Kvsu's big drone&noise mix

Some time ago I sat down and compiled a big mix with all the recordings of our live performances (and some rehearsals mixed in for good measure). I wanted to get a feeling of what we had done with kvsu in the last years… you know… with the aim of gaining a more analytical perspective and seeing if we had learned something, refined our style etc. Also we’re in the process of re-orienting the project and this was a very important step to understand some things.
Still, I feel like it turned out enjoyable enough (for those among you who like drones and noisy sounds) to share it.
The material is mostly improvisational and spans over a time frame of about 5 years (but the bits are not ordered chronologically).

A tracklist can be found in the Soundcloud description

And of course there’s a lot of Mutable gear in here: most of the tracks feature the Shruthis, the Sidekick, the Anushri, and some even the modules (though to a lesser extend, since I rarely take out the modular to play live).

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Really nice. Would you mind describing your Live setup?

Sure, no problem, though it is a bit hard, I have to do most of it from memory, these bits&pieces have been created over the last 5 years.
So let’s go in chronological order (which is not necessarily the order these things are arranged in the mix, but I think it’s better, because it will give you an idea of how our setup evolved over time. I’ll add some references to the track so it makes more sense though.
Warning: this going to be lengthy, if for you pictures are worth a 1000 words, check this page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kurodamavsubumaic/

The first set we made 5 years ago, was mostly laptop based, with some controllers (APC40, Launchpad a Novation keyboard etc.), some hardware synths (Shruthi, Monotribe) and a bass clarinet.
Then we decided to move away from the laptop, mostly to challenge ourselves to do something different and more hands-on (also because Ableton crashed badly during 2 live sets).
So we made this performance where we’d just use the few hardware things we had. Most of them were DIY (like the Shruthi and some atari punk consoles) and we had no sequencers (just a looper which I would use very crudely).
Still we had some fun and so we went on with this kind of approach. In the meantime my bandmate got into modulars. His first system was mostly Doepfer, plus some Make Noise stuff – I think mainly the Wogglebug and Phonogene – and some early Hexinverter designs like the vcNoiz and the Jupiter Storm (09:50 untitled – toyznoiz 1). He also went through a series of small DIY and non DIY instruments like the Nebulophone, while I got one of the first Anushris, of which we used the drums as well (13:15 untitled scandinavian tune – rehearsal). In that time I was really into circuit bending, so I got a bent Pikachu toy (which I still have and use), a bent VL-1 and some other assorted things which I’d either bent myself or got somebody to bend for me. I also modded an old tape player with some contact mics, and played around with tape loops, and processing the sound of the motors and mechanics (00:00 unsinnig – rationaltheater münchen and 10:46 unsinnig – rehearsal).
We both got an Oto Biscuit relative early on. You can hear that on almost every recording of ours and we still use it a lot.
I wasn’t really satisfied with the Anushri as a drum machine, mostly because I do like to write my own drum parts and am not too keen on very regular rythms. So I tried different things, including a bunch of iPad apps, which all worked so-so (11:28 gipsy noise – rehearsal).
In the end I went with an LXR and was really happy with it for quite some time, also I finally finished a big bending project on a Casio SK-1 (08:34 intro – making stories expogate), my Bandmate expanded his Modular, ending up with 2 9U cases, and used that with some minor changes until very recently, when we split the projects in two and decided to keep one modular-free (kvsu), while the other is heavily modular-based (felt kaan). We went back to Ableton just once, for a project inspired by Hieronymus Bosch (03:48 purgatorio (in.pu.pa) – atelier schwarz dresden).
I have always been using the looper a lot. After a short time trying out Loopy for iPhone/iPad and having all sorts of problems with it, I got a EHX 2880, which I used for quite some time, only to later swap it with a Boss Rc-505, which I really like, albeit it looking really horrible and being quite huge. I did swap the LXR (though I still have it) for an Electribe 2, which I hated, and then finally got an Octatrack. I’m now thinking about using only that, and removing the RC-505 from the setup, but 8 tracks are a bit on the limit… so I need to think it through well.
What I also like to use a lot lately is the Volca Keys, while my bandmate built up an impressive pedalboard, which he uses to process his voice. Our current (planned) setup looks like this: I’ve got the Octatrack which works as a drum machine, fx processor and live sampler/looper (right now the RC-505 does the latter), A 4PM Shruthi, PreenFM2 and Volca Keys for live playing of parts (though I’d like to reduce that to just one synth) and the Anushri which gets sequenced by the Octatrack. The Oto Biscuit and a TimeFactor delay are put on the OT’s output/cue output. Also I use a Hall of Fame and a fuzz/distortion pedal to process the above live-played synths.
My bandmate uses The pedalboard (don’t ask me to list all the pedals there, but there’s a digital Boss Space Echo, a Fuzzfactory, the Biscuit, a Boss Octaver and Distortion etc.), an OP-1, a Monotron delay, A Kaossilator and a Microbrute. With this setup we do more structured, composed songs now, only occasionally we do more droney impro stuff, where we have a reduced version of the above (06:12 untitled – toyznoiz 5).

