Monday, August 10, 2009

The Unsleeping Eye: Luvox and Knuckles Part 1

The unofficial output of my musical projects Luvox and Knuckles is prolific. This is especially the case with Luvox in the first half of 2002. Luvox was me and the IBM Craptiva working with an arsenal of loops and limited music creation software. It was very much a cut and paste affair. Still, I worked at a furious pace. Craptiva wouldn't let me do mp3s of my 'tunes' - plus Craptiva was without a CD burner drive - so I would email files to Dogga to render as mp3s and burn to CD. God I asked so much of him. (No Dogga, no Luvox. Period.) I still have the first CDs he burnt for me. Dogga went as far as to do labels for these recordings, incorporating the name 'OpShop Hop', the imagined home and label of this work. Eventually I would acquire a CD burner drive for the feisty Craptiva.

I have looked but cannot find the original mp3 files of these early recordings. They exist on CD. One day I may get around to putting them up, but I sincerely doubt it. These 'tunes' are extremely sparse and crude. If anything, they are sketches or outlines needing refinement and extra layers of sound. It was undeniably fun and empowering, but I was getting ahead of myself. A demo CD was personally delivered to 4ZZZ. A track off the demo called 'Super Boss' - an eight minute collage of beats and sounds that more resembled turntablism than anything 'electronic' - was played on The Demo Show. That was exciting. All power to the Zeds.

The first 'official' Luvox output was a 17 track CD-R called 'Avoid Machinery If Affected'. This was August 2002, and the development from the early blunderings was significantly noticeable. This reflected my growing confidence with the editing software, plus the availability of a seemingly never-ending supply of 'here's some we prepared earlier' loops of beats and sounds. These loops were either commercially available, found on CDs accompanying music software magazines or downloaded from the internet. I was learning at this stage to structure beats, and then to layer them with intricate sounds. There is also minimal use of effects software. Here's a taste of what was on that CD-R.

War On Terror


Malin Genie (Gassendi Mix)

Informal Introduction (Affirmative Mix)

Howard's Way

'TBA' came to be included on a Blatant Propaganda sampler. 'Informal Introduction' was particularly liked by Carl at the time. 'Howard's Way' is Dogga's favourite (I think). Shell Poole did a magnificent cover for the CD. I was so impressed and excited.

'Avoid Machinery If Affected' is a very diverse affair (a natural outcome, I suppose, if the original sounds are not your own). There is no 'Luvox sound' as of yet. But it does establish what come to be dominat themes in the recordings by Luvox. Living in the shadow of September 11. Anger with life in John Howard's Australia. Playing around with philosophical terms and concepts in titles for 'songs'. Trying to stare down personal demons. The mood here, nevertheless, is infectious and ebulient.

Come September 2002, there is the always difficult second CD-R project. This is 'Revault'. It is a mixture of cannibalising pre-existenting Luvox 'tunes' and new work inspired by new loops and sounds I come across.

Research Assistance

Soul Blindness

The Stench of Cowardice


There is more of an ambient or trance feel to these recordings, largely because I am becoming more confident with effects in the mixing process. Still not original source sounds, but a significant learning curve for me nonetheless. I am also having fun with titles such as 'Break It Down' (DnB BnB Mix). Moe at the beginning of 'The Stench of Cowardice' is a survival from an early sketch called 'Popularism Is For Morons'.

What follows for a month or two is a series of forgettable and underwhelming CD-R EPs: 'Digital Schmigital' and 'Happy'. I get stale with my loop supply. I also get carried away with the idea that, while committed to the principle of sharing music, I am still expecting people to pay money for my crap. In time I dispense with that idea and resort to creating sampler CDs to give away to people. Again, having fun with titles: 'Beerbahn', 'Sabbatical', 'Progress Report'. Eventually I settle for '[edit:sample]'. Swish.

I was throughout this period posting Luvox tracks on the internet at a place called AcidPlanet. One of my online peers - a chap going going under the moniker of Inchworm - invites me in late 2002 to do a remix of one of his most recent tunes, a piece called 'A Single Caress'. Luvox the non-musician was so chuffed to be asked such a favour by a demonstrated musician. I took Inchworm's sparse and hauntingly beautiful piano lines and dutifully came up with this.

Inchworm: A Single Caress (Faith Mix)

I learnt a lot from this exercise, particularly the idea of a remix. I was so chuffed that Inchworm was happy with my labour of love. (I am still proud of this effort today, even if the source sounds are not my own.) I would eventually gift 'Inchworm: A Single Caress' to people at Christmas time that year on a CD-R entitled 'the sanity clause'.

Also making an appearance on 'the sanity clause' for the first time was my alter-ego Knuckles.

Theme From Knuckles

Life At The Outpost 1987

Knuckles was named after a Killdozer song. He was necessary to the musical development of Luvox, especially if I wanted to realise the ambition of being an 'experimental electronica' act. Earlier in the year Big Arthur had described Luvox as 'techno'. I was resentful at the time, but Arthur, of course, was right, just as Richard Watter was correct in stating that there was no 'Luvox sound'. It was becoming obvious that I needed to make my own loops, beats and sounds. The idea of Knuckles was to realise those possibilities by getting back to bare basics. With 'Theme From Knuckles' and 'Life At The Outpost 1987' I thought I was realising those ambitions, albeit rather crudely, naively and in a raw fashion. I was working with the most minimal of music creation software. A lot of the sounds on display are just drum machine loops thrashed to an inch of their lives by me stuffing around with effects, predominantly reverb and distortion. 'Theme From Knuckles' would eventually be remixed by me over a year later to become 'Theme From Knuckles (Life In Reverse Mix)'.

The original idea was for Knuckles to be an entity separate from Luvox. In time Knuckles would become the conduit through which I realised Luvox. It was hard to maintain a split musical identity.

My flirtation with Knuckles then drove me to start crafting the 'Luvox sound'. Late 2002 saw me contemplating a set to be entitled 'Philosophical Fragments'. A track sequence was envisaged and I commenced work on 'tunes'. 'Philosophical Fragments' would never see the light of day.



The Relentless Ego

The work on 'Philosophical Fragments' is limited by my technical incompetence as a non-musician, plus the very minimum of requisite software. I also felt that the sounds coming out belonged more to Knuckles than Luvox. Tracks like 'Resurrection' and 'The Relentless Ego' would eventually be assigned to the Knuckles setlist. 'The Relentless Ego' in particular would get the full Knuckles treatment in 2003-2004 and become 'The Relentless Ego (Knuckles vs. Knuckles 1987 Primitve Theory Mix)'. That version lives on

It had taken close to a year, but I was now making my own noises. I was, I felt, on the way to getting the 'Luvox sound'.

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