A magical place for experimental and DIY music truly exists and it’s here, in the beautiful forests of Lithuania. The provoking winds of Braille Satellite line up is all set and it happens to be a 3-day celebration of independent creativity, uncommon sounds and undiscovered music of all genres, curated by Matas Aerobica and Oscar Der Winzige. As we like to dig a bit deeper, we decided to ask a few of the many headliners, Felix Kubin, Don’t DJ and Bear Bones, Lay Low, some questions just in time to get you into the mood to dance like nobody’s watching.
Q: It is known, you were born in divided Germany. Could you maybe compare the DIY scene back then and now? What has changed after the fall of the iron curtain?
The iron curtain was a symbol for the division of the world into two antipodes: the capitalist West and the communist East (which was in fact mostly a bureaucratic tyranny). This dichotomy also created a strong conscience of pro and contra, right and wrong, attack and defense. It determined the philosophy of music-making: certain aesthetics were established – often with a (pseudo-) political background – that would be wiped off the note sheet soon by the next “movement”, and so on. With the dissolving of communism and the uprising of globalization and digitalization, the arrow of time dissolved and suddenly we got a multitude of old and new styles existing next to each other without the competition and dialectic urgency that we had before. We are in a crisis of urgency. At the same time, the capitalist industry helped us to produce music at home at very high quality standards. I still think that there is a lot of subversive DIY music being produced, I often realize that when we do our DEMO DANDIES DJ nights where we ask the audience to bring demo tapes. We get the wildest music you can imagine. But it’s completely under the radar, even less visible than at the beginning of home recording tape music in the 1980s.
Q: Yet you are from the West part so where this nostalgia for the East comes from?
Well, I fell in love with a girl from Danzig in the early 90s, I like the literature and films from the East, I like their more romantic and fatalistic attitude towards life. People seem less afraid, more trusting, and more emotionally healthy. Also, I (secretly) watched East German TV when I was 9 and staying at my grandmother’s. For some reason it was possible to catch their programme at her house. She sometimes asked me if I was a Communist. I had no idea what that is.
Q: Which performances will you give an ear to during the festival?
I will play cosmonaughty pitchpunk. Oh, you mean which ones I will listen to? As much as I can during my short stay at Braille Satellite. I hope to catch some performance in Braille writing!
BEAR BONES, LAY LOW
Q: You have already visited Lithuania a few times, alone or with your other project “Tav Exotic”. Could you recall your favourite memory from here? Or associate a sound that reminds you of the time here?
I can easily say that every time I’ve been to Lithuania it’s been very special. And every time it’s been different. The only thing that remains constant is that I go to sleep at one point while Matas and the Braille crew just keep on going for days haha.
One of the experiences I cherish the most is when I was invited to play the year before the festival was called Braille Satellite. It was a smaller version of what would come the following years and it was called something Lithuanian I can’t remember but the abbreviation was ASAP. I stayed almost a week at the place where the festival took place deep in the Lithuanian countryside. I was sleeping in a barn on a bunch of hay with a blanket over it and sharing the space with a Polish man and his 8 year old son, 3 Japanese noisers and a Spanish freakazoid, all of which won my heart. I remember sharing good moments near the river and by the fire, setting up a totem for the festival entrance, making a bunch of eggs with dear Italians, peeling potatoes for an English curry master, taking mushrooms with my Lithuanian sister, making music in a little house… I also pissed off Oscar and Matas a bit because I decided to play in a small shack instead of the big stage which was the original plan. I’m happy I did so, I really don’t like big stages and the vibe was great.
A song that always takes me back to Vilnius is one called “House of Pancakes” by Joe Manichetti which Matas was kind enough to share with me last time I was there. It reminds of a crazy night involving a long drive through Poland in the middle of the night, French buddies getting put in jail after their show for misbehavior on a plane and spiral psychedelic dreams.
Q: You are quite a close friend of Matas and Oscar, the organizers of the fest, right? What is the story behind? How have you all met?
I don’t think either of us would say we’re close friends, not at this point in any case (smiles). What we do have is a strong connection that starts with music and extends to a certain way of seeing and approaching life. I feel great respect for them and for what they do. Through the music they select they have inspired me a lot and I’m always happy when they invite me to one of their events after all this time! This is how friendships are built: with time and living things together. Peeling the onion little by little…
“The only thing that remains constant (in festival) is that I go to sleep at one point while Matas and the Braille crew just keep on going for days.
Anyways, I first met Matas. He invited me to play at a fancy club in 2014. I think it was one of the first times I played in a nightclub atmosphere. I was quite surprised someone would consider appropriate having me play for a crowd that wants to party! Two years later I was asked by the label Kraak to curate part of their annual festival of experimental music in Brussels and I decided to invite Matas and Oscar to close the main evening with their mind bending DJ set. Matas was sick so only Oscar came. I got along with him very well and that night he made everybody go crazy unexpectedly, making all of us dance to super weird stuff even while the venue had turned on all the lights and the security of the place was kicking everybody out! It was a great moment, I’ll never forget it!
