the rest to level the LXR voices as well as a few custom parameters controlling plug-ins that are processing the drum machine.

What’s exciting you now as far as what you listen to? It seems techno is fairly focused in the moment on a small circle of people as far as innovation in elements like timbre, within some particular constraints. Without getting too far into name dropping, what do you feel is important to you? Is this a genre that’s moving forward, in regards to those artists?

Yes, it’s definitely moving forward, although it is a pretty narrow field of producers actually pushing the envelope. But I don’t think it needs to stop within the constraints you mention. It’s such a wide-open field right now as there’s a bunch of cross-pollination going into electro, noise, bass music. and lately oldschool trance. That openness is one of the main things that attracted me to techno in the first place. Especially as an artist myself it’s very inviting that you can take that attitude and latch it onto pretty much any sound palette.

In general, I just really appreciate creative and expressive sound design married with great music. It’s one of the main characteristics that keep the genre very fresh for me, personally. Historically and as far as innovation goes, there’s so much more to techno then the Roland TR boxes [808, 909, etc.] and their inherent workflows. I really appreciate artists (new and old) that have the imagination to step out of that “loop,” or bend it to their will.

I’m trying to be very aware of not conditioning myself into a total music geek with no sense for naivety. But by now I don’t think it’s disputable that technology, and how involved people get with it, plays a massive role in how the genre’s evolving, so I equally try to maintain my curiosity about new sounds, performance types and contexts. The music obviously comes first, but no one’s been able to offer me a good explanation of where that ends and the noise starts. So I think there’s plenty of reasons to keep exploring and to stay curious.

From the always-excellent Deep Space Helsinki, here you get a mix with his inspirations in mind:

And the release:

https://www.beatport.com/release/routing/1980748

Follow him here:

https://www.facebook.com/controeller/

Studio photos: Rune Abro.

The post Going deep in techno technique and technology with Denmark’s CTRLS appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

For Nolan, Zimmer, creating suspense in time with sound design

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Fri 28 Jul 2017 11:57 am

From timbre to form and even pitch, everything we do in sound and music is about time. And hit movie Dunkirk offers some accessible examples of that.

Some of the most obvious things you can say about music turn out, oddly, to be the most profound. Producer/composer Nicolas Bougaïeff was over in the office here in Berlin the other day to tutor electronic music producers (more on this soon), and one of the things he tried to get across was thinking about time. That is, from the largest element to the smallest, from biggest structure to tiny details of timbre, “all musical parameters are about segmenting time.” As Dr. Nick put it, that’s “adding significance to an infinite stream.”

But that’s a big deal. In the midst of talking about perfect kick drums or which branch of tech-house someone thinks will do well on Beatport, it’s easy to forget what music really does. We change the perception of time by segmenting it with vibrations of air. (Seriously, I imagine you can – and if you love music, should – keep thinking about that for the rest of your life and not ever tire of the issue.)

Now, this can very quickly get academic. So let’s look at an example that you could share with just about anyone – a film score.

VOX has a great piece up this week looking at Dunkirk, the box office smash from director Christopher Nolan. (I’ll leave out film criticism here, apart from saying seriously, feature Indian people next time. But we can focus on sound.)

There’s actually a lot going on here.

First, there’s the fact that Hans Zimmer purposely references time itself with his signature clock-ticking sound. (This somehow works even if Millennials have grown up without mechanical timepieces.) That’s a reminder, perhaps, that nothing is too cliché if deftly handled.

The main feature of the video is Shepard Tone – the illusion of ever-rising tones created by overlapping ascending sounds, barber pole style.

Hans Zimmer has taken that gesture, known mostly from electronic sound, and rendered it in strings. Actually, the glissandi and tick-tock sounds in his work I think bear a striking resemblance to more experimental composer Iannis Xenakis, specifically Metastasis. (Tell me the THX Deep Note doesn’t do that, too!)

Vox does a perfect explanation of the Shepard-Risset Glissando – well, perfect, apart from the narrator incorrectly pronounces “RisseTTT.” French, people. 😉

But maybe what’s equally interesting is that this gesture is wrapped up in instrumental writing, in timing, and in incidental sound design, too. It’s a local gesture, but also the basis of the larger composition of the film. And it’s in Christopher Nolan’s sound effects, as well.

And there’s an emotional design here, as well. This is about suspense, about what keeps you at the edge of your seat.

I think that’s an ideal reflection for our electronic music creations. Often, we can get caught up in designing a particular sound … or, alternatively, lost in trying to make the form come together.

Here is a reminder that all of this is about dividing up time – and about the way in which that impacts perception and emotion.

So even the microcosm of a single sound can be about the desired sense of mood. And actually, that should be liberating. It’s actually not so academic, after all – the Risset tones are kinetic on the level of something you’d see on a kid’s toy. Think what other rules you might be able to design. You’re free to play directly with the connection of mood and motion, noise as a means of disrupting time.

And on that note, happy music making.

The post For Nolan, Zimmer, creating suspense in time with sound design appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Skinnerbox get their hands on Roland’s SE-02, which isn’t a Minimoog

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Tue 25 Jul 2017 11:59 am

Our friends Skinnerbox get their hands on Roland’s SE-02 – the Boutique series collaboration with Studio Electronics. Just don’t call it a Minimoog clone.

So, while we wait for Roland’s SH-010, here’s a different take on the Boutique range. That is, really the only thing the two devices have in common is the cute little Boutique form factor.

Everything else represents two different angles on what Roland is doing with synth hardware today.

The SH-010, TB-03, and TR-09 are all digital models, like the AIRA range. They incorporate Roland’s own proprietary circuit modeling technology, and a bunch of corresponding digital features.

The SE-02 is about analog, and about collaboration – Studio Electronics are a small American maker working with the Japanese giant, whereas the AIRA and other Boutiques come out of Roland’s in-house design and engineering teams (if a hipper, small group of them).

But it’s also worth noting something else the SE-02 isn’t. It isn’t a Minimoog clone. And as such, you get something that’s inexpensive, like the Behringer Model D, but without trying to be a copy of the original Moog.

The SE-02 wouldn’t exist without the Minimoog, and it does copy the panel layout and look and feel of the 70s classic. But it’s better understood as a Minimoog-class synthesizer rather than a direct clone. A Yamaha grand, by comparison, is closely related to a Steinway Model D piano, but they aren’t the same instrument. And indeed, the Minimoog is so influential as to warrant a class of similar instruments that represent a variation on the theme.

That means the SE-02 has its own sound. And adding something like a dedicated LFO and delay are pretty major additions to how you’d play the synth (if not uncommon ones).

Skinnerbox are some of the musicians I most admire for their knowledge of instruments and their uniquely musical chops in live performance of dance music, so they’re the perfect people to do a hands-on review. A Minimoog is also part of their regular gig. Here we go:

And speaking of Skinnerbox’s live work, let’s enjoy their new live version of their single “Gender” – proof that you can do elaborate arrangements live (but you knew that):

And here we are playing together earlier this year:

Images courtesy Skinnerbox. Keep up with them on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/myskinnerbox/

The post Skinnerbox get their hands on Roland’s SE-02, which isn’t a Minimoog 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.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/playerpro/

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.

How sound takes Lvis Mejía from Mexico to a collective unconscious

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Tue 18 Jul 2017 4:01 pm

In Mexican artist Lvis Mejía’s imagination, the ritual of sound blinks from Peruvian shamans to the Berlin zoo. We talked to him about his new work. It’s an experience of shared culture, collective unconscious – and a tale of assembling a career and collective between Mexico and Europe.

Born in Mexico but with his career emerging in the European art scene, Mejía is now a known name from appearances at Centre Pompidou, MIT, Transmediale Berlin, MUTEK (Montréal & Mexico City), CTM Siberia, ICA London, Secret Solstice Festival, and Visiones Sonoras Festival.

But while Lvis’ answers are complex, layered, and abstract, his music is anything but dry. Instead of a clinical collage of sound recordings, his project Anthropology of AmnesiA is full of acrobatic, cacophonous collisions – a musicircus for the headphones. It’s part meditation, part anarchy – sometimes unexpectedly moving from one to the other. Some sounds are found, some synthesized, some spontaneously orchestral. It’s music for a century of dirt-cheap international airfare and dislodged post-colonial hierarchies, a celebratory ceremony of chaos. And that seems a wonderful antidote to the designer-chic, on-brand conservatism of so much music today.

It’s all a perfect fit for his own collective, oqko, on which this record appears.

There’s also quite a lot of thought behind this, as his expansive discussion with us reveals.

CDM: I want to speak first to this act of remembering. Field recordings are a big part of your process, I understand. Is that connected to your own process of collecting and returning to memories? Does it transport you back to where a recording was made, or are these raw materials in your work?

Lvis: Each take brings me back to its source if needed, nevertheless – within the bigger picture – it is more about every element serving the common cause, a place where each single factor succumbs to the sum of all. The singular beauty behind them as raw materials resides in their essential immateriality and the uniqueness of exploiting time as a bridge between the recording process as an esoteric happening and the dry moment of rationalized sound treatment at the studio in order to articulate the final shape of it.

It has been a while since the circumstance of remembering; “be mindful of” (from the Latin re, ‘again’, and memorari) has surpassed some barriers of my own comprehension and became a recurrent topic of analysis in my work. Regardless, approaching it through different angles and disciplines, the events in Anthropology of AmnesiA address rather the symptoms of what I understand as sound essay.

Given this is such a multi-layered collage of sound, what is your process for gathering materials? Do you have an approach to collecting field recordings?

This album is a mysteriously unexpected hybrid. Its compositional process was directly affected by two other parallel endeavors. In other words, it is the offspring of a major ongoing project called Memory in Amnesia and one of my previous albums, AformA, which was released in 2012 on CMMAS.

Memory in Amnesia is a project based on the premise of a common origin. I believe that there is, at large, a single culture of humanity with a shared set of themes. The focus lies on following the trace of our ancestors and capturing the audio recordings of rituals, which I see as purest form of collective memory and as typical examples for different manifestations of a universal culture. Thanks to the Oral Tradition (viva voce) involved, these living ceremonies mark the influence of the past on the present. The route is not defined by myself, but the aim is to closely follow the footsteps of humanity, “out of Africa” (cf. Salopek), through Laurasia (cf. Witzel). This is the anthropological theory of a common origin. Most of the ethnological recordings derive from this project, notwithstanding the compositional and arrangement aspect in Anthropology of AmnesiA stems directly from the time I was writing AformA, an album allowing a contemporary classic and religious sound recordings symbiosis. It is actually since then that Anthropology of AmnesiA was designed to be some sort of sequel of AformA.

What about other sounds on the record – it seems there is a mix of field recordings and synthetic sounds; what are the sources for some of the more purely electronic timbres we here (or were they also derived from the recordings?)

The synthetic components were tailored with the intention of generating an organic dialogue between them and their counterparts.

Being completely frank about this, I have to say that strangely, this particular task was the most pleasant to do. I feel quite bad making such a statement, though. The thing is, recording a ritual is extremely exciting and it always helps me to put myself in perspective — it is an indescribable sensation. Nevertheless, one has to acquire a lot of sensitivity to the situation and its surroundings, both technically and as an “external” entity that potentially can interfere the sacral procedure, so it makes it difficult to “enjoy.” Whereas in the studio work, one is in control of the situation itself. I somehow felt that producing the electronic material was more like doing the sound design for a piece. I know this could open some redundancy, but I really saw myself assuming the work of a sound designer/engineer because of the huge respect I have towards the rituals and the rest of the field recordings.

The structure seems really fluid, through-composed. But is there a narrative, an evolution?

I was very interested in generating a dissolution of perceived time using sound as an architectonic instance and an abstract non-suggestive dramaturgy.

Due to the fact that there is a decent amount of information being delivered in a relatively short timespan, I opted for some pauses and fixed calm scenes. Through the implementation of pauses, one can draw a very different storyline. Silence is eloquent and majestic. Silence, when used effectively, secures meaning and opens layers of interpretation <-> comprehension. Silence is sacred, so I tried to set it as a cue actor.

The main structure itself was composed, pretty much, in a literary way.

That is one reason why I also like to understand the whole as more of a sound essay.

At some point there are some hard left turns into the realm of percussion, more conventional instrumentation – maybe even a Varèse reference. What’s the inspiration for these moments? (Were these all samples, or did you add some additional live recordings?)

I felt there was a necessity to have a longer presence of some concrete events, and rhythm embodies this purpose very well. This necessity existed for two main reasons. One in order to have a more recognizable component standing out from the composition through its repetitive character, and the second one is utterly linked to repetition itself. Repetition provides a sense of time loss, and as I mentioned previously, it was an important aim to try to influence time perception.

It is interesting that you quote Varèse at this point, because without his work being a direct reference for the album, I consider the realm of percussion on Anthropology of AmnesiA to be very clearly similar to one of his concepts, “organized sound.”

Most of the rhythmic parts are a combination of field recordings and some subtle dubbing or studio-recorded arrangements. It was important to me to keep the idiosyncrasy of the field recordings, so I was focused more on the detailed operations supporting them.

There are a lot of layers here. Can you talk about some of the sources? This is a collective unconscious; is it somehow international? What are some of the geographies that are sourced here; are you ever concerned that you’re appropriating something that’s foreign?

While the major project, Memory in Amnesia, takes on a more self-research-bounded historic ontology, this album procures to avoid secular neutrality. It is a piece evoking, as you properly mention, the collective unconscious. Most of the audio content could sound, until a certain extent, familiar to us. Even without knowing the exact source of it, there is a thread depicting this collective unconscious.

In point of fact, I decide to use a subheading for the title:
“Culture is essentially more than the reflection of human desire.”
(To me, this signifies more an insult to human species and an ode to human culture).

I am more concerned about scoping humankind as a one-culture phenomenon – more than one-race-act – and that is the very reason why the album examines a number of interpretations of rituals, orchestrations, chants, synthesis and field recordings – in the piece you’ll hear recordings of animals, fire, water and also the human heart – leaving appropriation aside. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I am not adopting elements of another culture, it being a minority or not and myself being part of a dominant one or not, for the sake of my own aesthetics and/or benefits.

I highly respect all these expressions and traditions; they represent a big column of the project itself.

Just to mention some of the recordings’ precedences, here is a short list:
a Parisian Mosque, a Peruvian shamanic ceremony, some nice specimens from the Berlin Zoo, the chants of Japanese nuns and a Mexica (Aztec) ritual near Mexico City.

I know you come from Mexico; where did you grow up? My limited experience of Latin America versus the USA gave me the sense that the pre-Colombian, indigenous history is more present in urban life, that you’re always aware of these layers – maybe a bit like this soundscape. Is there a kind of pre-Colombian ritual sensibility here, or does your background play into this?

I grew up in one of Mexico City’s suburbs and left one year after finishing high school. I have always been aware of the richness of indigenous influence in Latin American, but I cannot claim this being a recurrent topic in my general practice. I belong to a mixed ethnicity, just one more under the veil of demographics embodying the result of a long species incest. Nevertheless I decided to finish the record with one fragment of the “Ritual del Sol,” a former Mexica ceremony. It is a humble homage to a geography that permeated my early years through its charisma, among others.

Of course, now we meet in Berlin – and now I’ve had some other Mexican colleagues move here as I have, not to mention meeting more who are thinking of the move. Is this just an international capital for people making sound, or is there some sense that this is the refuge for people making more experimental stuff; are your opportunities more limited if you remain in Mexico?

I cannot say my opportunities would be more limited if I remain in Mexico because I started my artistic career abroad, thus I do not have an objective thought on that. I could start making some comparisons about the scenes, the modus operandi, the socio-political and whatsoever, but those are extremely complex contexts and historic circumstances. Forgive me for having to pass on that this time.

Fortunately, there are some other interesting environments to work and develop worldwide. It is not an exclusivity of this city.

Berlin, Bärlin, BLN….

About the German capital being or turning into the hotspot of “#you-name-it-phenomenon”, sincerely I am already very bothered by the hype many people have over this city. It is true that it is a refuge – without any political connotation– some artistic communities, and that is good like that, but this place is already in the process of converting into a bubble based on relativity for the sake of serving the desire of international contemporary hedonism and ignorance. The “objectivation” of a city. YouknowwhatImean.

I truly believe that places live from a natural dynamic of exchange, but what has been happening through the past years, is in many ways a one-way-rolling-sphere and therefore, this could represent a one-way-ticket to the metropolis and its inhabitants.

Contrary to this, and in a more individual scale, when coming here persuaded of concrete projects, the city embraces you, and that is very comfortable. That is what in my opinion provides many with a home as an actor in the cultural landscape.

But yes, all in all, the positive ph(f)ases that Berlin provides within and throughout its web, are difficult to comprehend, it is not that simple to host so many like-minded individuals.

And speaking of the culture here, can you tell us a bit about oqko? What are its goals; how did it come together? Any other artists we should know?

oqko was formed back in 2015 by the other 3 members (Paolo Combes, Hugo Esquinca and Ástvaldur Thorisson) with the vision of running a gallery. I arrived a bit later, with the release of Shortcuts. Right within that process I felt I could start contributing to the journey. Ever since it has become a second home and a breeding-ground for ideas and inquisitiveness.

oqko tries to act in a more global way (in many senses). We are actually turning now into broader fields within investigative and editorial work, some sort of actual design studio questioning the formats when releasing music and hosting events, attended by 5 to 200 people.

Our commitment is focus now into the exploration of intersections between disciplines, sciences and (what I call) dysutopias.

Personally I see oqko, in the long term, as an “alternative institute exploring the phenomena of the now.” It is a long and intricate way to go, but we are trying to get there.

This month we are releasing ‘Nocturne Works’ by Swiss graphic designer and melancholic sound twiddler Romain Ioannone. A proto-botanical approach pairing his short compositions on cassette and the seeds of the Ipomoe Alba aka Moonflower.

Later on in September, within the frame of oqko’s second anniversary, we are starting to develop a sound installation in one of the former Soviet astronomical facilities in Armenia. More information is coming soon.

Another interesting project coming out at the end of the year is one of HMOT’s linguistic studies accompanied by a soundtrack of 5 pieces. I can see the Siberian artist delivering syncretic knowledge about the modern Russian and blasting modular synthesis.

And just before Anthropology of AmnesiA we have the remix album of astvaldur’s first album. Siete Catorce and Oly from NAAFI are involved as is Dis Fig from Purple Tape Pedigree and some of our other close friends from oqko and beyond.

So, be welcome to catch us at one of our events in order to discover the work of our own and of other artists affiliated to http://www.oqko.org

Shortcuts was also visual; are there visual aspirations or connections to be made here? How will the acousmatic listening sessions work?

Shortcuts was as an album, for which artists were commissioned to articulate the visual language to (mostly short) compositions of mine. In the case of Anthropology of AmnesiA, I sincerely hope not to evoke a single image at all. It inherited the tradition of “deep listening”, an exercise difficult to achieve. This piece is committed to actively focus one’s attention to the sound and the storytelling while being (physically) passive. So, the acousmatic listening sessions you mention, are planned to take place in different settings under diverse circumstances in order to explore the relation between the content of the album and the provided surrounding conditions.

A situation in which the vinyl, the record player and the sound system will be the main characters on stage, and the stage itself resides in the environment.

The release event, and therefore the first listening session, is going to be hosted on September 15th in Yerevan as part of the Triennial of Contemporary Art in Armenia. The exact dates for the following sessions in other cities are going to be announced soon.

Can you tell us a bit about your production setup? What do you use to compose soundscapes? What do you use when you play live? (It strikes me the material here could be composed and recomposed in a lot of permutations live.)

I have a studio with a variety of acoustic and electronic instruments, nothing out of this world though; I was never obsessed with a specific gear or instrument. I rather give every single object able to produce sound a chance to express itself and explore its possibilities. I am more amazed by the fact of the endless options one has to generate sonic output with pretty much whatever. Nevertheless, I am seeking the utopic wish of one day having a Museum of World Instruments with the option for everyone to play and record them. That is why I always try to bring, from the places I visit, an autochthonous instrument back home and use it at least once. I also ask friends to do that for me, so please understand this as an invitation to send one over, haha. When it comes to the live shows, it always depends on what and where I am going to play, but most of the times it starts with a laptop, the Nord Modular G2 and a MIDI controller as basic setup.

I am looking forward to exploring a form of re-composition or arrangement for strings, percussions and choir for an Anthropology of AmnesiA ‘s live version. After having worked with a full orchestra a few years ago, a jazz ensemble and two choirs for a symphony, the idea of expanding the performance modus has been prosecuting me.

While writing the music for that project a fellow composer told me: “My friend, do you know what is the problem of symphonic music? …. It is that you get addicted to (writing) it”. Unfortunately, he is right. Ever since almost everything I have been committed too in terms of music, involves at least one classical instrument.

https://oqko.bandcamp.com/

The post How sound takes Lvis Mejía from Mexico to a collective unconscious appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

With Japan’s latest Vocaloid characters, another song from the future

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Fri 14 Jul 2017 4:48 pm

It’s a cyber-technological future you can live now: a plug-in using sophisticated samples and rules that can make a plug-in sing like a Japanese pop star.

Yamaha has announced this week the newest voices for Vocaloid, their virtual singing software. This time, the characters are drawn from a (PS Vita) Sony video game property:

The main characters of the PS Vita games Utagumi 575 and Miracle Girls Festival, as well as the anime Go! Go! 575, Azuki Masaoka (voice actress Yuka Ohtsubo), have finally been made into VOCALOID Voice Banks!

“Finally.”

Here’s what those new characters sound like:

And the announcement:

Announcing the debut of two new female Japanese VOCALOID4 Voice Banks

The packs themselves run about 9000 Yen, or roughly 80 US Dollars.

Perhaps this is an excuse to step back and consider what this is about, again. (Well, I’m taking it as one.)

To the extent that pop music is always about making a human more than real, Japan embraces a hyperreal artificiality in their music culture, so it’s not surprising technology would follow. Even given that, it seems the success of Yamaha’s Vocaloid software caught the developers by surprise, as the tool earned a massive fanbase. And while extreme AutoTune effects have fallen out of favor in the west, it seems Japan hasn’t lost its appetite for this unique sound – nor the cult following of aficionados that has grown outside the country.

Vocaloid isn’t really robotic – it uses extensive, detailed samples of a real human singer – but the software is capable of pulling and stretching those samples in ways that defy the laws of human performance. That is, this is to singing as the drum machine is to drumming.

That said, if you go out and buy a conventional vocal sample library, the identities of the singers is relatively disguised. Not so, a Vocaloid sample bank. The fictional character is detailed down to her height in centimeters, her backstory … even her blood type. (Okay, if you know the blood type of a real pop star, that’s a little creepy – but somehow I can imagine fans of these fictional characters gladly donating blood if called upon to do so.)

Lest this all seem to be fantasy, equal attention is paid to the voice actors and their resume.

And the there’s the software. Vocaloid is one of the most complex virtual instruments on the market. There’s specific integration with Cubase, obviously owing to Yamaha’s relationship to Steinberg, but also having to do with the level of editing required to get precise control over Vocaloid’s output. And it is uniquely Japanese: while Yamaha has attempted to ship western voices, Japanese users have told me the whole architecture of Vocaloid is tailored to the particular nuances of Japanese inflection and pitch. Vocaloid is musical because the Japanese language is musical in such a particular way.

All of this has given rise to a music subculture built around the software and vocal characters that live atop the platform. That naturally brings us to Hatsune Miku, a fictional singer personality for Vocaloid whose very name is based on the words for “future” and “sound.” She’s one of a number of characters that have grown out of Vocaloid, but has seen the greatest cultural impact both inside and outside Japan.

