Part II – more music from black artists and organizing around social justice and racial quality, of course on Bandcamp. These are selections that really moved me today; I hope some do the same for you.
Deals and offers are all over the place, but what will actually help you get over creative block and make something? These free Ableton Live add-ons and an invaluable book make a great place to start.
Making Music: Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers is a written book – not a YouTube channel, not a device. But it was one of the more ambitious and influential music tech projects of recent years. It’s the work of Dennis DeSantis, who has a deep background in concert music. The book takes on how to start, strategies for creating new and varied ideas, ways of solving problems, and how to finish – all with a mixture of music theory and software practice. And maybe that’s the best way to describe the state of music making now anyway – theory and (electronic) tools are blurred. The Ableton touch is there, but it’s applicable to other tools, as well.
You’ll find it on a new page Ableton have compiled, free for download in .pdf, .mobi, and .epub format.
Don’t forget that Ableton Live itself is available now in the full Suite edition for a 90-day unlimited trial.
And speaking of that, this exceptional collection of Max for Live devices is also now available, a collaboration between Ableton and the wonderful Sonic Bloom and Max for Cats. They had me at the name:
A vintage-tinged, Oberheim Four Voice-influenced MSE synthesizer.
SEQ8 step sequencer (more traditional analog design).
ConChord, a “pulse-based chord step sequencer” – so you can sequence full chords as well as steps, and look at those steps in terms of pulses, for more open-ended patterns.
Stochastic Delay, which eschews the usual repetitive quality of delays with variable unpredictability.
Verbotron – an elegant little reverb, drawing on an algorithm from Finland’s Juhana Sadeharju. (You’ll find other iterations of the underlying algorithm in the open source world – as GVerb. But think of this as a nerdy, unique esoteric reverb to get you out of the everything-sounds-the-same world of effects.)
Color is a “sound texture” device – so it’s a bunch of different retro sound models, mimicking the grit of vinyl, tape wow and flutter, drive, and EQ. Putting them all together gives you a nice console to shape your sound without overwhelming with controls or getting lost in a bunch of plug-ins. That last bit, I heard about a friend of a friend who made that mistake. Not me. I’m a professional. I would never get distracted by endlessly tweaking a bunch of plug-ins and then toggling them on and off over and over again. I mean, I just never get distracted in general. You’ll see that not happening right now. Wait, where was I?
SkramDelay is actually kind of the odd effect out here, in a good way – modulated dual-channel delay with more randomness.
And that seems like a nice, healthy diet balancing some bread-and-butter features with pretty esoteric and experimental stuff, in such a way that you could easily apply anything in between. If that’s not what Ableton has always been about, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of which, bonus – only because Robert Henke was sharing this on his social media this week – watch the Ableton co-founder product some synthetic sounds using Live as instrument. One of the first videos Ableton ever uploaded to the then-new YouTube service (CDM was in its second year):
Despite the grainy video, this is actually just as relevant an approach to sound design and routing in Live in 2020 as it was in 2006.
Don’t forget that for more inspiration, you can check out some of the guides I’ve done recently for Riemann Kollektion:
Electronic creativity has always embraced futurism – not uncritical futurism, but visionary imagination that leads out of apocalypse and dystopia. So there’s no time like the present for someone like Buckminster Fuller.
Fuller gave his “Everything I Know” lectures in two weeks in January 1975. All 42 hours are online, in video form and text transcripts.
This is how presentations should be done. Yes, he went through his work, covering the likes of his famed Dymaxion house and car (and bathroom!) and those iconic geodesic domes. But even in an age when you couldn’t just look up someone’s portfolio online, these were obviously fresh takes on his lifelong fascination in deeper themes of architecture, design, philosophy, mathematics, and how to engineer a better world.
And it’s that sense where Fuller’s approach might be most relevant today – not the answers he found, some of which date better than others, but the questions he asked and the way in which he asked them.
At a time when humans face a unique existential challenge to our survival, maybe it’s time to toss disciplines (as Fuller did), or at least bring them together. And the kinds of exercises Fuller designed, which incorporated questions of self-sufficiency and survival, might be even more vital to our thinking than they were a year ago. Those approaches tended to the, how shall we say, unconventional:
The first exercise—called “Who Are You and What Are You Thinking?”—simply dropped them off in the isolated wilderness for three days with just $10 and an emergency whistle. The idea was to understand through their absence the human extensions that they would be designing for the rest of their lives.
In a way, actually, it’s too bad that early techno music embraced the Tofflers and their eventually conservative corporate-friendly Future Shock and not someone like Fuller who might overthrow some of those same power structures, but … hey, the night is young.
Fuller’s beauty is that his work is relentlessly experimental, and ultimately his philosophy of the human is built on that notion. From the opening of this series:
All humanity has always been born naked, absolutely helpless, for months, and though with beautiful equipment, as we learn later on, with no experience, and therefore, absolutely ignorant. That’s where all humanity has always started. And we’ve come to the point where, in our trial and error finding our way, stimulated by a designed in hunger designed in thirst these are conscious inputs; designed in procreative urge we have such an enormous amount of, as we learn later on, of designed in automated processing of the inter-relationships of all the atoms in our organism, starting then, with a consciousness of the hunger, giving a drive to go after…to seek to experiment. Man having, then, no rulebook, nothing to tell him about that Universe, has had to really find his way entirely by trial and error. He had no words and no experience to assume that the other person has experience.
I think the last thing the world needs it more hero worship or dead white guys. But Fuller’s thinking is the kind that makes you want to run out into the wilderness and, you know, build a geodesic dome or something. It’s the kind of elderly wisdom we need – the wisdom to toss all the elderly wisdom and do something.
And some of the templates here, for treating survival as an engineering problem, have clear implications to people even with a background in media tech or electronic music invention. (As it happens, I’m working on the calls for two more MusicMakers Hacklabs now, so some of you will get drafted into that mission.)
It’s lovely watching through, or reading through, or doing a needle drop on any of this material.
What to do next? Well, we’re all naked and none of us knows the rules. So let’s try something.
Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir went the extra distance for her score for Chernobyl = taking a real power plant as inspiration for her haunting score.
In a fascinating interview for Score: The Podcast, Guðnadóttir recounts how she followed the film crew to a decommissioned nuclear power plant in Lithuania – even donning a Haz-Mat suit for the research. (Lithuania here is a stand-in for the original site in Ukraine.)
Guðnadóttir, the composer and cellist (she’s played with Throbbing Gristle, scored films, and toured with Sunn O)))) was joined by Chris Watson on field recording. But this wasn’t just about gathering cool samples, but as she puts it, about listening. So every sound you hear is indeed drawn from the landscape of a similar Soviet-era nuclear plant, but as she tells it, the act of observing was just as important.
“I wanted to experience what it feels like to be inside a power plant,” she says. “Trying to make music out of a story – most of it is about listening.” So they go into this world just to listen – with a man who records ants.
And yes, this finally gets us away from Geiger counters and other cliches.
It’s funny to be here in Riga, just last night talking to Erica Synths founder Girts about his experience of the documentary – having lived through the incident within reach of radiation fallout.
Thanks to Noncompliant for this link.
The HBO drama trailer (though a poor representation of the score – like many trailers, it’s edited to materials outside the actual film score):
Speaking of Stravinsky, I wish I could find some of the photos of him and other great composers lounging at his pool. But the “famous composer who would most easily fit into an episode of MTV’s cribs” is undoubtedly mister Rite of Spring himself, who escaped the Soviet Union, embraced capitalism in a major way, and found this sweet pad with an enormous pool in Hollywood. Seriously.
If you need a break from buttoned-up techno, dance music as business and fashion statement and morose wallpaper – take a holiday with some “trippy mindfkk-muzzikkk.” Here, we’ve got 170 tracks from 1991 Cologne to today to get utterly weird.
In 1990s Cologne, if the techno scene was spread too thin, you could just manufacture a few dozen aliases and DIY the whole thing. At least that seems to be the approach taken by our friends Air Liquide, aka Cem Oral and Ingmar Koch, and a half dozen or so core artists – a band of buddies making weirdo sounds. See the full alias list at bottom, but DJ DB (aka DB Burkeman) traced the history of the duo for the now-defunct THUMP from VICE:
Now, just when you thought it was safe to go back to Germany, Air Liquide have returned to make European electronics mindfkked again.
We’ve got over 16 hours – 170 tracks – on streaming services like Spotify, chronicling the evolution (or whatever it was) of Air Liquide from 1991 through today. The sounds are futuristic, spacey, hyperactive, bizarre – everything in turns. You know you need some broken ultra-fast acid piping through Spotify on your next workout, of course:
But in addition to that history, their label Blue is back.
Maybe this comes at an ideal time. With so many records sounding like generational loss – copies of copies of 90s records, watered down and sanitized and fed through Instagram – the new Air Liquide project is both real media archaeology and real invention. You get remasters and rereleases of the actual original records, and – this is important – they’re making new stuff.
Air Liquide are back.
So albums like Liquid Air and Mercury EP are returning on colored vinyl and cheap-for-everybody digital. But you can also expect new creations, like a mini-album called “ALTR” which they’ve let CDM know they’re finishing now with German rave legend t.raumschmiere. And there’s upcoming collaboration with American poet Mary S. Applegate – yes, the cousin of Christina Applegate – later this year, along with other releases.
There’s even some unreleased 1992-93 era stuff in store, they tell us.
Included is “some crazy tripmusic we love – paired with some of our own brain fkk trax” – up to 94 tracks and over 8 hours so far, from around the world and the years:
Their favorite machines
One thread through all this music is a real, profound love for sound and electronics – and synths and noisemakers and effects, like, everywhere.
CDM asked for some of the duo’s favorite stuff, and here’s what they’ve come up with:
erica synths technosystem
akai mpc3000 (modded)
akai mpc60 mk 1 (modded)
ensoniq asr x (modded)
superpocketoperator build by doc analog with 2x teenage engineering po32, ipad with patterning2 and erica synths fusion valve filters. all in an old army flightcase
endorphin.es black noir with twisted electrons crazy8beats
ninja tune zendelay
erica synths & gamechanger audio plasmadrive
bastl instruments dark matter
crazy tube circuits stereo splash mk III
snazzy fx wownflutter
on the wishlist:
korg prologue 16
emu e II+ (modded)
roland 750 (modded)
superlatives sb1 spacebee
Postlude: namedrop this, m************:
Yeah, okay, starting a sentence with “maybe you’ve heard of” with Air Liquide could take a while if you want to check on all their aliases. From the VICE report – amazingly, possibly even incomplete:
Madonna 303, Black One, Digital Dirt Inc, Ingy-Babe, John Amok, Unit 700, Acid All Stars, Der Tote, DR. Echo, Free Radicals, Flüssige Luft, G 104, Message, Oral Experience, Alpha Unit, Basstards, The, Bionic Skank, Cipher Code, Cube 40, Denpasar, Electronic Dub, Ethik II, Even Brooklyn Grooves, Fridge Pro 1, Future Shock Project, Futuristic Dub Foundation, G.L. Posse, German Electronic Foundation, M.F.A., Mental Bazar, Multicore L.T.D., Non Toxique Lost, Outernational Steppers, Restgeraeusch, Rub-A-Slide, Set Fatale, Slime Slurps, , Time Tunnel, Titanium Steel Screws, Tone Manipulators, Trancemagma, Dzeta Walker, Ultrahigh, UMO, Vene, View Point Odyssey, Zulutronic, Black One, Digital Dirt Inc, Dr. Walker, Ingy-Babe, John Amok, 370°, Acid Force, Air Liquide, Alternate States, Atlantic Trance, Bleep, The, Brotherz In Armz, Cipher Code, Commando, The Creature, Denpasar, Dr. Walker & Electro Atomu, Dr. Walker & M. Flux, Electrochic, Electronic Dub, Elevator 101, Ermionis Phunk Crew, Ethik II, Fridge Pro 1, Future Shock Project, German Electronic Foundation, Gizz TV & Walker, Global Electronic Network, Helden Der Revolution, House Hallucinates, GEF, Khan & Walker, Lovecore, Mental Bazar, Mono-Tone, Multicore L.T.D., Pierrot Premier, Planet Love Ink, Planet Lovecore, Psychedelic Kitchen, Radiowaves, Recall IV, Red Light District, Rei$$dorf Force, Resist 101, South 2nd, Stardate 1973, Structure, Tantra-M, Technoline, Time Tunnel, Trancemagma, Trip 2001, Unbelievable, Unlimited Pleasure, Vermona, View Point Odyssey, Dr. W and X-911.
