Some brutal handmade electronic sounds live, from Balfa

It’s Friday night; you want to set the mood. How about some violent electronic sounds from the handmade electronics of Spain’s Balfa? ¡Por supuesto!

We premiered Balfa’s music video and explored the range of his dynamic music last month. It’s time to return to check in on his live performance:


Live performance @ Eufònic Festival – 6th September 2019
Live improvisation while exploring the handmade devices I built. All the sound is generated only by analog crafted machines and synthesizers.
Video produced by Nektar Studio – IG: @nektarstudio

If you read Spanish, he did an interview in his native tongue with Red Bull accompanying the premiere of this live set documentation:

Mira en exclusiva el singular directo de Balfa


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Clubnacht sounds: heavy techno from Jessica Kert, Lana Lain, YOONE SEKS

Let’s transport you to Berlin for a while – with three of us who share interests in techno and experimental electronic music, drawn from broader music and technological background.

I’m fortunate to get to join Jessica Kert, Lana Lain, and SDX tonight at Berlin’s Suicide Club. I’ve been a fan of Jessica’s music ever since first giving it a deep listening on her Detroit Underground outing. And as Jessica is deep into technology, it’s also worth noting that Lana Lain’s backround in techno is drawn from classical education. I think the days when there was a line drawn between such things are over. (That also means, in turn, erasing the attitude toward dance music as being a lesser form of expression, which speaking as an American to me suggests some fairly racist overtones.)

But let’s skip directly to the music. I’ve also got a new mix out this week, revealing some of the heavier sounds I’ve been into.

Jessica Kert (pictured at work, top) is a familiar face as one of the experts staffing Schneidersladen, but you should know her music as well – both solo and as half of the duo ZV_K.

Her outing on Detroit Underground DW is a modular magnum opus and one of my favorite DU releases of late:

But she’s also an adept live performance improviser – which will be on showcase tonight.

Check out her mix, too:

She’ll be joined on live visuals by defasten, who has been up to some superb alien eye candy, produced with software (modular, of sorts) Notch:

Lana Lain was born in Russian Karelia, but established herself in Stockholm before recently moving to Berlin. She’s been hyperactive in the music scene, including building her ФОМО party series (and accompanying radio show on the UK’s Fnoob Techno Radio. That has carved a space in Sweden for international art friendly to gay, queer, and fetish culture. I hope to talk to her more about that network soon, but in the meantime, here’s the terrific techno mix she did recently for Fast Forward:

I’ll also share a new mix of my own, channeling some harder, driving sets and favorites – and digging through this, I’m encouraged by how the darker, weirder sides of electronic music have gotten some real popularity in techno. These artists aren’t fringe any more, at least getting a growing following around the rich networks of fans in parties in Europe and abroad.

ˈYO͞ONƏˌSEKS is the new podcast and party series from ANRI, the Yokohama-born, prolific producer, DJ, and party organizer. Her work got her deep into Tokyo’s underground, before bringing that sensibility to Berlin, where she’s served as a bridge between the techno communities in Japan and Germany. So it’s a pleasure to reflect a bit of what I’ve gotten to experience from her circle into my own response:

Track listing – go find those folks and labels on Bandcamp or your favorite store (like Rotterdam’s Mord, who I didn’t repeat her intentionally, but whose Bandcamp page is well worth a splurge):

  1. Pris – Ad Infinitum [Avian]
  2. Donato Dozzy – Parola featuring Anna Caragnano (Rework) [Spazio Disponibile]
  3. Judas – ID 14 [Arts]
  4. Th;en – Modular (Mike Vath & Robin Hirte Remix) [Tabula Recordings]
  5. Sawlin – Oblique [Arts]
  6. Ansome – Bearded Lady (JoeFarr Remix) [Them Recordings]
  7. Blawan – 993 [Nutrition]
  8. Oscar Mulero – Texture (Cassegrain Remix) [Warm Up Recordings]
  9. Rebekah – Code Black (Slam Remix) [Soma Records]
  10. Ethan Fawkes – Barricades Did Not Burn [Corresponding Positions]
  11. Fjaak – Drugs [Seilscheibenpfeiler Schallplatten Berlin]
  12. Dave Tarrida – Bound To You [Mona Records]
  13. Albert Van Abbe – In Rotterdam [Mord]
  14. Uun – Destruction of Heaven and Earth [Mord]
  15. YYYY – Repent [Weekend Circuit]
  16. Scalameriya – Crucible [Perc Trax]
  17. Thomas P. Heckmann – Bodywrap [Monnom Black]
  18. Paula Temple, Fever Ray – This Country (Paula Temple’s INSTRUMENTAL Version) [Rabid Records / Co-op]
  19. La Fraicheur – Eaux troubles (VTSS Remix) [InFine]
  20. Hiro Ikezawa – Spiral Arm [Murasame Industrial Records]
  21. Ket Robinson – The Fear (Mab Remix) [Taro Records]
  22. A001 – Cyprido [Mord]
  23. Nicolas Bougaïeff – Cognitive Resonance [novamute]
  24. Air Liquide – Semwave [Blue]
  25. Sleeparchive – Wood [Tresor Records]


And if you’re in Berlin and want to stop by and say hi, that’ll be here, by Warschauer Str S-Bahn:

More on music and visual artists from – well, this week, even, as Atonal is also on – very soon. Now excuse me; I may squeeze in a disco nap.

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Hear the epic live set Skinnerbox played at Fusion Festival

We have the technology. We have the capability to play live sets on mainstages. And for a brilliant example of that, look no further than the frenetic, exquisitely hyperactive acid performances of Skinnerbox. Their set at Fusion Festival from this weekend demonstrates that you can command massive mobs of dance lovers outdoors with live sets, too. And maybe you thought such things were confined to chin-scratching handfuls of nerds.

Skinnerbox is the Berlin-based duo of Iftah Gabbai and Olaf Hilgenfeld, who join together to make sample-laden live performances mixing acid techno spiced up with grooves. Last week, they dazzled the outdoor throngs at Fusion’s legendary Turmbühne, the Mad Max-styled open air megaplex.

Fusion Festival’s organizers actually explicitly discourage documentation. The event, a kind of extended afterhours open air sprawling over a Soviet airfield, is best remembered like a dream anyway. But I think it is important to share the musical artists from that event. They span seemingly endless stages, from enormous openair arenas with set pieces and special effects to intimate tents and club-like indoor spaces.

And it’s important in particular to appreciate what happens when live sets do hit the bigger stages, which even at Fusion are awash with mostly CDJ sets. Live performance of dance tracks continues to be a comparative minority. And on big stages, the throngs may not know that what is producing what they’re hearing (being occupied instead with dancing and partying, natch). So spreading that information separately is a reasonable solution.

Indeed, the possibilities of live music are so poorly unknown that Skinnerbox have sprawled a notice on their SoundCloud banner explaining there are no track IDs, because they’re not playing tracks. (I actually hear this confusion a lot with live tracks.)

Here’s what the whole set sounds like:

I talked to Iftah a bit about playing. The rig:

Olaf on Minimoog model D
Ableton Live with effects for the Minimoog
Iftah on his homemade setup – Arduino-based controlled, two monomes, custom Max for Live patches for sequencing and sample slicing (quite a lot of live sample manipulation going on).

Iftah notes the inspiration of Brian Crabtree’s monome patches, namely mlr and mythologic.

Skinnerbox aren’t just championing live performance in their shows; they’re also sharing tools for such. Their 2009 sbx 2049 drum machine was one of the first collaborations between Ableton and artists. In 2014 they released the Time & Timbre drum machine, which i think remains one of the best examples of how a computer drum machine can aid live performance and generate ideas. Even with so many Max for Live creations out there, this is one you should definitely try.

Speaking of Time & Timbre, they recently showed how it can be combined with analog modular via the CV LFO now included in 2.0 (have to cover all of this in more detail later):

For more background on their live sets, here’s a session recorded at the pool, with monome meeting Minimoog:

the bali sessions from skinnerbox promo videos on Vimeo.

And from 2015, Skinnerbox (they’ve been Fusion regulars):

skinnerbox live fusion festival 2015 from skinnerbox promo videos on Vimeo.

And last summer’s Plötzlich am Meer:

They’re even crazy enough to play live … for twelve hours.

And yes, I love the monologue in the 2016 Fusion Festival set, which seemed to have a welcome message for attendees (cue to about 45:00): “Happiness the brand is not happiness … Smile at a stranger and mean it; lose your s***”

Finally, if you want to vicariously live Fusion more (or relive it), the fine folks of German-language blog Berlin ist Techno have put together a playlist with all the sets they’ve found uploaded so far:

Now… back to plotting my next live set. And… sleeping after Fusion.

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Berlin warms up for techno and visuals in a Portuguese castle

Techno lineups don’t have to be scraped off of the top of DJ charts and Google searches. And visuals don’t have to look like a screensaver that got drunk. Festival Forte, set for the end of August at the castle of Montemor-o-Velho, between Porto and Lisbon on the Portuguese coast, is a glimpse of something different. Already last year, it ran against the grain of dumbed down summer festivals with some of the bleeding edge of concert visuals, set to an exceptional lineup. And it appears to be set to do that again.

So, let’s check in on what’s happening – and, even if you aren’t near a castle or Berlin or anything of the sort, give you some taste.

If you are in Berlin, don’t miss our chance to get you on the guest list – scroll down.

Festival Forte runs 26-28 August. We’re waiting for some news on what’s happening in visuals. (I’m keen to hear, even though I’ll be in a residency on an island off the coast of Finland.)

For a sense of the visual atmosphere, here’s a post-2015 video wrap:

Festival FORTE 2015 _ Visuals Report from OlgaStudio on Vimeo.

For more, our photo at the top comes from excellent French scene site SweetLife, who did an extensive photo essay from 2015 (meaning if you have forgotten all your high school French, kids, you’ll do fine – pictures!):

We can tell you the 2016 music lineup: Berghain residents Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, RØDHÅD – of course. But you also get Trade (that’s Blawan and Surgeon, which is a pretty insane duo), Truncate, Helena Hauff, Apparat, Silent Servant, Kobosil, Ancient Methods, Konstantin, plus Portugal’s own Rui Vargas. There’s the new Ben Frost show with live visual / live cinema star MFO to open, and the legendary Cabaret Voltaire (who were exceptional when I heard them at Atonal – not always the case with our heroes from the past).

But let’s not wait until August, anyway. Thursday night the 23rd of June in Berlin, there’s an open-air warm-up at Ipse. And – lucky us, since German weather in June can be anything but warm – the weather should be perfect. So it’s a chance to prove that music like Ancient Methods need not be experienced whilst huddled in dark basements from a bracing winter blizzard after all. Like, you know, hard techno and sunshine?

If you can’t make it to Berlin, just get some loud speakers, head out doors, and – we’ve got you covered.

Born deep in east Germany and raised as a kid in Berlin, Subjected is about as good an embodiment of German techno as you’ll find. Here’s a terrific live set from Suicide Club (nee Suicide Circus) well worth your heavy garden party we’ve just encouraged you to have (sorry, neighbors):

Subjected is known, too, for his Vault Series:

Ancient Methods is just one of my favorite DJs and producers. I could say something more intelligent than that, but I can’t say anything about Germany or techno or Ancient Methods quite as nicely as this fantastic cut (which oddly, I still haven’t heard anyone play out except me, but maybe he’ll do it tomorrow):

Seems like that needs its own music video rather than just a still image. Someone? (The actual EP is here.)

Of course, just gathering the Berlin regulars isn’t terribly new. So what’s special about Forte is that it can connect to Portugal. For that, look to Expander, who has used Portugal’s underground as a base from which to play around the planet. And – having been talking to a number of people about this phenomenon this week – that I know for many is the dream. This is the sort of character who manages to wire into the international scene and join the jet set. And his music holds up to that:

It’s not enough to just do some decent production and DJing, though. Expander’s Soniculture (find it on Facebook) is a label, it’s management and booking, it’s consulting, it’s a venue, and – back to the original topic – it’s this festival, curated and directed by Expander.

But that’s I think the new baseline. The people who are making it now on the highly competitive international scene are essentially Transformer-robots of men and women capable of doing all things at once. It’s a tall order, but – it’s fun when you watch people make it work.

And it’ll be fun to watch them tomorrow.

If you are near Berlin and have a Thursday night free, CDM can help you and your +1 with guest list – enter our giveaway by joining us on Facebook.

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Octave One Are Back, Improvising Grooves with Machines

Octave One by Marie Staggat-23

If anyone can make cookie-cutter techno, then improvisation is the route back to heart and soul. And there are few people as good at making dense, bass-heavy improvised dance music as Detroit’s Octave One.

I mean, yes, it’s a little weird that any of us would get overly eloquent or snobby writing about dance music. I would hope your test is the same as my test – does piping a track make you start doing an embarrassing little jig at your desk? (Boy, am I glad my office is on street level and equipped with giant, aquarium-style windows.)

Octave One stopped by Resident Advisor recently, with a table bestrewn with gear – that thickened-up gravy of sound. Yes, that’s our own MeeBlip (SE edition, modded with an extra-big knob) on the bass stabs at the beginning. And there’s tons of KORG and other gear in there, as well. There’s a nice balance of advance preparation with rich live-played synth lines and mixing and filtering. It means they’ve done enough that they can lay down a groove, but they also can feel transitions, structure – actually say something in the moment. They’re also clever in keeping everything accessible, rather than doing something overly cerebral. Sonically, everything is defined (clever groove can help), but there’s also a healthy amount of dirt and warmth.

There’s funk and soul in this music, too, ingredients that perhaps more producers would do well to genuinely understand.

Co-founders Lenny and Lawrence Burden have been at this for about a decade and a half, and it shows. But what impresses me is that they aren’t just riding off the success of some tracks: they’re proving their chops in every single show, whether you’ve heard of them or not. (And yes, you might recognize tracks like Black Water (with vocals by Ann Saunderson) – but it really doesn’t matter.)

For still more improvisation, don’t miss their Boiler Room Moscow live set from last year:

There, they debuted the rich, delicious track “Afterglow”:

It’s fun to watch on the Internet, but I know I hope I get lucky and see them in person. Tour dates through Europe before they wrap up in New York:

31.07.2015 – Moon Beach Festival, Trogir, Croatia
07.08.2015 – Dreambeach Festival, Almeria, Spain
30.08.2015 – Krankbrother day and Night, London
06.09.2015 – Vagabundos, Space, Ibiza
18.09.2015 – Bacchanale Festival, Vieux Port, Montreal
19.09.2015 – Stage One festival, TBA, New York

Give them a visit:

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Live Insanity: Ceephax Acid Crew [Video]


I had the craziest dream. Super vivid, and it just kept going. Seriously, like it seemed to last a decade. Instead of playing electronic music live on gear that made sounds, so you could keep track of what you were doing with physical buttons and switches and things, all the boys and girls were using laptops. But that wasn’t the weird part: what was strange was, people were just putting whole tracks on those computers. I know what you’re thinking – so they were DJing, right? But no! They were just playing tracks one after another all the same tempo. Sometimes they used, like, the computer keyboard. You couldn’t even see two tracks playing at once — like, you just had to stare at the screen to see when they were nearly done and then make them play one at a time. And then people were adding loops over top that never stopped, so everything sounded like a trainwreck. It was kind of a nightmare.

Anyway, I woke up with night terrors, but then I saw Ceephax Acid Crew in a big cube of video game graphics and I knew everything was okay again. Ha – like, why would you buy an expensive computer that does all these cool things if you’re just going to play it like a single CDJ with no crossfader?! Too funny.

Now I see Ceephax Acid Crew and I’m awake and it’s not a dream.

URSS got a camera, and now you have Ceephax Acid Crew playing in your computer from the Internet, and that proves it’s real. “Live motherf***in’ acid,” says some man.

Ceephax Acid Crew is playing live on familiar gear, which you can read from his rider. Who’s who of live gear, really:

1 x TR-909
1 x SH-101
1 x TR-707
1 x KENTON PRO 2000
1 x YAMAHA RS-7000

Ceephax Acid Crew would like you to know that he doesn’t play Behringer mixers and that he needs LOTS AND LOTS OF TABLE SPACE. (Ha, Andy’s rider looks like my rider.)

Ceephax is warming my nerdy heart because he’s making Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart references on Twitter. Yes, he’s English. He’s Andy Jenkinson. Don’t mention his brother – I’m only talking about Andy.

Yes, he plays acid. The gear, the squelching bass lines, they come from the 90s. But they also get twisted through the neon-colored filters of Andy’s imagination.


Ceephax Acid Crew has a sense of humor. This works for live playing because he’s willing to do silly things. It’s not a mistake. It’s just a player who will actually laugh with you and let you laugh at him and let you laugh.

Ceephax Acid Crew makes pop. He plays songs that have the feeling you had when you played into your cassette Walkman when no one else was listening because they made you feel good, and you alone.

Ceephax Acid Crew is not a robot. He’s not a chiseled male model behind a pair of CDJs playing 15-minute techno tracks. He is actually f***ing up a bit with his drum machine because he’s using his hands and fingers to make stuff and they’ve got blood flowing through them, and they’re connected to a brain and that brain is happy to let you know that it’s making decisions and some of them probably aren’t, strictly speaking, “correct,” but that human being is playing for you now and it doesn’t know what will happen, either.

I’ve talked about Ceephax Acid Crew before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. But now seems like the time. Because now big manufacturers are remembering that they invented the gear on which acid was invented. (Hello, Roland AIRA.) And now companies make step sequencers again. And now everything doesn’t have an iPad dock in it, and everything doesn’t boast hardware/software integration, because the revolution will not be a big dongle.

And this revolution matters, because it means you can play live again, and it won’t sound like a record, and maybe people will smile when they dance.

Rant concludes.

Photos via Ceephax’s Facebook page… he’s coming to your town, hopefully.


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The Dream Modular Rig, Making Amazing Sounds: Cyrus Rex

cyrusrex + Baseck – #DBC611G-1D from Muff Wiggler on Vimeo.

Pulsing, rattling, buzzing, quivering, the music of LA-based artist Cyrus Rex is a sumptuous feast of sound. Here’s a musician who connects massive arrays of gear, like some post-apocalyptic robot dream, and then makes it sound like it – rapid-fire machine reveries set in motion amidst nests of cables.

Little wonder this video at top, with Cyrusrex and Baseck, comes from MuffWiggler. It is full of gear:

Cyrusrex + Baseck – Modular Synth, DSI Tempest, DevilFish TB303, Strymon BigSky, casio #DBC611G-1D

But don’t stop there. Cyrus Rex’s music is an IDM orgy of synthesizers, each sound precise and exquisite amidst the raging terror of noise.



Sharing this same attention to sonic detail and big-screen cinematic expanse – yes, we love LA – is the collaboration with Douglas J McCarthy, DJMREX.


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Watch Elektron and Roland AIRA Sing, Live: Dark, Dubby Techno by Phelios [Video, Listen]


There was a time when “live” or live PA meant “I’ve hauled a bunch of gear to this gig and made a mess of cables and I’m going to improvise live for you.”

Now, too often, it means “I’m going to DJ with Ableton Live instead of Traktor or CDJs.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not so much about a laptop or hardware. But there is a spectrum – a useful spectrum, applicable to different artists at different times. And if you really want “live,” you want an artist who constructs music before your eyes out of building blocks. Electronic music across genres often strays from traditional instrumental performance. The very nature of the technology means you’re often not playing every note. But you can make the process of assembly a performance, and something that involves audience participation, and surprise.

You can do this with a laptop and controllers; you can do it with hardware. You can do it with a combination.

Here’s what’s a bit strange: some of the people who are absolutely mastering this aren’t getting a fraction of the attention they deserve.

Watching Phelios is a real pleasure. Keep this video on; it has a reasonably slow build-up, but in the end, you watch an album-sized live set evolve beautifully before you. This is a live set you can enjoy in your living room as well as on the dance floor. (Photo, top: Schlagstrom Festival, Betriebsbahnhof Schöneweide, (CC-BY) Carsten Stiller.)

And he’s clearly at home with his ensemble:
ELEKTRON Analog Four, Octatrack, Machinedrum

I love watching this sort of thing. Octatracks can sometimes turn into track-queuing machines in the same way that some Ableton Live sets can – and, really, there’s nothing wrong with that. But by putting things beneath his fingertips, Phelios is clearly able to helm the shape and evolution of his set, and add a healthy amount of live tweaking. The stately pace of this direction fits these machines perfectly.

The Roland AIRA also shines alongside the more tested Elektron boxes. The TR-8 is dead-simple, but that’s a good thing. It keeps all its sound elements directly at the ready – no menus in site.

This also opens up a sense of shape that a bunch of triggered tracks would lack. There’s extensive variety, but there aren’t clear seams as he moves from one idea to another; everything is nicely interwoven.

For his part, Phelios is a project hailing from Wuppertal, Germany – dark, moody, dubby. He’s unsigned, but releases have shown up on Malignant Records, Eternal Soul Records, and Loki Foundation (they tend away from this sort of dance music, but have a similar sense of shadowy timbre).

I’ll say this, too: this sort of control and restraint is what is often missing in recorded and composed music, outside the live and improvised context. (I’m speaking partly in criticism of myself at times, not just the unwashed masses.) The problem with getting into editing, or composing with pencil and paper, for that matter, is that you can lose the sense of time scale. It’s like doing stop-motion animation without knowing how fast the movements will be when played back.

But for me, it’s thoroughly enjoyable watching Martin’s sense of time. It has wound up being a nice introduction to his music. And it’s a good example of how to record a live set. Thanks for the lesson, Martin. I’ll be listening to more.

More music for you – a number of albums out on Bandcamp, loads of stuff on SoundCloud.

And if you’re not into the techno thing, this gets a bit darker. Okay, a whole lot darker and more ambient – like a group of druid vampires hauled you off to their dungeon, and chained you there, and then it started to rain really hard, and then a bunch of bats showed up and wept. In a good way.

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Sonic Imaginings, Assembled Live: Max Cooper’s Sound World, in a Mix and Images


Entering Max Cooper’s sonic world is always a delight. And in a new mix, we hear it pieced together as he imagines his own sonic connections, constructed live. In turns, the Belfast-born, London-based artist can be cinematic and moody, chilled-out and groovy, or angular and glitchy. But everything remains in definition, each sound there for a reason and in sharp relief, able to corner and take you anywhere, on-road or off.

It makes sense, then, that when we last caught up with Dr. Cooper – yes, he has a PhD in computational biology, too – he was adding extra dimensions to sound. That 4DSOUND project marches on from its home base in Amsterdam, piping audio through a forest of speakers. (See image below. Previously: Full Immersion in Audio, as Artists Explore 4DSOUND in a Spatial Grid [Ableton, Max, Lemur])

But in Cooper’s hands, sound has both scientific precision and easy-going, conversational fluidity, traversing any terrain. So here’s a bit of Lusine (another expert sound designer and widescreen-cinema-style electronic composer), here’s a bit of Rodriguez Jr. via the Inhuman remix package. And mostly, here’s a lot of Max Cooper being an original, weaving together his diverse musical projects.

The “live” mix was offered up mid-May by Clash – and its lovely app. The good Doctor explains:

“It’s been a long time since I’ve made a full length “live” mix of just my own material, mainly because I was focused on my album in recent times. So after some recent work developing new ideas and new experiments, I’ve got enough fresh material to draw on, along with some old, to put together a new live set only composed of my originals, some remixes I’ve done, and I had to include a couple from the Inhuman remix package because there’s some great work on there from Lusine and Rodriguez Jr. among others.”

It’s a nice survey of Human and (remix) Inhuman, out now. Tracklist:


1. Max Cooper – ‘TBA1’
2. Collaboration – ‘TBA2’
3. Max Cooper – ‘Supine’ (Rodriguez Jr Remix) (Fields)
4. Microtrauma – ‘Contrast’ (Max Cooper Remix) (Traum)
5. Max Cooper – ‘Woven Ancestry’ (Lusine Remix) (Fields)
6. Max Cooper feat. Braids – ‘Automaton’ (Fields)
7. Max Cooper – ‘Automnemonic’ (Traum)
8. Max Cooper – ‘TBA3’
9. Collaboration – ‘TBA4’
10. Max Cooper – ‘TBA5’
11. Spastik Bootleg
12. Collaboration – ‘TBA6’
13. Collaboration – ‘TBA7’

Via: Fluid Landscapes: Exclusive Max Cooper Mix

Below, from top, the rather-lovely vinyl package, and what it looks like when you make your sound rig 4DSOUND instead of the usual PA.



Find Max on Facebook:

and SoundCloud

and the official:

Max naturally collaborated with another PhD-holding friend of ours, Nicolas Bougaieff, on last year’s “Movements.” IDM doesn’t cover it. Call it techno, graduated – ambient techno and futuristic dance music engineering – speculative disco.

Another wonderful mix of originals:

Postlude: I love just looking at this Ableton image – Live sets are a fascination to me as some of you know, the visual score, artifacts of the creative process. Max explained the process behind it on his Facebook page.


Yesterday we were talking about why I made a different sort of track from my usual, for the second single of the album. Today I’ll go into how I made it.

Because the track is almost atonal, there aren’t my usual synths, chords and melodies in there, just lots of different drum samples, and lots of different processing techniques.

First off, finding some interesting samples was key. I sampled clicks from old broken records, binaural samples of real world clangs and bangs, and trawled my sample databases looking for sounds and hits that might work. I even tried some demented shouting into my mic (which you can hear layered over later on in the track). Then I threw them all into drum racks, and started developing the basic rhythms and structures, and layering and editing of the samples, reverbs and filtering (often with subtle parameter variation to give subtle movement) to create the sorts of sounds I wanted. Then I arranged them all into the basic form of the track, but that was only the start really, it wasn’t finished at that point as some tracks might be.

The next step happened at Andy Ramsay’s Press Play studio in London, where we sent each drum track through real guitar amps and speakers, massively overdrove the inputs, and then recorded back the deafening cacophony. This gave me some beautiful heavily distorted sounds to play with, which I layered in at points for detail and variation, and that extra bit of nastiness when needed. Perc took these elements to the forefront in his remix, pushing the concept to the extreme (links below for both mixes for comparison).

Then came the time consuming part – lots of editing. I rendered each drum part, or sometimes drum bus, then chopped and stretched the audio, filtered, phased, panned etc etc, working on as much small detail as I could to complement the macro rhythmic structure, with the aim of making the track interesting to listen to as well as working in a club, despite it’s very stripped atonal character. I also used Max for Live devices to randomise a lot of sample parameters, rendered the randomised results and cut out and edited the audio into coherent form – rendering and editing of partially random processes is a technique I use a lot, and very useful for generating detail. Then I rendered together mixes of the already edited audio tracks, and edited the results of the mixed audio further, to give nested layers of edits. This allowed for tight audio breaks like chopping of reverb tails on the master mix, which can give a nice precise feel when needed.

I think that was pretty much it, apart from some really subtle EQing on the master before rendering off the premaster to go out to Chris McCormack at Blacklisted mastering for the EP and remixes, and Dubplates & Mastering for the album version. The reason for that was that Dubplates specifically made their masters fit into a general listening format with higher bass coverage and more mids to make everything work as best as possible on a range of systems. Whereas the single release with remixes was mastered by Chris for club systems, with more on the fundamental bass frequencies and slightly sparser coverage so as not to sound too harsh on the mids on big, very loud, systems. It’s interesting to compare the two approaches to mastering – for now only the club format is out, but the full album will be out 10th of March, with an edited down version of impacts (again, aiming for more home listening format that mixable club format).

Anyway, rant over, I hope that is of interest for some of you!

This track (Impacts) + remixes out now >

The post Sonic Imaginings, Assembled Live: Max Cooper’s Sound World, in a Mix and Images appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Watch An Hour-long, Chilled, Hard, Hardware Live Set from TM404

If you can’t get to a shoreline this week, I wholeheartedly endorse watching the waves crash behind none other than TM404, aka Andreas Tilliander. We had a sort of Roland meditation with him before, and I’m even more fond of this set.

Sit back and enjoy an hour of sound.

It’s worth reflecting on the resurgent hardware set, particularly with the Roland AIRA lineup some of the most talked-about, popular gear of 2014 (and volca beats still selling, and Rhythm Wolf in the wings).


The palette of sounds from conventional drum machine and bassline hardware is, it’s true, limited. But that’s why this is the sort of set fans of electronic music should demand. It’s live, improvisatory, rhythmically inventive – and here, full of cooled waves of sound and intensely focused. Andreas sets up a harmonious ensemble of tightly-concentrated timbres, then drives them with waves of interlocking polyrhythms. And the results have a wonderful flow.

To me, the importance of vintage hardware isn’t necessarily that it’s “authentic,” that the audience always know what’s happening (they still won’t), or even, at some point, that it have a certain sound. It’s that at some point, the artist is comfortable enough with those instruments to enjoy themselves, and the crowd with them.

So yes, now we have volca beats and re-emergent vintage Roland and clones and Maschine and Rhythm Wolf and AIRA and Ableton and Arturia BeatStep and everything out there likely to spread the availability of hardware control of beats all over again. Let’s hope that translates to more live sets. And a little healthy competition on YouTube and SoundCloud couldn’t hurt, either.

Historically, musicianship has managed to be democratic and accessible for centuries, and the best has risen to the top. It’d be wonderful to see the word LIVE behind more music sets – and for it to mean something. That’s a challenge we can all take personally to heart, artist or booker or fan.

I will now step down from the pulpit and get back to sharing information on Andreas. He’s up to so much, and has so many projects, I will do so by copying and pasting from his email signature. Here goes:

TM404 / Tilliander / Mokira / Lowfour / Kondens / Elektroniskt i P2 / Etc / Mm / Osv.

Whoa. And…

Tilliander – Mini LP 12″ (Börft) August 2013
Skum One 12″ (TM404, Skudge, Frak, MRSK) August 2013
TM404 – Svans 12″ (Kontra-Musik) September 2013

TM404 – TM404 CD/LP (Kontra-Musik) February 2013
TM404 – The Morphosis Korg Response 12″ (Kontra-Musik) November 2012

Hope we see more in 2014; we’ll be listening.

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