Friday, December 27, 2013

pedals for sale

I have to sell a few pedals to fund my new project (I first considered selling a guitar - it would have been quicker - but I just can't do it, one day I'll probably die of starvation hugging my guitars). They are all in very good state - I'm quite maniac with my gear - and I picked these ones to sale mostly because they are too good for what I do with them! 

Take the Empress Tape Delay, it's a Rolls Royce and I use it like my MXR Carbon Copy, when there are many mods, sounds, tap tempos and stuff… It deserves to be used by someone who needs something sophisticated… Same with the Boss Loop Station, it has a lot of functions, layers, memories, when I just need a one switch TCE Ditto.

The Boss Metal Zone is incredibly powerful and more versatile that one could believe, but I'm so much into fuzzboxes now that I never really used it - and the Boss FZ-5 Fuzz emulates the Maestro FZ-1A, the Fuzz Face and the Octavia - it's perfect to explore fuzz sounds at a reasonable price before switching to a favorite - mine is now the Sovtek Big Muff - or to gig without having to carry a ton of precious pedals…

If you're interested, please ask me in comments for the prices (suited to European market).

You can check some reviews and demos here, here and here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Korg Volca Bass and Beats

Finally, after I pre-ordered them 5 months ago (I wanted to have them as soon as they were released, but Korg distribution in Europe kinda sucks), I received my new Korg Volca instruments - the Volca Beats and the Volca Bass. I didn't read the user's manual yet but I already had a lot of fun with them last evening! They're very house oriented but there are many other ways to use them if you explore a little bit...

You probably noticed that in the last months I acquired and built several electronic music devices - and I have a serious project with them. I never felt comfortable to bring a computer on stage, but very soon I will have adapted my computer compositions to these analogue machines - and also I will learn to improvise with them… Of course I don't give up guitars, I just increase my music practice. I always hated sleeping.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

more sketches

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vienna Improvisers Orchestra @ 21er Haus

Last week I went to see the Vienna Improvisers Orchestra in the Viennese contemporary art museum 21er Haus. I went there without knowing what to expect - I just knew one of the musicians - and the evening started with poems reading in German, that I mostly didn't understand (except, for some reasons, some erotic poems - gotta check on my learning German method).

The VIO comprises about twenty musicians and plays directed improvised music, conducted by Michael Fischer in Butch Morris style, with a made to measure gesture code. I've actually been a longtime member of a similar orchestra in France - the acclaimed La Pieuvre - I'm quite familiar with this, and I have to admit that the music resulting of this method is roughly always the same... It's powerful the first time you hear it, but once you know the tricks it's quite limited - the vocabulary is too narrow and the musicians' focus being always split between following the director, listening to the other musicians and improvising, they can't really produce something interesting more than a few minutes in a row...

The VIO is saved by its instrumentation and its musicians - the flutes and cellos give it its specific color, as do the female voice trio and its beautiful long modulated drones. Electric guitars are a good counterpoint with original sounds like detuned chords and a general well mastered minimalism. Drums are also quite well placed, that can be difficult. There was sometimes some text readings added to the music, quite cliché but not unpleasant, and even enjoyable when it slipped to theatrical.

picture by Christian Kurz

My feeling about the 21er Haus concert is that ultimately this kind of orchestra should be able to play without being directed. It would take a lot of practice and deeply involved musicians but I'd love to hear the music it would produce. I always believed that a music piece is always contained in its first seconds and that a good improviser is the one who can understand the underlaying structure and bring it to its 'logical' conclusion: to reach that as a collective is a grand achievement!

That makes me think that the ultimate purpose of Communism was supposed to be the disappearance of State, once the People has reached Political Maturity...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

more sketches

You've seen the Epsilon whose prototype is about to be built, at first we planed to have two models built, the other one being the Alpha… I think that we will try to have its prototype crowd-funded once its big sister is ready and proves that our ideas are good… The Alpha is our ergonomic take on the telecaster - that's how bold we are!

Music of the week: for some reasons I managed to dismiss Hanni el Khatib and never listen to any of his song - though I heard a lot about him… I fixed that mistake in the last days and listened to a lot of his live videos on YouTube. I wish I could see him on stage but it seems that Vienna is not on the tours route, nothing I want to see ever passes here!

Friday, November 22, 2013

more sketches

Couldn't draw so much lately, but we've been busy with the Epsilon, and there's been many e-mails exchanged about it between me, Goran - who started the whole project - in Sweden, Andreas from Deutsches Tonholz in Germany, who will build the body, and Jaime from The Creamery in the UK, who will make the pickups… in a few weeks our baby will be born!

Tonight I play in literature café Carioca in Vienna, together with Ines Birkhan reading excerpts of her novel Chrysalis. It's about being enslaved by giant butterflies and I keep exploring noisy drone music with just a theremin and plenty of effect pedals… 

Music of the week: I just ordered the new CD of Kim Gordon's new band Body/Head, I'll tell more about it next time. Otherwise, I really love the single of Dirty Primitives I talked about yesterday, I listen to it all the time!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dirty Primitives Go No Pop

Dirty Primitives just released a new single that is quite surprising in many ways - though not betraying the sound we've discovered on their first album. Obviously they don't play by the rules - that's probably why their music is good - and we like it. No Pop Music is a joyful tribute to David Bowie's late "Berlin period", a tongue-in-cheek anti-pop manifesto with a cheerful beat and plenty of heavily effected guitars - otherwise it wouldn't be Dirty Primitives!

There is so much music that is just recycling boring clichés while pretending to be to be sincere and free that the directness of their homage to Bowie is truly rejoicing, and was worth their putting aside their dirty sweaty blues sound for one song (I was told that it was a one-off project). And of course Bowie being the Prince of Thieves, absorbing, processing and rejuvenating all kind of music, is just asking to be looted!

You know what, I'm proud of these guys, they are old timers who've been on stage for over 20 years, playing all kind of crazy music with many bands (I've seen David sawing his guitar next to me while we were disconstructing Prince's Purple Rain - opening for Otomo Yoshihide) and they can create such a cool and catchy song just on a whim, then they put their heads in boxes and share the fun, and it's good.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Epsilon project

In the last months I've been busy with the Epsilon project. I was contacted by a guitar maker in Sweden who proposed me to conceive an ergonomic guitar and have a prototype built - and if things work create a company to have it released… We took plenty of time to exchange about what we really wanted and settled on this model, that I roughly built out of foam. The model should go to a luthier soon... More information on this project when things evolve!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

more sketches

music of the week: I easily listen to pop music from Mali or China or Nunavut, more rarely from France (I'm French for those who didn't figure it out), but I just rediscover the 1982 album of Alain Bashung, Play Blessures, and it's as good as it was back in the day - even better perhaps...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

more sketches

music of the week: I'm still listening to plenty of stuff lately, mostly electronic music, maybe due to my last acquisitions. And when it comes to electronic pop music, nothing can beat Liaisons Dangereuses, who kind of exhausted the genre in one album in 1981... After 30 years, each time I listen to it, I'm  still impressed - and I want to dance.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Standuino workshop and DIY synths

I've had another interesting week-end, since last saturday I joined a workshop to build a Standuino Micro Granny - a DIY digital granular sampler. This time I had reading glasses and a magnifier so I managed to properly solder about 200 points, including minuscule ones to connect a micro-chip and a micro DC card slot, also plenty of resistors, diodes, capacitors, LEDs and stuff. I'm very happy with this little noise machine, on which I can upload over a hundred samples and edit or modify them in real time (with bitcrusher, LFO, pitch shifter, and Standuino specific looping effect). Its MIDI socket  allows to plug it in a MIDI keyboard and use the samples as instrument sounds - and the sound quality is good enough to use it on stage like a more standard electronic instrument. And since I tremendously improved my soldering skills, I also acquired its baby brother, the Standuino Fra Angelico DIY digital synth, that I should build soon before I forget everything…

But what is Standuino you'll ask? Well it's a cool project from Czech Republic combining DIY technology, art and music, that released a few Arduino microchip-based instruments (as kit or not). They've been organizing several workshops in Europe to help building their kits and create an international network of musicians and artists (known as The Orchestra). They have a very interesting background, that they're happy to share while we're bend on our soldering. Like people of their generation, they got into DIY technology through the Internet and brand new digital stuff such as Arduino, that is now used by everybody around the world. But when they started to show their projects to their families, they figured out that most people from their parents and teachers generation who used to live in pre-consumer society Czechoslovakia had unsuspected skills in electronics, since they learned to fix by themselves all  kind of electronic devices that they wouldn't dump and replace when they'd go out of work - then created their own stuff. Standuino stands between these two influences, Internet-age technology and already almost forgotten modernist past, and it feels good.

We ended the workshop by a small improvised (though conducted) concert with more story telling (to know more you'll have to assist to one of these concerts!)(see the video at the bottom of this post). I've had a good time, learned a lot - including new skills -, had a lot of fun, met interesting and passionate people, left with a good instrument that I will include in the set of my new music project, and since I'm now a member of the Orchestra, I should perform all the future concerts that will happen in my area!

Thanks to Ines Birkhan for shooting the video and Daniel Schorno for introducing me to Standuino...

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