You couldn’t come to Berlin for Synthposium. But in this year of the virtual, you can explore electronic media from anywhere, without a plane ticket, at A MAZE. It’s relevant to the moment – and can be relevant to music and visual performance, too.
TOTAL DIGITAL is the theme for the “international game and playful media festival.” But A MAZE. has always been a special place for the radical, the underground, and the musical. It’s about as un-commercial and un-assuming as game events get. There are no stars, no flagship keynotes, no blockbuster game debuts – the hallmarks of even fairly indie- and developer-oriented festivals. And that sets apart A MAZE. even in a summer full of “virtual” game content.
(Pictured at top, below – Fermi Paradox. Artwork by Anjin Anhut.)
Now, people in Berlin knew this already, even if Berlin is known far more for music than gaming. But the upside of the online aspect is that far more of that experience is now open to the world. And the world is better represented, too. There are multiple panels exploring decolonial practices (and a game design tackling the theme), Black representation in games, and African women (check the Prosearium!), tours of the up-and-coming scenes in Latin America and Asia – and a general feeling that this scene comes alive when it’s out of the shadow of the big corporate game entities. That’s not simply some “identity politics” savvy, either – it represents a world in which gaming is a medium that’s ubiquitous, and opens up to the broadening creativity that results.
I mean, for instance, you get Afrane Akwasi Bediako from Ghana, who is working on this – wow, I’m eager to check this out:
His works explore the idea of augmentation and extensions between technological gadgets and humans. He works with discarded electronic gadgets which he refers to as “amputees”. He refashions and repurposes these amputees into machines and micro-organisms he describes as “TRONS”. These TRONS, become potential platforms and media for reflection, engagement and interactions. His TRONS, stripped bare of their familiar housing become mechanical gizmos subsumed with the consciousness of previous owners of these gadgets and himself.
In other words, it’s gaming as more of a mirror to the changing possibilities in music. Game creation and music creation alike both now have a growing, more democratized population of creators. As each industry struggles with its troubled past, the underground scenes in each might have a lot to learn from each other. If you can even consider them separate scenes – which looking at the representation of music and sound in this lineup, maybe is a thing of the past.
Also, one of the sessions has this disclaimer attached: “Content warning: graphic cartoon depictions of violence, sex, sexual violence, self harm, mental illness, drug abuse.” So if you’re tired of Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, here you go.
Actually, yeah – that game is Nightmare Temptation Academy. Motto: “Resist temptation while attempting sanity!” Seems to fit. Apropos:
And yeah, Lena NW is talking about her music.
Okay, so what’s on tap? Here are a few picks.
Friday (if there’s still room available), the multi-talented Moisés Horta Valenzuela AKA 𝔥𝔢𝔵𝔬𝔯𝔠𝔦𝔰𝔪𝔬𝔰 who appeared here recently has a workshop on just those topics – deep learning, music, and game engines:
There’s Body Echoes, which has a beautiful take on how to embody dance in virtual reality, by Dutch artist Doron Hirsch:
To this question of the relationship of games and music – particularly now – don’t miss the panel Saturday hosted by CTM Festival’s Oliver Baurhenn:
Bogdan Vera of Media Molecule will talk about algorithmic music performance in their title Dreams – inspired, according to the description, by live coders:
Plus if you’re just looking for great stuff to play from PC to PS4, you’ll want to check the game awards.
There are some fascinating ideas – rich from a game and music standpoint.
Copy Machine is an interactive music album, involving a… well…
Blockchain Battle dives into cybersecurity.
Also, cooking. Not metaphorically – as in food.
You’ll also get the chance to be treated to new music created in virtual reality, via the innovative environment Patch.XR, thanks to an international selection of designers / artists / musicians who have been working all week. I know, as I’m the host and have been facilitating the online Patchathon. Tune in Saturday.
More on that environment, in development (and I’ll catch you up once we’re all done – but imagine a full-blown VR patching platform): https://patchxr.com/
But out of this week, the one truly essential topic:
Check the full schedule. And if there’s good stuff archived, I’ll share.
The UK Government has announced that socially distanced indoor music performances will return this summer.
Following the announcement of a £1.57billion support package for the arts and culture industries earlier this month, prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that socially distanced indoor events will be permitted to take place from August 1st.
The UK government are now in the third stage of the “return to normal” roadmap, which allows crowds outdoors, and the fourth stage will allow socially distanced, limited-capacity audiences inside at theatres and music venues.
It’s been four months since prime minister Boris Johnson officially ordered a list of venues, which included clubs, pubs, bars, food and drink venues, theatres, and concert halls, to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month (4th July), pubs and restaurants reopened around the UK, but many arts and culture institutions remain shuttered.
In May, the UKs Music Venue Trust’s #SaveOurScene campaign was launched with the intention of raising funds and highlighting the challenges faced by small music venues and clubs amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Police were called to shut down an illegal rave in London last weekend.
Following a surge in illegal events across the UK during the coronavirus lockdown, police were called to another “unlicensed music event” in Finsbury Park, North London, last Friday (17th July).
Metropolitan Police arrived at Woodberry Down estate at approximately 11PM, and remained at the estate for five hours dispersing crowds. Following the arrival of riot police, an 18-year-old man was arrested for violent disorder and obstructing police, and a 19-year-old was arrested for obstructing police.
“Specially trained public order officers entered the estate to disperse the group. They were met with further hostility and violence,” the Metropolitan Police told The Guardian. “Two officers suffered injuries. One was taken to hospital having sustained bruising to his ribs. He has since been discharged. The other officer sustained a leg injury but was able complete the remainder of his duty.”
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, Lucy D’Orsi, said: “The violence and disorder they encountered is totally unacceptable, as is the fear I am sure this generates amongst the local community, who called the police for help. In this case the irresponsible actions of the organiser led to injuries to our officers. Under no circumstance will policing accept this, particularly after we had appealed for such events not to take place.
Thousands of party go-ers also attended an illegal rave at an RAF base near Bath over the weekend.
In June three men aged between 21 and 28-years old were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to cause a public nuisance, after police intervened in relation to a planned gathering in Rugeley, Staffordshire. The arrests happened while a number of other illegal events were broken up across the UK, including a rave in Bolton, near Manchester, and “large parties” at Clapham Common and Tooting Bec Common in London.
Earlier this month, Over 6,000 people attended two illegal raves which took place at Daisy Nook Country Park in Oldham, and nearby Carrington, in Manchester, UK. Three men were stabbed, one man died of a suspected drug overdose, and police said they were investigating the rape of an 18-year-old woman.
If you read “HEART ATTACK,” or “DAWN” as BRONSON‘s pledge of sonic allegiance to buoyant, brightly toned brand of production, you’re in for a surprise. On “KEEP MOVING,” the latest single that has emerged from ODESZA and Golden Feature‘s trove of unreleased material, BRONSON stylistically flip the table, allowing a darker course of creative cooperation to unfold.
The latest one-off to arrive ahead of BRONSON’s self-titled, debut LP on August 7 via Foreign Family Collective and Ninja Tune, “KEEP MOVING” picks up where “VAULTS” left off, but pursues a decidedly more dastardly path. Gritty, ripping textures slice through the production. A plunging bass line situates “KEEP MOVING” in lower depths as an ominous, spoken vocal heightens the overall eeriness of the endeavor. The delight of it all? It wouldn’t congruously fit in either of ODESZA or Golden Features’ respective catalogs, proving that they’re continuing to forge new territory together under BRONSON’s titular umbrella.
“KEEP MOVING” is accompanied by a satirical visual that compiles stock footage from corporate offices and distills them in a series of clips that climaxes in riotous dissolution. Watch the video, directed by Swedish collective, Stylewar, below.
Take two weeks. Make a game. Learn a tool. Find a new approach to sound and music. Do all of those. AGJam is an online, free environment for discovering new ideas in audio and games, and it looks fantastic, even for electronic musicians in general.
“Can you hear me?”
“Game jams” are informal hackathons allowing designers and developers to explore new ideas. And historically, it’s sometimes been the ones with sound and music elements that have wound up most interesting. Gaming and electronic music have a natural affinity for one another, it seems – and computer music and electronic games have really grown up and invented ideas alongside one another since the start.
What’s cool about AGJam is, it tackles a range of possible issues around gaming and sound. You can leave with a game, but also with some new skills. And it’s one of those rare activities happening online in a virtual form that’s worth joining – one that could still give you some fodder for that far-off, beautiful day when we’re back to in-person events.
Audiogames (also known as audio-only games).
Deep integration of audio in the creative process, including audio-led game design.
Audio for accessibility.
Artistic and experimental audio oddities.
Learning new audio tools.
If those ideas are new to you, there’s even a big array of games listed in the prompt for added inspiration.
Plus, crucially, there are tons of workshops – meaning this event can also bring new people to design and development who might not have been involved before. (And that’s obviously key to diversity.)
There’s this excellent tutorial on using Unity even if you’re an audio person. So here’s your crash course if you always wanted to make a game.
There’s procedural audio synthesis in Unity, too, because you know you want some of that. Follow Chris Wratt; they’re also in a VR music lab I’m hosting separate to this event. They have your vaporwave dolphin, of course.
There’s a session tomorrow on MIDI and even MIDI 2.0.
There’s an upcoming session on handling accessibility in game audio.
There’s also live coding, a talk on the power of voice, the Godot game engine, and more.
And that’s even apart from the fun of hitting the game jam itself, plus other TBA events.
The full jam is up on itch.io. Officially the jam itself starts on July 31 and ends on the 14th of August, but submissions are already open.
Let’s get some music in here. cTrix is a speaker – maker of A is for Amiga.
Pictured at top: No Straight Roads, just because it was mentioned as an example. It’s a little like what would happen if the Disco Demolition Night involved cartoon characters and wasn’t racist and went after terrible festival EDM instead of disco so … actually, okay, I think most of us can get behind that concept.
Pauline Skott and I are discussing Instagram. You’d be forgiven for being intimidated by her, after a cursory scroll through the Swedish pop sensation’s feed. It reveals a heavily tattooed face and a confrontational stare. In reality, Pauline – known as Skott – is gentle and measured. She’s also very wary of the platform in question. “I was very analog,” she laughs. “I got Instagram the day before I released ‘Porcelain’. It never really appealed to me, but I had to learn all of that from scratch at the same time I was dropping my music.”
‘Porcelain’ was Skott’s debut release, the lead single off her first album Always Live For Always. It arrived into the world much like every other single, before rapidly taking on a life of its own. The moody, ethereal track was picked up by megawatt artists like Lorde and Katy Perry. Praised for its innovative production and Skott’s rare vocal quality – at times like a bell tone and others a low growl – it firmly ejected the young musician from her humble beginnings and catapulted her into the ranks of her idols. “I didn’t even know how to reply or if [Lorde and Katy Perry’s] accounts were real,” she giggles. But if there’s any artist in recent memory who deserves her place among those musicians, it’s Skott.
Admittedly shy, Skott was raised in a small, remote village in Sweden. She played the violin (of course), taught in the traditional way: you pick up a bow and sit beside a pro. “I think that whole culture has affected me in a way that I never learned any real technique,” she says. “No sheet music or anything. I trained my ears, because you were only able to imitate and listen and join in. The young fiddlers get to play with the masters, it’s a really nice environment. It’s very playful and unpretentious. I try to carry that with me, to keep the creative process free.”
It seems to be working. Skott speaks about music like it has a mind of its own – she’s less the composer and more a member of the symphony audience, delighted at her discoveries. “It’s almost like a little treasure hunt,” she says. “You don’t really know what you’ll find, but when you do find it, it seems to have been there all along. We have all these songs floating around and they’re just waiting to be found by a writer or artist.”
Skott is kind of like a modern day version of the titular character in ‘Midas’, another astonishing track from her debut album. That is to say – everything she touches seems to turn to liquid gold. Not bothered by sticking to a particular genre, Skott marries pop hallmarks with electronica and pays homage to her favourite video games on her debut.
EARMILK: Are you the kind of person who needs to create by themselves? Or do you like collaboration?
SKOTT: Definitely both. I used to be a complete loner when it came to music, I didn’t think I’d be able to write with other people. But now, I’ve been practicing and I’ve gotten addicted to working with friends. It’s quite nice when it’s social.
EM: How did being from a small town or village affect your songwriting?
S: I have to say, when I became a teenager and I moved to a town, I met people who had perfect technique and could read sheet music, and I felt kind of angry with my parents, because I never learned anything ‘properly’. Now, after a few years, I’m not bitter about it anymore. I’m even thankful now, because I really trained my ears. In pop music, you don’t use a lot of sheet music.
EM: Did you find when you began to branch out that there was pressure from your community to keep a stereotypically folk sound?
S: I mean, I went a completely different path after that folk music upbringing. When I went to school, I started getting into simple, small productions on free programs. I made blip music and got into video games, and that world of soundtrack. Even when I was 14, I was already taking a different path in terms of my musical interests. Where I come from, people don’t really make a living off their music. It’s more a hobby. So I made a choice to work with music, and then I think once you make that decision everybody understands that you have to go on a different path. I just feel like I keep bits and pieces with me, from all the music treasures I come across.
EM: I was never allowed to play video games as a child, so I’m just very intrigued by the hype. What’s your favourite video game, why do you like it, and why were you initially drawn to it?
S: My all-time favourite is definitely Zelda. That’s kind of where it started for me as well. It’s where my mind got blown. We didn’t have any video games in my family either, so it was when I first went to a school in town, I had friends there who showed me. Especially in these more adventurous games, you have all these world folk elements in the music and the soundtracks. So I would say pop music is probably more far off from our traditional folk music than many of the video game soundtracks are.
EM: That’s funny, because listening to the album and looking at the visuals, there are a lot of references to mythology. Was that a conscious decision to incorporate that into the album?
S: I think it was unconscious. I started out being a bit shy for the camera, and I didn’t necessarily want to put my face on the cover. So I was trying to picture the music, but also find what really intrigues me. It started out being like, “what awakens the child within me?” And that’s basically dragons, swords and dinosaurs – all these mysterious creatures and worlds. And now, as soon as I start a song I start seeing the cover too.
EM: And I want to talk about your transition into pop music. There was a lot of narrative around labelling you an overnight success and a one-hit wonder. What was your reaction to that?
S: I wasn’t really prepared for the other things you have to do as an artist. I completely knew my sound, my songs, all the creative stuff. But when it came to things like being a public figure. Music is my way of communicating. So it was kind of hard to have to communicate with words. Social media was the biggest thing that I wasn’t prepared for. I had never had the stuff my friends had, and all of a sudden there was some kind of pressure to be more than just a creature locked a way in a studio. It is a lot of pressure. It’s definitely been the main challenge since I started, to learn and keep up with all of that. And also to keep it healthy and creative and inspiring. Because sometimes it can just be draining.
EM: Do you have any things that you do to not feel like you’re over-engaging? Or to make yourself feel safe and supported in that environment?
SK: I don’t know if I have any specific tricks, but I had to find a way for me to enjoy Instagram. Because I’ve never felt it’s very natural for me to take a picture of something. I also don’t love being in front of the camera. I wanted to create a theme around every song. I think about what colours can go with the song and what theme corresponds to it, because then it’s about the song, and that makes it feel like it’s relevant to me and then I get inspired.
EM: It also probably gives people who do follow and want to engage with you a deeper insight into the material they’ve been given.
S: Exactly, I think you just have to find a way that works for you.
EM: You talk about music like it has a mind of its own…
S: I feel like that, it’s almost like a little treasure hunt. You don’t really know what you’ll find, but when you do find it, it seems to have been there all along. We have all these songs floating around and they’re just waiting to be found by a writer or artist.
A new book will pay homage to the history of UK garage.
ABC of UKG: An Alphabet of UK Garage (the Golden Era) is a new book from scene veteran Rukaiya Russell, celebrating UKG’s late ’90s and early ’00s golden era.
“From Ayia Napa to So Solid Crew and many more, this book relives some of the greatest events, songs and key aspects of the UK Garage scene as told by Rukaiya Russell,” the book’s press release reads. “Rukaiya is a London based producer/DJ who lived through every moment of these glory years, a period in UKG which birthed genres like Grime and Dubstep. This book is a short and fun read for any Garage head or music aficionado who at some point may have asked ‘wot do you call it? Garage?’”
The book will feature 26 original illustrations, and will be available via Ayia Nippa on the 10th August.
Pre-order the book here, and check out a preview of the ABC below.
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.
The rise and influence of Afrobeats in the commercial sector has been astounding over the past few years. From Drake‘s 2016 smash hit with Wizkid, “One Dance,” to Mr. Eazi‘s past joint efforts with Major Lazer, to Burna Boy‘s recent rise, the genre has completely infiltrated the mainstream as well as the underground with no signs of slowing down.
In an attempt to recognize the genre’s success, the Official UK chart is introducing an Afrobeats category via the Top 20 radio show on BBC Radio 1Xtra on July 26 at 8:00 a.m. EST. In its announcement, the music chart company said the Afrobeats chart will be led by festival brand, Afro Nation, and compiled by the Official Charts Company,
“Using UK sales and streaming data from over 9,000 outlets, incorporating audio and video streams, downloads, and physical sales.”
Following its debut on BBC Radio 1Xtra, the weekly chart will be updated via a weekly Official UK Afrobeats Spotify playlist each Sunday at 9:00 a.m. EST. It will also be published on the Official Charts website.
For those new to Afrobeats’ long and rich history, the genre stems from West African musical elements and styles, and is typically blended with an assortment of genres including, but not limited to, funk, jazz, house, hip-hop, pop, R&B, and more. Artists who have taken the reigns in bringing the genre to the spotlight in the recent years include Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi, Wizkid, Koffee, and Yxng Bane, among others.
Featured image: Kevin Winter
Make no mistake—dance music is born from black culture. Without black creators, innovators, selectors, and communities, the electronic dance music we hold so dear would simply not exist. In short, dance music is deeply indebted to the global black community and we need to be doing more. Black artists and artists of color have played a profound role in shaping the sound and culture of dance music and now more than ever, it is necessary for everyone in the music community to stand up for the people that have given us so much. Dancing Astronaut pledges to make every effort to be a better ally, a stronger resource, and a more accountable member of the global dance music community. Black Lives Matter—get involved here: