Take a 3D trip into experimental turntablism with V-A-C Moscow, Shiva Feshareki

Complex music conjures up radical, fluid architectures, vivid angles – why not experience those spatial and rhythmic structures together? Here’s insight into a music video this week in which experimental turntablism and 3D graphics collide.

And collide is the right word. Sound and image are all hard edges, primitive cuts, stimulating corners.

Shiva Feshareki is a London-born composer and turntablist; she’s also got a radio show on NTS. With a research specialization in Daphne Oram (there’s a whole story there, even), she’s made a name for herself as one of the world’s leading composers working with turntables as medium, playing to the likes of the Royaal Albert Hall with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Her sounds are themselves often spatial and architectural, too – not just taking over art spaces, but working with spatial organization in her compositions.

That makes a perfect fit with the equally frenetic jump cuts and spinning 3D architectures of visualist Daniel James Oliver Haddock. (He’s a man with so many dimensions they named him four times over.)

NEW FORMS, her album on Belfast’s Resist label, explores the fragmented world of “different social forms,” a cut-up analog to today’s sliced-up, broken society. The abstract formal architecture, then, has a mission. As she writes in the liner notes: “if I can demonstrate sonically how one form can be vastly transformed using nothing other than its own material, then I can demonstrate this complexity and vastness of perspective.”

You can watch her playing with turntables and things around and atop turntables on Against the Clock for FACT:

And grab the album from Bandcamp:

Shiva herself works with graphical scores, which are interpreted in the album art by artist Helena Hamilton. Have a gander at that edition:

But since FACT covered the sound side of this, I decided to snag Daniel James Oliver Haddock. Daniel also wins the award this week for “quickest to answer interview questions,” so hey kids, experimental turntablism will give you energy!

Here’s Daniel:

The conception formed out of conversations with Shiva about the nature of her work and the ways in which she approaches sound. She views sound as these unique 3D structures which can change and be manipulated. So I wanted to emulate that in the video. I also was interested in the drawings and diagrams that she makes to plan out different aspects of her performances, mapping out speakers and sound scapes, I thought they were really beautiful in a very clinical way so again I wanted to use them as a staging point for the 3D environments.

I made about 6 environments in cinema 4d which were all inspired by these drawings. Then animated these quite rudimentary irregular polyhedrons in the middle to kind of represent various sounds.

Her work usually has a lot of sound manipulation, so I wanted the shapes to change and have variables. I ended up rendering short scenes in different camera perspectives and movements and also changing the textures from monotone to colour.

After all the Cinema 4d stuff, it was just a case of editing it all together! Which was fairly labour intensive, the track is not only very long but all the sounds have a very unusual tempo to them, some growing over time and then shortening, sounds change and get re-manipulated so that was challenging getting everything cut well. I basically just went through second by second with the waveforms and matched sounds by eye. Once I got the technique down it moved quite quickly. I then got the idea to involve some found footage to kind of break apart the aesthetic a bit.

Of course, there’s a clear link here to Autechre’s Gantz Graf music video, ur-video of all 3D music videos after. But then, there’s something really delightful about seeing those rhythms visualized when they’re produced live on turntables. Just the VJ in me really wants to see the visuals as live performance. (Well, and to me, that’s easier to produce than the Cinema 4D edits!)

But it’s all a real good time with at the audio/visual synesthesia experimental disco.

More:

Watch experimental turntablist Shiva Feshareki’s ‘V-A-C Moscow’ video [FACT]

https://www.shivafeshareki.co.uk/

https://resistbelfast.bandcamp.com/album/new-forms

Resist label

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Reloop’s new RP-8000 MK2: instrumental pitch control, Serato integration

Like the relaunched Technics 1200, the new Reloop decks sport digitally controlled motors. But Reloop have gone somewhere very different from Technics: platters that can be controlled at a full range of pitches, and even play scales. And the RP-8000 MK2 is a MIDI controller, too, for Serato and other software.

Oh yeah, and one other thing – Reloop as always is more affordable – a pair of RP-8000 MK2s costs the same as one SL-1200 MK7. (One deck is EUR600 / USD700 / GBP525).

And there’s a trend beyond these decks. Mechanical engineers rejoice – the age of the motor is here.

238668 Reloop RP-8000 MK2

We’re seeing digitally controlled motors for haptic feedback, as on the new Native Instruments S4 DJ controllers. And we’re seeing digital control on motors providing greater reliability, more precision, and broader ranges of speed on conventional turntables.

So digitally controlled motors were what Technics was boasting earlier this week with their SL-1200 MK7, which they say borrows from Blu-Ray drive technology (Technics is a Panasonic brand).

Reloop have gone one step further on the RP-8000 MK2. “Platter Play” rotates the turntable platter at different speeds to produce different pitches – rapidly. You can use the colored pads on the turntable, or connect an external MIDI keyboard.

That gives the pads a new life, as something integral to the turntable instead of just a set of triggers for software. (I’m checking with Reloop to find out if the performance pads require Serato to work, but either way, they do actually impact the platter rotation – it’s a physical result.)

238668 Reloop RP-8000 MK2

Serato and Reloop have built a close relationship with turntablists; this lets them build the vinyl deck into a more versatile instrument. It’s still an analog/mechanical device, but with a greater range of playing options thanks to digital tech under the hook. Call it digital-kinetic-mechanical.

Also digital: the pitch fader Reloop. (Reloop call it “high-resolution.”) Set it to +- 8% (hello Technics-style pitch), or +/- 16% for a wider range (hello, Romanian techno, -16%), or an insane +/- 50%. That’s the actual platter speed we’re talking here. (Makes sense – platters on CDs and Blu-Ray spin far, far faster.)

With quartz lock on, the same mechanism will simply play your records more accurately at a steady pitch (0%).

The pitch fader and motor mechanism are both available on the RP-7000 MK2, for more traditional turntable operation The performance pad melodic control is on the 8000, the one intended for Serato users.

Serato integration

I expect some people want their controller and their deck separate – playing vinyl means bringing actual vinyl records, and playing digital means using a controller and computer, or for many people, just a USB stick and CDJs.

If you want that, you can grab the RP-7000 MK2 for just 500 bucks a deck, minus the controller features.

On the RP-8000 MK2, you get a deck that adds digital features you’ve seen on controllers and CDJs directly on the deck. As on the original RP-8000, Reloop are the first to offer Serato integration. And it’s implemented as MIDI, so you can work with third-party software as well. The market is obviously DVS users.

The original RP offered Cue, Loop, Sample and Slicer modes with triggers on the left-hand side. Plus you get a digital readout above the pitch fader.

On the MK2, the numeric display gives you even more feedback: pitch, BPM, deck assignment, scales and notes, elapsed/remaining time of current track, plus firmware settings.

New playback and platter control options on the Reloop RP-8000 MK2.

The pads have new performance modes, too: Cue, Sampler, Saved Loops, Pitch Play, Loop, Loop Roll, Slicer, and two user-assignable modes (for whatever functions you want).

Reloop have also upgraded the tone arm base for greater reliability and more adjustments.

And those performance modes look great – 22 scales and 34 notes, plus up to 9 user-defined scales.

For more integration, Reloop are also offering the Reloop Elite, a DVS-focused mixer with a bunch of I/O, displays that integrate with the software, and more RGB-colored performance triggers and other shortcuts.

https://www.reloop.com/reloop-elite

One of these things is not like the others: the new kit still requires a laptop to run Serato.

If I had any complaint, it’s this: when will Serato do their own standalone embedded hardware in place of the computer? I know many DJs are glad to bring a computer – and Reloop claims the controls on the deck eliminate the need for a standalone controller (plus they have that new mixer with still more Serato integration). But it seems still a bummer to have to buy and maintain a PC or Mac laptop as part of the deal. And if you’re laying out a couple grand on hardware, wouldn’t you be willing to buy an embedded solution that let you work without a computer? (Especially since Serato is an integrated environment, and would run on embedded machines. Why not stick an ARM board in there to run those displays and just read your music off USB?)

As for Reloop, they’re totally killing it with affordable turntables. If you just want some vinyl playback and basic DJing for your home or studio, in December they also unveiled the RP-2000 USB MK2. USB interface (for digitization or DVS control), direct drive control (so you can scratch on it), under 300 bucks.

https://www.reloop.com/

Previously in phonographs:

The Technics SL-1200 is back, and this time for DJs again

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What do you play? Berklee adds electronic digital instrument program

Musicians have majored in trumpets and voice, conducting and reeds. Now, they can choose the “electronic digital instrument” at Berklee College of Music, as music education works to redefine itself in the post-digital age.

The underlying idea here itself isn’t new – turntables and computers have been singled out before as instrumental or educational categories – but making a complete program in this way is novel. And maybe the most interesting thing about Berklee’s approach is bringing a range of different subcategories into one theme, the “electronic digital instrument,” or EDI. (Uh… okay, the search for a great name here continues. Maybe we can give away an Ableton Push as a naming contest?)

In Berklee’s formulation, this is computing device + software + controller.

I wonder if the “controller” formulation will stand the test of time, as computation and sound modeling is brought increasingly into the same box as whatever has controls on it. (You don’t think of the knobs on a synthesizer as a distinct “controller,” even though the functional relationship is the same.)

But most encouraging is the cast of characters and the program Berklee is assembling here. I’m very interested to hear more about their curriculum and how it’s taught – plus apparently know quite a few people involved – so let’s definitely follow up soon with an interview. Here’s their launch video:

The curricular objectives:

Upon completion of the performance core program with an electronic digital instrument, you will be able to:

design and configure a versatile, responsive, and musically expressive electronic performance system;
synthesize and integrate knowledge of musical styles to develop effective electronic performance strategies;
play in a variety of electronic performance modes using a variety of controllers;
use common types of synthesizers;
produce audio assets from a variety of sources, and use them in a live performance;
demonstrate proficiency in effect processing in a live performance; and
perform in solo and ensemble settings, taking on melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and textural roles as well as arranging, mixing, remixing, and real-time compositional musical roles using all parts of one’s performance system.

And the required coursework is interesting, as well. The program includes improvisation, and a bunch of ensemble work – with turntables, techno/rave and “DJ sampling,” hip-hop, and synth technique for live ensembles. That builds in turn on the development of laptop ensembles and more experimental improvisational work in programs in some other schools. Berklee students in the program will work with turntables (which some schools have offered in the past, if sporadically), but also studies in “performance” and “grid” controllers. (Dear Brian Crabtree, Toshio Iwai, and Roger Linn – did you imagine you would all help turn “grids” into an instrumental study?)

This is all over a four semester study.

The program announcement:

Principal Instruments: Electronic Digital Instrument

https://www.berklee.edu/

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Mo’Wax, James Lavelle, DJ Shadow, and more in a new documentary

A new documentary is poised to take what looks like a personal, thrilling look at the UK turntablism revolution.

The film is “The Man from Mo’Wax,” a documentary set to premiere at the end of August, with a full digital release (disc and download) on September 10.

The film centers on James Lavelle and his label, the pioneering purveyor of trip hop, alternative hip hop, and other things involving vinyl. And because of Mo’Wax’s seminal role in the 90s UK music scene, you get Lavelle’s story, but a lot more. DJ Shadow, Joshua Homme, Badly Drawn Boy,
Robert Del Naja (3D), Ian Brown, Futura, Thom Yorke and Grandmaster Flash… you name them, they’re in this picture. And it’s a coming of age story about Lavelle, who launched his DJ career at 14 and the label at 18 – all the ups an downs.

And of course, a lot of what sampling and beat-driven music is today is connected to what happens in this film.

How you get to watch this – apart from the YouTube trailed we’ve embedded here – is also rather interesting. Via something dubbed ourscreen, you can actually order up a screening at a participating local cinema… erm, provided you’re in the UK. For the rest of us, of course, we can just wait some extra days and microwave some popcorn and make every crowd around our MacBook or something.

The real fun will be for Londoners on the premiere date:

On Thursday, 30 August at 20:30, London’s BFI Southbank will host a premiere launch screening alongside a live Q&A with James Lavelle and the filmmakers. The event will also feature a Pitchblack Playback of an exclusive mix from UNKLE’s new forthcoming album. Plus, join us for an after-party with a live DJ set from Lavelle. The Q&A with James Lavelle will also be broadcast via Facebook Live from the BFI.

Given the subject of the film, of course there’s also a lovely limited edition record to go with it:

http://www.themanfrommowax.com/pre-order/

If you can’t wait, though, here’s FACT’s two-parter on Lavelle from the label’s 21st birthday.

Images courtesy the filmmakers.

http://www.themanfrommowax.com

Thanks, Martin Backes!

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Shiftee Pack Vol. 3 available now at Splice Sounds

Splice Sounds Shiftee Pack Vol 3Splice Sounds has released the third volume in the sample pack series by DJ Shiftee, offering some more boom-bap for your beats. The pack includes 145 loops and one-shots including drums, percussion, 808s, synths, bass, chords, fx, vocals, and more. Shiftee is a legend in the world of turntablism, and has taught courses at NYU […]

PiDeck makes a USB stick into a free DJ player, with turntables

There’s something counterintuitive about it, right? Plug a USB stick into a giant digital player alongside turntables. Or plug the turntables into a computer. What if the USB stick … was the actual player? In the age of rapid miniaturization, why hasn’t this happened yet?

Well, thanks to an open source project, it has happened (very nearly, anyway). It’s called PiDeck. And it radically reduces the amount of gear you need. You’ll still need an audio interface with phono input to connect the turntable, plus the (very small, very cheap) Raspberry Pi. But that’s just about it.

Connect your handheld computer into a turntable, add a control vinyl, and you’re ready to go. So your entire rig is only slightly larger than the size of two records and some gear the size of your two hands.

You have a rock-solid, Linux-based, ultra-portable rig, a minimum of fuss, essentially no space taken up in the booth – this all makes digital vinyl cool again.

It works with USB sticks (even after you yank them out):

And you can scratch:

Their recommended gear (touchscreens these days can be really compact, too)

  • A recent Raspberry Pi (only Pi 3 model B tested so far) and power supply. First generation Raspberry Pi’s are not supported, sorry
  • Touchscreen (single-touch is enough), or a HDMI monitor and keyboard
  • Stereo, full-duplex I2S or USB soundcard with a phono input stage, or line input and an external pre-amp, soundcard must be supported by ALSA
  • Micro SD card for the software, at least 2GB in size, and an adaptor to flash it with
  • Control vinyl, Serato CV02 pressing or later recommended
  • USB stick containing your favourite music. FLAC format is recommended (16-bit 44100Hz format tested)
  • Non-automatic record player that can hold speed, with a clean, sharp stylus. It helps scratching if the headshell and arm are adjusted correctly
  • Slipmat, made from felt or neoprene
  • Sheet of wax paper from the kitchen drawer, to go under the slipmat

Previously from this same crew (more just a fun proof of concept / weird way of DJing!):

This is how to DJ with a 7″ tablet and an NES controller

Check out the project site:

http://pideck.com

And you can download this now – for free.

https://github.com/pideck/pideck-distro/releases/

pideck-reverse-side

pideck-spinning

Developer Daniel James writes us with more details on what this whole thing is about:

Chris (in cc) and I have been working on the project in spare time for a couple of months, here on the Isle of Wight. Chris built the hardware prototype and did most of the work on the custom Debian distro.

The idea behind the PiDeck project is to combine the digital convenience of a USB stick with the hands-on usability of the classic turntable, in a way which is affordable and accessible. The parts cost (at retail) for each PiDeck device is currently about £150, not including a case or control vinyl. There is no soldering to do; the hardware screws and clips together.

I used to run DJ workshops for young people, and found that while the kids were really happy to get their hands on the decks, a lot of them were put off by having to use the laptop as well, especially the younger kids and the girls. The teenage boys would tend to crowd around the laptop and take over.

Then there’s the performance aspect of real turntables which some digital controllers lack, and the sneaking suspicion that the computer is really doing the mixing, or worse still, just running through a
playlist. PiDeck doesn’t have any mixing, sync or playlist features, so the DJ can take full credit (or blame) for the sound of the mix.

We’ve deliberately put no configurable options in the interface, and there are no personal files stored on the device. This helps ensure the PiDeck becomes part of the turntable and not unique, in the way that a laptop and its data is. This makes the PiDeck easier to share with other DJs, so that there should be no downtime between sets, and should make it easier for up-and-coming DJs to get a turn on the equipment. If a PiDeck breaks, it would be possible to swap it out for another PiDeck device and carry right on.

Although the DJ doesn’t have any settings to deal with, the software is open source and fully hackable, so we’re hoping that a community will emerge and do interesting things with the project. For example, multiple PiDeck devices could be networked together, or used to control some other system via the turntable.

Yeah – this could change a lot. It’s not just a nerdy proof of concept: it could make turntablism way more fun.

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Synthtablism Is Turnatabilism + Modular Synthesizers

This video, via sircut1200, introduces Syntablism, which he describes as ‘the art of using a turntable as a musical instrument to create and/or manipulate sound with a modular synthesizer.’ Here’s a technical overview of his Syntablism setup: Check it out and let us know what you think of the concept of Syntablism!