Real relief: Music releases to go discover now, in days of pleas for equality

Part II – more music from black artists and organizing around social justice and racial quality, of course on Bandcamp. These are selections that really moved me today; I hope some do the same for you.

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Nerdseq portable will put a sampling tracker in your hand

Sampling and modulation and sound generation all come together in the Nerdseq Portable – fully standalone, original tracker hardware for live performance and production.

Yes, there are two standalone tracker devices out this week. They’re both from independent makers. They’re both fully integrated hardware that run on their own. And if you want to go tracker mad, you can even use them together. Both are due later this year – virus-influenced production delays willing.

The Nerdseq Portable has its lineage from the Eurorack module of the same name. But as a handheld, this thing is a bit like a Game Boy on steroids – or a computer crammed into a paperback book-sized powerhouse.

It’s a sequencer. That’s the tracker bit, to be sure – this looks like 90s software on its 480×320 color IPS screen. It does have “nerd” in the title. Think fast editing, as quick as your thumb on a boss in Metroid. And it supports polyrhythms and probability and dividers and multipliers and more.

It’s a sampler. Capture and play polyphonic stereo samples (actually stereo, not mono as on the Polyend), with 150 seconds sample time and pitch support. That can be captured both from your sequence itself but also an external input. So actually – let’s linger on this a moment, in that this is a more powerful sampler than a lot of standalone hardware from major manufacturers not to be named here.

It works with MIDI stuff. You can actually use this as a MIDI sequencer if you want – there’s full-blown polyphonic sequencing and recording per track with support for everything (clock, NRPNs, aftertouch, CC, program changes…) So, again, this is more capable than a lot of more obvious stuff out there.

It does modulation. Part of the whole appeal of trackers is not just sequencing notes and rhythms, but everything else – wavetables, retriggering, LFOs, effects, and more. This thing is deep.

It connects to your Eurorack and other gear. Nerd-Sound-Adapter modules work here, too, so you can still integrate the handheld with a Eurorack modular – like a very powerful satellite to your modular rig – and work with CV/gate.

It has a nerd button. Of course it does.

So how is this different than the modular nerdseq? Well, basically this is as much a more powerful sequel as it is a handheld version of the original nerdseq. You finally lose some of the restrictions of the first model – more buttons, visual feedback, and crucially massively expanded sample memory.

Or to look at it another way, having talked to Thomas, this is the culmination of years of feedback from Nerdseq users. I think it looks friendlier and more capable – and the form factor means it can go anywhere. Or you can squeeze it next to any other gear you want to sequence.

Wait so with this and the Tracker, which should you get? Neither, dummy, they’re not shipping yet.

But these do represent a different approach. The form factor isn’t just aesthetic; it means different use cases and audiences. It’s not that nerdseq is for chip music people – it’s more that you’ll have controls under your thumb and it takes up less space. nerdseq also comes closer to the feeling of tools like LSDJ – or if you’ve never touched those before, again, it’s still about focusing on the tracker itself.

Polyend’s Tracker lacks stereo samples, but expands to more performance and editing features that make it feel like a cross-breed with what you’d expect from Maschine, MPC, or an Elektron box (for example).

Or put the two together. (Yo, dawg, I hear you like trackers, so I — wait, I’m being told by someone under age 35 that I should cease making references to the Xzibit Yo Dawg meme in 2020.)

Due this summer.

Official site: [with more specs – and they’re impressive; this is no toy!]

No videos yet, but – for all of you who whine “I don’t know if I was impressed by the demo video,” I have a solution. You will definitely not be impressed by this video. (Creator Thomas hasn’t been able to go see his video demo person! You know – social distancing. So if you yell at him, really, you’re saying human lives don’t matter.)

Okay, actually I love it, because it keeps with the bossa nova theme that is subtly threaded through this week on CDM.

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Don’t miss bangers from DutchAfro, more, in compilation for Dutch LGBTQIA+ refugees

When it comes to activism, talented music producers still speak best in music. And now hear this – the Netherlands might be a different place than the one you imagine, starting with this killer cut from DutchAfro.

