Hear the epic live set Skinnerbox played at Fusion Festival

We have the technology. We have the capability to play live sets on mainstages. And for a brilliant example of that, look no further than the frenetic, exquisitely hyperactive acid performances of Skinnerbox. Their set at Fusion Festival from this weekend demonstrates that you can command massive mobs of dance lovers outdoors with live sets, too. And maybe you thought such things were confined to chin-scratching handfuls of nerds.


Berlin warms up for techno and visuals in a Portuguese castle

Techno lineups don’t have to be scraped off of the top of DJ charts and Google searches. And visuals don’t have to look like a screensaver that got drunk. Festival Forte, set for the end of August at the castle of Montemor-o-Velho, between Porto and Lisbon on the Portuguese coast, is a glimpse of something different. Already last year, it ran against the grain of dumbed down summer festivals with some of the bleeding edge of concert visuals, set to an exceptional lineup. And it appears to be set to do that again. So, let’s check in on what’s happening …

Octave One by Marie Staggat-23

Octave One Are Back, Improvising Grooves with Machines

If anyone can make cookie-cutter techno, then improvisation is the route back to heart and soul. And there are few people as good at making dense, bass-heavy improvised dance music as Detroit’s Octave One. I mean, yes, it’s a little weird that any of us would get overly eloquent or snobby writing about dance music. I would hope your test is the same as my test – does piping a track make you start doing an embarrassing little jig at your desk? (Boy, am I glad my office is on street level and equipped with giant, aquarium-style windows.) Octave One …


Live Insanity: Ceephax Acid Crew [Video]

I had the craziest dream. Super vivid, and it just kept going. Seriously, like it seemed to last a decade. Instead of playing electronic music live on gear that made sounds, so you could keep track of what you were doing with physical buttons and switches and things, all the boys and girls were using laptops. But that wasn’t the weird part: what was strange was, people were just putting whole tracks on those computers. I know what you’re thinking – so they were DJing, right? But no! They were just playing tracks one after another all the same tempo. …


The Dream Modular Rig, Making Amazing Sounds: Cyrus Rex

cyrusrex + Baseck – #DBC611G-1D from Muff Wiggler on Vimeo. Pulsing, rattling, buzzing, quivering, the music of LA-based artist Cyrus Rex is a sumptuous feast of sound. Here’s a musician who connects massive arrays of gear, like some post-apocalyptic robot dream, and then makes it sound like it – rapid-fire machine reveries set in motion amidst nests of cables. Little wonder this video at top, with Cyrusrex and Baseck, comes from MuffWiggler. It is full of gear: Cyrusrex + Baseck – Modular Synth, DSI Tempest, DevilFish TB303, Strymon BigSky, casio #DBC611G-1D But don’t stop there. Cyrus Rex’s music is an …


Watch Elektron and Roland AIRA Sing, Live: Dark, Dubby Techno by Phelios [Video, Listen]

There was a time when “live” or live PA meant “I’ve hauled a bunch of gear to this gig and made a mess of cables and I’m going to improvise live for you.” Now, too often, it means “I’m going to DJ with Ableton Live instead of Traktor or CDJs.” Don’t get me wrong. It’s not so much about a laptop or hardware. But there is a spectrum – a useful spectrum, applicable to different artists at different times. And if you really want “live,” you want an artist who constructs music before your eyes out of building blocks. Electronic …


Sonic Imaginings, Assembled Live: Max Cooper’s Sound World, in Mixes and Images

Entering Max Cooper’s sonic world is always a delight. And in a new mix, we hear it pieced together as he imagines his own sonic connections, constructed live. In turns, the Belfast-born, London-based artist can be cinematic and moody, chilled-out and groovy, or angular and glitchy. But everything remains in definition, each sound there for a reason and in sharp relief, able to corner and take you anywhere, on-road or off. It makes sense, then, that when we last caught up with Dr. Cooper – yes, he has a PhD in computational biology, too – he was adding extra dimensions …


Watch An Hour-long, Chilled, Hard, Hardware Live Set from TM404

If you can’t get to a shoreline this week, I wholeheartedly endorse watching the waves crash behind none other than TM404, aka Andreas Tilliander. We had a sort of Roland meditation with him before, and I’m even more fond of this set. Sit back and enjoy an hour of sound. It’s worth reflecting on the resurgent hardware set, particularly with the Roland AIRA lineup some of the most talked-about, popular gear of 2014 (and volca beats still selling, and Rhythm Wolf in the wings).


Good Reading: Matmos, In the Studio, In and Out of Boxes, with XLR8R and Ableton

Now with the release of The Marriage of True Minds, the duo’s album based on parapsychological telepathy experiments, it’s worth visiting again with Matmos. The Baltimore-based duo offer dueling interviews. One, with XLR8R, ventures into their basement full of sonic wonders, full of handmade instruments and electronics and oddities, like wooden creations built around contact mics and some thing covered with knobs called The Polygamist. (And yes, there’s really no excuse for using generic sounds for the components of a song when the world of sound is so wide.) Of the two, it’s Drew Daniel (PhD!) who seems more comfortable …

Phantom's Hanna Toivonen, live. Mask by Jenni Ahtiainen/ gTie. Photo: Kiki Ylimutka — at Flow Festival 2012.

Singing Serenades with Laptops: Intimate Sessions with Solar Year, Phantom [Video]

NFOP SESSIONS #13: Phantom – Albuquerque from Tonje Thilesen on Vimeo. Far from being an icy presence in front of an unmoving operator, the laptop has quietly become second nature. As tools mature and musicians gain comfort, music software can at last become another instrument. So, let’s get comfy and close with some musicians who are finding intimate, personal expressions with impromptu human-and-laptop ensembles. Our friends at No Fear of Pop – a top-notch, pretension-free chronicle of new music – have in the past year been doing live portraits of artists in their NFOP Sessions series. This is the feeling …