In this 2019 edition, in which so many modular synthesisers will be upon Semibreve’s stage, it’s a blessed moment to be able to count on the presence and music of Morton Subotnick, na absolute legend in electronic music, and a nonconformist who helped to keep the avant-garde tangible for so many. If at the festival’s closing, with Suzanne Ciani, we’ll listen someone who’s understood Buchla so weel, with Subotnick we’ll have the creator, along with Don Buchla, of the laws of modeular synthesiser. At the age of 86, in an amazing proof of eternal vitality and refractoriness, he brings us two compositions from 2019: “As I Live and Breathe” and, inevitably, “Silver Apples of the Moon”, in a revisiting of this 1967 supreme master-piece, which to this day still amazes with its contemporary boldness. In the images, the other half of this concert, as important as the sound: working as a duo since 2009, Subotnick faces his collaboration with Lillevan as an audio-visual dialogue, in a permanent exchange of stimuli and ideas. They create a welcoming space for improvisation, allowing the work to gain originality with each new presentation. For that reason also, this opening night of Semibreve will be peerless.
With a resumé which cannot help but be connected to Nine Inch Nails — he’s an often used and important live musician for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s band -, Alessandro Cortini has done some notable solo work which merits, on its own, front page headlines. An exemplary multi-instrumentalist, the Italian has, however, invested his solitary love in electronica, whether on the analogue side where he shows a remarkable knowledge on modular synths, whether on the more electrifying side where his subliminal rock noises the atmosphere of his ambientalism. Between poetic dreaminess and the feeling of an asphyxiating threat, Cortini is one of the musicians who better exposes this restless and ambivalent panorama of contemporary electronic music. His concerts are, for this reason, opportunities to physically confront this powerful greatness, to which a warm visual component.
New stories are needed, and it’s common that they come to us from expected places, close to what we thought to be the centre of operations. But this centre is generally just the centre of attentions, because someone, like for example the sonic and visual artist Ipek Gorgun has long moved outside instituted circles. In 2014, an invitation by the Red Bull Music Academy took her to Tokyo to share a lineup with Ryoji Ikeda and OtomoYoshihide, bringing her name to the fore outside her native Turkey, making her, after that trip, a frequent visitor to the most enlightened stages in Europe. After releasing her latest album “Ecce Homo” on the prestigious Touch label, the world decidedly paid attention to her delicate and beautiful electronic landscapes, and our centre of attention became more extended and encompassing, wonderfully. We’re grateful for her music, but also for making us better listeners.
Usually, Nik Void says that his music seeks the unexpected. Perhaps that was the distinctive characteristic that was so valuable to Factory Floor as soon as she was made a part of the group. And we can say the same of Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, who along with Nik Void moved forward with a new trio which updated in a positive fashion, the former Throbbing Gristle’s industrial electronic. After a long career in music, almost always in others’ company, Nik Void’s first album is finally coming, with a planned release for 2020. At Semibreve, we’ll all be lucky to hear what’s coming: it promises fractured rhythm, pure electronic, sparkling noise, and the usual enchanting handling of her voice. Like concerts by Factory Floor or Carter Tutti Void, it’s quite plausible that we’ll deliver ourselves heart and soul to the music which will come from this fusion of matters.
During the day, from Monday to Friday, Avalon Emerson writes code for a software company; in whatever is left of his time, he devotes himself steadfastly to being one of the most captivating producers and DJ os current dance music. Maybe the explanation ofr her refined aesthetic sense comes from this blaance, where little particles seem to make the difference inher electronica, as if she wrote the sculpted code in her music, piece by piece, like na intrasnsmissable DNA. That is why we, in spite of ourselves, become submerged in spirals of contagious futuristic energy, among the digital blips and an electro pulse which precisely controls our body’s tingling.
There is no credible survival manual for us to wait so long for something that we love so much. But, subduing some anxiety, we ended up managing to wait for eight long years for the successor to “Owl Splinters” — a feat achieved with the obvious help of the countless projects by Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland, the tow members in Deaf Center. “Low Distance” continues, with a calming tameness, the dominant ambientalism by the duo, someshere between subterranean chamber music and microscopic electro-acoustic. Eight years have gone by, but the two Norwegians invite us, without any hurry, to a deep listening, in a retreated mode, where we understand how time has polished a rich lexicon of resources, and transformed “Low Distance” into a work of ultra-refined minimalism of na extreme fragile beauty.
World premiere, absolute début, first time. There have been many at Semibreve, over the years, but few would make us fill this text with so many complimentary adjectives: first, because two essential names in this centuries’ music are joined, then because that would help us to release some of the anxiety regarding this collaboration. Oren Ambarchi is a fearless and adventurous musician, with no boundaries and an indomitable willingness to regularly associate with some of the best musicians there ever were. On the other hand, Robert Lowe is a leading actor in the libertarian electronic which emanates from modular synthesizers, proving that intuition is always better than an instruction manual. Naturally, they’ve accepted the festival’s invitation and they will obviously create something which will give us a glimpse of the astonishment of the new. This is the power in the hands of who insists in breaking molds, question that which they know and start over again: a beautiful cycle.
In 1997, when Drew McDowall handed in the plans and sketches for a new record by Coil to John Balance and Peter Christopherson, he was surely far from believing how much the project’s career would be changed, and how relevant this album would become to experimental music in the following decades. Inspired by Tibetan ceremonial music, but also by other religions that use music as the driving force to achieve transe-like states, “Time Machines” is a master-piece of electronica which shows the absolute power with which drones, perfect and chemically tuned, can change our perception of time. To guide us through the spiral, Florence To designed in the big screen the perfect cosmos to hypnotize us and help to dissolve time.
Discovering Clothilde in recent years was a surprise to all of us, but also a surprise for Sofia Mestre, who found sonic creation unexpectedly and late in life, after being pushed towards manipulation of modular synths built by her partner. What she lacks in experience she has in insticn, and her absent past gives her a bright future. Because her present is made of a search for imacualte newness, the confrontation with the unknown, digging in the music which comes from her artisanal instruments as if it were a miraculous gift. Clothilde’s compositions are borne of an inexplicable Creative impetus, authentic and generous, and give us some of the purest and intriguing contemporary electronic pieces which, with no hesitation, follow in the direct lineage of the masters we idolize. For its unexpected nature, and especially for its singularity, Clothilde is the most recent treasure of our electronic music. And as with any treasure, it’s best to keep our eyes on its glow.
In March of this year, Rian Treanor released “Ataxia”, his first album after a fee brilliant Eps which made his name a highly visible one in the electronica radar. “Ataxia” means a pathological lack of coordination of body movements. And, in fact, to launch into Treanor’s music is to test some of our limits and observe how we respond to them. They’re angular and labyrinthine compositions, often with a non-conventional geometry, made of asymmetrical structures and abrupt patterns, but we’ve rarely heard something so crystalline and with such exactitude, where we hover stunned by the total absence of the superfluous. That is, lethal qualities to make our body obey it blindly, leaving us only our motor functions which articulate our smiles, to thank him for an experience which we’ll gladly never forget.
We can let go on the dancefloor and accept the music Kode9gives us, but we can also understand the importance Kode9 has for a significant part of the other music we isten to. Besides three studio albums, the british artist has founded, and runs, Hyperdub, na essential label to map a considerable chunk of insubordinate conteporary electronic music. With it, Kode9 played a vital role in establishing dubstep, giving sanctuary to Burial’s magnificent catalogue, or livening up the scene with Fatima El Qadiri, Laurel Halo or Babyfather. With a Philosophy degree, some of his thoughts on music and sonic culture are shared and taught in academic lectures and Master classes. Used to delve deep into musical matters, we don’t expect a DJ set by Kode9 to be anything less than a well planned lesson.
In the last couple of years we’ve heard the name of Felicia Atkinson repeatedly. Not just in music, where she shows a body of work ever more remarkable, but also in letters and visual arts thanks to the essential Shelter Press, which she runs with Bartolomé Sanson. Through the label’s valuable catalogue, we understand Atkinson’s encompassing gaze upon the world, and how everything feeds into her compositions in a harmonious fashion: concrete poetry, lost sounds, recycled noise or strange fragments coexist harmoniously in an ambient texture, collaged in na intuitive way in a delicately rarefied and abstract electronic structure. This will all be available on her work desk, but only at the moment of creation will we hear how Felicia Atkinson will build another one of her admirable sonic sculptures.
Robin Rimbaud has kept his machines plugged in for more than 25 years. His debut with “Scanner” – It was the first release by Ash International, subsidiary of Touch, in 1993 —, showed someone interested in capturing the world to imprison it in his compositions. All this time, Scanner never ceased to search, became a tireless musician who has always regarded old and new electronica as an endless source of ideas. Logically, the traditional modular synths are a source of much of his enthusiasm, but the new generations of these machines also give him ample nourishment for his curiosity. So, he accepted with an expected gusto, Semibreve’s invitation to have a residency at the festival with the superlative Portuguese modular synth brand ADDAC System, from which he’ll create the materials for his concerts. Bringing added value to this début, filmmaker Miguel C. Tavares will create the film for this round trip to the world of machines.
The Buchla 200 is a magnificent music machine, inscrutable for many, but that which in the right hands can be a source of endless inventiveness. One of such pairs of hands belongs to Suzanne Ciani, by virtue of a life spent in front of this instrument, staring at it, exploring it and testing its malleable limits. A lot of the credit to which we’re witness to in the resurgence of modular electronica is owed to the trails blazed by Ciani during her long career, being it therefore important and even necessary to pay the according tribute to one who knew how to be curious before everyone else. She once held the title of brightest star of synths, but the quality of her art requires other labels. And it especially requires our presence, because we’ll be able to hear her music in a glorious quadriphonia in Theatro Circo.