Immerse yourself in the full live AV concert by raster’s Belief Defect

Computer and modular machine textures collide with explosions of projected particles and glitching colored textures. Now the full concert footage of the duo Belief Defect (on Raster) is out.

It’s tough to get quality full-length live performance video – previously writing about this performance I had to refer to a short excerpt; a lot of the time you can only say “you had to be there” and point to distorted cell phone snippets. So it’s nice to be able to watch a performance end-to-end from the comfort of your chair.

Transport yourself to the dirigible-scaled hollowed-out power plant above Kraftwerk (even mighty Tresor club is just the basement), from Atonal Festival. It’s a set that’s full of angry, anxious, crunchy-distorted goodness:

(Actually even having listened to the album a lot, it’s nice to sit and retrace the full live set and see how they composed/improvised it. I would say record your live sets, fellow artists, except I know about how the usual Recording Curse works – when the Zoom’s batteries are charged up and the sound isn’t distorted and you remember to hit record is so often … the day you play your worst. They escaped this somehow.)

And Belief Defect represent some of the frontier of what’s possible in epic, festival mainstage-sized experimentalism, both analog and digital, sonic and visual. I got to write extensively about their process, with some support from Native Instruments, and more in-depth here:

BELIEF DEFECT ON THEIR MASCHINE AND REAKTOR MODULAR RIG [Native Instruments blog]

— with more details on how you might apply this to your own work:

What you can learn from Belief Defect’s modular-PC live rig

While we’re talking Raster label – the label formerly Raster-Noton before it again divided so Olaf Bender’s Raster and Carsten Nicolai’s Noton could focus on their own direction – here’s some more. Dasha Rush joined Electronic Beats for a rare portrait of her process and approach, including the live audiovisual-dance collaboration with dancer/choreographer Valentin Tszin and, on visuals, Stanislav Glazov. (Glazov is a talented musician, as well, producing and playing as Procedural aka Prcdrl, as well as a total Touch Designer whiz.)

And Dasha’s work, elegantly balanced between club and experimental contexts with every mix between, is always inspired.

Here’s that profile, though I hope to check in more shortly with how Stas and Valentin work with Kinect and dance, as well as how Stas integrates visuals with his modular sound:

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Watch enchanting experimental live acts from Atonal’s control room

Berlin Atonal Festival wrapped up last week, and for all of the breathtaking impact of the power plant’s cavernous main room, as per usual, the sleeper hits came from the more intimate control room tucked next to the mainstage.

Once you’re done acting out your Homer Simpson fantasies on the controls, this room – staffed by the synthesis lovers of Schneidersladen – is home to more experimental acts and jam sessions and modular patching extravaganzas. And the crowd is different, too, more family style sound nerd reunion than festival scenesters.

Photo at top: Mark Verbos, modular builder, alongside Lady Starlight. Photo courtesy CTM Festival.

Our friends from FACT captured three performances. (Don’t watch on Facebook; that social network’s encoding is crap for some reason. YouTube seems fine.)

There were lots of great shows, but they also selected well with what they recorded, with two gorgeous ambient solo sets and one quirkier duo. (Also, anyone else noticed that laptops have just quietly reappeared alongside modulars? And why not – who cares what particular gear you’ve assembled, if you find some way to be expressive with it?)

There are some dropouts here and there, but it’s worth checking out anyway.

My favorite is object blue – all on Ableton Live/Push, but a kind of shuffled, irregular looping musique concrete:

London-based artist object blue has a bunch of great stuff in her discography:

https://objectblue.format.com/

Really digging this one, just out this year:

But then this is lovely, too, adding more vocal goodness, also a 2018 creation:

Hiro Kone (aka NYC’s Nicky Mao) is looking chill with her Elektrons and modulars, and with good reason – some chill sounds happening. Lounging in the control room, genau:

Nicky is one busy, multi-talented, insanely prolific touring musician. And she’s got a well-organized site to discover more of her music (we would all do well to learn from that, too… rarity these days):

https://hirokone.com/

She’s done a nice mix for Secret Thirteen recently too:

https://secretthirteen.org/stm-246-hiro-kone/

KILLER-OMA is the off-kilter, leftfield (and inter-generational) combo of Isao Suzuki and KILLER-BONG – yes, one bare chin on gear, and one long beard on contra bass.

