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My recent electronic music exploration

Posted on Tuesday 18 July 2006

Anyone who knows me will know that squarepusher is one of my favorite electronic artists, and even, artists of all time. His groovy jazz, funky beats, backbreaking tempos and mind-bending editing make it sound like the most complicated, innovative music I’ve ever heard. Granted he has a lot to thank from Aphex Twin and the drum and bass scene, but hearing his music made me a convert because of his dnb fusion with jazz and classical music. A journey to reedham is possibly my favorite song, and his use of dissonance is brave and approaches mastery.

I have tried to model squarepusher for at least 5 years, with less than moderate success using Reason and Fruityloops. I’m finding that while they have the ability to trigger samples, start and end points, and triggering to the degree I want, their editing and sequencing interfaces are maddening. Yes I know that hyper-editing like they do takes hours upon hours, but the pencil tool and envelope editor just don’t cut it in reason, and I’m not able to achieve all the effects they use just using the filters on the virtual instruments. Part of the problem may be my lack of a decent control interface, but I have a feeling I’m just using the wrong program.

While I’m dying to hear the new squarepusher album on October 16th, I’m also realizing maybe my squarepusher obsession has gotten a little unhealthy, after all it’s been 10 years since I feel like he released his best work. Since 2000 he’s released a lot of live tracks, and it’s harshly dissonant, noisy DJing that I don’t have the ears for, albeit Ultravistor was a well produced and pretty good album.

So I decided to branch out and expand my horizons. Embarrassingly, ITunes was what ‘opened my ears’ so to speak, but whatever. Their related artists brought me to AFX’s Hangable Auto Bulb, an album released in 1995. AFX turns out to be another alias for Aphex Twin, but it was still a fun album to discover.

A comment in ITunes called this type of music “drill ‘n bass”, a term I hadn’t heard before. Wikipedia has a good entry about it, it seems to appropriately describe the type of music squarepusher and aphex twin use that I have more generally referred to as IDM. I like the play on drum ‘n bass, though not enough people know what drum ‘n bass is anyway for it to catch on, and the one particular 128th note effect of repeating a note as a fill typical for this genre does sound kind of like a drill.

I’m not with the times though apparently, because drill ‘n bass is a term that has come and gone to be replaced by breakcore, which sounds kind of stupid to me.

The wikipedia article lead me to two artists though, Doormouse, which was too harsh for me, and Venetian Snares, which is brilliant. I immediately bought the album Cavalcade of Glee and Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom Poms. An album released this year, look at that! Venetian Snares is finally what I was looking for…An artist that took aphex twin and squarepusher’s drill ‘n bass and went further with it. He plays with 7/8, a time signature I love to use, and his fusion of classical and drill ‘n bass is something I based my undergraduate thesis on, with the concerto for drum ‘n bass and my ravel string quartet remix. He remixes Bartok a lot, which I approve of–Bartok’s string quartets are a century old but still sound fresher than most music to me, and are really emotional, meaningful pieces. And while he’s borrowed fill and effect ideas from squarepusher and aphex twin, he’s also pushed the envelope by introducing new effects and fusing it with more very original composition.

Venetian Snares is an artist I can approve of–he’s a solo artist who made a name for himself out of a studio in the middle of seemingly nowhere, in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada. It makes me feel better having moved from Chicago, IL to Saratoga Springs, NY. He also has an internet presence–he released a video on youtube showing how he used Renoise to program one of his commercially released tracks.

Renoise looks like an awesome program–it’s a tracker, an old school textual ascii/hex sequencer that scrolls vertically, but is new enough to run on OS X or windows XP and use any VST instruments or plugins. I’ve used trackers before a little, particularly a freeware music emulator app that mimicked the sound of Atari, but I never really learned it. Anyway I downloaded Renoise yesterday and am excited to learn it–their demo is free and fully functional, except for high quality ASIO output and WAV rendering. They have a big tutorial base and save their files in the same extension as Reason, RNS, but they don’t seem compatible. I wonder if Renoise was intentionally named within the theme of propellerhead’s software. Anyway, the program is cheap, only 40 euros, and programmed in an open-source mentality. Finally, maybe I’ve found a program that can handle the type of meticulous editing I want to do.

3 Comments for 'My recent electronic music exploration'

    September 25, 2006 | 8:45 am

    you know, this all started with kraftwerk in germany.. just watching the venetian snares video, and i can’t help but think, jordan needs to see kraftwerk. jordan needs to visit germany’s electronic music scene. check out some neat stuff from my native instruments buddy at http://www.hi-pi.de

    October 19, 2007 | 4:38 pm

    Yes Renoise is cool I have bought that today and trying around.

    But I have found a lot other ways to do the drill & bass musiq
    Try reaktor 5 and the modules L5 and Keymasher from tim exile they damn good

    I also make some cut & paste action with zero x beat slicer/creator

    Do you know edIT?

    I really want to know how he make such precise re-arranged beats

    November 20, 2010 | 10:13 am

    I recommend FL Studio.

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