CD Review: br'er Of Shemales and Kissaboos

Readers might remember the band br'er and lead Benjamin Schurr from the infamous CatSynth Tatoo. Well, br'er is out with their first album, Of Shemales and Kissaboos.

br'er not surprisingly includes a lot of synthesizer work, combined with songwriting, “art rock”, and an interesting collection of instruments. Schurr and Christian Mirande together provide an assortment of synthesizers, noise sources, toy instruments, and such on top of a more traditional “band” of voice, guitar, keyboard, bass and drums.

The music ranges from very soft ballads to something akin to techno-industrial. Perhaps most iconic for me is the track “I'm sorry mom”, which I believe used to be featured on br'er's myspace. It opens with simple 3/4 strumming and voice, and quickly grows to include dissonant piano strings and more. A lot of pieces follow a similar idea, moving between art-rock song and experimental electronic work. The next track “Rory snake handler” also features a lot of splicing between disparate elements (e.g., song and dissonant piano), I'm guessing it is not indended to be played live. Most of the tracks, however, do sound quite doable live, which should make for some interesting shows as they tour.

The tracks following “I'm sorry mom”, continue to build up more and more electronic and noise elements, while returning for stretches to the “song” format. Ultimately, it is a collection of real songs, as sung by Schurr. But I find myself focusing on the piano and the electronics most. There is a lot of what I would consider “traditional avant-guard piano”, as well as sound-synthesis exploration, of the sorts I might use in my own performances or recordings. This is especially true in the later tracks from “Lapin” onward. It almost feels like they arranged in increasing order of electronic noise and beat/pattern content, which is as good an organizing principle as any. But to their credit, they provide a more chaotic or absurdist, and somewhat quiet, turn at the end.

Of Shemales And Kissaboos is available now from Beat is Murder Records. You can hear audio samples from from the album at Beat Is Murder's myspace as well as br'er.

Discuss on the CatSynth music forum.

New Podcast: Perseid-inspired electronic imrpovisation

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Tonight's podcast is a relatively short improvisation using the DSI Evolver. The initial section was inspired, at a vague conceptual level, by going out to see the Perseid meteor shower tonight (August 12-13, 2007), and then unfolds from there with the usual tweaking of knobs and parameters while listening.

Although this is a fairly short recording, it might become part of a larger piece to add to the upcoming album 2 1/2, with a fast techno/electronica beat section to follow. I'm not working on that tonight because I actually am trying catch a little bit of the meteor shower.

For subscription and listening options, click the “CatSynth Channel” icon in the upper right or the subscription link at the top of this post. And as always, enjoy!

New Podcast: MERZ0004 – zlknf – Bast Babylone (May 19, 2005)

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I was searching for track to feature tonight in honor of the Music and Cats theme of the Bad Kitty Chaos Festival, and eventually settled on this selection from Bast Babylone by zlknf:

lknf: free noise from an autonomous organism.
territory of new sonic landscapes in permanent questioning and mutation, quasi-silence purity to gliding noisaural imensitudes.
Bast Babylon EP available through Merzbau.

In this case, I am interpreting the theme as more “inspirational” than literal, i.e., music inspired by cats rather than created from cat sounds. Certainly, the references to Bast suggest a feline connection, as do the following quotes from the credits:

bast babylone is dedicated to bosch and sybilla.
zlknf thanks the electric masters for their gates are open,
her cats for their love is unconditional, merzbau for the immediate
cooperation and sympathy, and the Friends – AGAPE

Musically, this track reminds me a lot of the piece I did for Dorian Grey's Box, as well as several works in 2 1/2. Disturbingly so. Most likely it is common elements inspired by listening to computer music (ala ICMC and SEAMUS), but perhaps there is also a common element of the cats…

For subscription and listening options, click the “CatSynth Channel” icon in the upper right or the subscription link at the top of this post. And as always, enjoy!

New Podcast: Performance at 7th Annual Skronkathon

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Tonight we feature the much-discussed performance from the 7th Annual Skronkathon two weeks ago. I did a solo electronic set featuring myself playing laptop (running []Open Sund World[/url]), the Indian ektar and gopichand string instruments, a toy piano, the DSI Evolver, and of course my quacking toy duck (everyone loves the duck).

