Opera North - The Little Greats

Talking Algorave With Notts-Based Electronic Music Maker Anny

21 January 17 interview: Paul Klotschkow

With the term first coined in Nottingham, we find out more about the live music and coding movement ahead of an event at Rough Trade Nottingham...

Algobabez

Shelly Knotts and Joanne Armitage of ALGOBABEZ. photo: Antonio Roberts

Hi Anny, you are organising an Algorave event at Rough Trade. Can you explain what Algorave is?
An Algorave is a music event where "live coders" produce music by writing code in front of an audience, typically projecting their screen so people can see exactly what they're doing. An Algorave usually runs for four to six hours, featuring multiple musicians performing original live coded tunes, often accompanied by visual live coders who create (and also project) graphics on the fly to go with the music.

The name "Algorave" is derived from the phrase "algorithmic rave" and was coined by a fellow live coding performer, Yaxu, about six years ago on his way to a live coding gig in Nottingham — so in a sense, although live coding has been around for a while in various forms, Algorave started right here!

Is Algorave a UK thing or is it worldwide, and how did you get into it?
Live coders can be found all over the world — there are quite a few in the UK and Germany, others dotted around Europe, and yet more in Japan, Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. that I know of, and a variety of live coding performances happen in all of these places. Algorave is one kind of live coding performance, with more-specific connotations with clubbing and raves, and one of the goals for performers at an Algorave is to get the audience dancing to your code.

I originally heard about Algorave reading a funny, but now a bit out of date, article on the Vice website, and on Googling it for more information found that Yaxu would be performing a small gig in London a few days later, only a short Tube ride away from my home — so I went to check it out. And it blew my mind.

I should explain that I'm a programmer by profession, and also profoundly deaf, so while simultaneously reading Yaxu's code and listening to the music he was producing, I realised I could directly access his ideas and methodology and understand much more deeply what I was hearing. I have seen live music many times before, but I don't know, for instance, how to play a guitar nor, accordingly, read someone else's fingers as they play guitar: so this experience was revelatory for me, and changed all my thinking about how I participate in live events. The very next day, I went out and bought a cheap laptop, installed Linux and Tidal Cycles, and started making my own tunes!

Why should we come to the night at Rough Trade?
Some of the UK's finest live-coding musicians will be performing at Rough Trade. ALGOBABEZ are bringing us an uncompromising wall of noise; Calum Gunn will be demonstrating his mastery of complex rhythms; Heavy Lifting produces real crunchy beats; and Belisha Beacon and Qirky make great straight-up techno. And I'll be closing the event with my own flavour of progressive techno. hellocatfood and Rumble-San will be live coding graphics throughout, serving up a visual feast to complement the vibe.

If you like electronic music at all, you should come along to see how it is made with code to create exciting new approaches to music and hear the forms that arise from that. You don't have to be an academic or a programmer to understand what's going on, or necessarily even care about the live coding aspect of Algorave — we're all going to be trying to play really good music first and foremost, and hope that the audience will have as much fun listening as we do performing.

Is the music designed to dance to or is it more for sitting around and stroking your chin?
The live coding communities I'm a part of are unified more by process and technology than genre, so if you listen to a bunch of different artists, you'll hear a huge variation in sound and feel from one artist to the next. Techno and dance music are popular styles, but to give just a few examples, Mil988 (Montréal/Mexico City) rap with live code; Reggaetron (Mexico), create funky 'Cumbia' dance music; Kindohm (U.S.) produces impressive, warping IDM; and Renick Bell's latest EP (Japan) is glitchy, footwork-y genius. Everything he's done is genius actually.

The vibe at an Algorave really depends on the curation of performers. I've invited artists to play the Nottingham Algorave who, I reckon, are dance floor-friendly while imbuing their performances with their unique quirks and attitudes. I'm hoping that we'll get a decent sized crowd, generate good energy, and get people moving their feet! The Leeds Algorave last year was brilliant fun, and if we reproduce even half of that energy, I'll be happy.

Are there any other Algorave musicians in Nottingham?
Littlelifeform is another Nottingham live coder, who in fact will be performing in public for the first time at Rough Trade. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of music she shares with us. At the moment, the two of us are the only live coding musicians I know locally, but there are many more not far away at all in Manchester, London, and especially Sheffield — and the online community of course is global.

I hope that bringing Algorave to Nottingham and putting on a good show will create interest around here and lead to more live coding activities — not just Algoraves, but workshops and seminars too. Live coding is still a fairly niche activity at the moment, but we are all working to make the scene diverse and the software accessible. I would recommend anyone interested in getting involved to just dive right in — try out the various live coding programs, see if anything 'works' for you, and don't be afraid to join the community to ask for help or share your art.

You make your own music, don’t you? Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
I try to experiment with different sounds and 'feels' with each project I work on, and I try to avoid repeating any live setlist so I'm continually pressured to come up with new compositional ideas, but I guess much of my music can be summarised as 'progressive techno'. Broadly speaking, with each piece I start out with simple ideas, and gradually layer on more and more sounds and more complex patterns and hold it all together as tight as I can until it desperately needs to get broken down again — or the software breaks down first, which happened at my last gig in Manchester. But nobody noticed! They thought I did it on purpose!

All of my music is available online, mostly free to download, though my early material is not that great (in my own opinion, of course) and uses a limited range of samples. Throughout 2015 I started to get more intentional with my sound design and produced a concept album, Piston LP: 8 tracks at a fixed BPM twisting incongruent samples, like insect noises and water drops, into something vaguely industrial-sounding, and each track recycling components from everything that came before — culminating in basically everything getting smashed together in a total mess of a big beat tune!

Last year I relaxed a bit and only released two new tunes, with longer conception periods: Juliese was an effort at doing something slower, funkier and a bit less intense. I worked on that for two months, and it came together when I found its daft wet bassline. Feedback from the audience when I've played it live has been wonderful. Then before Christmas, I remixed a friend's ambient techno track into my proudest work so far, the 14-minute synth-y slow burner Haddeo (Algorave Remix).

I'm not sure yet what 2017 holds for me musically. I'd like to make another album, but right now I'm focusing on promoting this Algorave and putting together a fresh setlist!

How long have you been in Nottingham and how are you finding the music scene here?
I moved here early last year from London, where I was getting burnt out by the pace of life and, frankly, fed up with the absurd rent I was paying. I like Nottingham a lot, so far! It's a little quieter — which is good — and there's history and culture here. I'm much happier now.

I'm sorry to say however that I haven't had much of a chance to discover the music scene yet, as I was working a lot last year, but I've had a bit more time of late and I'm making a point of finding good local artists. So far I've enjoyed listening to Alice Short and hashtagobi, for two, and I plan to get out of the house more this year, see more shows, and get more involved in the scene myself.

Algorave - Live Coded Electronic Music & Visuals is at Rough Trade Nottingham on Sunday 12 February 2017. Facebook event.

Listen to Anny on Bandcamp

Algorave website

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