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:
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:
With all that sound out there, you’d better make your musical statement a strong one. And why not add the kinds of visuals we see when we shut our eyes and listen?
This winter, visualist future error went into the archives of Resident Advisor and pulled out an evocative, dreamy ambient mix by Dasha Rush. Known best for her pounding techno, Dasha is also a producer and purveyor of more experimental music, too. And the combination of trippy monochromatic geometries and textures with this mix is reason enough to kick back on the couch with your iPad or TV or projector or whatever and … chill. (You deserve it!)
And don’t miss Grzegorz Bojanek, whose music I got to know through Dasha – he’s an electroacoustic musician, a Polish netlabel hero, and a staple of how the ambient/experimental scene is evolving in that country (including producing the Warsaw Electronic Festival – yes, it’s not just Unsound Festival in Poland, folks):
Just as mixes need transitions, humans need pauses. So while some of the divisions of time are arbitrary, we need moments to step back and recollect. So CDM asked a cross-selection of producers and DJs to choose music from 2016 to begin our year. Maybe now – as the vacation spirit is wearing off and task lists are looming – maybe now is the time we need those most.
This particular group of humans generally resisted the idea of making charts, as an empty exercise. But I suppose some of those individuals are the very people whose music selections I value most – because they actually reflect on this a bit and choose something meaningful. So, arm twisting where necessary, we got this. Several colleagues included moments of reflection spent over the new year’s holiday looking back across the whole year. Some even did their digging while preparing for New Year’s gigs.
Anyone who says they’ve got the “best” music of the year is probably out of touch with just how much music the planet is making. But here, we have an honest selection of music that moved people. And we get to meet some of the people making those picks. I hope you enjoy.
Alan Oldham to me is the embodiment of electronic music futurism as it has radiated from Detroit. Apart from being an exceptional DJ and producer (as DJ T-1000), he’s also a leading comic book artist and one of the most desirable people anywhere to design your record sleeve. This is someone who can illustrate electronic fantasies in sound or image. So his picks are a wonderful place to start.
Dasha needs little introduction – the Russian native, Berlin-based producer and DJ does a bit of everything, from experimental to techno. She helms the beautifully unique Fullpanda, is brilliant in live electronic performance across genre, and has made appearances on the likes of raster-noton.
And I think Dasha came up with my favorite response to these. She chose just one track – one favorite from the past two years. And she said she doesn’t like the forced exercise of selecting charts and numbering them, or DJs charting their own music – all of which I appreciate. (Though in this case I specifically said to DJs, I was happy to see their own tracks in there, too – because I chose producers I love.)
But here’s her one track – and this one selection says a lot, and is worth some time. (The label is a favorite round here at CDM, Nordanvind Records.)
Korridor – “Somnolence”
Noncompliant (also known as DJ Shiva or Lisa Ess) is a powerhouse of midwest techno and a talent whose moment has come. 2016 was a prelude to what is yet to come, I think, with a Berlin debut and devastating new techno cuts. So apart from a deep insight into politics and unending oasis of empathy, Lisa is your go-to cat when you want grimy, powerful techno.
It’s also worth highlighting some of the picks here. The lose of Cherushii aka Chelsea Faith was not only personally devastating to many, but heart breaking because her music represented some of the richest possibility in the scene now. How that continues will be a topic to come.
I was fortunate to get to seek out Zeno for our new Establishment imprint, because I already knew and loved his music tastes. So drawing on his own rich experimental background and creative taste, here are some more experimental selections for our list. We’ll be talking more to Zeno this week about his own work, too. But of course, I’m especially fond of the Grischa Lichtenberger music here – see our recent interview.
[Epilepsy warning – but otherwise, this video is amazing]
Esther Dune at Berlin’s Gegen party.
Bridging the Amsterdam and Berlin scenes and a regular ring-leader of some of the better appearances literally underground at Tresor, Esther is an unsung techno champion. And like the others here, she’s got a long battle history in labels, production, and DJing. I actually insisted that she select some of her own label and production efforts for that reason – you don’t want to miss them. And it starts with this beautiful, weird track by Jimmy Asquith, the man behind Lobster Theremin records.
