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We're still discussing Bodenstandig in the comments to an earlier post. Jonathan Brodsky has led me to do some poking into the "tracker scene" and I still have questions if anyone feels up to it. Brodsky says "the tracker (impulse, octamed, fasttracker) has become the clearest interface choice for musicians doing the proto-jungle/noise thing." A nitpick, if people are using these old school tracker programs to make current drum and bass it's not "proto-" jungle, because that means "an early or previous form of"; it's more like post-jungle, unless you mean "proto-jungle-esque" (i.e., like early '90s breakbeat techno, jungle's precursor). I know, ridiculous. My (slightly edited) response to Jonathan and standing questions for anybody:
Here's a wikipedia article and another piece on the tracker scene. Also some info on Atari chip-music editors such as the one Bodenstandig used. I'm still curious (and googling) about the interrelationship of the Atari demoscene, amigatrackers, and early rave and 'ardkore. How much was hobbyist/cultist vs real club/dancefloor breakthroughs? Also how much was actually hacked and/or open source vs just using the products companies were selling? Then or now? From the wiki article it sounds like the Akai and the tracker software were inseparable 50/50 partners in defining the "tracker" sound. Is that the same thing as "classic" breakbeat rave or breakbeat techno? The article makes "tracker" music sound like a cheesy variant--did that happen later or was tracker music always the music of hobbyists/Atari cultists? Finally, is the "tracker scene" mainly a European thing?Also, FWIW, the octamed link has a picture of Aphrodite's studio...
As promised, more GIFs from the mysterious http://castlezzt.net (caution: massive page load).
I hear the second night of "Low Level Allstars" (Thursday Feb 24) at Deitch was better than Wednesday, the night I attended [or I should say even better, since Wednesday was great]. I'm told the sound guy improved (I can attest that he did a not-so-good job the first night), and the speakers were put on tall stands. Also the crowd was bigger and more polite, although according to one report people were sitting down during Bodenstandig, which was definitely an up on your feet partying kind of thing. It's hard to find the right balance between sitting, listening, and partying, especially when trying to manage a typical New York gallery audience of people there to make the scene, yak, and network for their all-important careers.
For an example of what I'm talking about, check out the .mp3 of this John Parker/jenghizkhan performance at the Front Room in Brooklyn. He's playing some great gritty electro-noise stuff and you can hear the schmoozers just schmoozing away. This is no comment on his music--it doesn't matter who's playing here, music and performance are just a sort of background for everyone's personal movie. As I've mentioned before, this is partly because New York has an embarrassment of riches relative to other scenes and people are just blase, but there is also a high oink factor.
In the comments to my second post on Bodenstandig, Jonathan Brodsky floats the theory that jungle (the older, purer version of drum and bass) was the product of open source software, as opposed to musicians using commercial products. Let's nip that meme right here! Here's Brodsky's comment:
I don't know about jungle originating in commercial software environs... It was my understanding that the form developed in trackers similar to the ones that bodenstandig uses, on the amiga. I know that the breakcore sound is mostly due to the tracker interface as well. which software were you thinking was the one that spawned jungle?I clarified that by "commercial software environment" I also mean to include software in so-called hardware synths and samplers, and further replied:
Rob Playford initially used a shareware sequencer called Superconductor (running on an Atari) along with an Akai S-950 sampler and DAT, around the time of 2 Bad Mice's "Waremouse." By 1993 he'd switched to C-Lab's Notator, a commercial product. (C-Lab eventually became Emagic, maker of the popular sequencer Logic.) The real breakthrough for jungle came not so much with tracking, or sequencing, as abuse of (commercial) samplers. From The Mix (1996): "[Metalheadz'] 'Terminator' tore through the scene [in '93] with a vengeance ... its manipulation of timestretching from a sampling utility into a revolutionary new sound effect (by pushing the circuitry way beyond its parameters) made 'Terminator' not just a big tune, but a seminal one for the emerging and, by this time, identifiable new scene."
Bodenstandig 2000, who performed this week at Deitch, bring terrific entertainment value to the greater but potentially somewhat boring cause of open-source, command-line principles. Combining acapella singing, furious real time keyboard playing, spastic, ironic Prodigy-style dance moves and a razor sharp ear for the nuances of various hard-pumping electronic dance genres (if only to proudly translate them into 8-bit, that is, lo fi, "chiptunes"), the duo repeatedly bowled over the audience Wednesday night. Their simultaneous video-projection of a defiantly non-graphic sequencer interface reminds you that the music you're hearing is a steady stream of numbers.
Dedication to old gear and pure hacking vis a vis current proprietary software systems in some ways recalls the rock purists of yore who insisted that only black Delta blues musicians had integrity vis a vis British cover bands, or that 3-chord garage bands always had the edge over prog rock & fusion [was it really necessary to throw out the baby of Canterbury and electric Miles with the bilge of Kansas and Spyro Gyra?]. This kind of essentialism has Occam's razor logic on its side but can also grow stuffy and cult-like. Bodenstandig aren't stuffy, they're funny as hell, but their website(s) are defiantly retro with all-black screens, a simulated UNIX interface, and occasional hectoring about nerdy things like the "right" way to resize images.
Their music and live show present the clearest, most hilarious, most persuasive argument for the absolutist position, but there are other positions. Instead of braving the minefield of newer musicmaking software with all its copyright limitations, commercial agendas, hidden manipulations of the artist, and potential for quickly dating cheesiness, they hold the line for older, more clearly articulated concepts of integrity. This means either no change, or that music must backtrack and take the road not taken, into a parallel universe where there is no Microsoft, no Apple, and all musicians know code.
In defense of commercial software, the communities that develop around a particular bit of gear or program (e.g., Emagic, Native Instruments) apply open-source tenets in the form of forums and message boards where the software developers get ideas and criticisms from users, and then modify products in the next version. This isn't just corporations faking the Linux model; the rethinking process is ongoing and happens at internet speed. Ultimately chores of creation and fabrication are apportioned to the people who do each best, as opposed to demanding that every creator be both artist and scientist. Also, much of the music that Bodenstandig so adeptly imitates (especially jungle) originated in a commercial software environment, often through undiscovered uses or misuse of products by musicians. Truly original, innately 8-bit music would probably take years to assimilate and would not necessarily please crowds.
UPDATE: One point of clarification: by "commercial software environment" I also mean to include the software in so-called hardware synths and samplers. For further discussion and clarification, please see the comments and later posts.
These need to be in synch to look their best (i.e., not viewed in Safari). Single .GIF from the mysterious http://castlezzt.net (caution: massive page load) via mbs. More excerpts to come.
Ridiculously dark photos from "Low Level Allstars," a performance night at Jeffrey Deitch curated by Cory Arcangel and Radical Software Group, highlighting demoscene graphics and new music made with old computers. Below: crowd pleasers Bodenstandig 2000, from Germany, with their beautiful, all numerical MusicMon interface in the background. The sounds they wring out of three square wave generators and practically no memory-load relative to current music simply bugger the mind. Their 8-bit drum and bass number would have had any club audience in the world screaming "rewind!" A mock rock video featuring Bernhard Kirsch (right) zipping through city streets on his scooter (you had to be there) also drew shouts of adulation. (Update: from his website it appears he designs these scooters and this was a promotional video? Sorry, my German is nonexistent.)
Performing earlier were Nullsleep of the 8bitpeoples crew, who specializes in that tuneless Gameboy stuff Malcolm McLaren likes, followed by Tree Wave (below), previously discussed here. Excellent drone-rock, as in John Cale, Faust, Kevin Shields, all done with Ataris and other vintage computers, and a hacked dot matrix printer. Lauren Gray's vocals work best when woven into the restricted tonal range of the music, as on "Sleep," a song as haunting live as on CD. The more expressive she is the more incongruous. On their cover of Eno's "Needles in the Camel's Eye" she almost sounded like a country singer--which turned out to be a very odd and good choice, though. The song should always be done that way!
The event included artists' talks and some fairly subtle music but the audience topped the charts for rudeness, issuing a stream of loud chitchat that didn't stop the entire night. Maybe it was the cases of free Red Stripe, or possibly the same swine that invaded vertexList a few months back moved to Deitch en masse. I mean, boogeying during Bodenstandig doesn't offend but there's a time to stand still (or sit) and shut up: like, when there are people on the stage talking into microphones. The worst club in Baltimore wouldn't treat performers this poorly. Art poseurs and moronic Deitch scenesters, kiss my ass! Okay, I feel better.
A final note: you can catch the same lineup of performers again tonight (Thursday) from 7 -10 pm. Also in photos: Dragan Espenschied (top photo, left); Paul Slocum (bottom photo, right). More thoughts on Bodenstandig here, here, and here.
"Strychnine Express" [mp3 removed] (my acid techno track; strychnine molecule from google images)