Vaetxh’s inaugural release Libet Tones for Detroit Underground draws on both musical themes—Electronic IDM and musique concrète—and non-musical themes from mathematics, resulting in four labyrinthine tracks that are studies in free association, a state in which ideas float from the unconscious to the conscious. Record sleeve design by Dmas3™.
List of Lists
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Vaetxh explains the production process and intention of each track:
This track started with an FM synthesis experiment where each note randomized the operators, resulting in these weird bursts of atonal frequencies and harmonics. I built the first section around this. I then introduced a melodic glaze, originally written to soften the edges of the harsher sounds. This melody started as a tool almost, but as I developed it I realized that it deserved more focus, enough in fact to later give it a solo. Before this, I wanted another breather as a temporary retreat from the intensity. To emphasize this I tried something with my binaural mics: with them in, I recorded the harsher section playing while the quieter section played through some isolating headphones. The idea was that if I recorded putting on the headphones and taking them off again, I would effectively be transplanting the mind elsewhere for a while. It didn’t quite work, but sounded pretty sweet anyway so I wasn’t too bothered.
The whole thing is peppered with binaural recordings in fact, for example the sound of the waves in the melodic solo was recorded in Pembrokeshire, sitting the sea with the water almost up to my ears. They add a recognizable natural edge to some of the more abstract sounds, and makes them more tangible I think. The contrast of having both the artificial and the natural playing together makes me appreciate how complex seemingly simple natural sounds actually are.
The final section was an experiment into what would happen if you tried to brutally force one time signature onto another. Obviously they each needed their own space or it would have quickly gotten messy as fuck (and still did), so I put on a highpass filter side-chained against the invading rhythm, which creates that swooshing effect. Luckily the new time signature was my favorite of all (3/4), so the rest of the track was just playing around with increasingly small divisions of thirds, and tying off the strange rhythms with a simple straight hi-hat rhythm to give them a reference point. It’s all about the reference points.
The name for this track is taken from a VST I wrote that forces all audio passing through it to the same amplitude, i.e. it completely erases dynamic range. This has some interesting results: reverbs can’t decay, allowing you to hear parts of the tail that aren’t normally heard; filtered delays dissolve into harmonics normally too quiet to hear; field recordings are flattened so that quiet rustles and loud bangs are equally pronounced.
The track spawned from experiments with this effect and is divided into 4 rough sections.
The track starts with a drilling engine-like sound that came from playing with a delay that was kept alive by the cuntpressor. The single sub-bass hit that punctures through the other sounds I added as a premonition of the later parts of the track. The rumble between the first and second section is the raw sound of the cuntpressor working its charms on a reverb; notice the crackles toward the end when the reverb desperately wants to die but the cuntpressor is keeping it unnaturally alive.
The second section builds on the first by tightening the rhythm into a more shuffley mode, punctuated with bass stabs and little snippets of voice. I often add fragments of unintelligible voice to music, it makes me think of how language might sound to someone with speech agnosia (word-deafness). Here the sub-bass hits that define the following section are introduced as high pitched blips in a syncopated rhythm that morph into their later form by lowering in pitch and slowing the tempo, so that the gap between them lengthens into full bars. This gives an effect of slowing-without-slowing, similar in concept to Shepard tones or strange loops.
The third section takes this bass hit and gives it a context with an awkward minimal beat that slowly expands into a more driving 4-to-the-floor rhythm. This builds until a pause when the piano is introduced. I recorded this at home using the shitty mic in my laptop, because I didn’t have any equipment with me. I approximated a stereo recording by recording the same riff with the laptop in several different positions around the room and blending them with different pans. I couldn’t completely get rid of the tinny timbre to them but I quite liked it anyway, so emphasized it with erratic filter changes.
The outro boils the rhythm of the 3rd section down to its basic no-frills constituent – a repetitive technoish loop. This morphs into two other styles before the track glitches itself to pieces.
I wanted this track to sound like an intricate machine or robot that is both unimaginably powerful and ancient, rusting and crumbling, and that could grind to a halt at any moment. This affected the rhythmic style – mostly stable but occasionally coming apart at the seams and falling to pieces.
The first part sets up the machine as a savage beast, but one whose old age means it can’t keep up this intensity for long before giving up and crumbling into silence. As it powers up again, the bleeping is actually an exe file interpreted as audio, the sound of raw data. The exe file was Internet Explorer – pretty much all it’s good for.
The second part is a reflection of the first but softened with a melody. Again, this soon falls apart to almost nothing before building up to the 3rd and final section.
This final section is split into two sub parts. The rhythm in the 2nd of the these parts is actually almost identical to the 1st, just shifted a fraction of a beat to change the emphasis. This section keeps going until the machine runs out of steam – the beats get clipped away to nothing and I wanted to give the impression that this was the last time the machine would ever run.
List of Lists:
I don’t have much to say about the concept behind this track, it was very much a stream of consciousness. Each section is just what seemed to come naturally after the last, so I guess in some respects it’s about that – how ideas morph into one another, taking fragments from preceding ideas but integrating new ones from external sources. This track was made on and off over several months, so there were a lot of external sources. This is reflected by each of the distinct sections; every time I went back to it I came from a different angle based on what I’d been listening to or thinking about at that time. The name is a reference to this recursive process of refinement.
It started off as an experiment with a physically modelled synthesizer. The bass sound at the start is an abused model of a toned drum, kept alive unnaturally by the cuntpressor. I then started messing with dynamics of the drum sounds using another more flexible compression VST based on the cuntpressor, giving the drums that slightly hesitant sound. The little snippets of radio I got by playing the track through a radio transmitter and picking it on a handheld radio, then detuning from that station to get a lovely static-ridden fuckedness. I then mixed this back into the track.
The tonal percussion in the section before the pad was the result of a jam I had with a realtime audio quantizer patch I made in Max. The pad that then fades in I re-recorded with my binaural mics through my monitors, getting the pans by physically moving head around. At the end of the pad section, the sound of the footsteps is me recording the track playing in my room, then leaving the room to go upstairs to see how that affected the sound.
The slower final section is a tempo change via a rhythm change rather than by changing the global tempo. To do this I introduced the beat in the pad section as a syncopation, but then turned that into the straight tempo of the following section, resulting in a slower effective tempo.
For a while it looked like this track would never get finished because while I was working on it in my wave editor, the file corrupted and I lost a days work. I almost gave up then, but I’d put so much time into it that I couldn’t give up that easily, so as a big ‘fuck you Audition’ I took the corrupted file, turned it into audio put it into the track.
Vaetxh is youthful Bristol native Rob Clouth, raised on a steady diet of mathrock until a chance exposure with high intensity electronic music led him down the digital production alley. Initial forays into IDM territory were superseded with the acquisition of a sub-woofer and his realisation of the sensory affects of bass on the body and brain. The end result is something refreshingly unique in today’s hyper-saturated sonic landscape – intricate, engaging and emotive scapes incorporating the aesthetics of dubstep, glitch, IDM, ambience and field recordings.
It’s in the interplay of natural and unnatural, of the real and the synthetic, the planned and the unexpected, the mechanical and the organic, that Vaetxh finds his inspiration.
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VAETXH – LIBET TONES
A PHD PERSPECTIVE.
Written by Garth Rennie.
Dreams, hallucinations, sleep walking and other forms of subconscious perception emerge as ready, necessary states of potential life in Vaetxh’s inaugural release — Libet Tones for Detroit Underground. Four tracks map a new territory for electronic music drawing on recent research into neurophysiology and cognitive processing. Vaetxh uses the cutting of tone with noise in strange, mysterious ways drawing out the liminal, inter-zone beween consciousness and action. Listening feels like a strange factory or machine continuously assembling potential feelings, anticipated thoughts and future muscular movements.
