When it comes to musical inspiration and radiant humans, we’re really lucky to have people like Shaun J. Wright. A poetic short film gives you some window into who he is – and the music will move you to a dance floor even when there’s no dance floor there. Alinka reminds me of this, Shaun’s […]
While clubs are empty, we’ve been getting an intimate look at how people play and imagine ideas. And one of the best sets from FACT’s new Patch Notes series features the excellent JakoJako – just when you might need some music that lets you calm your head.
Life post-apocalypse is mysterious, but somehow comforting – a digitally generated, AI-assisted woven blanket of sounds. There is calm in uncertainty – once you adapt. At least that’s the feeling I get personally, listening to the glitching electro-acoustic ambiance of Microohm, Infinita Incertidumbre. There are yawning caverns, gently shuffling rhythms, persistent electronic rattles and beeps […]
Electronic music – pandemic or no – can often become a solo endeavor. And people working in different genres get to interact even less frequently. A series out of Hamburg has been delightfully messing up that order.
Yes, isolation is a good reminder of what we miss in sharing a space with other people. But I notice the general diet of streams and online videos has tended to shy away from more experimental, avant-garde pairings.
4fakultät not only bends to the adventurous but does so by creating scenarios where people play together who otherwise might not. (“Konzertreihe für stilübergreifende Improvisation.”)
There’s a structure, set up to ensure balance and encounters, for two and a half hours of combined improvisational and compositional trajectories. “It really puts a focus on the interaction between the most different people and musical styles,” says Konstantin Bessonov, who co-produces the events.
Twelve sessions have taken place so far in Hamburg – with Derya Yildirim, Kate NV, Anna-Lena Schnabel, Svetlana Maraš, Robert Lippok, FOQL, Jimi Tenor, Andrea Belfi, Andrew Pekler, Yves de Mey, Nika Breithaupt, Sven Kacirek, Jawad Salkhordeh, Fee Kuerten, and various others.
And if you’ve been missing experimental concerts, now you can stage one whenever you like for yourself. Pour yourself a glass of wine or a tea, sit back, and for now you can get video (of two) and high-quality audio (of all twelve). It’s all free – good for the impoverished purveyors of experimentalism – though if you do have some pockets, of course donations to the artists are encouraged.
And there’s more – one of the best ways to explore is to page through the Bandcamp offerings, which are available as high-quality downloads and broken down by track:
There are love songs, too, which in these isolated times have some deeper beauty, somehow:
For instance, I adore this song by Lena Geue, listening to it on repeat:
Lovely lady, how does it feel / to know that distance is a spinning wheel
It has me feeling wistful. Certainly, finding some way to play together from a distance is necessary. But I also realize we may need to use some of this time to try to imagine and build the connections so we can be in the same room again. Maybe that was what mattered most.
Many of us imagine visuals when we close our eyes and listen to music. Here are two devices you can drop directly into Ableton Live to make that happen – from an artist whose work weaves together visual and sonic realms.
Iranian-born, Armenia-based composer and music and media artist Arash Azadi has built his own body of evocative work that explores imagined topographies of sound and image. (We put out one on our Establishment project – see below.)
What’s special about these devices is you can connect to his imagination – and let these inventions interpret your music live, too. One works with generative visuals, and one with a camera.
Sonic Geometry is a reactive visual generator that spits out gorgeous abstract imagery in response to your sound input. It’s a minimalistic mathematical sacred sonic geometrical trip.
It’s also a great example of Max’s power to allow people to build on one another’s work and create variations. Sonic Geometry began its life as Sound Particles by Kevin Kripper, and Arash took it in another direction. That’s long been a part of music composition (see cantus firmus tradition for one example); patches and code in these environments make it easier in the medium of software.
The EP is a sonic pilgrimage of the soul liberating itself from the mind. Through repetitive phrases and circular rhythms, Azadi and Marutian create hypnotic soundscapes to open the windows of listener’s subconscious. The recording is the outcome of a fully improvised set at Azadi’s studio. This is the first time that Arash Azadi appears as the pianist on a record.
