things we learned at unsound toronto

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who says a music festival can’t also be a learning experience? the team at luminato partnered up with the incomparable boutique electronic music festival, unsound, (based in krakow, poland) to bring the critically acclaimed event to toronto, its second north american pilgrimage in new york last year. this in itself was a lesson; as someone who is decidedly critical of toronto’s treatment of dance music culture and the scene that goes with it, it was already a welcome surprise that the city was hosting an event that seemed worlds away from its usual field. in fact, the entire weekend brought something fortuitous, musically and otherwise. here are some things we learned at unsound toronto.

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the hitch hiker’s guide to robert henke

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in 2007, a berlin-based producer, composer, sound engineer, and installation artist named robert henke wrote an essay entitled live performance in the age of supercomputing. it was a two-part piece that detailed the subtleties of live performance, and the different ways to move your audience. and henke should know. he has more than two decades of experience in the electronic music industry under his belt, not only as a producer and artist but likewise as the co-founder and developer of ableton.

his live performances — whether under his own name or as part of cutting-edge electronic act, monolake —  have brought him everywhere from the stages of mutek montreal or unsound poland, to the jagged rock cliffs of mexico or the empty airport hangars of france, to the dripping concrete walled nightclubs of his native germany. he works with anything and everything; lasers, kinetic light objects, field recordings, drum kits, helium balloons, computers, networking software. there is no limit to what henke can turn into music.

a few years after live performance in the age of supercomputing, henke rewrote the essay as a hitch hiker’s guide. the age of supercomputing, it seemed, had caught up with him. digital publication began calling for short, punctuated pieces; so henke obliged. written with a wink of irony, henke broke the essay down into accessible, easy to understand sections with titles like “play stuff the audience knows,” and “make sure it sounds great.” for our littlecity exclusive interview, i took a leaf from henke’s book: herewith you’ll find the hitch hiker’s guide to robert henke, an exploration of his work and values using the same sections as his pervasive essay. Continue reading

mutek montreal 2015 / in review

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there’s something to be said about coming home. countless words have been written about it: it’s “where the heart is.” “there’s no place like” it. nothing has emphasized the truth of these statements quite like returning to montreal for mutek, the annual digital arts and creativity festival that takes place around the quartier des spectacles/place des arts at the end of may. this year, the lineup boasted an incredible roster of local and international talent. not only was it deeply special to witness some of my close friends taking the stage this year, it was even more moving to find myself surrounded by all my favourite people in the world, dancing to the best music, all with the same smiles on their faces. coming home doesn’t get any better than that.  Continue reading

LC021 / fake_electronics

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when i ask montrealer jesse morrisson if he’s a dreamer or a realist, there’s a long pause before he answers, “both. i tend to keep things grounded but i’m definitely a dreamer, too.” the same can, i think, be said for his music. the first time i heard jesse play live as fake_electronics, it was a journey. in the basement of the mac in montreal during the 2014 mutek under low lights, jesse delivered a hand-crafted set built entirely around the randomness of the modular synths he works with. such a tactile approach lends his music an honest edge; there’s something genuine in his sound. that’s not to say that it’s straightforward, though — jesse’s right when he calls himself a dreamer, too.

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featuring / birdsmakingmachine

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let diego “pior” martin tell you something about the birds and the bees. playing live as birdsmakingmachine, he gets intimate with his gear; leaning in close, hips swaying, feet pounding on the stage, twisting knobs with a certain kind of sensuality reserved for the release, the ecstasy that comes with performance. he dances wildly on stage, completely giving in to the sounds he’s created, cracking faces that are a mix of concentration and climax, entirely lost in the music.

by the time pior sits down with me at the convent st agusti in barcelona, he has been working for hours already, setting up the stage at club nitsa. during mutek spain, he lends his time to the team as a stage hand and production assistant, expertly balancing his self-proclaimed handyman status with his work as birdsmakingmachine. a music project that began as an anonymous artist collective, pior represents the crew when playing live — an embodiment that pior takes very seriously. music, as far as he’s concerned, is not just for the birds, so to speak. he would later tell me that he feels like his most true self when he’s on stage, playing music, a fact that his live set at mutek spain made clear. in person, though, it’s not all that austere: pior laughs loud, taking care to note that our talk was the most fun he’d had in an interview in ages. herewith, pior and i talk barcelona, the power of anonymity, and the magic of performance.

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