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.


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):

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

MAY 27 – ST. LOUIS, MO @ 2720
More Dates TBA

  • Ruthie

    I have a some-what good video from ASOD 2010

  • The top picture is epic… we had a great Do LaB presents show with the guys! Thank you!

  • wat

    Why are so many people making tracks that sound like they were sent through a low pass filter?

  • poopoo

    wow! epic lemur face. is he constipated?

  • rhowaldt

    @poopoo: he's using the Lemur-commands with the badass names, and making appropriate faces.

  • An aside about an aside:

    <blockquote cite="cdm">Yes, this is American music in the triumphantly-proud Obama era.

    Just one of the reasons that this aside leaves a bad taste in the mouth for me: Obama is responsible for escalating hostilities using unmanned drones, which are known to kill large numbers of civilians; ten civilians for each combatant killed, according to a report from last year.

    The US, more than most, is a transparently hostile and predatory state. The current administration, on the brink of a massive increase in domestic power, shows no sign of changing this trajectory (despite the promises to the contrary). Words like triumphant or proud in this context seem like an off-colour joke.

  • wimpole

    bitbutter…. you missed the point completely

  • I actually wondered if anyone would comment if I brought the political sphere into that description, and considered removing the reference. Ultimately, though, I decided not to self-censor – I think that there is a different zeitgeist, conscious or unconscious, and a changed mood that impacts musical tenor.

    Taking that larger sense of identity to mean an endorsement of specific CIA military policy in Pakistan is your prerogative. That's not how it was intended.

  • Taking that larger sense of identity to mean an endorsement of specific CIA military policy in Pakistan is your prerogative.

    Hi Peter. That's a strawman of my position. Of course I don't believe any moral person endorses blatant state crimes like the ones mentioned.

    I understand what you mean about change in mood, there's an (imo misplaced) optimism that wasn't there before.

    As I said in my comment, the specific fact of Obama stepping up the US murder of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan is one example of the kind of thing that makes words like triumphant and proud jarring for me in this context.

    I wouldn't want you to censor your political comments on CDM though, and I appreciate that my replies are not censored too.

    Thanks for the informative article and video.

  • Well, that may be – but I wouldn't necessarily agree that despair and anger are strong motivators for political action, either. (They certainly don't motivate focused action or patience.) I don't personally get the sense that the change of administration has made people any less devoted to issues about which they're passionate.

    I do appreciate your replies, though; I hope we always have people to challenge ideas.

  • Cory

    What is so impressive about playing a bunch of samples? Just because you have a (seemingly complicated) Lemur interface does not make it any more interesting then pressing a key or playing records together. I would like to see someone really push the limits of art and technology, not just making a laptop version of the same stuff from 30 years ago.

    Where is the new music, the true innovation? I feel like this generation just mashes together everything they see on the internet without any understanding or scope or direction. This is not pop-art, just regular pop, same as always.

    We should not even have a separate word for "mashup" or "glitch" as opposed to other forms of music, since there has always been these elements in music, from folk to jazz to hip-hop. Mashup and Glitch is just a rebranding of our own culture to be packaged and sold back to us.

    That is all this kind of music is, just a brand. Like a pair of tennis shoes that cost $200 because they have some gold unicorn on the side, but they are actually terrible shoes that fail if you wear them more than a couple times.

    Here the Lemur is the gold unicorn, and the music itself is the sole of the shoe. The sole has no soul.

  • Mark Kunoff

    Lately comments here have left me cold. Can we talk about the substance of the article? PLEASE?…

    Thank you Peter. The video of your talk with Glitch Mob was quite illuminating, although not what I was hoping for. I thought it was possible they had some secret recipe for resolving their own sync issues, but it's more apparent than ever that we are all in the same boat.

    Solutions for syncing laptops running Ableton Live remain illusive. We (Othership) have also considered having one central uber-computer to circumvent the challenges with sync. But we are reluctant to do so since we do a fair share of work on performance material in our own time separately and to have to manage a third computer with a "master performance set" means extra time spent, which we can't afford.

    I love Glitch Mob's tenacity and pioneering spirit. But I have a feeling this is just a another step in their ongoing quest. For example, they no longer have to do any recovery tricks when one of three machines fails, but at least the other two are still running and the show isn't interrupted. Under their current setup if the computer fails, the show will stop completely. But with that said, the approach Glitch Mob is taking is a very workable solution.

    In our case, we are getting very reliable results with Ableton Live version 7 syncing to a dedicated MTC source. If one of our machines has a problem which requires a restart we can relaunch Live and reengage external sync and continue on the MTC timeline. In fact we've been able to leave external sync, change tempos and reenter external sync without a hitch. We will share a video of how this is working for us in a few weeks.

    Peter, I'd really love to see the rest of that video presentation with all the speakers. What a line up! That had to have been exciting for you.

  • I want to write up some additional comments and resources, so that it's not *just* the raw YouTube videos, but I'll have the rest up. I do think we will come up with a better solution for sync. Obviously, just running on one laptop isn't the right answer. If we all really want to play together and not alone, that means not only collaborating with instrumentalists but also other computer users. So that means the ability to show up, bring your laptop, and experiment with a friend without your delays flanging or everything being out of time. And while I'm not sure I'd be quite as dramatic as Cory's comments, I hear his criticism – I think that's probably not meant for just the Glitch Mob. Technology can't solve creative inspiration, but resolving those issues can create a space in which you're freer to play and explore – or do just the opposite.

  • Adrian A

    I do love some edIT. Everyone should check out "Crying Over Pros For No Reason". Along with a few of the Prefuse 73 and Machinedrum albums is some of the best examples of Glitch-Hop out there.

    About the Obama reference, not to get too political but I don't let musician's comments over politics bother me. It would be like taking serious a poli-pundant's musical taste. Not really relevant. I'm a big L Libertarian who at the same time loves artists who are FAR from my political views. Saul Williams, Chuck D, and Rob Sonic are fairly left-leaning individuals but I try to divorce their political beliefs from the quality of their artistic output.

    I just hope that if I end up making good on getting my music out there listeners on the left would do me the same courtesy and look past the petty political disagreements.

  • Felix Petrescu

    the free song is really bad …
    and yes – edIT was good.
    but this team is aaa … hm ….

  • ifthenwhy

    That last posted video (THE DO LAB PRESENTS THE GLITCH MOB) has to be, for my money, the most annoying musical experience I've ever had in my adult life.

    It annoyed the enamel right off my teeth.

    I'd prefer a future filled with god-damn-stinking apes to this hipster doofus parade.

  • Felix Petrescu

    do you remember this scene ?:)
    somehow it's linked to this article.

  • Okay, guys, the Do Lab video is an acquired taste — I actually made a mistake; I was confusing that with a different video. The crew is doing interesting work, though.

    The political comment was my own. I think there's a change in mood in the US, and I think it impacts art. It doesn't mean anyone thinks, say, the current Administration is perfect. It's a shift from what had been, at a number of points, real despair about even having political debate – because entire swaths of people at various parts of the spectrum were called "unpatriotic." We're still fighting that, but there's hope – not just hope for the ideas of this Administration, or a party, those I'm sure any of us could find reason to disagree with. But I think there's hope that you can make new policy, that we could have a real debate about what that looks like.

    Speaking of which — *outside* the political realm, back to the creative:

    I think the Nathan Barley videos are terrific, but if you're going to just dismiss people out of hand as hipsters, make an argument. Otherwise, it's just name calling. I get it — that last video could be off-putting if you weren't in on the joke. But whatever the intentions of that video, let's talk about the music. And if you haven't actually heard much music, give the guys a chance — I haven't even heard the new album, so I'll wait on judging the album until I hear it.

    I'm personally delighted that people make music out there that's very different from my own. Sometimes I connect with it — sometimes I don't, but I get something out of listening to it.

  • Oh, and for the record, I'm not quite sure what the album will sound like from that advance single. I look forward to hearing the whole thing. It's all musical input.

  • creep

    I was disappointed by the tune after all that hype, I was expecting Brit Spears or Cheryl Cole to chime in at any point whilst listening…..very run of the mill pop

  • while waiting check out broken haze from tokyo – does wicked live stuff from japan and is a friend of edit and im working on some bits for his label asap

    tbh – i think its fantastic that 3 guys can make exciting music and a great performance and excite and make people dance and love the music using a nice simple setup. and they are happy to show their setup. I know many talented performers who hide their 'secret' rig.

    who said that in this day and age that just because soo much technology and controllers exist that you have to over complicate your performance and use it.

    i remeber watching alec empire doing an amazing show and then after i went to check his gear out and it was an old yamaha su10 like i had at the time, a boss pedal and a roland. it was an amazing performance and it was just my geekiness that wanted to know what he was using.

  • okay, now just to get all low-tech on your asses… which stand are these kids using for the lemurs? I'm looking for… well, the one they have exactly.

    It'll complete me, what can I say?

  • stutter

    Andreas, ask them yourself, here:;…

    they've been very open about answering all kinds of gear and production related questions. If you're not a facebook member, I'll ask

  • homeboyjew

    the glitch mob are true musicians and masters of their craft. they are about to crush the world.

    and one more thing. why you gotta lose the do lab video because one knucklehead doesn't like it.

    our hipster doofus parade will stomp ya!!!

    hahaha jk it's all love baby, baby challah!

  • dennisj

    why arent the lemurs flat but in such an angle?


  • "Yes, this is American music in the triumphantly-proud Obama era."

    compliments Peter…are you starting a political demagogy blog now ?

    don't believe the hype…give us back Public Enemy

    this is hyped californian rubbish of the pumped up Schwarzenegger era !

  • @stutter of course I asked.
    here is the lovely simple reply (on twitter)
    "@wetterberg they are just Rolodex laptop stands from Staples :)"

  • well that's just gliché if you ask me what I think…

  • "It is important to note that there is a distinction between a work which is actually corrupted (where there occurs a kind of collaboration between the computer and the glitch practitioner) and a work which adopts some of the glitch’s characteristics and achieves similar results by secondary means." – definition of glitch art from Wikipedia

  • I was curious about how the Glitch Mob solved sync issues but its kinda disappointing they had to ditch sync and use 1 laptop! 😉 Using 1 laptop tho is for sure a great way for reliability. Lets hope that laptop doesn't crash!

    There are however a couple of ways we've found to solve sync issues in Ableton. If you have 2 laptops use the same midi device on both and use a good old fashioned midi cable. For our live sets we used an old M-audio (was midiman) midi sport 2. It has 2 ins and 2 outs.… We were able to sync a pc and a mac together playing sets up to 3 hours with no drift. We've been performing live sets like this for years even since Ableton live 3 and it works fine.

    The 2 midi sports were connected with 1 midi cable. We found the midi sports to be the most reliable even tho we also used other controllers in addition. The midi sport was used strictly for the sync. They're somewhere around 60$ and are rock solid.

    If you're syncing 3 or more laptops together you will need a midi router or a master device with 2 or more outputs. Again the midi sports are great for this because they have 2 outputs to sync the 2 slaves together.

    We used to have laptop jams at our house syncing up to 5 laptops successfully however there would be a little drift after about 10 min or so. The way we were able to fix this was to use a MOTU midi router and sync to everyone via midi cables. Syncing via tcp/ip does not work and you will get fluctuation in your BPM by trying this. It would be great if it worked but it doesnt work well. Its funny how a technology that is almost 30 years old and uses such a small amount of data still cant be done right via tcp/ip or other ways.

    For any kind of midi sync to be solid with ableton, its all in your hardware+drivers. Standardization is key and using the right device (such as the midisport) I have an M-audio firewire audiofile that at one point years ago was flakey but now the mac drivers seem to be more stable. It was also doing audio too however having a stand alone midi device doing JUST the sync seemed to do the trick.

  • glitch mob : the Metallica of glitch

    pastorized clichè…indeed american stylee.

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  • Glitch Mob are awesome. Doing their own thing. They deserve all the kudos.

    Good job guys. Very proud of this west coast explosion.

  • m. noidea

    i'm sorry – i can't get it. what the hell this homemade pop arrangement have in common with glitch aesthetic?

  • Bobalina

    So…. to all the detractors? Where's your music?

    After reading through their facebook posts, these guys are pretty well grounded artists. Beats the pants off uber elite kids.

  • jimladd

    The Glitch Mob are just pop cheese with cheesy sounds. Gimmie Autechre any day of the week; they've been doing glitch for nearly two decades. Laptop + Ableton + controller does not = good. Laptop + Ableton + controller = the sound of 500,000 kids making 'glitch' music. It's a joke.
    But, fairplay to The Glitch Mob. Lot's of people in this world like pop stuff as is indicated by their popularity.

  • s ford

    their album was very disappointing, i'm sure they put on an excellent show.

    personally, i think the amount of coverage they seem to get here is a little on the pointless sides. artists like venetian snares, autechre, ceephax should take their space instead.

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  • As far as sync issues, does this help?
    I've used it once before for a live performance years ago, and remember it being pretty good.