They have shared this new short bio/history with us, to give you the full story:
Born out of innovation & originality, Air Liquide are for many people one of contemporary electronic music cultures most pioneering, important and inspiring projects.
Cem Oral aka Jammin Unit and Ingmar Koch (Dr.Walker) first met in 1989 in a Studio in Frankfurt Main, in Germany. As it often is when like attracts like, it wasn’t long before they recognized their mutual love, not only for experimental, abstract and lo-fi musics but also for Alien, Bigfoot, Telepathy stories of Parallel Universes and Fairytales with a somewhat darker side. So it was just a matter of time before the two were getting together in the studio at the end of their respective dayshifts, to commence their own nightshift recording sessions of abstract noise, cut-ups and experimental soundscapes.
As well as Techno itself, likewise Acid, Industrial Noise, Ernste Musik, Ambient, Kraut Rock, Space-rock, 70s Psychedelia Underground Hip Hop and Musique Concrete were all somehow present and in the mix of the evolving Air Liquide sound, sitting comfortably and perfectly at home with elements of Turkish and Arabian traditional Music’s. The production process took on board a similar innovative and pioneering approach in its fusion of Modern Dub paired with the intensity of the all important groundbreaking Roland 909, 808, 303 and 101 must have technology of the day.
In 1991, they formed Air Liquide.
The fusion that was created boldly incorporated a past it was proud of, free of revivalism or plagiarism, clearly created in and reflecting undeniably a soundscape for the here and now that proclaimed uncompromisingly and assuredly, welcome to the future!
In keeping with every other aspect of their venture, Cem and Ingmar followed their intuition and instincts rather than established tradition, and immersed themselves in freestyle jam sessions, recording the entire one or two hours that they lasted. Upon later listening it would be decided if any parts of the jam session were up to the pairs criteria to be edited out and tweeked into tracks for release.
This is the paradigm within which the Air Liquide creative process birthed “Neue Frankfurter Elektronik Schule”, their first record, released in 1991 on their own label ”Blue”. The first pressing of 1000 copies, released on coloured vinyl, sold out in the first hour after its release!
This was a remarkable achievement, for an unknown band without any direct link to the House Music Scene. Via experimentation Air Liquide reintroduced a living breathing life affirming energy into contemporary music culture, much the same as techno and house did via rave and most importantly dancing. No surprise then that in a very short space of time, accolades like ‘The true heirs to Can’, ‘The Greatful Dead of Techno’ & ‘The spearhead of German Techno’ were incoming thick and fast from the International Music press. Their mixture of Hip Hop, Psyche & Krautrock, Acid & Techno endeared them to a rapidly established and increasing fan base around the Cologne area.
