Dear young Buster: why do you look so sad and lonely? Don’t you know that having a yellow Teenage Engineering pocket modular is all the love you need?
Okay, so Buster is in fact Millenial Swedish pop star up and comer Emil Lennstrand, and he is the first face of a record label (really) from the perpetually-open-to-creative-distraction crew of Teenage Engineering. You see, having done cameras for IKEA and marketing campaigns and various synthesizers and … bicycles and lamps and other things … the Teenagers are now getting into a record label.
It’s surprisingly silky-smooth pop from this otherwise fairly hypernerdy and experimental Stockholm shop. But it does predictably feature Teenage Engineering instruments – in this case the pocket operator modular.
They bill the song as “partly produced” by that system 400 (what – the modular isn’t used on the vocals?). But it’s slick stuff, for sure.
The other star of the music video is this – TE’s pocket operator modular series.
So what’s up with the record label? It’s tough to tell from this one track, but here’s what the Teenagers say for themselves:
first teenage engineering started their own band to field test their instruments. now they are taking the next step starting a record label for songs made with teenage engineering products. there are just two rules, it needs to be a good song (easy) and have at least one of teenage engineerings instruments used in the song. the main distribution platform for their releases will be spotify.
Now that’s some serious Swedish loyalty, going Spotify only.
I’m slightly confused, but intrigued. To my mind, the OP-Z remains the best thing recently from Teenage Engineering hands down, but stay tuned for my explanation of why I feel that way.
And there’s more Teenage Engineering stuff to come, including me joining them in Barcelona during SONAR+D this summer – which means a chance to grill them for more information, of course.
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.
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:
April is a generous month for fans of unusual Ukrainian compilations – now having covered new braindance from the country, we’re directed by readers to another set, giving a tour of experimentalism and electronic composition.
Flaming Pines is a wonderful label for experimental music, also setting up its virtual home on Bandcamp, that last best hope for underground digital downloads and physical releases. Check their full catalog for adventurous sounds from 9T Antiope (great stuff) to Kate Carr (seriously, just go give those a listen). The label, a transplant from Sydney to London, has also taken on a number of tours of experimental electronic scenes in far-off locales, including a gorgeous Iranian compilation called Absence, and up-and-coming Vietnamese avant garde in Emergence.
It’s not so much exoticism the label seems to find as threads connecting kindred spirits. And now, having plumbed the depths of mystical sound in Ukrainian duo Gamardah Fungus, the label brings back half of that duo to curate a selection of sounds from that motherland. Igor Yalivec is the guide here, leading us in just twelve tracks to some highlights of established compositional voices and younger contributions alike. Igor you’ll also find showing off modular musicianship as a solo artist in addition to working in the duo:
Guitar and electronics yield magical metallic timbres like a lucid dream, in the work of Gamardah Fungus – some potent brew of remembered folklore and time-warped futurism. It’s Slavic spirit ambient, but always inventive – modal melodies tensely wandering about layers of tape and sound:
So this was a perfect starting point for Kaleiodoscope. That leads to Alla Zahaikevych (aka Zagaykevych) – her work spanning traditional concert music training, historical folk singing technique (with over a decade singing in an ensemble dedicated to the practice), and founding the Electronic Music Studio of Kyiv’s National Music Academy of Ukraine. I can’t think of many composers covering that many directions in a single career worldwide, making her a leader on that stage as well as in Ukraine.
Or there’s Andrey Kiritchenko, obsessively prolific generation X-aged composer who founded the cutting-edge Nexsound label – and has worked with names like Kim Cascone, Francisco López, Andreas Tilliander, Frank Bretschneider, Scanner, Charlemagne Palestine, and many others.
But thinking in generations or separating academy from disreputable underground – it’s fitting that we cross those borders freely now. So it’s an easy step to a younger artist like Motorpig, a visceral, dark project spanning techno, industrial, and experimental veins – and things that are none of those, but rather ambient, undulating merry-go-rounds of texture. (Been a while since there was new Motorpig, so I’m up for any new track):
To come full circle, understanding the reason for this journey out to Ukraine, it’s worth hearing the terrifically nuanced sound world of Flaming Pines’ own Kate Carr. These are ambient soundscapes that breathe and ache, as precarious and fragile as evidently the artist was recording them – “sliding about in freezing mud on steep inclines.” And maybe that’s what this is all about – music that invokes deep spirits and puts itself in positions of extreme difficulty, all to catch fleeting moments of beauty.
