Dexter’s Beat Laboratory is a weekly collection of songs from DA managing editor Robyn Dexter. With a taste that can only be described as eclectic—to say nothing of a name that lends itself to punnery—DA is happy to present a selection of tracks personally curated by Dexter for your listening pleasure.
Rameses B makes his return to Monstercat in fine fashion tapping vocalist Zoe Moon to create “Forever.” The trance-infused drum ‘n’ bass tune adapts an uplifting tone, giving the listener the boost they need in these trying times. Rameses B and Moon wrote the lyrics together, and the former relates that “they’re about still having a connection with someone despite them not being around and I feel that can relate to a lot of people out there, especially nowadays.”
Kramder says he has a “special background with future funk,” which propelled his new two-track collection, Glossy Days Vol. 1. The EP’s first track, “98 Percent You,” incorporates a little bit of everything, including undeniably infectious vocals, sexy saxophone riffs, and catchy key changes. Welcome to a little corner of happiness from the French producer.
For Haywyre‘s first release of 2020, he’s remixed Bazzi‘s “Young and Alive.” The groovy keyboardist injects cheer into everything he creates, and this latest remix is no exception. Where the original was laid-back and mellow, Haywyre kicks up the tempo and adds wavy synths for his own upbeat rendition.
Duke Dumont‘s debut full-length LP arrived April 17 at long last, bringing with it wavy tunes like “Nightcrawler” with Say Lou Lou. The album’s fifth track adopts a retro ambiance from its introductory chords, letting a minimalist bassline and percussion take a back seat to Say Lou Lou’s dreamy vocals. As the song moves along, a groovy guitar melody enforces its nostalgic tone.
Electronic music fans might recognize fknsyd‘s name from her vocal features on songs like the WAVEDASH‘s “Deathwish” and SLANDER and Kompany‘s “Broken.” The songstress has made a name for herself through hauntingly beautiful contributions, but getting to hear her on her own is an even bigger treat. She recently shared a cover of Bullet For My Valentine’s “Tears Don’t Fall,” and it’s a truly entrancing iteration of the heart-wrenching original.
Despite the genre’s direction, and perhaps relative downsizing in the years leading up to the new decade, Nicky Romero and Deniz Koyu have been among those as dedicated as ever to carrying the progressive house torch. Thousands of Tomorrowland spectators in addition to those experiencing the livestream from home became fully aware that the duo had produced something special when Romero adjourned his 2019 performance with a follow-up cooperative beside his “Paradise” counterpart. An exact three weeks after the release of his club-ready Redefine EP, Romero has submitted an early contender for standout-track-of-the-year alongside Koyu on “Destiny.”
A single playback is all that’s necessary for Nicky Romero’s Tomorrowland blend with Avicii’s “Without You” to be substituted in memory by Alexander Tidebrink’s heartwarming lyricism. From the chord progression’s first strike, “Destiny” revisits the saluted generation of dance music that candidly personified its budding stage of the 2010s, strikingly reminiscent of Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child,” and other main stage hits of yesteryear.
The weekends of April 10 – 12 and 17 – 19 were set to be Coachella milestones; they marked the festival’s 20th edition, driving home its position as America’s most celebrated spring event. Hundreds of thousands from the states and all around the world were slated to fill Indio’s Empire Polo Field for the annual bacchanale; that is, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced nationwide lockdowns and led to Coachella’s postponement.
While the event has since been rescheduled to October, the internet offers a bit of a respite in the meantime for those reeling in the absence of their April escape. We’ve rounded up Coachella 2020’s biggest dance, hip-hop, and pop stacked into a massive playlist for at-home listening. The playlist features the likes of Zeds Dead, Tchami, Lil Uzi Vert, GRiZ, Lil Nas X, and Madeon—to name a few, encapsulating nearly 10 hours worth of all the sounds you would have heard this weekend, if we could all be together.
Social distancing might be key during these odd times, but at least we have droves of music to get us through. Happy streaming.
Electronic sound is in theory a limitless blank canvas. Iannis Xenakis and his work imagine what image of sound could fill that page – and leaves a legacy that’s still radical today.
Now, we get a view of those multi-faceted possibilities from an array of angles, in a new book from the legendary ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The book is available digitally, for free, as downloadable PDF (along with other archival materials). These accompany the print edition, just released today.