This recording was done my Matt Ingalls for the sfSound Radio broadcast. I edited it a bit, mostly cutting out the empty bits or embarrassing errors.

You can see a photograph from the performance here and more info about the technical preparations here.

For subscription and listening options, click the “CatSynth Channel” icon in the upper right or the subscription link at the top of this post. And as always, enjoy!

Skronkathon photo…and upcoming show

Well, there's me, attempting to appear ironic, at the 2007 Skronkathon two weeks ago. I'm playing the ektar, a single-string folk instrument from India, one of several instruments used during the performance.

This is one of several photographs taken at the event by Polly Moller. And it is quite timely, given that we will be performing together this Friday in San Jose:

It all starts at 7:00 p.m. at works/san jose,
451 First Street, San Jose, CA 95112
Cost: $5.00/$3.00 donation

july 27th music night with KIOKU, polly moller & company and dajis

based in new york city, the musical group kioku presents traditional
asian folk music within a new context of collaborative experimentation
and improvisation. the trio consists of wynn yamami (east and
southeast asian percussion, including japanese taiko, korean gongs,
and filipino kulintang), christopher ariza (live laptop electronics),
and ali sakkal (saxophones, percussion). while committed to the
preservation of musical traditions, kioku (japanese for “memory”)
acknowledges the plasticity of tradition and freely adopts musical
techniques found within improv-based and new music circles.

converging from oakland, san francisco and santa cruz are polly
moller, john moreira, and amar chaudhary, combining flute, bass flute,
voice, guitar, and electronics to create otherworldly improvisatory
atmospheres and backgrounds for polly's gripping text.

who is dajis? a dj with a selection of ambient and experimental music.

New Podcast: Synth Summit at Luggage Store Gallery, July 2004

Tonight's podcast is an excerpt from the “Synthesizer Summit” at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco. Basically, the performance is an improvisation by several artists playing hardware synths. If I recall correctly, the artists and their respective synths were:

Synthia Payne: Roland JP8000
Amar Chaudhary: E-MU Proteus 2000 (Mo'Phatt + Vintage) and Morpheus
LX Rudis: Oberheim Matrix 12
Jim Ryan: Arp 2600
Will Grant: E-MU UltraProteus

Note: many subscribers may have heard another excerpt fromt the Synthesizer Summit that I accidentally released a few weeks back instead of the advertised Woodstockhausen 2003 performance (that has since been corrected).

Podcast correction

A serious “mybad moment” with the podcast series. The March 25 release “Charmer:Firmament from Woodstockhausen 2003” had the wrong audio file. I have now corrected the situation, and the proper audio is linked in.

Those who have already subscribed and downloaded the March 25 episode will probably have to either unsubscribe (as I did in iTunes) or perform some other acrobatics to get the updated audio.

The “incorrect” piece was an ensemble improv from 2004 that I may release in an upcoming episode, this time properly labeled and attributed.

New Podcast: Improvisation with Octave The Cat

Another Sunday, another podcast release. Tonight I present a short improvisation on the recently acquired Octave CAT synthesizer. I have been playing with this instrument now for several days and getting a better feel for both it's timbres, it can do some really smooth analog sounds and really glitchy complex elements as well. I try to cover both qualities in this performance. Enjoy!

I am also rolling out the new logo, part of reintroducing the podcast as “The CatSynth Channel.”

New Podcast: Charmer:Firmament live at Woodstockhausen 2003

Well, my latest experiment with sampled piano was a flop, and a close friend and fellow crazy experimental musician is currently in my thoughts, so it seems a good time to release one of my live performances from the Woodstockhausen 2003 festival. In this case, it is a live version of Charmer:Firmament, a piece for digital computer controlled live by a graphics tablet. A recorded version of this piece also appears on my CD Aquatic (you know, the one that none of you are buying).

As always, enjoy!

New Podcast Release: "Four Days"

A special treat for listeners of my podcast this Sunday! I am releasing a full-length (but lower fidelity) track from my RPM Challenge album, 2 1/2.

“Four Days” is a piece in the style of musique concrete, and fits into the overal narrative theme of the album 2 1/2. It has a really captivating and eerie quality, perhaps even a little spooky.


(and please check out the current recordings available if you like it)