Their eclecticism, originality and self respect, as apparent in a seemingly “no respect for any rules” approach endeared them to that international music press, fans and professionals alike, especially as those professionals were born of the same spirit, as it had been in their own break through years. Like attracts like, the true fans of such musics, such fusions and the spaces that are created for and by these musics, of course could and can feel that, and step up to support it without question.
Then you have guests at your live jams like Michael Rother, Holger Czukay, Luke Vibert, Helmut Zerlett, Craig Anderton, Arno Steffen, Caspar Pound, Fm Einheit. Then your 100% improvised live shows successfully bring surprise, ecstasy, the unexpected and exactly all that people are wanting from you, as well in ways they are not expecting, all in a guaranteed we deliver way, regardless however it may be presented. Then you will be invited to join the roster of USA sm:)e records, the cult sub-label of Profile, that being the label of Run DMC. Likewise in UK, being asked to release on Casper Pounds all important Rising High Records.
And when your fusion of the experimental soul of contemporary electronica and krautrock creates such a superb and flawless fusion that fans from both sound spectrums love you for it, well then one of the all time forward thinking labels ever, Harvest records, will come out of retirement and re activate solely for the purpose of releasing your recordings.
Which is exactly what happened in 1993. That happens if you mean what your doing and if what you are doing is truly valid and unquestionably relevant.
Air Liquide were inspired, moulded by and arose from within that timeless borderless creative Freezone that births truly great Sound & Vision in every respect. It is where they still reside, and it is from there that they now re-emerge to mark 3 decades of living on the frontiers of International ground breaking contemporary ahead of the curve Music, Art, and attendant Technology subcultures.
Air Liquide represent the ultimate fusion of ideals, not believing the hype, not being swayed by past or present dogmas and staying true to their innermost aims and feelings, without question. The real thing if you will. Air Liquide were since their inception in 1991, always have been and still are very much the real thing, through and through!
Modern photos by George Nebieridze; all pictures courtesy Air Liquide.
Sometimes lost in conversations about technology or specific musical genre or minutia of social media is the fundamental question of what sound is and what we can discover. From Berlin’s tech/culture conference re:publica, we got to tackle some of those questions.
I got to ask three fascinating individuals about their connection to sound and where future sounds might be discovered. On the panel last week:
Kathy Tafel, now at Native Instruments, has one of the broader backgrounds in the entire music technology realm, spanning the birth of the DAW (Deck II!) to key roles at Apple to her ground-breaking multimedia band D’Cückoo. And now she’s charting the course of projects like Sounds.com and TRAKTOR and – I have to say, I’m optimistic about the direction she’s taking them. (Kathy probably merits a separate story on this site if I can compel NI to agree to it.)
Valentin von Lindenau has diverse work across audio and music, and with his firm kling klang klong has established himself as a rare leader in audio interaction experience and design, in a way that leads this medium internationally.
Lucrecia Dalt has come from Colombia to making a name for herself in the packed artistic landscape of Berlin, with unique poetic-musical hybrids. Maybe better to let her speak for herself:
We tread lots of ground here – I can’t take credit for either the topic/theme or the selection of panelists, but I’m grateful to have participated in the program.
And actually – I’m glad to even flounder on this sort of topic, but ask ourselves those kinds of deeper questions. I have my own opinions, naturally, but I was keen to get these fresh perspectives.
The full topic:
Can music and sounds be developed infinitely, or is everything at some point composed and tried out? If we follow John Cage and reserve the word “music” for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instrument, the contemporary “organizer of sound” will not only be faced with the entire field of sound but also with the entire field of time. Matthew Herbert on the other hand stands with his manifesto for a kind of artistic self-limitation, demanding for instance that the sampling of other people’s music is strictly forbidden and that the use of sounds that exist already is not allowed (No drum machines. No synthesizers. No presets). For our reality check, we want to discuss what sound engineers, designers and artists are working on right now. Which sounds actually sound new and why? And also – which new applications for such sounds are in the works or theoretically conceivable?
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: