Eric Prydz at the Armory [360 Experience]

Eric Prydz’s EPIC 4.0 tour ended Feb. 27 in San Francisco. The second of two sold-out nights in the city brought together old school dance music fans, kandi kids and millennial partygoers for a harmonious evening of bass and mind-melting visuals at The Armory, the historic Mission building now owned by Kink.com.

Though billed as progressive house, this was no cheap climb-and-drop generic of the genre. Prydz is a master of foreplay, unafraid of a slow build. Indeed, the first half hour of the set consisted of slow Pryda synth tracks. The visuals took time to intensify as well. First, it was just the LED screens. Then the 3D projection mapping and finally the famous 2000 laser display.


One unexpected highlight that I had overlooked during the album release was “The Matrix.” Now, when I listen to it I will remember one of the most epic big room trance tracks I’ve ever heard. With all the production elements going full blast, this may have been the climax of the evening. The sky was full of lasers slicing the clouds and the visuals were perfectly timed to an epic drop.

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In some ways, the visuals were a little too good. With the dazzling 100-foot cube LED panel flanked with additional lights, audience interaction was limited for the first half of the set. You literally could not pull your eyes away from the screen. In fact, our connection to Prydz himself was blocked off by the screen in front of him. If cell phones during a show bother you, this would have been your nightmare.

Things turned around a bit during “Generate,” my favorite song from “Opus,” Prydz’s 2016 two-disc release. It was more than I had expected live, full of warmth and love. We finally turned away from the light show and beamed at each other, singing along to the inspiring lyrics such as, “There’s nothing we need that we can’t create…” I couldn’t help but think it perfectly matched the euphoric techie optimism flooding San Francisco right now.

Just when we thought Prydz had left us, the mighty bass tone of “Shadows” began rumbling through The Armory. Despite the incredible tracks on “Opus,” “Shadows,” off “Eric Prydz Presents Pryda,” his 2012 debut artist album, remains one of his most powerful songs. It was the perfect adieu to his die-hard fans. The masses stumbled out onto Mission Street, bleary eyed with light trails embedded in our vision.

The show’s spellbinding visuals and the subsequent lack of interaction represents an interesting conundrum in the dance music world today. One of the pillars of rave culture is unity, coming together with strangers for a night of deep connection. I remember a time when people hardly even looked at the DJ because, when they were dancing, they were too busy vibing with the other souls on the dance floor.
Is incredible production value distracting us from each other?
Let’s not forget to dance together and look each other in the eyes. Production value will only get crazier, but the real reason we rave is to connect with one another.

Published for Ripple

Lessons on the Universe at Gray Area’s Analog Orgy

 

Inside the Grand Theater the atmosphere was part laboratory, part museum with racks of test oscillators from the 50s emitting unearthly tones and homemade synthesizers straddling screens. The Gray Area’s newest exhibition highlighted Andy Pulse and synth trio CTRL-Z, Bay Area based analog artists experimenting with light and sound.

CTRL-Z, an Oakland based group who met while studying music at Mills College, were eager to show off their rare synthesizers. “This is a Russian made one,” exclaimed Ryan Page. “The chips are actually written in Cyrillic script.”

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For their seventy-minute opus, Daniel Steffey of CTRL-Z had scored a detailed piece. Then, Ryan took all the timelines Dan had devised and wrote a piece of code to send them to the different speakers based on certain breaks in the score. This resulted in a hypnotic binaural experience with vastly different tones emitted from every corner of the theater.

“It’s all composed so we’re not screwing around at all,” Ryan assured me. This thorough planning led to a dramatic arc found in the crescendos and teasing endings of classical composition. “The ultimate goal is to be able to organize sound in real time.”

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On the left, close to the stage, video magician Andy Puls perched inside his hacked together pixel distortion device. “The whole image is coming from video feedback. The camera is feeding the screen and the screen is showing what is on the camera.”

Instead of worrying about projecting at a high enough resolution, Andy dived in between the pixels, blowing them up to human size, each like its own blooming, pulsing television screen. “The camera ends up filming it’s own image and there’s a lot of effects along the way. This lets me do a lot of mirror imaging and mixing effects and this is color and image control.”

In between twisting feed screen and zooming in on an ancient tape video recorder, he played the taishōgoto, a beguilingly delicate Japanese stringed instrument. Other times, CTRL-Z’s synths would thunder so loudly I plugged my ears in pain. It certainly wasn’t for everyone – but I find beauty in contrast.

IMG_3678.jpg(“I build this synthesizer that has light sensors. The image is on the little screen and the synthesizer is strapped to it. Light ripples trigger the ringing sound you hear.” – Andy Puls)

“I think music is spiritual and this is a whole music and visual experience,” philosophized Andy. “This is supposed to put you in a special state.” It was certainly successful. Despite being jarring at times, it was incredibly meditative – to the point that I experienced the sensation of falling into the image several times.

In the age of precision CGI, this whole show may seem like an obsession of antiquity. Yet, sitting under the hypnotizing swirl of shape and color, I began to think that perhaps we are all in an infinite feedback loop and our actions are like Andy’s handmade synths, shifting the output every step of the way. There is no source; everything is recycled off what came before.

Published on Ripple.co

Biohacking with SF Peak Performers [360 Video Report]

Supported by Ripple.co, I have begun my journey into the world of Virtual Reality reporting. I’ve been dreaming about taking viewers along for the ride for years and finally platforms are supporting this medium. Watch on Chrome or the Youtube app for the optimal experience.

From ‘smart drugs’ to meditation apps to electrotherapy, San Francisco’s tech minds are trying everything to be even more focused in the workplace. While most of these methods are not proven to be safe or effective, these ‘peak performers’ admit they’re willing to take the risk. Many reported feeling unfocussed and stressed with ten projects to complete at any given time and are looking to technology and supplements to give them the boost they need. Join Ripple.co as we investigate the best biohacking secret of all.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k681VO59C_Y)

Stay tuned for more VR Content to come!

Inside Madrid’s Illegal Okupas

The community of Moratalaz transformed a branch of Bankia, responsible for the eviction of thousands of Spaniards and a 23 Billion Euro bailout, into a political center. Now, with an eviction notice from the police, the people of La Bankarrota are taking to the streets to protest, despite new “gag laws” banning demonstrations without permission from the government.

Arriving in Spain, the tension between corrupt power structures and the push for an alternative system was immediately obvious. Early on, I remember seeing anarchy symbols spray-painted on Bank windows and I became curious how people were actually addressing this. I actually ran across my first okupa on accident. I was interviewing Vikbass, a Drum n Bass producer, on the underground rave scene in Madrid. He said he sometimes spun at an abandoned school and offered to show me the space. I met the people who lived there and they told me there was a whole movement around taking abandoned spaces and turning them into housing as a reaction to the high cost of rent and youth unemployment.

I explored many okupas. Some were people’s home, others were political, art, or social centers, but the goal was the same: to create a totally free, alternative space without racism, specism, sexism, or classism.

A friend I met at La Quimera, a political okupa, sent me a flyer for a protest being held in Moratalaz against the police eviction of their neighborhood’s okupa, which used to be a branch of the very bank that had stolen so many Spaniards money and homes in faulty loans. Unfortunately, due to undercover cops posing as journalists to record the inside of okupas and subsequently make arrests, these activists were wary of cameras. After speaking to them about my involvement in Occupy Oakland they granted me access.

The protest was stranger than we could have hoped for. The old men of the community who came out to show their support were eager to talk to us about Spain’s economic woes and political corruption. One of them even grabbed the boom mic from us to sing a shockingly graffic song about revolution. The police were not quite as open to being filmed. In fact they told us that due to the new laws that the Spanish call “Ley Mordaza” (Gag Laws) filming them was actually illegal. Which made for a great shot.

I believe that creating media on a small, intimate scale from within a movement can have huge impact. Many times coverage from large media companies is slanted. I hope this documentary inspires dialogue about protecting these spaces. La Bankarrota is more than a political center; it is a space for everyone in the community to come together. We’re sorely missing the preservation of community in this rat race of individual profit, fueled by fear that we will not have enough.

Remix Culture Without Internet: Going Deep with Havana’s Top DJs and Producers

Electronic music is part of a new world order, fueled by technology, which transcends language and geo-political borders to globally unite us based on common values and shared experience.

In Cuba, electronic music is one way to break through the pervading feeling of isolation that haunts the island nation thanks to the embargo, but more so by the utter lack of affordable internet. Remix culture is, at its core, a celebration of different cultures coming together. DJs download samples of music on the internet from artists living across the globe, but DJs from Cuba must wait on artists visiting them from other counties.

Meeting Joyvan ‘DJoy de Cuba’ Guevara was enlightening. He lived in a small apartment above the outdoor market and was easily the most influential event producer I had ever met. Rotilla brought ~30,000 attendants to its fantasy playground – for free.

His beliefs were similar to my own, that art must be motivated by a courageous act of unity as opposed to the wild goose chase of money in the big-stage festival world. His passion for bringing electronic to el pueblo has driven him to his series of urban interventions.

“The people who pass by will hear it. Cubans are very curious and to hear music that is strange to them… and to have children listen to it, in a park maybe… like that.  I want to plug in, see if the police come, and then say “its okay I’ll turn it off.'”

On a balmy April night in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, youth were drawn into the street by the soulful beats and experienced a kind of spontaneous celebration you would only see in Cuba.

As I dove deeper into the scene, I attended aire libre parties in Gaudi inspired castles near the Almendares river, closet-like subterranean nightclubs choking with smoke, and even a rave in a government run casa de cultura! The DJs and Producers behind these parties, while differing vastly in wealth, race, and gender shared a passion for providing this united experience for free to their incredibly dedicated fans.

I brought back a selection of music to share, since these artists do not have work online.