So the compilation promises great things – like this utterly chilling vocal composition by Alla Zagaykevych, some evidently convolved, ghostly sound that seems to be about to blow away like frost:
Also in future-vocal territory, Andrey Kiritchenko delivers a chanting vocoder:
The art, at top, also comes from Ukraine – artist Alina Gaeva. I look forward to the compilation coming out on April 22 – but there’s plenty of link holes to drain our PayPal accounts on Bandcamp in the meantime.
And all of this makes a nice contrast to that naive nerdy braindance business from a couple of days ago. Previously, on “there’s a lot of really cool music from Ukraine on Bandcamp now and it’s worth dropping doing other things to talk about it”:
The letters titling the release spell out, in Cyrllic, “sh**s.” And more than just another dull compilation, this collection of tracks is a statement – in opposition to commercialism and homogeny, in favor of “braindance” weirdness.
The earnest voices of the ШЩЦ creators intone their explanation in an ‘intro’ track you get with the download. “We have power to … make it not commercial, to make it true, to make it native,” they explain – “emotional music, true music from true people.” 23 artists were picked out of hundreds, and the result is a pay-what-you-will Bandcamp release plus a DVD physical copy. (Just got a confirmation – the DVD I impulse-bought is coming in the mail. This should complete my antiquated release format bingo, alongside floppies and game cartridges and VHS tapes and so on….)
ШЩЦ is a party in Kyiv as well as this first music release, and so in addition to lots of new names, you’ll see the likes of Stanislav Tolkachev. The collective itself is based in the capital city, but connects a group from around the country.
You’ll find some magical and surprising arrangements here. And in an age that so often trends between molasses-thick irony and nostalgia on one hand, or dark dystopia on the other, this is music that that’s free, experimental, and optimistic. Just to name a few favorites, and I like this top to bottom – Xtal’s “A-Body” shimmers with cascades of glistening tunes across a frosty-rich percussion bed. Sztvo’s “Heaton” is equally gorgeous, sunlit-warm stuff. “Famergame” is total insanity, by Potreba – please, please DJ with this and invite me. Jubex “Pass In The Dust” feels almost like the Detroit-Kyiv electro connection, with some dry digital newness thrown in. “Hibernation” by S+ is frenetic and urgent. And yeah, Tolkachev’s contribution sounds like there was a transporter accident on the disco floor. Everywhere there are rhythms that range from frantic digital streams to dorky awkward irregularity.
We’ve heard these timbres and rhythms before, but to me ШЩЦ is a sign that what was once high-falutin’ computer craft has become downright punk – and just as easy and spontaneous, rather than sounding overworked or off-putting.
Ukraine now post-revolution is like UK 90s, they argue. But hey, UK or not, why not go oldschool by making connections just by putting together some tracks and being decidedly weird. More of that, please.
“Listen on Bandcamp … and also, wherever in Internet.”
I also dig that their description reads like a manifesto:
ШЩЦ (SHITS) is a new Ukrainian label that started as a club night in December 2016. It was founded by A-Body, Bodya Konakov and their friends and promotes ‘Braindance’ — a much loved and misunderstood genre of electronic music, forgotten by some and indeed new to others, especially in Ukraine. Label founders want to show a kind of ‘family’ of ukrainian artists (by no means a monopoly) who introducing more freedom and versatility to music. These artists feel that there is a void in the country’s dance music that few were attempting to fill so ШЩЦ (SHITS) aims to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Ukrainian braindance music can be entirely original. Also, it disregards the all-to-common commercial genres and wants to show alternative side of dance music.
They tries to demonstrate this in VARIOUS ARTISTS ШЩЦ01, a DVD compilation.
The compilation features 23 musicians from Ukraine, which makes innovative, but at the same time emotional music. This is the friends of the label who have repeatedly performed at concerts and parties of the ШЩЦ (SHITS), including such names as Stanislav Tolkachev, A-Body, Wulffius, Potreba, Sommer, Tofudj, Sasha Very, Acid Jordan, etc.
Also label places equal importance on the evolution of fresh artists on the scene and aims to offer a fair contract for everyone.
As we remember Alan R. Pearlman and the impact his instruments had on music, here’s a survey of the many places ARP sounds appeared in music culture. It’s a reminder of just how profound electronic music tools can be in their influence – and of the unique age in which we live.
Perhaps now is the perfect time for an ARP revival. With modular synthesis reaching ever-wider audiences, the ARP creations – the 2500, 2600, and Odyssey featured here – represent something special. Listen across these tracks, and you’re struck by the unique colors of those ARP creations across a range of genres. It’s also significant that each of these designs in their own way struck a balance between modularity and accessibility, sound design and playability. That includes making instruments that had modular patching capability but also produced useful sounds at each patch point by default – that is, you don’t have to wire things up just to make something happen. That in turn also reduces cable spaghetti, because the patch connections you make represent the particular decisions you made deviating from the defaults. On the 2500, this involves a matrix (think Battleship games, kids), which is also a compelling design in the age of digital instruments and software.
And lest we get lost in sound design, it’s also worth noting how much these things get played. In the era of Eurorack, it’s easy to think music is just about tweaking … but sometimes it’s just as useful to have a simple, fresh sound and then just wail on it. (Hello, Herbie Hancock.)
It’s easy to forget just how fast musical sound has moved in a couple of generations. An instrument like the piano or violin evolved over centuries. Alan R. Pearlman literally worked on some of the first amplifiers to head into space – the Mercury and Gemini programs that first sent Americans into space and orbit, prior to Apollo’s journey to the moon. And then he joined the unique club of engineers who have remade music – a group that now includes a lot of you. (All of you, in fact, once you pick up these instruments.)
So I say go for it. Play a preset in a software emulation. Try KORG’s remake of the Odyssey. Turn a knob or re-patch something. Make your own sound design – and don’t worry about whether it’s ingenious or ground-breaking, but see what happens when you play it. (Many of my, uh, friends and colleagues are in the business of creating paid presets, but I have the luxury of making some for my own nefarious music production purposes that no one else has to use, so I’m with you!)
David Abravanel puts together this playlist for CDM:
Some notes on this music:
You know, we keep talking about Close Encounters, but the actual sound of the ARP 2500 is very limited. The clip I embedded Monday left out the ARP sound, as did the soundtrack release of John Williams’ score. The appearance is maybe more notable for the appearance of ARP co-founder David Friend at the instrument – about as much Hollywood screen time as any synth manufacturer has ever gotten. Oh, and … don’t we all want that console in our studio? But yes, following this bit, Williams takes over with some instrumental orchestration – gorgeous, but sans-ARP.
So maybe a better example of a major Hollywood composer is Jerry Goldsmith. The irony here is, I think you could probably get away with releasing this now. Freaky. Family Guy reused it (at the end). We’ll never defeat The Corporation; it’s true.
It’s also about time to acknowledge that Stevie Wonder combined Moog and ARP instruments, not just Moog. As our industry looks at greater accessibility, it’s also worth noting that Wonder was able to do so without sight.
What about U2? Well, that’s The Edge’s guitar routed through the ARP 2600 for filter distortion and spring reverb. That’s a trick you can steal, of course – especially easily now that Arturia has an emulation of the 2600.
Expect our collective reader knowledge exceeds anything we can contribute so – let us know what other artists using ARP inspired you, and if you have any notes on these selections.
Music can be wallpaper and fashion and groove and all those things – and sometimes those things are grand. But music can also be a torch to help us see out of the dark. The Dimensions Series of curated mixes this year took on those themes of metamorphosis – and how to find ways out of depression and darkness.
