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Coordinate – how the collaborations happened

Clan Analogue’s fiftieth release, the compilation Coordinate: Collaboration Beyond the Algorithm, began as an invitation to musicians in the electronic and experimental music communities throughout Australia and beyond. Once the word was out, 50 artists registered to be involved in the project. Each artist had to supply samples of their previous work and nominate particular skills or specialisations they saw themselves bringing to a collaboration. They were also asked to nominate what skills they would see their ideal collaborator having.

The project managers, Nick Wilson and Martin Koszolko, went through all the expressions-of-interest which were registered and paired up the artists into 25 proposed collaborations. Sometimes the criteria for pairing artists was to find the best possible fit according to the artists’ expressed preferences. At other times it was determined by the aim of finding interesting juxtapositions and to see if some productive creative friction could be encouraged.

All the artists were given the theme of ‘beyond the algorithm’ to consider. This theme was chosen as a timely exploration of the ways in which communication within our modern networked society is driven by social media algorithms which push us towards interactions with those who think and feel like us. With Coordinate the aim was to push back against this “echo chamber” tendency and get people working together who otherwise would not come into contact due to the different scenes, whether genre-based, generational or otherwise defined, that they may inhabit.

So post-rock musos found themselves working with electroacoustic composers. Or young synth enthusiasts found themselves working with seasoned dub musicians. Experimental musique concrète artists were paired up with techno producers.

The collaborative process explored with the Coordinate album was intended to push artists out of their stylistic and methodological comfort zones. They were asked to embrace genre juxtapositions, explore new working methods, and to not be too precious about results which strayed from their initial expectations. Some feedback on draft work was dished out by the project managers which ruffled a few artistic sensitivities and put some grit in the creative oysters hard at work.

Several collaborations didn’t come to full fruition. Some artists dropped out due to time constraints. A few collaborations got underway but didn’t produce finished results as the artists weren’t able to come to agreement on creative direction or collaborative methodology. But at the end of the production timeframe an excellent batch of twelve tracks was ready for release, with 26 artists having contributed their artistic time and effort to the finished album.

Each artist was asked to explain the stylistic methodology they explored in their Coordinate collaboration:

track 1: Wasters of Time and Sunitram – Let the Robots
Our first decision was to use Dropbox and share stems as our methodology since we were working on different DAWs. The chord progression and a fairly well-formed structure of the rather ambient piece was provided by Martin and Mal beefed it up with some simple kick/snare lines as well as a few new sounds. A few elements of the initial track were stripped back by Mal in order to enhance the structural changes. Mal also contributed the lyrics based on the project theme and we both found out that using a text-to-speech program to render the lyrics in robot style vocals would work best for us. We then fitted them musically in the track.
By this point we had what sounded something like a pop song which due to changes in the musical musical arrangement and adding some more aggressive bass sounds was then brought towards the minimal house feel of the final work. The final part of the process was to discuss the final mix. Since we both think that we got picked out well in contributing with each other we basically were on the same wavelength and had an awesome communication during the whole project so mixing and mastering was a very easy and unproblematic step.
The title of the track “Let the Robots” was born out of the lyrics and should raise awareness that a lot of things in our daily lives are shared and controlled by computers and are available online.

track 2: Jani Ho and Justin Mullins – Melberra
This song was created by several steps in two studios, Justin Mullins in Canberra and Jani Ho in Melbourne. We started off with two separate trax of raw takes of hardware synths and drum machines, recorded on multi-track, from Jani. Justin then made a single composition out of the stems of the two trax and added more drums, synths and a bass line recorded on hardware in his studio in Canberra. Final mix down was done in Melbourne by Jani, after testing the track out a few times DJing out.

track 3: Eighth Arrow and Pradip Sarkar with Damian Tangram – Deep State
Step one – 50g vibes. Mix Korg Mono/Poly, Emu Emulator II and Roland Sh101 with setting 7 on Roland RE 201 tape echo .
Step two – Add beats and bass on modern computing platform. Pradip.
Step three – Add synth solo. Chanel the spirit of Dusseldorf. Damian.
Step four – Roll it and roll it and roll it again. Layer up layer upon layer. Jackson.

track 4: Kitty Xiao and Campbell Drummond – Dialogue
“Dialogue features electronics by Campbell Drummond and Kitty Xiao on prepared piano. The techniques I used in preparing the piano are inspired by John Cage’s works in the 1940s. I prepared the piano using materials such as nails and rubbers placed at different nodes of the strings to create timbres and harmonics that would lock with the electronic sounds created by Campbell. The soundscape Campbell and I create involve practices across very different musical styles. Bringing them together was a way of exploring communication and understanding between two different worlds, and for us resonated strongly with concepts explored in ‘Beyond the Alogrithm’.” Kitty Xiao

The collaborative track we created for Clan Analogue was born when Campbell was travelling in Japan a few years back.

A recording was made of a children’s Taiko drumming group which was then fed into Abelton Live, the beats were covered to midi data and formed the basis of the rhythm and bass line for this track.

After being connected with Kitty Xiao through the “Coordinate” project Campbell sent a copy of the unfinished track to Kitty who decided to add a layer of prepared piano to enhance and complete the composition into the work now known as “Dialogue”.”

track 5: Simon Mann meets ZAZIZ – Memories of Attar
ZAZIZ sent an ol-skool cd in the ol-skool post to Simon, who then worked his magic to create an interpretation of that source material. By mixing processed samples from ZAZIZ’s original compositions with his own sound design, Simon conjured a remixed hybrid of ZAZIZ’s recordings. The majority of Simon’s sampling came from one track that he was drawn to on the cd, a ZAZIZ original entitled ‘Memories of Attar’, the inspiration for which is outlined here: http://www.innersense.com.au/salonim/projects/2003/zaziz.html

“”Memories of Attar” is inspired from love of the album Apocalypse Across the Sky by The Master Musicians of Jajouka (Produced by Bill Laswell), particularly the track entitled “Memories of My Father”, which when I first heard it, moved me deeper than any other music I’ve ever heard. ‘Attar’ is the family name of the leader of this musical brotherhood, as well as meaning ‘scent’ (essentially) and is a sacred Arabic word. The piece was recorded in Feb ’03 on a PC lent to me by my friend Richard Sukkar, and uses only the software program ‘Acid Pro’.” ZAZIZ

track 6: Auto_Horatio and Tony Tralongo’s Cocoon – Choonosaurus
Tony downloaded a piece of music from James titled ‘Choon’. This segment was then looped a number of times and treated with reverb and other effects such as the ‘talk box’ sound. Once it began to grow, the quirky rhythm took on a prehistoric nature and, hence, we have Choonosaurus. Tony played electric guitar and the Korg T2 workstation for strings and other synth sounds.

track 7: John von Ahlen and Shane Osterfield – Millonario
John gave Shane a track he had worked on for some time, already complete with percussion, synth lines and a little melody. Shane took a vocal sample from another track he was also working on at the time, pitched it to C then began experimenting with it and layering it over John’s track, following key but often changing octave. Shane then layered several effects over the vocal, and at times John’s music, to try and compliment the musical feel the track already had. This had the effect of creating a new, sometimes spooky feel to the track via the use of Shane’s software of choice – FL Studio.

The music for Millionario was recorded at Subterrane Recording Studio. The track actually began when John von Ahlen was playing around on an Oberheim OB-Xa at MESS LTD. The Oberheim was played manually – via it’s internal arpeggiator – and the sequences for the chorus and verse were all played by hand.

The Oberheim track was then taken to Subterrane Recording Studio and production proper began. The Oberheim track was tempo mapped in Cubase 9, and the then drums added courtesy of Johns DR-110. The back bone of the track began to take shape and a multitude of vintage synths completed the picture, including Jupiter 4, SH-101, Sequential Circuits Pro One and Korg Delta. The track was sent to Shane who added some amazing vocals to the track, as mentioned above.

A bit of vocoder and computer magic was added to the vocals. The track underwent a few editing and arrangement changes, namely the middle section and finally the track was completed.

Looking back the track it’s a great example of the sum of parts being greater than the whole. The original music was good, as were the vocals. But it wasn’t until the two were combined, manipulated and mangled that the track actually came to life as something fresh and new.

We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it!

– John & Shane

track 8: iubar project vs Modus Op – Untold
The track started with Iubar’s Animoog and Soundscaper app recordings followed by Modus Op’s live drums and Monologue and Octatrack sourced content. The vocal element includes excerpts from a private family conversation unearthing previously untold stories describing the hardship of the World War II times.

track 9: EchoZilla and Nat Grant – Three Part Ratio
Our track is a bit music concrete meets exquisite corpse – three artists providing recorded material for the others to cut up and manipulate, not necessarily knowing what the others’ process or source material was.

Nick and Jodi started with two recordings 1.of improvised live instrumental music featuring electric violin, bass VI, theremin and effects 2. cassette walkman street recordings around Brunswick.
Both Jodi and Nick separately made new cut and paste pieces combining those with Nat’s field recording from country Victoria and found sound/metal percussion recordings, with Nat then mixing all the collected recordings. Then Nick and Jodi combined the three interpretations into one 3 part narrative. Our three tales with the same raw material.