Of course, ponder that for a second: something that shipped as a sound library product has taken on an imagined life as a pop star. There’s not really any other precedent for that in the history of electronic music … so far. No one has done a spinoff webisode series about the Chorus 1 preset from the KORG M1. (Yet. Please. Make that happen. You know it needs to.)

Hatsune Miku has a fanbase. She’s done packed, projected virtual concerts, via the old Pepper’s Ghost illusion (don’t call it a hologram).

And you get things like this:

Though with Hatsune Miku alone (let alone Vocaloid generally), you can go down a long, long, long rabbit hole of YouTube videos showing extraordinary range of this phenomenon, as character and as instrumentation.

In a western-Japanese collaboration, LaTurbo Avedon, Laurel Halo, Darren Johnston, Mari Matsutoya and Martin Sulzer (and other contributors) built their own operetta/audiovisual performance around Hatsune Miku, premiered as a joint presentation of CTM Festival and Transmediale here in Berlin in 2016. (I had the fortune of sitting next to a cosplaying German math teacher, a grown man who had convincingly made himself a physical manifestation of her illustrated persona – she sat on the edge of her seat enraptured by the work.)

I was particularly struck by Laurel Halo’s adept composition for Hatsune Miku – in turns lyrical and angular, informed by singing idiom and riding imagined breath, but subtly exploiting the technology’s potential. Sprechstimme and prosody for robots. Of all the various CTM/Transmediale commissions, this is music I’d want to return to. And that speaks to possibilities yet unrealized in the age of the electronic voice. (Our whole field, indeed, owes its path to the vocoder, to Daisy Bell, to the projected vocal quality of a Theremin or the monophonic song of a Moog.)

“Be Here Now” mixed interviews and documentary footage with spectacle and song; some in the audience failed to appreciate that blend, seen before in works like the Steve Reich/Beryl Korot opera The Cave. And some Hatsune Miku fans on the Internet took offense to their character being used in a way removed from her usual context, even though the license attached to her character provides for reuse. But I think the music holds up – and I personally equally enjoy this pop deconstruction as I do the tunes racking up the YouTube hits. See what you think:

All of this makes me want to revisit the Vocaloid software – perhaps a parallel review with a Japanese colleague. (Let’s see who’s up for it.)

After all, there’s no more human expression than singing – and no more emotional connection to what a machine is than when it sings, too.

More on the software, with an explanation of how it works (and why you’d want it, or not):

https://www.vocaloid.com/en/vocal_synth/

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Barker & Baumecker remixing Blondes is gorgeous and powerful

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Wed 12 Jul 2017 3:55 pm

When you take the New York duo Blondes, and then remix them with Berlin duo Barker & Baumecker, that’s a lot of synth love in the single “KDM.”

It’s just gorgeous stuff – the striking dry percussion giving way to some romantic, beautiful synths.

We don’t do so many full-track plays on their own on CDM, but this one is so simple and strong, I think it’s worth just stopping and listening to the end:

It’s two duos who stand for live performance, up for club sound systems and tours, but with real, intimate craft and musicianship to how they play. Blondes is New York’s Sam Haar and Zach Steinman, out previously on RVNG and now on R&S (so, that makes two esteemed labels beginning with the letter ‘R,’ for anyone counting). The Berlin duo is Sam Barker and nd_baumecker (aka Andi), stalwarts of Berghain / Panorama Bar and its related Ostgut label. (Their own outing last year was exceptional.) Both are also DJs of deep tastes – maybe across a wider variety than you might associate with Berghain – and I’ve had the pleasure this summer both of catching extended sets by Andi out in the garden and Sam in the big room, so I can attest to their stamina.

Here, you get a sense of the ability to use minimal means to greatest effect, with a particular focus on percussive forward elements and timbre.

We know the formula – hit remix first, full stream to the press, release in so many weeks, blah blah … but yeah, it’s nice when the remix actually immediately leaps out of your headphones and sounds like one you’ll want to hear repeatedly.

Tuned in.

https://randsrecords.lnk.to/warmth

Blondes.

That time we went to the Barker Baumecker studio. [CDM]

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