Mexico City-based artist and curator Oscar González of the wonderful Static Discos label gathered some significant names for this series. And musically, it’s worth listening top to bottom. But I also appreciate that from the start Oscar opened up about his own personal challenges.
We need a reason to make music. Sometimes, that reason can be survival — finding peace when it threatens to elude us. Oscar tells CDM:
I think I’ve never talked about where the idea of the series was born.
The last five years have been and, in some way continue to be, challenging and shifting. It has been very difficult and there have been some very dark periods, actually. The idea was born right in that chaos; it was like a gift in the middle of depression. But during the last year, there have also been lots of wonderful achievements, new friendships made, lessons learned thanks to my falls and failures that — although they’ve hurt extremely – have helped my convictions and faith to be strengthened.
Some incredibly positive and happy moments also happened. My dad is a miracle, [surviving] several heart attacks. For my part, I got a job that I really love, and I learned to love myself such as I am. I stopped thinking that I was not enough for myself or for others, and I started to believe only what God says I am.
Now brief moments of peace are hitting me…
So, I tried to express some of these experiences and feelings into the series across these years. Each edition is a good representation of those shifting patterns and where my heart was in every moment while curating.
Please, don’t get me wrong – I do not want to be a hypocrite. Just like Luke Hess, I’m just a Christian guy from somewhere in Mexico City trying to spread a little love through music, because for me the music still is the best remedy for the broken heart, to inspire and give us hope where there seems to be none.
However, I feel a deep sadness, since there are many young people that now are going through by the same situation in which I was, mired in depression, with thoughts of suicide and in a deep pain — so if you want to talk, please hit me up, sometimes we just need someone to listen to us.
“Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us.”
I could add here, but I expect I don’t have to – this experience of navigating darkness and hopelessness through music is something that I know can resonate with most or all of you.
What’s been beautiful about the Dimensions Series this year is how each new mix has let the theme of metamorphosis unfold and blossom. And guest artists from a range of backgrounds often touched on these themes from Oscar even without prompting.
Elli. Photographer : Ryuji Sue Hair & Makeup : Tori. Styling : Joe (TOKYODANDY)
Elli Arakawa of Japan has an especially beautiful, artful, moving mix, one that tugs at your heart and lifts you to some transcendent plane.
And she also gets personal:
This year has been a year of transition and realization.
There have been many changes for the good and the bad to make me realize what is important in life and living in this difficult world right now as a woman, an independent and strong woman that I would want to be considered.
This mix is dedicated to my mother.
Who just had a bad accident/operation but still has a positive prospective about life, the overall cause, and effect, karma, everything happens for a reason and from that, we learn.
She has dealt the accident with grace and I could not be more proud. She has not let it affect her life and ever since she has only been moving forward. So I would like to dedicate it to her strength and determination. She is an inspiration to many of us women and continues to be. We need women like her to pull us all together and fight for what we deserve and what we wish for.
My mind was everywhere at the time but I found myself being centered when I was recording this mix.
I hope it triggers some kind of positive effect to every person who gets to hear this mix. Or some kind of realization towards life, to be able to embrace changes and to notice how lucky we are for what we have.
Jenus, artist and curator, has moved from helming Ostgut Ton to Kobosil’s bold R – Label Group. To anyone who says Berlin lacks a sound, here it evolves gradually, from Detroit to Friedrichshain, in a sense of experimentalism that is rooted and timeless.
Perversely, it’s often a lack of history that can hold producers and DJs back from experimentation – like traveling without a compass. What I’ve grown to appreciate about Jenus in the years I’ve known him in Berlin, apart from his deeply intimate sense of dedication to music, is that sense of history. And he has a knack for navigating shadowy sound, taking us deep into the forest.
He lends some theory to this soulful Winterreise that emerges in this series, and – sure enough, talks about how that connection to the past is meaningful to him. Connect this sense of music finding its way and how we personally find our way (including our personal path through music), and I think there’s something potent:
While working on this mix I was thinking about development and structural change. I wanted to reflect on the process of forming, it’s about memory and transformation. The mix combines some tracks that have been with me for a long time – since the early 90’s, through layering them with new sounds they evolve into something new. I need a lot of time to slowly develop a transition and I like a natural ebb and flow, the force of nature. Energy regenerates and then rears up, you can see this again and again everywhere you look. This mix is a little darker maybe and more pensive, you have to take time, in general, this is something that I believe people should do more. Change just happens, it’s inevitable, but positive change benefits from an understanding and contemplation of the past.
These wonderful images are created by designer FAX aka Rubén Alonso – as always for the Static Discos label. And if some of the guests here bared souls, FAX brings you into his home and workplace, with an eclectic soundtrack that reveals how he mixes his daily life and remains creative.
John Osborn is essential listening, too. And he speaks to the notion of traversing emotions, finding narrative. It’s mixing in the most personal and subjective way, far from the functionality required out in public. And it’s lovely (track listing is over on SoundCloud):
It was a long time since I last recorded a ‘home-studio’ mix. My previous mixes/podcasts have all been live recordings, mainly from sets in Japan & Asia. Oddly, it felt new to me to record a mix without a location defining what I play. Without the external defining the direction I found myself asking myself quite a deep, yet simple question; What do I want to communicate? I took a personal report of the past few years of musical experiences to find out where my head is today and in doing so I created this mix. I composed a mix that carries you through a rich narrative, that makes, holds and breaks tension in a gentle sine-wave pattern. I discovered the sound that currently interests me as a DJ is one that will always transport you, on the dance floor or in your headphones, like that magical feeling when you are in transit to a new, never seen before destination. Tension, drive and expression are not defined by BPMs, but emotions.
Oh yeah, and I did the first mix in this series. I thought about transformation and I knew Oscar had been going through a lot – I knew I’d been going through a lot of change, too – and so I felt a lot of the same calling he talks about above.
Oscar and I hadn’t talked about depression and metamorphosis so directly, but I’m looking back on what I wrote when I sent in the mix, and I think intuitively sometimes we speak these things when we share music. Here’s what I had to say:
I hope music is that one space that gets deeper the further we go, that makes us more malleable as we get older instead of more brittle. It’s the language we never stop learning. And when the world around us sometimes gives us pain and loss, I think sound can be the code that helps us find ourselves again. That’s true whether it’s silly, or repetitive, or ridiculous, or noise and grit and distortion. Screams become joyful and pain turns to laughter. Music is the sound our heart makes when it’s unafraid.
I find depression stops you from being able to make music, but I think that’s because depression is immobile and unchanging. But then music can be the way to get yourself out of that hole – to move again, to become yourself again by allowing yourself to become someone new.
I was fascinated by the rhythm of Charles Bukowski’s words, and the idea of beatmatching a poet to music … and then from there I find I’m turning to music from people I’ve gotten to know, strangers I wish I knew, music from labels I admire, finding the through line in all that.
I wish we mixed more, and listened to each other’s mixes more, and less to algorithms or albums we’ve grown tired of or what we think is cool. Isn’t that the stuff that matters?
My track listing:
Charles Bukowski – Hustle [Goldenlane Records]
Red Line – Ao Wu [UnderU]
Koji Itoyama – forest [Fumin]
Dark Sky – Imagine [Monkeytown Records]
Frank Bretschneider – A Soft Throbbing of Time [Raster-Noton]
Murcof – Rostro [The Leaf Label]
Stan Velev – North Island [Detroit Underground]
Library Tapes – Sevilla (from Europe, She Loves soundtrack) [Library Tapes]
Nadia Struiwigh – 010101 [CPU Records]
N1L – ijsv_0gel (Logos Rmx) [Opal Tapes]
Energun – Psychotic Sequence 001 [Wunderblock Records]
H. Takahashi – Water Lily [Slow Editions]
Lucas Bat – A Colony Always Works for the Gyne [Lucas Bat]
Yaporigami – PLMS_IV_B [Yaporigami]
Wilhelm Bras – Possibility of Artificial Suffering [Wilhelm Bras]
Analog Tara – Density and Surface [Tara Rodgers]
[unidentified artist] – Untitled (from Vague compilation [La notte di architetto]
Ten Hyphen Twenty – Hospitality Industry [Genot Centre]
Neel & natural/electronic system. – Sinistra [Tikita]
Gurun Gurun – Tsuki ni te (ft. Cokiyu) [Gurun Gurun]
Musica Sequenza & Buruk Ozedemir – Vieni vieni [Deutsche Harmoni Mundi]
CHAIRCRUSHER – Way station [Cornwarning]
Alessandro Cortini – La Sveglia [Hospital Produtions]
George Macreyannes – Dohena [Canary Records]
And do listen to the rest of the mix series; I’ve enjoyed the lot.
