Mixtree Screencap

Glitchin’ Accomplished

Well, I’m back from a week’s visit to Amsterdam. It was nice for Glitchpuke to be reunited again. We played two gigs and recorded in Studio -2 in the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, where our first album was laid down.

Our first gig was opening a jazz jam session in the awesome vegan non-profit eatery, De Peper. It’s a familiar spot to all of us in the band, and we were happy to be the house band for a night. However, we weren’t able to use the restaurant vibe/format to our advantage. Glitchpuke has always been about making unexpected use of situations. However, just like our gig at The Waterhouse, we found it tricky to be “the entertainment” on a stage. Audience expectations in this situation are so constrained. Afterwards, I thought we should have explicitly tried some audience interaction, or some very unusual way of playing. What actually happened was, we got into freak-out mode pretty fast, paid little attention to the crowd, and most patrons left.

During the jam session, myself and Sidney had great fun playing some hard swing. Playing more conventional grooves was one new area that we both enjoyed exploring during the week.

Our other gig was in the art/performance space Mixtree. This was more our bag – small stage, arty mood, and some lighting to create mystique. I liked the gig but Andrius and Sidney had reservations. With free music in particular, it can be very hard to agree on what’s a good or bad performance!

Our favourite Amsterdam cinematographer Kim “Bas Raad” was there to shoot some footage, so stay tuned for that.

Finally we went into the studio last Monday for the afternoon. I haven’t listened to it yet – gonna get fresh ears by waiting a while.

I think Glitchpuke found it tricky in general to work without the platform provided by studying in the conservatory (where we could work with teachers and consultants on music promotion & management). And encouragement was not the only thing I missed. When we were inside an institution, there was an obvious direction for “subversion”. That’s not so clear in the real world where attention is a scarce resource and freaky music can seem like a squandering of that resource. Then again, noise and experimental music is getting bigger and bigger right now.

My next goal for Glitchpuke is to bring the band to Ireland. There we’re hoping to be able to put in some solid rehearsal, do more recording, and get on some festivals.

Gig Dates

We had some troubles with our Amsterdam dates, including cancellations and a venue getting shut down by the authorities! But we’re pleased to announce a pair of performances made possible by the great people at OT301. On November 26th we’re opening the long-running jam session at De Peper. And on November 29th we’re playing in Mixtree, in a collaboration with Natusha Croes, an Aruban-born performance and visual artist.

We’re also really looking forward to a recording session for our second album, on November 30th, in Studio -2 in the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. It’ll be a challenge to create a new band sound in less than a week of rehearsals. We love how our debut album turned out, but we wouldn’t be satisfied with just recycling those techniques and moods.

Also on the agenda are a photo shoot and a video shoot, so expect some eye candy in December.

Personally, I can’t wait to be in Amsterdam again! It’s been 5 months.

Blogjam

Our tour in Amsterdam will happen from November 25th to December 1st!

While we confirm the last few gigs, here are some blogs for you to check out. They have the self-awareness and curiosity I’d like to achieve here (someday).

Liz R, a self-described “lesbian trans musician/visual artist/writer/curator” blogs with a no-nonsense and emotionally engaged perspective on computer game culture and design. This post, about identity and expression in writing electronic music, is cool: sound as a commodity

Nick Montfort is an expert on “interactive narrative” and “digital poetry” among other things. His blog is both techy and creative, and I like the bare fact that there are people out there pushing these frontiers. Here he does some pop-culture critique: Why I Hate The Martian

James Hague runs a pragmatic programming/game design blog. For those who, like me, can’t code, here’s a piece on how to find focus for a creative project: Advice to Aimless, Excited Programmers

Finally, Dan Voss has a sophisticated blog on improvised music. He posts quotes, interviews and music theory titbits like this analysis of a Steve Coleman exercise: Steve Coleman and Dominant/Half-Diminished Seventh Symmetry

Advice Is Free

Here’s some advice about playing free music that I’ve picked up since starting Glitchpuke. I can’t remember exact words so all the quotes are really paraphrases!

“It should always feel like it’s growing.” – Arnoold Dooyewerd (Conservatorium van Amsterdam). This suggests starting off  with room to grow, either in volume level, density of notes, complexity, etc. Also it can guide choices – if it feels like growth has stopped, do something new. This concept relates nicely to Steve Lehman’s “directionality”, which is the feeling that the music is going somewhere.

“The way notes are attacked has the greatest impact on mood.” – Arnoold Dooyewerd. This seems extreme (actually Arnoold never put it so bluntly), but it works because it takes players out of their usual technical mode of thinking. Instead of abstractions like scales and chords, they can focus on emotion, physicality and raw sound.

