I got the chance to play the regular Mixology night at Gabe’s in Iowa City, and for the past few weeks I’ve been collecting tracks I wanted to play and fiddling around with a DJ setup for them in Live. I had two impulses — play current and current-ish music that I like, and to collect some of my all-time favorite tracks. I was also mercilessly stealing ideas from other DJs. I grabbed the “The It” tracks (actually Larry Heard) on Thomas Cox of Pittsburgh Track Authority’s recommendation, and the Boards of Canada remix I heard in a mix by Aidan O’Doherty.
But tracks like those by Moodymann, DBX, Basic Channel, and DJ Pierre are ones that everyone played fifteen or twenty years ago, and among the first that I got to recognize when other DJs played them. The DJ I opened for, RAfrika wasn’t even born when some of those tracks came out. But I figure if they worked in 1996, they’ll work now and the kids dancing will never have heard them.
One track that always gets me: Patrice Rushen “Haven’t You Heard?” Larry Levan did the edit, but a lot of people first heard its musical DNA in the Daddy’s Favorite track “I Feel Good Things For You.” Always like playing the original of something sampled on a big track.
The idea of I Hear IC is to gather people from Iowa City to present brief performances in a local coffee house. Peformances were in the range of 10-20 minutes. Other performers on this night included Jazz singers, an improvisation from two Iranian musicians and a small ensemble improvising a new soundtrack for old cartoons.
In that context I knew that it wasn’t like playing an hour-long techno set; no one would be dancing so the kick drum didn’t need to be in the mix the whole time. As it happened I finally brought it in at around 6 minutes; this goes back to early 90s origins of ambient techno, when producers would do long beatless intros to tracks. The rise of ‘popular’ ambient — with the KLF and the Orb being the most famous proponents — grew out of never actually bringing in the beat. Sonically I think this piece has a bit of the Orb about it.
It’s also an instance of not holding anything back. I went back over projects on my studio machine and plundered them for interesting sounds and loaded them all together in one set where I could mix and match stuff that originally went with much different music. I recorded a lot of sounds from my outboard synthesizers, playing loop clips and tweaking knobs to get some movement. The main repeated pad changes chords but it was accidental — I discovered that the JP6 would change the pitch of sounds when I jacked up cross mod. Which is fun because I was playing a slider; the chords were not exactly in tune.
The basic framework was dictated by a tonal center of C Minor. The bassline is straight 16th notes playing C C Eb Eb. That kind of simplistic sequencing reminds me a bit of early Tangerine Dream.
It was cold and snowy and there wasn’t much in the way of an audience, but I got to try out some new stuff. Starting about 14:00 I have a section that samples (well, granulates) Milk & Eggs aka Jordan Sellergren. It ultimately bears only the most tenuous relationship to the original music which is wonderful in my opinion.
I don’t get to play out that much — I’d like to do it more often — but the general framework of what I’m doing goes back a couple of years, so it’s time to tear it down and build up something new. Expect more chances for live mistakes and chaos.
So this was a vinyl mix, which means it isn’t as perfect with respect to mixing as my Ableton Live sets. It’s more fun, and scarier, actually, and track ordering is more spontaneous. I did a few level adjustments and cut out the skips at the end of Mercedes Boy, but other than that it’s what went out over air and the radio, including skips in the Depeche Mode track…
I had a fine time, though it would have been great if more people showed up — I mean I’m used to playing to mostly empty rooms, but we had guys in from out of town who hit a deer trying to get there. But hey, Thursday night at Gabe’s — hard to draw a lot of people. Anyway Moldover sounded great. I particularly liked the a cappela song he opened with, and his guitar playing, which always drove the songs and sounded great. Exaltron has evolved a unique approach to live performance, combining voice, trumpet and guitar, live looping, expertly programmed sampled drumming and crazy electronic messing about.
I was mostly happy about my set, which may have come from working myself into a tizzy for weeks getting read to play. Mostly new stuff done in the past couple months, some of it bespoke for the live set.
My friend David Talento was trying to organize his studio and found some cassettes I’d sent him in the 1990s. The real find was what may be the last remaining copy of tracks by Jason Welch, local rave promoter and sometime musician. But I’ll deal with that stuff later.
One of the other things is a recording of a live set I did in 1996 (I believe) at the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company (what is now Moonrakers restaurant). In those days I pretty much dragged my whole studio out to play live — a Roland Jupiter 6, Casio CZ-1, Roland TR707, a home-made plywood rack of gear, a desktop computer and CRT.
I don’t even remember most of the stuff I played, or even how I played it — I suspect I was using Opcode Vision and a Turtle Beach Pinnacle card as a sampler. Vision had a facility something like Ableton Live’s clips — you could trigger chunks of midi sequences live. The beginning of the set sounds a bit like Drexciya. Anyway it isn’t bad, and interesting to hear it as a time capsule from 16 years ago.
Recorded this last Saturday Night. David Talento came for a short visit and we set up and jammed with what was at hand. I’m a huge fan of what David got out of the DX27 and an EH MemoryMan pedal — he could do a whole live set just with that.
The past 2 Saturday nights I spent in the KRUI studios playing vinyl. I make no great claims for my mixing skills, but I guarantee this is 100% real for better or worse.
Rather than, as I have in the past, manually type in an HTML table, I made my track lists in Google Docs. That, unfortunately, is no way to get clean HTML tables, not only are they formatted for machine eyes only, they have tables nested in tables with annoying breaks. So I embedded the google docs with <iframe>, which has its own formatting annoyances. But it does get the information in this post with a minimum of retyping.
Oh wait, I spent 45 minutes googling around trying to come up with a nicer way to do that, & installed a WordPress plugin that was even fuglier. Oh well…