parallel dimensions / an interview with rrose

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rrose inhabits a parallel dimension. at least, that’s what she’d have you believe. her music is grounded in the kind of thoughtful electronic elements that make her a perfect fit for lucy’s stroboscopic artefacts label, but at the same time, she is outlandish enough that her transportive 2015 album, never having written a note for percussion (comprised solely of a one-gong percussion piece) made perfect sense. she’s one of electronic music’s more mysterious figures, an artist that flits between not only genres, but between pronouns and perhaps even personalities.

it’s with this in mind that i accept rrose’s offer to meet at a sound bath meditation session hosted by stoboscopic boss, lucy. taking place one a month at the studio sonne in neukölln, it’s almost too fitting a setting for our talk. lucy helms the meditation session, starting out with breathing exercises before the sound bath — accomplished with a 90 cm handcrafted nepalese gong and three different mallets — begins. it’s true what they say about gong baths; it’s mere minutes before things really start to bend. the experience overall is more soul-shaking than i would have thought: once you let go and give in to the sound, you start to understand what rrose means by “parallel dimensions.”

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2015 in songs

“says” that you play when your mind is wandering because every note seems to travel, too. you listened to this record so many times you could have worn it out and when you finally heard it live you understood what it means to be blown away by music. sound. movement. everything. you spent months organising an interview with nils. the work was your chef d’oeuvre, the thing you put your everything into, and when you showed up at his flat the walls were so white. stacks of records. more pianos than you could count. you smoked cigarettes with him and drank coffee and talked about silver apples of the moon. he sat down to play and you literally held your breath. everyone was quiet and the silence lasted a year until he started to play and it felt like fireworks.

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anatomy of a surprise / how unsound is perfecting the art of the music festival

++ by scott simpson of culture chaser

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there are a number of great festivals around, but none have come as close to perfecting the art of the music festival as unsound has. twelve years in and unsound still has more than a few tricks up its sleeves, including this year’s theme: surprise. a relatively simple one to be sure, but one that managed to astound, delight, and confound in equal measures. the premise was straightforward: organizers announced a select number of this year’s performers, the rest would be discovered as they came on stage and later announced through the festival’s social media channels. while this may come off as gimmicky on paper, it worked remarkably well in practice. but a theme is just a theme and does not a festival make. these are only some of the many reasons why this edition of unsound might have almost achieved perfection.

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fueling the zeitgeist / pop-kultur berlin in review

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pop-kultur festival was nothing if not true to its name. taking place at the infamous berghain and its surrounding venues, pop-kultur was a rotating cast of the leading figures in contemporary electronica; a stack on stack of your standard music festival events. all packed into a mere three days of evening and nighttime gigs, the festival gave you exactly what you expected — almost to a fault. here’s why.

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everything but the kitchen synth / an interview with morton subotnick

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“i used to live across the way from 8th street records in new york city in 1967,” morton subtonick is telling the audience at the premiere for i dream of wires in berlin. he’s seated next to alec empire and the film’s director, robert fantinatto; they’ve both got the same look on their faces, a mixture of bemusement and fascination. “before i’d even gotten my own copy of silver apples of the moon, i decide to go into the record shop and buy it for myself, and i walk in there feeling as tall as a giant. i ask the guy at the counter, ‘have you got silver apples of the moon by morton subotnick? i’d like to buy it.’” subotnick pauses for a moment, setting up for the punchline, delivered with perfect self-deprecation: “‘yeah, we had it,’ he says, ‘but we’re sold out. people have been buying it up — i don’t know why though, it’s a piece of shit.’”

subotnick has, as they say, done it all. the record in question, silver apples of the moon, was the first longform electronic piece pressed on vinyl, and the first electronic album commissioned by a label, nonesuch records, in 1967. he created the album on a buchla modular synthesizer, the first piece of analog sound equipment small enough to fit on a desk, one that subotnick had a hand in designing. he’s a composer, a sound engineer, a multi-instrumentalist, a performer, a professor of music theory, and a founding member of the san francisco tape music center. he was the first ever music director at the actors workshop in new york. he helped established the california institute of the arts in 1969. his work has been immortalized in the library of congress. he’s lived, it seems, a hundred lives. he’s done “everything but the kitchen sink” — or in this case, the kitchen synth.

subotnick makes a lengthy appearance in the modular synthesizer documentary i dream of wires, alongside pioneers like ramon sender and herb deutsch, as well as contemporaries like carl craig, drumcell, and james holden. the film was five years in the making, and as fantinatto explains in his opening remarks, once subotnick was on board, they knew they had something special. “when i was a kid, i was at the library in my hometown, leafing through the record collection when i saw the sleeve for mort’s sidewinder,” fantinatto recalls, smiling, “there’s a small photo of him working on a modular synthesizer. i thought to myself, ‘man, what is that?’ and that’s where it all started. i was obsessed.”

evidently, that is where it starts for most lovers of modular and electronic music. subotnick has inspired an entire next generation of musicians, composers and producers. the day before his appearance at the wires premiere, where he would be participating in a live Q&A followed by a live performance, i sat down with mr. subotnick to talk modular, dreams, and being “the first.”

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