installment 2 of weekly track from rreplay
installment 2 of weekly track from rreplay
installment 2 of weekly track from rreplay
Gonna try and put up a rreplay track each week. This one floats away on guitar and bass then transforms into the bomdiddybom bewaka before exploding, after which the pieces all float down. Named after the things in your eye that float around looking like they are there but aren’t.
rreplay’s new album, Live from the Uncanny Valley is available for streaming on SoundCloud:
Ok, so some people have been asking if rreplay’s new album, “live from the uncanny valley” is really live. Somewhat ironically, the human automaton that monitors CDbaby titles added “(live recording)” to all our tracks when it caught the title, and I had to get a real human to go in and remove them all after explaining.
The title comes from the idea of the uncanny valley in gaming and animation circles. The idea was first proposed by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970, and much of the research on this aspect of robotics comes out of Japan. I only say this because my partner — demonstrating the disturbing nature of the uncanny valley — responded to seeing a picture of a realistic-but-not-quite-there Asian woman with “What’s this orientalist shit?” Sending me off searching for another image. I settled on the one at the top after the one of Christopher Reeves as superman was deemed “not creepy enough” on the forum where it was posted as an example of the uncanny valley. I don’t know, I think it qualifies.
The idea is that people form emotional attachments to images, particularly moving ones, and that as long as an animation is suitably unrealistic, people can make their attachments unpreturbed. But as soon as animations start getting closer to realistic without making it all the way there, people start getting bothered by the familiarity combined with the cognitive dissonance of some parts of the rendering still being off. This gets at the heart of what early twentieth century theorists called the “uncanny.” Supposedly, if animation gets good enough, it can make it across the uncanny valley and into photorealism without setting off our alarms. Figures that the gamers on reddit would think that Superman, a White Guy if ever there was one, would get there first. And let’s just avoid altogether various Hollywood plastic surgery disasters…
OK, but what about the album? rreplay’s new album is not live in any traditional sense, although all the parts are recorded at once in a live fashion with no overdubs. It is thus part of the way there. But there is more to its uncanniness, which in the aural realm is not always a bad thing (at least that is where we are placing our bets).
In synthesized music, when the sound is suitably distant and artificial, it is comedically cheesy. To escape that trap, it needs complexity and a dynamic between predictability and unpredictability. It is probably no coincidence that one of the adjectives that crops up most often in describing the uncanny valley’s visual realm is borrowed from the sonic: “dissonant.” The past decade or so has seen the fetishization of the analog warmth of early synths, with their unpredictable, non-linear quirks that come from the imperfect renderings of math in vacuum tubes, rare earth, and silicon. Analog synths are generally far enough away from any acoustic instrument to not enter the downward slope of the uncanny valley, although some of the renderings could be supremely creepy, as in synth/singer 70s nowave duo suicide’s uncanny ghost rider with its interplay of anxious and urgent vocals over an unquantized sequenced backing. Not always a bad thing.
With the digital, the uncanny valley comes back in force. Much of the supposedly cold clinical feel of digital music probably arises from the audio uncanny. In digital, there are no non-linear, erratic human elements unless they are put there, whether programmed, or via the filters of digital controllers, or via underlying touch. I’ll refrain from demonstrating the bad with some 80s DX7 synth hit because it will undoubtably be someone’s favorite song.
The feel, touch, and timbre of a piano, an acoustic guitar — or for that matter, an electric played through a tube amp — are all difficult to emulate. Digital synthesists have long had problems emulating “real” instruments because the variables are simply too many and too ineffable to get all of them reduced to algorithms even with mega-gigabite round-robin samples — though great music continues to be made. The best answer I have found (partly because I can’t afford the latest greatest bestest synths and samplers, partly because without overdubbing, I would need a computer farm to play them live anyway) is not to break on through to the other side a la Superman via more and better algorithms, but to mix the controllers (and like a good controllerist, I like to get as many of those digital balls in the air as I can) and digital (vst) synths with the touch and feel of electric and acoustic guitar, themselves emulated digitally at the amplifier end — and in the case of the acoustic sound, via convolution — but played on an actual guitar and bass at the other.
The mixing together of the two in “Live from the Uncanny Valley” makes for what we hope is an uncanny adventure, strangely familiar with a dose of dissonance, perhaps even sometimes disturbing, but always recognizable for that which it is a simulacrum of by the human touch on the guitar and bass underlaying all the maths and controllers. Hope you will give us a listen — preview will play the full album.
Also, if you are in Honolulu, please stop down at Manifest in Chinatown Weds, 5/13 from 6-8 for our record release party, featuring an uncannily live performance from rreplay crossed with the dj sounds of count weevil.
Digging through some unmixed stuff today and came up with this one, called tape jam in honor of the old sci fi computer tape gone awry part. It is all guitars except the drum loops, played live with the boring parts chopped out. Here is the soundcloud version too:
As usual, Facebook people need to come to http://way.net/waymusic to hear the music.
I may be playing Dark Arts again, or as it is properly known, Off Art After Dark, at Thomas Square on April 24. More details if I get them. I will do a guitar through the laptop set and then probably play with Laulani and Dave if they are coming.
The Revolution Books show went well. I gave the synesthesia machine its public debut. It was a big hit. I have a short video I’ll post once we get internet in Kolkata for those who don’t know what I’m talking about.
DJ Anthony Chang beatboxed to “The Revolution will not be on the internet.” He and his friend Matt were visiting from CA. I will post links to some of their music soon.
Now for 34 hours of flying!!
We’ll be back in Hawaii August first at long last! Come celebrate at Anna Bananas, where I’ll be playing as BeepLab (Bengali for revolution!). I’ll be going on some time after 10:30. It’ll be all instrumental from me. Here is some of the stuff I’ve been playing lately:
. . . and below is the poster with the details. I hope you all who are in Honolulu can make it!
Another plugin maker who makes cool music is Skye Klein from Australia, who plays under the moniker of Terminal Sound System along with a bunch of other projects. His music, in TSS anyway, is dubby, minimalist, occasionally bordering on ambient but at other times moving towards industrial glitching. His latest album is Compressor, and another, Constructing Towers, is due out soon You can hear the latest music at the TSS site. His older stuff is all downloadable from Embryo Records. Among my favorites from the old stuff are minimal tolerance to injected errata, deep trauma, and tomorrow will not come, though I have not really listened to the whole catalogue yet.
His plugin and software site is arcDev Noise Industries, which has a frustratingly cool web interface that evokes some alien version of DOS or the ancient gopher net protocol. Type ‘help’ if you can’t figure it out.
I use two of his plugins a lot. The first is the aptly named hosebeast, which you can hear in action on rreplay‘s sizzle. Hosebeast is a “5-part fx processor for noisy, lofi, glitchy and general audio mayhem” with a filter, granulator, warper, bitcrusher, and ring modulator in any combination, including multiples of the same. In other words a FSU device.
The other great arcDev plugin is arcDev’s entry in the 2007 KVR Developers’ Challenge plugin contest, Ellipsis. It, along with mdsp‘s livecut, which I’ll discuss in its own post some time, are responsible for the drums in cubanecho and f it from rreplay. Cubanecho also relies on mdsp’s entry in the 2006 KVR Developers’ Challenge, fire. If you take a guitar and set it standing up with the strings against a tabletop, then pull it away a little and let go, then the strings will bounce on the edge of the tabletop ever more rapidly, just so: Booooooooing Booooing Boooing Boing Bng Bn bn bnbnbnbnbn (I take no responsibility for any damage to guitars or furniture this may cause). Mdsp has figured out how to mathematically model that warping speed change using delays in fire.
The way Ellipsis works is that you load ten samples into it, most usefully, drum loops that will more or less go together. You have to tweak the settings a bit to make the drums play at the right (or wrong!) speed. Then when you hit a corresponding note on your midi controller (usually a keyboard, but I use a footboard), it triggers the loop. You can set it for any BPM and it will speed up or slow down your loop accordingly, or sync it to your plugin host. If you only like the last half or the first quarter of the loop, you can play just that, or play it in reverse. One useful way to set it is to put the same drum loop in several times and play different portions of it frontwards or backwards to give some variation to the drums.
So that’s it for today. I couldn’t find any of mdsp’s music to play for you, but I hope you enjoy rreplay and Terminal Sound System.
