When in early June 2017 I started working on my "demo tape", I knew it is not going to be ...as easy as playing live.
Why? When you play live, when you improvise, what you play is established by eg. air humidity, what you been doing thought past few days, the dress of that girl dancing in front, the crazy hairstyle of that guy watching my every move on the filter knob etc. Everything makes everything.
A very important aspect of playing live is the fact that people see you in front of the instrument, they can often relate the changing sound to the hand movement. This takes the listening to a different level. While, when you put on your headphones and sit down in an underground train with your eyes shut, you start to listen to the music in a very different way. There is no relation between artist and music, as there is only music, you also focus on things which might not be that obvious or visible while performing live. A listener who does not know that my music is played on live electronic instruments might think that it is an Ableton sequence or everything is made from long samples etc.
In this case, I have a problem because my demo should be with a video presentation, and since it is not possible in all cases, the recording should be made in a different way, then just recording and mastering a live session.
Or maybe I am mistaken. We shall see. From May to June I should have a bit more time to finally make some decent progress in my techno project. My personal deadline is the end of June.
When Improvizards kicked off in 2016, as a synth-turntable duo, the act was quite focused on the melody - we were leaning more towards house and funk or the infamous tech-house. I was "tuning" to the track which was played on a turntable. Since November I only focus on making techno music and the Improwizard acts are changing with me. I started focusing on the rhythm - the soul hidden in the charismatic arpeggiated pluck synths, sophisticated drum patterns, bass pumps etc. A so-called one-shot minimalism.
This approach turns the tides of the live act. The lass melody you put the more "technois" it becomes. But this is probably inevitable when you play improvisation and you have a bad day eg. you broke up with your girlfriend, got sacked from your job or any other miserable bullshit, then the crowd might have to "listen all about it" during your live act.
I do not know where am I and who am I. But I know what I am doing at least... and one thing is sure for me now - dark and deep are becoming my colors :)
The techno movement, as a club scene, started in warehouses. That's how the abbreviation house got its way into music culture. Soon after that came techno. As if from psychedelic feelings a futuristic statement was born. Techno then was apparently very different from what is considered to be now. If you are old enough to see the beginning of electronic music history, you know that it is different and far more complex.
Since the process of making music in my case is similar to how pioneers recorded (hardware synthesizers recorded on some device, in my case, it is a two-track software program, without further coloring & mastering), with a lot of influence from jazz, funk, modern classical and film music, not from electronic music, I tend to put a lot of feelings, more specific content, rather than focusing on automatisation - more breaks + more melody.
"It's all techno" and "What is techno after all?". Why so many types of techno exist? Word "techno" no longer serves as a description of strange sounds, structured rhythms, and futuristic landscapes combined with characteristic 4 on the floor beat. The slight differences between genres of this specific electronic music tell us only how very different this music is, and electronic music in general. It is understood often by the context of the party or philosophy of a club, by the personality of the crowd. "This club gives me this feeling, I like it, therefore I like this music too". Listeners often categorize it by the aesthetics of the event and place, not the music itself. This is all because electronic music is far too complex, it is too big, for everybody to understand it. If you open a catalog in a music store labeled eg. ambient you will find a large number of different styles and genres within each genre - a space within.
"Genre, we might say, is a set of conventional and highly organized constraints on the production and interpretation of meaning"
John Frow, Genre, 2005.
Every day some musician drifts from this non-abstract quality of certain electronic musical genre, inspired by modern social relations and even typical consumer's decisions. This is why, in my opinion, sticking genre labels to electronic music are only a tool for marketing purpose, which can help the audience to expect a certain type of party, of overall aesthetic experience, music comes with the package. It might bring large expectations from the side of the audience as well. Like word - minimal. It comes from minimalism and it can mean very different things if we speak about ambient or techno music, very different expectations.
Can techno music get the more proper context? Mean something again. Or is it only a color?
Roland's Transistor Rhythm Synthesizer number 8, the TR-8. What a marvelous percussion beast it is.
