With his 2010 World Cup performance before a billion people in Johannesburg, South Africa, Vieux Farka Touré has become one of the most celebrated African guitarists in history. Unanimously hailed as one of the best contemporary African music releases of the year, his last studio album, Fondo, saw Vieux emphatically emerging out of the famous shadow of his father, beloved African super star Ali Farka Touré- with excursions into jam-rock and electronic virtuosity, fused with the sublime elements of Malian and West African rhythms. Fondo largely made the boundaries between rock and world music immaterial.
Recorded largely in Mali’s Studio Bogolan before being carried to Brooklyn, The Secret was produced by Eric Krasno, a versatile guitarist and founder of jazz futurists Soulive. Originally conceived of as an extended family-style project, Krasno says, “Initially we wanted to have a lot of guests, but in the end we narrowed it down to just a few, and that lent itself to the strength of the album.” Still, when those musical relatives include people like Dave Matthews, Derek Trucks, John Scofield and Ivan Neville, the sonic DNA is going to be heavy and the sessions are going to run deep.
Pre-order The Secret from the Six Degrees Records Shop here.
Euphorie live at the Elektra Festival. Photo courtesy Elektra.
When a brainy, abstract audiovisual act can elicit some laughs and cheers, you know something is going right.
Euphorie, the live music and projection act by François Wunschel, Fernando Favier, and stage designer Pier Schneider of the collectives 1024 Architecture and EXYZT, isn’t brand new. But in the cavernous, packed Usine C at Montreal’s Elektra Festival earlier this month, it surely shone. Inside that booming rehabilitated factory, sound and video elements seemed to just click, the happy result of months of development, practice, and iteration meeting a highly appreciative crowd. Projectors and software, props and vocals, laptops and electric sounds were all jamming together like a band should. Part inventors, part musical performers, the duo are finding the sweet spot between technological magic and live jam.
The French duo of François and Fernando start slow, with a somewhat timid doodle on a projection screen. But that doodle grows into squares and boxes, as monochromatic projection across multiple scrims immerse the performers in electric-light scaffolds or showers of pixellated sparks. And then the neon guitars come out, and it’s on.
Conceived as a set of individual songs, each set piece couples simple musical compositions with visual elements, mindful in each of an inventive sound-to-image relationship. The pairings are traditional, but performed with a conviction and charm that’s irresistible.
Eletkra, Usine C. From top: the architecture in 1024 Architecture, as the artists produce a virtual structure on the stage. A “neon guitar” tube becomes an electrified instrument – and part of the light show. Photos courtesy Elektra Festival; used by permission.
The projector-and-laptop, doodle-and-geometry combinations might be as familiar as the instrumentation of a rock quartet; the achievement of 1024 Architecture is making them actually rock. A couple of darker numbers get into some strange lyrics and a creepy talking head, but in more spare, economical moment, the duo manage to hit upon something elusive: wit. There’s a sense of humor and liveness to the whole act, a sense that the artists are comfortable poking fun at themselves, or at least in being ceaselessly sincere and unpretentious. There’s even a sequence that takes on a game mechanic; the silliness paradoxically completes the illusion of being immersed onstage. Tron-style, Daft Punk-like EL wire suits seem slightly tongue in cheek, but in the midst of all this drawing and playing and screaming solos on guitars, you really do get the sense that the players have lept into the computer. It’s a real entry into the digital world, too, minus any Disney Hollywood trickery.
The duo and their set designer are also extremely clever in their use of minimal stage dressings to get a maximal immersive effect. Using three translucent scrims spaced across the stage, combined with basic translation and rotation effects in the 3D software, they produce surprisingly-convincing illusions of onstage depth. It’s not even really quite projection mapping: rather, it takes advantage of fairly conventional stage effects that, thanks to human perception, are also highly effective.
In a late number, shouting the names of programming languages and software tools (Objective-C! MySQL!), the duo almost goes a bit nerdcore – or at least would top my list of “bands to write a theme song for CDM.”
Obligatory EL wire. Eat your heart out, Daft Punk.
None of this really comes across in the videos, which to me is partially satisfying. It really feels like a live act; something happens between audience and performer. That said, it’s worth looking through their documentation and exploring their other, impressively-prolific collaborations.
Here’s a great behind-the-scenes / interview video by Le Cube (French-only):
These videos are rougher, but come closer to the performance I saw:
Tests, early performance documentation, and rehearsal videos get you a bit closer to the work, including this fascinating neon-guitar which I think really stole the whole show. (They’ve obviously been practicing, as they were far better at playing these at the Elektra show than they were in the early test videos or even some of the performance videos online. Touring, practicing, and audiences make a huge difference – it’s a good thing.)
Stay tuned to Create Digital Motion for more on the mechanics behind the projection techniques here. The goal of CDM for me is to have in-depth technical information on music and motion – each of which are fundamentally specific by nature – while the actual artwork straddles the two media.
Future-gazing NYC duo CREEP just dropped their new video ‘You’, a slice of gothed-out R&B featuring bloody black and white showdowns in hallways, face-shifting, and the soulful vocals of a re-imagined Nina Sky. Sexy and dark in all the right ways, this is what you get when you introduce fog machines and acid into a Top-40 club at three am.
Our EB.tv team recently dug into their crates to unearth some fine material. The Slices special issue Pioneers of Electronic Music Vol. 1, which is now available on Electronic Beats’ youtube channel, gives a deep insight into the work of Richie Hawtin and his development as electronic music producer. Yet the old G4 PowerBooks in the label’s office give a hint that this documentary was filmed in 2006, but, as you can imagine, it’s timeless stuff. Richie Hawtin even proved himself a prophet when saying:
"A great track is a great track, but there are tons of them out there. It’s even more important that the artists have something more to say than the music that they’re making." This certainly applies even more to this day and age.
Since this issue of Slices is kind of rare now, we decided to loot our stocks and raffle off a couple of copies. Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate in the competition.
In the latest installment of Crosstown Rebels' "Rebel Rave" videos, Damian Lazarus, Clive Henry and Jamie Jones take viewers on a trip to Peru. More like a short documentary than your average party promo, it follows the crew to Machu Picchu and on to Lima, where they play 4Beats Peru's daytime beach party—apparently, the country's first.
The footage is spectacular, and Damian is looking sharp in his Andean poncho. Other labels, take note: this is how you shoot a tour video!
The soundtrack includes tunes from Maceo Plex, Apparat, Russ Yallop, and more; check the credits at the end for the full list.
Crosstown's newest release is Quenum's "Bubble Gum" EP, out just last week.
Berlin's Deepchild lives up to his name with his new single "Talk to Me," for Cologne's Trapez A blippy synth melody keeps things spry, and the occasional female vocal adds a dose of mystery; it's a dark, brooding, heavy tune, the perfect thing to get lost in at 4am.
The seven-track EP features four more originals from Deepchild, including the sweeter "Live at DImitris 1993" and the soulful "Innocence Is Gone"; remixes from Grunbox and Denite round out the package.
Die zehnköpfige Berner Kombo The Faranas trumpft auf ihrem Debutalbum „Who Are You?“ mit einem eigenständigen Mix aus Afrobeat, Jazz, Funk und Soul auf.
Kunstvolle Bläser-Riffs, differenzierte Polyrhythmen und Sologesang in Englisch, Wolof und Afrikaans entfalten in überraschenden Arrangements und einem differenzierten Soundbild grosse Wirkung. In jedem Ton, jeder Akzentverschiebung, jedem queren Einschub spürt man die Freude am Zusammenspiel dieser Working Band.
Dabei könnte „Farana“ – „Ausländer“ im Pidgin English Nigerias – auf die Musiker selber gemünzt sein, die sonst in den verschiedensten Stilen musizieren: der Senegal-Berner Mory Samb zum Beispiel im westafrikanischen Griot-Gesang, Jan Brönnimann im Elektro-Jazz, Daniel Bohnenblust im Funk, oder Tonee Schiavano in Rap und Urban Music. The Faranas sind 2005 als Fela-Kuti-Coverband The Felas gestartet, und sie spielen diese langjährige gemeinsame musikalische Erfahrung voll aus. Vielleicht ist das Ganze einen Tick zu Präzise und Perfekt. Und ein paar noch grössere improvisatorische Freiräume wünscht man sich dann und wann.
Deadmau5 has announced what he's calling the "Deadmau5 Meowingtons Hax Tour," which is a long set of shows for late Summer and Fall. He'll be "showcasing a brand new live production" that starts at Lollapalooza in Chicago on August 5th, before hitting locations in the U.S. and Canada including a stop at San Francisco's Outside Lands festival.