Novation packed new sounds – and 43 new wavetables – into an update for their flagship Peak synthesizer. Sound designer Patricia Wolf writes to share how she approached making some of those new sounds.
Peak, in case you missed it, has been one of the more compelling new synths in recent years. Novation designed a unique-sounding 8-voice polysynth, melding digital wavetable oscillators with analog processing, per-voice filtering and all-important distortion all over the place.
As with other Novation products, they’ve also been adding features in frequent firmware updates, listening to users in the process.
The big deal in Peak 1.2, released this month, is 43 additional wavetables (which evidently some of you were asking for). But you also get:
16 tuning tables
Two more LFOs you can assign to anything (not just per-voice)
Pitch bend wheel modulation (if you like)
A quicker interface for the Mod Matrix
A new four-slot FX Matrix – so you can route four LFOs to effects parameters
A hold stage for the envelopes (on top of the existing ADSRs)
An option to initalize with current knob/fader positions (instead of defaults)
New soundpacks from GForce and Patricia Wolf
Now, as it happens, Patricia Wolf wrote us on her own to share what she has done with her 50 sounds. Patricia is leading what sounds like a great career working in sound design, and her approach to these sounds is really musical – including sharing these etudes of sorts fo illustrate them, inspired by the likes of BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneering composer Delia Derbyshire. Listen:
Here’s what Patricia has to say:
Hello CDM:) I am a sound designer and electronic musician based in Portland, Oregon. I am one of the official sound designers for the Novation Peak synthesizer and just made a sound pack of 50 patches for their firmware update launch. My soundpack is available for free through Novation’s Components App.
I created a recording demonstrating my patches in a musical/artistic way.
Patricia playing live in Seattle for Further Records. Photo Valerie Ann/DJ Explorateur, framed by video art live by Leo Mayberry.
This recording is a demonstration of the sound design work I did for the Novation Peak. I created 50 patches demonstrating some of the new features that the v1.2 firmware update has to offer. My sound pack is available for free with the update through Novation’s Components App. Select the Novation tab on that app to access them as well as GForce Software’s free patches.
The patches are performed with a mixture of Octatrack sequencing (using sequences from songs I have written) and live performance with a MIDI controller. I was inspired by artists like Delia Derbyshire and wanted to record little vignettes and sonatas using the Peak without other sound sources.
I made this recording so that friends can hear the sounds I made and so that other Peak users can get a closer glimpse into how I envision sound design.
The Novation Peak was recorded directly into a Steinberg UR44 interface. No external effects. Subtle mastering from Tokyo Dawn Labs software to balance recordings of different patches.
More on Patricia:
Patricia Wolf is an electronic musician, sound designer, and gallery curator based in Portland, Oregon. After years of working in the synth pop duo Soft Metals, Wolf became interested in exploring non-linear songwriting and new forms of synthesis. Alongside working with Novation, Wolf co-founded the gallery Variform which focuses on sound design and modern composition. Patricia Wolf is a recipient of the Precipice Fund, a grant funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, to explore synthesis in the contemporary art world.
Latlaus Sky’s Pythian Drift is a gorgeous ambient concept album, the kind that’s easy to get lost in. The set-up: a probe discovered on Neptune in the 26th Century will communicate with just one woman back on Earth.
The Portland, Oregon-based artists write CDM to share the project, which is accompanied by this ghostly video (still at top). It’s the work of Ukrainian-born filmmaker Viktoria Haiboniuk (now also based in Portland), who composed it from three years’ worth of 120mm film images.
Taking in the album even before checking the artists’ perspective, I was struck by the sense of post-rocket age music about the cosmos. In this week when images of Mars’ surface spread as soon as they were received, a generation that grew up as the first native space-faring humans, space is no longer alien and unreachable, but present.
In slow-motion harmonies and long, aching textures, this seems to be cosmic music that sings of longing. It calls out past the Earth in hope of some answer.
The music is the work of duo Brett and Abby Larson. Brett explains his thinking behind this album:
This album has roots in my early years of visiting the observatory in Sunriver, Oregon with my Dad. Seeing the moons of Jupiter with my own eyes had a profound effect on my understanding of who and where I was. It slowly came to me that it would actually be possible to stand on those moons. The ice is real, it would hold you up. And looking out your black sky would be filled with the swirling storms of Jupiter’s upper clouds. From the ice of Europa, the red planet would be 24 times the size of the full moon.
Though these thoughts inspire awe, they begin to chill your bones as you move farther away from the sun. Temperatures plunge. There is no air to breathe. Radiation is immense. Standing upon Neptune’s moon Triton, the sun would begin to resemble the rest of the stars as you faded into the nothing.
