There’s a Japanese Taishogoto and vintage Lexicon PCM reverb and loads of computer production. But even for us souls tempted by gear lust, it’s the soul of process that has us talking, and talking, and talking – and listening, on repeat – with Stewart Walker. Native Instruments employee by day, prolific producer by night, he was kind enough to give us an extensive window into his world for CDM.
In the dizzying flurry of music racing past, Stewart Walker’s “Ivory Tower Broadcast” is one I keep coming back to me. It’s one that somehow I’ve gotten closer to on repeated listening.
Without losing any of its forward momentum, this is a record with a permeating sense of laid-back calm, of ease with itself. The opening “Desolation Peak,” for instance, ticks along at an amiable shuffle, all while buzzing with nervous electrical energy tearing along the fringe. “Gone at First Light” slips into the shadows, but it’s inviting, not overly gothic. Delicate and intimate percussion and strums above big synth drones and pads. Throughout, Stewart’s gentle and casual personality shine amidst thick, dark sounds. This is a friendly tap dance at the edge of an abyss.
“Candycoated” is dense and dreamy, in hypnotic motion, a real standout. “Rose Machine” drifts into a shoegaze cloudy sky, but even there, the mix keeps each element clear and distinct, with inventive textures woven into the haze. There are moments where guitar is front-and-center – “Caught in the Switches” – almost echoes Robert Fripp with ambient guitar licks. But the darker moments are never humorless or drab; “Exits Have Been Chained (For Security)” is packed with detail and groovy, ominous with an upturned smile.
So, let’s talk about how he arrived at the record, and how he finds his technical process and voice. Continue reading »
From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues.
New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, it continues a series of performance showcases with the LEAP performance space, with artists spanning Europe and America.
3DMIN stands for “Design, Development and Dissemination of New Musical Instruments.” At first blush, it looks like more of the odd new sound interface experiments to which we’re already accustomed. But its scope and reach are broader. Researchers pulled from across disciplines look beyond just the musical object to every aspect around it (two Berlin academies, TU and UdK, are included). They look into history (hello, Teleharmonium), filing instruments by evolutionary adaptation as if collecting prehistoric oceanic fossils. There’s a sort of squeezebox of the future (see below), as part of investigations in design. They’re working with modern choreography (with a wooden apparatus used by dancers). There’s work on spatial sound, and controlled laboratory investigations of embodiment.
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It began as an exclusive for a limited-edition workshop. But it’s turned into more. Moog’s Werkstatt synth is a lovely little analog synthesizer in its own right. But, driven by its educational mission, it’s also become a means of learning electronics.
This is a synth you want to hot-rod.
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Let’s get straight to it: there are two big problems with controlling Ableton Live from an iPad. One, relying on WiFi means risking disaster if a connection is unstable for some reason (OS updates, wireless interference, gremlins and demonic possession, whatever causes that). Two, you invariably wind up with remote controls for some things you need, but not others. It’s like having a remote control for a TV with half the buttons missing. You wind up going back to the mouse just because you can’t work out any way to turn such-and-such knob.
touchAble 3 fixes both problems.
There’s loads of stuff in this update, but … that doesn’t matter. All you need to know:
1. Plug in your Apple USB cable, and skip the WiFi whenever you want. See bottom. (Being able to choose wireless or wired – good.) Works on OS X and Windows.
2. Get the add-on (in-app purchase) Live Template Pack, and you get some 42 templates for Live’s instruments and effects that look like the on-screen ones, only adapted to the iPad. Use them, and skip the mouse. See top.
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There is a well-known divide between visuals as they exist in experimental media and live performance and media in the art world. Transitory electronic media fails to fit the traditional mold of value. Digital media is too ephemeral, too temporary. Light on walls can’t be collected; improvised visual performance is something that fades away.
With unrender, we want to embrace just those gaps between worlds, walking along the fractures. We are looking to find the expressive potential of electronic audiovisual media as distinct from what came before. And most importantly, we want to make sure there’s space for all these threads of community to meet in a single environment, whether installation or performance.
It’s a place where the rules of wall and stage can blur.
unrender is a collaboration between myself and CDM and SEEMS, the duo Stefanie Greimel and Johanna Teresa Wallenborn (initiators of LEHRTER SIEBZEHN). In person, it brings together artists in Berlin. It’s also a way of channeling new works online to our international audience, via this platform and venue. As we reboot CDM’s visual side, we’ll be introducing you to the artists we’ve met through unrender this year. That is, if you can’t meet them face to face, you’ll see them here.
In the meantime, you can get a feel for the event series in the film below. We’re now completing the third edition, closing out 2014 at Berlin’s temporary art space LEHRTER SIEBZEHN.
unrender #2 from LEHRTER SIEBZEHN on Vimeo.
Some of the highlights upcoming in this edition: Continue reading »
If DJing with vinyl leaves traces in our memory, recollections of physical handling of album sleeves and crates, then for digital DJing, we must rely on data. Traktor DJ is quietly noting everything you do as you play – at the gig, in the studio. The key is how to do something with that data.
The coolest trick came last month from our friend Tomash Ghz – he of the superb Digital Warrior, among others. (Very keen to get back to my desk in Berlin to muck about with the latest step sequencer there, but I digress.)
Tomash has whipped up a free tool that works out what music is at the top of your charts. It’s a tool for automation, to be sure – but it’s also an accurate window into what you’ve played. You can look by month, then see the top ten artists, labels, and tracks. It might encourage you to play more tracks in Traktor, even as you listen to music. And the code is all in Processing, meaning even an amateur coder/hacker can have a look and learn something – or make their own tool. (Visualizations, anyone?)
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We have reached a wonderful place. It’s a world where we no longer treat digital and analog as simplistically better or worse, but as techniques, as colors, a spectrum of tools for exploring sound.
Or to put it another way, we now make wild noises however we want.
And that’s very much how I feel about the direction we’ve gone with MeeBlip anode, combining digital waveforms with analog filtering, which is why I’m keen to share it here on CDM and not just via the MeeBlip site. The new 2.0 firmware comes with a selection of 16 wavetables, covering a range from glitchy to rich and sonorous – and raunchy and dirty, for sure.
I finally got to spend the weekend recording some new music with this, having played with it live, and made a little demo sequence in a free moment. (Thanks to online tool Splice for providing their office as a studio on the road here in New York.) I got to use the terrific standalone step sequencer in the Faderfox SC4. Add a USB dongle for that, and you have a terrifically-compact and mobile rig, by the way.
In the selection: single-cycle, fixed waveforms in 16-bit, covering blended saw, granular, FM, and some bit-reduced and distorted sounds. Continue reading »