14 videos to remind you why it's fun to play techno live - Create Digital Music

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14 videos to remind you why it’s fun to play techno live For many of us, there’s a special pleasure to seeing someone play live – and dancing to someone playing live. And by “live,” I don’t mean “a bunch of your tracks cued up as scenes in Ableton Live or on an Elektron.” I mean genuinely improvised. Electronic dance music naturally lends itself to on-the-spot creation. A rigid grid, easily-understood conventions around instrumentation and form, and the fact that styles like techno are built around machines all add up to natural experimentation. Yet, oddly, it seems there’s a lot more discussion around DJ technique than there is around live technique, especially when it comes to playing with machines. And that’s not to say DJing can’t be performative, creative, and spontaneous. But there is some logic behind labeling certain sets “live” – and expecting that they won’t feature pre-recorded track materials in the same way. With that in mind, I’m constantly on the hunt for good live acts. A lot of these are experienced in the dark, with no cameras in sight. Even audio recordings often suffer from glitches. (Batteries died. Levels were set wrong. Someone forgot to hit record.) And maybe that’s a good thing – electronic music and acoustic music alike benefit from some awareness that you had to be there. But we do need some evidence that this is going on. And I think music made for dancefloors and clubs deserve that awareness as much as music made for concerts and experimental venues. (Indeed, whereas these once catered to very different audiences, now the interests go increasingly hand in hand.) So, I hope this will also be a frequent feature on CDM (experimental-ish to dance-ish to whatever). Here are some recent finds – all of them people I’ve had the pleasure to see (and sometimes know) in person, too. With shows like Boiler Room focusing more on DJs than live, it’s actually hard to find a whole lot of this stuff – harder than I thought. But that’s slowly changing, and I’m indebted here (and got on this kick) thanks to a great video series from RA at Dimensions this year. I could do without all the crowd shots, but that’s just me. Who: Underground ResistanceHails from: DetroitWhen and where: Dimensions in Croatia, this yearGear: Easier to list what isn’t there than what is. Synths, keys, machines… saxophone!Takeaway: Don’t believe dance music has some of its roots in jazz? Just listen; it’s better than anything I could write. And wow, is it great. More like this, please. (My father played the sax, so I can say it’s part of why I got into music, listening to him play in the pep band in college basketball games. And it’s part of why I love loud, too.) Who: Milena KriegsHails from: Warszawa, PLWhen and where: Two here, since they’re short – Nowa Jerozolima with BTS in 2013, Brancaleone in Rome earlier this year.Gear: Laptop here, mainly.Takeaway: I love Milena’s dark, moody sound – it’s a creepy place that’s somehow pleasant to hang out. Hope we get some better video of her soon. Who:SurgeonHails from: Birmingham, UKWhen and where: Dimensions againGear: Laptop plus modularTakeaway: Surgeon is just a master, as evidenced by his cool stage demeanor. His live sets take the shape of DJ sets, but there’s quite a lot going on apart from playing records, and he is pretty much a benchmark for how to use modulars live convincingly – not just as stage dressing, but as integral to the music. Who: LegoweltHails from: Den Haag, NLWhen and where: Dimensions one more timeGear: Laptop, monome, Novation – and as always, signature ElecTribes.Takeaway: I like this Legowelt set, but I even loved more his (and other) grimy KORG ElecTribe-powered acid sets at Studio80 at 2014’s ADE, among other locations. His dirty, very Dutch, no-holds-barred sound is fantastic, and I love the raunchy KORG sound in there. Who: Dasha RushHails from: Berlin (originally Russian)When and where: Boiler Room Berlin, 2014.Gear: Lots of controllers, laptop. Dasha’s an Ableton user but a lot of her live set focuses on a self-made Reaktor patch – hope to sit down with her soon and see how that works, as I haven’t been able to tell clearly from looking over her shoulder.Takeaway: Dasha is amazing – she can do chin-scratching ambient all the way to four-on-the-floor club music. It’s been more of the latter lately on her tours, so it’s nice to go back to the cat mask-wearing ambient Dasha, even if (or maybe especially because) it’s unusual Boiler Room fare. Who: Blush_ResponseHails from: Cuba, originally; now based in BerlinWhen and where: Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London, May 25Gear: Modular. Lots of it. “DPO and shapeshifter for the main Oscs, cwejman MMF-1 and WMD Synchrodyne for filtering, Echophon and Erbe verb.” Plus Elektron: “Octatrack and RYTM”Takeaway: Joey’s unforgiving, industrial-hypnotic approach is still danceable. I can’t wait to see him at the infamous Gegen in Berlin, on the anything-goes “drone floor.” …

From the electronic underground, here are artists playing live who really play live - from spontaneous machine improv to sax solos.

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