Voyager two took one of the only clear images we have of Neptune. I don’t believe we were meant to see that kind of image. Unaided our eyes are only prepared to see the sun, the moon, and the stars. Looking into the blue clouds of the last planet you cannot help but think of the black halo of space that surrounds the planet and extends forever.
I cannot un-see those images. They have become a part of human consciousness. They are the dawn of an unnamed religion. They are more powerful and more fearsome than the old God. In a sense, they are the very face of God. And perhaps we were not meant to see such things.
This album was my feeble attempt to make peace with the blackness. The immense cold that surrounds and beckons us all. Our past and our future.
The album closes with an image of standing amidst Pluto’s Norgay mountains. Peaks of 20,000 feet of solid ice. Evening comes early in the mountains. On this final planet we face the decision of looking back toward Earth or moving onward into the darkness.
Abby with pedals. BOSS RC-50 LoopStation (predecessor to today’s RC-300), Strymon BlueSky, Electro Harmonix Soul Food stand out.
Plus more on the story:
Pythia was the actual name of the Oracle at Delphi in ancient Greece. She was a real person who, reportedly, could see the future. This album, “Pythian Drift” is only the first of three parts. In this part, the craft is discovered and Dr. Amala Chandra begins a dialogue with the craft. Dr Chandra then begins publishing papers that rock the scientific world and reformulate our understanding of mathematics and physics. There is also a phenomenon called Pythian Drift that begins to spread from the craft. People begin to see images and hear voices, prophecies. Some prepare for an interstellar pilgrimage to the craft’s home galaxy in Andromeda.
Part two will be called Black Sea. Part three will be Andromeda.
And some personal images connected to that back story:
Brett as a kid, with ski.
Abby aside a faux fire.
More on the duo and their music at the Látlaus Ský site:
There’s East Coast (Moog), there’s West Coast (Buchla) … and then there’s much further East. Roland’s SYSTEM-500 descends from the Japanese modular tradition. Now we have the details of their latest Eurorack renditions.
The SYSTEM-500 continues the collaboration between Roland and Portland, Oregon-based boutique maker Malekko Heavy Industry. CDM broke the story (at least in English) when the SYSTEM-500 made a cameo at an event in Berlin.
The other important thing to know is that Roland has taken some of the inspiration for the design of these modules from its early 80s SYSTEM-100M (which in turn drew from the 70s SYSTEM-100). They’re not reissues and they’re not copies – but they do take some sonic features and the interface approach from those modules. With much of the boutique community drawing from Buchla and Moog, this means Roland is a little different. At the same time, since they aren’t slavish recreations (except giving you the SH-5 filter, for instance), you get a slightly more up-to-date take on what these things are about and who they’re for.
Hey, Roland, you could also do a MIDI interface and call it the MPU.
Cost: US$399.99 street
The pitch: A place to get started
What it is: It’s an all-in-one synth module – basically three modules in one to get you started with a single voice. You get an oscillator, a filter, and an amplitude envelope. The idea is to give you a single module that gets your modular started. You could actually bolt this into a rack and get started – it takes inputs and outputs line output so you could hear what you’re doing. And while there are competing modules that do the same, this one is pretty economical, and it comes from Roland’s own heritage – it’s modeled on the early 1980s 100m Roland synth, which also had the goal of being a starter synth.
The pitch: A modulation source
What it is: It’s modulation in a box. Think ring modulation, waveforms, an LFO, noise, and portamento you can route into your other modules. This one is also 100m-based.
The pitch: A mixer in a module
What it is: The 531 also draws from the 100m history, but the important thing is really that it’s more of a conventional mixer in modular form. Now, part of the appeal of Eurorack is frankly that it is esoteric – but musicians at some point may expect mixers to behave more like mixers. So while you do get some voltage control (for panning), the appeal to me of the 531 is that it has, like, mixer faders and pan pots you can easily reach out and grab. There are even LED meters so you can see what you’re doing.
Oh, and you can plug line and mic level inputs here, too, so you can combine instruments and voice easily. Roland promises “boutique-quality,” “high-fidelity,” “low-noise” circuitry on this unit, which I take to mean it doesn’t suck. And the mic pre can be pushed into “pleasing overdrive.”
The pitch: The signature Roland filter from the SH-5
The SH-5 is a Chinese maritime patrol amphibious aircraft — wait. Sorry, wrong link. The Roland SH-5 was the 1976 classic of roughly the same generation as the SYSTEM-100 modules. Just as Moog made the Minimoog as an all-in-one keyboard monosynth with features of its modular system, so Roland made the SH-5 as its ready-to-play keyboard. And the SH-5 might be a household name with casual synth enthusiasts today, had Roland not eclipsed their own legacy with better-known 80s offerings like the SH-101 and TB-303.
But here’s the important bit: while a lot of modules have filter circuitry modeled on a Moog ladder filter or other well-known filter designs, the SH-5 has its own sound. It’s part multi-mode filter, part bandpass filter … which is to say, it really growls.
Growl how? Like this:
The 505 has no particularly fancy features. It’s just a straightforward, great-sounding filter. But it could be either the complement to the offerings above, or – for people who already have invested heavily in modular – it might be the one module you grab out of this lineup, just to add a bit of Roland sound to your rack. Just get ready to shove a fader up and down instead of twist a knob, because Roland likes vertical faders.
And we close with this image, which demonstrates that… uh… maybe the photo department needs to buy some shorter cables. (Looks impressive, though. Also, for some reason I either want a big bowl of ramen or a bag of Red Vines – or both.)
The Monolith is a “ginormous” music making machine, powered by a tiny chip and tiny code – the Teensy and one single Arduino sketch.
And what you get is a completely non-portable synthesizer with flashing lights, controls for sequencing and synthesis, and the ability to make beats and melodies. It won accolades at this year’s Maker Faire in California, and creators Darcy Neal (aka Lady Brain Studios) and Paul Stroffregen (the Teensy’s inventor) joined Tested to show it off. (That’s the YouTube show by Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.)
They’ve packed a lot of clever features:
Arcade button controls
8-step sequencer with five voices
Tempo control (via a nice big nob)
Chromatic keyboard touch strips with transposition
Parameter control via filters, knobs, tempo divider, etc.
Traditional virtual analog, but also Karplus-Strong physical modeling
Simple sampled drum machine
Darcy, Paul, and Ross had a smart way of collaborating, too – they each took a physical side of the installation/instrument, and gave each a separate task. Then they let kids go wild on the result. (I can relate – at an early Maker Faire, I came with a playable sock monkey my sister and I had devised, one that got some visibility on an early issue of the magazine.)
We invite Paul Stroffregen and Darcy Neal to our studio to assemble the Monolith, an interactive musical sculpture they and their friends created for this year’s Maker Faire. Paul is the inventor of the Teensy, the small and power microcontroller that powers the Monolith, generating all of its sounds in real-time! And it sounds AWESOME.
From the dawn of civilization, musicians could always be counted on as the ones inventing the truly weird technologies to make noise. Here – bang on this. Blow into this. It’ll make some sound; it’ll be noisy; it’ll get everyone’s attention. And so, the art of such designs continues.
New instrument design explorations have gone hand in hand with electronic music research from the moment electronics (and, eventually, digital technology) were capable of real-time performance. But if 3DMIN follows in the footsteps of those programs, it also seeks to intertwine questions about other fields and disciplines. And tonight in Berlin, it continues a series of performance showcases with the LEAP performance space, with artists spanning Europe and America.
3DMIN stands for “Design, Development and Dissemination of New Musical Instruments.” At first blush, it looks like more of the odd new sound interface experiments to which we’re already accustomed. But its scope and reach are broader. Researchers pulled from across disciplines look beyond just the musical object to every aspect around it (two Berlin academies, TU and UdK, are included). They look into history (hello, Teleharmonium), filing instruments by evolutionary adaptation as if collecting prehistoric oceanic fossils. There’s a sort of squeezebox of the future (see below), as part of investigations in design. They’re working with modern choreography (with a wooden apparatus used by dancers). There’s work on spatial sound, and controlled laboratory investigations of embodiment.
Portland’s duo MHSR, aka Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy, make poly-audiovisual light and sound experiments that feel like you’ve stumbled inside circuitry – the analog, circuit-bent equivalent of getting sucked into Tron. There are seashells with switches, grids of lasers, stroboscopic explosions. They assemble, in ritualistic fashion, sculptural assemblages of equipment, with panels that seem as though they were designed by someone at Native Instruments collaborating with an alien – after dropping acid. Surrounded by glowing artifacts, the two perform ceremonies of noise. Watch/look (see also picture, top, courtesy the artists):
Hans Tammen, known well to New Yorkers (see the long-running Harvestworks space), tears at a guitar and rips through rhythms as he pushes that instrument to its breaking point, in a project that his been his sonic labor for a decade and a half.
Hans Tammen – Endangered Guitar
Hans Tammen started developing his interactive instrument “Endangered Guitar” in the year 2000. It is a combination of sound creation through means of mechanical devices plus custom software programming, then using the guitar as a sound source and controller at the same time. In addition to the complexities of playing an “extended instrument”, the computer challenges the performer by providing ambiguities, uncertainties and variabilities.
The performer has to act on multiple dimensions, a situation that has prompted Roger Dean to coin the term “Hyperimprovisation” for these musical complexities. Hans Tammen will discuss his “Endangered Guitar” practice, and what lessons he learned playing a computerized instrument in hundreds of concerts.
Further, he discusses how his approach to music, rhythm, and improvisation has changed over the last 40 years, and how it has shaped the technology that he uses today
Happy Hallowe’en, and the entry in the northern hemisphere into short days and long, dark nights – perfect for getting lost in music listening and music making. That means it’s time to start queueing sounds to pass the time, and as it happens the CDM inbox has a selection just arriving. These are mixes unafraid of shadows and adventurous sound, and — well, the best is to let you listen. Leave the cheesy horror Theremin to someone else, and let’s enjoy something that is truly and deliciously evil in music.
Lower Order Ethics, aka Szilvia Lednitzky, can send chills up your spine – in a good way – with unforgivingly shadowy, industrial selections. If you have no interest in fancy costumes or giving yourself diabetes, in other words, Szilvia is the way you want to spend Halloween, so you can press play now. And — oh, look, it seems that she has over 16 hours of music on MixCloud, which means she can easily fill the endless nights arriving here in northern Europe, or, in a few weeks, Transylvania. (Disclosure: Szilvia is a collaborator of mine on the forthcoming Alchemic Harm project, because I was a fan of her aesthetic.)
Gothic electronic keeps getting richer – not just some distortion and all-wet reverb added to tracks, there’s some spectacular selections here from the likes of Samuel Kerridge and Cut Hands that are best of breed. Szilvia mixes for Liber Null, the Berlin event and collective that specializes in such thick, dark brews.
Meddling in arcane Mexican magic is that country’s Cesar Urbina, a talented DJ and artist who heads deep into the question of death in a Dia de los Muertos mix.
01 – Julian Carrillo – Cometa
02 – Seekers Who Are Lovers – Cereza
03 – Toncho Pilatos – Blind Man
04 – Chac Mool – Sombras de la Noche
05 – Murcof and Erik Truffaz – Al Mediodia
06 – Jorge Reyes – Invocation
07 – Antiguo Automata Mexicano – Chez Nobody (Latinsizer Remix)
08 – Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – Waitin’ for the Orange Sunshine
09 – Casino Shanghai – Sexy Bodies
10 – Sanchez Dub – Where Are All The People Now (Macario Remix)
11 – Vía Aerea – Le Corres de Mi
Worth also reading the article that accompanies this podcast, at Infine Music:
Detroit-based Annie Hall is a perennial favorite, an unparalleled grand diva of techno. Those of you who know were convinced once you saw her name; those of you who don’t – know. An October Mix from her is definitely a treat, to be emptied out and devoured. With your ears. I really shouldn’t write metaphors on Fridays. Just listen:
Terrence Fixmer – Dark Line
Thinkfreak – Forte
Deauwd – Hydrofluoric
D_FUNC. & MARIO BERGER – Shifting Frames (NX1 Remix)
Speedy J – Shoegaze (Edit Select Dub)
Exium – Sick Of Promises
Leghau – Tension (Monomood Remix)
Annie Hall – Ruido3 (Truncate Remix)
AnD – Power Spectrum
Meanwhile, in London, 7th November appears to be the best party of the fall for heavy techno heads. Plex plus Corsica Studios adds Ancient Methods, Inigo Kennedy, Bintus, Skunkrock, Donor (with special guest), Black Amiga, Ansome, JoeFarr, J.tijn, Altar, Waterworks, Tengui, Hieroglyphic Being, Charles Manier and Ekoplex, plus residents James Tec, Luke Handsfree, Volte-Face, and Blacknecks live.
Name dropping is no fun – you need to hear what that achingly-frightening lineup sounds like, which you can do here. The Quietus approve, and they’re so excited, they resort to a whole string of English expletives to express themselves. (Something about the bee’s tits being being balls-up in a pint of … tea. Or something. Sorry, too American to hear what you’re saying and CAN’T ANYWAY OVER THE POUNDING SOUND OF THIS AWESOMELY INDUSTRIAL TECHNO COMING OUT OF THIS SPEAKER!)
We can’t go all mixes here, so I turn next to Robert Lippok, with whom I had the honor of playing and speaking at ADE. Robert is a terrific improviser, passionate about spontaneity and devilishly anarchic about sound. He’ll create something sparkling and delicate and then, like a sand castle, wreck it – with nicely destructive auditory results.
URSSS continues their stunningly good live series with a nice outing by Robert, just released.
Robert Lippok’s labelmate Frank Bretschneider (another true Berliner, not one of us ex-pat hipster pretenders like myself) also had a terrific musical sculpture on 4DSOUND in Amsterdam, as well as a tightly-conceived audiovisual set, rendered live on Modul8 and Elektron Octatrack, which I caught last week. He is readying an audiovisual project for raster noton slated for January, and here shares a ‘wave of the week’ with us:
Speaking of ADE, let’s listen, too, to Paula Temple, my other favorite part of Amsterdam this year – more on that soon.
Also out this week is a mix of 50 years of electronic music by some of the women who have most inspired many of us, coming from Dweomer (Jef Drawbaugh) of the Zodiak Klub radio show on Portland, Oregon radio. Pioneers like Suzanne Ciani and Laurie Spiegel and Pauline Oliveros and contemporaries like Holly Herndon constantly challenge me personally to make better music, so, naturally, I love this mix.
3:00am Time to Tell by Cosey Fanni Tutti on Time to Tell (Conspiracy International, 1993)
3:16am The Third Wave – Love In The Waves by Suzanne Ciani on Seven Waves (Finnadar Records, 1982)
3:21am The Four Aspects by Daphne Oram on An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music vol. 2 (Sub rosa, 2003)
3:28am Chimera by Pattern and Shape on n/a (n/a, ?)
3:29am Music of the Spheres by Johanna M. Beer on An Anthology of noise and Electronic Music vol. 2 (Sub Rosa, 2003)
3:35am A Light Change by Grouper on Inca Ore/Grouper Split (Acuarela Discos, 2008)
3:41am Tangled Emotions by Andrea K on n/a (n/a, 2013)
3:45am Movement by Holly Herndon on Movement (RVNG Intl., 2012)
3:50am Rocket USA by Nik Void on Shadazz/Radiation EP (Blast First Petite, 2008)
3:50am Rocket USA by Nik Void on Shadazz/Radiation EP (Blast First Petite, 2008)
3:54am Auf Engelsflugeln by Deutsche Wertarbeit on Deutsche Wertabeit (Medical, 1981)
3:59am Chromapassage by Sci Fi Sol on Dominant Dream (n/a, 2012)
4:03am No Moondoggies for 3 Weeks by Karen Gwyer on I’ve Been You Twice (Kaleidoscope, 2012)
4:08am Norton’s Apple Software by Doris Norton on Personal Computer (Durium, 1984)
4:14am Doctor Who Theme by Delia Derbyshire on n/a (BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 1963)
4:16am Patchwork by Laurie Spiegel on The Expanding Universe (Unseen Worlds Records, 1980)
4:26am Syv Cirkler by Else Marie Pace on An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music vol. 6 (Sub Rosa, 2010)
4:33am The Fool’s Circle by Pauline Oliveros on Crone Music (Lovely Music, Ltd., 1990)
4:39am Coconut by Fever Ray on Fever Ray (Rabid Records, 2009)
4:46am om Nano Ocean Road by Vektroid on Color Ocean Road (PrismCorp, 2012)
4:57am La Vie En Rose by Clara Rockmore, Nadia Reiseberg on Clara Rockmore’s Lost Theramin Album (Bridge Records, 2006)
Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been listening today to more experimental frontiers with German-born, Paris-based Christine Webster, whose projects range from mixes to three-dimensional composition. Here, she takes us way into outer space in an eclectically-conceived set of mixes for the ongoing Terminal Radio project:
Five Minutes Alone,Circular, Christine Webster. Herd, Adrian Moore and Akkya.
Terminal Radio 20 – Herd Takeover show
Intro by Nmesh
Five Minutes Alone (timereleasedsound.com/shop/releases/)
Part 6, Dead Pόlis: The Dream
Five Minutes Alone – Let Things Be (Unreleased)
Dickon Hinchliffe – The Fields (Pale Blue)
Atticus Ross, Claudia Sarne & Leopold Ross – 7 Years Later (BFD)
Harry Gregson-Williams – The Rifle (Kirtland Records)
Roque Baños – Trapped Into Elevator (Filmax Music)
Tool – (-) Ions (Zoo Entertainment)
Darkstar83, 3bc & Tetsuroh Konishi – Into Ruins (Aural Films)
Cliff Martinez – What’s Your Daughter On (Tvt)
Tool – Useful Idiot (Zoo Entertainment)
Atticus Ross, Claudia Sarne & Leopold Ross – Left Alone (BFD)
Henry Francis Lyte & Will Henry Monk – Jim’s Parents (Abide With Me) (XL Recordings)
Tool – Cesaro Summability (Zoo Entertainment)
Cliff Martinez – Weathermen (Milan Records)
MbLWb – Always (Unreleased)
Five Minutes Alone – Birds (Terminal)
MbLWb – Dane 2,1 (Unreleased)
Circular (Loki Foundation, Deep Audio)
Circular – BENEATH THE LUMINOUS SKY – Deep Audio
Circular – THE PATHWAY DOWNWARDS – Loki Foundation
Circular – FROM A CONCEALED AWARENESS – Deep Audio
Oberman Knocks – Fewton Tension Kords – Aperture
Locust – Xenophobe – Apollo
Burial – Roughsleeper – Hyperdub
Leon OST – The Fight part one The Swat Squad – Eric Serra
Larvae –Crazyeye – ad Noiseam
BT – Finobacci Sequence – Headspace
Peter Gabriel – Sandstorm – Geffen Records
Blackfilm – Sonar – Spectraliquid
Leon – A bird in New York – Eric Serra
Demdike Stare – Regressor- Modern Love
Larvae – Crazyeye- ad Noiseam
Mad Fish – Dif:use – Thin Conselation
Autechre – Treale – Warp
Grooverider – Secrets – Higher Ground
Padrone – Dif:use – Symbolic Interaction
