The end of February is fast approaching and the album is coming together. The recorded material we took away from the session at the beginning of the month is rather rough. Two days just isn’t a lot of time for a such a diverse group to musically cohere. But it was a good start for the next session and the seeds of many fruitful methodologies were planted. More on those later. For now we focus on the album.
What better way to illustrate the range of material we captured than through distraction-proof 30-min excerpts.
1. This first bit comes from one of the early takes that came out of an improvisatory “get to know each other” game we played in groups of three. A single leader would choose two playmates and assign them instruments along with a stylistic directive. Often players would pick up instruments they had never played, and the stylistic directives ran the gamut of abstraction from “surprise happiness” to “cockroach”. The result was mostly chaotic, spontaneous noise music of varying stylistic ilk. When approaching the compositional aspect of this album I had to somehow figure a plan out for dealing with this mish-mash of material. This take was the one most in need of production love. The mantra of “we’ll fix it in post” comes to mind. Certainly the producer’s touch is ever present, but due to the extensive manipulations this track is more marked by my personal artistic style than any other. Instruments include an original 1971 Putney VCS3, hand-made oscillator circuits, voice and feedback.
2. This second excerpt features more material from these early exercises. This one came together far more fluidly, and is (more or less) a single take. Instruments featured are one of Yuri Landman’s Homeswingers, hand-made electronic oscillators, and the glorious VCS3. The VCS3 has a dirty, lo-fi sound that I am absolutely in love with. It’s like the whiskey-laden high lonesome sound of analog synths. And playing it? Forget keyboards. It’s control voltage only! Legend has it that Michel Waisvisz, director of STEIM for 26 years, received his initial inspiration for the legendary CrackleBox from opening up the back of one of these synths and touching the sound circuitry inside.
3. The third excerpt comes from the second day. This day we began to explore more conducting-inspired approaches to improv, by assembling small groups and having a single player act as conductor, playing the group as if they were themselves the notes of an instrument. This take is from a series of vocal/instrumental groupings featuring key phrases cut from the Future of the Lab (book). We were lucky to have such a culturally diverse group, so we decided to capitalize on this by playing the phrases off in a myriad languages, creating a linguistic firefly swarm where semantic meaning is constantly flickering in and out.
4. The final excerpt comes from one of the few loose free jam sessions interspersed throughout the two days, just to take a breath between more “serious” sessions. Adhering to all these rules and exercises can get exhausting.