All the sounds in this video come from it, including the reverb and delay effects (onboard). I also added a slight two step octave arpeggio on TB-3 sub bass sine wave. However, the punch of the 909 kick can still be heard very clearly, on top of TB-3. It is due to the fact, the bass drum is sent through a separate mono channel in the mixer. It has different equalizer settings from the rest of percussions. In the beginning of this improvisation, you can hear the first bass drum used, a 606 or 707 one (can't really remember, the first in the tom section). It has no separate rooting, nor compression and you can mostly hear the higher frequencies. The fact you can use 2 different drum basses makes the TR-8 a jack of all trades for me.
Electronic music has a lot of connotations - it means different things in different contexts, but above all, it applies to a commercial, popular music industry products. This is usually the first contact an average listener has - radio songs by Kraftwerk, Madonna, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga etc. Sometimes the first experience comes while watching movies like Shining, Clockwork Orange, Bladerunner, Stranger Things etc.
Electronic music is often connected with a spacious and abstract ambient or/and noisy experimental scene. The majority of crowd might be scared right off with the event having "experimental electronic music" in its name, but this is an effect of certain way musical culture brought us up. It used to mean (often still does) music, compositions made in contrary to everything we know and we are used to. However, experimentalism nowadays is a practice of not making music totally against all known rules but in relation to what the music is today. This quote from a book by B. Piekut refers to the situation found in recent 2008:
(...) experimentalism is not a metaphysical essence but a series of unusual practices whose strangeness stands out in relation to whatever the mainstream happens to be.
- Piekut Benjamin, New York Experimentalism 1964.
Experimentalism is now someone making electronic music in a way that was not served before. For me, the 100% live acts are a new, very demanding thing for any music. While performing live acts, music comprehension evolves, the performer educates the listeners to understand the music in a new way: "This is not a record, this is a musical piece I created now. Each and single note, even if pre-programmed on a sequencer, is elastic - it can be taken out, modified, delayed, whatever I want to do with it." Listeners can see a connection eg. between a movement of a hand pressing keys and chords being played - you see the music creation process. All in all, there is nothing revolutionary in the music itself. Live music is similar often on a sonic level, but it is far more different from a regular DJ performance. However, the turntablists, DJs those who create new songs by scratching and combining eg. three different records at one time, are a crossover between a regular DJ performance and live music.
The difference is subtle - but above all, any DJ, whatever he does, can always play a record and leave the stage for few moments, pick up the mobile, chat with friends etc. The song will play, rolls and parts will be heard, as obviously it is a pre-made record. While a live synthesizer performer.... if you leave the stage for few moments, during this time nothing will change - it will be a constant loop set a moment before leaving the stage. While playing live on hardware, talking over the phone cuts one hand out, talking with friends can be confusing when you are in between a long chord with one hand and trying to perfectly trigger the kick drum with the other. Just to give you an idea on how demanding it is.
Synthesizers used to be considered as sophisticated university labs equipment. Now anybody can buy a decent digital or analog synth, small looper effect pedal, and voilla - with enough skills you can become an ambient live act musician. Those who do not play any instrument, draw music on computers.
In the times, when making live electronic music is a possibility any musician can have, we enter a new pioneer stage - the evolution of electronic music into fine art through live experiments happening in real-time. We can now gather a group of synth players on one stage. They won't need a whole stage for their large modular synthesizers, huge and heavy post 80's synthesizers etc. The music industry is making every small and portable, yet limited, but overcoming those limitations is a new style of using those instruments, which might evolve into your own sound signature or stage signature.
This brings a new experience to crowds in clubs, cafeterias or concert halls. My good friend recently said that live performance electronic music will never have that "thing", that the pre-recorded, mixed and mastered in a professional studio vinyl recording has. Maybe if you listen to it on a mobile speaker at home, this statement might be right. But it is far different. A good comparison is a theater play recorded on a movie and live theater performance. The first one is pre-made, combined with fantastic visual and post processing done by a computer and dozens of technicians, while the theater performance is pre-planned and any visual, vocal etc. any special effect is a real-time struggle with your own possibilities. If well made, it gives a far stronger experience for the audience, as they are part of it. DJacts for drug fueled audience can take it real high too, but live acts can hold a deeper sense of katharsis, when the performance is as perfect as the DJset ...and then you realize that everything that is done here is made live, in real time, you are part of it, it is happening in front of you... /insert a sound of jaw dropping on the floor/.
A photo made during a soundcheck on 14th May 2017 at Kwadratowa club.
Fooling around during the first day of summer holidays! Two weeks off. I will miss my synthesizers.
8th July 2017 - Powszechny Theater in Warsaw
I have been playing a deep & dub techno live act in the foyer of Powszechny Theater in Warsaw. The act was set in a "garden" which was constructed from plants in pots (it is on the other side, then the photo was taken, unfortunately). While playing, I was focusing on the experience the garden immediately imposed on me - the experience of natural beauty there, trapped the music into a different level of perception. It generally does. Natural beauty is in European philosophy and culture - the highest esteem, nature is the beauty itself. In music composition, the set of similar classical instruments has been in our history for hundreds of years now and they made it to the point in which we call them natural. Electricity has not been for that long and sounds created with it are yet not considered to be natural, even though electricity is as natural as water, flowers... all around us.
It is not possible to understand the beauty of electronic music as art without understanding natural beauty. If you think about what natural beauty is, then think for example about a bird song. Natural sounds are naive, simple. We do not often notice how bound up are the natural sounds of nature with unnatural sounds of synthesizers. Nature's beauty is hidden in its appearance, in images, it is not an object of an action. Birds do not play melodies as we know from mass media, but listening to a bird song is an essential experience of natural beauty. At the same time, it is something ambiguous. It is found by everybody as beautiful, yet something is wrong - because it is not a song, it's an organized chaos. These sounds are placed by a spell and we experience them only then as beauty. When you notice it, the satisfaction from experience of nature is gone with it. Because art is complicated and difficult, while nature is natural.
Music is not reserved for elitist listeners, to people who understand a secret language, but it is open to everybody, who understands the primordial world of animals, of nature. The truth about music is often found in exaggeration.
Since I play live on hardware instruments only, I just realized, that when recording my album I will be recording each track two or three times in the studio and then selecting the best version - just like a rock or jazz band - quite odd for a techno producer. Nevertheless, since 1st June, when I got my Juno back in the house, all I do is play and explode. Someone recently opened my heart and I am devastated to see how wrong I was about everything.
I consider live acts on instruments as a total opposition to the DJ set, even if the turntablist is very skilled. On contrary, for club goers, it does not make much difference, as they come to dance, not admire art. Especially when the crowd cannot see the instruments, the cannot relate an added sound with the move of the hand. Now, in this circumstance, DJs playing records are in a far easier and better situation. Obviously, the pressure is different when you play a record, then playing improvised chords on four synthesizers with only two hands, but this is not the case. The issue is sound processing, final engineering of each track, which live acts lack, to a large extent. You can tweak "raw" stereo sum with a mixer, a compressor to the stage, but still the quality of music recorded by producers at home then pumped to the maximum level in a professional studio, will be far better. And very often producers use software synthesizers, which get really "fat and juicy" in the mastering process only. Still - hardware instruments sound far better than the recorded, the spectrum is broader, the bass is deeper. The quality of instruments is all that matters in my case at most... and when I earn more - a private sound engineer ;)
Electronic music can be played from records or played live. You can also do both things at once - while improvising. That's what we're all about last Saturday - synthesizer sets, cut and mixed with perfectly selected vinyl records. This time as Improwizards, the magic was done by Gray Pantone (ESP/DE), DJ_Rola_Selektora (PL) and me -Klar Kinelis.
It was f@c&i#g awesome, that's all I can say. Friends, love and good techno. In the movie I attached, Grey Pantone and me play hardware only set.
I had a pleasure to play during Bartek Kubicki's birthday in the foyer of Ochota Theater. My solo live set on hardware was scheduled right after three pro DJ's sets - Rola_Selektora, legendary Risky and the world famous Karina (Lady K). I must say I was very anxious to play, but the love for making music is far stronger than any stage anxiety I can imagine. It was even more fun & love I could imagine.
The two hardware sets, by Grey Pantone and me, were quite different from the vinyl part of the evening. Karina finished with deep house vibes oscillating around 120 bpm. I took it off there and played a cover of her last song moving slowly up through deep & acid vibes, filled with pads played straight from Roland SH-201. As hardware music is created and arranged live, I made a 45 minute musical trip from 120bpm house to deep melodic techno at fast 132bpm. Then Grey Pantone took over with his live, "proper techno" set.
The most beautiful thing was, that one girl came to me at the end of the night and said: Warsaw is too small for you. Thank you. I am going in the right direction.