Friday, February 29, 2008

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......

No comments: