welcome to Berlin

I had another very musical weekend. Did a little “mise en place” cleaning and rerouting and relabeling stuff. Finished a track Friday night and another Saturday morning. Received the Hypnosis Saturday afternoon, set it up and explored it a bit. Made the album artwork and then mastered the entire album, which generally went extremely smoothly.

I realized that this album is less “dark ambient” than it is Berlin School. There’s a certain similarity to older Tangerine Dream stuff: proto-ambient with (sometimes deceptively) simple looped sequences and slow improvised parts. It’s really not that much different from what I’ve been doing for quite some time, just a continuing drift that carried me from one region into another. Maybe this time there’s a little more emphasis on sequences, a bit more percussive action, and something a little different in what I’m playing on the Seaboard vs. 0-Ctrl touchplates or Minibrute pads. Maybe some of the influence is from the creative (and technical) limitations imposed by 18edo. It’s also very possible that some of my other albums should have been categorized this way too.

My general impression is that in 70s Germany, disaffected youth who wanted to break away from staid German traditional music started playing prog rock on synthesizers with a kind of techno-utopian vision: that was Kosmische Musik aka Krautrock. As genres went it cast a pretty wide net, with no two groups that sounded alike (and some groups that never sounded like themselves). A branch of that mutated into Berlin School, getting away from the rock/pop song structure and combining drones with repetitive sequences and improvisation. That in turn was a huge influence on ambient music. I also feel like it’s a natural place to return to

The other main branch emphasized rhythm and dancing, merged somewhat with disco and became techno. That of course influenced hiphop and spawned 934 different subgenres of house, trance, electro, IDM, EBM, etc.

In the post-Knobcon glow of hearing such great live techno, I think I may actually poke a little bit into that side again, on a trial basis. I feel like there must be a way to make it work for me. If not, no big deal, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been doing!

The Dreadbox Hypnosis is a very neat thing, and I’m glad I got it. Having run out of other places, I’ve set it up on the left side of my desk on an Ikea laptop wedge. Stereo routing in and out from the audio interface is convenient to work with in Bitwig: I can either add an HW FX device, or a Grid preset I’ve saved that also includes a feedback path (with a little auto-limiting).

Various stages of the device can overdrive easily, and both the Chorus/Flanger and the Delay can stack up strong resonances fast. So you’ve got to keep an ear out for clipping and back off the levels, much more so than with plugins or most Eurorack effects. Worth it though.

With the three effects, wide parameter ranges, different delay modes etc. it has a wide repertoire — it’s not just dirty spring reverb and 80s wet chorus, though it excels at those. I think if I’d gone for the reissue version instead, that would still have been useful and cool, just with a lesser repertoire and less cool. It wouldn’t have had the sound that grabbed my attention so quickly at Knobcon. And there’ll definitely be times I use that Freeze feature (as well as feedback control with an expression pedal) while playing a part. I’ve already recorded a drone with an electric kalimba and feedback…