Making your songs sound as polished and modern as possible is certainly a thing, but so is completely opening oneself up to the opposite – letting things unpredictable things happen to your productions. This is certainly the case with Canadian artist, R23X (stylised as あるR23エクス) – ostensibly named after the World War I era British airships of the same name – who distorts his songs using a VCR, amongst other things.
Instruments are recorded via audio interface onto VHS, the tape is taken out, bent, scratched, put back in, pause/unpaused for delay and warble; the piece is recomposed, with other instruments added, and the process repeated (this was all explained to me by the man himself).
So let's listen to 'Dry Summer' together.
The title is apt enough, with percussion sounding like a sheer swish of coarse sand fighting in a storm of static laden with warm chords; a super-high-pitched melody shines through this languid haze with backup from 80s-style power drums, all of it lurching towards a fade-out finale served up with crushed chiptune sounds. A wholly lo-fi outing, in the style of vaporwave, yet it utilises no samples and contains no ounce of funk – it illustrates the paradoxical positive lassitude in a heatwave-type scenario.
"My daily work as a composer and sound engineer requires me to focus on higher quality audio and often palatable music and sound," R23X explains further. "This project […] is lo-fi or procedural in nature because I find it so darn textured and interesting to listen to/create. Once you allow less predictable elements (like tape damage, fuzz, delay) to become a part of your compositions, they have the potential to become something unique and not something that I just "thought up" but rather something that I set parameters for and allow to happen." In this sense, the music of R23X is something that you could truly called experimental – in the very nature of the word.
He continues: "I am interested in prepared piano for this very same reason. I find art/music that deviates from formal processes so much more interesting. But with the VHS stuff specifically — nostalgia is definitely a part of it. There is something I find satisfying about the nostalgic tenor of the project, but also the anachronistic of using outmoded tech to record music and other things — like contemporary music. It's fun!"
- Check out R23X's art project (to which this musicmaking is "tangentially linked," he says) VHS Stills
- R23X is working on an EP! "I'm hoping to release it on a short run of VHS tapes with some abstract video art to accompany."
Listen to R23X on SoundCloud