Zorak – Arcon 2 – Reinforced Records
FSOL – Room 208 – Virgin
Peter Gabriel – Sandstorm – Geffen Records
FSOL – Heat Distortions – FSOLdigital.com
Goldie – Sea of Tears – FFRR
Legiac – Emriz – Sending Orbs
Protogroup – Anahata – Autoplate
Protogroup – Ope Um Ra – Autoplate
Deaf Center – Thunder Night – TYPE
Protogroup – Love Gives Strength to my Soul – Autoplate
FSOL – Newfoundland – FSOLdigital
Autechre – Secon Bad Vibel – Warp
David Morley – Ghosts – Ursa Major
Seefar – Before dawn – FSOLdigital
Adrian Moore – Nebula Sequence Remix – electrocd.com
Akkya (City Wall Records)
Akkya – A Distant Constellation that is Dying in the Corner of the Sky – unreleased
The Thin Red Line – Nature
Akkya – From an Imprisoned Room I See – unreleased
Akkya – Orange Liquid Orbs (Section 2) -Itunes
Akkya – The Rains over the Land – unreleased
Akkya – A Distant Constellation that is Dying in the Corner of the Sky (Outro) – unreleased
Primal Scream – Higher Than The Sun – Creation
Left with the artifacts of the analog age, the digital revolution now fully commonplace, artists are treating vintage techniques and musical materials as creative colors. Freed from the iron grip of nostalgia or historical accuracy, a record can be simply an ode to the things you love.
That feeling is especially alive and well at Erased Tapes, the London-based record label, an imprint experimental in tastes but sharing a focused philosophy of music making. Certainly, their roster includes plenty of things with “post-” as prefix. There’s post-classical (Nils Frahm), freely mixing classical techniques, and post-digital (enough vintage tape machines and analog signal chains to make gear lovers swoon and faint). But there’s also the finely-detailed digital sound design of Hecq, the obsessive production (and new live analog show) of Rival Consoles. Erased Tapes is a line connecting a community of musicians around craft.
And then there’s the wonderful Greg Gives Peter Space, which we can now share in its entirety before it tours France, England, Holland, and Germany, including our CDM-presented show at Berghain Kantine in Berlin. (America, you get at least one date, too, at Decibel Festival Seattle.) Listen:
This is not only a collaboration; it’s a new hybrid means of making music. It’s delicate and heart-wrenching as a folk album. But call it a folk revival mindful of electronics – folk dub. Fed into springs and analog delays, each line will rumble and wobble through bass earthquakes, then float softly off into space, drifting into higher orbits like a wayward balloon.
As wood plays gentle duets with resistors, so, too, does American Peter Broderick (now in Portland, OR) meld his multi-instrumentalist chops with the English-born composer Greg Haines. This is dub, down to the rhythms, but without any feeling of appropriation; it’s instead plotted through the intersection of folk traditions so thoroughly absorbed as to become second nature, personal and heartfelt. Those sometimes-insistent electronic echoes could easily clash with the beautifully-simple songwriting, but through some miracle, they don’t. The duo maintains an elastic tension between stuttering rhythms and elegant, “don’t I already know this tune?” melody.
A glimpse into the studio where it all happened (click to embiggen):
It’s all over in under twenty-five minutes, but I couldn’t ever listen to it just once. Empty spaces spent outside the shuttlecraft airlock proved to have a breathable atmosphere, full of fuzzy analog tape-hiss air; weird trippy sung intonations always anchored by some clear compositional, emotional direction.
But I do hope it’s all a prelude – this gem of an album, the constellation of other like-minded records happening at the moment. I hope we look back and remember these days when we were first surprised that acoustic and analog instruments would live together, before folk music was always woven in hybrid forms and invented, impromptu instrumentation, half plugged, half-unplugged. That was the moment, we might say, when we finally felt unburdened by history by making the music that felt half-forgotten from our past, half-forgotten from our future.
It’ll be a pleasure to experience it in person, so hope to see you in Berlin or that if you are in neighboring bits of Europe, you can go, too – and for the rest of our planet, let us know what you think of the record.
That London date Thursday is a busy one, for all our UK-based CDM readers — the boys are live on air via NTS Radio (12-1pm), DJing at Phonica Records (free entry 6-7pm), then do the release concert at Village Underground (7.30-11pm) with support from Bradley Zero.
You can preorder tickets to join us in Berlin if you’re in the neighborhood (why, hello there, Native Instruments and Ableton employees) on Monday. And say hello to us on Facebook:
We’re presenting that event with our friends at two of our other favorite music reads online, Digital in Berlin (which hand-picks events in the oversaturated German capital), and No Fear of Pop (an international music blog).
For centuries, music was something made in a living room, made at home. It was a brief fluke of the 20th Century that music came out of a heroic process in a hidden-away studio. But if the gold-plated, magical record is threatened, some artists are trying to bring the daily ritual of home music making back.
Ólafur Arnalds and Matthew Flook are each making gorgeous, cinematic-ambient tracks, and each have made projects that involve doing so on a regular basis in their homes. Let’s listen.
Arnalds has been making some of the finest scores anywhere, and now has earned the appropriate recognition. In celebration, we get to enjoy the documentation of his achingly-pretty Living Room Songs project free – along with free downloads of the record (or pay for higher quality). Erased Tapes, which also happens to be one of my favorite labels these days (see also post-minimalist pianist Nils Frahm, among others), brings the good news:
In celebration of Ólafur Arnalds’ recent BAFTA nomination for his score work on Broadchurch, Erased Tapes are streaming his 2011 Living Room Songs film in full; including behind the scenes footage which has previously only been available as part of the special edition CD/DVD set.
Shot by Gunnar Guðbjörnsson and Bowen Staines
Edited by Bowen Staines
You can purchase physical and high-quality digital from the Erased Tapes store, or grab the downloads free from the Living Room Songs site:
We get over half an hour of footage to watch. This is all acoustic instrumentation, in case anyone wants to question whether it belongs on this particular site – but, then, that’s the joy of the mobility of today’s digital recording technology.
It occurs to me that part of the magic of the Living Room Songs project is that it was done in a fixed span of time. Regardless of the success of the artist, that sort of discipline is essential. For the emerging artist, juggling bookings with other jobs, it’s an almost radical carve-out of time. But for the successful, touring artist, too, it can be a rare set of moments of truly personal creative space.
Ólafur Arnalds made his work daily over the course of a week, with one composition for each of the seven days.
Matthew Flook wrote me this week to share his moody, lushly ambient creation Exit Signs. Here, the cadence was one creation per week, for 13 weeks.
He joined the Weekly Beats project we mentioned earlier in order to produce the project.
At the time, many of you expressed a desire to set your own timing and cadence. Sure enough, Flook decided after 13 weeks, he already had one record. The result, released yesterday: Winter Phase.
The day was January 1st, 2014… on which I was driving home from Long Beach, Washington with a mild hangover and a thirst for something new. I was tired and feeling beaten down by the failures of past endeavors, forgotten resolutions, and dwindling artistic productivity. This was it: the time to begin my new year with new ambitions, creations, and challenges. I needed to get back in the studio, and the only clear path in my hazy mind was to begin producing one song per week for the entire year; no excuses, no delays. This release is the culmination of the first quarter of this endeavor, recorded over the rainy winter months in my northeast Portland basement studio.
The individual songs from this weekly project have been mixed into a cohesive, linear album release, and re-mastered for better playability across audio systems. The recording, mixing, and mastering were all done in-house on a very strict schedule that required completing and publishing the results each Sunday by 12:00 AM GMT. The platform that helped me to establish this process is called Weekly Beats, found here: weeklybeats.com#/matthew+flook
This music is meant to capture a moment, and is recorded quickly without (my usual) excessive fussing over minor details. That being said, I put my best effort towards making these sound as good as possible in a week’s time, and suspect you’ll find some surprising subtlety in the mixes – especially if you give a listen with headphones. Enjoy!
Much is made of the cult of disconnecting from the Internet, abandoning Instagram and YouTube and Facebook and – yes, even SoundCloud. Yet Flook and other artists are paradoxically using those globally-connected tools to become more aware of the intimate, creative moments of their life. You can follow Flook on Instagram and see a kind of meditation on his creative spaces. It’s clear that these uploads, like diary writing to an unseen audience, somehow produce greater motivation rather than greater distraction. It’s part promotion, part self-incentive.