Marut Marutian: electric guitar and pedals. Video by: Karen Khachaturov Photography
There’s the side project Marginal Twilight, which marked the occasion of the Persian new year already disrupted by quarantine and lockdowns – a solitary new beginning:
In these times that we all are separated from each other and in fear of death, it’s good to realize that nature is becoming new and spring is bringing life to earth. Even now we can choose to celebrate life and Nowruz the Persian New Year (the New Day) through music and dance.
It’s earlier work, but I’m still quite fond of Arash’s Geosonic Journeys for us – and people slowly keep discovering its aural landscapes:
All the best to all our readers and my friends in Iran and Armenia and around the world. We’re listening. And I miss a lot of you.
SoundCloud is talking about a host of new support initiatives, but there’s one you might want to switch on right now – a direct support button for your profile.
It goes without saying that people across the arts, entertainment, and many other industries are hitting hard times, and not everyone has a strong support net. It also goes without saying that music makers often struggle under the best of circumstances. SoundCloud is the latest in our arena to announce various initiatives – everything from working with Twitch to discounting SoundCloud Pro accounts to a set of news today. That includes $5 million in promotional support and a $10 million accelerator program (Repost Select).
But let’s get to that later, because the simplest thing SoundCloud is doing is to make a prominent link available on your profile page.
The direct fan-support-button is just a big blue box with a link of your choosing. There’s some pre-defined text reminding people that artists are impacted by COVID-19 and health interventions.
Here’s how it appears in action (currently live on the Web; mobile I’m told is coming):
To add yours, go to your Creators profile page while logged in, and choose the”edit” button on the right. Then click “add support link,” and a new text field appears. Here you can add a link to a number of sites. (Custom links don’t work, but they are taking feedback for services you want if one isn’t listed.)
Emphasis mine – it isn’t just about begging for money or passing the hat, because you can also direct people to buy your music and merch on Bandcamp, head to a store on Shopify (where you might even sell synthesizer hardware, for instance), subscribe on Patreon, or support a Kickstarter project.
It’s just a link – there’s no commission that goes to SoundCloud. Basically, it works like the existing links on your profile, but white-listing these sites on which you can get paid. (Oh yeah – you can even link Bandcamp twice, which is what I do; I want people’s support to come in the form of downloading my music, and I still want to list my Bandcamp page alongside Twitter and Facebook.)
My experience is this: a lot of music lovers want to support artists. As we saw with Bandcamp’s music sale last week, as we’ve seen on Patreon and other services, people are looking for opportunities. That makes it even more tragic that big tech providers like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple tend to focus more on building their platform rather than allowing connections to artists. I hope that this step from SoundCloud is a first step toward more of that kind of direct support.
Stay tuned; we’ll soon talk to SoundCloud about their strategy with creators here, and hopefully unravel some of the other offerings.
But meanwhile, if you’re wondering if you should turn that button on, I say yes!
It’s a feverish, pounding acid nightmare – in a kathartic way. Get knocked back in your chair for Vee’s “Litha” on Failed Units, as we meet the artists.
“Litha” is the latest release from the aggressive, underground up-and-comer label Failed Units, a collaboration between musician Vee and visual artist ZOR.
This is perhaps even unintentionally on-zeitgeist; the music video combines moshed-to-death, AI-mangled hyperactive disintegrating visuals with relentless acid madness. It’s a digitally dying flow of imagery with echoes of a 2020 update to Emergency Broadcast Network. (see below to see what I’m talking about)
Watch. Crank up the volume. Obviously.
ZOR, short for Zion of Rudeness, sends along a statement and some idea of how this video came together. ZOR shares with us:
STATEMENT. Destroyed by overstimulation. The over-stimulation of the media propaganda machine. The system of enslavement in which we all play our part. The mainstream masses are kept going by torrents of fear and see-through fake happiness, like lab rats in an experiment.