Let’s listen to “Time to Trip” in entirety first, as it’s just massive stuff, and from an artist largely unknown in the larger scene. “DutchAfro, Anna, is 24 years old and lives in Utrecht. Music has always been one of her big interests. Growing up in a cultural mixed family, she got stimulated to discover and explore music from the West (mainly Jazz and Motown) and Angola. “

That’s the kind of track I want to throw money at with or without a cause, but – yeah, there’s a cause, too. Place: The Netherlands is the latest in a series of electronic music compilations from industry heavyweight Kompakt, together with Air Texture from New York. The pitch: present music from a locale, not just as a sonic flavor, but as a platform for making real social change.

The series already knocked out must-hear gatherings of tracks from Colombia and Georgia (the European one). But its latest installment moves to the Netherlands – speaking of European politics. And it gives you a portrait of the Netherlands that might defy all kinds of biases, aesthetic ones included.

Among other cuts, get lost in the stacatto rhythmic fire of “Fibonacci Konnakol” by B C Manjunath. Or go deep into DJ Bone – the featured track on Bandcamp. Enter the abstract disorientation of blusher (an artist I’ve generally been finding lately). Dim Garden’s “Only You” seems it could drop in the middle of an EBM set for some catastrophic melodramatic theatrics. Or other brain ticklers and muscle stimulants… I could go on.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that political compilations lately have been so good. We’re in a generation of artists who feel urgency to their political cries, and whose outward spiraling production chops need outlets that aren’t only commercial and conformist.

Stream and buy the whole compilation on Beatport —

or go preorder on Bandcamp:

Preorder now to get this when it arrives on the 15th. I mean, now is the time to do that – others are coming later.

Speaking of DJ Bone and the impact these sorts of benefits can have, Mixmag recently covered his epic ADE fundraiser:

DJ Bone and the power of charity through raving

More on this release – it is also a really special collaboration of two individuals:

Created in collaboration with Jasmin Hoek and Axmed Maxamed.
Jasmin Hoek is a DJ who plays under the name Jasmín. She was born and grew up in the east of The Netherlands, Enschede, and has now made her way to Amsterdam through Antwerp and Utrecht. In Utrecht she still hosts her own radio show on local radio station Stranded FM, as well as on Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio. Since her first club appearance two years ago, she has quickly made her way to the booths of Dutch clubs and festivals. In the past year, she started paving her way internationally with gigs in Berlin and New York.Next to djing she writes about music and club culture for various platforms, using her Gender Studies background as a framework.


Axmed Maxamed is a Queer Diasporic Somali activist, organizer and music nerd. Axmed was born in Xamar, Somalia where he also spent his early years until his family had to flee during the civil war and ended up in the Netherlands via other countries. He spent his formative years in Breda in the south of the Netherlands until he moved to Amsterdam some years ago. In Amsterdam Axmed co-founded Dance with Pride, a queer initiative which aims to re-unify dance music with its queer roots and raise money for grass roots queer initiatives with their fundraiser parties and sales of the Dance with Pride T-shirt. In addition to that Axmed is involved in other queer initiatives, with focus on QTIBPOC. Together with Ladan Maandeeq, Axmed started working on ‘Queer Somali Pasts and Presents: A Storytelling and Archival Project’ which will focus on the lives of Queer Somalis in the diaspora and Somalia, both in the present day and the past. As someone who came to the Netherlands as a refugee and is queer, this cause touches Axmed on a personal level.

Link: ​

Social Cause

ll over the world people from the LGBTQIA+ community are in danger. They are discriminated, persecuted, or worse in many parts of the world, forcing them to leave their homes to seek safety and protection in more socially accepting countries. People travel far from home without family or support systems.

In the Netherlands, many come seeking safety, but confront a difficult system where the process is confrontational and arbitrary. The Immigration and Naturalisation (IND) treats LGBTQIA+ refugees very poorly. Many have to prove they are Queer with detailed sexual and personal history – an invasion of privacy forcing the burden of proof on the individual at risk.

Many don’t get granted asylum and scared they will be sent back, are forced into a situation where they become undocumented. Outside of the system even basic needs like health care are not available.
The Netherlands positions itself as progressive and open but to People of Colour and other minority groups it is very different. LGBTQIA+ refugees are the most marginalized and the most at risk.

For Place : Netherlands we wanted to bring attention and funds to organizations that help Queer refugees get advice, find an extended sense of family and belonging, get legal work, and reenter society.

Partner Organization

Open Closet LGBT Netherlands

The Open Closet LGBT Netherlands was co-founded by Teddy Lyon as a response to the difficulties of his personal experience with the local immigration authorities (IND). Having decided that he is here to stay, the South-African born activist wanted to make sure that what happened to him does not happen to others.

Open Closet not only ensures that incoming LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are properly registered, but also provides help with food, support towards the procedures required, counseling and a family where everybody is welcome. They provide a place to come together and cover for traveling costs if needed. By organising meetings regularly, they create a sense of community and belonging for queer asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Open Closet also ensures that asylum seekers are properly informed of their rights and options.

Link: ​

Go for it:

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You can make music with test equipment – Hainbach explains

Before modulars became a product, some of the first electronic synthesis experiments made use of test equipment – gear intended to make sound, but not necessarily musically. And now that approach is making a comeback.

Hainbach, the Berlin-based experimental artist, has been helping this time-tested approach to sound reach new audiences.

I actually have never seen a complete, satisfying explanation of the relationship of abstract synthesis, as developed by engineers and composers, to test gear. Maybe it’s not even possible to separate the two. But suffice to say, early in the development of synthesis, you could pick up a piece of gear intended for calibration and testing of telecommunications and audio systems, and use it to make noise.

Why the heck would you do that now, given the availability of so many options for synthesis? Well, for one – until folks like Hainbach and me make a bunch of people search the used market – a lot of this gear is simply being scrapped. Since it’s heavy and bulky, it ranges from cheap to “if you get this out of my garage, you can have it” pricing. And the sound quality of a lot of it is also exceptional. Sold to big industry back in a time when slicing prices of this sort of equipment wasn’t essential, a lot of it feels and sounds great. And just like any other sound design or composition exercise that begins with finding something unexpected, the strange wonderfulness of these devices can inspire.

I got a chance to play a few days with the Waveform Research Centre in Rotterdam’s WORM, a strange and wild collection of these orphaned devices lovingly curated by Dennis Verschoor. And I got sounds unlike anything I was used to. It wasn’t just the devices and their lovely dials that made that possible – it was also the unique approach required when the normal envelope generators and such aren’t available. Human creativity does tend to respond well to obstacles.

Whether or not you go that route, it is worth delving into the history and possibilities – and Hainbach’s video is a great start. It might at the very least change how you approach your next Reaktor patch, SuperCollider code, synth preset, or Eurorack rig.


Immerse yourself in Rotterdam’s sonic voltages, in the WORM laboratory

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Immerse yourself in Rotterdam’s sonic voltages, in the WORM laboratory

It’s dubbed a “Waveform Research Centre” – and Rotterdam’s gear-stuffed WORM laboratory is a science fiction playground for voltages, making music and visuals alike. Let’s go inside.

Dennis Verschoor is a mainstay of the Rotterdam experimental electronic scene, with some decades of artist experience to his name and the legendary Noodlebar performance series. Filmmaker Steve Guy Hellier joins Thonk’s Steve Grimley-Taylor to produce a short film about him and this amazing space: (thanks, Sonic State, hat tip)

From the description:

I first met Dennis whilst I was in the WORM studio on an artist residency in 2017. The WORM studio is like a geological trip through electronic music’s history but I was about to travel even further back. Strange ghostly tones emanated from the old vocal booth next door, it was this space that Dennis had filled with mid 20th century audio test equipment, going back to the roots of audio electronic experiments before commercially available instruments from Moog or Roland, before keyboards, back to Stockhausen, Else Marie Pade, Daphne Oram, Raymond Scott and the like. Why now? is this the logical conclusion of Mark Fisher’s cultural hauntology? do we end up back at the source? the sound of past futures? For Dennis it seemed more a way to dodge the hipsters, and invite collaboration.

Dennis and I had a friend in common Steve Grimley-Taylor, a lover of all things electronic and sound related (founder of When I expressed the idea of making a film about Dennis, Richard Foster from WORM kindly agreed to let us. This is a short film about Dennis, his journey and his room.

Steve Guy Hellier 2018

You know what time it is, kids? It’s gear pr0n, time. Some waveform pics to get your Friday night started right.

WORM Rotterdam is also a great all-encompassing event venue.

The WRC has its own Facebook page:

Information on the Sound Studio:

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Star Shepard is Legowelt’s insane hacked-together DIY synth

This is a serious Frankenstein’s monster: a DIY synth made of a 1981 Casio keyboard, an AM radio, stompboxes, and more – and held together with glue and tape.

Legowelt is somewhere between modding, circuit bending, and instrument design here, concocting a kind of wonky workstation of weirdness from the cannibalized bits of other stuff.

Essentially, it’s a Casio keyboard fed through a series of effects and circuit-bent circuitry, with a looper pedal thrown in and an AM radio as noise source. Maestro Legowelt explains:

Enter the STAR SHEPHERD a synth I Build/bent/hacked/modified from old guitar pedals FX and EQ boxes, a small AM radio and a 1981 Casio 403 keyboard. The oscillator section is made out of Pitchshifter/Harmonizers/Sub Octavers and a graphic EQ pedal to create complex harmonic tones – transmorphed from the simple keyboard sounds fed by the Casio. The sound then goes through a bunch of circuitbend Analog delays, reverbs, Tremolos & Vibratos (figuring as makeshift LFO sources) and Wahwah pedals as filters. The AM radio is figuring as a random noise source. There is also a very simple keyboard style ‘sequencer’ made from a looper pedal.

The case is made out of cheap plywood and everything is held together with screws, glue and tape. There are also some LED strips pulsating from the inside for some extra intense magic.

It is very noisey, crackly and sometimes starts doing its own thing like some sentient synthesizer being that is alive. This makes it quite an adventurous experience.

It has all the spirit of electronics pioneer Reed Ghazala’s original notion of circuit bending: it’s modification of equipment as a way to “evolve” it into some organic machine life. But that AM radio alone gives it some unique and scifi sounds. It sounds like a whole studio for some rich communist-era space epic. And the formants on the filters give you the impression it’s singing to you.


Oh yeah, and there’s a painting, entitled “The Star Shepherd guiding his flock through Palm Springs”. Of course:

Your store-bought synth is now way too new, too generic, and involves too little taped-together assembly.

More of this on the official site, which has an impressive 1996 Web design:

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Relive Legowelt’s radio show, Astro Unicorn Radio

For a few glorious years, Legowelt had a radio show, Thursday evenings on Intergalactic FM internet radio. But while the show is gone, the sounds live on.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well … I owe that notion to Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, back in the heyday of the blog from whence this site came. Any extended period of, say, reading legal filings surely deserves a unicorn chaser.

And Legowelt comes to our rescue.

The show ran from 2007-2011, and was as eclectic and glorious as you’d expect from Legowelt. Brazilian Moog Cruisin’? Nigerian boogie disco? Check. Or, for instance:

Another radio reportage, this time from the cold snowy Rotterdam were we investigate Mono-Poly’s & Dr.Albert Putnam’s research in Biorhythms using modular synthesizers such as the Fenix and Buchla.

It’s a perfect template of what nerdy music things should be.

There’s a full archive of the tail end of the show in MP3 form, which you can grab as long as it lasts.

Episodes are on Mixcloud, too, from the source – from the beginning:

You’re welcome.

And thanks, Legowelt.

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This is what Dutch raves looked like in the 1990s

Dance or die? Some kind of robot with killer lasers? Well, if you happened to be in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands round late April 1996, that’s what was promised.

There’s so much to love in this VHS vintage gem. There’s the retro Wolfenstein-styled 3D opening with the dramatic threatening voice over. Or the extensive footage of the build-up of the venue … and drug pat-downs. And then, there’s nothing quite like the 90s sound – mad, mental, absurdly fast, totally dry synths and drum machines. It’s a cartoon-ish silliness that’s a far cry from even the self-seriousness of EDM, let alone the somber, mechanical dirge Eventide-drenched cave techno that’s often in fashion. If that’s a Bach Toccata & Fugue on a pipe organ, this is Spike Jones.

