Friday, February 29, 2008

Squarepusher in the Studio

Check out this rare footage of Squarepusher in his home studio discussing his gear and composition methods, circa 1996. The intro is in some foreign language but the interview is all in english and worth the wait. My favorite part: the Aphex Twin stickers on his drum machine and bass! I always wondered about that relationship.

Controllerism: Moldover at the Warper Festival

The Warper Festival for Electronic Music
January 28th, 2008
@ Supreme Trading in Brooklyn, NY

A few weeks ago at Supreme Trading in Williamsburg, BK I attended an electronic music concert put on by the people over at Warper. The event was advertised as a full night of music with "2 Rooms of Omnidigital DJs and Biomorphic Musicians" for free! There were DJ's, singers, guitar players, and knob twidlers all under the blanket of "live electronic music".

My first impression of the night was pretty bad actually. When I arrived, there was a DJ performing with a laptop, midi keyboard, and all sorts of drum machines and samplers. As is the case with a lot of electronic music these days, the guy just turned samples on and off, twisted knobs, and bounced up and down standing safely behind the screen of a PowerBook. There was absolutely no audience interaction and pretty much zero ingenuity to what he was doing. Needless to say the crowd was yawning by the 10th minute of his hour long set.

But it wasn't all techies behind laptops. Up next was a guy who calls himself Moldover. Now this was where things got interesting. Moldover is a self-proclaimed "Controllerist". Simply put, a Controllerist is like a Turntablist but instead of using decks he uses customized Midi controllers and a laptop to control and effect samples, usually, but not limited to, pre-recorded music. The set started with Moldover on guitar with some delay/flang/weird stompboxes effecting the sound. He would transition between guitar and electronic pieces quite seemlesly, oftettimes combining the two. The music was a mashup of prog-rock, electronica, breakbeat, and....I dunno....classical guitar? His performance reminded me a bit of Squarepusher because of the combination of live instruments and sequences electronics. (to get an idea of what i'm talking about, check out the video "Hello Meow" on YouTube)

What interested me most was the keyboard he was using. From a distance, it looked like your typical Midi controller with faders and a few mapable potentiometers. Up close, however, it was anything but. The keyboard had been modded to suit Moldover's performance needs and, if I may say so, it was slick as hell. He had modded the keys so that they were more convenient for triggering samples fast, added a few touch pads for sample retriggering and time stretching, and replaced the small faders with big ones so that he could quickly and easily raise and lower the different tracks that made up his mash-ups. This controller was hooked into his laptop which was running ableton live with some custom beat matching software. What came out was some of the sickest live electronica i've seen this year. In a matter of minutes, I was bombarded by 20 different tracks, all rythmically and harmonically synched and all effected to the point where it was almost hard to imagine the original format of some of the tunes.

I'm of the opinion that videos speak louder than words so if this kind of stuff interests you, check out his videos that I have posted below. The first 2 give you an overview of his keyboard mods and the second is a mini-documentary about a controllerist concept project of his called the Octamasher. You can also learn more about him at it.

As for the rest of the night, I'm sad to say it was like the opener: a big let down. The guy who followed Moldover was a laptop DJ who might as well have just pushed play and sat at the bar. In the next room was a singer/sequencer/video performance that was ok, but nothing new or innovative. Admitidly, I did not stay for the whole night so I can't speak for all the performers; but from what I saw, Moldover killed it, the rest left much to be desired. OK, enough complaing, check out the videos below.

until next time......

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hans Blix: Live at 507

This past weekend was one of my most eventful musical experiences. Kurt Elling on Friday, Ryan Scott on Saturday, and then a great double bill of Hans Blix and The Sly Fox Gentlemen's Club on Sunday.

Hans Blix turned out to be the only band that I had not heard before this weekend, and I was quite impressed. In the depths of the 507 bar in Williamsburg, I found three guys rocking out at full volume to a crowd of about 45 people. The group consists of a drummer, an electronically effected saxaphone/bass synth, and a guitar running through ableton live with tons of stompboxes and loopers.

What came out was a kind of music that I have never seen before. If I had to categorize it (i hate doing this to music like this) I would say it seems the three guys were trained in jazz, listened to rock, and recently realized that electronics could take these two genres and bend them into new and exciting things each time they play. The songs were totally improvised on the spot and covered many stylistic grounds. They may start out in a laid back hip/hop-esque beat with subtle jazzy guitar licks and then explode into a driving break beat with wailing riffs and driving synth bass.

It was only after the show that I learned about the improvisational nature of their set. The grooves and textures they develop are suprisingly cohesive for music of this kind. I am oftentimes let down by totally improvised music (Marco benevento's recent performance at Sullivan Hall with Billy Martin, Skerik etc. for example). Thankfully, the three dudes in Hans Blix communicate extremely well and their music reflects that. There were very few times when the three were not totally locked in, and during those times when they were not, the music didn't really suffer. Rather, they served as little free interludes between locked in grooves.

Unfortunately, It seemed as though they only got half the crowd with them. Some people seemed to waiting for the next band, (a live hip hop act) and were a little turned off by the noisy noodling that preceeded what they were there to see. Honestly, it's not too suprising. Improvisational music can be hard to groove to sometimes, and when you play it you run the risk of turning people off simply because they don't understand what you're trying to do. Nonetheless, Hans Blix put on a good show. Although they may not be the most animated band to watch, the sounds they create are anything but ordinary.

To listen to some tracks from their album "What's the highest number you can think of?" (some incredibly dope shit) and some live cuts from a performance at Piano's, visit

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ryan Scott: Smoke and Licorice

I don't know why it has taken me so long to write about this guy, but after listening to his album for the 50th time, I felt compelled.

It all started one rainy New York night back in November, I think. I was going to the Mercury Lounge to check out a local NY favorite, Charlie Hunter. On the bill as the opener was Ryan Scott, a name I had heard of but couldn't place a face to. I realized he was signed to Velour Records, a label I worked for a few years ago. Ryan hadn't been picked up when I was with Velour; but once while I was perusing their list of new artists I noticed his name and listened some tunes on the player.

I have to admit, back then I didn't give the tunes a second thought. Perhaps it was the mood I was in, perhaps it was the time of day. Whatever the reason, I forgot about him completely.

Then comes the show at the Mercury Lounge. I decided to go early and see what kind of stuff Ryan was playing. I proceeded to be absolutely floored by his performance. I went in expecting some run-of-the-mill singer songwriter tunes, but I was truly rocked. Ryan was performing with 3 others, bass, drums, and a back up harmony singer. I was captivated from start to finish. Ryan not only has an incredibly expressive and honest voice, but he wails on the guitar like a bad-ass blues/jazz guy who decided to turn his amp up. His songs were heart-felt and his persona was very intitmate and inviting. The club was only half-full at this point and I got a very warm vibe from the people around me. Everybody was totally attentive. Usually at small clubs in New York I am put off by all the people talking during the sets. On this night, the whole audience fell silent every time Ryan opened his mouth or plucked his guitar.

After the concert I had a short chat with him and thanked him for the performance, and he proved to be a very nice dude; very grateful and personable. Me and some friends picked up the CD before heading back in to see Charlie Hunter. (a little side note: after charlie played his set, John Mayer showed up randomly and played a solo acoustic set at 3 am for about 50 people, and Ryan was still the best part of the night)

The album was just as good as the show. It reminds me a bit of Jeff Buckley, the way he blends ambient textures with clean instrumental sounds. It was a very consistent vibe the whole way through without getting too repetitive. It doesn't strike as particularly innovative or new, but that doesn't seem to be what he wants. The album blends jazz, rock, blues, folk and all the little genres in between yet still maintains a suprisingly cohesive sound. His rock-solid vocals really tie everything together. His words tell stories and the riffing guitars fill in the gaps between literal ideas. This kind of music usually wears thin fast for me, but i'm still hearing new things each time I listen to these songs, which is quite frequently.

If you want to hear Ryan's music online, there are a couple places to do it.

Click Here to visit his myspace. Visit to buy his new CD. Here is a nice little radio performance/interview where he performs some songs not previously recorded; and below is a little video about his latest album, Smoke and Licorice.