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altruistmusic.com > echoplex analysis pages > turntablist guitar and loopIV

At the end of January 2002, about a month after finishing the material in Part 3, I became a beta tester for the LoopIV software upgrade. Some five years in the making, the depth and breadth of LoopIV is truly mind-boggling; the code is more than twice as large as it was for LoopIII, and it pushes the EDP's processor to its very limits.

There are a number of new functions, function parameters, and features which vastly expand the operational potential of the EDP in LoopIV, and the material here simply would not be possible without the upgrade. This music also finds me taking one step back to take two steps forward, in a sense: In comparison to the December 2001 material, the LoopIV recordings here are more overtly loop-based in conception, and more comfortable with the idea of letting an idea state itself and repeat, with often subtle variation and embellishment, rather than struggling to constantly warp and twist the loop in order to avoid wholesale repetition. A lot of the "glitchy" sounds and techniques are still very much present, but they've been harnesed and focused into a more coherent, less chaotic aesthetic.

"Turntablist guitar" refers to a few different ideas. In the most obvious sense, this material is very rhythmically based, and the concept here is that I'm trying to think and function the way a DJ would, both sonically and compositionally. That extends to the use of LoopIV's vastly expanded MIDI implementation, to control functions like Half Speed, Retrigger, and Reverse to produce results that are both conceptually and sonically similar to vinyl scratching. Finally, this material represents my continued interest in the idea of using the EDP in what I think of as a post-turntablist sense -- as a way of using the apparatus of a playback device to shape and sculpt the sound itself, rather than just a way of playing back a recording verbatim.

As with the December 2001 recordings, this material is all live and improvised. There are no effects (apart from amp reverb), and I used a number of different hand-on-string techniques (including percussive slaps, rakes, and many different types of harmonics) to expand the timbral pallette of the instrument(s); every sound here comes from an electric guitar and/or the EDP. There are a few fades applied to the ends of tracks after the fact, as well as some EQ tweaks, but those are the only post-performance edits that were done to any of these selections.

To fully understand what on Earth I'm talking about in this section, I highly recommend checking out the LoopIV Instruction Manual.

THE ECHOPLEX ANALYSIS PAGES:

Part 1: Ambient Guitar (1997)

Part 2: Studio Looping (1998-1999)

Part 3: Glitches, Cycles, and Non-Repetitive Looping (2001)

Part 4: Turntablist Guitar and LoopIV (2002)

Out Of The Loop

Acknowledgements


Turntablist Guitar: Singles
Key functions and parameters: Quantize=8th, Insertmode=Substitute, Insertmode=SUS, Direct MIDI, Retrigger, Reverse, Half-Speed, Stutter mode, Unrounded Multiply, Switchquant=Cycle, Loop Dividing, SubCycle Multiply
Asana
mp3 download

Umbra
mp3 download

Relent
mp3 download

One Ton Twitch
mp3 download

Insinuation
mp3 download

Glitch Learns to Dance
mp3 download

Generator
mp3 download

Reaction Formation
mp3 download

Way of the Wok
mp3 download

Strange Invader (Parts 1 and 2)
mp3 download

Alignment
mp3 download

One of the main elements of this material is a new quantization parameter called 8th, which quantizes functions to the nearest division of the loop as dictated by the 8th/beat (or 8th/cycle on newer EDPs) parameter value. What's important to realize is that in LoopIV, the EDP automatically subdivides any loop by the value of the 8th/beat setting (this is called "Loop Dividing.") So you can choose a value for 8th/beat and then have various functions be automatically mapped to the Echoplex's internal quantize grid. The settings in these examples are all 4/4 based, but the value of 8th/beat can be set to ANY amount from 1 all the way up to 256(!). (On shorter-length loops, it is possible to set an 8th value higher than what the EDP can calculate... but then again, the shorter the cycle length is, the shorter the loop division will be via any given 8th/beat value.)

Performance-wise, then, this material is approached very similarly to the glitch technique in Part 3, by dropping very quick momentary Insert functions into the loop. But because 8th-quantization is used, it's a very different result: instead of chaotic fragments of sound, the Echoplex quantizes each button press to the nearest subdivision, so that a very rhythmically intense sound is produced.

Another key distiction between the glitch material and this newer work is the use of a new Insertmode called Substitute. It's very similar to Replace, except that you don't actually hear the content of the loop change until the next repetition after the function is executed. The resulting effect is much smoother and more subtle than the drastic and instantly-audible Replace function. They're both great tools, and I use each of them in different settings, depending on the sonic result I'm after.

Another important new element is the use of Stutter mode, which is one of several new "Interface Modes" in LoopIV. Interface Modes are ways of altering the relationship of input, output, feedback, and (in the case of Stutter and Flip modes) the functionality of certain Insert settings. Many of them can produce sonic results which are unavailable otherwise, and Stutter mode definitely falls in that category.

In the case of "Generator" and "Insinuation," you can hear the initial loops being "stretched" in certain parts. This is the result of using Insert=SUS (which performs a sustained, "momentary" version of Insertmode=Insert) in conjunction with Stutter mode: depressing the pedal in a momentary fashion and then releasing it causes material within the loop to be repeated (hence "Stutter" mode).

My (unofficial) term for this particular technique is "SubCycle Multiply," since it allows you to perform a Multiply on sections within a single cycle. The result in these tracks is a sort of granular, manual timestretch thing. There is also a "SingleCycle Multiply" available in Stutter mode when Insertmode=Insert, and causes stuttery repetitions of cycles within a loop. (Confused yet?!) Different quantization settings affect both SubCycle Multiply and SingleCycle Multiply; for "Generator" and "Insinuation," quantize was switched off (and then switched to 8th once the loops began in earnest.)

Another key element of these tracks is the use of DirectMIDI commands. LoopIV has dramatically expanded the possibilities for controlling the EDP via MIDI, and has just about every conceivable function available from a dedicated MIDI note (or continuous control) command, independently of what the front panel settings are. This is hugely liberating for someone like myself, who frequently accesses many different parameters which are all assigned to one or two of the traditional front panel/EFC-7 buttons.

For the "singles" here, my MIDI controller was a Roland 626 drum machine. I did NOT actually use the drum machine to program patterns, to generate tempo or sync data, or for any actual audio sound; it served strictly as a convenient manual controller, from which I could customize each pad to access specific DirectMIDI commands. (For my own application, the top row of drum machine buttons accesses different loop numbers, and the bottom right-hand row triggers Half-Speed, Reverse, and Retrigger).

You might notice that most of the development and variation on these tracks comes from manipulation of the loop, as opposed to playing guitar. Indeed, it's very common on this material for me to build up a loop using just a few notes on the guitar in the first minute or two of the piece, and then spend the rest of the track accessing DirectMIDI commands without ever laying another finger on the guitar. Tracks like "Alignment," "Glitch Learns to Dance," "Reaction Formation," and the first part of "Strange Invader" lean particularly heavily on DirectMIDI techniques, and in "Alignment" and "Glitch" in particular you can hear various "scratch" techniques accessed by engaging Half-Speed, Reverse, and Retrigger in rapid succession.


Turntablist Guitar: Six-String Mixtape
Continuous Mix #1
(Rock & Roll mix)
RealAudio Stream

Continuous Mix #2
(House/Techno mix)
RealAudio Stream

Continuous Mix #3
(Abstract mix)
RealAudio Stream

Just as the "singles" above are experiments at crafting individual tracks from a post-DJ point of view, these three selections are attempts at a "live mixtape" by creating individual tracks with form and development, and then "mixing" or "crossfading" into new tracks, all in a continuous manner. As usual, these are all live, unedited improvisations. I consider this material to be the best EDP work I've done to date.

These are also the first tracks I recorded after obtaining a Digitech PMC-10 MIDI foot controller, which is a very wonderful (though unfortunately long-discontinued) footpedal with very extensive and flexible programming capabilities. One of the main differences between the singles above and the continuous mixes here is that there's a lot more actual guitar playing involved, and that's a direct result of the PMC-10. Having the freedom to access DirectMIDI commands via a footpedal, rather than having to trigger functions by hand on the Roland 626, meant I could keep my hands on the guitar while performing various EDP operations. As a result, the development of the loops tends to come more from adding new elements to the EDP through my guitar playing, rather than slicing and dicing the loops with DirectMIDI "scratching."

Unlike the singles, most of the Insert work here was done using Replace, and most of it was unquantized; after getting used to 8th-quantization, this was like "riding bareback." And even before I'd started working with quantize=8th, I'd been wanting to explore ways of using the Glitch approach in a more rhythmically precise manner, which is what's happening a lot here. There are a few spots where 8th-quantization is kicked in, and it's a pretty clear difference in sound when it does happen.

At various points within each continuous mix (as well as at the very beginnings of mixes 2 and 3), you can hear the loop length being expanded and redefined. Conceptually, it's the equivalent of "crossfading" from one "record" to another one. It's done using a combination of Unrounded Multiply and SUS-Insert (both of which have unique DirectMIDI values, which were assigned their own distinct MIDI pedals on the PMC-10) in Stutter mode (which was used for all three mixes).

As with the singles, I only used four loops in the EDP's memory, though there are far more than just four audible loops at work in each continuous mix. Thanks to double-click copying, I was able to copy a given loop into a spot already taken by an older loop simply by clicking on the MIDI note number for the destination loop twice within the "lame duck period" while the EDP was waiting to switch loops. (Sometimes this had to be done faster than my feet could comfortably handle, due to short cycle lengths, so the Roland still proved useful).

This is the most recent material in these pages, and - much like the very earliest material from five years ago, in Part 1 - all three continuous mixes were recorded in a single day, on June 7, 2002.


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