Q: What should we expect from your performance at Braille Satellite?
I’m trying out some new toys that allow me to improvise more and not always have to rely on prepared sequences and melodies. I’m making more abstract music at home, so maybe it will be a bit less groovy. It’ll probably sound the same though! Hopefully not too techno-y…
Q: Which performances or DJ sets do you recommend to hear during the festival?
I can mostly recommend live acts as I’m not too familiar with the DJ side of life: Pierre Bastien, Arma Agharta, Ludo Mich, Shitcluster, El Anima, Two Monkeys… Although for DJ’s I can say that Ondula is always kick ass and I’m looking forward to hear what Uji Tanze and Vacas have selected for the event.
Q: Your description in the festival website says that you are interested in “musique acéphale”? Could you tell us more about this term and its concept?
Sure! The term is French and translates as “music without head”. It refers to a concept I was thinking about a lot and discussing it with friends like Hiroshi Matobe with whom I was once working on a software sequencer only based on circles.
The idea is basically this: could there be music without a definite measure? Could we listen to a beat or enjoy a rhythm without knowing where it starts, ends and repeats? The answer is: probably not! Repetition seems to be an intrinsic quality of rhythm. So musique acéphale is most likely a paradox.
However, there is phenomena which at least goes into this direction: when I was working with IFF we would only record tracks live on prepared turntables, no rearranging, no overdubbing, no cutting. Often the loop would be running a long time before we were ready for a recording and we could not stop the music as it would be nearly impossible to get it running exactly as it was. When it was time to record, we needed to make sure we are on the same count to coordinate our playing. So one of us would count the meter out loud and most of the time all other members wouldn’t agree and have a completely different starting point within that very same loop.
Sometimes it was very difficult to shift to a virtual starting point in one’s head when it was already established – so we had to come up with strategies: for example, the person would cover their ears and open them on a visual cue at the supposed start or the counting person would play another highly significant sound at the intended starting point or cut the master fader and throw it back in at the right moment.
Those strategies worked quite well, implying that whenever you have a sufficiently insignificant measure (beat) running, you could switch the listener’s “metrical focus”, meaning shifting the supposed “start” to a different point within the same rhythmical structure. That may not sound such a big thing but you will be surprised how for example melodies change when you just hear them as starting from a different point: the music is exactly the same – but the mood and whole feel can change dramatically. However, it is difficult to shift an already established metric focus, especially when you deal with very significant structures like melodies.
Simple versions of this phenomenon are frequently done in techno productions: most of the time when the first beat appears at a different point than what you expected – suddenly shifting the whole arrangement into a different “picture” – the producer played that trick on you. The easiest way to achieve this is to start your track at another point than the metric “1-count”, like on the “1 and” or the “2”. another classic application is done in minimal arrangements by switching the snare from 2 and 4 to 1 and 3.
Musique acéphale was just the name I gave to messing around with this phenomena on an impossible quest to finding a rhythm which would bring the listeners to constantly shift their metric focus and eventually lose the measure altogether without loosing the groove.
Q: What effect has musique acéphale on the audience? How is it perceived?
Well… As with all sensory perceptions, the experience is entirely up to the observer! The observer is who makes sense out of the impulses that their sensory organs transmit to the brain. I have no idea how anyone except me perceives any piece of music. Judging from conversations as well as my own experience, the individual perceptions vary a great deal within each person at different times and between different individuals!
“Often the most satisfying encounters (in music) are those you did not expect, finding you in the right mood at the right time!
However, what would be “objectively observable”, is a setting in which multiple listeners – who are experienced in counting rhythms – are exposed to the same music. You would then ask them to count the rhythm as they perceive it (without the others hearing or seeing that count). If all or many of them would count completely different from each other, specifically if they would start at different points and counting rhythms of different lengths that would not be integer multiples of each other; or if they would not even be able to decide on a specific count while being certain how they feel (“bodily recognize”) a rhythmic groove, then the rhythm in question would be acèphalic.
We still wouldn’t know what exactly they perceive but we could be sure that it would be different from each other on a more significant level than if they would listen to, let’s say, a standard 4 to the floor, where it’s very easy to count the measure.
Q: Which performances have you marked in red in the festival line up?
None! I prefer to go with the flow and have myself surprised. Of course, sometimes I really want to see some act I love, and sometimes I cannot help but have high expectations for a particular show. But mostly you are caught up in something that doesn’t permit deferral exactly when your favorite act comes on, or the show will be disappointing because the artist dives fully into the very aspect you don’t like about them. Or you manage to see the amazing show of your favorite performer but you are in the wrong state of mind and body and end up not enjoying it although it was awesome.
Often the most satisfying encounters are those you did not expect, finding you in the right mood at the right time!
The provoking winds of Braille Satellite will take place on the 19 – 21st July at Manor Mushroom park, Lithuania. Alongside our interviewees, the event will feature DJ sets and performances from around 70 groups or artists such as faUSt, Chris Imler, Two Monkeys, Albion, Octatanz, Alexander Arpeggio and many more. Tickets can be found here.