Faptronica? Trapmetal? Glitchfap? Fapdance? Genre labels make a fun muddle of things for Philadelphia’s NO SIR E. But his music is perfect for this time of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, that feeling of diving out of a sweltering heat into the water. It’s refreshing, with the dirty, muddy bits in the bottom you’d want to stick your toes into. And then it glitches in satisfying distortion, a motorboat or jetski racing across the smoo… I’m sorry. It’s hard to write in the summer.
(Or … well, you can Google what “fap” means, but that’s a bit less … musical in nature. Kids’ slang today; how do you keep up?)
On remixes and productions, the effect is calculated and the chops are sharp, but his music remains improvisatory and organic, not overworked. Dense without being crowded, heavy on the bass, and deeply influenced by hip-hop, this is feel-good music that sounds big. This is perhaps the most vibrant thread in underground American electronic music right now: it’s live, self-produced, employing risky improv on laptops, and mixing diverse, deep, hip-hop-inspired digital sounds.
New Yorkers, you get two chances to hear NO SIR E this month: tonight at The Delancey, then in Brooklyn next week. Terrific lineups, both, so go enjoy some of the best East Coast electronics have to offer.
And beneath all of it is a thorough sense of musicianship. NO SIR E employs the grid of the monome to tap out samples as he plays. His live set this week is a one-take wonder, heavy on Shlohmo, with monomists NO SIR E himself and originator Daedelus, alongside the likes of mr oizo, lorn, and an aching edit of Lana del Ray, a vulnerable, crooning line above massive drums. (It all sounds tragic to me, “When I’m 64” for an increasingly-apocalyptic age.)
Just over 20 minutes, pedal-to-the-metal the whole time, an epic mix:
how to dress well – & it was u
bear//face – taste my sad
shlohmo – seriously (live)
ashanti – still on it (acapella)
shlohmo – forgot i was here
treasure fingers/daedelus – it’s love
no sir e – call u never
sbtrkt – hold on
t2 feat. jodie – heartbroken
koop – absolute space (jazzanova remix)
mr oizo ft uffie – steroids
ango – true blue
asa – leave the light on (stumbeline remix)
lana del ray – young and beautiful (nosiredit)
shlohmo – out of hand (no sir e footleg)
lol boys – changes (shlohmo remix)
bear//face – bruh bruh
lorn – army of fear
a$ap rocky – long live asap (bear//face remix)
Listen, too, to gorgeous singles like “Illiterate People,” starting with its cinematic, orchestral swells:
Similarly blending hip-hop with Classical drama and monument is his True Key – Palestrina remix, going on an emotionally-charged journey through the material, rapid-fire percussion crossed with chiming minimal ostinati, like a score to an imagined film:
For its part, the monome community and devices press on, even amidst the new ubiquity of grids in music hardware. The monome hardware itself hasn’t departed from its classic design. But, importantly, you can actually buy it again:
The design doesn’t look dated; instead, its logo-free layout and insistence on absolute minimalism – no color LEDs here, even – looks strikingly restrained. It’s iconic in a way rivals haven’t quite mastered. It is also, though, expensive, owing to local US production and smaller runs, but perhaps that has helped protect its mystique. And this run seems not to have immediately sold out, so if you’ve been saving up for a monome, now’s a good opportunity:
Ultimately, though, hardware fetishism or even unique design can’t keep the monome afloat. It’s the passion of the community that uses it that makes it a beloved instrument. They stick together as might devotees of the viola da gamba. And the monome becomes just the tool in a movement that values live-remixed music, sampling and remix as live instrumentalism, even beyond this one interface itself.
That comes across in NO SIR E’s music brilliantly, so let’s listen to more, shall we? For starters…
This upcoming Ellie Goulding remix is simply delicious:
The connection to Flying Lotus is great, though NO SIR E should be added evidence that this scene can go beyond FlyLo – and when NO SIR E remixes FlyLo, wonderful things happen, NO SIR E’s laidback lyricism gently pulling his LA colleague’s work into a different place:
Speaking of vibrant-yet-laidback lyricism, listen as a similar vibe envelops Shlohmo:
Expertly soulful and inventive, NO SIR E’s original tracks hold up just as nicely:
Oh, yeah, and they can get surprisingly experimental and cut-up, for some more out-there syncopations:
And for more insight into artists in this scene, monome have started a terrific interview series with a lot of favorite Friends of CDM – as worth reading for artistic inspiration as anything to do with the hardware itself, really beautiful, thoughtful stuff:
I miss you, Philadelphia, East Coast, hope to see you soon.