We worked in a completely new way, out of our comfort zones, for this collaboration. After some discussion and listening to each other’s tracks we sent Nat a piece of improvised instrumental music heavily electronically effected, and she sent us some field recordings of her using outdoor objects for percussive sounds, then we sent some field recordings of Brunswick street life on analog tape. Each of the three of us put together our own piece – Jodi and I worked only on the field recordings, Nat combined them with the recording of instrumental playing for a more pitched piece.

We’ve combined the three pieces as three movements of a whole, with the actual instrumental playing in the middle. Three musicians, three recordings, three new pieces created from them and sewn into one final mix.

track 10: JOR and PantsOfDeath – Remote Access
This track was made with the creative limitations of two oddly paired artists who are still yet to actually meet in real time. Rendered files back and forth, scrapped ideas, time consuming uploads and downloads, incorrect BPMs and other mundane hold ups persisted through out the collaboration. To the credit of the artists, a connection sustained. The resulting track encapsulates themes of subtle beauty amongst the experience of remoteness and restriction.

track 11: David Prescott-Steed and SFBM – Heuristic
The track started out with David and I communicating about our conceptual ideas and soundscape we’d like to aim for, as well as production techniques we’d be using. We wanted to combine a mixture of recordings of jamming of hardware synths, field recordings and found sound, as well as software synthesis, samples, and loops within Ableton Live (which was used for putting everything together and producing the track).

The more atmospheric parts of the track came from my Zoom H2n field recorder – I took a handful of different recordings one day whilst walking down Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s CBD, and then later that night, recorded sounds of rain in my backyard. David sent me dozens of samples and loops he’d made from found sounds and other methods, as well as a 5-10 min hardware jam, all of which I chopped up and made loops from and then selected specific parts to work with to add into the whole mixture.
Then, I hooked up my Moog Mother32 into a few FX pedals and routed it through my PC’s Audio interface, and recorded a handful of sessions of me jamming random patterns and sounds from it (sequenced by my Arturia Beatstep Pro) – with some of the patterns being polyrhythmic. I chopped up some ½ bar and 1 bar loops from those sessions, and added extra processing to them within ableton (such as reverb, distortion, chorus, delay, saturation, sidechain compression, etc). I then sequenced 2 of the more stronger sounding melodies/riffs from this into the track, which make up the two primary hypnotic looping synth patterns within the track.

To produce the rest of the track: I used Ableton Live 9 Suite to sequence and layer all the combination of our sounds and loops, and added more elements within Live from a variety of sources like synthesizer VST’s, percussion samples and sample pack loops (which I further chopped up and looped in different ways). Each channel underwent various dynamics and effects processing, using FX such as parallel distortion, saturation, timed delays, reverb, and sidechained compression. Once the main layout of the track was underway, I applied EQ, auxiliary reverb sends, volume, fx, and filter automations to the track, cleaned up the general mixdown of the whole composition, and then conferred with David about any further final tweaks or changes that may needed to be added to go from the 2nd last edit to the final version. After fleshing out some breakdowns, tightening up automations of fx, and raising/lowering volume levels for certain elements in order to bring them to the background or foreground more: The final submission was exported and submitted as a complete track.

track 12: dyLab and Lightwell – Two Minds
The track was made using ableton live and its built in fx / instruments and then saved and shared via email/dropbox
we had a number of goes each at the track making refinements and edits. initially the track was a slow tempo dub style track but then it got changed to something more up tempo and 4×4 and then the elements were all brought together for the final mix – there was definitely some back and forth before we found something at we both liked but in the end i think we were both happy with end results.

What Michael Mildren Learned From Kraftwerk

With the first release in Michael Mildren’s Process series, Studies In Kraft (CA049A) Michael recreated a selection of classic Kraftwerk tracks using period electronic music gear and painstaking study of the composition, performance and production techniques of the German electronic music masters. When Michael commenced work on the second release in the Process series, Post-Kraft (CA049B), he applied what he had learned from Kraftwerk to his own original tracks.

Here are a selection of Michael’s tips, gleaned from his intensive study of Kraftwerk, with some details on how he implemented this in his own work:

• Pay attention to detail…
• Don’t leave unnecessary notes or unnecessary sound artefacts in the track.
• Less can be better than more, especially where drum tracks are concerned
• Be careful not to make drum patterns too busy.
• Pay attention to frequency ranges across the multi-tracks, making sure bass notes and sounds are clearly heard and avoiding muddy low-mids.
• Use compression sparingly.
• Kraftwerk were good at using timed delay to give the impression of more notes being played eg in ‘Computer World’, where the bass line is more effective because it is an 8th note rhythm with one delay that makes it seem like a 16th. I used this in ‘Find Your Here’ after I’d found that the bass line seemed too busy and aurally tiring after a while with constant 16th notes.
• Finish a song before starting a new one (within reason, and always revisiting)
• The function of mastering a track is for clarity and suitable volume.

How did Michael implement these ideas in his original tracks?

Levels’ was the first piece I made straight after Studies in Kraft. I had amassed a new collection of analogue equipment (still expanding and contracting with purchases and sales). I wanted to make a long piece that traced the concept of music from basic sound (white and pink noise, non-melodic sound fx and spacey filtered feedback) through drone music (two-note drone chord with simple repetitive melody) and finally polyrhythmic music with more complex harmonies and melodies. I used my EHX small stone phaser on the strings in part two. I’d bought this phaser for the organ sound in ‘Autobahn’ on Studies in Kraft.

I’d made a computer software version of ‘GeoEngineering’ some years ago but it was overblown and way too loud. I used a more paired-back approach, guided by what I’d learned from songs like ‘Computer World’ and ‘Europe Endless’.

Satellite in the Sky’ was clearly referencing the structure and style of ‘Radioactivity’. Again, I was adding to my synth collection, so used a Waldorf Rocket as well as my Korg Poly 800.

This is an Emergency’ was made late at night after a session on ‘Levels’, starting as an improv on ELGAM Electric Piano/Harpsichord/Spinnet through Small Stone and Roland analog echo DC30. I wanted to create a traditional French style song with preset clarinet sound from my 1973 Roland SH1000, plus vocals by French sound module on the Texas Instruments Language Tutor which I’d bought on eBay for ‘Computer World’. To balance and counter the preset melody, I used the SH1000 pink noise as another ‘melodic’ part, and finally added a deep bass note from the same synth.

Process 1: Studies in Kraft and Process 2: Post-Kraft are out now from Clan Analogue. Look out for Process 3, to be released shortly.

Michael Mildren’s Journey Into Kraftwerk

When Michael Mildren commenced work on Process 1: Studies in Kraft, out now from Clan Analogue, an epic journey of exploration ensued. A search for the right gear to produce Kraftwerk’s classic tracks spanned continents. The focused critical listening to minutely analyse every aspect of Kraftwerk’s compositions and sound design took months. Practice with synth programming, effects tweaking and performance techniques was another huge undertaking.

Here Michael recounts some of the processes he explored:

“I only had basic analogue gear when I started… the 1973 Roland SH1000, Elgam electric piano/harpsichord, Mattell Synsonics drum machine and a few other bits and bobs. I immediately started to explore eBay and the local Music Swap Shop for anything I could afford that might generate good analogue sounds.

“The lead melody in ‘Neon Lights’ sounded like it might have been an Arp Odyssey. I found the flute sound on an early eighties sound module (EM101) whcih gave a reasonable estimation of it. I used the same sound for the melody in ‘Europe Endless’.

“For all vocoder parts I used my old Roland SVC350 vocoder with the organ or string sound from an old Casio keyboard. I bought an old EHX Small Stone phaser pedal online from Lismore to treat the EM101 organ sound for ‘Autobahn’.

“I found a French Texas Instruments Language Tutor (1978 voice synthesiser) on eBay from Palm Beach, Queensland, and a Spanish one from Canada, to use on ‘Pocket Calculator’ and ‘Computer World’. I found an original stylophone on eBay from an RSPCA op shop in a quaint English village.

“Laying out each original Kraftwerk song on a track in Ableton Live then setting the file to the nearest BPM, I would reference the original and slowly build up my version part by part. This was mostly live real-time playing with occasional sequenced parts on a newly bought Arturia Microbrute.

“I steadily added to my analogue gear setup over the year that I was working on the recordings. I traded some gear for a good drum machine, the Electron Machinedrum Mk1, which made drum programming possible. With some songs I would make a simple pattern and then play snare or other parts live on separate tracks.

“I also played live snare and hi hats parts on a Mattel Synsonics, particularly the ‘Computer World’ flams. Also on ‘Computer World’ I discovered rhythmic lines which I’d thought were 16ths but which were 1/8th notes doubled through a delay, so I learned how to set the delay rate of my Roland DC30 to replicate this effect.

“When I recorded ‘Man Machine’, I still didn’t have a polysynth that had filter sweep, so I put the EM 101 through a Korg Monotron which I had bought years earlier and which has an MS20-like filter, playing and tweaking the part live.”

Process 1: Studies In Kraft from Michael Mildren is available now from Clan Analogue. Look out for the next release in Michael Mildren’s release series: Process 2: Post-Kraft.