Well, they still won’t be dragging their full 10-piece ensemble around the country, but Germany’s techno/classical crossover crew Brandt Brauer Ensemble will be playing a few more U.S. dates in addition to their previously announced gig at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series in New York City. These will feature only the BBF trio, so don’t expect any harps and tubas playing dance music. But if you like crisp German techno with touches of (pre-recorded) chamber music instrumentation, you’ll probably dig these shows anyway.
Here are the full dates:
7/31 – Washington, DC – U Street Music Hall
8/02 – New York, NY – Lincoln Center: Only US Full Ensemble Date (w/ The Bad Plus)
8/03 – New York, NY – Santos Party House
8/04 – Montreal, QC – Osheaga
More West Coast dates soon, guys?
Hoity-Toity Techno: Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble Making Their Debut U.S. Appearance at Lincoln Center
If you happen to be in New York City this August and you like your techno served with a side of pretentiousness, have we got news for you. The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble is bringing their live chamber music/techno fusion to Lincoln Center’s summer “Out of Doors” series. Finally, New Yorkers can listen to techno played live, with no drum machines, while they’re sitting down—just like nature intended.
If you’re not familiar with the BBF Ensemble: They’re a 10-piece band from Berlin who play (mostly) acoustic instruments like harp, cello, tuba and live percussion, but use them to create a blippy sonic palette not unlike minimal techno. If that still leaves you scratching your head, just watch some of the live video at the end of this post and you’ll get the idea. We’re still not sure if it makes the music any more interesting than actual techno, but it should definitely make for a unique concert experience.
The Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series is free and slightly less hoity-toity than their usual schedule of opera, ballet and classical music, but it will likely still attract a stuffier crowd than, say, the Sahara Tent at Coachella. Also on the bill that night: avant-jazz trio The Bad Plus doing a “re-envisioning” of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. By the way, combining the words “avant-jazz,” “re-envisioning” and “Stravinsky” in the same sentence literally causes NPR subscribers to pass out as if from some kind of high-culture whippit.
The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble play Lincoln Center Out of Doors on Thursday, Aug. 2nd. Did we mention it’s their debut American performance? Well, it is. So feel special, New Yorkers. Like you don’t already.
Here’s the BBF crew in action in Vienna. Enjoy.
Sometimes here at TWBITW, we like to get on down with our bad selves. And by “bad,” we mean, “in no fit state to be getting on down with anything, unless it’s a couch or a mattress with good lumbar support.” Still, we do try to give the old carcasses a little wiggle every once in awhile. And there’s nothing more fun to wiggle to (or easier, especially for us white folks) than a some good old-fashioned boot-in-a-dryer music. We’re talking techno*, people!
This time around, I’ve decided to annotate the playlist a bit. So read on to learn more about the 14 artists and tracks represented in this mix—and while you’re reading, fire up the ol’ Spotify and see if you’re capable of dancing and reading at the same time. I bet you can do it.
*And related genres of EDM. Don’t get all purist on us, k?
1. The Soft Pink Truth, “Soft Pink Missy.” SPT is Drew Daniel, one-half of the experimental electronic duo Matmos. His stuff is often filed under “microhouse,” all of which sounds pretty weird—but Daniel is especially adept at constructing dance tracks built out of tiny edits from all sorts of sampled material. I figured this was a nice, gentle way to ease y’all into some of the harder stuff coming.
2. The Vegetable Orchestra, “Pumpkin Jam” (Märtini Brös remix). A not-so-weird track, until you realize that most of it was created using instruments made out of vegetables. Märtini Brös, the German duo who did the remix, have created some pretty weird dance tracks of their own, including this one.
3. Greenskeepers, “Man in the House” (GK 911 remix). This Chicago house/electro-pop group makes many songs with a twisted sense of humor, most famously “Lotion,” a bouncy New Wave jam narrated by Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. This one isn’t quite that weird, but it’s got a fun beat.
4. Justin Martin and Sammy D, “The Southern Draw.” This one takes awhile to get going, but stay with it, and it gets wacky, trust me. It’s from the Dirtybird label, which releases a lot of terrific, offbeat techno—but nothing more offbeat than this.
5. Oli Chang, “Chicken Techno.” I’m pretty sure this one needs no explanation.
7. Von Südenfed, “Flooded.” A collaboration between the German experimental electronic duo Mouse on Mars and Mark E. Smith from The Fall—who turns out to be a surprisingly excellent dance music vocalist, at least in small doses. No, this isn’t strictly speaking techno, but it fucking rocks. And no, it’s not dubstep, either. Can we all please agree that not everything with a dark, twisted bassline is dubstep? Thank you.
8. Anklepants, “Deadline 4734 vs. Inside Your Face” (Imposex mix). We just featured this guy as our Weird Band of the Week. At first I was mostly just fascinated with his creepily lifelike monster mask, but the more I listen to his music, the more I’m digging it. He’s not really techno either, and I’m not even sure you can dance to this stuff, but it’s amazing.
9. Laibach, “Wirtschaft” (Richie Hawtin Hardcore Noise Mix). One of the greatest techno producers of all time, Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman), turns one of the weirdest industrial bands of all time into a jam for the ladies. That is, if those ladies like slam-dancing in steel-toed boots.
10. Underworld, “Moaner.” Underworld are one of those bands that became so popular, it’s easy now to forget how totally fucking wackadoodle even many of their best-known tracks are. This isn’t even their wackiest, but I think it’s one of their most underrated, with an insanely building synth line and Karl Hyde declaiming his surrealist raver poetry like a man possessed. God, they were so good back in the day.
11. Matthew Herbert, “February.” A British producer known for building his tracks out of field recordings of everything from bodily functions to household objects, Herbert released his weirdest and most controversial work last year: One Pig, an album of abstract musique concrete built from the sounds of the life cycle of a commercially raised pig, from birth to slaughter to dining table. On this track, from late in the album, you can hear butcher’s saws and the sounds of percussion instruments made out of the pig’s bones. It’s sort of the opposite of Vegetable Orchestra—and while I admit it’s pretty disturbing stuff, it kinda makes you crave bacon, doesn’t it?
12. Gangpol & Mit, “Balatchi Basketcha.” This track is about as close as the French kitschtronica duo G&M ever come to techno—and still, it’s less clubby, more Saturday-morning-cartoony, if Shag ever did Saturday morning cartoons. How awesome would that be?
13. Twink, “Slush Bunny.” Toy piano techno. You’re welcome, humanity!
14. Sir Ivan, “San Francisco” (John Kano radio mix). Yes, is the second playlist we’ve ended with Sir Ivan, but you know what? Fuck it. There’s something about his cheesy house/techno remakes of classic hippie songs that just seems like a fitting grand finale to an hour’s worth of weirdness. Such a strange vibration!
Hope you enjoy the playlist. If you do, tell a friend.
Ever since Daft Punk strapped on their cyborg motorcycle helmets, it seems like every electronic artist from Deadmau5 to the Bloody Beetroots has felt the need to liven up their act with some kind of crazy mask or helmet or headdress thingie. But how many electronic artists can you name with an animatronic penis where their nose should be? As of today, you can name one: Anklepants.
The man behind the Anklepants mask is Dr Reecard Farché, aka Josh Head, whose day job is working in the special effects industry, designing latex models, prosthetics and animatronics. His credits include Where the Wild Things Are, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and one of my favorite weird movies of all time, The Host, a Korean monster movie that you should Netflix this instant if you haven’t already seen it. (Seriously, stick that bad boy in your Netflix queue. I’ll wait.) His skills in this area explain how creepily lifelike Anklepants’ wrinkled visage is, as well as how his penis-nose is able to waggle around seemingly with a mind of its own (watch the video below, you’ll see what I mean).
But enough about Anklepants’ prosthetic schnoz. How’s the music, you ask? Well, that’s pretty fucking out there, too. If you cruise over to his Soundcloud page, you’ll hear some bizarre spins on techno, dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass with titles like “I Took Candy From a Baby” and (deep breath) “InsideyourfacedubstepbeanstalktoheavenfortheAtheist.” Dude’s definitely not coasting on his visual effects skills.
Anklepants’ live show looks pretty fun, too. He uses a custom cordless microphone with all sorts of buttons and presets that distort his voice in various interesting ways, and he seems to enjoy getting out from behind his gear to run around the audience, even when that audience is a bit scattered and obviously really confused by what they’re seeing.
So here’s the video for “[speak you little facehead],” which features Anklepants and his similarly faced sidekick (who also apparently sometimes doubles as a pole dancer at his live shows) tripping balls after devouring a bunch of plastic toys that have been melted in a microwave. Actually, we’re not really sure what’s going on in this video, but we’ve definitely never seen anything like it. Which coming from us is saying something.
Doing this blog really is a gift that keeps on giving. You’d think by our third year of operation, bands like Austria’s Vegetable Orchestra would be old hat to us. But truth be told, we only just recently discovered that these guys existed. Apparently, we’re not very good at our jobs.
The Vegetable Orchestra (also known as the First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra, or Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester in their native tongue) was founded in 1998 by a group of college students who were interested in exploring the acoustic properties of, well, vegetables. Initially they created vegetable-based instruments that closely resembled their wood and metal counterparts: drums made of pumpkins and celery roots, flutes made of carrots, a “cucumberphone” made from a hollowed-out cucumber with a bell pepper at one end and a carrot doubling as a reed at the other. Since then, their instruments have gotten increasingly bizarre, often with the aid of electronics; how the hell the “leek violin” works, to give just one example, we have no idea.
When performing live, the VO buys fresh, organic produce that day and assembles it into instruments just hours before showtime. At the end of each performance, they use the vegetables to make soup, which they then serve to the audience. Fresh veggies in a warm broth of Austrian saliva–yummers!
The Vegetable Orchestra have released three albums over the course of their 14-year existence. Their latest, Onionoise, is a mix of techno, tribal, ambient, industrial and avant-garde sounds that would be pretty darned weird even if it wasn’t being mostly produced on produce.
Here’s a 2007 promotional video of the Orchestra in action. Apparently they had to disable comments on YouTube because some people were attacking them for wasting perfectly good vegetables in the face of world hunger. To which we say: Come to a Vegetable Orchestra show and have some soup, you darned crankypantses!
It might not be obvious at first, but the distance between classical music and techno isn’t that great. Both are predominantly instrumental forms of music. Both layer sound in complex ways that go far beyond melody, or sometimes do away with melody altogether. Both think those avant-garde minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley are pretty dope. Techno and classical may play in different sandboxes, but they definitely share a shovel occasionally.
Still, the lengths Brandt Brauer Frick go to in order to combine the two genres seem a tad extreme. The first time we heard about these German cats, they were still pretty much building their minimal techno tracks the old-fashioned way: with lots of loops and programmed beats, albeit ones based mostly on acoustic sounds. But they were clearly interested in playing with people’s expectations of how such sounds are created; in the video for their track “Bop” (pictured above), they cloned themselves several times over to create an imaginary orchestra, playing the track’s hypnotically repetitive piano, percussion and even a well-timed rain stick with robotic precision.
But not content to stop there, BBF went ahead and created a ten-piece chamber orchestra called the (wait for it) Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble to recreate their tracks live, with no loops or programmed sounds at all. Even after watching two videos of the Ensemble in action, I still can’t decide if it’s a cool idea or not. I mean, on the one hand, it’s pretty damn impressive that these musicians—including a harpist, cellist, trombonist and whatever you call a tuba player (tubist?)—have the restraint, rhythmic sense and technical prowess required to produce the layered, percussive sounds of techno with mostly acoustic instruments (they sneak a Moog in there, but still). On the other hand, well, isn’t this what drum machines were invented for? I’m just not sure if it adds anything to my enjoyment of the music. It’s like watching a master sculptor carve an IKEA table.
But judge for yourself: Here’s a clip of the BBF Ensemble rehearsing a handful of tracks, including two (“Teufelsleiter” and “606 ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll”) from the first BBF album to feature the Ensemble, Mr. Machine, which is out on !K7 Records next month. What do you think…brilliant techno/classical fusion, or pointless technical exercise?
File this guy under “so completely ridiculous, he’s actually kind of awesome.” Seriously, we’re really hoping this post gets us invited to one of the parties at his 15,000 sq ft. castle in the Hamptons. Yeah, we’re whores.
“Sir Ivan” Wilzig is the son of a billionaire banker (and Auschwitz survivor) who quit the family business in 2000 to chase his dreams—which, in his case, apparently consisted of dressing up like a superhero and making really bad techno versions of classic ’60s protest songs. (Here’s a wild guess: Shortly before quitting his banking job, Ivan had a really mind-blowing night of ecstasy-fueled debauchery at some New York nightclub and possibly a candy-raver afterparty.)
The punchline to Sir Ivan’s story, of course, is that his cheesy Eurodisco versions of “Imagine” and “San Francisco” were very successful. There’s really no end to the market for bad dance music—even when it’s delivered by a middle-aged dude in a superhero cape. Actually, these days, every electronic act from the Bloody Beetroots to Deadmau5 dresses up in weird costumes, so maybe Ivan was really ahead of the curve.
Anyway, after laying low for a few years (apart from being a contestant on a reality TV show called Who Wants To Be A Superhero? and making this amazing appearance on VH1′s The Fabulous Life), Sir Ivan is back and promising to release a full-length album called I Am Peaceman later this year. The album features 15 tracks done in his inimiatable style, which he calls rocktronica, which is actually a pretty major improvement over “Technippy”, which is what he used to call his stuff (cause it’s techno + hippie music…get it? yeah, nevermind).
The first single from I Am Peaceman is a techno version of—I shit you not—”Kumbaya.” The video for it is below. It’s pretty painful stuff, but tough it out til the 1:38 mark, when there’s a batshit-crazy closeup of Ivan that’s well worth the price of admission. He’s like the Jewish Tom Jones—if the Welsh tiger had gobbled some shrooms at Burning Man and stumbled into one of the dance tents.