PROCESS. In order to represent the everyday sensory overload, a rough cut was created for the first level, matching the music of Vee. This first level was then gradually cut or additional cut-outs and animated 3D objects were added so that the story played out on many different image levels at the same time.
The various levels were partially processed using data-moshing. I also worked with pixel sorting and other digital glitch processes. In one setting, the Google DeepDream AI [background] was used, for example, and alienated in the further process. After the files were destroyed, they were digitally cut out again and inserted into the overall picture. Finally, I digitally destroyed the work in several rounds in order to regain a certain consistency.
Failed Units makes these releases in a sort of sequential narrative, if you want to follow along.
We too often watch new media without any sense of history. Just as appropriate for the pandemic information meltdown is Emergency Broadcast Network’s “Channel Zero.” This early 90s group out of Providence, Rhode Island looks pioneering in its deconstruction of propaganda through audiovisual mayhem. And yeah, it seems the time is right for just this kind of resonance across the decades – EBN to Vee.
Of course, now we have AI and streaming alongside satellite dishes and television. Well, and no more channels.
Oh yeah, we actually have to do that now. Hey, as they say, there’s nothing wrong with that.
On that note, here’s the video ZOR produced last year for the ear-catching Duane Reade outing that debuted the label:
Failed Units lives exclusively on Bandcamp – and yes, should continue purchasing downloads there if you have the money; it still makes a big difference for artists and labels even minus Bandcamp’s own (minor) take:
Addedum, if it’s more glitch-y eye candy you’re after, the USA-based label Detroit Underground has a full channel crammed with nonstop music and visuals, running right in-browser, much of it also in a similar aesthetic musical and optical vein:
Even in the capital Beijing, once-crowded streets are now empty, as the 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak forces people at home. The solution for live musicians: turn to streaming.
Streaming was already a popular hangout for Chinese musicians and artists across the region, before the viral shutdown of public space. That already included experimental artists looking to reach one another in their niche. The difference is, now online interaction in China is essential because people are effectively all isolated at home.
I caught some small window into this via Edward Sanderson, based in Beijing, who has been sharing the streams of his friends. (To this I’m again indebted to C-drik and his Syrphe Facebook group on experimental music in Asia and Africa, as I wrote up recently.)
Edward writes, ” As group events in China have been curtailed because of the coronavirus threat, the online space has become more important for meeting up.” (Many of these events are also shared via Facebook even though that site is blocked by default in China; in experimental music circles, it seems VPNs are popular.)
So, for instance, via streaming, two experimental clarinetists can play together.
Zhu Wenbo played a concert from his home in Beijing:
In Dali, located in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, clarinet player Ding Chenchen could join in a day later, as a duet:
You won’t see anything until a stream is active, but there’s a streaming space on Shanghai-based Bilili, with a URL like this one:
That’s a Chinese-only service that now boasts tens of millions of users, largely focused around games, animation, and comics, but evidently branching out into clarinet noise music. These services are blocked outside China, though, so the only way to tune in would be to find some way to VPN into the country (in an unusual reversal of the normal order).
Artist Zhao Cong had announced a stream for today. I couldn’t locate it in time for this post, but here are some of her gorgeous textural compositions on Bandcamp – engrossingly fuzzy, lo-fi looped constructions:
Plus as part of the “Practice” series, new live-streamed performances were just announced with music by Zhu Wenbo, Zhou Yi, and Li Song (Chinese-language link, but you can get QR codes for concerts coming up in the next week):
Just as China has led the way in expanding the uses of mobile chat, mobile-based streaming has taken off in the country even as the West embraces the tech in fits and starts. (I’d say the reason is, markets like the USA still split usage between desktop and mobile, and are dominated by Facebook and Google and their business models – including for how music fees are structured.)
Anyway, our Chinese readers now far more about all of this than I do (from streaming to the current state of Chinese quarantine). So, since we do have a large readership that’s now trapped in your houses –
Open call to Chinese artists and other readers under quarantine! If you do have some ideas for streaming concerts, go for it! I’ll be happy to share that across the readership here. We can basically create, for now, not Boiler Room, but a sort of Coronavirus Room for bored and isolated quarantined musicians.
And to everyone dealing with life in the shadow of this virus, we wish you the best health. A big thanks to all the people working to contain its spread and doing research to help humans respond in ways that are well-informed and effective. I am not an immunologist and I don’t know that I would make a very good one, but what I imagine we can do as musicians is to help share accurate information across communities, bring people together, and to process emotions.
Don’t miss out on music – speaking of getting Africa back on your listening list, here’s an extraordinary, wide-reaching compilation of some of the most adventurous sounds from Africa and the diaspora.
Africa, it goes without saying, is a big place – uh, really big, 30.3 million km² or so, even before you get into artists moving elsewhere. (To misquote Douglas Adams, “you just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to Africa.”) But maybe thinking of music on the scale of continents and hemispheres is well suited to today’s interconnected age, as networks of artists and interchange span even bigger areas.
In any event, don’t expect this is some tokenized, surface-deep look at music duct-taped together from a massive land area. Alternate African Reality is but the latest in a series of superb compilations from Cedrik Fermont, aka C-drík (Belgium/DR Congo). There are few people as voracious and refined in their musical diet than Cedrik – even though he makes music as a solo artist, he’s constantly deep into discovery. To me, he’s emblematic of the best of how we can redefine what it means to be an artist in the Internet age – where creativity isn’t shut off from the outside, but partly about what you support and connect.
And that also means that Cedrik has had some chance to iterate on how to make a compilation on this scale, and where to find music.
The whole beauty of this sort of project is that the work is never done, there’s always too much music, the cup overflows with sound, and all of that is brilliant. But that means you should not only grab this comp, but also check out Cedrik’s platform Syrphe, “mostly but not exclusively focused onto experimental, electronic, noise music from Asia and Africa.”
The regional focus can shift all over the place in those categories, including the Middle East – Lebanon I see on the top of the list – but it’s all just generally great music, and stuff that often gets missed. Press in London focuses on musicians around London, and so on. I don’t even know that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, in that it is meaningful for some writers to talk about the scene around them. But it is equally essential that someone like Cedrik can balance out your inputs and give you fresh perspective, for anyone who loves musical discovery.
Here’s where to go for that – there’s a blog (time to dust off the RSS readers, folks):
There’s so much stuff on Syrphe that it deserves another post, but meanwhile, have at the compilation. Just going to paste the full text, as it’s all worth reading. It’s been great to work with someone like Joseph aka KMRU a few times now, and equally nice to get some new names in here.
Alternate African Reality is a follow-up to several compilations I have published on Syrphe since 2007 (the first one, Beyond Ignorance and Borders included various artists from Africa and Asia), and even earlier on my defunct tape label in the 1990s (the last tape, Archives Humaines vol.1, was published in 1996 and included 25 artists from 25 countries, including non-Western ones : South Africa, Japan, Chile, Brazil).
Alternate African Reality could be seen as a drastic improvement of 30.2, a compilation released in 2012. The CD included nine artists from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Angola, Mauritius, South Africa, Réunion and Madagascar/France. But even if I was very happy with the result, I always thought I should do a deeper research, and another issue I faced was the fact that I didn’t manage to include any women in the project.
Travelling and touring throughout parts of Africa allowed me to meet many more artists than what I ever expected and pushed me to work on this new release. This time, the end result reveals a more global compilation that could be compared to Uchronia, a compilation that includes 49 artists and bands from 32 Asian countries and the diaspora in the field of so called experimental music. Alternate African Reality is nonetheless musically more diverse, including abstract but also beat-oriented music such as ambient, electronica, electroacoustic, noise, singeli, bass music, industrial hip hop, etc.
It includes 32 artists and bands from 24 African countries and the diaspora, and last but not least, 14 women are among those vibrant musicians and composers.
Of course the artists included on the compilation only represent a fraction of the African electronic music world, and the listeners should not believe that nothing exists outside of those countries. Electronic, and, at a lower extend depending on where you look for, experimental music do exist in many other African countries.
I wish that this project will open some eyes and ears and also create more connections and networks.
You will find more information, contacts, biographies and a short essay in a PDF available with the whole compilation if you purchase the CDs or digital files. Biographies, contacts and websites are also available on this page when you click on “info” next to each track. You can also have a look at this database that contains more than 3000 references about African and Asian composers, musicians, labels, magazines and so on. syrphe.com/african&asian_database.htm
If for some valid reasons you cannot afford to buy this release, you can send a message and explain why and I might send you a download code.
I deeply thank all the artists involved and also those who for one reason or another could not participate this time as well as all the people who supported me and provided help and advises to make this project happen, those who hosted and invited me during all the travels I made throughout Africa : the Nyege Nyege team in Kampala, Mass Alexandria/Berit Schuck in Alexandria, East African Records Studios/David Cecil and his family in Kampala, Esaete (Naomi) in Kampala, Houdini in Kampala, Lukas Ligeti, Ignacio Priego, Rhéa Dally, Yebo! Contemporary Art Gallery in Ezulwini, the Rock House in Mbabane, Ground Zero – Marley Coffee in Cape Town, Chiharu Mizukami, Chihiro Sato, Paweł Kuźma, Lynda Kansas, Tengal Drilon, Jamir Adiong and his family, Vilho Nuumbala, Kamila Metwali, Sharon Tan, Olivier Moreau, Christopher Kirkley/Sahel Sounds, Nenad Vujić, David Kerr/Sign Records, Memory Biwa, Essia Mestiri, PJ/slowfidelity and many more, you know who you are !
The track order on the physical release differs from the one of the digital release.
Mash (Tunisia) Pö (France/Ghana) [MONRHEA] + Ejuku (Kenya/Uganda) Jako Maron (Réunion) Robert Machiri (Zimbabwe) Ujjaya (France/Madagascar) Ibukun Sunday (Nigeria) KMRU (Kenya) Cobi van Tonder (South Africa) Redha M (Algeria) Aurélie Nyirabikali Lierman (Belgium/Rwanda) Shadwa Ali (Egypt) Tiago Correia-Paulo (Mozambique) Jacqueline George (Egypt) AMET (Cameroon/Germany) Hibotep (Ethiopia/Somalia) Aragorn23 (South Africa) The Age Of Heroes (South Sudan) Beko The Storyteller (eSwatini) Catu Diosis (Uganda) Yao Bobby & Simon Grab (Togo/Switzerland) Mario Swagga and DJ Silila (Tanzania) AFALFL (Mauritania) Rey Sapienz (DR Congo) Ibaaku (Senegal) Sukitoa o Namau (Morocco) Victor Gama (Angola) Luca Forcucci featuring Cara Stacey and Mpho Molikeng (Italy/Switzerland/South Africa/Lesotho) C-drík (Belgium/DR Congo) Emeka Obgoh (Nigeria) Chantelle Grey (South Africa) Ski Crime (South Africa)
place : the netherlands is an absolutely killer compilation, benefiting Open Closet LGBT Netherlands and their work on behalf of queer asylum seekers.
Ovum has released a 25-year anniversary compilation with 25 essential tracks. Pay whatever you like, and you benefit ” Philly Pops – an EITC-Certified Program that enhances music education for approximately 2,500 students in the School District of Philadelphia by embedding Philly POPS Teaching Artists in schools to coach and mentor students.”:
There’s also a two-part compilation for people who lost their vision during the recent riots in Chile – hope to follow up more on this soon: