Video premiere: Caustic alien dreams and handmade electronics from Balfa

Balfa sucks us into dystopian reveries, as we premiere a new video – and see some of the home-built instruments making such wonderfully acerbic sounds.

First, let’s set the mood with the video, which pairs music artist Balfa with artist/animator Maria Mendes of Portugal. Whatever is rendering in that skin, that’s more or less how my body feels if I give it over to these sounds.

It’s for the track, from this month’s debut LP Perfecta Analogía De La Decadencia. (I bet you got the translation of that one. Full track-by-track album description with extended commentary is on his site.)

Balfa is a Spanish artist who has crafted his debut LP, he says, as an autobiographical journey through Berlin over his four year stay here. (It’s true – those screams of agony you hear, that’s exactly the sound my soul makes when I’m stuck just before closing on a Saturday night in the produce section of the Wrangelstrasse Lidl. But I digress.)

What you get is the raw, exposed crackle and growl of electronics, giving way to abstract broken beats and fragmented landscapes. And then, unexpectedly, he’ll break into a furious, hyperactive groove, in between caves of ambient sound. Those occasional repetitions now qualify things to be called “techno,” but frankly – I’m totally okay with the ongoing dissolution of the term, if it means more experimentation.

The album has the unedited directness of late-night studio psychosis, but it’s always engaging and inventive. The full stream is on HATE; there’s a vinyl LP that then spills over on digital with a couple extra tracks, out earlier this month. Delilirium Candidum of Mexico made the artwork, in a sort of naive-folk cyberpunk style:

And the sounds are unpredictable and show this love for electricity in part because of Balfa’s extensive DIY work. Balfa has been building his own instruments, with a decidedly punk approach (as we like around these here parts at CDM).

Most interesting is this “Yafurula Generator, Revelwaver & Clock”:

There are three separate modules here. The main is the Yafurula Generator:

Yafurula Generator is the main piece. A sequencer that contains the power supply for the whole synthesizer. It’s built inside an old German cigarettes box I bought in the studio of a sound artist who makes synthesizers professionally and needed to get rid of a lot of stuff. Its sloping shape make it ideal for working with patch cables.

With 16 connections and 8 cables to patch them in many ways, it creates sequences of different length. It’s not an 8-step sequencer: the pattern length depends on the number of cables connected to each other.

The CLOCK is just that – with a single knob. And there’s a wave generator.

Actually burning out the oscillators is part of the appeal. He explains:

Best part of this one is the sound produced when it gets a pattern from the sequencer. There’s a special knob position that controls the first oscillator’s frequency and produces glitches when the resistor is hitting up too much. The noise produced is fucking great, but doesn’t last long. Each time this happens, the resistor starts to get hot faster and the noise is every time shorter and shorter, until the resistor gets burned and damaged and it needs to be exchanged for a new one.

If you ever share a studio with Balfa, and wonder why your resistors suddenly start disappearing… well…

There’s also this synth built into the shell of a PlayStation controller:

More on that: https://www.blf-lab.com/en/discover-the-album/playstation-synthesizer/

His live performance – as recently at Eufonic festival – is all about handmade devices and improvisation. On the album, it’s nice hearing those untethered textures mixed with song structures and sounds – a compelling split.

I also quite like this little reveal they did for the cover artwork by Delilirium Candidum:

If this goes anywhere, you can say again you heard it here first – this is BLF001. Now that he’s back in Spain, Balfa promises “BLF Lab” will be an outlet for more of this sort of endeavor:

Balfa establishes his BLF Lab project not only as a space for creative experimentation through craft practices, but also as a base for making music with handcrafted machines and various materials.

We’ll be looking forward to what transpires, Balfa.

www.blf-lab.com

More pictures of his DIY work:

Photo: Maria Louceiro.

Photo: Maria Louceiro.

Photo: Marta Rubio.
Photo: Marta Rubio.

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How focusing on one tool cured writers block, and made one sharp, chilly, ‘stoic’ EP

Tools and technology are often described as obstacles. But sometimes focusing on a tool can refine musical process and composition – as main(void) reveals.

And yes, the goal here is, as always, to cure writers’ block and finish something that you feel really happy with. Let’s first hear the finished item, as it’s got the kind of deliciously calculated, precise electronics that first drew me to Europe. It feels chilly, but still sensual – foreplay for cyborgs, you know, putting the tech in techno:

Working musicians all have to balance different gigs. An emerging role for us is working out how to take day jobs in designing tools and sound design, and use that experience to help us make our creative musical experience better.

In the case of main(void), aka Jan Ola Korte, it meant parlaying his work in 2018 designing sounds for Native Instruments’ TRK-01 into honing his music making process. He writes:

When I was working on the sound design for Native Instruments TRK-01 in 2018, I saved a few presets to use in my own music. These sounds and patterns ended up becoming the foundation of Stoicism, my first solo EP that was released Aug 21 on Spatial Cues. I had a little bit of a writer’s block situation, so I tried to resolve it by working within very restrictive parameters. All five original tracks on Stoicism use TRK-01 as the only sound source, processed through a number of effect plug-ins. Limiting myself in this way created a nicely coherent sound palette. Since I only used TRK-01’s internal sequencers, I arranged the tracks via automation in Ableton Live, which switched up my routine in an inspiring way. In the end, this workflow not only resolved the writer’s block but led to my most comprehensive release so far.

The basic idea of TRK-01 is to do just that – it puts some focused modules dedicated to dance production in a single place. There’s a kick module, bass, sequencer, and effects – but it’s not preset territory, as each module has a number of different engines. That is, the clever twist here is removing cognitive overhead (by simplifying and integrating the interface), without limiting your creative choices (since there is still a full spectrum of very different sounds you can get out of each module).

Even with that being said, you still might not be certain how to turn this into a completed track. Now, each person will find a different pathway there, but seeing how Jan works – a bit like working with a studio mate – can often give you that “ah ha, I could actually learn from this” feeling.

Jan asked if he should do a full narrated look at his working method. Answer: aber ja.

By the way, of course this also means that by keeping this focused, adapting the release to a live gig is far easier. You’ll be able to catch main(void) live at Griessmuhle, alongside some very special DJ friends like DJ Pete, Alinka, and Qzen, plus some great names, in late October in Berlin.

More music:

Site: http://www.spatialcues.com/

Oh and yeah, go grab the music on Bandcamp! This is the them problem with promo pools, I see some huge names are playing these tracks out but they got the music for free.

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Gorgeous new music from Hainbach, like dreams above radio antennas

Hainbach may be known to most as the YouTuber with a bespectacled gaze, talking to you about weird old sound gear. But his ambient music is absolutely beguiling.

“Gestures,” his new LP this month, is a gauzy, sensitive reverie, as ghosts of piano loops slip between washes of delicate oscillator tones. Nothing is overthought or precious; there’s a gentle openness to each sound.

From the description:

Gestures is an album of disappearing and acceptance. The sense of loss is lifted by interweaving piano phrases, harmonized by fragile oscillators. Gentle movements above radio antennas guided the recording process, adding an incorporeal, dreamlike feel.

Cassettes are sold out, but vinyl is still available.

Digital is through today only name what you want, because the artist says he just wants it to be widely heard.

But maybe there’s the resonance between Hainbach’s art and his YouTube channel – he’s someone who is simply glad to welcome you into his home and share what he’s doing. So that transparency is there in his labor-of-love discussions of his tools, but also there in the easy intimacy of his mixes and compositions, too.

Here’s a new music jam from him, as well:

In art it is possible to create a sense of clarity that is difficult to attain in everyday life. That is a huge attraction to me. Here I am playing the Bellinger eKalimba and OP1 into the Ciat-Lonbarde Plumbutter, with Thyme generating lovely rhythms.

And in case you missed it, our last stop by Hainbach with our new MeeBlip geode:

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Let’s talk leftfield techno, with moody synth gems from Lars Hemmerling

Known for his collaborations with Dasha Rush, Lars Hemmerling shows off on her Fullpanda label his full spectrum of synthesis and production chops. We spoke to him about how he works.

In turns as murky as a depressive overcast German day, as cosmic as a starfield, as brutal as some smelting action, Lars’ latest is all about electronic range and attention to detail. This isn’t any quick fix production – each track is obsessively focused and exquisitely unique. These synths sounds brood and groove, enveloped in wet, fuzzy reverbs, like so much electronic ooze.

You don some waders and head into a swamp of sound in Lars’ work, in a pleasant way. But that to me also comes from his approach to his machines, in finding their organic, particular character. So I wanted to speak with him a bit about how he has found that direction.

Lars is a Berlin native and has been active since the early 90s raves of Rüdersdorf, but you may know him from LADA, his live duo with Dasha Rush. Dasha helms Fullpanda as a trove of underground techno-related (or at least techno-adjacent) fantasies. But Lars has also been active on DOCK records, a good home for ambient-to-leftfield-techno offerings he co-manages. And speaking of things only the in-the-know know, his under-the-radar duo with twin brother Gunnar has also cranked out unique productions. Gunnar takes on a fascination with vintage digital to match Lars’ digital analog proclivities, as Gunnar collects old chip machines like the Commodore and its SID. (Listening at bottom.)

PK: Can you tell us about your approach to instrumentation, and how you assemble these track?

LH: Well, I used different sequencers and synths, but only hardware and no software instruments. I only used some software plug-ins from Eventide, Sonible and Waves in my DAW for the pre-master mix. Usually I record multitrack sessions with some additional overdub recordings. I also reroute synth lines out of the DAW to do a separate FX mix.

The first recorded FX tracks are mostly a blueprint of the sound character of the piece I am working on. This gives me the ability to work more subtle with EFX.

Gear, track by track

A1. “Bless”:

  • Kick: Elektron Analog Rytm
  • Synths: Yamaha TX802 (which I feed with my self-programmed sound bank from my DX7)
  • Sequencing: Elektron Octatrack
  • Pad sounds I played live

A2. “Releasing Strains”:

  • Drums: Analog Rytm
  • Synth: Behringer Model D (yes, and I am not afraid to say it)
  • Sequencing: polyrhythmic multi-sequencing (filter, pitch, amp etc..) by Wintermodular Eloquencer [Eurorack module]

The Rest is just FX modulation. There was another synth line of my Arp Odyssey, but I took it off.

B1. “Lars Wars”:

  • Drums: Analog Rytm
  • Synths (yes) Behringer Model D again and my Arp Odyssey
  • Sequencing: both Model D and Odyssey sequenced by the Eloquencer.

B2. “Artarpet”:

Here I did not use any sequencer (no MIDI or trigger gate), but instead VCA-Level on the Model D and Arp Odyssey FM, and LFO modulation, with pad sounds on the DX7 live. Surprisingly, the recording went so well that I didn’t need any EQ-ing in my DAW or any pre-master ambitions.

“Running away from myself” (Digital Bonus Track):

Analog Rytm and two Dave Smith Instruments Evolvers. [DSI is now again Sequential]

PK: I know this just because I’ve watched over my shoulder as you mixed my album, and because I know you resist going to plug-in crazy with anything else. You’re still making a lot of use of the Eventide stuff in finishing the album, yes?

LH: Yes. I truly love Eventide! I use the hardware like the Space Reverb and the Time Faktor Delay a lot, and as well the software plug-ins. Mostly I use the Blackhole, H3000 (Band Delays and Factory), and the Omnipressor on the stems of a recording. Eventide just works for me, and it will not change probably to the end of my days. They’re workflow-friendly and creative tools, from my perception. If you work with Eventide, you can feel and see that the engineers and developers are crazy, sound-dedicated freaks like you are. Or even more freaky.

[Ed.-That was not a paid placement in any way. I can vouch for this because every time I ask if Lars has seen a new processing plug-in, he reminds me that he’s perfectly satisfied with the Eventide stuff and tells me the importance of really learning to use one set of tools. -PK]

Can you talk about what inspired this release?

During the production process, I was going through a very difficult time, and I was in a very unstable situation from an emotional perspective. And some tracks were produced under very weird circumstances, as well. I am not getting into details here, because it would be too private.

Many people say that I’, a very kind soul. And at this time, it felt like that my soul was bleeding.

So, the entire EP is truly an imprint of my soul at those times. A valve of emotions. That’s why I called it “Bloody&Soul”. And of course, I liked the word game.

Thanks, Lars. I certainly hear that need to have this valve for our hurting souls – and have a listen, readers, as the results are beautiful and may heal your bleeding spirit, too.

One more wonderful cut from an upcoming VA:

Check this terrific DOCK compilation, including Lars’ work (as “out there”), or also ambient rounds Vol.0:

Lars’ first EP outing with Fullpanda is also essential, with a Space Bolero for you cosmonauts to dance to at your space station’s cantina social:

For a bit of Lars&Gunnar together, check:

More:

https://fullpandarecords.bandcamp.com/album/bloody-soul

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Loraine James’ sound is intense, mixed up, and essential

The newest release for Hyperdub, in its untethered torrent of distorted rhythm, feels personal and liberated – and today, gets one of the more significant recent video releases, to boot.

It’s a fine line to tread, being uncensored but precise, irregular but inevitable. But Kode9’s Hyperdub imprint has a solid track record of finding inventive grooves, and lately has been on a serious role. “Sick 9” is intelligent and intimate all at once, as Loraine James stretches her exceptional rhythmic language, from some deep center.

And I think for anyone wanting to liberate their own production voice, here’s something beautiful – even in the press statement, James says that as she navigated a “queer relationship … and the ups and downs,” that music was a vehicle for expression she couldn’t find elsewhere. She writes: “A lot of the time I’m really scared in displaying any kind of affection in public…This album is more about feeling than about using certain production skills.”

There’s something encouraging about seeing a press statement where the artist says what she does: “I’m in love and wanted to share that in some way.”

But so there’s a message to other artists: you can let that feeling out in the music, without worrying about how skilled others may see it, even when those feelings are hard to share in other ways. I mean, it’s obvious, it’s presumably why people make music – but it’s also obviously something we all can get away from.

‘Sick 9’ is a single now, emblazoned with her holding up a photo of her childhood estate flat, and it’s hard to stop repeating. (I would say something here about “this sick beat” but I don’t want to offend Taylor Swift’s lawyers):

You have to wait until the 20th for the whole release, but then today Loraine dropped her collaboration with rapper Le3 bLACK and an accompanying music video, with glitched-out, crushed beats underneath. It’s powerful stuff, an insistent cry:

The visuals are familiar UK drab and city tropes, but director Pedro Takahashi and DOP Liam Meredith find swooping, lyrical rhythm as handicam videos make you ever so slightly motion sick and small. Le3 bLACK grunts with frustration as the motion’s adagio sways around James’ pounding broken repetition.

As UK and America hang again between our dark pasts and future potential, this seems a time only music can really express.

You’ll be able to get the music on Bandcamp, natch:

https://lorainejames.bandcamp.com/

And more is on Hyperdub’s site:

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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]

Enjoy!

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

https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1299870

https://web.facebook.com/events/2411618512416477/

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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Making a stage powered by AI: inside GAMMA_LAB

What happens when you apply machine learning research to experimental sound – and then play live in front of a festival crowd? Recently, in St. Petersburg, RU, we got to find out.

Our team for Gamma_LAB AI gathered a diverse international team of artists, musicians, musicologists, coders, and researchers, including people who are deep in the field of data science work outside of the arts. (One of our co-hosts was juggling her work in path finding for drones – so not the usual media art approach to AI!) Organizing team (of which I was the only non-Russian member this time):

  • Natalia Fuchs, Curator
  • Julia Reushenova, Curatorial assistant
  • Helena Nikonole, Conceptual artist
  • Peter Kirn, Facilitator
  • Natalia Soboleva, Facilitator
  • Dr. Konstantin Yakovlev, Scientific advisor

… plus our partners, including tech partner Mail.ru Cloud Solutions.

Step one: come together for a 12-day laboratory, bringing us to St. Petersburg in May. That was our chance to learn from one another, take in some lectures, and get started with experiments – everything from digging through how to reconstruct baroque music to generating new sounds for techno and experimental improvisational performance. Participants came from everywhere from Kenya to just around the corner:

Ksenia Guznova (RU), Ilya Selikhov (DE), Anastasia Tolchneva (RU), Michal Mitro (SK), Mar Canet (ESP), Ilia Symphocat (RU), Thomas Disley (USA), Nikita Prudnikov (RU), Tatiana Zobnina (RU), Joseph Kamaru (KE), Egor Zvezdin (RU), Alexander Kiryanko (RU), Katarina Melik-Ovsepian (RU)

Step two – the big leap – come back to St. Petersburg in July, and in a raw industrial space, make the whole thing work for an audience of festival goers. That led to a full program:

A packed audience, ending in techno sounds and industrial installation (by Stanislav Glazov). Photo: Alexander Sharoff.
  • A live media art performance by co-host Helena Nikonole (hacking into Internet of Things devices in real-time from the stage)
  • An instrumental group of baroque musicians mixing together historical scores and freshly-generated AI libretto and melodies (led by harpsichordist Katarina Melik-Ovsepyan)
  • A mixed acoustic-electronic improv group working with machine learning-produced sounds trained on various experimental sound sources (Ilya Selikhov, Michal Mitro, Symphocat, and KMRU)
  • Live-coding duo with an original AI-powered encoder/decoder, built on the artists’ own recordings (Monekeer + Lovozero)
  • Yours truly making live techno from generative text, AI-generated loops, and style transfer

And all of this took place in a peak-time, Saturday night festival program, set in an apocalyptic looking ex brewery just before its demolition, complete with immersive, responsive lasers and light by Stanislav Glazov (Licht Pfad studio, Berlin).

Here’s the improv group, working live with their materials:

Some audio examples:

Live coded, custom AI from the duo Monekeer + Lovozero.

I spoke with curator Natalia Fuchs (ARTYPICAL), who put together the program with us. Natalia is right now presenting the project to MUTEK Festival in Montreal, and has worked not only as a curator and co-producer of GAMMA, but as an advisor to the current AI show at the Barbican Centre.

CDM: First, let’s put the lab in context – there’s Surgeon on one stage, pounding out techno, but then there’s the results of this laboratory, too. What’s the place of GAMMA_LAB inside Gamma Festival?

Natalia: Gamma_LAB is the heart of experimentation at the festival. We launched the LAB in May 2019 – that was a [big reponsibility] for us, because the LAB was self-funded, without any institutional or technological support. Only after the international open-call was announced, we started to get attention from the different partners that [have now] joined the project. By “responsibility” here I mean our relationship with the artists and the audience – we knew that experimental lab is just the first chapter, and the main message will be the conceptual AI stage at the festival.

What does it mean to have a lab inside a festival, to have a place that is making new stuff?

When programming the festival, we always feel like we want to represent local artists and quality local production. And Gamma_LAB is the cultural production unit for us. We focus the project on new artistic and curatorial solutions, on international collaborations – and that means we keep on track, stay connected, and help the community develop.

Baroque musicians – mixing historical scores with AI-constructed libretto and melodies – joined electronic artists. Photo: Alexander Sharoff.

What has been your relationship to AI as a curator – how would you relate your experience in GAMMA_LAB to your involvement with the Barbican show? CTM Festival? Other projects?

My connection to AI is coming from my general research interests: I am a media art historian and I am deeply concerned by the new media research in relation with AI nowadays. I find it extremely stimulating and exciting – this enormous philosophical quest towards finding the big “other.” So as soon as I started to work closely with Helena Nikonole, conceptual artist of Gamma_LAB, being a peer for her “deus x mchn” project at Rodchenko School in Moscow and advising this artwork to the “Open Codes” exhibition at ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, I was developing my curatorial approaches to art and AI. Then there were AI-related projects for the Barbican and CTM, but Gamma_LAB for me conceptually throwing my practice back to the Polytech.Science.Art program that I [previously was] curating at the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. The way we build the processes here including theory, applied studies, performative aspects, it brings same strategy to the next level. In terms of the scale, Gamma_LAB with its connection to the Gamma Festival ([with its] 12000 visitors) has definitely jumped much higher.

Obviously, we know AI is buzzing. But do you feel there’s something unique about this particular set of collaborations – was there a sense that something different happened? In the process itself? In the results?

The engagement of the technical team was very different at the LAB. I think that we found the way to collaborate between disciplines in a way that is interesting for both – technology professionals and media artists. It makes the project very strong, I believe.

Live improv group. Photo: Alexander Sharoff.

There’s lots of curiosity as always about doing projects in Russia. What would you say the relationship of the Russian scene to the international scene is like? I’m certainly grateful for the unique expertise we had; maybe people aren’t so aware of how much technical skill and talent is in our Russian network?

We have had the long period of time when Russian science and technology was subject to control by the government. So internationalization of science is still happening very slowly in Russia. So I don’t think it’s a question of belief, but a question of historical memory. International interest in the technical skill and talent in the Russian network is definitely very strong , but people outside the country know that it was rather impossible to have successful collaboration due to political restrictions. So at the moment, we all have to go through these borders. And Gamma-LAB also supports open communication in the field of science, technology and arts.

The AI workshop began life with the exhibition and the workshop in Berlin – and now you’ve continued on to MUTEK. What’s the longer narrative there? And anything you can talk about as far as where this will go next, or what you hope will happen next with these projects?

The longer narrative is conducting proper artistic research on AI – but with curatorial supervision. Every international festival is interested in the development of cultural production, to expand contemporary culture strategies and be constantly engaged with audience feedback. The more serious collaborative experiences we have, the more profound cultural production is, the more meaningful art experiences can be delivered to the audience. We’re bringing this to the level of collaboration of the festival not only with artistic communities or applied technology makers, but with academic and scientific circles.

My hope is not related to any “next level,” though. I hope it will be the chance to develop a critical approach to AI and the arts. I think there’s no space where people can freely discover and form their own opinions on the AI matters [that compares with] the media art world and festival environments.

Helena, you got to approach joining our team from a different perspective, also haveing worked as a solo media artist. What was your experience?

Helena: The AI Stage… became, from my perspective, one of the most experimental and multi-genre stages at the festival. I showed my piece deus X mchn in the form of performance, which was presented before in a museum in an extremely different environment. Therefore, I thought it was interesting that showing this piece at the festival, I wasn’t planning to serve the expectations of some part of the audience, but then I realized that actually it was the feature of the stage.

Helena’s project has seen exhibition presentations before – but now it also got to share a festival stage, live in front of an audience, with uncertain and near-realtime results.

All performances, from baroque to noisy improvisation, from digital art to live coding performance could be shown in a museum, as well, and for me, the AI Stage was the best example of how a music festival can become a space for new media art and sophisticated experiments in sound and music. And yes, the audience was just awesome! Of course, some part of it were more used to going to raves than centers for contemporary art, but even these people were genuinely interested in what was happening at the stage, so finally, I was really surprised that sometimes a rave can also educate the audience.

https://gammafestival.ru/ [EN/RU]

http://artypical.com/

Photo: Nikita Grushevsky.
Photo: Nikita Grushevsky.

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The Web’s biggest guide to electronic music genre just got a huge update

Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music is back. Its third major overhaul gives it a new look, and brings its sprawling map of electronic style to 166 genres, 11,321 tracks, and exhaustive descriptions to match.

The Ishkur effort is beautiful partly because it takes on an impossible task. Can you break down every fork of UK Garage, and also work out how John Cage tape pieces and weird Dick Hyman psychedelic numbers fit in? (There is literally a category called “Moog.” It… doesn’t entirely work as a genre.)

But somehow, Ishkur does that. (To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, and Zaphod Beeblebrox, why not six impossible things before breakfast?)

What you get is a now-legendary, zoomable, playable map, laid out a bit like a trainyard switching diagram in a metro terminal in Hell. Begun in the year 2000, it will be well known to you digital diggers of the noughts. But this is an update that brings it into a new generation. And the resulting interface excels in revealing the emergence of major forks in those genres, at the critical junctures where new grooves and sounds crystallize.

Crucially, of course, the whole thing is playable. The real fun of this is flying around, God-like, decade to decade, genre to genre. You can tune in years and styles like a radio. The graph is so oversimplified as to erase all interconnections – really, the history itself is gone. But that navigation lets you quickly find and compare seminal tracks in particular genre appearances.

And I think as a producer, that’s terrifically liberating. It demystifies genres that gatekeepers refuse to explain to newcomers. And by allowing easy access to those sounds, it frees your ear and memory to go try something new.

Ishkur, for Ishkur’s part, explains it all perfectly. (Who is Ishkur? In my favorite FAQ answer, Ishkur is Ishkur. Ishkur says “punter,” so they are probably in the UK.)

Colors are meaningless; lines are inaccurate:

All music is influenced by its contemporaries far more than its own past. Illustrating those relationships, however, would render the map unreadable. Coherence is preferred over accuracy. It is simplified for the user experience.

And meet the term trendwhoring, also in the FAQ:

It’s a term I apply to artists, tracks, and sometimes whole genres that whore themselves out to whatever’s the current fad or trend in music. If fart noises were suddenly popular, each scene would trendwhore it with fartstep, fartcore, techfart, farthouse, fart trance, etc. It is especially noticeable in classic tracks that are remixed into modern genres, which some might consider sacreligious. A good example is the Dream Trance hit Robert Miles – Children, in which there is now a Hardstyle version, a Dutch House version, a McProg version, a Eurotrance version, a Goa Trance version, and even a Snap version and a shitty Brostep version. None of these genres existed when the original song came out in 1995. That’s trendwhoring.

Ishkur’s Guide is a map to everything, when so much of the online world now is a map to nothing. It’s a transparent, linked-out Whole Internet Catalog Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that makes Discogs references visual and draws in tracks at random. It’s more useful and vital than ever, really.

Enjoy.

http://music.ishkur.com/

Thanks to Andy Baio for the news on this:

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Poland’s electronic underground called for support; the world answered with this music

In Poland, as queer groups and allies face a rising threat of violence and hate, the Oramics collective chose to respond with music. The result: a sprawling compilation of 121 tracks and international outpouring of support.

I definitely want to encourage you to grab the compilation, but also want to take this opportunity to give you a tour through some of the music here – including from some lesser-known and underground and Polish artists. So alongside some known international figures, like Peder Mannerfelt, Object Blue, Borusaide, Lee Gamble, Electric Indigo, and Rrose, you’ll get an excellent sampling of artists involved in Poland’s underground and queer communities. We’re fortunate that in dark and challenging times, we have music and emotion and celebratory and powerful sound, and not just, you know, the news.

A hypnotic video for this irresistible track – Bartosz Zaskórski and Rufus (animation) for Mchy i Porosty’s “not many friends.” (One of my favorites!)

This is not an abstract battle or “culture war”: in Poland as in an alarming number of places, basic rights of expression and safety are under assault, backed even by mainstream media and religious and governmental leaders. That’s put artists who I’ve worked with personally under real pressure and danger, among many others. It’s something you feel on a visceral level not only in Poland but in the fabric of the electronic music scene outside of the country, as well.

Out now, the “Total Solidarity” compilation gives sonic, musical form to a growing chorus of solidarity and protest. That network has brought together collectives, artists, curators, press, activist organizations, and concerned friends in a network inside and outside of the country. Total Solidarity demonstrates how deep that network is, and how many people have been touched by the political struggle and by these artists.

Over 100 tracks from the Polish underground and international electronic music scene come together on the digital release, available for fifty bucks on Bandcamp (or individually, by track). Poland’s Oramics collective joins Tilburg, Netherlands’ Drvg Cvltvre, who runs the label New York Haunted. The funds raised go directly to organizations battling homophobia and supporting queer communities.

http://oramicspl.bandcamp.com/album/total-solidarity-benefit-compilation-for-grassroot-lgbtqia-organizations-in-poland

“I think it is very important to show that music scene and culture will never accept hatred,” Justyna from Oramics tells us. “This was one of the main goals of this compilation – to gather people from all over the world and show support,” she says. “This symbolic support, kind of artistic / curatorial gesture of solidarity was the main goal I guess – all this which lies beyond fame, mainstream, underground and genre borders. This is the biggest success.”

Here are some highlights, and places to find more.

Justyna also shared some picks. “It was one of the goals to combine artists from literally everywhere,” she says. “Of course, it is important that we have so many amazing internationally acclaimed artists, because they are giving us all the incredible press — but how amazing it is to give some more visibility to those less known, but also super-talented.” Hell, yeah.

Here are a few of those picks – and I have to second these nominations.

Astma:

Duy Gebord:

Calum Gunn:

Kaltstam:

Mchy i Porosty:

Ostrowski:

Satin de Compostela:

Warrego Valles:

Wojciech Kurek:

I have listened to the whole compilation and love the whole thing, but to highlight even some more people, particularly those close to this scene, whose tracks really moved me:

Doc Sleep’s work I wrote about recently:

ISNT has this dirty, noisy beauty:

3-3-3 is a punk-ish banger from Dyktanto of Brutaz:

FOQL’s aptly named “Colony Collapse” is some delicious oddball mayhem from Justyna herself:

There’s some genius, futuristic apocalypse going on in the music of Oramics’ Mala Herba:

RSS BOYS and Eltron will be familiar to anyone following the Polish scene, but if not – know them!

Electric Indigo added a smartly constructed electronic opus that CDM readers shouldn’t miss – Susanne being both a legend in the scene as an artist and founder of female pressure, which has been a template for many female/femme/activist groups since:

Isabella’s chimey, crystalline creation sounds a bit like that cover art looks:

Dr. Rey mastered over a hundred tracks to make this compilation happen, and their contribution is eerie and beautiful:

Oh yeah, and I’m in there, too.

https://oramicspl.bandcamp.com/

Do go buy it whether by individual track or the whole compilation if you can. It reaches people in need:

All proceeds from the digital sales will support Polish queer organizations: Kampania Przeciw Homofobii and Miłość Nie Wyklucza, who monitor homophobia, provide all kind of support for queer people and have agreed to help us redistribute the proceeds throughout LGBTQIA+ organizations in smaller cities and towns of Poland, who need them the most.

We will be in touch with Oramics to hear how these organizing efforts are going, and what else the electronic music community can do there – and worldwide – to support people’s safety. It’s expressive freedom that has brought us to music and music technology, so if that’s not what we’re in the business of supporting, I’m not sure what we are doing.

For those near Berlin – Polish-born Rey for their part will also be leading their project The Womb, with a summer symposium for female-identified, non-binary and queer creatives and entrepreneurs, on 31 August. Kudos to Rey for this epic mastering job; see Uferlos Studios for more.

For more Oramics action, here’s the latest Behind The Stage podcast, with Szkoda:

More reading:

I got to write about Oramics a couple of times before:

And see also my chat with Dyktando, who also contributed to this compilation, from when I got to play with him last summer:

https://oramicspl.bandcamp.com/

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Inside the immersive kinetic laser sound world of Christopher Bauder, Robert Henke

Light and sound, space and music – Christopher Bauder and Robert Henke continue to explore immersive integrated AV form. Here’s a look into how they create, following a new edition of their piece Deep Web.

