Live electronic music has long been a challenge, and these days we’ve seen more and more artists, and DJs, going the way of the Powerbook. Powerbook shows are notoriously dull, with many laptologists’ live shows sounding far too similar and derivative of each other. As Shake says, “They’re the new 303.” While any true computer geek can make a Powerbook come alive, Detroit will shortly see one of the prime innovators in this movement, Robert Henke aka Monolake.
Henke started out as a part of the Hardwax collective, mastering records for Basic Channel at Berlin’s Dubplate and Mastering, recording a unique combination of minimal techno and Xenakis-inspired electro-acoustic music for Moritz Von Oswald’s (then) Imbalance label. Later he would record as Monolake on the revered Chain Reaction label. Taking equal influence from the Detroit techno-inspired minimal sound of Basic Channel and the advanced academic computer music of the French computer music center, INA-GRM (Institut National Audiovisuel, Groupe de Recherches Musicales), he created a sound that had the depth of tone similar to academic music but was listenable in a pure techno way (that is, relaxed listening, not requiring your full attention).
If you ever wonder why so many laptop shows sound like Chain Reaction records, here’s why. Robert Henke started working with Modular Computer synthesizers so early on that Native Instruments Reaktor was still called Generator, and his use of them became so well known that he was asked to design modules for Reaktor (the Monolake Collection). It turns out that his patches have become so well known that they’re almost ubiquitous (I swear at two out of three laptop shows I see his 4/6/8 dex patch). Like all true computer geeks, he loves to share his creations; he even has free downloadable Max/MSP modules on his site at monolake.de
You can catch Robert Henke live as Monolake, including his own video art, at detroit contemporary on Thursday, Aug. 16, courtesy of Mearsk-Music (Sharif).
On the horizon at the dc, Thursday, Aug. 30 will be Mooner (of Zombie Nation and Erkrankung) spinning his special brand of eight-bit, video game-inspired New Wave and electro. Also that same night at Motor will be the Detroit debut of Matthew Herbert, this show live with Dani Scilliano on vocals and Phil Parnell on piano.
John Williams aka Bileebob aka Jeckle has been busy of late. From working on his www.famzine.org/e-zine to doing live shows around the globe with the Detroit Grand Pubahs to DJing with Paris as Heckle & Jeckle, this pint-sized funkateer cannot be stopped.
John Williams, like Paris and Brian Gillespie, hails from the early-’90s era, when Detroit parties had the special vibe of an extended electronic family and these guys were the clowns. In response to this special era, John started a magazine called the Famzine, which was typically handmade and printed in small editions, yet full of interesting bits and interviews with the likes of Autechre and Bernie Worell. Thankfully, he’s archived them all, as well as adding new materiel like an interview with Throw label head Gillespie and a video art section featuring the works of Chris Chynoweth. More info at the Web site.
Back in the day, John “Too Much Soul for Your Booty Hole” Williams spun tag-team sets with Paris as Heckle & Jeckle, often in costume. This eventually led to their reuniting and performing together again, first spinning in NYC and Vienna as Heckle & Jeckle, and then with John joining the Pubahs in the studio à la Percy Sledge for a little vocoder work. This led to the ingenious “Plasticine Gene,” featured prominently on the Detroit Grand Pubahs’ debut LP, Funk All Y’all. When the Pubahs debuted this song live with John in his trademark oven-mitt outfit, the reaction was so strong that he became a permanent fixture in the Pubahs’ live shows.
Finally “Plasticine Gene” and the entire Pubahs album will see the light of day on Aug. 7 through Jive Electro, Detroit’s first U.S. major label techno-related album in some time. Opening with a full-on Parliamentfunkadelic-style groove, this album shows the Pubahs to be the true perverted offspring of the clones of Dr.Funkenstein himself, incarnating the prankster George Clinton’s antics through the wide variety of Paris’ characters and voices and the ever-increasing production skills of Andy Toth. You can catch the Pubahs live at Electric Kingdom, Sunday night, Aug. 5 at St. Andrew’s Hall or at Motor on Friday, Aug. 17.E-mail Pitch’d at [email protected]