I keep on moving with the lights on...
(Evokateur, Mary at Midnight, Sean Seraphim, and idiotech at Satan's Circus, 25 October 2011)
Several years ago, I did my first laptop-based DJ sets at mash-up night 'Legs & Co. But I always felt the laptop created a barrier - not just the physical barrier of laptop screen, but also the lost connection between what the audience sees and what they hear. ( I talk about this more in my blog entry on Ulrich Schnauss's London gig, back in June). So I've stuck to decks ever since.
But I've continued to investigate ways way to create a more visual laptop-based performance - most recently looking into the use of a Novation Launchpad as a DJ controller.
The Novation Launchpad is essentially little more than a grid of illuminated buttons. However, many music applications can be programmed to respond to these buttons - and to illuminate them accordingly. (The background of this very web site is actually a blurry photo that I took of my own Launchpad in action.)
The Launchpad is really designed for use with Ableton Live. But much as I love Ableton Live for production, improvisation and live performance, I don't think it's ideal for DJing. So my plan was to create a template for Traktor (a more DJ-specific application).
In the meantime, I was booked to play at an Oxjam festival gig, organised by Sarah from Evokateur (who I remixed last year). And it transpired that the venue, Satan's Circus at the Wenlock and Essex, had a light up dance floor - another grid of lights that relate to the music being played! This seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the Launchpad for a spin...
Sadly, the dance floor was having a serious case of "computer says no" on the night, with all squares stuck on blue. But the Launchpad still seemed to work out well. So much so that I'm hoping to be able to make the Traktor template available as a download for other Launchpad owners soon. Watch this space...
But while there were some curious observers asking about the hardware, I got many more enquiries about what I was actually playing than I did about what I was playing with. (Which is frankly how it should be!) And handily, Traktor keeps a record of everything you play. So for those who asked, I'm pretty sure that I played the following...
- Sun Glitters - Too Much To Lose
- I Break Horses - Hearts
- Zola Jesus - Night
- Paper Crows - Stand Alight
- NO CEREMONY/// - HURTLOVE
- CID - Filthy Habbit
- KOOQLA - Myself
- Becky Rose - Feel The Fire (It Feels Like)
- Hearhere - To Feel Is
- Long Lost Sun - Where I Lie
- Kyla La Grange - Been Better
Sean Seraphim live set
- Lightspeed Champion - Back to Black
- Daughter - Love
Mary at Midnight live set
- Paper Aeroplanes - Flee
- Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - D.A.N.C.E
- The Good Natured - Wolves (Crystal Fighters Remix)
- Monarchy - You Don't Want To Dance With Me (Moonlight Matters Remix)
- Noah and the Whale - Life Is Life (Yuksek Remix)
Evokateur live set
- Dsico - Smells Like Electro
- Florence and The Machine - Shake It Out (Benny Benassi Remix)
- Katy B - Lights On (Gigamesh Remix)
- Stone Roses, The - Made Of Stone (808 State Mix)
- Mafia Kiss - Bump It (Original Mix)
- DJ Fresh - Louder (Flux Pavilion & Doctor P Remix)
- Pistol Shrimp feat. SimA - Feel the Same
- Ed Sheeran - You Need Me, I Don't Need You (Loadstar Remix)
- The White Stripes - Blue Orchid (High Contrast Remix)
- Evokateur - Wolf Girl (idiotech remix)
The night's focus (other than raising money for charity, of course) was on emerging talent, and I was keep to reflect that in what I played. (So you'll find many of these tracks on Amazing Radio / Amazing Tunes.)
Speaking of that emerging talent, I should say a few words about the other acts on the bill...
Sean Seraphim was the surprise of the evening. I was sure I'd listened to one or two of his tracks online beforehand, to give me an idea of what might complement his sound. But I wasn't prepared for the power of his voice, nor for his charming, slightly self-deprecating, and always amusing inter-song banter - from introducing "his band" (an iPad) to heart-wrenching stories of lost love that ended with him calling his ex a "shithead" (which not many artists could get away with, and have it still come over as endearing rather than angsty or aggressive.)
Mary at Midnight (Kiran to her mum) treated us to almost "unplugged" versions of her folky-pop, accompanied by just an acoustic guitarist and a bassist, which allowed the quality of her voice and songwriting to show through (in that way, reminiscent of José González's cover of Kylie Minogue's "Put Your Hand On My Heart"). "Caroline" was the stand-out track for me. Apparently (if I heard correctly) written for someone called Louise! But "Caroline" flowed better...
I still remember the first chance meeting I had with Evokateur, arriving randomly at a local venue after they'd already finished their set, but picking up one of their postcards, checking them out online, and being inspired to get in touch. Tonight, classic Evokateur tracks, such as "Wolf Girl" and "Wildflowers", were sounding stronger than ever, with new songs "Undone" and the Stephen King inspired "Misery" showing off the darker direction of their next EP. Can't wait!
And you never know, there might even be another remix from someone not a million miles away...
In the meantime, here's my remix of their last single.