The sound world of Joey Blush (aka Blush Response) is far reaching, entering dark clouds of murky industrial, EBM, and techno, all with relentless forward-pushing grooves. But as we talk to him about how he connects his gear, we’re really looking at how he connects his thoughts.
At its best, whatever we’re doing with gear ought to be about our minds. It’s not just connecting a patch cord. It’s connecting an idea from one place to another – re-wiring neurons.
Synth legend Morton Subotnick spoke this week about that process, as he recalled first creating complex metric structures simply by patching together loops on hardware modular sequencers (there, via the Buchla). As rhythmic structures emerged, he blew his own brain open – and the landmark record Silver Apples on the Moon was born. And I thought of this:
“You’re sequencing the sequence!”
I heard a smiling Wouter Jaspers of KOMA Elektronik repeat that phrase like a Zen koan. His sequencer isn’t intended to be simple. It’s even called Komplex.
The Komplex sequencer has reached the final prototype stage, with a release in coming weeks. Joey Blush visited KOMA Elektronik in their studio to play with the Komplex and a host of modules.
And what’s significant about this is that it is a return to some of what Morton was talking about back in the 60s. This isn’t about something abstract; it’s getting hands-on, gestural control over sounds, so that there’s a direct line from your instinct to making some change in the sound by moving your body.
Literally, how is Joey making the connection? He sends over his signal flow to CDM, in terms of what you see in the KOMA video:
The oscillator is an Intellijel Shapeshifter
into a WMD synchrodyne
into a KOMA SVF-201
A Manhattan Analog VCA on the end
being modulated by MATHS. [uh, the module, though everything I do is modulated by maths!]
Everything is sequenced by the Komplex sequencer
Drums are the [Roland AIRA] TR8 through the [KOMA] FT201
Now, that was a short demo. For a proper live set, let’s have a watch and listen through the blueish smoke of a live set at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London, from 25 May.
Here’s the breakdown for that:
two voices being sequenced by electron octatrack – mutable yarns as midi converter, elektron analog rytm doing drums. All tweaks are done by hand here. I have the OT loaded with sequences I’ve made, more than I need for an entire set, so that I can call up different ones at will and create new ‘tracks’ by tweaking the patch parameters and coming across new things. What you are seeing is sort of a live patching experiment. I know where things have to go but how I get there is different every time.
I also had an interesting conversation with Joey about how he works with the Elektron Octatrack and Analog Rytm drum machines. He’s actually integrating them with the modulars, using them to make things morph even more. And no Eurorack snobbery here – using drum machines like the AIRA or, here, the Elektron, means he always has convenient access to sounds:
I use the octatrack as my main sequencer for the eurorack live and in the studio.
I can sequence CC changes using the midi to cv converter (currently a Vermona QMI) so I can have these evolving sequences that sound like cut up parts you would have done in a computer.
The RYTM handles all percussion duties for obvious reasons – it’s monstrous and it’s a bit easier to carry than a bigger eurorack case.
I really love Joey’s sonic imagination. It’s heavy, it’s industrial, but isn’t just arbitrarily bleak – there’s heart and, somehow, warmth in it. Take this track:
Or a full live set:
This album is well worth a listen:
And now, the 12″ Future Tyrants is up on Bandcamp:
Thanks to Joey for the juicy details.
Check the official site:
All photos courtesy the artist.