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And btw. to me making this mix (an exercise which I can only recommend to everybody who plays live, especially when doing more improvised stuff) proved that gear is a very secondary element, and it’s much more important to have a vision, a concept and to take creative decisions (and again, making this mix also made it apparent where our flaws are in these regards).
Despite changing so much of our setup over the years, some things always stayed the same, though some gear changes did impact our sound quite heavily, like moving from the iPad drum machines to something capable of complex rythms like the LXR and then later the move to the OT. But I think the latter was mostly due to me having a certain vision of how the drums should sound, but not finding the right instrument to make this work at the beginning.

While I do not have a problem at all with talking about the setup and the gear, I do think that we should talk more about the creative decisions we take when making music, and what we actually do with the gear.

I enjoyed listening to this track and reading about your gear journey. I bought my first synth (Monotribe) five years ago and have been learning ever since. The emphasis on small desktop modules in your production makes me feel less alone in what has otherwise become a eurorackverse for many. I also agree that redundant emphasis on material elements of the musical experience is counter to the cultivation of aesthetic principles. The human voice alone can be enough to make important music. In a world where Walter Murch (‘Apocalypse Now’ Sound Designer) describes the synthesizer as a stagecraft gateway to psychic dimensions of film it’s not about the materialism, it’s about the higher consciousness :slight_smile:

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Really glad you liked it!

While I do have 3 cases with modules, it’s become so much part of my work, that I sometimes enjoy non-modular synths more… just because they make me think a bit less about work :slight_smile:

haha, yes! that’s true!

That was an interesting read, and thank you for writing it out!

Interesting about your drum machine journey. I’ve gone through the Electribe ESX -> LXR -> RYTM and also got an OT along the way. The RYTM is amazing, and I hoped that I would gel just as well with the OT, but while the sequencer is amazing, I’m not getting s sucked in on the sampling part. But that could hurt as well be me not being a sampling kinda guy. I miss the LXR and kinda regret selling it, as it had a really nice interface, and some great sounds I can’t get out of the RYTM.

The RC-505 looks cool. Do you have dedicated channels going in, or do you record from a send?

yeah, the OT really only makes sense if you enjoy sampling and don’t expect it to an Ableton-in-a-box, as some erroneusly do.

I’m glad I still have mine. there are indeed sounds that it can produce that are very peculiar. I like to make some very short glitchy sounds with it, something I think it excels at. many people like to emulate the 808 with it (and some have done a great job at it) and complain about the sampling support… but I think that’s missing the point of the LXR.

Right now I have all the live instruments (Shruthi, Preenfm, Volca, Pikachu) connected to a small mono mixer, with its output going into the RC-505). this makes the setup very easy to manage, albeit not very flexible.
I have two rules for the live setup: never bring more gear than what I can comfortably reach at arm’s legth and keep signal flows as simple as possible, so I don’t get lost while playing.
The current signal chain is very linear, everything goes into the mixer then through some fx then to the looper and the output goes through some more fx.
the only thing that is independent is the drums (OT).
the idea of removing the RC-505 is basically to make this even simpler, and more flexible, since the OT will let me define the internal routing. It’s also - and maybe more importantly - an arsthetic choice. I do feel that the looper gets me too much into a simple, linear repetition of recorded material, while I strive for more variation and to mutate the recorded materia more radically over time. I currently work around that using the beatrepeat and beat-shuffle fx on the 505, but they are kind of preset-y. So the plan is to use a looper track on thr OT (or just the nornal sampling, since pickup machines are akward and buggy) to live-capture musical phrases and then mess with them with the sequencer.