How? Enter Benjamin Libet, a neurophysiologist with novel ideas as to what occurs between our minds and our bodies. Libet hypothesized the experience of “felt intention” e.g. the fleeting, momentary feeling of buildup as we desire to move, feel and act is registered and acted upon subconsciously by our nervous system prior to conscious awareness. The innovation Libet seems to offer, contra Freud, is how the nervous system itself appears to prime or make ready selected networks within its system anticipating the decision to act by the mind. Libet measured up to 0.5 seconds between our nervous system’s ‘knowledge’ and the decision to act. This momentary charging of the system making it ready for movement he termed the “readiness potential.”
So we’re talking about wonderful new ideas as to what constitutes lived experience.
Electronically synthesized music greatly expands the vocabulary of music, as Milton Babbit remarked, because the limits are no longer those of sound production but of the human auditory system. Rapid changes in timbre are difficult to follow especially when the cessation of pure tone is syncronized with with the on-set of noise. Vaetxh is a young scientist of the perceptual senses, mysteriously evoking the subconscious, making our bodies ready for potential movement, thoughts and feelings. He offers new innovations accomplishing for electronic music what Libet did for neurophysiology. Record sleeve designed by DMAS3 represents diagramatically Vaetxh’s Libet Tones production practice offering a new concept, a new understanding of what is happening between body and mind as audio waves are transduced into electrical impulses and we hear sound.
Volume and depth build quickly opening our ear canals to previously uncharted domains arriving upon new mind-body plateaus. Oscillating, syncopated, mutilated sound waves enter labyrinthian ear semicircular ducts, vibrating tympanum skin membrane, bone ossicles, arriving calmly across the blood-brain barrier to the vestibule, harmonics now one with common central cavities of the body communicating inner experience. Welcome subjective perception as unfolding mechanism.
Libet tones is about the to-and-fro, back and forth of communication and the momentary, fractional moments (recall Libet’s 0.5 secs) between sensory input, cognition and action-response. A deep-rooted sexual rhythm demonstrates the principle prompting heightened states of bio-erotics; anticipation, arousal, desire, intimacy and love are all brought together as the dense ascending cochlea hair fibres within our ‘Organ of Corti’ move precisely in accordance to physical sensations of wave forms, massaging, pulsing, engulfing the auditory nerve. Track title derived from software Vaetxh uses for sound production.
List of Lists
Scaling the mountain from inner ear to mind are the nerve cells ‘ganglion spirale’ — ultimate magical bi-polar transducers arranged in sequence along our basilar membrane like the keyboard of a piano forte, one pole prolonged centrally to the brain and the other peripherally to the hair-cells of Corti’s organ. Searing, swirling oscillating, backwards-forward-backwards frequency spectrums ensue, a hair cell bricolage of tapestry keys. Tone and timbre coming together producing myriad results, from cacophony to tranquility in the space of minutes, moments, fractions of moments. All sorts of emotions, compulsions, thoughts in-between. Desire blooming not for a body but for a whole construction, a whole landscape, a whole, integrated cosmos of life world – subjective perception being the ‘list of lists’ governing bodily movement. Since action so often happens before a decision agency or ‘free will’ emerges as epiphenomenon.
If that wasn’t enough the penultimate track is better yet, the best lead into the mysteries evoked by Vaetxh’s exploration of subconscious perception. The crumbling begins with 50-sec plethora of noise. But having reached the foot of the mountain the ‘readiness potential’ of subconscious auditory perception takes hold. Minute colours, fractional, imperceptible timbre, each to our liking, intersperse spirale/membrane cacophany. Suddenly silence. Prompting us to gaze upon ourselves amid the passing of time and the experience of being alive, listening. In silence we focus, breathing, observing breath, to calibrate, to prime ourselves for our readiness potential. Mind suddenly floats as if on our backs gazing up at the night sky removed and absolved, feeling the presence of our bodies, those of others we love, how much we need them, how wonderful it is to be alive. A lilting, somewhat distant marimaba or steel drum appears, soft metallic emulations beckoning us as if from the shores of a distant island.
Add these together and gain important integers as how to catch and save falling objects including life and Mother Earth.