So, all these people making vst plugins, it seems they do it first so that they can get some sound or another from inside their head out into the world, or lacking that they try to just see how badly they can fuck with it, mangle it, stretch it, scratch it, chebyshev it, stomp it, or otherwise apply some arcane equation to hear what happens themselves and if it is anything interesting or they actually get the sound they hear in their heads out into the world, then the coolest of them release them unto the world with it sometimes becoming a business, and there are some amazing plugins that are worth parting with a few bucks, but mostly I suspect its about the sound.
So I have been listening a little to the music of plugin or bidule writers to hear what they are doing with their own inventions. Let me start with Jerry Smith, who makes what are called “groups” for plogue bidule. These are like plugins, but because they remain within bidule they don’t crash, which is a lovely thing. Not that crashes aren’t sometimes lovely. Sometimes. Jerry and his wife Sonsherée Giles collaborate on multimedia performances. Sonsherée is a dancer and Jerry does sound installations/music for her performances. I don’t know anything about dance but enjoyed the pieces, but I’ll keep the details of what I enjoyed to myself so as to cover up for some of said ignorance. The soundscapes/music are textural, you can practically feel them (tactilely rather than emotionally is what I mean here). David Toop, in writing about the experimental music scene in one of his books (either Haunted Weather or Oceans of Sound can’t remember which, but they are both great) , talks about how musicians are playing with very short and long times, and exploring very quiet sounds. The quiet sounds are the stuff of the textures here, and one of Toop’s points is that it makes people listen if not more attentively then closer. I have not been through the whole site yet, but a good example of this is the first piece, “opening” for the dance piece performed by Sonsherée, Music for
One Breath is an Ocean for a Wooden Heart. While this piece is entirely texture without notes, when the notes do come they are sparse and placed carefully. No pyrotechnics here, something much better. Consider “theme 3: Collapse” or “Sad Ending” for examples.
Jerry, who travels under the moniker jersmi on the plogue bidule forums, helped me out on the one group I’ve worked on, called the rhythmecho, and has provided a bunch more help to anyone trying to figure out the workings of bidule. To hear an example of one of his groups, called J-BGran-X, a granulator if you know what that is, along with the rhythmecho and several others (all referred to in the title somehow or another…no time to unpack the whole thing now) check out my newest, awkwardly named crackly kerrstinn granulated double lama (fixed corrupted file. 8/6).
Gotta run to the airport, so that’s it for now.
I finally broke down and bought Oli Larkin‘s great dronebox and polycomb VSTs. I’ve been using an old demo version of dronebox for a while, but when I figured out how to run midi notes out of my guitar into the polycomb filter, the results were too cool so I straightened up and bought it. Dronebox is a set of six or seven resonant comb filters with all sorts of tweakable settings. You tune each one to a note, and when the corresponding note gets fed through, it resonates like a sympathetic string. I use it as the wash in these two ambient pieces: “ambient 040328” and “ambient 040428“. The loop is recorded live with the elogoxa Elottronix plugin, which has a great filter section you can hear tweaked in both pieces. A bit more rocking, this song combines the dronebox with another of my favorite plugs, Krakli’s TrAmp, in a song suitably named “dronebox tramp.” This time the looper is loopy llama or mobius, can’t remember which. Both are great…I’ve generally gone with loopy llama lately ‘cuz its simpler and uses less resources. You can hear it a lot in rreplay, where TrAmp, Dronebox, and DK+ drums, all get worked out regularly in plogue bidule. Mobius is a spot-on emulation of the Gibson echoplex. You can use the same manual for most of the controls. Oh, except mobius is like having 8 echoplexes. Oh, and with unlimited loop length. Oh, and its free instead of about a thousand bucks.
And now back to Oli’s plugins. If you want to know what polycomb will do to guitar, check out this freshly recorded piece, polycombatose, where I am just working through all the presets. The looper is loopy llama this time, recording just the bass (the trusty Hohner slammer run through an electri-Q eq and ruby tube tube emulator). Missing Eric on the bass… The drums on both dronebox tramp and polycombatose are from nusofting’s most excellent DK+ drum machine, this time imitating an ancient Acetone rhythm box. In order to get midi notes out of the guitar, I use G-Tune (which besides being a strobe-accurate tuner, converts the signal it reads to a midi note) and then run its midi out to a maple midi port. Of course, everything is played and recorded in one take via the ever-amazing plogue bidule.
Leave a comment if you wish, would love to know if you are listening.