Akai and Exploded Drawing – SXSW
SXSW in Austin, Texas brings together arguably the hottest indie talent from all over the world to the center of the live music universe for a couple of weeks with incredible showcases, networking, and partying. All genres of music are pretty much represented, even electronic producers and remixers. One such event we covered was Exploded Drawing XIII at The Volstead on Thursday, March 15th during the festival. Exploded Drawing is a semi-monthly event in Austin hosted by Butcher Bear & soundfounder with Visuals curated by Nait Ntropy. It’s aim is to encourage creativity and stimulate conversation in the electronic music community of Texas. Each session consists of 6 twenty minute sets by six different beat makers, sound collectors, and electronic composers. The one rule is that performers are only allowed to play their own work during their set. No DJ sets allowed.
The essence of making beats and remix production is creativity and originality, and there is no other product that represents the culture better than the Akai MPC2000. Based on Roger Linn’s original design, Akai introduced their first Music Production Center (MPC) in 1988 as the MPC60. From there came the MPC3000 and the MPC2000 which added a 64 track sequencing and up to 32MB sampling memory, and a sampling rate of 16-bit 44.1 kHz stereo. It was the easiest to use with 16 giant velocity sensitive pads, and a very intuitive, easy to use sequencer and sampler. You could easily load your full library of favorite drum kits, bass sounds, stabs, and vocal hits and be creating jams lickety-split. You could also use the MPC for all of your outboard midi sequencing too, with 2 midi ins, and 2 midi outs. More versions followed adding time stretching features, resampling, and more sample capacity, but in my opinion the MPC2000 remains the “OG” halo product that has become legendary and iconic to the beat-making culture.
There are similar events like this one that take place very often all across the U.S. and abroad. In Atlanta there are many “beat-battle” or MPC battle style events where very diverse styles of music are showcased in a number of performance formats. Most are likened to this one where a producer/remixer performs similarly to a DJ set but with all original material. These are great events that serve as an opportunity for up and coming beat-makers to be heard and possibly discovered. We were very eager to get in the mix and check out the regional talent in Texas for sure.
Our crew consisting of myself, Lonely Paul, Taylor, Zack Rocket, Ariff, and Eugene rolled down to East 6th to the Volstead to meet up with Felix and Casey from Akai to check it out. The venue was a bit smaller than the ones on the other side of 6th street, with a low ceiling, vintage movie theater chairs, and a small patio lounge for the smokers and cool kids. It was filled with mostly underground hip-hop heads, backpackers, and a few seemingly local “study partner” looking hipsters all here to enjoy the original beats performed by a diverse group of gifted beat-makers. There were also dedicated visual performers running ArKaos software, projecting images onto what broken pieces behind the performers. It was pretty rad and added nicely to the atmosphere of the event.
We made our way to the stage as the first performer was raging his original beats to the amazement of the captivated crowd. The sound system, albeit relatively small, was well tuned and the low-end thump and the roll of the bass filled the space like a tsunami. It was a welcomed groove, more dubby and less steppy, that really fed on the abstract tip, but still delivered stacked melodic vocal samples to keep the ladies in the crowd engaged and silky. The next performer delivered a more dub-house type of groove at around 112bpm. It was pure funk with a rounded more acoustic snare and hi-hat, but paired nicely with a 909 kick for the good ole boom-bap. It was definitely an MPC set with live playing and triggering, and once again a pretty melody thrown in to keep the crowd dancing, this time in the form a fat-fifth synth line. All in all each performer was very original and creative, and the crowd was very involved. It’s was nice to see such a musically diverse crowd having a good time enjoying the original beats of these gifted artists.
We spoke to one of the founders of the event, Andrew Brown, aka soundfounder, about the origins of this event, the wide use of Akai MPC products by the producers, and the future of electronic music. He explained that the event typically has six performers each playing a 20-minute set of original music, and no DJ sets. This is typically much different than other electronic music events in Austin, and the Akai products are usually a huge part of these. He had been an avid MPC2000XL user for 11 years and had recently started using an MPD24 with Ableton Live for his live sets. Since beginning the Exploded Drawing event almost 2 years ago Andrew stated that the majority of its first participants were MPC2000 disciples. He said that the MPC2000 will always serve at the foundation for original production among all the performing producers.
Many others, like NTROPY, was showing Akai love with his modded, tricked out MPD24 that he used for production as well as performance. Nntropy has used three different MPD24′s for over 300 shows stating that it has always been solid and reliable for use with music and multimedia applications. He also uses the MPD24 as a midi aggregator to control relative bit values with other performers during his video performance.
4th Wall, another visualist DJ from Austin has been using an APC40 for production and performance for the last 6 years. He does music and visuals with Applied Pressure, a broke-beat, abstract hip-hop crew, and Peligrosa, a cumbia/moombahton crew based in Austin. He has used Akai products since he first started producing many years ago, but he prefers the APC40 for live events because of its reliability, durability, and its ability to map very easily to any software used for the performance. It was very evident how much of an impact that Akai’s products have on the remix and beat-making culture.
Almost every one we witnessed at the show was using either an MPC2000XL, MPD, or APC40 in their arsenal of performance gear. With this much of a footprint on the current remix and beat-making community, it is probably a good bet that the new range of MPC products, including the Renaissance, will spawn a whole new wave of Akai users. We certainly look forward to the release of the new range as well as following new disciples to the beat-makers promise land. Be sure to check out our website for more information, details, and tips on all of these fine Akai products. Until next time, happy gigs!
- DJ MadFlip