Here’s an extensive interview with the two artists by EventElevator, including some gorgeous footage from Deep Web.

Deep Web premiered in 2016 at CTM Festival, but it returned this summer to the space for which it was created, Berlin’s Kraftwerk (a former power plant). And because both artists are such obsessive perfectionists – in technology, in formal refinement – it’s worth this second trip.

Christopher (founder of kinetic lighting firm WHITEvoid) and Robert (also known as Monolake and co-creator of Ableton Live) have worked together for a long time. A decade ago, I got to see (and document) ATOM at MUTEK in Montreal, which in some sense would prove a kind of study for a work like Deep Web. ATOM tightly fused sound and light, as mechanically-controlled balloons formed different arrangements in space. The array of balloons became almost like a kind of visualized three-dimensional sequencer.

Deep Web is on a grander scale, but many of the basic elements remain – winches moving objects, lights illuminating objects, spatial arrangements, synchronized sound and light, a free-ranging and percussive musical score with an organic, material approach to samples reduced to their barest elements and then rearranged. The dramaturgy is entirely abstract – a kind of narrative about an array and its volumetric transformations.

In Deep Web, color and sound create the progression of moods. At the live show I saw last weekend, Robert, jazzed on performance endorphins, was glad to chat at length with some gathered fans about his process. The “Deep Web” element is there, as a kind of collage of samples of information age collapsed geography. The sounds are disguised, but there are bits of cell phones, telecommunications ephemera, airport announcements, made into a kind of encoded symphony.

Photo: Ralph Larmann.
Photo: Ralph Larmann.

Whether you buy into this seems down to whether the artists’ particular take tickles your synesthesia and strikes some emotional resonance. But there is something balletic about this precise fusion of laser lines and globes, able to move freely through the architecture. Kraftwerk will again play host later this month to Atonal Festival, and that meeting of music and architecture is by contrast essentially about the void. One somber vertical projection rises like a banner behind the stage, and the vacated power plant is mostly empty vibrating air. Deep Web by contrast occupies electrifies that unused volume.

I spoke to Christopher to find out more about how the work has evolved and is executed.

Christopher and Robert at the helm of the show’s live AV controls. Photo: Christopher Bauder.
Lasers and equipment, from the side. Photo: Peter Kirn.

Robert’s music is surprisingly improvisational in the live performance versions of the piece. You could feel that the night I was there – even as Robert’s style is as always reserved, there’s a sense of flowing expression.

To create these delicate arrangements of lit globes and laser lines, Christopher and his team at WHITEvoid plan extensively in Rhino and Vektorworks – the architectural scoring that comes before the performance. The visual side is controlled with WHITEvoid’s own kinetic control software, KLC, which is based on the industry leading visual development / dataflow environment TouchDesigner.

Robert’s rig is Ableton Live, controlled by fader and knob boxes. There is a master timeline in Live – that’s the timeline bit to which Robert refers, and it is different from his usual performance paradigm as I understand it. That timeline in turn has “loads of automation parameters” that connect from Live’s music arrangement to TouchDesigner’s visual control. But Robert can also change and manipulate these elements as he plays, with the visuals responding in time.

The machines that make the magic happen. Photo: Christopher Bauder.
Photo: Christopher Bauder.

Different visual scenes load as presets. Each preset then has different controllable parameters – most have ten with realtime operation, Christopher tells CDM.

“[Visual parameters] can be speeds, colors, selection of lasers, individual parameters like seed number, range, position, etc.,” Christopher says. “In one scene, we are linking acceleration of a continuously running directional laser pattern to a re-trigger of a beat. So options are virtually endless. It’s almost never just on/off for anything – very dynamic.”

This question of light and space as instrument I think merits deeper and broader explanation. WHITEvoid are one of a handful of firms and artists developing that medium, both artistically and technically, in a fairly tight knit community of people around the world. Stay tuned; I hope to pay them another visit and talk to some of the other artists working in this direction.

You can check their work (and their tech) at their site:

https://www.whitevoid.com/

Christopher also provided some unique behind-the-scenes shots for us here, along with some images that reveal some of the attention to pattern and form.

The Red Balloon. Photo: Ralph Larmann.
Ralph Larmann.
Ralph Larmann.
Ralph Larmann.
Ralph Larmann.
Christopher Bauder.
Peter Kirn.

Previously:

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