I shouldn’t let it bother me, but I was worried that the recent slew of clean acoustic nu-folk gigs which I’ve been covering were making this blog look a bit too cosy. It’s perversely comforting to find that the electronic ends of things can be just as cute.
Eden Grey presents:
CV FREQS London
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Sunday 31st July 2016, 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm – free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information here, here and here
Hosted by Eden Grey (a budding classical composer whose life changed when she fell in love with electro and dubstep), CV FREQS appears to be a globetrotting all-day modular synth meet. Since Eden’s move to London, it’s begun to base itself more in the city: the last one, back in May, was down on the south bank at IKLECTIK, while this month it’s pitching up in a different riverbank locale in the north. CV FREQS starts off by defining itself as covering “innovations in modular synthesis design, focusing on Eurorack format, custom synthesisers and embracing the DIY spirit” but rapidly gets excited and starts enthusing about being “a wonderfully cacophonous event focusing on the tools that are ideal for sound design and music creation.” and ends up frothing about “a carnival of soundwaves and control voltages”. As if it were a soundclash – or a picnic – attendees are invited to bring their own synths and speakers along.
Apparently, it would also be nice if you could bring a table. Never mind soundclashes. This is starting to sound like a church jumble sale in Hampshire, albeit one that’s about to go all sonic-bacchanalia.
At root, this is part encounter group and part informal trade show in which hardened or nascent electronicians can wander around, trying out and picking up those innocuous-looking, technoporn-titled hardware or software plugins which bring joy to a sound-masher’s heart (and a battery of warped noises to their woofers). This is where to get previews and demonstrations of convulsion generators, wavefolders, stargigglers, deflector shields, quantimators, proton gabblers, spectral devastators, squishmagogs and source-of-uncertainty modules plus all of the other gizmos that sound as if they’ve sprouted from a game of ‘Elite’ back in 1983 along with a starship cargo of Ceti rabbits and Baltah’sine Vacuum Krill. Yes, really – I only made a couple of those names up.
Cheap geek-to-geek shots aside, CV FREQS is the kind of event which quietly – and effectively – changes a musician’s life. Wandering around in the crowds at the show there’ll be at least one nascent electronic musician about to finally finds the device, devices or piece of advice which unlock the doors to a new technique: the key to making them sound or work like themselves rather than a follower. Gaining the right implement, the right process, the right move – it’s probably more important than gaining a hero. That’s something to remember the next time I’m tempted to make a smutty joke about ring modulators.
As a bonus that’s far more than a simple sideshow, attendees have the chance to see a range of modular synth performers in action, beyond the straight demos. The range available might not compete with a festival in terms of numbers, but would easily match one in terms of sonic breadth. This is heightened by the fact that many of these players aren’t just end-users but genuine solder-and-code sonic innovators, building or programming the tools which they use.
Finlay Shakespeare from Future Sound Systems offers spacey zap-crackle-and-pop dancetronica, while Colloid (the performance alter-ego of Ginko Synthese’s Jan Willem Hagenbeek) pursues “an ongoing search for noises, clicks and evolving sounds… deep drones with uplifting arpeggios and cut up beats.” Jan doesn’t mention the squiggling, lapping clouds of avant-garde piano (perhaps because they don’t fit the twangy modular remit), but they’re a significant part of the puzzle as well. The rapid-fire music of Gregg Wilson is stimulating, cheeky and mischievous: a typical piece sounds like an argument between at least eight bits of blipping, boing-ing minimalism, and is likely to turn into a massed affectionate chiptune brawl-cum-pub singalong.
Dedicated improviser, software-synth guru and former Ticklish man Phil Durrant will be bringing along his Sowari Modular project for its debut live performance. A spinoff from his Trio Sowari (in which he usually plays with saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and percussion/device-fiddler Burkhard Beins), this setup sees Phil experiment with Sowari ideas alone with his synth. Also playing is Iran-born, London-based polydisciplinary artist Pouya Ehsaei, for whom music is one of a number of interlocking forms (among other qualification, he’s got a music doctorate for the University of York, a prime training ground for contemporary classical and experimental musicians). On 2014’s ’There’ – his first record under his own name – Pouya analysed and reflected both the ancient and recent history of his birth country by processing and pulverising samples of traditional Iranian music (including two Ahmad Shamloo prison poems) to tap into culture and repression, melancholia and rage. On this occasion, however, he’s more likely to be playing as his Seated Figure project – ambiguous analogue techno which juxtaposes an eerie mix of springiness, queasy pitch-and-key shifts, and a baleful solitary tone.
It’s not entirely clear who Deep Learning are, but the clues point towards a full or partial teamup of two trios – the Sydney-based electronic/noise/pop/“fantasy beat” band PVT (whose Richard Pike recently relocated to Britain), the London-based Hrím (singer Ösp Eldjárn, programmer/Brian Eno sidekick Cherif Hashizume, and singer/multi-instrumentalist Anil Sebastian of London Contemporary Voices and assorted Imogen Heap projects)- and Merkaba Macabre (a.ka. Steven McInerney, founder of the Hackney Film Festival and the Psyché Tropes experimental record label). The three tracks below will either point the way towards the collaboration, or completely misguide us.
Throughout the event, Newport audio-visualist duo Form Constants (Ginko‘s synth tinkerer and circuit-bender Aidan R. Taylor and video artist Kim Da Costa, who call themselves “a plethora of electrified grit for the senses”) will be using their self-built video synths to run “hypnotic light bands” around the venue. As for Eden Grey, there’s no evidence that she’s going to be actually performing at the party she’s throwing, but my guess is that she won’t be able to resist. Whether or not that’s true, here’s a taste of some of her recent work (in the techno vein, though she’s also been known to put a post-Wendy Carlos spin on Erik Satie).