the future is intrinsically egotistical

27 October 2010

Playing at O Tannenbaum last Friday was a good change up for me. Its the first time I've played in a bar as opposed to a club for about 5 years.  I played a six hour set from the Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Jamaica, No New York, London, India, Indonesia, Berlin, Columbia, Peru, DF, I don't know where, the 50s,60s,70s,80s,90s,00s but not much from the last year.  The last year is on quarantine for me.  Partly because I really want to make music myself so I don't to hear you other motherfuckers having fun.

Tannenbaum has lots of music heads there that come up to talk about records, lots of dancing, faces lost in genuine joy on the dancefloor (DJs live just to see that!), deadly strong belgian ales, chicks.  Crappy speakers.  Deer.  Ableton is annoying as fuck to DJ with, I'm over it. This APC-40 newfangled thing is pissing me off, every time I click a button I have to run it through my mind to make sure its the button I want to press.  Staring at the screen. Trying to find a track I know I want. Where's the search function ? Trying to find any tracks that I didn't already play.  In the 6th hour I just couldn't find the music.  Its just not made for DJing.

I'm thinking its time to move to Serato, especially now that we have The Bridge.  Now when these virtual DJ set ups first came out I scoffed at them.  Using a digital setup to emulate the past glories of the Age of Deejaying ?  GTFO.  That's mere simulation. I am a futurist, I am a mad programmer scientist and I will code up some fucking amazing futuristic tool that will let me splay beats across dimensions you haven't even heard of yet.  


Yes, futurism is arrogant by design. It implies bettering, furthering, competition.  Retro is actually a way to avoid this competitive ego drive (the desire to be ON IT, new, up to the time).  Even more so if the musician is dead: its all tribute then and his/her ego won't swell.


I was talking with a good old techno friend, Function, and as usual I was probably mouthing off about some new music and how great it was and then he butted in: "Why does it always have to be some new thing ?  Why does it always have to change ?"  Good question.  Much joy can be had by removing the need to progress and concentrating on learning the genre like an instrument.  I talked with Jamie Vex'd a little bit after that and he could NOT comprehend why anybody would want to make music within a fixed classic form.  For him it is all about the next sound and he could barely tolerate listening to me defend the classical approach.  Man, he was rubbed the wrong way just by the thought of it.  Function was pretty fussed too.


Well personally I crave newness and changes and I'll probably be on my deathbed wondering what's going to happen next after I'm gone.  Its the spice, I crave it.  Its common among smarty pants to fetishize change and relate it to Thinking and Big Thoughts.  But I like the historical music-from-all-decades approach too, and I'm old enough to be good at it.  I actually remember most of the decades that are currently retro-hip.  Hey, I was hip in the 80s !   Mike Wolf and I ran the Polar Bear Club in New York for 4 years and that was all about all-possible-musics, anything that fits on a turntable, we'll play it. Kein musik ist illegal.


Anyway I do love the concept of Deejaying (though not as much as Vajayjaying).  No 1700s science fiction writer would think of this:   vibrations carved in a V-shape on two black disks, synchronize them by adjusting the resistors going into the motor (despite having landed a man on the moon 50 years previously) and sit there maintaining this stupid sync while people dance through the transition.


The point, of course, is to create the THIRD RECORD. You know that, of course. Record one plays, record two sneaks in and therein arises the THIRD RECORD that manifests as a unique piece of music only to be experienced that night on that dance floor.  Wiggle it about, play with it, when nobody is looking, record one slinks off stage right.


Working with Ableton for a time let me concentrate on better blends, blends that said something and created something and didn't just try to blend in.  It also let me think about the set, the arcs of time, the experience of the night as it changes and we get lost, talk to people drunkenly, dance and sometimes get shivers down our spine as the music proclaims the evening.


The lengthy Ableton preparation was for me a kind of analysis, a careful considering. But now I've passed through that and its just annoying.  It took me about 10 hours to prepare a 6 hour set, and after 5 hours I couldn't find the tracks I was looking for.


People hate seeing somebody playing from a laptop. Its a simple fact.



Before I thought it was a joke to use a simulated interface, now I embrace this Simulation of the Past.  I'm a Simulated Girl living in a Simulated World.  I want to reference this vinyl past.


The only problem is that Serato requires turntables or USB disc controllers.  I would've played in this club in Zambia if I had CDs, but it was tricky to plugin Ableton.  Serato couldn't have happened at all.  What do ?


Live : I like the ability to beat sync things that are impossible to beat sync on turntables.  I find it funny that in this day and age we still hear DJs play records and they have to maintain the sync and fuck it up.  The old "sneakers in the dryer" bump bump bump thing.


Anyway I'm thinking I should use Serato and the (Ableton) Bridge which gives me the best of both worlds.  My friend Jeff Milligan spearheaded or consulted for the project and I need to look seriously into it.


So why are Rane SL-3 twice as expensive in Europe as in the US ?  That's a seriously overpriced piece of electronics, no ?



  1. 1 o))) says...

    But hasnt the sneakers in the dryer thing almost come full circle? Its almost endearing when you hear it now. Someone´s trying! (Hopefully)
    Depending of course, but theres something to be said for that roughness of two tracks bumping off each other, synced or not, and all the weirdness that can happen during that process…. versus the stretched, flattened, panel beaten, thing you end up with when you use the Warp button to suck out all the human error.

    Im talking more about non-computer sequenced music here, but try to imagine Gold Teeth Thief done in Ableton for instance..

  2. 2 timeblind says...

    exactly ! that's also what I'm feeling. its like the space of error and movement and slipping that you sense between the two records is that breath of air. with no slippage its like you aren't breathing, you are still in the matrix.

    they did change ableton so that you could use warp it then use the track to force the main timeline to follow that, but that's really only for producing, not for DJing.

    some combinations I can only do using ableton so I'll do those and play them using the bridge. that could be really cool. I need to try before I buy though.

  3. 3 geroyche says...

    minor remark: there is a third option to control serato.
    it accepts control cds as well as control vinys.

  4. 4 geroyche says...

    incidentally, i just ordered my first ever external soundcard, to initiate phase one of my switch to digital vinyl controlled djing.
    i want to use http://www.xwax.co.uk/ though. dj friends of mine are using it successfully, and have actually started to contribute code

  5. 5 timeblind says...

    that would work using the CDs. there are CDj setups worldwide. I really want to be able to dj when I travel. thankx. xwax looks ok.

  6. 6 geroyche says...

    xwax is at heart really "nothing more" than a tool to control playback via timecode vinyls (of any type btw).
    there are no built-in effects, let alone easter eggs like pong.
    there is a way to connect it to twitter though, which my friends use for their weekly dnb radio show (http://twitter.com/radiotdnb), and they also made a little script that writes the playlist to a text file.
    another friend is fiddling around with something where playback continues despite somebody causing the needle to skip. the little things that come with open source…

    unfortunately, there are limitations. as far as i understand you can't use one of those fancy midi controllers with it (say Kontrol S4), which could minimize 'screen staring'.

    but, as you say, the dedicated sl3 box is one piece of overpriced electronics. i reckon my new NI audio 4 dj will come in handy on other occasions too. i purchased spare traktor multicore cables as well, so that i can plug into setups without much hassle (or keep on playing while the next person plugs in). all this set me back by 235 euro.
    i've been strictly vinyl for the last couple of years and reckon i'll start my venture into digital with this, see if i find myself seriously limited by xwax in any way.
    i often play back2back with motorv8a btw, an sl3 dj. he's pretty happy with it. so far i haven't given it much attention, but maybe i'll do more explicit comparing during the sl3 b2b xwax sessions that will soon happen.

  7. 7 geroyche says...

    i meant the kontrol X1 btw.
    s4 is not what i want.
    though i wonder, now with technics having ceased production, how long control vinyl will be around for the oldskool generation.

  8. 8 timeblind says...

    yeah, I'm about 8 years late on this trend. the SL3 does make a good i/o and I could sell my bulky maudio.

    thanks for the opinions, keep me updated

  9. 9 rupture says...

    there's also http://mixxx.org/

    i cant stand Ableton DJ sets, airless is indeed the word, it requires so much prep and flattens dynamics. in praise of 'slippage'..

    that said, Bridge looks interesting.

    i understand wanting to not absolutely need turntables to perform. but right now if its laptops or (for my caveman style) cd-js, it wouldnt be a 'performance' anyhow. better to bring a USB stick to Zambia and just share some tunes, let the local DJs figure out how to flip it….

  10. 10 geroyche says...

    from what i've been told by xwax aficionados, mixxx uses xwax' core [that's a fact], and then adds stuff to the audio chain that increases latency and reduces stability ;)

    to quote a mixxx-dev:
    "[I] have always lusted after xwax's smoothness in both its waveform and scratching ability [...] but our crappy skin system has been the bottleneck for years. (And redoing that has been pushed back in favor of other more important features which 1.8 will finally have.)"

    http://www.skratchlounge.com/index.php?showtopic=7564

    back then he mentioned the skinning engine revamp would come in 1.9. their latest roadmap states otherwise:
    http://mixxx.org/wiki/doku.php/development_roadmap

    on the pro side, it is available for more platforms.

  11. 11 Rupture says...

    thanks Geroyche! that's a hilarious heads-up: "adds stuff to the audio chain that increases latency and reduces stability"

  12. 12 timeblind says...

    I will say that for certain combinations I do the airtight ableton welding is perfect: for musics that are improbable together where I want the mind to be savoring the fresh combination. at that point the slipping and execution is just distracting. it needs to be near believable that its a real piece of music (not a mix) that makes it funny and joyful.

    or combinations that are technically really near impossible to beat match where it would just be distracting to have the attention drawn to the execution (will he f*** it up ?). its cool to have really fast off kilter beats lining up perfectly and the DJ just keeps going. its like a video game then without repercussions.

    but for these few mixes/combos running ableton in the Bridge would be perfect.

    the rest of the time I feel like my hands are tied to the train tracks.

    I'm going to post later some techniques I use for varied tempo sets in ableton.

    *wtf ? my own blog won't let me post swear words ! it lets the russians post serialized porn spam but I can't be foulmouthed. more sheet to fix.

  13. 13 sutekh says...

    Just wanted to address the non-technical content of your post: the question of newness (aka the can of worms):

    For me, it's not about the need to constantly make something "new" (part of the reason why I've never been a very prolific artist). The more important issue is whether or not the work is restless or complacent. If you were a jazz musician, would you rather be Wynton Marsalis or Cecil Taylor? If you were a documentary filmmaker, would you rather be Ken Burns or Werner Herzog? Many musicians do a lot of questioning early in their careers, later settling into a comfortable style (Reich, Glass, Hawtin?). That's fine for them, but frankly, I'm not interested in much of their work past the questioning period. Other artists (think John Coltrane, Beethoven) kept moving further and further out until their death. That inspires me. I think it's a good thing when new genres come and go faster than journalists can keep up with. That's part of the reason why truly "classic" dance music is always slightly ahead of its time. Bottom line: true innovation comes from experimentation and questioning (which go hand in hand), not from fetishizing the new.

    Happy Halloween!

  14. 14 sutekh says...

    ps: sorry for being so goddamn pretentious! i'm in the middle of writing my masters thesis :)

  15. 15 timeblind says...

    the mighty sutekh drops by ! the glorious day has dawned is a spendid composition; just DJd that at this very party.

    I would want to differentiate between genre evolution games—which is the kind of newness for the sake of newness which I'm talking about—and artistic progression which may be in a fixed classic genre or outside of any genre at all.

    so yes, I agree : its about not just fetishizing the new just to compete in the marketplace. and man is that getting fast these days.

    I do find pleasure in watching dancehall or UK scene music do this, but I hate being involved with it. it works if you put out a lot and can afford to let records disappear quickly. and these hot scenes evolve some amazing techniques that us slow people can rip off.

    did you know that Coltrane was working on an amazing spherical chordal system when he died (rather than the circles of Giant Steps and a Love Supreme). and he had an electronic saxophone ! never recorded with it.

    Both Trane and 'hoven annoyed their fan base at the end and got bad reviews for being too abrasive. but I say that's better than fading away, playing the butter notes or blowing your head off with a shotgun.

  16. 16 sutekh says...

    well put, my friend! and thanks for bravely beat-matching the obnoxiously irregular intro of 'the glorious day'!

    dance music, when it evolves quickly as a result of honest, creative competition, still inspires me (not always easy to verify honesty, but there are obvious degrees…). you're right, it's not about genre per-se – that's the role of the journalists. unfortunately, i've never been very good at keeping up with the latest as far as my own productions go, but i try my best to keep listeners on their toes in other ways. or maybe just annoy them, but like you said, that's better than…

    so when are you going to get yourself one of those electronic saxophones and bust some spherical chords? i know about your secret past…

  17. 17 TELESEEN says...

    Just a boring technical note chris, when I've found myself in the situation you were in in Lusaka, I've just burned mp3 cds, and djed with those. Worked fine, though it totally takes the visual element out provided by the computer, and reminded what a lazy listener digital music has turned me into….

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