But of course, Dutch people shouting is always the best part of all. (Yes, my friends in the Netherlands, I know you can still get just this crazy.)

I’m sure this has been passed around before. On the other hand, it’s a nice antidote to the potential conformity of today’s parties – and today’s might seem just as odd to someone looking back from 2027. Plus, some fashion tips.

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How Dutch archives turned into a Lakker AV show about water

Wade in the water, indeed. Set the Irish duo Lakker loose in a Dutch film archive, and what you get is a dense, heavy experimental techno album and a live show exploring the Netherlands’ ongoing battle with the sea.

It’s a 2016 album, but even if you caught it before, now we get some insight into its evolution into a live audiovisual show.

Even before you get the sense of the historical narrative behind it, the music itself is evocative, dark, and rich. I actually like that we’re calling all this music “techno” now – this isn’t in the four-in-the-floor sense, yet the influence of that music on futuristic sounds and bass-heavy spectrum is clear. And now, with adventurous clubs and festivals having cultivated the audience for it, it is something you could hear booked overnight on a dance floor. Crowds have an appetite for dark and even nightmarish ear spelunking. And woven in there are the rhythms and movement that club experience can provide. With Struggle & Emerge (R&S Records), you get a wonderful sound world – and the basis of a perfect live soundtrack to an exploration of the deeper meaning of Dutch water. You can give the album a listen on Spotify for a taste:

But there is a narrative behind that.

Whereas for so long tech had been about an endless, sometimes superficial pursuit of the new and novel, now media archaeology is an increasingly present aspect of artistic practice. That is, you can mine the old to produce something new, folding together past, present, and future.

Collaborations with institutions are essential to making that a success. In this case, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision offers its RE:VIVE Initiative, which opens up archives to electronic music. They’ve done releases, performances, and even sound packs you can download:

Lakker (Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell a.k.a. Eomac) have a long-standing practice of deep commitment to creative sound design, and in the case of Dara Smith, to visual work. So, with RE:VIVE, they dug deep into the archives to construct a new album and performance. And they found in their theme the history of a country that has managed to survive for centuries below sea level.

There’s a fifteen minute documentary on the project:

The duo tell us that led them to talk even with top engineers and academics to understand what it means for a society to contend with water levels. (The relevance to those of us outside of the Netherlands in the age of climate change needs no explanation, of course.)

And they hope the result, in their words, will “capture humanity’s ongoing struggle with nature’s devastating power, our militaristic counterforce and the serenity found somewhere in between as we move towards an uncertain future.”

But how do you get from archives to new work?

From a text from the duo:

During the album writing process, one analogy that kept surfacing was that of the “Sonic magnifying glass” and how Lakker could use various audio processes to dig deeper into the archival material and reveal hidden sounds.

You’ll hear those murky sounds all over the record, producing landscapes of howling seas and powerful weather. There’s a detailed deconstruction at this minisite, track by track:

But there is a visual aspect, too — one that scans through the archives and algorithmically processes into the visual show — and triggering music and sonic performance in the process. They’re working with Derivative’s TouchDesigner, a graphical development environment for Windows designed for patching together visuals. Watch the results:

To exploit this with the films, Smith created a real-time video editing system using Ableton Live and TouchDesigner that allowed him to search through the video footage and create synced loops that emphasize the underlying music. As with sounds, in films, the real interesting material is sometimes obfuscated which can only be revealed by isolating and accentuating. For the films, Smith conceived a way of focusing on small loops of time and also zooming in on specific areas of each frame, drawing attention to minutiae that the eye misses.

A scanning system is reading pixel information from the archive video footage and this data through Touch Designer and then Ableton is creating and triggering samples, sounds and notes that are then integrated into the musical live set.

This data that is being transferred between the two programs via OSC [Open Sound Control] can be used to manipulate the music in any number of ways. The System is also set up that either preset video clips are used or else the video from the archive can be scanned through live and edited on the fly into loops and clips that sync with the music. Therefore, we have added a musical entity to the soundscape that is directly linked to the archival video footage.




Now, a lot of people tend to think in terms of “generative” works and VJing or “video mixing” broadly. This demonstrates that video can be generative — not only in the sense of living inside an interactive, graphical development environment like TouchDesigner, but also in the way in which video is manipulated live as a dynamic medium. That contrasts with the conventional approach to VJing with videos via two-channel mixing and timeline slicing.

I know Dara and Ian have been working on this in their live shows for some time, building a language by which visual and sound can relate. (Both work on the music, then Dara programs the visuals, and the two play both elements live onstage together — meaning it’s necessary to ensure the two relate during that performance.) I got some peek at this, even, when we played a show together – it’s not so much about automation as it is strengthening an aesthetic connection.

Now, in this piece, that’s bound up with the content itself in what seems a beautiful way.

I really hope to get to see the full show live.

Thanks to Dara for providing CDM with this text and images, including an exclusive look inside their TouchDesigner patch!



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Inside Zeno van den Broek’s raw immersive AV architectures

Strap on headphones, and the sixteen minutes of Shift Symm is a brain-tickling assault. Even just within the stereo field, raw textures rumble and dance until you feel the sound’s structures inside your head.

I was attracted to Zeno van den Broek’s work partly because that sense of patterning in sound and visual formed a work I thought deserved special integrity as a release. This is to me an encouraging sign that there are new frontiers for archaic, exposed AV minimalism in the post raster-noton age.

Shift Symm therefore saw a digital release alongside a limited edition audiovisual art release on Sedition. (More on that process soon.) In addition to Zeno’s own videos, you can catch this beautiful creation by artist Daan Kars, first premiered by data transmission:

In Los Angeles, we were a digital partner of The Billboard Creative (TBC), a project that found new homes for digital art both on the Web and (true to California culture) on roadside billboards. That was featured on The Creators Project:

A Drive-Thru Art Show Appears on Billboards in LA

And in bringing Zeno’s work out on Establishment, I hoped here on CDM we’d also get a bit closer to the artist and process, as a microcosm of what’s happening in a larger scene. So here, the Dutch-born, Copenhagen-based artist talks to us about how he works. I think in the same way the sound makes my ears buzz and the visuals my pupils vibrate, you may find some resonance in his approach to process and material.


Let’s start with sound. There’s a genuine rawness and purity of tone to this record. How did you assemble that? Was there some thought to sort of make this extremely immersive for headphones, for larger sound systems?

All sounds of Shift Symm are based on sine waves and white noise. During the development of my previous album Divergence, I created a method of physical manipulation of those two ingredients. I recorded the pure sound sources onto cassette tapes, after which I manipulated and destroyed the tape in various ways — like using sanding paper, heating the cassettes. or letting them soak in Coke for a few weeks.

I managed to record some sound of the abused tapes and create instruments out of those recordings in Ableton. The results had such a nice balance between distortion and roughness, while maintaining the character of the sines and noise sources, that I decided to use them again for Shift Symm, but this time in combination with direct pure sine waves and noise from the oscillators.

One of the principles which I worked with on Shift Symm is shifting the wavelengths of sine waves relative to each other to create interference. This interference happens in the space in which you listen to the album, which gives the immersive listening experience and creates a strong relation to your surroundings.

Did the formal conception for the visuals relate to how you imagined the sound?

Yes, for both the visuals and the sound, I used one single concept, which gave me a coherent set of compositional tools for the whole work and creates a strong relationship between the two. The concept is based on creation by shifting. By displacing very simple elements like lines and grids in the visuals, and pulses and wavelengths of sine waves in the music, I looked for unexpected and in a way uncontrollable events and results.

This was inspired by the idea of Slavoj Zizek on the ‘breach of symmetry’ which he describes in his book Event. It’s the notion that a system which is in an equilibrium, in which all energy and movement is in symmetry, can be brought into a trajectory of unpredictable events by shifting elements within the system until the symmetry is breached. This breach leads to a process of change, which eventually results in a new entropy. By working with a strong concept like this, I try to on one hand connect the different aspects of the work, and on the other hand, to pull myself out of my comfort zone to explore new fields of work. In this way I make sure that all visuals and all sounds on all levels are connected – both on the large scale of the three movements of the triptych, as well as on the micro-scale of a certain phrase of sounds or movement of lines within those parts.