And if you feel pain, yes, do feel free to talk. I think if this site does anything at all, it should help us all to use music in how we live.
The Northern Hemisphere’s darkest days make a good scene for music, whatever your spiritual/religious persuasion. So here we have some gorgeous sounds in this holiday week.
First, this mix sets the mood for your end of December about as well as anything could, I think:
I will write about the ongoing Dimension Series of mixes shortly – it was an honor to make the first episode of that myself, and ever since Oscar Gonzales and Static Discos have delivered a steady flow of some of my favorite musical inspirations of the year, with mix after mix from delightful friends.
This particular mix is the work of Satoshi Aoyagi, aka SO, Tokyo DJ and tastemaker of The Labyrinth.
Electronic music has this connection to the club, but that space can so easily become claustrophobic – literally, as well as aesthetically. It can be limiting, and the music can sound trapped. So it’s wonderful that Satoshi takes us outside of that trap, and rewires techno from industrial cliche to a deep trip into the woods. In his words:
After traveling some music styles, I found some good point in between Techno and House this year.
I had an inspiration from nature for this DJ mix when I was driving in the deep forest. At the time of sunset, it was cloudy and there was a lot of mist that day, which was so mystic, but a few kilometers later… the sky had got slightly clearer and in the end, I could see it full of stars, it was a beautiful moment.
Since I prefer to play outside more than a club, this kind of experience always gives me an inspiration to think about what I play. Usually, I play more melodic stuff but this mix is showing the dark, hard side of the point I found and tried to make one big smooth flow from beginning to the end. In the beginning, I started from atmospheric Dub-Techno and slowly changed to straight clear techno to the later half and got more energy.
I think that this piece could translate the image I had that day through the music. I hope you can enjoy the journey.
I also like what Static Discos’ Oscar has to say about this mix:
So gave us a special christmas labyrinth mix. i think that this one is really beautiful and profound in some way and the kind of recording you want to save and listen to years down the road… Jeez! the last track is soooo epic…
well, i’m really not sure if i can fully convey in mere words how powerful what the labyrinth means for many of us, but without a doubt, it’s a place where nature, sonics, people and artists come together to create something genuinely wonderful. so not much more to add… that’s it. a merry christmas to you all
big thanks to Satoshi Aoyagi for taking the time to produce this beautiful mix. also i just want to thank Russell, Yasuyo, and all the rest of the crew that created labyrinth. keep up the good work.
this mix is dedicated to my dearest friends Daniel, Mike, Joshua, Abby and Li: ¡Gracias por su amistad, amigxs! Also to my pals Hugo, David, Joy, Jenus and Javier.
Have a lovely time in the company of your beloved ones.
Chris Stack of ExperimentalSynth.com has always connected his love of synthesizers to deep-rooted musicianship on those instruments with both keys and strings. (Of course it’s a myth that synth love and instrumental love need to be separate.) So I really quite enjoyed this medley he’s made for his family – perfect if you’re resting off big Christmas dinners or holiday drinks with friends or whatever:
More on the pagan side of things, Chris and the local synth nerds of Asheville North Carolina played this far-out Solstice Jam to “send signals to the moon” – animistic space scientists, go…
“That’s Geary Yelton’s hand on the iPad at the beginning,” Chris tells us, and “there was a Haken ContinuuMini just off camera.”
