We all have a short time on this planet, and some of us are lucky enough to get to work on tools that people use to make music. You can count on your fingers the number of people who had the kind of influence that Don Buchla had on electronic music in the last century. And this week, at age 79, he’s left us.
You’ve probably already been inundated in social media with this news — London’s nightclub fabric saw its license revoked overnight last night. But there’s more to this story than simply another casualty of urban nightlife. With so much ink being spilt on this issue (uh, pixels being killed?), there are a few points to highlight.
“Electronic music needs to be wilder” was the challenge issues by Matt Black (NinjaTune, Coldcut) last year at Ableton Loop at a talk I moderated. But maybe this could be interpreted as “into the wild” in a difference sense. At the moment, I’m part of an ongoing series of residencies that takes that in a different direction – taking music performance (electronic, electro-acoustic, and acoustic) into unexpected natural environments.
You’ve probably used Shazam. If you’re a dance music fan, you’ve probably even both used Shazam to get a track ID at a club and cursed someone else for using Shazam to get a track ID at a club. What surprisingly few people know, though, is that Shazam has desktop clients as well as the phone apps. And unlike the phone apps, these apps will lurk in the background listening to everything on your computer’s mic, and pops up a notification when it “hears” something it recognizes. This is presumably useful at those times you’ve sat at a coffee shop …
DJs, electronic musicians, and true fans know a side of clubland that is anything but glamorous. They know the brutal boredom of dressing rooms, the glaring reality of clubs with all the lights on. And DJs and staff are all too familiar with the wrecked landscape of clubs after the patrons have left.
Caught in the shadow of lost idols and shaken faith, pop is wanting some new soul. Now, Ostgut Ton might be the last place you’d expect to look for one of 2016’s great songwriting fixes. (“Singing along” and “Berghain” tend not to be uttered together.) And yet, here we are. Virginia, the Panorama Bar resident, as a new record. And it’s an utter triumph.
In the dark, damp swamp that is the stream of dance music that press get in their inbox, Jimmy Edgar has consistently been a rainbow-colored lighthouse. Apart from the tropically-hued surrealist work of Pilar Zeta literally making that true, Jimmy has been an aesthetic compass at the helm of his ULTRAMAJIC label. Basically, stuff this label puts out is worth listening. (Ditto their label showcases… there’s a Friday morning I found myself at Panorama Bar when they were turning the lights on. Thursday is the new… oh never mind.) What I like about the latest direction is, you get pared-down …
We revere the modular synthesizers of the past, but that ignores important innovations both in how modules are designed and how people play. Apart from the fact that Eurorack is quite a lot slimmer, lighter, and cheaper than its predecessors, we have vastly expanded the range of what modules do in ways that lend themselves to live performances. That’s not to say it’s for everyone – a modular performance still involves a lot of pre-patching for people, and there’s clearly something to be said for computers and standalone gear. But that’s perhaps partly the point: the modular solution can stand …
SX are the embodiment of just how dynamic DIY music can be. The Belgian duo, now in their second outing, make music that’s unmistakably pop, but with plenty of raw power humming under the hood. And Benjamin and Stefanie are fully invested in their collaboration in every last detail of production, from studio to music video to live. I wanted to talk to them primarily about how that creative process came together.
I suspect many electronic music aficianados have the soundtrack for the film The Revenant on repeat who haven’t even seen the film. Any new Alva Noto/Ryuichi Sakamoto collaboration will get the attention of lovers of minimal electronic achievement, with good reason. And The Revenant might just be the perfect landscape for that collaboration. Its marathon portrait of bleakness and intense, lonely revenge make the film a platform for a perfect Alva Noto/Sakamoto score.