Even in hardware, the repetitive patterning of dance music remains invisible to the eye. Sure, you might get a blinking light here and there, but otherwise, the process is virtual, whether the sound process is analog or digital.

Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno project is different. Every pattern is made physical and tangible, every machine rhythm mechanically constructed rather than abstract. As such, the UK-based experimental musician, composer, and sound artist makes sounds that evolve organically from the devices that make them. As contact mics brush against physical objects, those rhythms are often slightly imperfect, emerging from a kind of kinetic sculpture. With stacks of turntables operating alongside a rack of more conventional electronic gear, the result is deliciously unexpected – sounding like techno, but with beautifully irregular grooves.

Watch “Whale Attack” at top to see.


An earlier video, while less musically compelling, focuses on the process itself:

It’s all a nice follow-up to the LEGO construction we saw earlier this week. That uses a similar technique, but the earlier project yielded some different musical results. Thanks, Michael Forrest (who’s also making lovely music), for the tip!

Finding real-world objects is a part of the artist’s inspiration and process, he says in an artist statement:

I use experimentation and play as a main part of my making process. I also like to set myself restrictions for my projects similarly to the way scientific experiments are conducted. Noise – as unwanted sound like record crackle or tape hiss – often features in my work, and a visual equivalent in dirt, dust or decay. I often try and repeat a visual process with audio, and vice versa.

If you’re the London area Monday, Graham is joining a really lovely lineup – with Stephen Cornford and John Macedo – at the excellent Cafe Oto. The mechanical techno setup is part of a performance he describes thusly:

“Situationist Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio built machines to make abstract expressionist paintings on long rolls of canvas. My ongoing project, Music By The Metre, is an audio homage to Pinot-Gallizio: music making machines that fill spools of tape with abstract music. Lee Scratch Perry described dub as “the ghost in me coming out.” By performing a live dub on a music making contraption I will release the ghost in the machine.

Vinyl dissonance for lost memories: a live rhythmical collage made of squeezed record crackle, analogue synthesizer, dubplates of field recordings, dusty shellac records and clumsily triggered drumsynth. Mechanical techno, ghost in the machine music.” – Graham Dunning

Event info on Graham’s site:
Live solo set at Cafe Oto (London)