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What I'm listening to today: "Damage I've Done"

So when David Byrne left the Talking Heads they renamed themselves the Heads and released an album named "No Talking Just Head". The album used a rotation of random guest vocalists most of whom utterly failed to deliver, but there's one song on there, "Damage I've Done", that is Basically Perfect and fit in well with the surge of pop-flavored industrial music that was swarming the radio at the start of 1997.

What I'm listening to today: "the Lyra 8 is perfect for atmospheric techno"

A weird video (with surprisingly high production values) of dark warehouse techno with hard gabber beats, accompanied by VHS distortion.

The Lyra-8 is a drone synthesizer that mostly produces indistinct woomy noises; I assume it is the source of the various beeswarm sounds in the song.

Video contains intermittent brief flashing.

What I'm listening to today: "Incanta - 60 minutes ambient for deep focus - VCV modular generative ambient"

Modular synthesis is a great way to make complex sounds, but it's also REALLY expensive… unless you use VCV Rack, the free+open source eurorack emulator. This track uses a virtual synth rack that, IRL, would be impossibly huge to create a signal chain that generates a subtly nonrepeating musical pattern for, as advertised, a full hour. It's really nice, I think!

What I'm listening to today: "Cosmic Radiation", Hobboth Music

Does "20 minutes of distant howling noises" sound like something you want to listen to? Because "20 minutes of distant howling noises" is basically my favorite genre of music. The first two minutes of this are dominated by a siren sound I find by itself kinda obnoxious but then the wet/dry reaches its intended level and it's off to distant howling city

What I'm listening to today: "If You Want Some", Delinquent Habits

This is the best track on Delinquent Habits' self-titled/debut album, still my favorite hip hop album of all time, an album featuring openly political gangsta rap in an era when that was starting to be less common, incredibly heavy beats, a certain amount of rapping in Spanish, and three tracks that memorably sample mariachi music.

I recommend listening to this on something with good bass.

What I'm listening to today: "moog mother-32 + Subharmonicon + DFAM Jam by Saya 'zonbi' Nishida"

This short downtempo piece is based around Moog's generative-rhythm-and-chords machine, the Subharmonicon. (Actually this piece uses the same desktop Moog gear as the distant-howling piece I posted Monday, though *that* one was so drowned in distortion and echo you weren't likely to distinguish any one element). I really like the groove on this one.

What I'm listening to today: "Mutable Instruments Rings triggered by drums"

This is a drum solo with a physical trigger on the bass drum so every time the bass drum hits it advances a sequence on a modular synthesizer. In other words the drummer controls the entire piece, the synth conforms its tempo to the drumming and when the drummer starts switching the rhythm up the music adjusts to it in a really natural way. Technically interesting, but also an incredible mood!

What I'm listening to today: "Body Stone", JOYFULTALK

The most interesting thing about this album is its opening track "Body Stone", a slowly forming chaotic soup of bits of free jazz and funk and less identifiable things smashed together according to the thing's own totally internal logic, a sort of peaceful nightmare

"Hagiography" from the same album is also pretty good.

What I'm listening to today: "Oom // Analog Live Set / Moog Subharmonicon + Mother 32 + DFAM + Grandmother / Digitakt / Retroverb"

A good track that starts with wind-sound static and slowly builds into what the author calls "danceable", although unless your dancers are real electronic music heads it might wind up less as dancing and more like "a group of people standing around with drinks, bobbing their heads thoughtfully".

"Oom" might be short for "Out of Memory".

What I'm listening to today: Electronic Jam - Arturia Microfreak/ Digitakt/ Walrus SLÖ/ Norns/ Portastudio/ Make Noise Strega

So the premise here seems to be two people laid out a bunch of electronic music equipment they had on a table and recorded themselves just… *doing* stuff for eight minutes, resulting in a messy but engaging mix of noise and music. The YouTube summary claims they were just having fun and they clearly are, it is fun.

What I'm listening to today: "Alluvial // OP-Z + PMD 221 + OTO BAM"

r beny is my favorite artist in the YouTube synth jams community. He's got a Bandcamp, but then he's got this YouTube where he posts entirely different songs recorded live, mostly ambient pieces each using a single piece of hardware.

This one is made with a toy groovebox plugged into a fairly complex processing chain including a Disintegration Loops effect from a vintage tape player with a busted tape.

What I'm listening to today: "Haloid Xerrox Copy 1"

Alva Noto is an amazing musician and installation artist who's done collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ryoji Ikeda. This is the song of his I find myself constantly coming back to. It is basically one violin synth and a modem but to me it is everything ambient music can be and ought to be. It is dread and joy and an emotion I cannot describe in words and can only express to someone by playing them this song.

What I'm listening to today: "Modular Synth & TASCAM Porta One | Ambient"

Akihiko Matsumoto posts lengthy, often complex live ambient pieces on YouTube virtually every day. This one, besides the music itself being an entire buffet of indistinct moods, is technically interesting for unifying desktop production methods of two different decades: A classic Tascam four-track loaded with loops and an Intellijel 62HP mini eurorack, both getting constant tweaks over 15 minutes.

What I'm listening to today: "Techno vinyl mix by Sol Ortega & E110101"

A lovely smooth live-DJ mix, by rotating DJs, with tracks ranging from about 1990 to about 2020 but all feeling timeless.

This mix is *three hours*, so I have to admit I didn't listen to it "today" (I listened gradually over the last two weeks). This will definitely be the best 3-hour techno mix you listen to today, if only because by the time you're done you won't have time to listen to another.

What I'm listening to today: "Resonator I"

"Rings" is a resonator unit for physical modeling synthesis, a technique that can be used to simulate strings, gongs, or—as this video does—if you turn the knobs to their midpoints, an otherworldly non-instrument halfway between a string and gong. This track starts with gentle plucks and then floods over with surreal metal-shimmery sounds accompanied by an ominous beat.

Biased left, so may be nicer on speakers than headphones.

What I'm listening to today: "Kaleidoscope"

This is another "substan" track. It's made entirely on the Digitone, Elektron's FM groovebox, and the youtube title claims it is "downbeat psybient". Okay. Anyway lovely little piece of electronic pop, I really like the progression on this one.

What I'm listening to today: "Farsleben", Martin Lorenz

This is a weird, wild ambient soundscape, with multiple independent movements; I imagine being in some kind of dimly lit warehouse or abandoned factory, with something inscrutable and maybe slightly terrifying happening at the distant end, the buzzing of electrical transformers and the straining of machines of cryptic purpose echoing off the walls.

(In fact, it's all generated from a small box in Martin's lap.)

What I'm listening to today: "rew(1)"

I'm interested in music that works by varying timbre rather than pitch, so Autechre has grown into my favorite band in the world. This one is from Move of Ten, the album-length "bonus EP" from their album Oversteps; except Oversteps is inscrutable atonal experiments and Move of Ten is like… danceable, mostly. This is straight up slap-bass funk, except it's by a band that once described their genre as "digital signal processing".

What I'm listening to today: "A Synthesist's Drum Solo // Drum & Synth / Moog DFAM / Subharmonicon / Mother 32 / Elektron Digitakt", Paul-Aaron Wolf

A structurally complex six minute performance of a man very enthusiastically playing the drums accompanied by a shifting set of semi-generative synth loops. This piece rules but as of this writing only has 367 views on YouTube

What I'm listening to today: "jbro 73 // VCV Rack 2 // 180 bpm chopped choir jungle"

This person used VCV Rack to create a machine that eternally generates drum & bass. The human operator then introduces structure by turning different elements up and down in the mixer (the drums and bass, although random, are *uniformly* random, so without intervention one stretch is much like any other). Honestly gets old after about 7 minutes but those first 7 minutes are pretty sick.

What I'm listening to today: "Scorn"

Portishead is one of my favorite bands ever and probably my fav track of theirs is "Scorn", which I'd describe as "Glory Box" turned inside out. (That description probably won't make sense unless you've listened to Glory Box a lot.)

The track is pretty hard to find; it's on a 10-track Dummy remix/outtake compilation called "Glory Times" and, inexplicably, in the background of one scene in the 1996 Wiccasploitation film "The Craft".

What I'm listening to today: "Make Noise 0-Ctrl & Roland Boutique TR-06"

This is a 0-Ctrl sequencer and a 606 drum machine in an unusual setup where the 0-Ctrl isn't *sequencing* anything; instead, certain steps gate into the "sync" plug that advances the 606's drum pattern. The 0-Ctrl has fine control over step length so this imposes unusual rhythms on the drum machine, transforming (after some fiddling) a single basic drum pattern into a chaotic percussive symphony.

What I'm listening to today: "Balloons", Malevolent Being

I've linked pieces featuring the Moog Subharmonicon before, but this is more of an archetypical "Subharmonicon Piece". The MS uses polyrhythms and subharmonics to generate music no human would design but that feels weirdly "right".

After taking a minute to come together like a magic eye picture, this one finds an amazing groove. I imagine what the back half would sound like sung by a choir, or with drums added.

What I'm listening to today: "Soma Enner Sound Samples", Matt Lowery

Enner is a tactile electroacoustic instrument where touching the plates and knobs bridges signal-bearing electrical connections, and a contact mic/exposed spring reverb introduce further noise from the vibrations of touching or moving the unit itself.

The creator of this piece claims to have been trying to create a pack of sound effects, but it succeeds as "college radio at 4 PM" experimental music.

What I'm listening to today: "Friday" (slowed down 8x), Rebecca Black

"Slow down this song 5x" was a meme for a while, but this was the one Paulstretch track I feel really, really stands up as a legitimate piece of music. Every element of the track is transformed into something intense and epic and maybe a little spiritual. Back in 2011 I used to listen to this (no joke) every day while I worked, and it still holds up today. I have still never heard the original song.

What I'm listening to today: "For the Twin", Daisuke Tanabe

YouTube recommendations turned up this mysterious EP it identified only as "Cat Steps", which turns out to be a Japanese musician releasing on an Indian record label. The cover has no English or Japanese writing, just a cat juggling Pocket Operators.

Anyway this first track is really good, an energetic clicks-and-cuts techno beat with glitchy instrumentation.

What I'm listening to today: "Meeting in the Aisle"

Radiohead has a lot of odd, interesting corners in their discography, and some of their best tracks are hiding as B-sides. My sometimes-favorite song of theirs is an OK Computer b-side, "Meeting in the Aisle", which in the US was released on the "Airbag / How Am I Driving?" EP. This is one of Radiohead's very few instrumentals and it nails a dreamy, layered vibe. I recommend listening on something with bass.

What I'm listening to today: "Sanxion" loader music, Rob Hubbard

The Commodore 64 had an unusually featureful, musician-friendly and *weird* sound chip. It also had a problem: Games took a *long* time to load off tape. The solution was epic and very long (often 10+ minutes) "loader" songs that played while the game code loaded. The loader for "Sanxion", by C64 master Rob Hubbard, suggests an alternate universe where 00s IDM musicians had a knack for perfect pop hooks.

What I'm listening to today: "You're No Good"

Terry Riley is a giant of 60s experimental music, but IMO his true legacy is this long-lost artifact, created in 1967 for a nightclub opening and largely buried until 2000. This feels like it *should not have been possible* with pre-digital 1967 tech; it's all tape splicing, one Moog, and a soul song recorded off the radio. You'll think you know where this is going, but you don't.

This is a journey. Headphones recommended.

What I'm listening to today: "Moog System 55, Ben Crook on drums, Peak and Eurorack afternoon teatime"

This is an epic and extremely fun little synth-rock song performed live by a drummer and a man frantically using every device in a 270° battle station of synths, two-thirds of which is taken up by an incredibly rare Moog Modular 55 (either that hardware dates from the late seventies, or else it's one of exactly 55 units Moog manufactured for the 2015 reissue).

What I'm listening to today: "ACID Drone Patch in VCV Rack with eclectic help of WhatTheRack"

The creator of this video claims to have accidentally invented a genre called "Acid Drone" (or rather, algorithmically uncovered it by running a plugin that randomizes all the connections in your VCV Rack patch, which applied to this particular patch happened to result in the world's first Acid Drone track). I… can't really disagree. If "Acid Drone" is anything, this is it.

What I'm listening to today: "TL066F04A11097 Eurorack Modular Synth Live Jam dawless", Ty Lumnus

In this video a dude with an absolutely enormous beard slowly lays down a series of loops on a modular synth, feeling his way forward without any particular plan. The track thus evolves from two repeating tones, to what sounds like unusually evocative save point music from an early 80s video game, to a sort of IDM-flavored dance techno with a chill yet slightly anxious vibe.

What I'm listening to today: "Rocco" ("dub"/album mix)

Death in Vegas is a consistently inconsistent band; almost every release has a completely different lineup and their debut album "Dead Elvis", though amazing, seems to be two EPs and a single ("Dirt") jammed together. That second implied EP tho, starting with "Rocco", perfects a blend of 90s techno & 60s psychedelic rock that no one, except occasionally Death in Vegas, has nailed quite so precisely before or since.

What I'm listening to today: "Moog Subharmonicon Jump and Run Jam"

So as I've mentioned the normal way to use the Subharmonicon is to let it free-run with some echo to generate ambient music. In this track tho the musician continuously switches settings and modes to actually play it like an instrument, and the result is not just fun to watch but incredibly catchy.