Once upon a time, little production moments would be tightly-guarded secrets, unless manufacturer artist relations people were breathing down your neck to get an endorsement in. Here, they’re shared freely, almost as part of the process, and so we know, for instance, Ólafur is a fan of Spitfire Audio’s BML string library and the wonderful (though I’ve had little chance to write about yet) Universal Audio Ocean Way Studios reverb:
And his latest record “For Now I am in Winter” came out earlier this year, as blissful as skating across a frozen, white pond:
I can’t really draw any connection to these two records other than they have “winter” in the title, and you can see parallel practices from the two artists to ritualistic production and accompanying Internet promotion and distribution. But they do give me a similarly happy feeling, so there’s that.
And it’s a pleasure to take these winter treats into spring. (Well, unless you’re in the midwest of the USA, where apparently you should hole up with these two albums and some long-lasting batteries during a major winter storm this week!)
Electronic instruments really are becoming like folks instruments. US$42 now buys you a small board that you can touch directly, one that’s immediate and from which anyone can coax sounds. You can jam with it, pocket it; it’s affordable and direct and playable.
And it all fits in a plastic cassette tape box.
The re-released Mixtape Alpha (the first run sold out) looks like a real gem. It’s a crowd-funded run this time – eschewing Kickstarter for the Portland-based Crowd Supply.
An ATmega328p-powered 8-bit synth (that is, using the chip that’s also in the Arduino, among others), Mixtape Alpha has a surprising range of features:
“Stylophone-style” input (yes, you touch it and get continuous ribbon controls, or choose buttons for separate ntoes)
Four voices, five-note polyphony
Record and playback looped phrases – in the video, combined with the effects, producing some rather pretty results
It’s also open source hardware, and – in a nice change for a crowd-funded project – the schematics and code are already there, plus a little patch for the free software Pure Data (Pd) that generates wavetables. And yes, being based on the ATmega, it’s hackable.
The project is a collaboration between Chicago, Illinois’ Open Music Labs and Jie Qi from the High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab.
In two ambient works, musicians Cory Allen (Austin, Texas) and Marcus Fischer (Portland, Oregon) chart connected sound worlds mined from shared samples, in a sweeping opus of a musical environent. Released yesterday on February 22, coinciding with birthdays of the artist and Chopin, it generously has the you’ve-just-got-to-buy-this price of US$2.22, well worth adding to your downloaded collection.
The first track is nothing if not womb-like. It begins with a warm, pulsing hum, delicate tones peeking above the blur. Then it gradually succumbs to binaural fuzz, producing a whitened atmosphere of timbral architecture, an eneveloping mist punctuated by soft, insistent ticks. The second track feels more expansive, a trip on an alien sea that begins with creaking, ship-like wooden planks and sails into waves of sound and ringing timbre. With the arrival of the piano and strings in the second track, there is a renewed sense of musical groundedness: this is not just an endless drone, but a set of extended gestures.
There is a regular sense in the sound design of tonal centers, of lines and connections and progression behind the spray of sound. Accordingly, our friend Marc Weidenbaum, whose blog disquiet has been a compass for online releases of ambient and experimental music, has contributed some thoughts on just that topic of congruity in notes for the album. He fits those, of course, into 222 words:
The Internet is a congruity engine. The ceaseless churn of online databases aligns any two or more things found to have in common any one thing.
Cities with similar names require clarification from mapping systems. Faces of people with similar names appear together in image searches, forcibly conflated into one extended family.
Congruity is especially powerful regarding individuals with the same birthday. Factors such as seasonal attributes and development relative to classmates are widely accepted to explain perceived similarities between individuals otherwise born years, even centuries, apart.
Two / Twenty Two by Cory Allen and Marcus Fischer occurred because the two musicians acted on their shared February 22 birthday. Both live in cities considered artistic outposts in otherwise rustic states (Allen: Austin, Texas; Fischer: Portland, Oregon), both have professional experience in visual design, and both explore gentle sonic psychedelics that bring texture to what might otherwise be termed ambient. All coincidence, certainly.
Allen and Fischer stacked the deck in congruity’s favor by providing each other with a set of samples from which to devise new music. The result is two rough fragile recordings. They have the burnish of delicate objects that survived significant tumult. As for the tremulous piano in track two, perhaps it’s a nod to Chopin, who was, according to various databases tracking such things, also born on February 22.
released 22 February 2012
. . .
all sounds were created or captured
by CORY ALLEN + MARCUS FISCHER.
in Austin, TX + Portland, OR.
Mastered by CORY ALLEN
Photo + Design by MARCUS FISCHER
By the way, one of the many things I love about Bandcamp is that it is supported by the superb Chrome extension, ex.fm, which is ideal for listening to streamed music. I tend to like to survey music via ex.fm and purchase and download the stuff I really love. If you want to follow me, my profile is:
And I’d love to know what you’re listening is like, if you wish to send playlists. Perhaps we can talk more about that soon. We’ve just enabled the ex.fm plugin here on CDM, so that may make finding music here easier, too.