It began as a way to demonstrate Native Instruments technology. But watch the video above of Mostly Robot, and you’ll see what happens when some well-loved solo electronic stars work to form a band. This isn’t just about some cool toys: it’s about really playing electronics as an instrument. And as the Internet debates what it means to play, they ask a question that could be even more important: what does it mean to play together?
Mostly Robot is an “all-star band” made up of some really amazing people. Jamie Lidell is known as the Warp artist who has gone from brainy electronics to soulful singing; his voice is itself a pretty nice piece of (organic) technology. Tim Exile is a natural for an NI band, as he’s been constructing unique Reaktor-powered instruments for live performance, turning him into a kind of robot himself. Jeremy Ellis is a new kind of music celebrity, one whose finger-drumming powers have propelled him to YouTube stardom. (And Jeremy, perhaps more than any other drum machine-tapping artists you’ll see, really does this all with autopilot fully switched off. Jeremy here is the machine.) DJ Shiftee is a world-champion turntablist, a reminder that the record player can still be a real scratch instrument. And Mr Jimmy holds down the band as the one more traditional instrumentalist, a keyboardist who has already worked extensively with Lidell.
Add to this a visual design by Berlin-based collective Pfadfinderei, who, far from just playing some loops, have been uniquely innovative in connecting visuals interactively to sound.
The video above gives you a sense of what the band is about, how they play, and how they jam together – as people as well as musicians. I was moderator for a SONAR-hosted panel on the topic, as part of the Barcelona’s SONAR Pro lineup. We have a recording of that event for you via SoundCloud, perfect for listening as you do dishes or commute to work. We’ve got the full-length audio, just so you won’t miss a moment of Mister Jimmy’s southern charm and Arkansas braised-barbeque humor — and plenty of very thoughtful reflections from the whole crew on what it means to play live and play together.
And here’s some informal video we found of the panel to give you a sense of what it looked like. (It’s also a rare chance to see Berliners wearing shorts!)
Later this week, we’ll have our own interview with these artists from SONAR, and for the impatient, I’ll do a “highlights reel” of that audio interview.
NI isn’t doing too shabby a job as a live band promoter. They’ve hooked up their crew with two big upcoming gigs, for our European readership:
September 8th, 2012: Berlin Festival at Night with other acts such as Modeselektor, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinousaurs, Simian Mobile Disco
September 13th, 2012: Electronic Beats Festival Budapest with other acts such as Junior Boys, Nicolas Jaar, Modeselektor
More on the artists, for whatever continent you call home: