Melbourne based Malphemist (Brendan Armstrong) may be classically trained but he is no classical composer, taking cues instead from the avant garde of art music and experimental techno. Part musician, part sound-artist, part noisician, his focus lies on pushing the bleeding edge of music and sonic technology with an ear for unity, creativity, depth and atmosphere. He looks to mathematics and philosophy for inspiration, exploring fractal structures and conceptually driven experiments as an antidote to predictable cheese and generic formulas.
With appearances at Rainbow Serpent Festival, Earth Frequency Festival, Earthcore, Samsara and many others, his deep techno/IDM sets are equally enjoyed dancing or just laying back and listening. More than random assortments of party tracks, they are carefully crafted journeys through alternate states of consciousness. He invites you to use his soundscapes as an opportunity to lose yourself in a meditative trance. Outside of producing and performing you’ll find him at local universities pursuing a PhD in hypnotic techno and teaching the next generation of producers.
It seems there are a lot of DJs and producers coming from a D&B and dubstep background, that have later found themselves squarely inside techno. Why do you think it is like that?
The 90’s was a glorious era for D&B but as time went on the formulaic structure became overly predictable while the windups and drops became so over-produced that they seemed to be aimed squarely at a generation of punters with ADHD. It got to the point of being so obnoxious and cheesy that I couldn’t stand it anymore and I suspect I’m not alone. Or maybe the music didn’t change so much but we just grew out of needing that level of hyper-stimulation.
My tastes started moving towards the more minimal and repetitive niches within D&B and I became fascinated by minimalism generally. Discovering that a well crafted loop can hold your attention with a minimum of variation was a revelation. Perhaps that is the key. As artists have become more aware of the problems associated with living in a media-saturated, hyper-connected, overstimulated world, it seems natural that we would rebel against it – particularly those of us who were among the worst offenders! An alternative theory is that we just got too old and tired to dance like gangstas at 175 BPM.
You teach at AIM – tell us briefly about what you do and what you get out of it?
In a typical week I’ll demonstrate some advanced features of Live, go over some aspect of the history of electronic music, do a workshop on subtractive synthesis, guide classes through critical deconstructive listening exercises, explain the finer details of say – counterpoint and polyrhythms and give feedback on students’ original compositions. Being a giant music nerd, I love all of the maths and theory behind how it works so it’s a pleasure to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with the students. It’s a pretty sweet gig, getting paid to help shape the producers of tomorrow and maybe having some small influence on their tastes and style.
Your mixes feel very well thought-out and emotional, like they’re somehow telling a story or projecting a feeling onto the listener. How do you plan your sets and where do you take the inspiration from?
I’m heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell who popularised the concept of the ‘Hero’s Journey’. It’s a pattern consistently found in ancient mythology, modern cinema and everything in-between. The short version goes: the world is peaceful, then something throws everything into chaos, the hero then embarks on a quest to restore order, the hero is not powerful enough so they are forced to grow in some way, the hero then makes some great sacrifice in order to defeat the chaos and return the world back to a new order. Think of Star Wars or Harry Potter for example.
While music can’t really describe the events of such a drama, it can map out the emotional undercurrents. I’m often imagining some kind of science fiction / fantasy narrative playing out as I select the tracks (which I sometimes think of as chapters). In ‘Resilience’ for example, I move through the fear of the invading chaos, the sadness of the loss of order, the despair at the hopeless state of things, the determination and hope of deciding to fight it, the grit of the quest, the epic battles, the moments when it seems chaos will prevail, the moment of triumph, the mourning of the sacrifices made, a few plot twists and the celebration of peace. The abstract order -> chaos -> order motif (stability – tension -> release) is fundamental to music generally so applying it at the level of a whole set seems quite appropriate to me.
Hypnotic and dark yet soothing and deep are the key words for this Mini-Mix made by Malphemist. In a very skilful way he creates a beautiful sonic landscape that feels very real and vivid. Please enjoy the 3rd episode on our 9th Mini-Mix series.
01. Antonio Ruscito – Form 0
02. Claudio PRC – Horizon
03. Yoram Avni – Rusha
04. Lucy – Eon
05. Luigi Tozzi – Dryad
06. Ink – Underworld Jungle
07. Rrose – The Surgeon General (No Child Left Behind)
08. Deepness – Maya
KONTRAST is a collective of creative spirits who loves to combine raw sounds, dark, thumping beats and intense, edgy musical experiences with extraordinary visual elements in an experimental and innovative way. Our aim is to create something new, colourful and unforgettable and to explore how sounds, shapes and visual imprints together can create something bigger than ourselves, and a different state of mind. The ninth series of the KONTRAST mini-mix series will run from October 5th to 26th, and there will be an exclusive podcast from each artist with a short interview to get to know them better.
Mini-Mix Series #9: