Been a few days since the previous Buddha Machine Variation. The camera died, after it had stopped playing nice with audio. And I got a new, smaller synthesizer case (from Pulp Logic, who were super helpful with plotting it out). This is the first time I’ve ever used an expression pedal with my synth, thanks to one of the three tiles in the upper left corner of the box. (“Tiles” being a term for the shorter modules seen top and bottom here, above and below the ER-301 module.) Very simple little patch. Just a proof of concept. The tiny foot (well, hand) pedal is triggering the recording of a microloop (400 or so milliseconds) of the choral audio coming from the Philip Glass 80th-birthday edition of the Buddha Machine. The expression pedal is varying how much we’re hearing the inbound Glass loop, and how much we’re hearing the microloop. If you’re wondering where the Buddha Machine is sending its audio into the synth, there are jacks in the side of the case itself.
For further patch-documentation purposes, here are two shots of the synthesizer:
From within an opening mass of cloudy digital fragments comes a nimble if martial beat. It’s adorned, in time, with squiggly computer noise and a humorously sublimated vocal. The track is titled “Y’all” and it’s by Katie Gately, who’s based in Los Angeles and whose work here comes across like synth pop turned inside out. There are words caught in endless echo-repeats, phrases uttered and forgotten, raw syllables left to their own devices. The voice, which is to say the voice’s comprehensibility, slowly decays over the course of “Y’all,” and it ends up sounding like HAL 9000’s little sister crashing hard after a multi-day bender. What makes the track so great is how it seems like pop music even though it’s almost devoid of a proper song structure (there is something akin to a chorus, but it only occurs twice, and the second time it falls apart quickly). Even better is how the vocal line’s disintegration is treated as part of the music’s overall compositional development, how the words — or lack thereof, as it progresses — function as rhythm, melody, instrument, sound.
The name rawb1 is that of a SoundCloud account that’s a regular on the Stones Throw Beat Battles. The battles are a strong precursor of the Disquiet Junto. Each week a sample is offered up to the members, who then — with a handful of restraints, along the lines of variations on the game of poker — craft an instrumental hip-hop beat out of it. Much of the rawb1 account is a series of these entries, but the most recent track suggests itself as a respite, thanks to its title, “Cigarette Afterwards.” It’s a solid beat, which is to say it is unsolid: there’s a light shift or swagger to its pace, even though its foundation is a repeated sample of a piano, bass, and percussion. The tension, or more to the point the accomplished lack of tension, between affect and process is a key facet of a good beat, There’s also a bit of coital enthusiasm that serves as “Cigarette Afterwards”‘s approximation of a vocal. One of the pleasures of the Beat Battles is listening to instrumental hip-hop continue to become a self-contained force, not music intended for sublimation to a vocalist, but a formed composition unto itself.