Richie Hawtin, ever the one for breaking paradigms and challenging the norm, yet again subverts our expectations of what we should expect from an artist with the release of his new performance app, CLOSER. It’s like
In my article about what impact that virtual reality technology will have on the current state of DJing, I wrote that as an artform it never really ‘strays from the concept of mixing one or more tracks together in a conscientious flow of rhythms and sounds.’ Well, there’s always an exception to the rule, and normally that outlier is Richie Hawtin.
CLOSER is an extension to Hawtin’s recently released audiovisual mix album*, CLOSE COMBINED (Live, GLASGOW, LONDON, TOKYO). (*Album being the loosest description here applicable). The app allows you to experience filmed performances from his latest tour in near-total immersion.
What Makes CLOSER More Than A Concert Video App?
There are three functions that set the app out from just a normal video set player:
- the set playback is made of vertically stacked video sources. In the center is the classic CLOSE overhead booth camera, showing Richie and his gear. It feels like you’re in a TV control room watching the set.
- The two video sources at top and bottom of the app are switchable with a swipe – for the top one, swipe to choose between visuals and general stage video (from the audience’s perspective). For the bottom video, you can swipe between the various sections of gear – close ups on his mixer, Push, synths, drum machines, and more
- The entire audio is also toggle-able by source section. You can also bring in and take out the drums, synths, decks, and or the effects – thus, creating a different immersive experience for every user.
The audio control feature, here called ‘on-demand mixing’ has huge potential for how we could perceive future LPs, mixes, or performance recordings. Imagine being able to deconstruct recordings in such a way so that you could change individual elements in the mix, not only for your personal enjoyment, but to better understand how a piece of music was put together. (For instance, you could go back and change the bass levels on …And Justice for All. Controversial, right?)
Of course, there will always be purists in these kind of conversations, but bringing in augmented perspectives, and changing the concept of recorded music is a logical must for music technologists. Remixing, bootleg culture, and ultimately Ableton Live, changed the way we treat whole bodies of music, so what about recorded sets and albums?
Richie Wants The Audience Inside The Booth
All of this is an extension to Hawtin’s perspective on technology and performance. His aim to allow the audience to look behind the curtain has been a key part of the CLOSER tour. In an interview with Mixmag, he said:
“At this moment we’re at a difficult, dangerous period that, if there isn’t more variation, the whole scene could get a bit more stagnant”
As part of his hybrid setup at the centre of this latest tour, the Canadian has linked together loads of modular gear, Ableton Push, TRAKTOR, all through a couple of MODEL1 mixers; all of which you can listen to on the app.
Now more than ever Hawtin is trying to make his work more transparent, with this app being at its center. More live show recordings are set to be added, along with a new service for streaming performances as and when they happen.
CLOSER switches the concept of mixes, in a similar fashion to 2001’s DE9 | Closer to the Edit, which was also met with a certain amount of trepidation. Many will ask, can an app be an actual album? What is the point of changing the perspective, and meddling with the audio? Then again, the same thing can be — and has been — said of mixes as a whole. To what point does the piece of audio convey the atmosphere and energy of an experience? Well ultimately it doesn’t, but with more elements added, you can be sure it’s going to provide more of an authentic experience than one of my old 90s cassettes recorded from a party I never attended.
Consider it a gateway to new music mediums. Stems, and live set deconstructions are looking at things that have already happened, the next step is being able to augment things as they are happening. It wouldn’t be surprising if Hawtin is one of the first producers to introduce augmented reality glasses further on down the line.