Percussa micro super signal processor

The Glitch Mob play live at El Rey in January. Photo by Aaron Gautschi, courtesy The Glitch Mob.

The Glitch Mob are one of electronic sound’s great ensembles, experts at blending sonic influences as they are at bringing together the force of their talented personnel. Their popularity has been almost viral, one of those rare, genuinely live acts in digital music. Triple-teaming live performance, they attack Lemur multi-touch screens, turning them into sonic battle axes. (That’s to say nothing of the solo lives of the members, impressive on their own.)

Thanks to the trio’s openness about what they do, we’ve got the works for you here: music for free listening, a behind-the-scenes look at some of the challenges of playing laptop music together as an ensemble, and images of how the Lemur touch performance is assembled that could apply to other touch (or tactile) interfaces. And if you’re in the US, there are opportunities below to see them live.

This spring is a big moment for the, uh … Glitchers. (Mobsters?) They have an epic debut album on the way, one of May’s most anticipated releases. It’s entitled Drink The Sea, coming out on their own Glass Air label. In support of that, they’re also mounting a big US tour, fusing sound and vision – dates below. It’s a chance both for musical and technological inspiration, wherever your own aesthetic may lead you.

Images courtesy The Glitch Mob.

Free Single, Upcoming Album

“Drive It Like You Stole It,” the first single, is free, courtesy the band, so you can give it a listen and let us know what you think. (I am definitely pumping that track as I drive my Chevy Aveo out of the rental lot at LAX next time I’m in your town, guys. Nothing like ghetto-blasting in a crap GM rental car.) It’s just a taste of the album to come, but nicely wrangles some thickly-arrayed synth stacks and big percussion. Yes, this is American music in the triumphantly-proud Obama era.

driveitlikeyoustoleit.mp3

The band nods to the LA musical epicenter from which their work emanates. From the press release:

According to Boreta, Drink The Sea certainly reflects the pioneering, individualist spirit of their home base. “Everyone around us from the West Coast—Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, Eprom—has their own distinctive sound. We all seem to want to break boundaries, but everybody has their own lane, which is what makes it so exciting.”

They’re great, approachable guys, so I’ll be talking to them more.

I’ll be curious to hear the rest of the album, because the band seems like such an essentially live performance-based band, and it’s always tough to translate that experience. That is, it’s a challenge, but the kind of challenge worth exploring.

Behind the Scenes: Playing Together

If this were just a music blog, the story would end there, but of course the advantage we have on CDM – and the chance to go beyond our own tastes and stylistic differences as musicians – is that we’re all wrestling with the same technology. In case you’re wondering how these guys get three laptop artists playing together onstage, it’s a problem that poses its own challenges.

edIT and Boreta joined me onstage to talk about some of those challenges, and how their approach to simultaneous performance and sync have evolved. We got to look at the state of technology, warts and all. Here’s the full video (skip past the introductions for the bit where they talk about how they’ve managed to clear some technological hurdles involved with multiple people playing laptop music together):

I hope to look more at some of the sync issues later this year; suffice to say, there are some new developments that could assist, as there are cases for which putting everyone on the same laptop might not be the best solution.

But that is just one aspect. What’s impressive to me about the band is that they’re able to make touchscreen performance really work, thanks to strong ensemble playing and terrific presence. A look at their Lemur layout reveals it’s all kept pretty simple and big – good to know if you’re attempting something similar, on a Lemur, iPad, or other device. Here are some images to give you a sense of what they do, courtesy the band.

A glimpse of the Lemur screen

One of the Lemur screen layouts. There are several layouts, but they all have one thing in common: stuff is big. That allows big, performative gestures.

Below, a slide show of images from El Rey in January of this year. Photos by Aaron Gautschi, courtesy The Glitch Mob.

For more on the Lemur setup, there’s a great interview at Jazz Mutant’s site (who are, naturally, happy to talk about what The Glitch Mob are doing with the touchscreens):

http://www.jazzmutant.com/artists_glitchmob.php

And lastly, a video of the setup process.

Actually, if someone has a good video of the recent performance sets, using the Lemur rig (or even older sets), I had trouble finding good takes. Let us know in comments.

Got questions for the Mob (musical and creative, as well as technical)? Let us know; I hope to talk to them soon and to catch them here in NYC as they swing through.

The tour:
The Glitch Mob US Tour Dates
MAR 27 – MIAMI, FL @ ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL
APR 18 – INDIO, CA @ COACHELLA MUSIC FESTIVAL

MAY 1 – CHICAGO, IL @ DOUBLE DOOR
MAY 2 – DETROIT, MI @ MAJESTIC THEATRE
MAY 3 – CLEVELAND, OH @ GROG SHOP
MAY 4 – TORONTO, ON @ WRONG BAR
MAY 5 – BOSTON, MA @ MIDDLE EAST
MAY 7 – NEW YORK, NY @ HIGHLINE BALLROOM
MAY 8 – BALTIMORE, MD @ BOURBON STREET BALLROOM
MAY 9 – RICHMOND, VA @ HAT FACTORY
MAY 10 – GREENSBORO, NC @ GREENE STREET CLUB
MAY 12 – ASHEVILLE, NC @ CLUB 828
MAY 13 – KNOXVILLE, TN @ VALARIUM
MAY 14 – NASHVILLE, TN @ LIMELIGHT
MAY 15 – ATHENS, GA @ NEW EARTH MUSIC HALL
MAY 16 – ATLANTA, GA @ MASQUERADE
MAY 18 – MOBILE, AL @ ALABAMA MUSIC BOX
MAY 20 – NEW ORLEANS, LA @ HOUSE OF BLUES
MAY 21 – HOUSTON, TX @ RICH’S
MAY 22 – AUSTIN, TX @ LA ZONA ROSA
MAY 23 – DALLAS, TX @ TREES
MAY 25 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK @ CITY WALK
MAY 27 – ST. LOUIS, MO @ 2720
MAY 28 – KANSAS CITY, MO @ CONSPIRACY ROOM
MAY 29 – MORRISON, CO @ RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE
JUN 02 – VICTORIA @ SUGAR
JUN 03 – VANCOUVER @ VENUE
JUN 04 – PORTLAND, OR @ ROSELAND THEATER
JUN 05 – SEATTLE, WA @ SHOWBOX MARKET
JUN 06 – ARCATA, CA @ ARCATA THEATRE
JUN 09 – SANTA CRUZ, CA @ CATALYST
JUN 12 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ FILLMORE AUDITORIUM
More Dates TBA