More from them:

Check out their release on Bandcamp for Tokyo’s Black Smoker:

https://blacksmokerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/killer-oma

Mixed feelings about the live stream age, actually – and something to think about, as CDM revisits how to work with live performing friends. (I’d go for higher quality audio, no? Thoughts?) At the same time, a live stream is a nice place to introduce people, and it’s great to see what people are doing – if we can sort those occasional sound dropouts. Open to ideas for what you’d like to see, especially as a community of music makers.

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What you can learn from Belief Defect’s modular-PC live rig

Belief Defect’s dark, grungy, distorted sounds come from hardware modulars in tandem with Reaktor and Maschine. Here’s how the Raster artists make it work.

Belief Defect is a duo from two known techno artists, minus their usual identities, with a full-length out on Raster (the label formerly known as Raster-Noton). It digresses from techno into aggressively crunchy left-field sonic tableau and gothic song constructions. There are some video excerpts from their stunning live debut at Berlin’s Atonal Festival, featuring visuals by OKTAform:

See also: STREAM BELIEF DEFECT’S DECADENT YET DEPRAVED ALBUM AND READ THE STORIES BEHIND THEIR CREEPY SAMPLES

They’ve got analog modulars in the studio and onstage, but a whole lot of the live set’s sounds emanate from computers – and the computer pulls the live show together. That’s no less expressive or performative – on the contrary, the combination with Maschine hardware means easy access to playing percussion live and controlling parameters.

Native Instruments asked me to do an in-depth interview for the new NI Blog, to get to talk about their music. The full interview:

Belief Defect on their Maschine and Reaktor modular rig [blog.native-instruments.com]

They’ve got a diverse setup: modular gear across two studios, Bitwig Studio running some stems (and useful in the studio for interfacing with modulars), a Nord Drum connected via MIDI, and then one laptop running Maschine and Reaktor that ties it all together.

Here are some tips picked up from that interview and reviewing the Reaktor patch at the heart of their album and live rig:

1. Embrace your Dr. Frankenstein.

Patching together something from existing stuff to get what you want can give you a tool that gets used and reused. In this case, Belief Defect used some familiar Reaktor ensemble bits to produce their versatile drum kit and effects combo.

2. Saturator love.

Don’t overlook the simple. A lot of the sound of Belief Defect is clever, economical use of the distinctive sound of delay, reverb, filter, and distortion. The distortion, for instance, is the sound of Reaktor’s built-in Saturator 2 module, which is routed after the filter. I suspect that’s not accidental – by not overcomplicating layers of effects, it frees up the artists to use their ears, focus on their source material, and dial in just the sound they want.

And remember if you’re playing with the excellent Reaktor Blocks, you can always modify a module using these tried-and-true bits and pieces from the Reaktor library.

For more saturation, check out the free download they recommend, which you can drop into your Blocks modular rig, too:

ThatOneKnob Compressor [Reaktor User Library]

3. Check out Molekular for vocals.

Also included with Reaktor 6, Molekular is its own modular multi-effects environment. Belief Defect used it on vocals via the harmonic quantizer. And it’s “free” once you have Reaktor – waiting to be used, or even picked apart.

“Using the harmonic quantizer, and then going crazy and have everything not drift into gibberish was just amazing.”

Maschine clips in the upper left trigger snapshots in Reaktor – simple, effective,

4. Maschine can act as a controller and snapshot recall for Reaktor.

One challenge I suspect for some Reaktor users is, whereas your patching and sound design process is initially all about the mouse and computer, when you play you want to get tangible. Here, Belief Defect have used Reaktor inside Maschine. Then the Maschine pads trigger drum sounds, and the encoders control parameters.

Group A on Maschine houses the Reaktor ensemble. Macro controls are mapped consistently, so that turning the third encoder always has the same result. Then Reaktor snapshots are triggered from clips, so that each track can have presets ready to go.

This is so significant, in fact, that I’ll be looking at this in some future tutorials. (Reaktor also pairs nicely with Ableton Push in the same way; I’ve done that live with Reaktor Blocks rigs. Since what you lose going virtual is hands-on control, this gets it back – and handles that preset recall that analog modulars, cough, don’t exactly do.)

5. Maschine can also act as a bridge to hardware.

On a separate group, Belief Defect control their Nord Drum – this time using MIDI CC messages mapped to encoders. That group is color-coded Nord red (cute).

Belief Defect, the duo, in disguise. (You… might recognize them in the video, if you know them.)

6. Build a committed relationship.

Well, with an instrument, that is. By practicing with that one Reaktor ensemble, they built a coherent sound, tied the album together, and then had room to play – live and in the studio – by really making it an instrument and an extension of themselves. The drum sounds they point out lasted ten years. On the hardware side, there’s a parallel – like talking about taking their Buchla Music Easel out to work on.

Check out the full interview:

Belief Defect on their Maschine and Reaktor modular rig [blog.native-instruments.com]

Whoa.

Follow Belief Defect on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/Belief_Defect

and Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/belief_defect/

Reaktor 6

Reaktor User Library

Photo credits: Giovanni Dominice.

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Krake, Killekill, and the Growing Appetite for Experimental Electronic Music [Listen, Pictures]

Cristian Vogel comes face to face - and fedora to fedora - with Robert Henke (Monolake). A meeting of two minds who helped define experimental music in the 90s - and continue to do so today. From Monday night. Photo Joi Bix Photography, courtesy Krake Festival.

Cristian Vogel comes face to face with Robert Henke (Monolake) in a meeting of two minds who helped define experimental music in the 90s – and continue to do so today. From Monday night. Photo Joi Bix Photography, courtesy Krake Festival.

Summertime may conjure images of Ibiza and middle-of-the-road festivals in Europe and America, “summer jams” and the musical equivalent of the beach book. And there’s nothing wrong with that; anyone who would deny people the pleasure of listening and dancing to music they love is kind of a jerk. But this stereotype can also obscure a simple fact: music at the edges, music falling under the broad umbrella of “experimental” is actually becoming remarkably popular.

What’s beautiful about “big tent” experimentalism is that it can encompass a broad range of music. Musicians playing clubs no longer fear angular sounds and asymmetrical beats, just as academics no longer consider a discernible bar or – gasp – even four bass drums hitting the floor a sin against humanity.

And best for all concerned – whether lonely musicians or music fans actually trying to get someone out on a date – the venues are full.

I think in an interconnected world such trends will know no geography, but Berlin is certainly demonstrating the possibilities. Next up here is three solid lineups of music at Krake Festival. Tonight that starts with a night headlined by Untold, with live sets from Phon.o (recently signed to 50weapons), killekill’s Bill Youngman, and Dasha Rush, plus DJ sets from terrifically-talented artists Ultraviolett (who has been herself advocating more women in this music through female:pressure) and Uta. And that’s just tonight – tomorrow Fennesz heads up another evening, followed by an open-air with Nathan Fake live on Sunday. (See Krake’s site for full details.) And this comes on the heels of another packed week-long festival just … last week, actually, in the form of Berlin Atonal. (More on the aftermath of that below.)

To see how this broader definition can fit, it’s nice to look at a beautiful compilation from Killekill and Krake of last year’s outings. Let’s listen:

Details:

Krake 001 is a CD/LP compilation that features tracks by artists who played in 2012 for us. A few of them have been released on other labels before, but the bigger part of the material is exclusive. Some of the tracks were even recorded live at our festival.
There are dark atmospheric drones by the likes of Thomas Köner, Shrubbn!!, Cassegrain and Dadub, sweet melodic pieces by Ulrich Schnauss, Bersarin Quartett, Kid606 and Barker, a bass heavy live recorded jam session by Tim Exile, mechanical grooves by Perc and Swarm Intelligence, melancholic epics by Goner, Alex Smoke and Lakker, and last but not least a sweet minimalistic dub track by grandmaster Pole.

Come on, drown with us!

Tracklist CD:

01 Thomas Köner – The Weary Seer
02 Bersarin Quartett – Mehr Als Alles Andere
03 Pole – Wipfel Dub
04 Cassegrain – Serpent
05 Perc – Kord
06 Alex Smoke – LiveOn
07 Swarm Intelligence – Shatter
08 Tim Exile – It’s Dark In Here, But I Still Love You (Live & Improvised at Krake festival 2012)
09 Lakker – Darcdub
10 Goner – Enka
11 Kid606 – Juju Voodoo
12 Ulrich Schnauss – A Long Way To Fall
(Live at Krake Festival 2012)
13 Dadub – Syncronic Pattern (Live at Krake Festival 2012)
14 SHRUBBN!! – Echos 3|4
15 Barker – Marston Vale

Krake's first compilation, released earlier this year, is a beautiful image of the diversity of electronic music. Album info.

Krake’s first compilation, released earlier this year, is a beautiful image of the diversity of electronic music. Album info.

We expect more from friend-of-the-site Tim Exile, too, soon – he has an upcoming EP on Leisure System records:

Cristian Vogel reimagined his latest album release, as promised, whilst lit by a calico-colored quilt of overlaid slide projector imagery. Photo courtesy Krake Festival.

Cristian Vogel reimagined his latest album release, as promised, whilst lit by a calico-colored quilt of overlaid slide projector imagery. Photo courtesy Krake Festival.

Monolake was joined yet again Monday by visual collaborator Tarik Barri; Tarik helmed the visual half of his homebrewed audiovisual toolkit. Photo courtesy Krake Festival.

Monolake was joined yet again Monday by visual collaborator Tarik Barri; Tarik helmed the visual half of his homebrewed audiovisual toolkit. Photo courtesy Krake Festival.

It’s worth revisiting, too, Berlin Atonal Festival. In absence of a full review, suffice to say that the event was surprisingly packed. That’s despite massive competition from other festivals, ticket prices steeper than what always-frugal Berlin is used to, and a venue that was literally one of Europe’s largest vacant post-industrial spaces. In that cavernous concrete former power factory, there was actually a massive crowd.

Post-apocalyptic rave, anyone? Courtesy Berlin Atonal.

Post-apocalyptic rave, anyone? Courtesy Berlin Atonal.

Pictures of crowds raving away at Atonal might make you assume the music was just the usual festival-friendly fare, but for one example, here’s our friend Samuel Kerridge.

Samuel Kerridge LIVE set @ Contort & Blackest Ever Black Showcase – Berlin Atonal Festival 2013

It begs the question: why isn’t more programming “adventurous”? If this is adventurous, what do we call … everything else? Are too many programmers assuming the least of their audience, when “challenging” them might actually keep them coming back for more?

We ran this before, but in case you missed it, Lower Order Ethics has her mix of some of the sounds from that festival:

Rouz – Deathlessness
German Shepherds – I Adore You
Christian Cosmos – The Angular Position of His Ghost
Vatican Shadow – The Hamburg Cell Was Born In Chechnya
Miles – Archaic Thought Pattern 1
Ed Chamberlain – Landmine
Pan Sonic – Vähentajä
Violetshaped – Out of Any Symmetry
Grungerman – Fackeln Im Sturm
Barker & Baumecker – Crows (Blawan remix)
Surgeon – Whose Bad Hands Are These (Autechre remix)
Bhutan Temple Music – Dungchen & Jaling
Powell – Grand Street
Edanticonf – Overture
Lucy & Silent Servant – Victors History
Ancient Methods – Castling Becomes Inevitable
Virile Games – Plague Saints II
Forward Strategy Group – Industry & Empire
Kreng – Wrak
Pete Lazonby – Sacred Cycles (Complete Edition)

Keep on adventuring, we say. Have a great weekend, go hear some live music somewhere, and we hope to bring you more soon.

More:
http://krake-festival.de/ (the festival this week)
http://killekill.com/ (the prolific and daring record label)
http://www.berlin-atonal.com/ (the festival that just happened)

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Dark Shadows: A Selection of Sounds and Images from Berlin’s Atonal

You know, a happy-go-lucky party venue for the summer. Um... Berlin style. Photos courtesy Berlin Atonal.

You know, a happy-go-lucky party venue for the summer. Um… Berlin style. Photos courtesy Berlin Atonal / Kraftwerk.

Only Berlin would go this dark, musically speaking, in second half of … July. Atonal Festival, an event founded in a very different city way back in 1982, has been resurrected. And the sounds set to echo through the concrete cavern of a former power station represent the cross-currents of an international scene of experimental music. No longer about what happens in Germany (the artists come from every corner of the globe), Atonal – like winter’s CTM Festival – represents an angle in electronic music that is growing in popularity but decidedly anti-commercial, adventurous without necessarily being overly cerebral. It’s hedonistically introspective.

The venue is Kraftwerk as in “Heizkraftwerk” – a power station, not the band singing about pocket calculators and the Tour de France. The space itself may really become the headliner, a post-industrial secular church, looking like the set piece for a B-grade 80s post-apocalypse movie.

Laidback and elusive, “Voices from The Lake” have a beautiful, if literal, music video for their self-titled debut, whose billowing grays read as an animated poster for all the music we have here.

Voices from the Lake – HGS from Yko on Vimeo.

Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald headline. Their fine collaboration as Borderland was already the subject of a CDM story; I think finally seeing this release is big news. It’ll be significant to see that play out live, and I hope to talk more about what they’ve put together. Have a listen:

Composer/musician Samuel Kerridge will lead another Contort night on Sunday as part of the festival. We continue to follow the Contort series as a tastemaker of twisted sounds, as the name implies – they’ve promised more music for CDM coming this fall. But ringleader Sam in the meantime continues to release some really far-out music, stuff that sounds like Delia Derbyshire struck up a collaboration with the Daleks themselves. (Rave on Skaro! Whoo!)

Previously, Sam among other electronic experimentalists:
Experimental Electronics Listening: Biosphere, Samuel Kerridge, Bill Kouligas + PAN

See also Contort cohort Lower Order Ethics, aka Szilvia Lednitzky (Budapest-born, yes, Berlin-based). Szilvia has a preview set of Berlin Atonal artists, for the excellent blog No Fear of Pop:

Listing:

Rouz – Deathlessness
German Shepherds – I Adore You
Christian Cosmos – The Angular Position of His Ghost
Vatican Shadow – The Hamburg Cell Was Born In Chechnya
Miles – Archaic Thought Pattern 1
Ed Chamberlain – Landmine
Pan Sonic – Vähentajä
Violetshaped – Out of Any Symmetry
Grungerman – Fackeln Im Sturm
Barker & Baumecker – Crows (Blawan remix)
Surgeon – Whose Bad Hands Are These (Autechre remix)
Bhutan Temple Music – Dungchen & Jaling
Powell – Grand Street
Edanticonf – Overture
Lucy & Silent Servant – Victors History
Ancient Methods – Castling Becomes Inevitable
Virile Games – Plague Saints II
Forward Strategy Group – Industry & Empire
Kreng – Wrak
Pete Lazonby – Sacred Cycles (Complete Edition)

For still more, here’s another mix. Szilvia warns us of “dodgy transitions” on a DJ set recorded live in the fall, but that sounds like an invitation to me. (Put a big “don’t press me” sign on a button, and … well, what are you going to do?) Plotting a course from Milton Bradley to Fennesz, Untold to Atonal-bound artist Vatican Shadow (more on him in a moment), this is a mix worth charting:

Lower Order Ethics @ CONTORT#4 // 112512 // Mindpirates by Lowerorderethics on Mixcloud

Vatican Shadow will also join the lineup, and is worth including in another mix here, polishing off a podcast for Electric Deluxe. Aka Dominick Fernow, the New York-based artist has released superb and arresting music on his Hospital Productions imprint – on cassettes, no less. At SONAR this year, he stomped around stage like a terrifying madman, rallying crowds to his beautifully-raunchy sounds. (I understand he has traded a pair of cassettes in his DJ rig for more-precise iPods, but there’s enough added distortion that it’s no matter.) And the mix is a nice prelude to his coming appearance:

