Spoiler alert: the secret Daft Punk suits are apparently flame-retardant asbestos. From the (very fancy-looking) Pitchfork cover story, made, apparently, for CSS geeks.
Who’s afraid of laptop musicians?
Music stories are more exciting when there are eight-foot-high walls of flames and hype to match. But what when it’s all just a special effect? And when does mystique trump the actual music in music journalism?
The new Daft Punk record is perfectly likable. It is at times arguably polished to the point of being over-thought, the opposite of the original duo’s personality that was “punk” and not just “daft.” But their new, sparkly-shiny persona is guided by a sense of their musical taste, and the earworm-y hit single is a reminder that, with pop, getting lucky really isn’t a factor. These guys know what they’re doing. It’s may, yet we already know 2013′s “summer jam.” (Your brain will, sadly, be enslaved to this track as a result. I’ll bet it’s already in your head, and I didn’t even really mention it. Let’s sing something else – “London Bridge is Falling Down,” anything.)
The problem for music journalism is, what’s the narrative?
Let’s see: Daft Punk are still hiding in bike helmets. They apparently got bored with electronic music production as they had done it in the past, so they swapped sampled parts for studio musicians. Only, because of the fame they’ve accrued, their Rolodex – erm, iPhone – has “studio musicians” like Giorgio Moroder.
Well, that’s clearly not enough. The press story has to be as big as the band. There is something genuine to pop stardom, artificial as it may seem: there are lots of people who are deeply emotionally connected to them, in a real way. And those people are your readers – and, often, writers.
So, what’s the story? Fortunately, the artists known for being masters of disguise are ready to fill in the blanks. As marketing, it’s brilliant. But it can cause the press to fall back on tired cliches about what technology and music making mean – mangling history in the process.
Enter Pitchfork, with a massive cover story showing off their Web coding chops. Here, it’s literally an orchestrated stunt, completely with fireballs. The fact that the writer describes the scene of shooting that stunt – oh, no, will someone Instagram the new outfits? – is the musical equivalent of a behind-the-scenes Blu-Ray featurette extra on your copy of Avatar. It doesn’t really dig into the meaning or substance of what you’re watching.
There is a message to the Pitchfork story, though. See if you can spot it. I’ll help – emphasis mine: Continue reading »
My friend Deceptikon (http://deceptikon.net) tries Arpeggionome for iPhone for the first time, connecting it to his MS-20 mini. Levels, drums, and effects with [M-Audio-made] Evolution U-Control controlling Ableton Live.
Yes, Midiman acquired Evolution and continued to make the controller here. Shame the UC-33e hasn’t seen a successor, actually.
And the whole rig is in the hands of an old favorite artist, Deceptikon (aka Zack Wright of San Francisco). (2011 release below, some nice stuff – happy to hear a new album is in the works.)
If the iPhone unnerves you and you want something a bit more … nostalgic … here’s the MS-20 mini cozying up to long-time Japanese Korg rival Roland. Ebony and ivor… erm, gray. Photo by Deceptikon.
If this fiddling doesn’t fit your fancy, we have a fantastic free mix of remixes from Zack, too. Listen: Continue reading »
Properly configured, a Linux system can breathe life into old hardware or finely-tune performance on new gear. The problem has often been not the OS, but having a comfortable tool for production when you load it. And so that means Linux fans – or would-be fans – will likely be pleased to see the image above.
It’s Tracktion, the lovely but oft-overlooked, bargain-priced DAW, running on Linux. (I highly recommend the just-released Ubuntu Studio. The update includes loads of fixes that solve the kinds of audio configuration problems that have kept many people from Linux, and the compatibility of that release is unparalleled. Ubuntu 12 is in fact directly supported here.)
First off, Tracktion has escaped its past. As some readers note, while developed by Mackie, the software fell behind, causing compatibility woes. Since then, Tracktion has again become independent – and is moving faster than ever, with a major reboot that makes it compatible with the latest and greatest stuff.
And Tracktion could have a future, too. Footholds in this business are largely to do with distribution, so a recent Behringer bundling deal, combined with a major upgrade earlier this year (and existing Mackie bundling), could give Tracktion a shot in a marketplace that remains pretty well dominated by a few players. You know, some trac– augh. Sorry. Never mind.
Of course, Linux isn’t likely to cause any explosion in users, but it’s nice to see 64-bit Linux alongside 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and Mac releases – and for enthusiasts, it’s nice to see attention given to a dedicated community regardless of its relative size.
There’s reason to root for Tracktion. It has a really nice, one-screen, drag-and-drop interface that eschews the mold other tools (even the mighty Ableton Live, in some regards) fit. Upgrades are $29.99; full licenses $59.99.
Buzzing in Linz: Houztekk’s underground cred vibrates from Austria outward. Photo courtesy the label.
Dense, dark, packed, young and fresh. No, not the club – this mix. We invite Electric Indigo (Vienna’s Susanne Kirchmayr) to tell us about her new, freely-downloadable podcast with Linz, Austria’s Houztekk Records. It’s a shadowy, labyrinthian journey through the newest and most adventurous sounds in techno. And by techno, she means a wide range of noisy, broken-beat, resonating — well, let’s let her explain. That is, along with listening, because Susanne has a unique talent for producing a simmering, tasty stew from all these component parts.
Or, to the music, as Tim Exile says in his track title: “It’s Dark In Here But I Still Love You.”
For this podcast, I wanted to do something special and turn the theoretical disadvantage of not having a full DJ setup at home into an asset of the mix. My intention was to create a very dense and intense layered structure of beat-driven and ambient / experimental tunes using my favorite new tracks. So the mix represents several key qualities of techno that always have been crucial for me: Continue reading »
Out this week is a new full-length from The Black Dog. The Sheffield, England-based trio – Ken Downie, Martin Dust, Richard Dust – have been making smart, non-boring electronic music for ages. (Let’s not utter “IDM” – but “smart” fits.) From Warp to Ostgut Ton, they’ve been an indelible and irreplaceable part of the creative landscape.
What strikes me about Tranklements is its effusive economy and clarity. In a time when music is regularly dripping with reverb or smothered in gauzy effects and nostalgia, this is a record that stands apart from any particular time, dry and direct and witty. Each track is a separate “object” according to the band, but what makes that work is a forward sense of personality in each. The highlights above are almost a work on their own; the full release is rather a must-have this year, I think.
That window between science fiction and actual interfaces continues to narrow. Here, virtual hands paw at geometric orbs to produce sound, with simultaneous 3D visuals as accompaniment, in the latest artist/hacker experiment. You can thank the popular and surprisingly-accessible game engine, Unity – which recently added free deployment to mobiles, by the way. Description:
This is our first Kinect-controlled, virtual reality experiment, using the greatly anticipated Oculus Rift.
It’s a simple virtual reality environment built in Unity 3D with our own interactive framework. It allows us to use the Kinect to trigger two audio loops and apply basic effects using Max/MSP.
This is the start of a project that will evolve into installation artworks as well as become a part of our performances.
For more information on our work: facebook.com/EthnoTekh ethnotekh.com/
And you can expect a lot more of this, because Microsoft has a new Kinect. Part of Xbox One, the upgraded 3D camera now features smarter camera detection to differentiate people from one another, from objects, and even individual fingers or facial gestures. The result is something that, as I write on Create Digital Motion, gets closer to intuitive physical movement:
Peter Cusack, recording sounds at Chernobyl in 2007. All photos courtesy the artist.
He calls it “sonic journalism.” From the Chernobyl site to inside London, Peter Cusack has been turning his ear to the world’s most interesting places. A leading practitioner of sound art at the intersection of ecology and music, Peter Cusack is a uniquely inspiring voice in music making. So we’re keen to welcome Czech-born writer Zuzana Friday Prikrylova to bring her conversation with the artist, for the first time in English here on CDM. We bring with that exclusive sounds for you to hear from the artist. -Ed.
Peter Cusack is a musician and a sound artist with a long music history behind him. He belongs to the English musical avant garde, played improvised music with the Alterations quartet for many years, and collaborated with flutist and journalist Clive Bell, composer Nicolas Collins, and musician and writer David Toop, just to name a few. He also started music label Bead Records in the early 70s, focusing mostly on improvised avantgarde music. He’s a member of CRiSAP (Creative Research in Sound Arts Practice), and was involved in founding the London College of Arts at the London University of Arts, where he teaches Sound Arts & Design.
His sound art works are often focused on ecology, environment, and the relations between the people, places, and sounds. One of his most popular projects is Favourite Sounds of London, which started in 1998 and has since spread worldwide. In his ongoing project Sounds From Dangerous Places, Cusack focused on the impacts of Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and Wales, oil fields in Azerbaijan, and inflows of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where controversial dam construction is planned. He moved to Berlin in 2012 to work on his project Berlin Sonic Places, so we interviewed him at the end of May 2012, slightly updated in April 2013 by Peter himself. The Czech version was published in HIS Voice magazine. Continue reading »