How did the relationship with the visuals come about in the creative process? At what stage did you work on each?

For Shift Symm, I tried to take the relation between the sound and visual aspects to the next level by creating a purely digital audiovisual and media-specific work and to take a step away from a physical release, which always focuses on either the visual or the auditive. By releasing it on the platform of Sedition, I hope to have found a more equal realization of the intermedia.

By applying the concepts and movements to the different senses at the same time, I tried to find the strongest interrelation between them. It was fascinating to discover the different results of the same methodology in image and sound and to express this tension. After creating this audiovisual foundation, I fed the images into a system I designed which manipulates them in relation to the music, looking for a feedback loop between the senses. This manipulation ranges from x/y shifting of layers to distortion of the image.

For me, this synergy between the senses is the deepest and most realistic way of expressing various concepts and notions, because in our sensory system the senses are very strongly linked, and they give us the possibility to fully experience the space we inhabit. By working with multi- or inter- media, I hope to come closer to this core of sensory involvement.

I really like that, as you talked about your tools, you do have a really direct and visual approach to how your produce. It’s not code; it’s not abstraction – there’s some immediacy to it. Is there some sense of drawing visuals directly?

I think this relates to my background in architecture, in which naturally drawing plays a big role, and in a way drawings are still the foundation of my work. Only now they are not a medium to realize something else or a representation, but the drawings are the work itself.

In Shift Symm, the drawing started out with creating basic elements in vector-based CAD programs, after which they were animated in dialogue with the music composition. The next step was to layer this foundation of drawings with generated visuals, which have a more cause-effect kind of relationship with the sound. I believe there is a lot of tension in this combination of visuals which have been composed and have a longer span of movement with visuals that are triggered by events in the music: the friction between the visual layers gives unexpected results and beauty, something which often lacks in a one-to-one mapping of sound and image.

What’s your background; how did you enter this field?

In the summer of 2008, I graduated as an architect from the Technical University of Delft [The Netherlands], followed by a period in which I worked in an architecture firm. During my studies and work, I always played guitar in bands and founded my solo-project “Machinist.” This project gave me the freedom to develop a more abstract musical language and to discover the relationship between architecture and music.

After a while, I found out this way of approaching spatiality through art and music suited me much better than working with bricks, steel, and glass. The temporal aspect of working with sound and the ability to create work founded on philosophy like I studied at the university fascinated me immensely. It led to the decision to fully focus on my art and music and to continue my work with spatiality through the means I’m currently working with.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have had various opportunities and commissions to create work in amazing places and to work with inspiring people who push me beyond my boundaries. Last year, for example, I received a commission from Gaudeamus to compose a piece for organ, vocal ensemble, and electronics in collaboration with Gagi Petrovic. This project, named Ob-literate, was somewhat similar in approach as Shift Symm; it investigated the different intermedia in relation to and based on strong concepts. While I work in various forms of expression, I think this recurring method of working combined with my love for minimalistic esthetics results in a coherency in my work.

I do really hope with Establishment that over time, we find a way to help people build a deeper relationship to certain records, as that’s something that matters in the records I love. What do you think our role could be in making that happen? What’s the responsibility of a label in helping that connection happen?

The key element of Establishment in my opinion is the focus on digital and streaming releases, which raises interesting questions on the relationship between your audience and non-physical art. In this field of intermedia releases and digital art, the old carriers of media (such as CDs and DVDs) are not sufficient anymore. Whereas some of these releases are meant for and could be displayed in museums or galleries, there are very little platforms that release this kind of art for ‘home display’. I’m very happy with the collaboration between Sedition and Establishment on my release, which takes a step in this direction and which is crucial to create a platform that can support the further development of this kind of art.

Speaking of giving records quality listens, what is an album or two lately that made you really stop everything else you were doing and get lost?

Two albums I’ve been fascinated by lately are Lunch Music by Yannis Kyriakides and The Neurobiology Of Moral Decision Making by Mark Fell & Gábor Lázár. Both albums are uncompromising and do not always pleasure the listener but they continue to trigger and activate my mind. The album (and live performance) by Kyriakides is based on the book by William S. Burroughs from 1959 and revolves around a polyphony of voices which can be found in Burroughs his work. Kyriakides composed a beautiful synergy between live electronics, percussion and voices performed by the excellent Dutch ensembles Silbersee and Slagwerk Den Haag.

The Neurobiology Of Moral Decision Making triggers me in its bare bones and intensely minimalistic approach in which the two distinct worlds of Lázár and Fell touch and complement each other. I’ve been following Mark Fell for a longer time while Lázár caught me by surprise during a performance at the Berghain during the CTM Festival in 2015. The collaboration between these two is a beautiful example of how working together can maintain a strong character without resulting in compromises.

You’re doing a lot of live performance. How will you adapt the work to a live set?

For me, it’s vital to perform live, because that enables me to fully explore and manipulate the relation between sound, image, and architecture. I work with white noise and sine waves, which are opposites in the way we experience them in a space. Pulses of white noise can be easily located and can relate strongly to reflections of the space while sine waves are very hard to locate and can achieve a strong connection to the architecture by use of standing waves and interference.

When I perform live, I manipulate various parameters of these elements, such as the intervals between the pulses or the frequency of waves, thereby responding to the reaction I get from the space. I see the architecture of the venue as a collaborator with whom I have to create a dialogue to reach the highest levels of intensity.

During these performances, I use my visuals as a graphic score — responding to the movements and events that occur while at the same time these visuals are being manipulated by the sounds I create, which are being influenced by the space I am performing in. With this process, I aim to diffuse the boundaries between the senses, for myself as well as for the audience. For the live execution of Shift Symm I’ve created a performance which merges the three tracks with new material that is based on the same building blocks as the three compositions. Since this foundation is quite minimalistic, it’s possible to create big gestures with minimal interventions: a small alteration of an interval for example has huge results in the system of shifting.

Sedition has given people a different way of connecting to the visuals. But will you also bring this to a gallery context? What would that look like?

There’s a lot of talk lately in getting away from screen culture and so on. But I wonder, in the case of music listening, could the privacy of VR and screens actually help people to focus — to have a personal experience away from the social world?

Personally, I’m not that attracted to VR, partly because I have a problem with experiencing 3D movies and VR content: I get extremely car sick within no time! Perhaps this is due to my heightened sensitivity towards spatiality; I don’t know. But to answer your question: I think there’s a huge chance for galleries and museums to move into the area of offering a high-quality experience of digital art in a social context without losing a focused experience of the art. I think people are moving away from the digitalized social connections and are focusing more on real-life connections. This also plays a big role in the growth of festivals which are often more about the social gathering than about the music and art that are presented.

Perhaps there’s a division going on between a hub-like function of museums and galleries that can combine the presentation of digital art with a social aspect and the VR experience which offers a capsulated private viewing without any social connection. I do think it’s important to be aware of the situation your work is being presented in and that media-specific work will become more and more relevant.

Still from Daan Kars' official video.

Still from Daan Kars’ official video.

What sorts of connections as far as other artists are important to you at the moment? What’s inspiring you?

Since my work is strongly based on concepts, I try to find inspiration in a broad context of the concept I’m focusing on, such as various related art and philosophy. I do have a habit to look for inspiration in places that are not directly in the same method of expression which I’m working in to keep a fresh and personal path from concept to creation. So if I work on a piece of music composition I tend to research visual arts and philosophy, not music itself.

This can reach from a novel by Don Delillo to the architecture of Peter Zumthor or paintings by Callum Innes. Creating Shift Symm, for example, I looked into the work of Carl Andre, how he arranges his beautiful basic building blocks of wooden, copper and graphite blocks. His poems were a big inspiration in the fascinating displacement and grouping of words on paper via the means of a typewriter.

Thanks, Zeno. Check out the music on all major streaming and download services, or get it from our Bandcamp store.

If you’re in Europe, you’ve some chances of catching Zeno live. He plays Rotterdam’s sound//vision 2017, as part of the prestigious International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). He’s at Rewire in Den Haag next month.

Follow Establishment on Facebook for more music and art.

The post Inside Zeno van den Broek’s raw immersive AV architectures appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.