20 November 2014

Aphex & Me & the Myth of the Home-made Synth Genius

...I didn't believe it when Aphex pretended to make all his synths himself and never use pre-set sounds (i'd heard those sounds before and so had most of you; just because other people hadn't didn't make it true). And I didn't love Aphex Twin any less because he was playing that maverick eccentric gambit - he came from the West Country, we all need to use that, even those of us who are pretending (to ourselves) not to (especially us). He is probably a bit eccentric but not as eccentric as all those true West Country loons who couldn't get near a record release, who couldn't even get into a home studio, who really do live with a kind of twisted genius that malforms them but will never result in a box-set on Warp or even an album on Twiggwytch. I'm a (relatively) stable, family-man Philosophy lecturer living in a vaguely middle-class area in a County town and my life is chaotic enough to get in the way of my genius... Lol

But it's a nice myth, a nice lie and there's always going to be enough people who want it to be true... some of them might take a train to the West Country sometimes, when it's hot.

It worked for Aphex but he was still, if not lying, then elaborating. I doubt he made an album out of lucid dreaming but perhaps (like many of us) he partly dreamed a tune or an idea that later he formed into something else. He has dreams, maybe some of them are lucid. Most of my IX Tab tracks come from me just mumbling to myself in half-dream light, on buses, walking in the rain. It's why I think of them as songs, though I know Nick Ekoplekz laughs at that. They could be dreams and maybe some of them are.

I remember an interview where Aphex pretended not to use samples in his music and I remember us discussing how cool that was, how off the wall, how maverick - actually, I don't; we didn't even think about it. Samples were cool (we were still getting over Throbbing Gristle or the JAMMs or MAARS), they gave us access to music-making which we couldn't possibly access otherwise... there was no chance of us having enough spare cash to buy even a broken synth or the bits to make a synth... samples were everything...

But, actually, this isn't about bashing Aphex Twin because I love his music and IX Tab definitely owes a lot to his myth-making.I'm using him to get your attention, as an Aphex blimp.

This is really about how many artists seem to be adding this kind of sentence to their profiles and album descriptors:

"...using a X some Y and a increasing array of 'antique' instruments and 'found sounds' and 'field recordings' and 'home-made' synths"

Where X = expensive modular kit

Where y = Other expensive kit

and 'antique' means 'expensive' and 'not used at all, except in photos'

and 'found sounds' means 'found on the internet'

and 'field recordings means 'found on the internet'

and 'home-made' syths means shop-bought and then joined together with leads.

And I know that Prog etc is deemed ok (it still isn't okay, even if it's on the Freak Zone) but Tangerine Dream, Cluster etc excepted... surely people remembered how fucking classist those synthfuckers became before the technology got cheap again? You don't want that to happen again?

I'm digressing. I'm particularly after the shoehorned thrift, the carefully modulated Kirsty Allsopp-saturated nature of 'home-made'.

Everyone's at it, even those people who you know are doing most of their 'composing' in a Mac or in a massive room full of expensive synths. They want a Radiophonic illusion. They want to pretend that they're cutting up bits of tape or having to strangle their instruments to make those noises. They want everything to seem like a dream of tangled wires. They are trying to avoid their genius having an Apple 'i' in front of it.

I know the feeling. IX Tab's music is made mostly in a Mac, with added bits of iPad and iPhone synthesiser and the additional theoretically-cheap-but-actually-pretty-expensive-when-you-think-about-it bits of stuff made mostly by Korg.

And it really is all you need. It's Lou's two chords. I'm thinking of pretending that isn't how I make my stuff. I'm thinking of pretending that there's at least a few Soviet-made hand-cranked synths in there...

Actually, even that is a lie. In fact, I'm thinking of going the other way; making tracks that only use presets. There's so many ways these things can be opened up.

Now, of course, some of this is undoubtedly the fault of Hacker Farm and Ekoplekz, who are closer than most to the archetype of the maverick, who do transcend expectations, who play with wires and wood... but even those guys feed the myth-monster and the Myth Monster itself is co-opting them, making their music about the method, making you hear things you're not really hearing. I love their music but I love it because it sounds great, I honestly don't care how it's made and never have. That seems circumstantial, even redundant (maybe not to them). They sound great, they have great musical ideas. They do stuff that sometimes goes wrong, often goes brilliantly right. I don't know how their stuff is made but I'd guess it's not quite the same as their visual representation which, of course, comes from them to begin with but is then ravaged and run by... Others.

I'm suspicious of the others.

The Myth is taking them on, gaining a head of steam(punk). It wants us all for its children. We are only a few tiny steps away from an odd becoming, where this kind of thing happens... It can't be long before we see Bono with a 'home-made' synth, the Edge playing a monotron and guitar pedals... Is that Taylor Swift playing a vintage Wasp? Taping down the keys like she's on Come Org? I think I just saw Mylene Klass on the Celebrity Bake Off wearing a I Dream Of Wires t-shirt...

You see, it doesn't even have to be a lie to become a lie.

"They're selling hippy wigs in Woolworths"

I don't know where I'm going with any of this. I think I'm trying to fight my way out of a bag that I'm not even sure I'm in.


Anonymous said...

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American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.



kemper norton said...

I only use presets.

( What's going on in the above comment ?)

Loki said...

I have no goddamn idea. It's inspired though. Possibly mad.

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