The black-and-white piano keys, alongside the continuous axis of the Continuum:
Novation packed new sounds – and 43 new wavetables – into an update for their flagship Peak synthesizer. Sound designer Patricia Wolf writes to share how she approached making some of those new sounds.
Peak, in case you missed it, has been one of the more compelling new synths in recent years. Novation designed a unique-sounding 8-voice polysynth, melding digital wavetable oscillators with analog processing, per-voice filtering and all-important distortion all over the place.
As with other Novation products, they’ve also been adding features in frequent firmware updates, listening to users in the process.
The big deal in Peak 1.2, released this month, is 43 additional wavetables (which evidently some of you were asking for). But you also get:
16 tuning tables
Two more LFOs you can assign to anything (not just per-voice)
Pitch bend wheel modulation (if you like)
A quicker interface for the Mod Matrix
A new four-slot FX Matrix – so you can route four LFOs to effects parameters
A hold stage for the envelopes (on top of the existing ADSRs)
An option to initalize with current knob/fader positions (instead of defaults)
New soundpacks from GForce and Patricia Wolf
Now, as it happens, Patricia Wolf wrote us on her own to share what she has done with her 50 sounds. Patricia is leading what sounds like a great career working in sound design, and her approach to these sounds is really musical – including sharing these etudes of sorts fo illustrate them, inspired by the likes of BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneering composer Delia Derbyshire. Listen:
Here’s what Patricia has to say:
Hello CDM:) I am a sound designer and electronic musician based in Portland, Oregon. I am one of the official sound designers for the Novation Peak synthesizer and just made a sound pack of 50 patches for their firmware update launch. My soundpack is available for free through Novation’s Components App.
I created a recording demonstrating my patches in a musical/artistic way.
Patricia playing live in Seattle for Further Records. Photo Valerie Ann/DJ Explorateur, framed by video art live by Leo Mayberry.
This recording is a demonstration of the sound design work I did for the Novation Peak. I created 50 patches demonstrating some of the new features that the v1.2 firmware update has to offer. My sound pack is available for free with the update through Novation’s Components App. Select the Novation tab on that app to access them as well as GForce Software’s free patches.
The patches are performed with a mixture of Octatrack sequencing (using sequences from songs I have written) and live performance with a MIDI controller. I was inspired by artists like Delia Derbyshire and wanted to record little vignettes and sonatas using the Peak without other sound sources.
I made this recording so that friends can hear the sounds I made and so that other Peak users can get a closer glimpse into how I envision sound design.
The Novation Peak was recorded directly into a Steinberg UR44 interface. No external effects. Subtle mastering from Tokyo Dawn Labs software to balance recordings of different patches.
More on Patricia:
Patricia Wolf is an electronic musician, sound designer, and gallery curator based in Portland, Oregon. After years of working in the synth pop duo Soft Metals, Wolf became interested in exploring non-linear songwriting and new forms of synthesis. Alongside working with Novation, Wolf co-founded the gallery Variform which focuses on sound design and modern composition. Patricia Wolf is a recipient of the Precipice Fund, a grant funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, to explore synthesis in the contemporary art world.
It’s the shortest day of the year and first astronomical day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Don’t fight it. Embrace all that darkness – with this transcendent album full of drones, made in the free VCV Rack modular platform.
And really, what better way to celebrate modular than with expansive drones? Leave the on-the-grid “mad beats” and EDM wavetable presets to commercial tools. Enjoy as each modular patch achingly, slowly shifts, like a frost across a snowbank. Or something like that.
These aren’t just any drones. The compilation, for its part, is absolutely gorgeous, start to finish. It’s the work of ablaut, a Dutch-born, Suzhou-based artist living in China, with a winter wonderland worth of lush sonic shapes to send a chill up your spine. And everything came from the active VCV Rack community, where users of the open source modular platform have been avidly sharing patches and music alongside.
There’s terrific attention to detail. The group were inspired by the work of composers like La Monte Young, and … this is no lazy “pad through some reverb” work here. It’s utterly otherworldly:
We’ll hopefully take a look at some of these patches soon. If you’ve got ambient Rack creations of your own and missed out on the collaboration, we’d love to hear those, too.