If you don’t know the UPIC, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this invention, originally seen in 1977, whose impact touched everyone from Risset to Aphex Twin. Its breakthrough was to let the composer draw with sound – paint with the tablet, and the results are synthesized in pitch and time. We’re actually so used to the concept now that it might even be tough to see this as an invention. But thanks to Xenakis’ larger compositional work and the extensive writing and teaching he did and other instigated, any real odyssey into the world of the UPIC winds up being a saga into digital art and sonic interface, how to make and teach them.
The book is a journey through graphic notation and visual interfaces for music across nations and decades, as well as a comprehensive look at Xenakis’ own work, and its influence and use in education. There’s a star-studded media art editor lineup helming the project – ZKM’s iconic artist/curator/theorist Peter Weibel, pioneering composer/electronic musician Ludger Brümmer and musician and Xenakis scholar Sharon Kanach.
Kanach’s work is already familiar to any Xenakis nuts – not only did she work closely with Xenakis himself, and translated his writing, but co-authored with him the other must-have Xenakis text, Musique de l’Architecture (2008) along with working on editing enough texts to fill … well, a building, actually.
In another decade, all of this might be seen as archaic academic stuff. But now we live in a world where experimental sounds and post-tonal timbres sing and scream into dance music charts and popular music. We see visual interfaces – once confined to Xenakis’ unique machinery – as commonplace as we do a music stand or manuscript paper, if not more so. They’re on computers and free software and iPads and phones, recognizable by people on the streets in every populated continent.
And in the meantime, the aficionados of Xenakis and graphic notation have taken those once-marginal ideas about image, interface, and graphic music and brought them to apps and schoolkids. That poetry is accessible to everyone.
ZKM’s tome begins its story with the origins of the UPIC, the strangely ahead-of-its-time machine Xenakis engineered with a “musical drawing board” that could blur the line between score and interface. You can read the book as a complete background on the history of that instrument and its influences.
But the full context is here, too. And what makes it special is that this is not just a detached theoretical text, but written by people who have gotten their hands on the machines.
Andrey Smirnov, best known for his intensive background and advocacy of early Soviet experiments in graphic music, weaves together a rich yet breezy overview of the interconnections of ideas around the globe in graphic sound. Smirnov’s prose is uniquely readable in part because it easily switches between the mechanical engineering reality of these machines and their more philosophical, even spiritual conception – without missing a beat, either way.
Guy Médigue, who worked on this machinery in the 70s, gives an accessible but comprehensive explanation of everything from acoustics to technology in his essay. It’s a class in a chapter. It’s also worth watching him speak at ZKM, apologizing for his English, yet lucid in everything he says:
There’s also the perspective of composers and teachers – teachers of composers and teachers of kids – for a view of technique and pedagogy. It’s a chance to see this not only as a monolithic composer and machine, but a set of ideas that grew out of it and continue to travel.
And there are deep conversations about institutions, resources, and the challenges of supporting experimental music invention inside the society. Katerina Tsioukra aand Dimitris Kamrotos describe the ups and downs over the history of UPIC and its experiments in the composer’s father-and motherland, Greece. Too often it seems those conversations aren’t translated or that international audiences simply disregard them. Now, with Europe in new crisis, it seems an essential time to examine these fragile links. It’s important reading for anyone working in nonprofits, cultural diplomacy, curation, and the like.
Pointing the way to the future, roughly half the text is devoted to exploring the ideas the UPIC presented, and its relevance to new interfaces and composition and the larger world. Kiyoshi Furukawa investigates utopia, artwork, and architecture. Chikashi Miyama builds as convincing a family tree and conceptual map as I’ve ever seen, compromising the UPIC canvas and other graphic interface and digital art idioms, as well as the various UPIC descendants, like IanniX and UPISketch. (Julian Scordato goes deep into IanniX, for someone wanting to try this hands-on now in software.)
This topic could easily become deeply academic, but writers like Victoria Simon make it visceral – connecting to the composer’s own personal views. Her essay on the tactile begins with this challenge from the composer:
“It is necessary to relearn how to touch sound with one’s fingers. That is the heart of music, its essence!” –Xenakis
This was 1951-53, long before the Dynabook, let alone the iPad… and it just as easily could be viewed as an admonition to get more tactile still.
I can’t wait to read thoroughly. Marcin Pietruszewski’s “digital instrument as an artifact” sums up about half of what I’ve ever tried to work on in the title, so… there’s that.
The site is accompanied by music examples, too – fantastic avant-garde sounds that many readers of this site will love. Oh and – if you happen to be in lockdown with someone who’s getting on your nerves, and that person is not into avant-garde sounds, nothing says “oh, I really should catch up on my exercise routine with some headphones on” like blasting Eua’on’ome. (Hey, I’m just performing a public service here. You’re welcome.)
But it’s a joy to have this arrive now. Nothing can pierce the darkness or fight loneliness quite like sound and ideas. I hope it reaches some new shores.
What week is it, again? While time may be a flat circle, artists and festivals continue to keep dance fans sane as another fully stacked weekend of livestreams is upon us. Once again, we are back for the fifth edition of our “lockdown livestream” roundup guide to provide a variety of dance entertainment options for the weekend and a review of some highlights from this past week.
Last weekend, Martin Garrix stole the show with a DJ set from his roof in Amsterdam that featured fan-favorites such as his next unreleased John Martin collaboration and his unreleased remix of Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.” Nocturnal Wonderland‘s rave-a-thon had a sizable weekend turnout with sets from Zeds Dead, 12th Planet, Spencer Brown, Jason Ross and more. Finally, Destructo‘s Easter Sunrise Sermon capped off the weekend that had #ShipFam partying on their couches into the morning.
For the weekend of April 17, fans of almost every genre can find a stream that will have them virtually raving through the next few days. Major events include the second edition of Beatport‘s second ReConnect featuring Kaskade, Tiesto, and Boys Noize, kicked off by David Guetta doing a live set from Miami. Excision is throwing his Couch Lands festival featuring a full day slated with bass music. Insomniac is back bringing Halloween early this year with their Escape Halloween virtual rave-a-thon. Finally, check out the schedule below for upcoming streams and a roundup of the other virtual events that you may have missed this past week. Happy streaming!
Los Angeles-based vocalist Anabel Englund has released a paradisal music video for her remixed single, “So Hot.” Released on MK‘s house imprint Area10, the remix exerts energetic and uplifting overtones, which is matched by Englund’s artistic flair throughout the visual. Set to a sunny California-inspired backdrop, Englund is captured laying among flourishing fields with an aura of flowery effervescence.
Englund has slowly built her standing as a powerful vocalist among the electronic scene, notably working previously with Jamie Jones and Lee Foss‘ Hot Creations label before aligning with MK on her latest single. The track “So Hot” charted at 16 on Billboard’s Dance Mixshow, and continues to make its way throughout the dance world.
Glastonbury has recently donated thousands of unused festival ponchos to hospitals in South-West England, which is meant to act as personal protective equipment for NHS workers among the front lines. After reports of a “large well-known summer festival” was asked if it had “any ponchos going spare” started to circulate online, festival co-organiser Emily Eavis confirmed their contribution via a statement to The Guardian, citing the lack of protective equipment currently available to healthcare workers.
A senior NHS worker that I know just told me that his office have literally emailed a large well-known summer festival to ask for any ponchos going spare, because they can't source enough aprons and PPE. I'm not even slightly joking.
A month ago, the track list for Duke Dumont‘s long-awaited debut album was revealed on Apple Music along with Dumont’s single, “Love Song.” Finally, after a career spanning over a decade with countless hits along the way, Dumont’s first full-length studio album has arrived.
The record’s title, Duality, is meant to reflect the two different artistic styles Dumont ventures in to on the record. Duality’s first half focuses on dance floor anthems, including singles “Therapy” and “The Power.” The second half of the album is devoted to the LP’s more introspective songs, including his collaborations with How To Dress Well and RY X on “Together” and “Let Me Go” respectively. Dumont further described Duality on his social media:
“The pure intent was to make the music on this album with heart on my sleeve emotion. It is me at my my purist. No genre. No boundaries. No restraints and no fear.”
Listen to Duke Dumont’s debut studio album, Duality below
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