Thursday, May 06, 2010

Experimenting with Electroplankton


I picked up Electroplankton by Toshio Iwai for the Nintendo DS in town yesterday (after standing around in the shop checking a review from my phone - FYOOOTARRRR or what?). It was only a fiver. I'd never heard of it before, but the review made it sound interesting enough to buy.

There are 10 forms of Electroplankton, which you can play with separately. Each is a different way of producing sounds, ranging from the chaotic to the regulated, and from tuneful to those that sample the outside world. You can't save or re-play what you've done, which makes Electroplankton much more like an instrument than anything else. Here's someone else's video of it in action:

So in proper modern fashion, I hooked the little fellas up to the Mac and ran them through Garageband - the result is streamable at the top of this post, or downloadable via Dropbox. It's an intriguing way of producing noise - at some levels, you have some control over the velocity and impact of each layer (tempo, volume, etc). But at others, the system can be a complex one, and a small tweak to your current setup can spark off a whole new riff. This makes it surprising, and exciting so long as you get over the idea of controlling everything.

Will play with this more for sure, especially the more "regulated" beat stuff.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Things in my hearing as of late

I had this crazy notion of setting up a "stuff I'm listening to lately" playlist on Spotify, but after a few searches, it looks like three quarters of it isn't available. So instead I'm going to do the retro Internet thing and "blog" it.

Until recently I've been fairly... "off" music. No, not off, just not particular interested in what's been emerging. The butthole of the industry continues to be content in pooping out meaningless drivel and congratulating its own reflection on pushing sales out despite its own tactic of suing anyone that's interested in sucking such spew up through the fake-gold-rimmed straws that have been handed out through drug-infested channels, which has kind of made me depressed. But I digress.

One: Journeys by Rachel Dawick. I wanted to put this one first, partly because it's the first CD I picked up, but also because I heard Rachel playing in New Road in Brighton and noticed she had CDs available for a donation, which I thought was really cool. I picked up her first CD, Journeys, and wished I'd donated more now that I've heard it. Difficult to describe as its do diverse in style, but all strung together with an extremely pleasing ambience and folksy lilt. Have a look at her site for samples from the CD, or her Myspace page for tracks from her more recent album.

Two: Tarot Sport by Fuck Buttons. Finally got round to picking this up - I'm a big big fan of the first album, Street Horrrsing, for its loud walls of incredible sound that seem to go against all the music is told it should be to please everyone. I've only listened to the second album once, and while it didn't seem to be quite so shouty, I certainly can't wait to fire it up again. Here's their Myspace (does that make grammatical sense?) for a few tracks (including "Sweet Love for Planet Earth" from Street Horrrsing, dammit.)

Three: Kollaps Tradixionales by Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra. Another big sound band -- ok, I'll admit it, I went out and bought "big wall" music. I don't care. I'm a grown up now. In a way, Silver Mount Zion are the "grown ups" of the line-up here. Their music is touched with subtlety and power in a rare way, and Kollaps Tradixionales is as infused with this as ever. The wailing voice, the huge strings, and the orchestral build-ups. Songs you need to give some time to. Here's their site and some Myspace action.

Four: We Were Exploding Anyway by 65DaysOfStatic. or 65daysofstatic. Or something. In fact, I'm listening to this one right now. 65dos are a band keen on experimenting, so it's always exciting to find out where their work is going. Again, time's needed to get into these tracks - these aren't throwaway pop songs. To me it seems to have less of the math-rock irregularity of earlier albums, but the dirt and noise going into this is still hugely exciting. Layers combining aspects of Aphex Twin, NIN, post-rock and the voice of Robert Smith make me feel the need to dash out and upgrade my aging stereo. Now. In the meantime, here's their site and their recent interview with themselves and the Crash Tactics remix competition.

Five: A Drowning by How to Destroy Angels. Now that NIN is pretty much done with, Trent's off making music with his wife under the moniker "How to Destroy Angels". Their first single, A Drowning, is available to listen at Pitchfork. I'm really enjoying this track - naturally very NIN, but the voice of Mariqueen makes me think of some old Massive Attack tracks. There's something beautiful going on here.

That's it for today. Go and listen to some stuff.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Dismantling the Next Big Thing: 77 MPs

I've been a little too busy and as unorganised as ever to do too much in the Brighton Festival so far. But one thing I've really been enjoying is Brian Eno's 77 Million Paintings at Fabrica gallery, a constantly shifting montage of images set to an austere soundtrack.

Interestingly it looks like the project was originally a DVD release, but Fabrica have, naturally, turned it into somethin very specific. The environs of the old church, pew-like sets of sofas, and the piles of spot-lit sand leading up to the void of the projection instill a curiously moving, and almost religious atmosphere. (Pictures at Fabrica's Flickr pool.)

A few minutes' observation can be pretty meditative. Initially curious, the mind is sucked in - there is something organic here, spurred on by the resemblance of the exhibit to a flower, perhaps. There is a lucidity, exaggerated by the darkness behind the light. And the mind knows that what you see in front of you is changing, but at the same time this change is difficult to catch a glimpse of. It exists, like dreams, on the edge of perception. The more you look for it, the more you miss it.

For me, in fact, it is this awareness of change that has really forced me to blog about it. In a month of fairly intense change, 77 Million Paintings throws into contrast a lot of how we "progress" through daily life. Adverts, music, gadgets, films, fashions, even people - we become accustomed to distinct change, man-made change. Change that replaces one object with another at an ever-faster rate. "The Next Big Thing".

We forget how change is organic. How it happens in the background, without us. How we need it, rather than vice-versa. What if there was no "Next Big Thing", but just a flow of ... of not "Small Things", of not even "Things". Just a constant shifting. An endless permutation.

I recommend popping in to have a look if you can. It's free.