“Don’t be passive.” – Andrius Dereviancenko (sax player in Glitchpuke). There have been times when I stuck too much to a supportive role in our improvisations. Supporting and listening is essential, but it can become a habit that’s hard to escape. If a player always lets others lead, this is boring and a refusal to take responsibility! I think this is especially a risk in noise music.

“Use shapes.” – Michael Moore (Conservatorium van Amsterdam). In classes where he would join with group improv, Michael always gave his first idea a memorable shape, for instance, incorporating a trill, a slide, or a chromatic approach. This resembles the motives found throughout jazz and classical music. However, in free improv you have no guarantees about the harmony that will emerge. So I use the word “shapes” to describe gestures that can be re-used no matter what the harmony.

“Save and reload sounds” – Okkyung Lee. This is just one little part from a workshop I attended years ago. It suggests that players try and memorise things that occur improvisations so they can leave them, and later return to them. This is great because it means taking control. It encourages players to try hard to be aware of what’s going on. Finally, it encourages structural thinking.

“Learn to recognise your group’s habits” – me. Using a familiar pattern of any kind is a temptation once your band has played together enough. It could be a volume build, a bass note shift, a type of drumbeat, a way of dropping out. If this happens, it’s essential that everyone is aware of it. Nowadays, I think it’s even worth making up words to describe things that your band does!

Sidney Ornamental

Best of the Rest

Today I want to introduce the other bands we play in. I’ve had the privilege of seeing all these acts live and I can say they all raise the roof!

Andrius Dereviancenko tours and records with his avant-guard jazz band, Morganfreeman. This quartet is based in Amsterdam but features two US natives, Matt Adomeit (bass) and Tristan Renfrow (drums) as well as trumpeter Dennis Sekratev from Frankfurt, Germany. Here they play the standard ‘Softly’ in a way you won’t expect:

Sidney Jaffe plays with a psychedelic rock trio, Burnpilot. His brother Joel provides the bass while Jonas plays guitar. These guys tour hard, mostly in Germany and the Netherlands. Here’s a video of an intense live show:

Sidney also drops mind-melting beats under the moniker Ornamental. Check out his game face in this awesome video:

As for myself, Kevin Higgins, I play in a jam-rock/improvised techno trio called Mescalito, with Dave Byrne (guitar) and Neil Murphy (drums). We’re doing mini-tour in Ireland, from September 26th to October 11th, which I’m excited about! This video showcases the stage moves I rocked in my younger days!

My other group also has a techno influence. It’s a groove-jazz quartet called Nature, featuring Dublin’s finest… Sarah Red (vocals), Chris Guilfoyle (guitar) and Tommy Gray (drums). Our album is free to download at acustronica.com/forget-the-theory.html

So that’s Morganfreeman (Facebook page) (website)

Burnpilot (Facebook)

Ornamental (Facebook)

Mescalito (Facebook)

Nature (Facebook)

Hope you find something you like. It’s all good stuff! Stay tuned for Glitchpuke news!

Heads Up

Things have been quiet but we are working on a reunion tour which will happen before Christmas – stay tuned for the announcement! Meanwhile, a glimpse at how our album art was prototyped with pen and paper:

After the first step of creating 3D models (see earlier post), I made a bunch of sketches of our heads from different angles. I found drawing from a computer screen to be easier than drawing from life.

Ballpoint pen sketches of the heads of Kevin, Andrius and Sidney.

Ballpoint pen sketches of the heads of Kevin, Andrius and Sidney.

One cool thing about this was that it let me identify a distinctive visual personality for each of us. I’ve got the strong angled lines of my nose, bearded chin and collar (top of the sheet). Andrius has curved lines in his cheek, shoulder, skull and chin (middle). And Sidney (bottom) has horizontal lines and boxy corners to his beard and facial features. Using this knowledge, I made a bunch of different compositions.

Thumbnail compositions - page 1

Thumbnail compositions – page 1

Thumbnail compositions - page 2

Thumbnail compositions – page 2

Page 1 has the compositions that would eventually evolve into the finished cover: the 3rd in the top row has the idea of a diagonal arrangement with receding perspective, and the 3rd in the second row has the idea of overlapping. The two largest sketches on page 2 (that is, the one without a frame and the one above that) introduce the idea of having our eyes all on a single diagonal plane.

In the end though, I had to do a lot of experimentation in the 3D software. The hardest thing for a beginner like me, was understanding the use of zoom and the angle of the lens (or field of view). I was happy with my final composition though, especially once my brother glitched up the models and made a high resolution render for me. I particularly like the aggressive, basically triangular shape made by all the heads against the background.

The final composition.

The final composition.