For this week’s episode of our mixtape series, we have a special live set from Isa – the Polish-born Manchester-based electronic music composer and live performer. With a few years of experience in performing live music in the local Manchester scene, she’s just dropped her first LP, “Ketamine 666”. As always, we first asked a bit about the mix & what she’s been up to lately…
I’ve been quite busy with the release of my debut album. I’m really excited about it as two years of work are coming into fruition just as I type those words.
The live set is done in my home studio in Manchester using both software and hardware synths. The initial ideas were laid down in the album tracks but I wanted to truly explore it further so over the hard punching techno beats I tried to weave in as much improvisation as possible. It was a lot of fun – making an album is exciting but at the end of day it’s a very condensed and polished form of presenting music and very precise. Making a live set allows one to focus more on expression and freedom. So yes, most of the sounds with some exceptions that are exclusive for this piece, I already designed for the album, as well as backbone drumming. It was just the joy of seeing where I can carry those sounds, recording it multiple times and picking the bits that I liked the most.
In terms of gear the core of the set is Roland Tb-03 bass synth hooked up with Dark Matter distortion pedal – you can hear this combo shine on the “Signal” part of the set. Then there is also Model D as well as some little but nice gems such as Pocket Operator PO-20.
Software wise there is Massive that provides the electrostatic drone’y sound in the background that glues all the set together. There are tons of Maschine stock plugins too which are really simple but their limitations allow me to be very creative when sculpting the sounds.
I’ve discovered depths of electronic music only recently, before my music interests revolved mostly black metal, neofolk music and bands mostly. Once I got into certain types of techno music I realised how much black metal and techno have in common. So the set is an attempt to conjure the distorted black metal energy into the electronic dance music realm and so make the synths sound like guitars and with some spaced out riffy progressions, a lot of snare drums etc. That was the initial idea at least, I’ll leave to the listener to judge whether I succeed.
What I’m trying to convey in terms of the lyrics in the intro to the last part of the set, as well as samples and track names, it’s things like questioning the existence of soul, what happens to us after death and thoughts on progressing digitisation of our lives – just searching for a meaning really.
“Inevitable Forever’s End” – the opening piece title is inspired by Asimov’s “The Last Question” short story – a quick read that blew my mind recently. It has Oppenheimer’s famous speech on the nuclear tests sampled in it, but downsampled and tuned down. “Now I become death the destroyer of worlds’ ‘ – it’s such a powerful and dramatic quote and I always wanted to have it in my music but it’s also really overused so I didn’t want to make it sound too obvious..
In “In Death Is Death” – one of the chapters that follows the “Inevitable..” opens with me quoting Orwell’s 1984, one of my favourite books. The title itself is inversion of Bhavacakra – Wheel of Life, so belief in reincarnation “In life is death, in death is life”. Is there though? What if death is the final ending?
Umbra Arcana, the closing act opens with a poem that I wrote a while back in a bit of transitional time of my life. I’ll leave the interpretation of this one to the listener.
Well, get some sleep that’s for sure. It’s been very busy here so I’ll have a bit of rest for sure. Not too much as like I’ve said before, I’ve got a debut album “Ketamine 666” coming out this week and the physical copies (I did a limited edition cassette release) are coming today (YES!). I will be heavily promoting it (I’m actually doing it now, am I? lol). Andy and Matt from Bicep really inspired me to do a vinyl record, so I hope the cassette run I did is successful and then vinyl will follow. This and as probably every music performing artist that I know I really hope to get to play live soon and enjoy music both sides of the stage.
1. Inevitable Forever’s End
2. In Death Is Death
3. Ashes & Dust
5. Sequence Complete – Flesh Obsolete
6. Darkhorse Nebula Dive
7. Umbra Arcana