OND – Track 8
Muslimgauze – Khan Younis
Funk Sta – The Groover
Function – Psychic Warfare
Leaether Strip – Leather Strip – Part I
Shifted – Leather
Suicide Commando – Hellraiser
Silent Servant – The Strange Attractor
James Ruskin – Dilemma
Surgeon – Set Two
Muslimgauze – Jerusalem Knife
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement – Black Magic Originated in Nature

raster-noton is an imprint that seems to be made for festivals like this. As such, they can become almost expected or repetitive, a sure thing when you see festival lineups. Little wonder: artists like Kangding Ray reliably manufacture art music you can dance to, tickling the brain while keeping festivalgoers grooving. The real shame is that so few emerging artists have been able to follow in those footsteps. But I have to feature director Nicolas Lelièvre’s 2010 music video for “Or.” It’s simply beautiful and timeless, Jean-Baptiste André’s “gestures” becoming the perfect, half-frozen dance to the static quality of the music. And I have to admit, I’m no less eager to see Kangding Ray on a program.

Or from Nicolas Lelievre on Vimeo.

More recently:

For SA017 Kangding Ray brings an EP defined by dexterity: ‘Tempered Inmid’. It is a record which balances the deepest drum with the most celestial synth, weaving a legend of both menace and tenderness. Possessed of an underlying hiss, the title track surges to dampen its muscular beat with a fabric of warm melodies. The discerning ‘Dimen Andesso’ is the Tempered’s partner, shuffling with a considered high-end and off-kilter pads. On the flip KR ramps up the pace in introducing the mendacious thumps of ‘Nuis Octury’, which he twists into a fever. But emblematically KR once more tempers. Closer ‘Ezerb Altren’ conjures the image and emotion of an underground lake: depth, resonance, and total, glacial serenity.

SA017 was craftily mastered by Artefacts Mastering, Berlin.

Machine ideas can go beyond machines – once you’ve worked with a digital sequence on computer or hardware sequencer, you will see compositional construction in a different light. That’s doubly true nowadays, when that score is likely to sit on a computer screen. I was asked to give a talk last weekend at the University of Hamburg on post-digitality. I think a lot of works now go beyond the screen, beyond the computer box not because of an itch to get away from the digital, but because the line between computer and real world has blurred. Once you’ve looked into the Matrix, you can’t see anything quite the same way.

The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble is a perfect example of that, beautiful instrumental automatons making dance grooves out of acoustic instruments. (Tellingly, the results recall composer George Antheil’s pre-war compositions, before any of these machines – demonstrating the leap here happens in the mind, with or without the external technology to fit your imagination.) And incidentally, while this crew also do DJ sessions, this is the mode in which I vastly prefer their work:

Speaking of digital thinking outside of digital tools, we can talk about guitars. There is a lot you could say about legendary Pennsylvania-born improviser Glenn Branca. But I’m glad to see these sorts of musicians appear on “electronic” festivals, because they remind us that the electric guitar can easily rival the Theremin or synthesizer as the 20th Century’s greatest electronic instrument. Whatever limitations the design may have, superhuman feats of musicianship can make us with our computers look tame.

I’ll close with more images of the venue for you to gaze at whilst listening. Enjoy:

kraftwerk4

kraftwerk3

kraftwerk2

And a likely highlight, AV show on Saturday:

Murcof/ANTIVJ av preview, courtesy Berlin Atonal.

Murcof/ANTIVJ av preview, courtesy Berlin Atonal.

Mexican musician Fernando Corona has been a mainstay in electronica’s changing currents for the past decade, although many regard him as equally legendary in the contemporary classical music scene. His art borrows largely from the tenets of classical minimalism, elaborated with carefully detailed textures and sounds taken from his extensive catalogue of recordings.

For Berlin Atonal 2013 he will team up with renowned video/projection artist Simon Geilfus (AntiVJ) for a very special audio-visual experience

http://www.berlin-atonal.com/

More on the history, via Electronic Beats:
Key to the City: An interview with the organizers of Berlin Atonal (part 1)

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