German inspiration

After a high activity first month of blogging I decided to take a step back. I feel it’s time to rein in the writer and have fewer, but hopefully better posts, with a clearer focus on the music and my process. I have created four categories for my posts – inspiration, exploration, creation and reflection. Nothing wrong with a little Ordnung, as they say in Deutschland.

The Mannheim EP-project is very much alive, but musically it’s been moving a bit slower this week. I listened to a podcast by Brian Funk in which he said something along the line … when something is important we have a tendency to play it safe. I could instantly relate and see why I had started to question my first songs for the EP. Too vanilla, too little playfulness, too little exploration and too much trying to be a good musician. Which is sort of a dead-end-street, since I’m not.

Having a defined concept is interesting, though. Mannheim – a German town in my memory. When I think about it there is no shortage of details, memories or themes to use as trampolines and launchpads for ideas. German music is no exception. I like to see this as an opportunity for exploration. To enter into dialogue with a tradition. And I don’t think trying on costumes is a bad thing. Do I sound good in this? Or even better, who could I be in this suit. So, I got the idea to visit/revisit a few sounds to see if there’s something for me there.

Neu-Hallogallo

A Kraut-anthem. There is a lot of things I like in this. The machine-like driving beat, which still is very human when it comes to the time-keeping. Backwards guitars, wah-wah. The space and the dynamics with the crash-symbals. I think there are ideas for me to try here.

Kraftwerk – Autobahn

In my tweens, mid to late 80s, synth music was everything to me. Just a few years later it was all about guitars. I haven’t spent much time with Kraftwerk over the years. Listening now. Autobahn is interesting. It starts of synthetic with vocoder-voice. Then there is a bass line with delay/tape-echo that gives it all some swing, the singing makes me feel of Beach Boys – there’s even what sounds like real flute. And some Byrdsian jangle (!!?) – guitars or just some bright pluck? Hippies! I get a really nostalgic image of driving through the countryside. It doesn’t sound as futuristic and robotic as I imagined Kraftwerk. I can see quite a few things to try here. I find the softness of the synths interesting. There’s something naive and whimsy about this song. I like naive, I always have been and there is something pure when people are honest and uncalculated.

Autobahn is a long piece. The last part has a four-on-the-floor beat just like Neu. Reading up on it I learnt it’s called Motorik.

Berlin and its techno has been like exploring an unknown continent for me. The song Halma by Dave DK has fascinated me since I first heard it, I believe off a playlist by Jamie XX. It is full of great texture and groove and very moving and nostalgic. There are lots of sounds breaking apart, through warping artefacts and time-stretching. The percussive pattern, although a different groove, makes me think of the Massive Attack track Unfinished sympathy. What I like about Halma is that it feels so human, melancholy and emotional despite a lot of sounds having sharp edges. To me there’s a nostalgic mist that is embedding it all softening the hurt.

Dave DK-Halma
Pole

Just like kraut, dub seems to be genre so cool it always shows up as influence every now and then. A few years ago at Ableton Loop I attended a masterclass with Stefan Betke, aka Pole. I believe it was focused on low end, bass. Sadly I don’t recall much more than the tip to have your aux-returns come back into the mixer on a regular audio channel. I’m very interested in the concept of dub mixing, the use of the mixer desk and being able to transform the music. While I appreciate reggae it’s not my mothertongue. And I have no real interest in learning it. But the techniques of dub seems very interesting to take into other genres. Even folk. Ben Watt (most known from Everything but the girl) has made few different mixtapes called Deep Folk a few years back where he blended folk songs with field recordings and tape echo effects. I think this would be worth exploring. Learning how to master low end woudn’t hurt either.

Oh well, deciding to hold back any impulse to post, meant I hardly posted at all. As written above, musically it’s been going slow this week. But I’ll get back up to speed soon.

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