Phoebe in the studio. Photos for CDM courtesy the artist.

The enchanting, carefully-handcrafted music of Phoebe Kiddo is yet another example of the wonders coming from under-the-radar digital artists in the production Renaissance now underway. We got to host Phoebe on our MusicMakers party last month in Berlin – full coverage of that show, with video, coming soon. Now, Phoebe tells CDM a bit about making music as a globe-trotting nomad, and how she works with monome live and in the studio.

Phoebe’s music mixes taut beats and delicate, low-fidelity timbres with dense arrangements and spacey dubs. Her voice cuts dreamy melodic lines across introspective grooves that can then accelerate into clicky staccato. This is a fanciful trip on a spaceship, yes, but it’s a finely-tuned spaceship; her productions show inside-out attentions to detail that eschew sound-alike copying.

Phoebe’s new release is upcoming – you’ll certainly read about it here when it drops. But Phoebe tells us a bit about how she managed to squeeze music making into travel, and other challenges I expect readers here will easily recognize. She starts about the trip that has led her from Down Under to the Golden State, USA to the capital of Germany. And she is as reflective as the music she makes:

As a musical pilgrim for the past year and a half, moving between Australia the States and Europe, I had to adapt my musical practice to suit the limitations of travel, cutting back on gear, working on a laptop, then in studios whenever and whereever I had the opportunity. I was very much relying on the kindness of friends, new and old, and adapting to whatever hardware was a hand at the time. Fortunately, this journey saw me in some very well-equipped studios working with hardware I would otherwise never have encountered.

Most of the music has been written between Los Angeles and Berlin, two places that could not be more diametrically opposed, musically, culturally, architecturally. I have come to believe that wether you intend it or not, the creative process is affected by the collective energy of a place, and as such, I was left with two distinctively different yet somehow related sounds. The work grew into two pieces, both long play-format sonic adventures that reflect the depth of psychic experience the pilgrimage took on. I have a affection for high-end details, syncopated rhythms, spacey-sounding synths and sub bass sine waves that you’ll hear throughout.

Nostalgia for the Future: Favouring samples complimented by synths and [Elektron] Machinedrum (my baby) is a sun drenched tale of remembering imaginary futures yet untold, the eternal experience of disintegration into newness, longing for familiarity in the utterly abstract, loathing of the ordinary, known routines and eternal restlessness. The painful experiences that will somehow be romanticized in a distant incarnation of ourselves. A nostalgia for that which awaits us. Existing simultaneously in multiple dimensions, dragging parts of ourselves screaming from places they have found a ground to stand on. Belonging nowhere and to no one. Having nothing to hold onto, no point of reference, no trajectory. Operating from complete trust and the highs and lows associated with such a life, as existence gently guides us or violently shoves us from one moment to the next.

Deep Space Serenade favours Jupiter, Juno, and a Korg Delta that I completely fell in love with in my friend Alexkid’s studio. It’s deep, rather sound design prone. It meditates on the natural tendency to flow into connection and the pain of separation. The latent grief waiting within love’s embrace. When I left Australia, I said to myself I would travel until I fell in love, seeing and hearing everything inspiring that could, working tirelessly to create something beautiful to offer the world. This piece is a serenade, spaced out, sometimes heavy, always deep. It’s a reflection on the catastrophe of love. The devastation of a truly deep connection and how that can tear you completely from the comfort of solitude. Being wrapped in our own riddles until on occasion that perspective arrives to remind us, who we truly are, and what we have the capacity to become.

I also asked Phoebe to tell us a bit more about her use of the monome in performance. It’s a familiar instrument to many readers here, of course (some of you using it yourself), but I did see it get a lot of attention in her performance with us last month.

I use a few patches, depending on what I’m doing.

For the show at MusicMakers, I used sevenup live for [monome] 128, which functions as a looper, drum machine, melodizer, and midi controller within live. You can drop tracks, parts, build drums, do effects, control [Ableton] Live, etc., depending on how you program it. It’s really versatile; although it has its limitations and annoyances, it’s pretty good all-rounder for performance.

Lately, I’ve been playing with traknome [for NI Traktor DJ sessions], which I think I will end up using sometimes in future; there is such a huge amount of preparation that goes into a live set that I would prefer to reserve for when my drum machine is functional again and use my [Access] Virus (my fave synth for performing, it has so many accessible parameters) & [Ableton] Live – accompanied by visual content.

I’m really interested in audiovisual music languages and am planning to delve into the world of [Cycling ’74 Max/MSP] Jitter once this second release I’m working on is finished. It’s a whole new level of nerdiness I’m quite looking forward to, and I feel it’s important to support the conceptual element of my compositional framework. In which case I will either build or adapt a patch to include visual triggers to accompany the audio ones. Until then, I’m thinking traknome dj, effects & drums is a nice compromise.

As we wait on the upcoming releases, Phoebe shares some terrific listening. (I have heard the upcoming releases, hence some of my description here, and can testify they’ll be worth the wait.)

For now, there’s the wonderful Psyche:

And a new song:

For a podcast, Phoebe has produced a “Mixtape for Dreamers,” available via Mixcloud:

And, some reading:

I just started this blog, which I will maintain from now with things I find inspiring; this usually spans poetry, literature, contemporary art, music, spirituality, new media, etc.

And more reading elsewhere … a review of Phoebe’s performance at MusicMakers:

Her production is perfect and shifts in dynamics were just eye-opening, there would be a fairly intense track with clustered beats and several layers that moved beautifully into the sounds of a single piano being hit. Her use of bass/low-end in the basic percussion of her work is very innovative with sounds that you could find in an industrial track if you wished but in this context comes across as dubby and atmospheric adding to the vibrancy of the overall sound – it feels alive.

Stranger Passing

Dunkel Radio Loves Phoebe Kiddo []

Phoebe tells that blog:

I never sent music to record labels, I’ve just quietly been plugging away, exploring and developing my own artistic voice, and in no rush to publish work.

Some things are worth the wait. Wonderful things are coming. We’ll be listening.