Offline 27 June-16 July

Posted in Text on June 21st, 2010 by admin

No emails from 27 June-16 July!!!! Come find me here… or in a quiet little nameless somewhere near there at least. If you can….


View Granicha in a larger map

Even after 11 years, the Europeans haven’t managed to socialize me yet. My deepest ideas of happiness still revolve around living in a wooden house, deep in the forest, with six dogs, three wives and twelve loaded firearms.

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Panga Cliff, Saaremaa Estonia

Posted in Text on May 24th, 2010 by admin

Panga cliff is located on the northern shore of Saaremaa, at the end of the Kuressaare – Võhma road, close to Panga village. It is the highest of the Saaremaa and Muhu cliffs, reaching to a maximum of 21.3 metres. The entire cliff is approximately 2.5 km long.

According to folk tradition, Panga cliff was a place of worship and sacrifice for the ancient, Pre-Christian Saarlanders. Local fishermen poured libations of beer and whiskey over the edge of the cliff, especially at midsummer eve, to ensure lots of fish during the coming year until well into the 19th century. One source indicated that children were killed and thrown into the sea here until the 16th Century. Another told that the last animal sacrifice took place during the 1960’s.

Photos taken on a quiet walk with Carsten Stabenow, 23 May 2010.

Now Playing

daniil kharmstoday i wrote nothing(book)
dispiritbitumen amnii/ixtab’s lure(2010 dispirit.org)
gregory jones & roy sabloskyno imagination(1980 vinyl records/2007 creel pone cdr)
john wiese & daniel menchebehold the scathing light 3″(2004 helicopter)
lunar miasmacrystal covered(2010 basses frequences)
thomas lehnfeldstärken(2000 random acoustics)
various artistsserge musician’s tape[1983]

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Bent Fest Interview II + update(!!!)

Posted in Text on April 30th, 2010 by admin

1. Can you explain the process of putting together your live performance? How exactly are you making the different forms/colors of light affect the audio output?

The TONEWHEELS performance uses the same technology found in film projectors which use optical motion picture soundtracks. The amount of light which falls on a photodetector modulates an electrical current, which can then be connected to a speaker to make audio. The sounds are created by printing the waveforms I want to play on transparent spinning discs, and placing these discs on motors with a variable speed control. This process was also used for the famous Optigan organ made by Mattel in the 1970’s, as well as by a number of avante-garde composers, filmmakers and instrument inventors such as Daphne Oram, Jacques Dudon, Evgeny Murzin, Norman McLaren and Evgeny Scholpo.

2. What aspect(s) of circuitbending motivate you the most?

I’ve mentioned at other times that I don’t really consider myself a “circuit bender”, since I rarely take commercially available devices or toys and hack them. But the meme of circuit bending is interesting to me–the idea that people can re-purpose things which are normally considered “black boxes” in our electronic culture, that they can break them down into simpler things and reassemble them in new, fantastic ways. I find this idea very challenging to the consumer-industrial status quo of selling us new stupid gadgets every year, forcing us to discard the old ones without every considering how we could transform them into something else–or even build our own new things from scratch. I’d be much more interested in constructing some DIY caveman communications device myself instead of running out to buy the latest iPhone…

Tristan Perich of Loud Objects takes his self-made mobile phone everywhere. No camera, no games, no texting, no BS.

3. Some of the performances at Bent could be described as ‘music,’ while others are better described as noise/sound art. Your work seems to lean toward the latter, but which category do you feel you fall into, if any?

In every kind of music, the art form is in some way determined by the technology. But no where is this more apparent than in electronic music, which is full of gear and software which makes it easier and easier to make music–so long as it fits into a very highly predetermined genre or style. I don’t think of what I do as any less “musical” than europop, trance techno, dubstep or whatever other trend the kids are into these days. The difference is that my work is determined by very different technological choices and processes. As well as by a huge collection of heavy metal and hardcore records!

4. Do you feel like there is a division among circuitbenders who use these different approaches?

I can’t really answer that question except to say that I appreciate it much more when artists try to step outside the box and create something that is unique and personal to them instead of simply playing the kind of sounds they think other people will dance to.

5. What do you hope that someone new to circuitbending will take away from going to an event like Bent Fest?

I would hope that someone coming to Bent for the first time would recognize that there as many ways to do electronics and sound with electronics as there are artists who do those things, and that they might get some inspiration to move beyond being passive consumers of music/technology and become active creators on their own.

Bent Fest Highlights

Bodytronix‘s insane metropolis of self-made gear, :::vtol:::‘s lovely little boxes and warm personality, Peter Edwards/casperelectronics‘ beautifully abstract set (even after some douchebag ripped off one of his $300 creations from the merch table!!!!), KBD‘s weird post-everything space out session, Phillip Stearn‘s incredible neural network of lights as well as his festival photos, Daniel Fishkin of LÖWENZAHN’s magick-bent electronic folk, hearing a few minutes of Todd Bailey‘s Analog Video Synthesis and Bending lecture (although it sucked to have to miss most of it!) and finally figuring out WTF a Brass Monkey is late Saturday night (although I regretted it the next day)… Thanks again to Brendan and Suzanne and all the volunteers for pulling this thing off!

Update!!!!

The Sommerville show at the Starlab next Saturday has been relocated due to flooding! The new location is in Cambridge, MA at MIT Building N52, 265 Massachusetts Ave. Get there before 9pm or you will have to phone a number posted on the door to come inside. The door will look like this:

Now Playing

frank popperorigins and development of kinetic art book[1968 new york graphic society]
guy brettkinetic art: the language of movement book[1968 studio vista]
joe colley and jason lescalleetannihilate this week[2006 korm plastics]
kevin drummsecond reissue[1999/2010 perdition plastics]
mudboyimpossible duets lp[2010 hundebiss](thx raphael!!!)

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Interview for Bent Fest, NYC

Posted in Text on March 1st, 2010 by admin

The following is an interview I completed this evening for the Bent Festival in New York City, where I’ve been invited to perform TONEWHEELS and give a workshop over the weekend of 23-25 April 2010.

> *Bent:* /Before you got into electronics, what type of music or art were you into?/

I’ve been involved in electronic, media and net art for the past 10 years, and although I make “electronic music”, I don’t listen to any contemporary dance or pop artists at all. A look through my record collection might turn up electro-acoustic composers from the 1960’s, old African funk 45’s from the 1970s, hair metal from the 1980’s or hardcore from the 1990’s, plus folk music from any number of East European, Middle Eastern or Asian cultures. Just no techno.

Right now, some elements of the noise scene like Daniel Menche or Kevin Drumm remain pretty exciting, as well as more conceptual people like John Wiese or Florian Hecker. On the historical side, composers like Eliane Radigue, Maryanne Amacher, Iannis Xenakis, Bernard Parmegiani and David Tudor have been big inspirations to me. I also listen to shit-load of drone, doom, death and black metal.

It’s good to remind yourself that nothing is really ever new or original, you can find the roots of anything if you look deep enough into the past.

> Bent:* /How did you get into electronics?/

Long ago, in a previous lifetime, I was studying writing in the university. Some things in my life changed dramatically as a result of my first stint living abroad, and when I returned to the States my new path was clear: doing sound, and in a place where there is genuine support for the arts (i.e. Europe)!

Instead of completing my thesis, I attempted to build my first synthesizer from an SN76477 chip, probably liberated from a pinball machine somewhere. It was a failure, and I spent the next several years doing digital audio instead. I finally came back to electronics about four years ago, when I was so sick of laptop “performances” I couldn’t stand it anymore, and soon after began the process of building my own modular synthesizer as well as designing the TONEWHEELS optoelectronic synthesizer.

> Bent:* /Where do you find inspiration for your work?/

The TONEWHEELS project was inspired by some of the pioneering 20th Century electronic music inventions, such as the ANS Synthesizer (Murzin USSR 1937-57), the Variophone (Sholpo USSR 1930) and the Oramics system (Oram UK 1957). With the help of Andrei Smirnov of the Theremin Center in Moscow, I did an incredible amount of research into the history of drawn sound and optical synthesis while I was designing the TONEWHEELS synthesizer. The experiments made with “painted soundtracks” in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s in particular are mind-blowing, and without the work of Mr Smirnov they would be unknown to the rest of the world.

I also spent several days at the Daphne Oram archives at Goldsmiths University in London, reading the letters between her and the engineer who helped her build the Oramics machine. It was fascinating! The same concerns she had, and the same learning process, were the hurdles I had to jump in my own work.

You can see the results of my historical research here:

http://www.umatic.nl/tonewheels_historical.html

> *Bent:* /What is your take on the circuit bending community at large? Where are you in it?/

I’d have to say that I don’t consider myself a “circuit bender” exactly. It’s very rare that I take an existing consumer gadget and try to hack it. My approach tends to be to start with the most basic parts I can understand and work up from there. In the case of the TONEWHEELS project, that part is called a phototransistor, and my first experiment was simply to run 5 volts through it into a mixer channel and start flickering the lights in the room!

This might be where I part company from Reed Ghazala’s “antitheory” approach, which seems to be very popular among benders. For me, the possibilities come not from blindly sticking my fingers in things, but instead from understanding the materials I am working with and their specific properties. That said, I failed every math class I was ever forced to take and still maintain a rather intuitive relationship with those materials, which is hardly the way a “real” engineer might work!

I’ve always maintained that the only thing that separates artists using technology now from the electronic art pioneers of the 1960s and 1970s–such as Steina & Woody Vasulka, Don Buchla, Serge Tcherepnin, Dan Sandin and David Tudor–is the internet. Whereas they had much more limited channels to find the information they needed, we have an almost limitless supply. Which is of course the other half of the problem–trying to get the signal out of the noise.

> *Bent: *Is there anything you want to accomplish while you are in New York?/

Finding a place to stay during the week I’m there is a good start!!!!!

But seriously…I’m negotiating to do a field recording workshop at Harvestworks as well as a couple talks at the Electronic Music Foundation on the history of optoelectronic synthesis and a project related to sound and architecture I’ve been involved in called Tuned City.

Besides that, I’m trying to look up the current locations of some of the old original audio and video synthesizers produced in the 1960’s and 1970’s, so I can see them up close. Every university I’ve been invited to speak at in the US and the UK all seem to have some analog treasure locked up in a closet somewhere!!!!

> Bent:* /Who are you most excited to see at Bent? Why?/

I’m quite excited to meet Eric Archer, from Austin Texas. He is performing as part of Handmade Music Austin. Eric and I have been writing for a year or two now, and his Light2Sound device is totally awesome, a really nice introduction to optical synthesis for beginners. I have a huge amount of respect for Eric and his creations–maybe because I have a suspicion he aced his math classes and actually had an idea what he would do with it later!

Now Playing

daniel higgsdevotional songs of daniel higgs[2009 open mouth cassette]
david tudorthree works for live electronics[1996 lovely]
godfleshmerciless[1994 earache]
jaques dudonlumieres audibles[1996 mondes harmoniques](Thanks to Jonas Olesen, who pointed Dudon’s work out to me when I had overlooked it all this time…)
julian jaynesthe origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind[1976 book] (Thanks to Professor Anthony Moore of the KHM who reminded me of the longest title on my mother’s bookshelf when I was a child…and to my mother for digging it up for my birthday!)
nik raicevicthe sixth ear[1972]
ruth whiteseven trumps from the tarot cards[1969]
steve birchallreality gates: electronic meditations by steve birchall[2006 creel pone cdr]
various artists(andrzej dobwolski, bob cobbing & annae lockwood, daphne oram, eric nordgren, frederick charles judd, henri chopin, jean-luis brau, john mcclure, various junior & senior high school students, vladimir ussachevsky)creelpolation 1 – 7″ singles[2006 creel pone] (Creel Pone, I fucking love you!)
yellow swansbeing there[2010 type]

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50 that did it in 2009

Posted in Text on January 20th, 2010 by admin

Almost too late for making “best of” lists now. Nostalgia for the old year is running dry and it’s high time to get on with the new. So, for what it’s worth, here’s 50 releases that did it for me in 2009.

aluk todolofinsternis[2009 v2]
anthony pateras & robin foxend of daze[2009 editions mego]
barn owlfrom our mouths a perpetual light[2009 digitalis](***pictured above***)
baronessblue record[2009 relapse]
ben frostby the throat[2009 bedroom community]
bodychokecold river songs[1996/2009 relapse reissue]
bohren und der club of gorelatitudes[2009 southern]
coalesceox[2009 relapse]
daniel higgshymnprovisations for banjo by the A.I.U. with piano and raindrops[2009 ideal]
drudkhmicrocosmos[2009 season of mist]
elehretreat lp[2009 important]
eliane radiguevice versa, etc….[2009 important]
elmnemcatacoa[2009 digitalis]
emeraldsemeralds[2009 hanson]
evan caminitidigging the void[2009 students of decay]
expo ’70psychic funeral 2×3″cdr[2009 ruralfauna]
greymachinedisconnected[2009 hydra head]
habsyllMMVIII [2009 psycheDOOMelic]
heckeracid in the style of david tudor[2009 editions mego]
hildur gudnadottirwithout sinking [2009 touch]
isiswavering radiant [2009 ipecac]
jana winderenheated[2009 touch]
jason crumerwalk with me[2009 misanthropic agenda]
john wiesecircle snare[2009 no fun]
josh layheirophant[2009 sentient recognition archive]
kevin drummimperial horizon[2009 hospital productions]
kinit herglyms or beame of radicall truthes[2009 hinterzimmer]
kk null/john wiesemondo paradoxa[2009 aufabwegen]
lightning boltearthly delights[2009 load]
merzbow13 japanese birds series(vols 1-12)[2009 important]
mika vainio & lucio capecetrahnie[2009 editions mego]
mika vainioaineen musta puhelin/black telephone of matter[2009 touch]
mudboymort aux vaches[2009 staalplaat]
nate youngregression[2009 ideal recordings]
natural snow buildingsdaughter of darkness[2009 blackest rainbow]
nicholas szczepanikthe chiasmus[2009 basses frequences]
omgod is good[2009 southern lord]
oneohtrix point neverrifts[2009 no fun]
oren ambarchia final kiss on poisoned cheeks vinyl[2009 table of elements]
our love will destroy the worldstillborn plague angels vinyl[2009 dekorder]
pan sonic & keiji hainoshall i download a blackhole and offer it to you[2009 blast first petitie]
peter wrightan angel fell where the kestrel hover[2009 spekk]
phill niblocktouch strings[2009 touch]
prurientrose pillar 11″[2009 heartworm]
stephan mathieuthe key to the kingdom 7″[2009 dekorder]
tiny viperslife on earth[2009 sub pop]
wolf eyesalways wrong[2009 hospital productions]
wolves in the throne roomblack cascade[2009 southern lord]
yogamegafauna[2009 holy mountain]
z’evsum things[2009 cold spring]

Coming soon: dates in New York, Pure Data book sprint, Helsinki workshops, new Particlechamber, analog synthesizer updates and everything else that’s so long overdue.

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19-29 December = unplugged

Posted in Text on December 13th, 2009 by admin

BanskoI will be 100% totally and completely analog from 19-29 December 2009. Click the photo to see where… I wouldn’t even realize it if the internet suddenly ceased to exist during that week, so any holiday greetings should happen before or after. Have a good New Year if I don’t hear from some of y’all by then!

Now Playing

My six hours on the train from Berlin to Cologne today was “Electroacoustic Day”.  I guess the connecting link between all these pieces is a radical sensibility about sound which I think still holds to this day. None of these composers were at all interested in representing conventional sounds, nor using conventional tools to create those sounds. That, and an exciting sonic density and an almost overwhelming amount of detail at a near-microscopic (i.e. microsonic) level.

Bernard ParmegianiDe Natura Sonorum (1975 GRM)
Curtis RoadsPurity & Sonal Atoms (1994, 1998 IRCAM)
Trevor WishartRed Bird & Anticredos (1977, 1980 Electronic Music Foundation)
Iannis XenakisMycenae Alpha & Polytope de Cluny (1978, 1972 IRCAM)

And now that I’m back at the KHM with their incredible library, I can start looking up more material from all those academic journals that I could never afford before.

First stop: Dan Slater, Chaotic Sound Synthesis (Computer Music Journal, Summer 1998)

Review: Echelon Teufelsberg by Thomas Ankersmit & Valerio Tricoli


I also had the chance to hear Dutch saxophonist/synth-improvisor Thomas Ankersmit & Italian tape-loop maestro Valerio Tricoli’s Echelon Teufelsberg project last Friday night at Ausland in Berlin. Ankersmit and Tricoli spent a week recording in the acoustic strangeness of the former CIA observatory dome at Teufelsberg, on the far west side of the city. The performance was meant to showcase these recordings, however I found that most of the connection to the specific qualities of the space were lost, and the field recordings themselves could have been made in any reverberant space… or with any studio effect. The pair layered up Revox tape loops, vocals, saxophone and analog synthesizer on top of this, spatializing the sounds across four PA and two desktop monitors as well as around the room via a handheld, hyper-directional ultrasonic speaker, further transforming (and obscuring) the source material. In some ways, I would have preferred that this rather accomplished improvisational duo would have simply dropped the conceptual baggage of the recordings and focused on playing a real-time concert, however some of the bleed-through from the echo chamber did carry some interesting sonic moments.

More info here: http://www.tunedcity.de/?p=451

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Digicult Interview #2

Posted in Text on September 25th, 2009 by admin

My second interview for the Italian Digicult magazine has appeared today. This one relates to the idea of “media labs” and the sommercampworkstation event I co-organized last July:

…When I lived in Holland I tried to make a medialab. I find the idea of a medialab connected to a fixed place is a bit archaic, a bit dated. Personally, I don’t want to criticise other forms of practice in medialabs, but I’m very interested in transitory situations. I’m interested in creating multi-use areas that are quick and temporarily autonomous. In creating a transitory situation like “let’s do something quick, in on week”, you must not worry about the problem of being continuously eco-friendly or about long-term issues. For example, in the 80’s there were many initiatives, now they have stopped and they keep sucking up locations, money and oxygen. I’ve seen a lot of situations like these and they bore me, as well as being a complete waste. I believe that to create temporarily autonomous situations is more exciting. It’s a way to use the best elements of existing organisations, to take portions of them, configure them and make the next step…

Derek Holzer, from Sommercamp+Workstation. Temporary autonomous culture
by Valeria Merlini

DIGIMAG  47 / SEPTEMBER 2009
www.digicult.it/digimag_eng/index.asp

Now Playing

coalesceox[2009 relapse]
jesu-infinity[2009 avalanche]
jim o’rourkethe visitor[2009 drag city]
john wiesecircle snare[2009 no fun]
keith fullerton whitmantaking away cs[2009 digitalis]
merzbowhiyodori(13 japanese birds part 9)[2009 important]
philip jeckspool cs [2009 tapeworm]
rorschach & neanderthalsplit 7”[1991 vermiform]
rorschachneedlepack ep[1991 wardance]
social distortionwhite light, white heat, white trash[1996 sony]
tiny vipers-live at black box, belfast a few weeks ago
tiny viperslife on earth[2009 sub pop]

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Unintentional residency, Mooste

Posted in Text on February 21st, 2009 by admin

“It’s not that I don’t like people. I just feel better when they’re not around.”
–Mickey Rourke as Charles Bukowski, Barfly


I’m at the end of a pretty heavy load: five workshops in four different cities in five weeks. That must have left me pretty groggy, because I managed to miss my cheap flight home from the final workshop in Estonia last weekend. So I’m currently engaged in a sort of accidental residency at MOKS in Mooste until next week when the tickets become affordable again.

It was many degrees below zero outside when I began to write this Tuesday night, and even the deepest footprints got buried by snow within an hour. My first action was to crank up the heat in the smallest room of the building, pile every mattress I could find on the floor, throw four or five blankets on top of that and bunker myself in.

I am completely alone here. There was a shy local boy once. He showed me how to light the fire, and then I never saw him again. If I want company, there are three busses a day to the next village where Evelyn Muursepp, the organizer of MOKS and my kind benefactor this week, lives. The local grocery store is also quite an experience, resulting in my current diet of bread, cheese, pickles and vodka. Every night I throw wood into the fire at 30 minute intervals until I’m too tired to continue. Then I fill up a couple 2L Coke bottles with hot water and climb into bed with them.

Is it all worth it? Hell yes. Almost every day I spend a couple hours navigating the quiet, frozen forests of the Estonian countryside, everything covered in white and the dead black arms of the trees reaching for the gray-blue sky. I’ve never seen a national flag so appropriate:

Image: .Janne.

So still, with some kind of Black Metal soundtrack playing in my head…”Eternal winterrrrrrrrrr…” And Thursday afternoon–snowblind! Unimaginably intense white light, coming from all directions. I retreat into shadows of the woods until I can no longer see straight lines, right angles, Euclidean geometry, any evidence of the work of human hands…

I’ve started to wonder why people live in cities at all, until I remember the awful reality: there’s just too damned many of them to do otherwise!

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2008

Posted in Text on January 3rd, 2009 by admin

Current location =

Mooste, Estonia (photo: Pippa Buchanan)

Warning: obligatory year-end music post follows…

I decided to concentrate only on zero-eight releases, rather than catalog the expanse of my music vision quests of the last year. Some notes for future ethnographers:

AsvaWhat You Don’t Know Is Frontier [2008 Southern]
Morricone-style doom, moving through motions and moods. Excited to see them at Club Transmediale 2009!

Birchville Cat MotelFour Freckle Constellation [2008 Conspiracy]
What could be one of the (many) final BCM records as Campbell Kneale seeks self-renewal through a name change. A standout release on a standout label from one man who probably releases every minute he has ever committed to tape at some point or another…

BJ Nilsen & StilluppsteypaPassing Out [2008 Helen Scarsdale]
Third in a trilogy of dark drone drinking songs, guaranteed to put me to sleep every time I play it.

Burial HexInitiations [2008 Aurora Borealis]
Glad to have discovered this creepy drone project for the End Tymes this past year.

CoffinsBuried Death [2008 20 Buck Spin]
No surprises here, just sick Japanese doom the way I like it.

Daniel MencheBody Melt [2008 Important]
Daniel MencheGlass Forest [2008 Important]
A pair of releases for Important records, one vinyl and one CD. Menche seems to have reneged on his promise to produce only vinyl or DVD releases, but both of these stand loud and proud in their own right regardless of the media they reach you in.

DystopiaDystopia [2008 Life Is Abuse]
A few short, somewhat lackluster tracks and a very long and boring cut up of schizo voices still teleports me back to the crust haven of Oakland California in the mid 90’s. Perhaps a swansong which didn’t really need releasing so long after the fact, but it did get me digging out their first couple of absolutely powerful records again.

EarthThe Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull [2008 Southern Lord]
This is what happens when doom goes country.

Ghast & YogaSplit [2008 Choking Harzard]
Ghast is screeching sandpaper on the vocal chords, heavy doom like a barbell dropped on your foot, while Yoga is odd, almost psychedelic sounding horror soundtracks. Look this one up.

GHQEverywhere At Once [2008 Threelobed]
Spacey American-style psychedelic folk-drone-rock whatever featuring Marcia Basset from Hototogisu/Double Leopards.

GrailsDoomsdayer’s Holiday [2008 Temporary Residence]
Further installment of Middle Eastern riff-rock from these Portland ambassadors.

HellhammerDemon Entrails [2008 Prowlin Death Records]
Crucial reissue of Celtic Frost prehistory! A band which was truly despised during it’s time, but went on to inspire so many others.

Isengrind, Twinsistermoon, Natural Snow BuildingsThe Snowbringer Cult [2008 Students Of Decay]
Natural Snow BuildingsSung to the North [2008 Students Of Decay]
Natural Snow Buildings are everything a “free folk” collective should be: mysterious, reclusive, a young couple in love and (most often ignored in this genre) capable of actually playing their instruments. Requisite delay pedals are at hand of course, but there is a sense of craft missing from the endless hours of Sunburned Jackie-O noodling which piles up in record bins of the world out there already. Isengrind and Twinsistermoon are solo projects of the two French musicians who make up Natural Snow Buildings. I don’t use the word blissful often or lightly, so take me serious here…

Josh LayPoison Drinker [2008 Sentient Recognition Archive]
Sick delirium tremens exorcism from one of my new fav noise/drone Americans.

Kevin DrummSnow [2008 Hospital Productions]
Another classic, in the same level of strength as Sheer Hellish Miasma, but moving in the opposite direction–from the near-indecipherable complexity, extreme frequency modulation and sheer noise terror of the earlier release to a sublime simplicity of carefully controlled feedback. And an evil punchline waiting in the wings…

Kiss The Anus of a Black CatThe Nebulous Dreams [2008 Kraaak]
I never gave much time to the neo-folk template laid out by Current 93, Death in June, Blood Axis, etc etc, so maybe this Belgian project gives the genre a special new shimmer and a sense of energy and wonder which these older projects mostly lacked. Or maybe it would be better to call KTAOABC something else entirely. Think guitar haze, organs droning, lush arrangements and sung vocals leading you down mossy garden paths.

MachinefabriekDauw [2008 Dekorder]
MachinefabriekMort Aux Vaches [2008 Staalplaat]
Another artist who probably puts out just about any little dithering he comes up with in the studio, Machinefabriek’s unending stream of releases can be very hit or miss (the indie-guitar-pop-sounding records, for example, can only be referred to as miserable) and call into question for me whether it’s always a good idea to be one’s own label or editor. Luckily, 2008 was gifted with two very beautiful sets of recordings–one a series of understated remixes done over the years and the other a studio set put together for a radio appearance on the Dutch VPRO and inspired by Oren Ambarchi’s recording in the same Mort Aux Vaches series.

NekrasovThe Form of Thought From Beast [2008 self released]
One-man experimental black metal, from Australia where apparently Mr. Nekrasov can still find a dark corner to hide in.

O.S.T.Waetka [2008 Ideal]
Electronica has become such a minuscule part of my world over the past few years, but this particular release of sliding, shifting non-rhythms, crackling fuzz and warped frequency layers is so far from the boring run of the mill IDM or polite laptop music which somehow still survives in Berlin and elsewhere (I suppose), and gave me some renewal of faith that the computer may not be a totally dead instrument yet.

RevengeInfiltration. Downfall. Death. [2008 Anti-Goth]
Normally, macho American “brutal” death metal appeals to me about as much as reading the kind of teenage hate poetry that most would-be Columbine killers might scribble on the backs of ketchup-stained Denny’s napkins. This one caught my interest for fairly mundane reasons–being featured in one of my favorite music blogs–so I kept it around and somehow the “brutality” grew on me. “Pulls no punches” might be one hackneyed music pundit phrase that applies.

RobedoorShapeshifter Slave [2008 Olde English Spelling Bee]
RobedoorShrine to the Possessor [2008 Music Fellowship]
Slithers, fire and knives. Harsher than Burial Hex but still quite spooky, and perhaps even something of a jam thrown in. Very glad to make their musical acquaintance in zero-eight.

Rudimentary PeniNo More Pain [2008 Southern]
While not nearly so brain-melting or classic as Death Church, which sent my 19 year old mind on so many black-and-white London death trips so long ago, No More Pain does prove that everyone’s favorite goth-punk paranoid-schizophrenic basket case Nick Blinko still has what it takes. (No, I wasn’t 19 when Death Church came out in 1983. This salty old dog isn’t that old and salty…)

SalomeSalome [2008 Vendetta]
Southern in the “South shall rise again” sense, Salome features the next challenger to Monarch’s cute-with-razor-scars Hello Kitty doom princess vocalist. I imagine the victims of facial acid attacks in Pakistan might sound similar to this particular lady. Guitars, drums, no bass but you might not notice. Vendetta, the label, happens to be local Berlin kids, which gives me an extra little kick.

Stefan Kushima Don’t Touch the Walls [2008 Blackest Rainbow]
Fantastically deep drone release from a fresh-faced newcomer.

Sun ArawThe Phyn [2008 Not Not Fun]
Southern California psych-folk freak-down. Fun in the desert sun.

Sunn O)))Domkirke [2008 Southern Lord]
Sorry, but I’m a sucker for church organs. Nuff said.

TreesLights Bane [2008 Crucial Blast]
I’m also a sucker for bands/artists from the US Pacific Northwest (Grails, Wolves in the Throne Room, Daniel Menche, Thrones, Yellow Swans…) so I was thrilled to discover my old stomping grounds of Portland Oregon had spawned a world-class screeching, plodding blackened doom machine. If only it didn’t cost me $30K in unpaid student loans to go back and live there…

Various ArtistsLast Kind Words [2008 Mississippi]
Various ArtistsLove is Love [2008 Mississippi]
Just about everything that (Portland again!) Mississippi Records releases is golden. They are crate diggers in the finest sense. Last Kind Words collects rare 78’s from the “other black music”… no not Scandinavian metal but classic Blues and Gospel from the 1920’s through the early 50’s. Perfect for when the devil is busy tormenting somebody else someplace else, for a change. And Love is Love charts another one of my (sometimes neglected) fascinations–African funk, rock and pop music from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Yellow SwansAt All Ends [2008 Weird Forest]
Yellow Swans decided to call it quits this year, a fact which leaves me a little sad since I never got to see them play live here in Europe or during one of my short trips to the USA. But that doesn’t mean that, like BCM or Machinefabriek, they aren’t sitting on hours of archives. Yellow Swans may be releasing well into 2009 at least, all welcome doses of droney noise, feedback, guitar and pulsey strangeness.

Some honorable band mentions, which are not 2008 releases but new discoveries this year or late last year:

Alethes, Ashdautus, Birushanah, Bone Awl, Burmese, Chaos Moon, Darkthrone, Dead Raven Choir, Double Leopards, Drudkh, Eldrig, Elk, Geronimo, Glorior Belli, Hala Strana, Hatewave, Jon Mueller, Kinit Her, Njiqahdda, Old Wainds, Sarin Smoke, Skepticism, Taiga Remains, Unbeing, Von, When, White/Light. Yes, it’s very un-kvlt to admit to just picking up a Darkthrone or Von CD in 2008, but these kind of scene credentials are pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things, aren’t they?

And finally, some props to some of my favorite music blogs and forums for keeping my ears stuffed all the last year: Cosmic Hearse, Kick to Kill and MetalArea.

Resolutions…

…are made to be broken. Mine mostly involve not doing more, but actually doing less. Taking on less projects, finishing the ones I’ve already started. Trying to find a few stable jobs rather than all this scrambling around for gigs right at the time I realize I’m about to run out of money. Finishing my new Buchla-inspired synthesizer. Finishing the Pure Data FLOSS Manual. Finishing a CD using the new synthesizer. Might as well throw learning to levitate or finding a demon familiar in there in the process. Happy New year to all and good luck with whatever promises you might have to break in zero nine.

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Piksel impressions

Posted in Text on December 8th, 2008 by admin

Current location = waiting at the City Box hotel, Bergen NO for my lift to the airport. I guess we can get this out of the way to start with:

Piksel vids here. I can’t figure out how to embed the [[iframe]] in MySpace, so for now you’ll have to manually look for the TONEWHEELS vid. Sorry!

Despite it’s announced interest in hardware as well as software, Piksel has a reputation as a computer hackers’ festival. Maybe last year there were more hardware-based projects and performances, but this year’s theme was “Real Code/Abstract Code” and the laptops definitely were out in full force. And with the laptops come the boyish obsessions with the usual themes, namely video games, techno beats and toy robots. If you could show me an event about computer art and music that didn’t run afoul of these teenage traps, I might be a bit more enthusiastic. Ahh well….

In spite of it all, a few performances stood out for their energy and original approach. Perhaps the most refreshing take was Jessica Rylan‘s excerpt from an opera-in-progress called “History and Future of the Solid State Entity”, based on the autobiography of Dr. John Lilly. Lilly became famous for his work on interspecies communication, and his life story veers dangerously close to that of Phillip K. Dick: excessive drug use, mind-blowing/blown spiritual realizations, transmissions from the past/future and a deep paranoia that the machines are actually taking over. Rylan’s take on it rendered Lilly’s life in a series of pop song vignettes which left some in the audience divided over her version of “consumer entertainment”.


Jessica Rylan at Subcurrent 2006 at the CCA, Glasgow, 2006. Photo by krakow81

Singapore’s One Man Nation also realized the value of physical performance in the otherwise sterile laptop world, coming across a bit like a breakbeat version of Basque noise performer Mattin as he slapped up his mic’ed MIDI controller and proclaimed that “the time is coming, the time is now, to take back what they stole”.


One Man Nation.

And Ryan Jordan from London foregrounded the body in his digital sound practice in a performance whose visual imagery of a figure hooded and wired came straight from Abu Ghraib. His sensor-activated, heavy wavetable synthesis was by far the most sonically satisfying set on offer at Piksel for me this year.

Honorable mention also goes to Mexico City’s _rrrr, a three piece laptop band who did manage to rock a bit, even if they never got up out of their chairs. Frenchman Benjamin Cadon, who works with “Spectral Investigations Collective” of Bureau d’Etudes also started out with a good premise–sonifying the visible and infrared light emissions of various kinds of household devices such as remotes and toys–but managed to lose focus with too much computer processing and a barrage of video information which seemed to have little to do with the rest of the set.

And then there’s the live coders. I’ve never been much of a fan of “live coding”. It’s always seemed some kind of wrong-headed concession to performance that only makes sense for other geeks… a kind of nerd machismo which turns the laptop inside out and shows you exactly how boring working with computers actually is rather than bringing any sort of excitement to the performance. And there was plenty of live coding here, from Alex McLean (aka Slub) streaming his terminal output from London to a late night dance party here in Bergen to the Hungarian developers of the Animata software macro-ing their way from glitch techno to Space Invaders. (Will they ever tire of video games? The opening concert of a “Second Life Orchestra” was tedious enough!!!!!) But none of it made me any more of a convert than before I arrived.

Maybe it’s because Pure Data is a bit more visually oriented, or maybe just because I’m a Pd user and therefore can speak it’s particular Greek, but IOhannes Zmoelnig’s live patching performance drew me in a bit more than the others. His floating Pd objects, which dynamically connected, disconnected, spawned and influenced each other as they floated in the white screen void at least got me thinking about other possibilities, which is more than I can say for the 8 bit shoot em up that came before.

One discussion which was heavy in the air before the festival began was the conflict between working sessions and presentations. As I mentioned before, my previous experience with Piksel was that there was very poor awareness of when to stop with the geek talk and to actually make something presentable to a non-specialist audience. This year, many of the “hackers” who previously turned up year after year here were absent and disappointed that the festival was not made up of the working sessions it have previously been. For my part, I was more satisfied that presentation aesthetics have finally become a concept. I guess there are some views which may not easily meet.

However, Martin Howse’s “Real Code” day fostered not only an incredible working spirit and a room full of spontaneously generated projects in a single afternoon, but it introduced a non-structured social space which seemed to go well with the general hacker vibe. Focused but not programmed, it apparently succeeded in providing a space for just about anybody willing to cross the threshold and get involved.

But eventually, life with the machines still becomes dehumanizing. So most of Saturday I skipped Martin’s lab and hiked up the snow and ice covered mountain which overlooks the city with John Hegre of Jazkamer. Reflecting on the simple beauty off, say… moss or the stalactites of ice flowing in slow motion down the rock faces brought me back to a conclusion I reached during a “Locative Media” workshop in Iceland a few years ago. There, along the southern coast of that volcanic island nation, I was once trapped in a bus full of computer-fanatics, blog addicts and gadget collectors whose only response to the raw power stretching out around us was to GPS tag it with Star Wars quotes on Google Earth.

Above Bergen, I was stopped in my tracks by tiny beads of water sliding under a thin sheet of ice. A mathematician like Jessica Rylan or Otto Roessler (also in attendance at the Saturday session) might have described the fluid dynamics by means of a bifurcating neural network or some similar kind of complex equation which brought them to what they felt was a better understanding of how the world works. Or a computer animator might use the same kinds of expressions to reproduce these movements in the imaginary space of the RAM and the CPU. For my part, I was just happy to see this sight was there, knowing that the next day it would be gone, replaced by yet another microscopic mystery. And more often I find these kinds of things far more engrossing than anything a machine and it’s human might make.

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