Does your Gladware even mix, bro?

I built a small passive mixer into this old Glad container to pair with the modded LepLoop.

The mixer, along with the LepLoop modifications, lets me mix the LepLoop’s four signals left and right, two and two, in any combination. This is perfect for recording with the SP-404 mkII for further arranging and processing.

The container also stores patch cables and the passive CV breakout box, which is still in progress.

Modded LepLoop + CV breakout + mixer + 404mkII is a powerhouse. I can bang out weirdo minimal electro jams forever.

New Ears

I wanted to capture something that’s happening in my brain, at the intersection of the 404 samplers and my “Jam My Wave” guitar demos. I’m doing something new, made possible by learning the 404 and sample-based music generally, that no one would guess from just hearing the end results.

As I listen to “Jam My wave” guitar demos and work on melodies, I’m making progress not by singing nonsense or jamming like I typically would, but by listening to the guitar and imagining what kind of vocals would sound interesting or make a good call and response with the instrumental. It’s almost like, or is like, thinking about what kind of sample is needed next in sample-based music-making, and I wouldn’t be doing it if not for the 404s.

In some spots I’ve actually written the vocals, with notes/intervals and scratch lyrics. In other places I just have ideas like “Be inspired by Thom Yorke here” or “Fit the vocal into the space between the 4th chord and the downbeat of the next progression.”

This changed way of listening and writing is why I bought the 404SX in the first place, not knowing if I’d actually finish any music with it. I hoped it would change my ears in interesting ways, putting new tools in the mental toolkit. I’m happy that both the new ears and actual 404 music are happening.

All The Things

Been a while since I updated, but it’s not for nothing going on; too much, rather! Many things. All of the things.

  • “Frog On The King’s Head,” my first record on the 404mkII, keeps rolling along. Five songs are essentially done save for little mix tweaks, and in the past few weeks I’ve finished three more instrumentals. (It’s a 10-song record.) It’ll be out of order but I’m excited to share it so I think I’ll release it about as soon as it’s ready, mid- to late summer
  • In February Daniel G (Hypermortal, L.U.V.C.R.A.F., etc.) and I were talking and spontaneously decided to make a house record. It… is not going to sound anything like a house record. It’s weird progressive synth music with otherworldly vocals and a few guitars. We’re having a blast, though, using the back-and-forth process Nate and I used for “Orbital Debris”
  • Anywaves keeps sending tracks, and I keep mastering them :)
  • I’m working on a Drone Space Nine record in VCV Rack, inspired by the first DS9 but starting from scratch and building the space station sounds to my exact specs
  • Melodies and lyrics for the next M/S Ride guitar record, “Jam My Wave / Don’t Jam My Wave,” emerge from time to time as I continue listening to the instrumental demos
  • The Leploop remains fun, and I’m building some passive breakout boxes/controls to make better use of its modular outputs and inputs. I’ve intentionally avoided recording much with it yet in order to gain experience and just keep exploring before starting to “work” on recordings, but it does appear a little on “Frog…” and I have one good test-jam-turned-keeper on the 404mkII
  • In the garage I’m working on turning my Graphic Fuzz Variant into a PCB format to do a run. The PCB is much more stable compared to the breadboard, so I’ll have to change some things to get the breadboard sounds in the PCB format

This list is mostly for me, but I hope your projects are going well, whatever they are. And I’d be happy to hear about them.

MFR and Night Mode Data Visualizations Update

I’ve updated the data visualizations with our latest releases, plus some enhancements.

As we approach twenty years in the independent label game, we have as much music coming out as ever. I wish I had a way to embed this as an interactive visualization, because in Power BI where I created this you can hover to get actual artists and album titles.

One thing you *can* see, in the rainbow of artists, is Night Mode; the salmon pink that starts in 2016 and dominates 2019 – present.

There’s a good chance we’ll put out at least four more records this year, continuing the renaissance that started in 2019 (pre-pandemic! This is not just a COVID phenomenon).

Changes to the Night Mode chart include adding the newest releases, clearing up some older stuff (mostly 404-based material that’s ending up under “M/S Ride”), and color-coding the approximate “eras” of Night Mode. Of course “eras” are subject to interpretation, and have fuzzier starts and ends than the color changes would indicate.

The first, blue era kicks things off and releases mostly follow recordings, with the major exception of “I Could Not Bring Myself To Sing.”

The second, yellow era is anchored by our second solo Night Mode projects, “Gentlemen Scientist” (Drew) and “Your Pain Matters” (me).

Green era three is a collaborative time that encompasses pre- and early-pandemic, where Drew and I were figuring out how to write, perform, and record live sets with just the two of us. Very successful era!

Fourth, red era are my mid-pandemic collaborations with Nate, Christopher, and Dad, plus a quick solo joint.

Finally, I’ve set “Exoplanetary Shadows” in new era, though it could also go with the fourth era.

We’re not finished releasing recordings from earlier eras; “Murder Mountain,” the AX-60 project, and the TM+QuantiZer project will all certainly come out, and maybe others as well.

The Best Music Howie Heard In 2022

What a fantastic year for new music. My list is twice as long as usual.

I added over two hundred albums to my collection this year, and have listened to almost all of them since early November to try and the best. “Best” in this context means having double extra special sparkle sauce; absolute lightning in a bottle. “Honorable mention” is no dishonor; records in that group are truly outstanding as well.

In random order, the best music I heard in 2022 –

Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow, “Zhigeist” (2022) – A beautiful meeting of polymathematical minds, hiking through history with vision and verve.

Amber Mark, “Three Dimensions Deep” (2022) – Everything that smart, modern R&B-pop should be, with bonus points for Afrofuturism.

Stik Figa & Conductor Williams, “Valley of Dry Bones” (2022) – Intentionally short, and undeniable. Conductor warps his samples right up to the point of over-sickness, and Stik continues to drop heartfelt truths in plain but striking language.

Beth Orton, “Weather Alive” (2022) – Orton braved the emotional wilderness to bring us back this collection of meditations, performed by an absolutely cracking band.

Kendrick Lamar, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” (2022) – Uneven on early listens, but the great tracks are *so great.* I think “Mr. Morale…” will age incredibly well.

Tangerine Dream, “Raum” (2022) – Edgar’s long-time collaborators raid his archive and piece together a perfect blend of vintage kosmische vibes and modern production.

Hammered Hulls, “Careening” (2022) – Dischord-based supergroup featuring members of Fugazi and Helium bangs out arty garage jams; grown folks going hard, one of my favorite meta-genres.

Hainbach, “Syn-Ket Studien” (2022) – This short set, in combination with its companion video and the rabbit hole it sent me down, pleasantly ate up an is-the-pandemic-over-or-isn’t-it weekend.

Del the Funky Homosapien, “Attractive Sin” (w/ Parallel Thought) (2012) – Listen to “Charlie Brown.” No one is simultaneously as shit-talkingly hilarious and technically brilliant as Del.

Heldon, “Allez-Teia (Heldon II)” (1975) – Heldon’s particular style of experimental kosmische continues to speak to me, almost as if Drew’s solo Night Mode work was sent back in time.

Huerco S, “Plonk” (2022) – I’ve respected Huerco S since “For Those Of You…” hit indie-big, but this is the first one I’ve *gotten into.* Apt album title is apt.

Hammers of Misfortune, “Overtaker” (2022) – Hammers pull lessons learned in their excellent side project Vhol into the mothership; metal AOTY in my book.

Tems, “If Orange Was A Place” (2021) – Along with her singles and “For Broken Ears” EP, this suggestion by Stig Figa from last year’s LPLP call was an easy favorite of mine this year.

Stevie Wonder, “Hotter Than July” (1980) – Pitchfork’s summer Stevie Wonder day turned me on to this one. It’s rep as a second-tier Stevie album just underlines his greatness; this is still *hot*, 42 years on.

The Architects, “Border Wars 3” (2022) – They got the band back together to rip through another set of songs about drugs and law enforcement (and being on the wrong side of both)!

The Creepy Jingles, “Take Me At My Wordplay” (2022) – A dense set of rainbowed-up ADHD psychadelia, impeccably crafted.

Szun Waves, “Earth Patterns” (2022) – Unique conjuring of cosmic atmosphere grounded in wood and breath.

Backxwash, “HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING” (2022) – Backxwash howls and glories in one more batch of freshly harsh beats. Untouchable; no one else sounds remotely like this.

Braingea, “Holon Daze” (2022) – An outstanding team effort, but the reason it’s “Best” is that Travis Baker’s drumming is finally, fully captured on mic.

Black Star, “No Fear Of Time” (2022) – It’s so good to hear Bey rap again. Madlib makes the impossible – following up the debut – sound easy and Arkestra-weird at once. Kweli is here.

Pusha T, “It’s Almost Dry” (2022) – It’s the same well but it can never run dry when you have the skill and charisma of Pusha.

Honorable mention –

Open Mike Eagle, “Component System With The Auto-Reverse” (2022)
Asterales, “Futurespective” (2022) – Fun long-player including “So Easy” which was among my “Best” last year
Battalion of Cloudships, “Penetralia” (2022) and “Apophenic Cycles” (2021) – Really good live drone and a personal best for the project
Alister Fawnwoda, Greg Leisz, & Suzanne Ciani, “Milan” (2021)
Little Brother, “The Listening (Deluxe Edition)” (2003)

Serene Fiend, “Elegies and Effigies” (2022)
iD and Sleeper, “Displacement (Deluxe)” (2005)
Faith Maddox, “Subtle Hauntings” (2022)
Steve Hillage, “Rainbow Dome Musick” (1979)
Spiritualized, “Everything Was Beautiful” (2022) – Borderline “Best,” see “Laid In Your Arms”

Charles Mingus, “Tonight At Noon” (1961) – Did an extra-deep dive on Mingus this year; no one like him, and I’ll boost him any chance I can!
Phife Dawg, “Forever” (2022) – Legit good, not just a posthumous tribute
Lonnie Smith, “Finger Lickin’ Good” (1967) – Got into Dr. Lonnie Smith this year!
Afrorack, “The Afrorack” (2022)
Effie, “Curve My Enthusiasm” (2019)

2 Skinnee J’s, “The Big Green Book” (2005) – Well worth it for fans
Freestyle Fellowship, “To Whom It May Concern…” (1991)
Rival Consoles, “Now Is” (2022)
Proudentall, “KCeMO ’96-’99” (2022)
Alessandro Cortini, “Forse 1-3 + Vivo” (2021)

Milkdrop & Jet Moran, “Write Away” (2022)
Gift of Gab, “Finding Inspiration Somehow” (2021) – RIP
Richard Quirk, “Tape Circle” (2019)
The Afghan Whigs, “How Do You Burn?” (2022)
Elder, “Innate Passage” (2022)

Author & Punisher, “Kruller” (2022)
Selvedge, “The Real River” (2022) & “Daybreaker” (2022)
O.C., “Word… Life” (1994)
Secret Machines, “Day 21” EP (2022)
Royal Blood, “Typhoons” (2021) – I sure spun this a lot

Black Thought & Danger Mouse, “Cheat Codes” (2022)
Spoon, “Lucifer On The Sofa” (2022)