If experimental music and Europe make you think only of cities like Paris and London, you’re missing a big part of the story. Now you can grab a huge reference on fringe and weird electronic music from the east – and it’s free. (At least that would please Marx.)
Berlin, and Europe in general, have exploded as hubs for experimental sounds. And if you want an answer to why that’s happened lately, look in no small part to the ingenuity, technical and artistic, of central and eastern Europe. These artistic cultures flourished during the Cold War, sometimes with support from Communist states, sometimes very much in the face of adversity and resistance from those same nations. And then in a more connected Europe, brought together by newly open borders and cheap road and air transit, a younger generation continues to advance the state of the art – and the state of the weird.
Old biases die hard, though. Cold War (or simply racist) attitudes often rob central and eastern Europe of deserved credit. And then there’s the simple problem of writing a history that’s fragmented by language and divisions that arose between East and West.
So it’s worth checking out this guide. It’s an amazing atlas covering history and new scenes, and the PDF edition is now available to download for free (if you can’t locate the print version).
SOUND EXCHANGE was a project from 2012-2012, connected to events in seven cities – Kraków, Bratislava, Tallinn, Vilnius, Budapest, Riga and, Prague. That’s Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, and Czech, respectively. It’s also relevant that we’re seeing these countries produce music tech alongside music – Bastl Instruments in Czech, Polyend in Poland, and Erica Synths in Latvia, just to name three that have lately gotten a lot of attention (and there are others).
There’s 400 pages – in both German and English – with a huge range of stuff. There’s fringe rock music in Germany, radio art from Czech, intermedia and multimedia art from across the region, what Latvia has been up to in experimental music since independence … and the list goes on. Technology and music practice go hand in hand, too, as workshops and music concerts intertwine to spread new ideas – both before and after the fall of communism, via different conduits.
It’s a fitting moment to rediscover this exhibition; CTM Festival here in Berlin has been a showcase for some of the east-meets-west projects including Sound Exchange’s outcomes. And CTM itself is arguably a recipient of a lot of that energy, in the one capital that sits astride east and west – even today, in some ways, minus the wall. The festival is turning 20 this year, and not incidentally, East Berlin-founded label Raster is showcasing its own artists in an exhibition and DJ sets.
Maybe it’s not bedtime reading, but even a skim is a good guide:
What would a module behave like if it were built entirely around feedback – say, like one of those “zero-input” all-feedback mixer performances? Bastl Instruments teams up again with Peter Edwards to answer that question. The result: Dark Matter.
Dark Matter lets you add feedback to any signal, whether you want to use that as a bit of color, create rhythmic effects, or go completely wild. And since it is designed with the inspiration of zero-input mixer technique in mind, you can also use it as a signal source – a kind of feedback oscillator. Feedback by definition is about signal routing; Dark Matter runs with that idea and create an instrument around patching and shaping feedback in a modular environment.
It’s a new collaboration between Bastl and Peter Edwards, following their softPop instrument (and Peter’s own long-running Casper Electronics).
There are different kinds of overdrive. You can add sub-octave tones and other colors. There’s a built-in 2-band EQ (so highs and lows get separate control) – and that has overdrive, too.
On the rhythmic side, there’s a built-in envelope follower for ducking and gating and the like.
And there’s tons and tons of I/O and CV control, so this really was designed with a modular environment in mind. (That’s important – there are a number of Eurorack modules that seem like desktop tools that sort of got plunked into a modular case without much forethought; this isn’t that.)
But before we talk specs, creator Peter Edwards – himself an experimental musician as well as inventor – has some philosophical and spiritual things to say about feedback. Those are in the manual too, but let me highlight this passage. We’re “going deeper and deeper into the void” – gotta love those Czech winters, right? (Now turn in your hymnals now to “We Sing Praises of the Dark Shadows of Feedback.”)
So here’s what it all comes down to, the resonating soul of the amplifier and the recklessly over amplified external audio signal battling it out in the feedback thunderdome…
This is why I like to think of audio feedback as sort of the negative space around a sound, like a sonic shadow. A dark counterpart.
Feedback is wonderful. It’s the living, breathing, unpredictable, organic side of electrical sound. That’s not even just to say in the analog domain; as long as you steer clear of digital clipping, feedback has powerful potential in digital, too. It’s one of the reasons to use a modular environment in the first place, whether hardware or software. So I hope in addition to looking at Dark Matter, we dig into this topic generally. (I was just playing with feedback loops in VCV Rack, thanks to some tips from Kent Williams aka Chaircrusher.)
Embrace the darkness, and dive into the void of feedback.
Uh… oh yeah, tech specs.
-Input VCA with gain and soft clipping
-2 band equaliser with voltage controlled bass and treble boost/overdrive
-Voltage controlled feedback
-External feedback section for making and fine tuning loops through other modules
-Voltage controlled crossfade between input and feedback signals
-Input tracking envelope follower for adding ducking and gating effects
-10 I/O jacks for adding CV and making crazy loops
– 13 HP
– PTC fuse and diode protected 10-pin power connector
– 24 mm deep
– power consumption +12V: < 75mA; -12V: <75 mA
More details and online ordering available on Bastl’s Website:
Modular isn’t just about building synth sounds; it’s also about routing signal and mixing in a new way. So we welcome the return of Czech superstar Nikol Štrobach, who continues her mission to make modular accessible to beginners.
Nikol is juggling mom duties with modular – we’ve even seen her kid Lumír. And our patching professor, after a year and a half of video production, did have to take a parenting sabbatical. But she’s returned with a new set of advanced tips and tricks, say our friends at Bastl Instruments. And she’s even added English-language narration (though we rather enjoyed the Czech).
Next up, panning (ooh, stereo!):
And ducking (using amplifiers to have one signal control another):
Bastl tells us this is just the start – two episodes are finished and scheduled for the next couple of weeks, with more in production.
They’re all released on or forthcoming on our label Establishment, and all of them have robust projects of their own, from live coding work in the Algorave scene with Miri Kat, to their own up-and-coming label projects (Gradient from Jamaica Suk, Denkfabrik from Nicolas Bougaïeff, and a new project emerging from Stanislav Glazov aka Procedural). They’re also teaching – Stas is a modular and Touch Designer guru traveling the world with those projects; both Nick and Jamaica teach privately, and Nick teaches modulars and coaches composition as Dr. Techno – because he’s a real doctor. Oliver Torr on behalf of Prague’s XYZ project is preparing an interactive light installation that will evolve over the course of the night, as well.
Stratofyzika, intermedia group.
I wanted to invite Lenka to send some vibrations to our readers all over the world. Lenka’s own projects are myriad: she’s a founding member of female:pressure, the network and advocacy organization that has worked for years to break apart the gendering of electronic music, she releases and performs and DJs as akkamiau and hiT͟Hərˈto͞o, and adds live sound and music to the choreography- and audiovisual-driven intermedia project Stratofyzika.
She’s also recently hosted quadraphonic sound workshops, working in Ableton Live, plus the wildly popular jam room at Ableton Loop.
And while the trend these days seems to be on narrowly-defined DJs, I believe all those broad influences come across in her DJ mixes as well as her music. Lenka has shared an exclusive mix with us, recorded straight from the mixer in the grimy confines of Berlin’s club Suicide Circus aka Suicide Club. It was the opening of the respected RITUALS series, which takes commanding, dark techno into Berlin’s Thursday night / Friday morning (well, because this is Berlin, and Thursdays are a big night).
Just don’t expect monotonous pounding. Lenka’s mixing is effortlessly fluid and organic, unfolding across the duration, putting beautiful, strange otherworldly textures atop heavy, dirty pulse. And that seems to have as always Lenka’s quirky cosmic feline character there. That doesn’t mean it’s soft in any way: these space cats have big rockets.
Dark but not drab … industrial with groove … powerful but dreamy … sounds like good new years’ resolutions for techno to me.
Track listing (yep that Ancient Methods and Perc are each two favorites of mine, for starters):
Moerbeck & Subjected – 006SB1
Mamiffer – Enantiodromia
Adam X – It’s All Relative
Alexey Volkov – Corner
H880 – weird signs
Drasko V & Kero – Exponent (Drumcell Remix)
Tensal – Levia
Regis – Keep Planning (Original Mix)
Discord – Backyard Trapp
MTd – Basement (Moerbeck Remix)
P.E.A.R.L. – Station1
Tsorn – Strange Theory
FJAAK – The Tube
Ancient Methods – Knights & Bishops
Perc – Look What Your Love Has Done To Me
H880 – KEPLER
Niki Istrefi – Red Armor
Join us in Berlin if you can, and regardless, stay tuned for more of akkamiau, these other artists, and Establishment. Frohes Neues!
Follow akkamiau on SoundCloud, MixCloud, and Facebook
For more listening, check out akkamiau’s work on Colaboradio 88.4FM Berlin. There’s a special episode devoted to the voice:
— and one highlighting those Ableton Link-ed jam sessions at the company’s Loop conference from November:
While a lot of other modules are making sequencers that behave more like a computer, Bastl’s Knit Rider keeps to the hardware feel. And it just got better.
Apart from having one of the best pun names anything ever had, ever, Knit Rider’s appeal is being able to pack lots of complex sequencing features into a compact, hands-on interface – look ma, no display! So yeah, you don’t have a “tiny computer in a module” – though there’s an argument for that. You get buttons. And those buttons have sub-steps, so you aren’t stuck with 16-step patterns.
I asked the uncannily insightful Václav Peloušek for some insights into what’s new. They listened to their various friends playing this one, and adjusted. In a word: feel.
We especially focused on how the sequencer feels by adding swing and random variation of trigger length, and making the timing core very solid. The performance aspect has been always important for the concept of the sequencer, and while at first we focused mainly on the live sequencing, now we have adjusted the UI to also work well while being occupied by playing other instruments.
Sequencing is important. Through sequencing, we can make driving, exciting music, like … well, like… Hey, in reward for reading CDM, you know what? You’ve earned this. Let’s go.
We’re gathering with top digital media artists this week – and you can tune in. Here’s a preview of their work, on the eve of Lunchmeat Festival, Prague.
Transmedia work and live visual performance exist at sometimes awkward intersections, caught between economies of the art world and music industry, between academia and festivals. They mix techniques and histories that aren’t always entirely compatible – or at least that can be demanding in combination. But the fields of media art and live visuals also represent areas of tremendous potential for innovation – where artists can explore immersive media, saturate senses, and apply buzzword-friendly technologies from AI to VR in experimental, surprising ways.
Our goal: bring together some artists for some deep discussion. And we have a great venue in which to do it. Prague’s Lunchmeat Festival has exploded on the international scene. Even sandwiched against Unsound Festival in Krakow and ADE in Amsterdam, it’s started to earn attention and big lineups, thanks to the intrepid work of an underground Czech collective. (The rest of the year, the Lunchmeat crew can usually be found doing installations and live visual club work of their own.)
Heck, even the fact that I’m stumbling over how to word this says something about the hybrid forms we’re describing, from live cinema to machine learning-infused art.
Since most of you won’t be in Prague this week, we’ll livestream and archive those conversations for the whole world.
To whet your appetite (hopefully), here’s a look at the cast of characters involved:
Katerina Blahutova [DVDJ NNS]
Let’s start for a change with the home Prague team. Katerina is a great example of a new generation of artists coming from outside conventional pathways as far as discipline. She graduated in architecture and urbanism, then shifted that interest (consciously or otherwise) to transforming whole club and performance environments. She’s been a VJ and curator with Lunchmeat, designed releases and videos for Genot Centre (as well as graphic design for bands), then went on to co-found LOLLAB collective and tour with MIDI LIDI.
Don’t miss her poppy, saturated, post-Internet surrealism – hyperreality with concoctions of slime and object, opaque luminosities and lushly-colored, fragmented textures. (I can rip off this bit of the program; I wrote it originally!)
Oh yeah, and she made this nice teaser loop for this week’s festivities:
Ignazio Mortellaro [Stroboscopic Artefacts, Roots in Heaven]
Turn that saturation knob all the way down again, and step into the world of Stroboscopic Artefacts. Ignazio is the visual imagination behind all of that label’s distinctive look, from album design (as beautifully exhibited) to videos. He’ll be talking to us about that ongoing collaboration.
In addition, Ignazio is doing live visuals for a fresh project. Allow me to quote myself:
Roots in Heaven, a label owner and accomplished solo artist hidden behind a mesh mask and feathers, joins visualist Ignazio Mortellaro to present a new live audiovisual work. This comes on the heals of this year’s Roots in Heaven debut record “Petites Madeleines” (a Proust reference), out on K7! offshoot Zehnin. The result is a journey into “concentrated sensory impression” in sound, light, and sensation.
Gregory Eden [Clark]
One of the goals Lunchmeat’s curators and I discussed was elevating the visibility of people working on visual materials. But unlike the ‘front man’/’front woman’ role of a lot of the music artists, the position some of these people fill goes beyond just sole artist to broader management and production. Maybe that’s even more reason to pay attention to who they are and how they work.
Greg Eden, who’s at Lunchmeat with Clark, is a great example. With a university physics degree, he went on to Warp, where he developed Clark and Boards of Canada. He’s now full-time managing Clark, and in addition to that … uh, full time job … manages Nathan Fake (with visuals by Flat-e) and Gajek and Finn McNicholas.
Visuals are often synonymous with just “something on a projector,” live cinema-style. But Clark’s show is full-on stage show. For the stage adaptation of Death Peak, the artist works with choreographer Melanie Lane, dancers Kiani Del Valle and Sophia Ndaba, and lights from London’s Flat-E. Think of it as rave theater. That makes Greg’s role doubly interesting, as someone has to pull all of this together:
Novi_sad [with Ryoichi Kurokawa, SIRENS]
The collaboration between Novi_sad and Ryoichi Kurokawa is one of the more important ones of the moment, its nervous, quivering economic data visualization a fitting expression of our anxious zeitgeist. Here’s a glimpse of that work:
Ryoichi Kurokawa and Novi_sad have worked together to produce an audiovisual show in five etudes that produces a dramaturgy of data, weaving the numbers of the economic downturn into poignant, emotional narrative. Data and sound quiver and dematerialize in eerie, mournful tableaus, re-imagining the sound works of Richard Chartier, CM von Hausswolff, Jacob Kirkegaard, Helge Sten, and Rebecca Foon. Novi_sad is self-taught composer Thanasis Kaproulias, himself coming not only from the nation that has borne the brunt of Europe’s crisis, but holding a degree in economics. As a perfect foil to his sonic landscapes, Japan’s Ryoichi Kurokawa has made a name in expressive, exposed digital minimalism.
Ben Frost is already interesting from a collaborative standpoint, having worked with media like dance (Chunky Move, Wayne McGregor). The collaboration with MFO brings him together with one of Europe’s leading visual practitioners; Marcel will join us to talk about that but hopefully about his work for the likes of Berlin Atonal Festival, as well.
MFO has also designed the visuals for the sensational Jlin, but Theresa Baumgartner is touring with it – as well as working on production for Boiler Room. So, we have Theresa joining us from something of the in-the-trenches production perspective, as well.
VJing and live cinema are rooted in conventional compositing and processing. Even when they’re digital, we’re talking techniques mostly developed decades ago.
For something further afield, Gene Kogan will take us on a journey into deep generative work, machine learning and the new aesthetics that become possible with it. As AI begins to infuse itself with digital media, artists are indeed grappling with its potential. Gene is offering talks and workshops both here at Lunchmeat and at Ableton Loop next month, so now is a great time to check in with him. A bit about him:
Gene Kogan is an artist and a programmer who is interested in generative systems, artificial intelligence, and software for creativity and self-expression. He is a collaborator within numerous open-source software projects, and leads workshops and demonstrations on topics at the intersection of code and art. Gene initiated and contributes to ml4a, a free book about machine learning for artists, activists, and citizen scientists. He regularly publishes video lectures, writings, and tutorials to facilitate a greater public understanding of the topic.
I’ll be reviewing the resources he has for artists soon, too, so do stay tuned.
Also coming from Prague, Gabriela has been guiding the INPUT program for Lunchmeat this fall, as well as being one of my collaborators (our installation is part of the exhibition this week). Its contents are mysterious so far, but a live AV work with Gabriela and Dné is also on tap.
Okay, so we know you can keep remaking classic instruments and give people a good time. But what if you want something new and crazy? Can you bottle sonic weirdness and make it work for other people?
The first time I saw Peter Edwards play live was at an event we hosted in New York. He had a small box with a large spherical light on the top – and then proceeded to deafen and blind the audience in a maelstrom of noise and colored flashes.
The impressive thing about the softPop when you first play it is that it takes all that madness and makes it portable and eminently playable. You can crank it and make powerful noise. You can dial it into a sweet spot and get some grooving club-friendly acid basslines. You can dial it somewhere else, and get delicate watery bloops or alien speak.
And, while I may offend people here, I love the fact that you don’t necessarily need to know which fader you’re moving or what does what. So, sure, newcomers will be able to fiddle with the six faders and discover new sounds intuitively. But – let’s get real – that’s just as fun for experts, to have that feeling of unexpected sonic magic, that extrasensory experience of playing the instrument. And in even a short session at SuperBooth, that was unquestionably the impression I had of this instrument.
softPop represents years of Peter’s labor, culminating in a collaboration with Bastl Instruments and even a move to the Czech Republic. And while it was already an impressive evolution in Berlin this spring, it seems these crazy kids have continued the hard work of refining the box.
What you get is a demonstration of how known ingredients can be combined in very new ways. It’s a bit like putting one really terrific analog patch in a lunchbox. So the two triangle-core oscillators are heavily feedbacked – the source of all the gorgeous sonic uncertainty – plus a filter and sample & hold. That’s already probably worth the price of admission, but there’s external signal processing, too, with envelope follower and sync. Plus you get a pattern generator so you can start crafting basslines and dances of noises right away, and a mini patch bay for semi-modular operation or patching to other gear.
And it’s eminently portable – batteries, built in speaker, and an optional wooden backplate that doubles as a carrying handle.
309 EUR (pre-tax). Preorder now to get the first back at end of August.
Oh yeah and — did we mention it’s also a light synth? There’s an RGB LED there for a miniature version of Peter’s light show. And don’t forget the “secret hack chamber.”
For anyone with the feeling the synth world has nothing new to offer – fear not, strange survives.
fully analog core and signal path
6 faders for controlling two VCOs and VCF and their cross modulations
two wide range triangle-core VCOs 0 & 1
quantizer for VCO 0 (auto-tuner)
VCO 1 has variable waveshape via the modulation setting
∞ resonant state variable VCF (bandpass, lowpass, highpass)
external input with gain and envelope follower for intuitive sync of VCO 1
track & hold circuit for stepped modulations
looping pattern generator with two patterns P1 and P2
RGB led for psychedelic experience
secret hack chamber at the back for adventurers
aluminum body enclosure
wooden handle backplate as accessory (sold separately)
One of the many clever ideas packed into Bastl Instruments’ show-stealing Superbooth stand last month was a tiny, cheap line mixer.
Imagine starting with a battery compartment that holds four AA batteries, and building around that, and you start to get an idea of Dude. It’s tiny. It’s just €75 (slightly more for Europe with VAT). And it’s something a lot of you will likely want. Watch:
Dude isn’t without compromises. The big one is, it’s a mono mixer only – not stereo. So you get five inputs, but they’re all mono inputs. Now, a lot of the stuff you might plug in is mono, to be fair, but then you can’t pan those mono inputs, and you lose stereo information from compact gear that has its own panning or (more likely) something like a stereo delay.
If you can live with that, though, everything else here is really ingenious. It runs on batteries, but you still get up to +20 dB gain. That’s a big deal as a lot of tiny mixers are passive and really unsuitable for much more than mixing a couple of smartphone signals together.
You can power with external electricity if you want – like if you keep this in your studio.
There’s a knob for each channel, plus quick-kill mute buttons.
And you can plug in headphones to the minijack, meaning this whole thing is a way of taking a bunch of volcas or Pocket Operators or Bastl desktop gear or MeeBlip or whatever and being able to hear what you’re doing.
Seems that’s just in time for jamming in the park. I’m in.
To play us out, here’s some beautiful new music, too, on the Bastl-run label:
It’s a wonderful thing to find kindred spirits. It doesn’t matter if they look like you, if you share a gender or an age, or if they come from down the street or around the globe.
And that’s the experience a lot of people have had when coming in contact with Bastl Instruments and the underground music and instrument enclave of Brno, Czech. Bastl are known for their cute compact desktop synth hardware and quirky modular line. And small builders are themselves tight-knit, but there’s more to it than just what Bastl Instruments as a maker provides. There’s a sense that this is a platform, a collective – a family. And that family can broaden and encompass all kinds of other makers and artists.
The prolific YouTuber Cuckoo took a trip in February to Brno in the Czech Republic to go behind-the-scenes with Bastl. It’s an expansive video, sprawling in the same way that Bastl itself does. There’s founder Václav Peloušek, artist HRTL, builder Pete Edwards, and many more:
I think it’s worth considering how much younger – and how much, you know, more Czech – this gang are, relative to what had bee norms in the synth creation business. Bastl are then a link, between a new generation and the old, between Czech Republic and the rest of the world, and in doing their own research into Czechoslovakia’s own music technology legacy, one that had previously been hidden behind the Iron Curtain and Cold War bias.
synthPop makes a sneak appearance: Pay particular attention to the appearance by Pete, because sneaked in at around the 34-minute mark is a revelation of his new synth prototype, dubbed synthPop. That’s the first real glimpse we’ve gotten of that new creation; I’m suspecting we’ll get the full picture when the crew visit Berlin’s Superbooth synth gathering later this month.
The Thyme effects processor also makes a cameo in advance of its public Superbooth appearance.
Cuckoo also played a live set, at the cozy, hip venue in town, Kabinet Muz. Less you think this is all about showing off a lot of gear, just one Elektron Octatrack makes up the whole rig – but the jam is great:
Looking beyond the picture of the boxes they make, Bastl are branching out into starting a record label, dubbed Nona. (For an example of builders doing music releases on the side, see also: Koma Elektronik’s AMOK Tapes.)
Vaclev has told CDM a bit about the releases to check out on their label, Nona Rec.
From the mission statement:
Nona records is a label founded by the people from Bastl with a main focus on releasing music of people from Bastl and beyond. It is about establishing communication between the crew and musicians worldwide with the goal of making awesome music! The main interest is to bring all sorts of open minded electronic music/experiments to open minded people.
Vaclev elaborates on what they’re doing and why – the project is a little like an electronic music startup rendition of Google’s 20% time. It’s about achieving some creative life / work balance. Vaclev tells CDM:
What we actually do is that we pay people from Bastl for making releases on Nona – so they can take time off and they can make music. It is a way of providing security for the people to focus more on the music they want to make. The people already built their instruments, they started to perform on the Bastl Jam [live event] series, and now, the last missing piece is making releases. It’s a funny attempt to build the music scene from ground up.
Once we have the releases we want to promote the people to play abroad.
That is the plan, sort of. It really comes from the Bastl Jam series when we really saw that performing monthly gives the people so much push that the music got super interesting lately.
There are two new releases, too. Family Matter is a compilation of Bastl’s own crew and friends.
The boys and girls featured include three people from Bastl (Outin, Tom DJambo, and Paseka ) and more friends and musicians from around the world, including Myako, “a great DJ and producer from Paris,” and hiT͟Hərˈto͞o, Czech-born and Berlin-based producer (and as it happens, friend and collaborator of mine).
Also new is a collaborative album by two Sardinian musicians, Stefano Marconi and Emanual Balia, “who explore the abstract side of techno,” Vaclev explains. “They’re active in the field of experimental music and they recorded their first album 607f/s during their artistic residency at Bastl for the Nona label.”
There’s also Czech up-and-comer Kadaver:
Check out, as well, the EP of Hanz Tisch, who Vaclev describes as a “local bedroom producer who is exploring the childish universe through the style inspired by Aphex Twin.”
Superbooth is the banner event from legendary Berlin synth shop Schneidersladen, but the Bastl kids have their own event series going, too. Noise Kitchen Synth Fest will return to their hometown Brno, Czech, but will Europe tour, as well, reaching Berlin, Prague, and Vienna.
From gear to music, welcome to the capital of DIY. Music technology makers and musicians from the experimental to the party end of the spectrum are gathering soon in central Europe, and they’re worth a listen and look wherever you may be.
Brno, a small town in the Czech Republic, was already home to some terrific musical experimentation and the mind-tickling inventions of Bastl Instruments. Now, it’s getting its own shop – NOISE.KITCHEN – and a festival to celebrate, called Synth Fest. This is about as unlikely a place as you’d expect to find such things, but the whole endeavor has been carried by the spirit of its organizers.
There are several concurrent threads of entertainment and sonic construction. And the whole affair brings together past and future – early pioneers like Standa Filip are shoulder-to-shoulder with the new kids – and bridges geography, with musicians and technologists both from inside Czech and Europe and beyond.
Let’s start with the teaser, which takes us back to the Communist era with the 1983 Elektron, played here by Jožka Ríhák.
Something called “Synth Fest” will obviously involve a lot of gear, but I’m honored to get to share a night with some artists I’m really excited about, starting Friday.
Playing for the home team, the Friday lineup includes one of my favorite up-and-coming musicians of the moment, the terrific Hrtl. (If you want to sound authentic around Czech people, try to actually pronounce that as a word and roll the ‘r’ – it’s a name, not an acronym.) The young artist, aka Leoš Hort, has already made some beautiful sounds demonstrating the synths of his Bastl Instruments neighbors. Here he is making a live track in his bedroom:
Do have a listen to his eerie, beautiful EP, too:
From Latvia, the festival is bringing one kooky headliner – Kodek. He may not be the first person to combine silly outfits with 80s synths to make electro, or even cats with lasers coming out of their eyes, but damn, he’s good at it. Keep doing what you’re doing, man.
And that’s just a start; we have more dance music Friday (including a DJ/hybrid live set from yours truly) and more experimental noises Saturday.
But this is also a gathering of gear makers from around Europe and the planet, from one very big name (Swedish Elektron, here matching up with Czech’s own Elektron – no relation), to Koma Elektronik (from Berlin), Erika Synths (Latvia), Error Instruments (NL), Soulsby (UK), and even America’s Burnkit2600.
Via the workshops page, you’ll see you can build your own modules at heavily-discounted prices. That’s good, as I imagine the Bastl creations are hot enough that they’ll soon prove scarce. So, given that this is a short trip from Prague or Vienna, if you’re anywhere on the European continent you might want to clear your schedule and look at buses and planes and cars.
Bastl’s schedule is already up, with other kits planned for Saturday and Sunday. They encourage you to bring your own tools if you like, but otherwise everything is provided and only needs an advance email registration.
Here’s a look at the (CDM-)award-winning Bastl booth from Messe, plus the sleek, new store in the works.
Naturally, we hope to see you there – and hope to make some reports that will make you feel like you were there even if you weren’t. (Internet!)