You’re probably going to want a record player in order to acquire a lot of this, FYI. Esther’s meticulous personality also means she’s the only one who gave us catalog numbers.
Myles Serge / Duijn & Douglas – Split EP (A1 Myles Serge -The art of shadow thoughts) [Another Earth AE101]
John Heckle – Tribute to a Sun God (B1 Mesopotamia) [Bedouin Records BDN010]
Esther, as I lack a meticulous personality, I’m not totally certain this is the right L.I.E.S. cut, but … it’s also too nice to share if not.
Meanwhile, here’s one of hers – delicious:
And quite fond of this whole John Heckle record:
Hayden Payne, New York-to-Berlin transplant (a phrase associated with NYC now much like “world champion New York Yankees) is one of the brightest up and coming techno acts. His now-regular sets at Berghain are deliciously gothic and adventurous. And I think his taste are a beautiful hype-free window into what’s happening in the international electronic scene, what’s driving the queues at these clubs beyond just hype, and what is genuinely fresh and enjoyable and new. And sure enough, he delivered a lovely reminder of some favorites of mine, ones I’m sure will appeal here.
Apart from liking Grischa’s latest as much as apparently the rest of us do, Kyoka is a person whose live sets and music consistently come up when chatting with the others here. The second raster-noton inclusion on this list apart from Dasha, I added Kyoka because of her intelligence and enthusiasm. So, we’ll get some repetition, but I think well-deserved – these are tracks a lot of us couldn’t stop listening to last year, and may still look forward to savoring this year.
004_241 B – Grischa Lichtenberger
Bound State – Ueno Masaaki
Dark Barker – kangding ray
Twistet In the Wind – Frank Bretschneider
a1_entrance_m_v2 – Eomac
Cause to emit sound – DJ SODEYAMA
Just Face It – DJ Git Hyper
From Moscow to Copenhagen, Anastasia has emerged as a brilliant connector – she’s someone who manages to seem to be everywhere, know everyone, but then apply that social intelligence to greater musical depth. And I asked her here because her sets and mixes are diverse and not just cookie-cutter creations.
yen towers – bid II, posh isolation
ctrls – the wave, token
air max’97 – thrall, decisions
dreams – headhunter, nous disques
rx 101 – 101 reasons, saction
jamaica suk – Depth Between Waves, L.A.G.
melly – skip fire, where to now?
rommek – solvent, blueprint records
ken ishii – extra (7th plain remix), a-ton
imaski – hyperloop, (Establishment)
Photo: Michael Breyer.
Susanne Kirchmyer just played a brutal set at about blank his weekend. To those in the know, she’s simply a legend – a foundation of the European scene. She’s also been active in transforming the face of the scene to come, through her work with Female Pressure.
Now, like Dasha, Susanne straddles experimental and techno, AV performance and dancefloor in her own work. Unlike Dasha, Susanne’s rebellion to “name five to ten tracks” was to go with more instead of less. But that reflects her collections, too, so let’s have at all of it!
10 chosen most significant:
Born In Flamez x Modeselektor – TBF [XLR8]
Perc – Ma [Stroboscopic Artefacts 026]
Monolake – Error (VLSI Version) [Imbalance Computer Music ML-032]
B12 – Core Meltdown [FireScope 003]
Rrose – Emboli [Khemia 002]
Adriana Lopez – En Ningun Lugar [Modularz 25]
Headless Horseman – Under The Earth [the29nov 001]
Annie Hall – Hyssop [Subspec 035]
Sky Deep – Woman & The Gun feat. Hevî [female-pressure – Music- Awareness & Solidarity w- Rojava Revolution]
Annie Hall – Herschel [CPU 00011100]
Other tracks that I wanted to be in the top 10:
Orphx – Blood in the Streets [Sonic Groove LP02]
Alhek – The Voice Of Cement Buildings [Mechanical Thoughts LP01]
Antigone & Francois X – Ready To Escape [DEMENT3D 012]
Scalameriya – Ambidextrous [Genesa 006V]
Angelina Yershova – Immersion [Twin Paradox 003]
Silent Harbour – Dock Operations [Transcendent LP001]
Shlømo – The Ritual [Wolfskuil LTD 029]
Kero / Gotshell – Samaria District [Blueprint 047]
More tracks that I really like:
Simo Cell – Away From Keyboard [Livity Sound 021]
Shifted – Clairvoyance Part II [Drifting Over 001]
Dimi Angélis – Dwarf Planets [Construct Re-Form 012]
Insolate – Renew [Out of Place 002]
Trinity – Orchard [Coincidence 074]
DJ Red – Sweet Silence [Electric Deluxe 047]
Klaudia Gawlas – Obsession [Credo 038]
Etapp Kyle – Ahora [Ostgut Unterton 08]
Actually, 2016 was a very good year listening to the music I collected
Kevin McHugh, aka Ambivalent, but impressing lately as techno act LA4A, is our consummate tasteful last entry here. I appreciate that Kevin actually said he enjoyed picking these for this task. And he’s worth quoting here, because I feel some of his music was the most underrated of the year – even though it was also widely selected by our group of contributors as some of our favorite.
Morphology – Vector Plant – DUM
Physical Therapy – 909 Reasons Why – Delft
Amotik – Terah – Amotik
Avalon Emerson – Glider Gun – Valence
Emmanuel – Masa – Enemy
Vernon Felicity – Defender – Delft
TAFKAMP – I Laf You – Paling Trax
Ambivalent – Whyou (Michael Mayer Remix) – Kompakt
Camea – Signs (Andre Kronert) -Neverwhere
Truncate – Wave 1 – Truncate
Now, this is my kind of New Year’s Resolution. Because listening to all of this makes me want to go discover more and make more music. Unlike those forgotten new year’s gym memberships, this is fitness that is addictive.
And I hope we’ll visit these friends here more throughout the year. That’s a resolution to keep.
Assemble, cosmonauts: Dasha Rush is an artist whose musical worlds merit repeat visits. She represents the best of what an artist straddling techno and ambient can be – with ambient sets that pulse and live, with timbral and structural freedom rather than resorting to dreary droning grays.
So let’s take a break from her better-known techno side and get to experience some of her ambient personality.
Now, just in the past months, I’ve watched her hold down the cavernous abandoned Kraftwerk power plant for Tresor’s birthday with a techno set, but also explore imaginative techno on Boiler Room alongside Dino Sabatini, and join with Lars Hemmerling in the inventive LADA. So that makes me like these more.
Most notable is this wonderful, whirling dervish set from Dommune Tokyo, where she joined a beautiful raster-noton lineup. (Dasha I think best represents, alongside kyoka and Grischa Lichtenberger, the liberated sound raster-noton has brought to the label.)
It’s at times even danceable and fluid – you might even hear it as a place where techno, increasingly becoming locked in certain modes, might go.
Whether that new Ghost in the Shell or the (gasp) Blade Runner remake are any good, I can just close my eyes and listen to this.
For a weirder, murkier time, check out her 2015 set for studio r°:
But the boldest new project comes from deep in the literal depths of the cosmos.
Dasha has been collaborating on visuals with fellow Russians Stanislav Glazov and Margo Kudrina (the latter with surprisingly organic, improvisational visuals during Dasha’s raster-noton outing). With Stanislav at Canada’s famed BANFF, she developed a work plunging into the mysteries of black holes – complete with a TouchDesigner-powered visualization of the space object. And it was a highlight for many of this year’s MUTEK Montreal and later Unsound Festival in Krakow. (Sadly, I had to miss these.)
It’s a work I hope we review in detail soon, but here’s a teaser:
But if you like this sort of music, no reason to stop there. Don’t miss Dasha’s underground label Full Panda, which carries all sorts of gems (and now handsome t-shirts in stock, too, yes I need a Christmas present):
Berlin’s Tresor club turns 25 this year, celebrating with a four day festival next week. And the lineup is just completely and totally insane. If you took, say, the Thursday night program out of context, you might be excused for believing it was the headliners for an entire festival.
The festival says as much about the healthy state of techno as it does about Tresor – but Tresor is without question one of the venues at the center of that world.
Now, as Mixmag reports, Hegemann “prefers the Living Archive of Electronica as a title for the venture, stating that the term ‘museum’ denotes “something that belongs to past.”
But that might as well be watchcry for Tresor in general. On any given week, Tresor is indeed a living archive – this is a place where the Detroit – Berlin axis thrives, where classic records can still pound away in the basement. Regulars tell me that the experience inside is very much as it was in the original Tresor.
That might tend to “museum” territory were it not for a lively ongoing set of programming. There’s a consistent balance between old and new on the weekend Klubnacht. There’s support for ongoing innovation in live sets and quality DJing. There’s Wednesday night’s “New Faces,” which might stretch the emerging artist moniker a bit far (some of the lineups are reasonably well established), but does at least pull together music on a weekly basis around curators who are able to push their vision ahead of what’s likely to create a queue, and indeed help develop some new talent or talent that isn’t as well known in Berlin. And that’s to say nothing of programming like Berlin Atonal festival or oddball emerging parties at Ohm (the power plant’s former battery room).
I still haven’t gotten to the festival lineup, but I think it’s important that it’s against that background. So Tresor 25 will accordingly take over all the venue’s major spaces – the impossibly huge cavern of Kraftwerk (the main power plant space, several times larger than Berghain), Ohm, Globus (the wooden-floored upper room), and Tresor (the one with the blinky lights and classic cage).
Into that vessel pours a who’s who of techno precisely because Tresor has been such a healthy patron to so many techno artists. It’s safe to say Detroit mainstays get a warmer reputation in Germany than they do in their own city. Berlin locals are there alongside artists from around Europe.
Highlights for me: Daniel Bell, playing live as DBX, represents one of the best specimens of live techno around. Robert Hood is back with his own unique sound. There’s Dasha Rush and Donato Dozzy, too, some of the artists who have most inspired me down in the basement (and Dasha has also provided some of the highlights of the past years there with her own takeovers).
The home team: Tresor Records artists Pacou, Bill Youngman, Zadig, Claudia Anderson, residents Mareena, Refracted, and Marcel Heese. Actually, there could easily be a couple more weeks of programming here – that only scratches the surface of the record label and residents.
Plus you get Fumiya Tanaka, Objekt, Acronym, Patrice Scott, Ocar Mulero, Blake Baxter, Dj Deep, Roman Poncet… and more.
You get the likes of Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald as Borderlands, DJ Pete and Sleeparchive as TR-101. But you also get pioneer Gudran Gut, people like Helena Hauff, Magda El Bayoumi, Psyk, Reka. This is a diverse lineup of men and women from the scene, suggesting techno that’s expanding, not contracting.
Ellen Allien and DJ Tanith close in a Sunday marathon, in case you’re still alive.
And this isn’t just about big headliners on big stages. Part of what I think will create a unique atmosphere is that legends like Juan Atkins and Daniel Bell will also be found in the intimate environs of Ohm.
For many of us, there’s a special pleasure to seeing someone play live – and dancing to someone playing live.
And by “live,” I don’t mean “a bunch of your tracks cued up as scenes in Ableton Live or on an Elektron.” I mean genuinely improvised.
Electronic dance music naturally lends itself to on-the-spot creation. A rigid grid, easily-understood conventions around instrumentation and form, and the fact that styles like techno are built around machines all add up to natural experimentation.
Yet, oddly, it seems there’s a lot more discussion around DJ technique than there is around live technique, especially when it comes to playing with machines. And that’s not to say DJing can’t be performative, creative, and spontaneous. But there is some logic behind labeling certain sets “live” – and expecting that they won’t feature pre-recorded track materials in the same way.
With that in mind, I’m constantly on the hunt for good live acts. A lot of these are experienced in the dark, with no cameras in sight. Even audio recordings often suffer from glitches. (Batteries died. Levels were set wrong. Someone forgot to hit record.) And maybe that’s a good thing – electronic music and acoustic music alike benefit from some awareness that you had to be there.
But we do need some evidence that this is going on. And I think music made for dancefloors and clubs deserve that awareness as much as music made for concerts and experimental venues. (Indeed, whereas these once catered to very different audiences, now the interests go increasingly hand in hand.)
So, I hope this will also be a frequent feature on CDM (experimental-ish to dance-ish to whatever). Here are some recent finds – all of them people I’ve had the pleasure to see (and sometimes know) in person, too.
With shows like Boiler Room focusing more on DJs than live, it’s actually hard to find a whole lot of this stuff – harder than I thought. But that’s slowly changing, and I’m indebted here (and got on this kick) thanks to a great video series from RA at Dimensions this year. I could do without all the crowd shots, but that’s just me.
Who: Underground Resistance Hails from: Detroit When and where: Dimensions in Croatia, this year Gear: Easier to list what isn’t there than what is. Synths, keys, machines… saxophone! Takeaway: Don’t believe dance music has some of its roots in jazz? Just listen; it’s better than anything I could write. And wow, is it great. More like this, please. (My father played the sax, so I can say it’s part of why I got into music, listening to him play in the pep band in college basketball games. And it’s part of why I love loud, too.)
Who: Milena Kriegs Hails from: Warszawa, PL When and where: Two here, since they’re short – Nowa Jerozolima with BTS in 2013, Brancaleone in Rome earlier this year. Gear: Laptop here, mainly. Takeaway: I love Milena’s dark, moody sound – it’s a creepy place that’s somehow pleasant to hang out. Hope we get some better video of her soon.
Who:Surgeon Hails from: Birmingham, UK When and where: Dimensions again Gear: Laptop plus modular Takeaway: Surgeon is just a master, as evidenced by his cool stage demeanor. His live sets take the shape of DJ sets, but there’s quite a lot going on apart from playing records, and he is pretty much a benchmark for how to use modulars live convincingly – not just as stage dressing, but as integral to the music.
Who: Legowelt Hails from: Den Haag, NL When and where: Dimensions one more time Gear: Laptop, monome, Novation – and as always, signature ElecTribes. Takeaway: I like this Legowelt set, but I even loved more his (and other) grimy KORG ElecTribe-powered acid sets at Studio80 at 2014’s ADE, among other locations. His dirty, very Dutch, no-holds-barred sound is fantastic, and I love the raunchy KORG sound in there.
Who: Dasha Rush Hails from: Berlin (originally Russian) When and where: Boiler Room Berlin, 2014. Gear: Lots of controllers, laptop. Dasha’s an Ableton user but a lot of her live set focuses on a self-made Reaktor patch – hope to sit down with her soon and see how that works, as I haven’t been able to tell clearly from looking over her shoulder. Takeaway: Dasha is amazing – she can do chin-scratching ambient all the way to four-on-the-floor club music. It’s been more of the latter lately on her tours, so it’s nice to go back to the cat mask-wearing ambient Dasha, even if (or maybe especially because) it’s unusual Boiler Room fare.
Who: Blush_Response Hails from: Cuba, originally; now based in Berlin When and where: Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London, May 25 Gear: Modular. Lots of it. “DPO and shapeshifter for the main Oscs, cwejman MMF-1 and WMD Synchrodyne for filtering, Echophon and Erbe verb.” Plus Elektron: “Octatrack and RYTM” Takeaway: Joey’s unforgiving, industrial-hypnotic approach is still danceable. I can’t wait to see him at the infamous Gegen in Berlin, on the anything-goes “drone floor.”
Who: Shawn Rudiman Hails from: Pittsburgh, PA When and where: Tresor Berlin, 2012 – though with Tresor, I don’t think the year actually matters. Like a wormhole, that place. Gear: All hardware, 909 taking center stage, though I believe Shawn has a pretty regular rotation of stuff. Takeaway: What I love about Shawn’s playing is how he never breaks the flow – but stays spontaneous. He’s a real musician, not just someone pressing play on some pre-sequenced stuff. Catch him, hipsters, at Bossa Nova Civic Club and get schooled.
Who: Karenn Hails from: UK When and where: Boiler Room London, 2014, and with the incomparable Neil Landstrumm for a bonus video at Boiler Room Scotland from the summer. Gear: Hardware. Dave Smith Tempest looms large, and then a massive modular rig. Got to watch these guys play up close a few times, and it’s a pleasure – those machines seem alive. Takeaway: Arthur Cayzer & Jamie Roberts, Blawan and Pariah, are great on their own and even more fun together. As it happens, they’ve also done a nice interview about their work.
Now, as far as saying it’s “impossible” to do what they do with a laptop – well, gentlemen, I think you’re absolutely 100% wrong there. There’s nothing stopping someone from cleverly recreating those things in software mapped to controllers, and some do just that. But I absolutely understand the hardware thing, too, and frankly, it doesn’t matter – if you play this well, play with whatever equipment you like.
Who: prcdrl, aka Stanislav Glazov Hails from: Another Russian who’s now Berlin-based When and where: studio rº, the “thinking man’s Boiler Room,” in January Gear: Ableton, controllers (Novation!), some outboard gear (Alesis AirFX). Takeaway: Stan’s grimy-dark music can go all sorts of different directions, from pounding techno to ambient reveries.
Who: Kyoka Hails from:Japanese, moved to Berlin When and where: studio rº earlier this year, in Berlin. Gear: Everything here centers, surprisingly, on a Roland Phrase Lab MC-09, which Kyoka has warped into her own, glitchy, quirky style. Takeaway: Kyoka is actually one of my favorite artists to play, full stop. She’s a bit of an outlier on raster-noton, with an unpredictable edge to everything she does. She really doesn’t know what she’s going to do with a live set – and that’s refreshing.
Oh, yeah, I do this, too. Guess I’ll throw myself into the mix, just to put my money where my mouth is.
Who: NERKKIRN (me, with Benjamin Weiss) Hails from: Kentucky and Germany, respectively, now here in Berlin When and where: Gießen, Germany, in May Gear: One laptop running Ableton, dual Maschine controllers, outboard gear (JoMoX drum machine, MeeBlip, etc.), iPad running ModStep Takeaway: Benjamin is on the Maschine team and develops a nearly-ready-for-release step sequencer on the iPad, I make MeeBlip, both of us are interested in making tools for live performance because, well, they’re fun to play. And we’re not afraid to make mistakes; this is about fun, not perfection.
Now, if you’re looking at this list and saying, hey, how could you leave out [artist x] or or [this whole video series] … that’s the idea. As I said, I want this to be a regular series. So send us videos that inspire you. Record your own videos. Send us thoughts about how you play – or questions about what holds you back. And let’s do this more often. Live for live.
This is, first and foremost, a plea for the pleasures of back-to-back DJing and mixing (for podcasts and the like) the same way. The controller, being the S8 but also any related hardware, plays a supporting role, not the other way round.
But like so much else in the world of electronic music technology, solo too often trumps ensemble. So let’s talk about gear – and why I was surprised to like something as huge as the S8 more than I thought I would.
I finally convinced my techno-making musical partner Nerk to lug the S8 out of the offices of Native Instruments where the company has been hyping the thing up, and into our studio. The idea: take a break from production and mix together some of the sort of music we love and want to hear more of. You can listen to that at the end.
Nerk’s reluctance was over the S8′s hulk. It’s not terribly heavy, but it is big. He’s not alone, either. More than a few DJs I’ve talked to view big, coffin-sized controllers with derision. Not only directing their ire at NI, that includes oversized devices from Numark, Pioneer, Native Instruments, and others. And I tended to lean the same way, just because most DJs I know either keep it compact so they can squeeze into cramped booths (see our backpack-ready round-up) or go with what’s already there.
Part of why I’m glad to get to review Native’s new D2 controller next week – it’s essentially the deck control section of the S8 lopped off the rest of the device – is that it seems more practical. And so its bigger brother, the S8, like the S4 before it, seems on first blush more like an SUV to the D2′s sedan. This is an oversized Cadillac Escalade of a DJ controller, in other words, bought to look expensive and ostentatious while parked in the driveway while never taken off-road. (That’s not so much metaphor as direct comparison.)
However, there’s actually some reason to give this breed of devices a second chance – and to hope they find their way into the occasional studio or club installation.
Mixing and hybrid sets. First, the S8 in particular (even more so than some of its bigger cousins) is an exceptionally flexible mixer. I have to confess to some surprise here. NI could have easily cut corners or left the mixer out altogether. Instead, you get a mixer with more-than-acceptable audio performance and an absurd amount of I/O.
This is a trend worth applauding even if you don’t have any interest in getting an S8 yourself. If DJing practice is going to evolve beyond a lot of mixing with CDJs, we need people incorporating turntables and even adding in hardware drum machines and synths for a little added variety and hybrid sets.
Now, of course, you could combine individual controllers with a mixer. And because dedicated deck controllers (hello, D2) allow that, I expect many will go that route. But building things into a single unit isn’t entirely daft. There’s reason to like the S8 on the road, once you do get some sort of flight case. If DJs can simply get a good table in their tech rider, the S8 can become reasonably practical. No, it won’t fit into a booth. But yes, it is actually desirable to have a single unit that you connect once for all your gear if quick set-up and break-down are in order.
Yes, that means I still stand by the feeling that at least Maschine Studio and Komplete Kontrol ought to have some audio I/O, but I digress.
Either way, of course, if you do decide to combine deck controls with a mixer rather than the all-in-one S8, you can still get more or less the same advantages.
But that brings us to the next, if also obvious, point – making physical controls and giving them space is a really good idea.
Table for Two. This is the big reason – literally – these controllers are worth a second look. The simple matter is, using an S8 (or an S4, or two D2s, or equivalents from other vendors) means you’ve got room for two people.
It’s funny, actually, the meaning of “Back to Back” has been diluted it seems. Seeing “B2B” written on a DJ lineup sometimes just means that people will be switching off, more or less at random. But what can make these spice up DJ sets is very much that act of swapping DJs with each new record. And that’s where these controllers get interesting. It’s a more collaborative set where two people can stand next to each other and really have a conversation with alternating records.
Why am I making such a big deal of this? I think physical interface has a huge impact on how artists relate to the music they’re making and each other – even before you start talking about the audience. The personal computer has often become an interpersonal obstacle.
With digital decks instead of just turntables, you can also riff on the concept. One person can start slicing and sampling or adding effects, particularly with the accessibility of all those features on the latest hardware. I’m very curious to try the NI gear mapped to Stems (especially when you can generate your own).
We don’t do much of that in this particular mix, but maybe that only proves my earlier point. Just having the space to play next to one another, we pushed and pulled each other in different directions – which is why experimenting with B2B is fun in the first place.
And I put this out there partly as I’m lining up mixes to start this week on CDM, and partly to suggest the notion that in music gear, what’s too big for one might be just right for two.
Enjoy the listening, our Nerk/Kirn take on the grooves that excite us.
Part of why I prefer Mixcloud – apart from the obvious fact that it’s legally licensed for the purpose of mixes – is that it allows you to easily and accurately tag tracks with times. I wish more people would do that; it could be a great way to discover new music. So see full track references in there. (Discussing Mixcloud and competing services should be the subject of another story.)
We go back to some old ones from Nerk (veteran of Toktok and including his collaboration with Dirk Leyers on Kompakt), as well as some new and recent favorites including from friends like Bill Youngman, Dasha Rush, and Aurora Halal.
Six-hour, eight-hour DJ sets? Okay. How about a 24-hour live set? How about not one artist, but six, or thirty-two, or more? Sometimes it’s techno; sometimes it goes ambient. There’s singing, there’s dancing – just no DJing.
That’s the kind of too-much-is-not-enough attitude that has gripped Krautok, a wild 24-hour live jam held together only by a spaghetti mess of cables and a single clock source. (Previously: vintage MPC. This year, something a bit more scientific. More on that in the moment.)
Over the years, the likes of Dasha Rush, Ed DMX, Housemeister, Eric D Clark, Electric Indigo, Khan of Finland, Candie Hank, Bozzwell, and Alexander Kowalski have joined in, among many others. This year the lineup is in the dozens – myself included for my second outing with the group, hopefully avoiding bloodshot eyes.
So, as champions of the live lifestyle, at CDM we take a look at this mysterious ritual, this year falling at Berlin’s about:blank starting Friday evening the 6th of June, just in time for the Pfingsten holiday weekend.
And we have some sounds to share, as well.
Co-founder Benjamin Weiss (aka NERK, and part of Toktok) explains, to the extent you can explain this sort of thing:
Krautok started out as a one-off project in 1995 by Toktok together with Robotnik -six people playing live for 24 hours at Frisör (which was around the corner from Elektro, E-Werk, the first WMF and the original Tresor). We kind of picked up the idea of playing long live-sets from the Spiral Tribe collective and felt like it was something totally different from listening to a DJ playing records. In 2006, we revived the idea again, but decided on inviting our friends and other artists as well and ever since then we have tried to do Krautok every year (with the only omission being 2013). Over the years we have established a nice base of artists who are regulars at Krautok with some new ones joining every year.
Technically the whole setup is quite easy: a bunch of mixers connected and a Master Midi Clock. We used to use an old MPC 4000 as a Master MIDI Clock, but this time around it will be the MIDI Clock by Rest & Maier.
For those of you who have been suffering clock headaches, it’s worth a look.
This little box is set to hold together Krautok’s madness this year.
But what does this all sound like, exactly? Much of it hasn’t been entirely documented, but some extended sets are preserved for posterity. That includes several from Daniel Troberg, aka erase – also known as the CEO of Elektron. Yeah, it’s that kind of nerdy party, where things get harder and nerdier and more sci-fi-dystopian than in Elektron’s marketing films, and the guy who built the machine … drum … shows up with his machine.
Three sets for you from Mr. Troberg, so light some candles, and enjoy a chilled out date night.
In a very different groove, American-born disco/house legend Eric D. Clark is a regular on the mic. In this set, we get Mia live from 2008:
This year, Dr. Nicolas Bougaïeff – really, he has a doctorate in techno, as he’s explained before on CDM – joins the lineup. Here he is jamming in 2011; very curious to see what he’ll be up to this year. He promises “no auxes for me, i’ll be playing minimoog stone cold, no fx, straight up, dry as f***.”
LADA — aka Dasha Rush & Lars Hemmerling — are back this year, as well. Here they are doing the live thing in Moscow:
“Wir mögen aktuell den DSI Evolver sehr gerne, besonders seine Kombination aus analoger und digitaler Synthese. Vier Oszillatoren stehen zur Verfügung (zwei analoge, zwei digitale mit FM), vier LFOs, drei Hüllkurven, ein kleiner Sequenzer und und und. Für Gigs hat er die perfekte Größe, macht aber auch im Studio eine Menge Eindruck. Zum Editieren verwenden wir einen preiswerten Editor von sound-tower.com.”
LADAs aktuelles Release “Lostbahnhof” ist auf Fullpanda erschienen.