Analog Ladies at Robotspeak

Today we look back at the recent Analog Ladies edition of the Church of the Superserge that took place in late June at Robotspeak in San Francisco.

The Analog Ladies show featured solo performances by five women on analog synthesizers (along with some additional items). It was a diverse cross-section of musical and performance styles, with each artist being different focus to her set. First up was series regular Elise Gargalikis performing on a Serge Modular synthesizer with along with vocal samples and loops.

Elise Gargalikis

Gargalikis, who often performs as part of the duo, Slope114, has a mellifluous voice that rises above some of the noise sounds from the modular synth, while blending as a high note in longer drones.

Next up was Miss Moist, an Oakland-based electronic musician who describes her music as “electro candy pop // tropical kitsch”. She combined analog electronics with a Korg Electribe and Mini-Kaoss Pad.

Miss Moist
[Photo by Tom Djll.]

The result was a blend of rhythms and sweet tones that did indeed match the description, but also moments of harsh glitching and moderate noise hits before returning back to the main patterns.

The next set featured Jill Fraser performing on her vintage Serge modular synthesizer.

Jill Fraser

Jill Fraser’s set featured fully formed compositions ranging over different parts of her career all the way to very recent. Some were very abstract, but with intricately detailed sound design on the Serge. I’ve always been impressed with the woodwind-like sounds that some musicians have been able to get from this instrument. There were also some melodic and rhythmic pieces as well, reflective of her career in film and TV.

Next up was Mint Park, who performed with an analog modular synthesizer made composed primarily of TipTop Audio modules along with a laptop running Ableton Live!

Mint Park

Her performance was intense. A strong set of beats with punctuated breaks was feed through the modular with hard grating noise that worked well in context. She kept up the energy for the entire duration of the set.

Then it was time to take the stage as the final act of show.

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[Photo by Dmitri SFC]

For this set, I brought the full analog modular system, including some recent acquisitions such as the Hexinverter.net Mutant-Hijats – I opened the set with the Hihats controlled by the Make Noise Rene and the Moog Theremini. The Theremini, used exclusively as a CV controller for the modular synth, was the centerpiece of the set as it enabled full embodied performance. I also brought along the Garrahand drum, which works well fed into the Make Noise Echophon.

Amanda Chaudhary synthesizer setup

You can here my full performance in this video.

Amanda Chaudhary at Analog Ladies, Robotspeak, San Francisco from CatSynth on Vimeo.

I always try to make sure there is a variety of textures and energy-levels and weave together a narrative structure even within improvisation. Overall, I was very pleased with this set and the response from the large crowd.

ac platforms
[Photo by Tom Djll.]

Indeed, all the artists were well received by the overflowing crowd at Robotspeak – it’s not a large place, but it was filled with synth enthusiasts and those who enjoy more adventurous music. This was the first Analog Ladies edition of the Church of the Super Serge, but I certainly hope it won’t be the last.

analog ladies robot patch cords
[Photo courtesy of Robotspeak.]

Ambient Chaos at Spectrum: Schuyler Tsuda, Amar Chaudhary, John Dunlop, RMA Trio

Today we look back at the November 26 Ambient-Chaos night at Spectrum in New York. I was happy to once again perform there, and hear some of what the local experimental-music scene has to offer.

The performance itself, the New York debut of my feminine persona, went quite well as was very well received. It was anchored by rhythmic elements on the Dave Smith Evolver, overlaid with iPad synths, the garrahand drum, sketch box, and a miniature subset of my analog modular system.

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[Photo by Painter Jung Nam Lee at Spectrum Manhattan, New York Nov 26, 2013]

Performing at Spectrum is always a great experience, sonically as well as visually. Lighting and shading was part of the design of my set and worked perfectly with the ever changing light patterns in the space. I was also happy with the narrative structure within the music. You can see and hear the full set in the following video:


Performance at Spectrum, November 26, 2013 from CatSynth on Vimeo.

I was preceded on the program by Schuyler Tsuda, who performed a set featuring his sonic sculptures. In a space lit only by candles on stage, he struck, bowed and scraped a variety of sonic objects. There were long ambient metallic sounds punctuated by shorter percussive events. The overall effect was eerie and sometimes a bit anxious, but also immersive and inviting. It is difficult to capture in a still photograph, so here is a video clip:


Schuyler Tsuda from CatSynth on Vimeo.

The third set featured John Dunlap on guitar and vocals as part of a duo that also included saxophone and electronics.


John Dunlap from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Their playing was loud and frenetic, and quite a contrast to both my set and Tsuda’s. Dunlap also incorporated throat singing into his performance.

RMA Trio
[Photo by Painter Jung Nam Lee at Spectrum Manhattan, New York Nov 26, 2013]

The final set brought together the RMA Trio along with a guest vocalist/actor to read excerpts from an upcoming play.

The text was in German, and if I understood correctly (which is doubtful) it was based on Hamlet. There was a variety in the instrumental pieces, including both percussive and harmonic piano, drums and guitar effects.

Overall, it was a great show, and a decent turnout considering that it took place in the middle of a nasty rainstorm. Thanks as always to Robert L. Pepper (PAS) for hosting this series, and to Glenn Cornett for making Spectrum a destination for musicians and sound artists in New York.

Pas Musique and Thomas/Levin duo, Luggage Store Gallery

Readers may recall that when I was in New York last November, I performed at TheaterLab in an evening organized by Robert L Pepper of PAS, and that he also joined me for an improvised electro-acoustic piece. I had the chance to return the favor when he and Amber Brien came to San Francisco as a duo Pas Musique and I hosted them at our regular Outsound Thursday-night series at the Luggage Store Gallery.

Pas Musique arrived with quite an array of electronic and acoustic instruments and sound-making devices including analog synthesizers, a looper, a garrahand (a beautiful resonant metal drum from from Argentina), and an inflatable dinosaur.

With these tools, they crafted an incredible performance of captivating rhythmic patterns overlaid with rich timbres. Even elements such as feedback and the dinosaur were seamlessly incorporated into the overall musical structure and themselves became rhythmic. Many of the electronically processed sounds have a very natural quality to them, which fit nicely with the garrahand sounds. You can get a sense of these elements in the following video from the performance:

Pas Musique at the Luggage Store Gallery, May 24, 2012 (Part 1) from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Another thing that is also quite apparent in this video is that it was incredibly windy in San Francisco that day, especially along Market Street. On one hand, the wind fit well with some of the more chaotic sounds in Pas Musique’s performance, and at the same time the relative order within their music provided a calming contrast. Musically, there were quite a few transitions, including more purely electronic sections with distortion, delays and vocoders, grounding mechanical sounds, and bells. Some points were quite meditative, others dramatic. Throughout, I was particularly taken with the musicality and sense of harmony and rhythm. This excerpt once again features the garrahand, along with looped electronics and a small flute.

Pas Musique at the Luggage Store Gallery, May 24, 2012 (Part 2) from CatSynth on Vimeo.

Towards the end of the set, the music became more frenetic with more intense vocal work by Pepper and a percussive performance on a metal ladder by Brien. After being out of time from one another, the rhythms converged into a forceful, eerie loop. This eventually gave way to more electronic robot-like sounds. As a finale, the air was let out of the dinosaur with the sound picked up and processed by microphones. This was set against a swing rhythm, ultimately ending in a loud thud.

Pas Musique were preceded by Oluyemi Thomas and Ike Levin as a free-improvisation duo. With saxophone and clarinet and handful of percussion instruments, their source material and texture was far more sparse. They began with Thomas performing long resonant gong tones and pattenrs on shakers against Levin on saxophone. Thomas then switched to bass clarinet and thus began an extended wind improvisation with high raspy saxophone tones and intricately wobbling clarinet sounds. At moments, it got quite loud (including a humorous synchronicity with honking instruments and honking horns outside on Market Street) but ultimately gave way to softer repeated notes and then breath sounds.

After a section in which Thomas returned to percussion while dancing in very slow deliberate almost ritualistic patterns, the two switched instruments with Levin on bass clarinet and Thomas on saxophone. There were loud tones, key clicks, and a jazz-like riff that gave way to scat singing. Each musician performed a solo on his respective wind instrument and then combined again in a duet moved from percussive to melodic and jazz like, at first forceful then softly rhythmical. It was ultimately a very warm and intimate performance.

Overall, it was a great show that I was happy to have curated. This is something I have been doing occasionally for the Luggage Store new-music series but I hope to do more frequently in the future.