In some Synth Youtube stunt casting, drums are handled by Yamaha's now-forgotten 1990 MIDI PDA, the QY10.

What I'm listening to today: "Coming to Get You Nowhere", This Is The Kit

So a couple weekends ago I was listening to the radio on scan (an interesting novelty; I hadn't been in a car for like a year at that point). We stopped for a while on one of those stations that play jazz music for old people, and this strange little track from 2020 popped up in the mix. What even… is this? Jazz? Indie rock? Beat poetry? It's definitely got a memorable off-kilter vibe to it.

What I'm listening to today: "Stefan Torto - Chilling Queen [analog live]"

This is a full techno track performed on a wooden box containing almost every one of Korg's cheap desktop synths (although since there are about eight devices here, it's overall probably no longer cheap). The real attraction here though is the guy's cat, which writhes on the carpet next to him unable to understand why he is not petting her. Why do you not pet the cat!! She is right there!!

I've been exploring the depths of Synth Youtube since late 2017, and for a while I've been building a playlist of the absolute Best electronic music jams on YouTube. It's been stable enough for a while that I feel good about publishing it, so today I finally made it public:

Because nobody can really stop me, I'm going to spend the next two weeks of my "What I'm listening to today" posts on giving my thoughts on this playlist track by track. Starting with:

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 1/13): "Follow Nina",
Caspar Hesselager

This is a 15-minute, totally unearthly piece wherein a loop of Nina Simone singing, fed to an envelope follower, controls a swarm of oscillators "following" her voice. The piece builds incredibly slowly, from indecipherable bass rumbling to distorted singing to indecipherable chaos again as Nina's voice is drowned out by tones flying off on trajectories she merely suggested.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 2/13): "Novation Peak | Ambient", r beny

I've linked r beny from here before; this is my favorite song of his. It's so simple but so powerful, a few chords run through steadily increasing distortion until they become a universe of sound. When I first heard it I just posted "Why did my heart just stop"

Used to when I felt like listening to this track I'd search YouTube for "Peak Ambient". That pretty much covers it.


What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 3/13): "A Healthy Dose of Dope AF", Aidan Burns-Fulkerson

This one's fun.

This is a good showcase of the jam genre I think of as "misfit toys". It makes use of a drum machine, echo, and tiny keyboard (the last modded with a soldering iron and drill into a CV controller) literally designed as toys; all three used to hang in the checkout lane at Guitar Center. Combined with a high-end 0-coast, the sound is massive.

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What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 4/13): "201002 Moog DFAM, Subharmonicon, Lyra 8", Ryan Bocook

This has a strange vibe but is really catchy. The poster deploys the Lyra and Subharmonicon, two machines designed for ambient music, to create rhythmic pop, and in the background uses Moog's drum machine as a melodic element. Regardless nothing feels mismatched, it's all very cohesive. It feels like the soundtrack to something, but I can't identify what.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube 5/13): "Volca Tribal || Volca Drum & Volca Modular", User 173

This… this is the good drone. This piece is based around the two most advanced of Korg's Volca desktop synths (a patchwire modular unit that's basically a Buchla clone, and a physical modeling drum synth with some strange corners in its parameter space) and a LOT of echo. The result: Wwwwoooooooommmmmmmmmm weyyyyeyrrrerrwowwwwwww wwwwwwooooooooooooooooommmm

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube 6/13): "I Learned A Cool Secret", Ivar Tryti

Elektron has this family of "Grooveboxes" that all have similar casing and interfaces. Their unchallenged master on YouTube is Ivar Tryti, who three years ago got a Digitakt and in time since has posted at least 3 albums' worth of trip-hop excellence. This track combines Elektron's FM synth box with their sampler to build an incredible, blissfully loopy, unnamable energy.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 7/13): "Square (Volca Keys, Volca FM, OP-1, PO-32)", Leonid Zarubin

Mr. Zarubin has a bunch of videos that stand out to me for getting a ton of mileage out of simple, low-end synths and guitar pedals (its not in this one, but some of his best tracks make amazing use of the Casio SA-5 keyboard for children). This one track in particular sticks with me for just having a really great chill feeling to it.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 8/13): "Sempervirens", r beny

Here beny uses a Roli Seaboard MPE controller (a kind of squishy keyboard that records how hard you press and how you slide your fingers around the keys) to play a violin sample synth with the expressiveness of real violins. Run thru chunky reverb, each note becomes a stuttery chorus of violins. Result is an intense feeling of floating in viscous air, slowly orbiting an indistinct point.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 9/13): "Ambient jam with the Arturia PolyBrute", Jay Hosking

The Minibrute is my favorite monosynth, really full sounds. In this video Hosking sat down to do a product demo of the absurdly-expensive polyphonic Brute, but wound up just incidentally composing an independently gorgeous piece of music.

What originally fascinated me about this is it's the only song I can think of that has no drums yet still has a drop.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 10/13): "Comfort Zone", Ivar Tryti

I made a rule for myself no more than two songs from a single artist on this list, so I had to pick just two r beny and now here's the second Ivar Tryti song.

I'm not sure what genre this is. Not quite trip hop. Whatever DJ Shadow and maybe early Four Tet were? A lot of Tryti songs have long piano samples in them; I think he might actually just have a piano somewhere off camera.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 11/13): "AFX Station, Korg Wavestate, Elektron Digitone, Stutter Edit 2", Sinking Feeling

Some unusual synths involved here: Korg's modern wavetable synth and a variant of the Novation Bass Station coproduced with Aphex Twin. What sells it tho is MIDI and a stutter plugin generating quasi-random sequences and changing things up every few seconds to make something unpredictable, haunting and a little bit frightening.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 12/13): "Oscillation", Jeanie

Modular synthesizers are usually about sculpting single finely tuned timbres, and YouTube synth videos are often just to show off one single sound or groove. It's kinda rare to see anything with conventional song structure. Which is fine! But then here's a complete, compelling pop song, with singing!— very good singing!— based around modular synths and a Buchla easel, and it's *amazing*.

What I'm listening to today ("best techno on Youtube" 13/13): "Futuresonus Parva analog poly-synth with LinnStrument demo", Geert Bevin

Another MPE controller, but plugged into a fancypants 24-saw oscillator, so you have a synth being controlled moment to moment with the expressive dimension of a violin. I worry these writeups overemphasize the technical so to be clear the piece performed is gutpunch stunning. This is the power of a human playing a musical instrument.

What I'm listening to today: "Roland TR6S Arturia Microfreak 1 hour Techno Liveset Experiments #19 w/ strymon timeline, HOF, Ph90"

This is a one-hour live music set with a single synth and a single drum machine, that I literally did listen to today as programming focus music. It's effective techno, completely self-assured, that quickly hits a groove in one of those trance subgenres I never bothered learning the name of. I especially liked the first twenty minutes.

What I'm listening to today: "Microtonal Tetris", mannfishh

Okay so this one… might be asking a lot of you… but. This is a rule-based composition based on a two-dimensional just-intonation scale and the tetronimoes from Tetris. Each chord is 4 frequencies related by Tetris-piece-shaped positions on a grid of ratios, and each chord "touches" the previous one on the grid. There's a full explanation on YouTube but if you think about how it works it might just distract you.

What I'm listening to today: "Ambient Impro with Strega, 0-COAST, 0-CTRL, Starlab, Magneto", Syndrive

This is a 36 minute piece consisting entirely of what appears to be two eight-note sequences combined in various ways, with a human operator switching up the tempo and mix levels every five minutes or so to keep it fresh. Honestly, IMO, it works. Sometimes it is good to listen to 8 notes for 36 minutes. Embrace the ambience! Zone out! Eno compels you! Satie compels you!

@mcc Big fan of the Korg monotron line though, it feels like a conceptual update on the stylophone.

Prolly a bit of a brand slut towards Korg in general tbh, they make synths that are just my kind of weird.

@Owlor The monotrons are really neat. And the NTS line is legitimately powerful...!

@mcc Feels like it could fit right in on something like Devs or Halt and Catch Fire

@eyesack People are definitely moving in slow motion through fog while this music plays

@mcc I was imagining a montage of setting up a high-tech lab facility

@mcc I saw this when you first posted it on birdsite a few months back and I'm still thinking about it all the time

@SpindleyQ It's super good! Some of her other stuff is great too, did you hear her "one note samba"?

@mcc haha apparently that's the _one_ video she's uploaded that YouTube thinks I hadn't watched before. I have now!

@mcc Working from here up, the last two are fantastic! ... I think I'm going to have to keep going, thanks! 😄

@mcc This guy works on MIDI standards and so suffers from the curse of needing to draw attention to emerging ones.

@evan You mean, specifically Mr. Geert Bevin does?

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