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Automated snare drum made to the order of Aphex Twin (2014) (logosfoundation.org)
164 points by grimgrin on April 21, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

Aphex Twin is probably one of the few artists I have consistently liked and gone back to listen to over the years.

I don't know anything much about music, but I feel out of electronic music past and present his works are the most dynamic and interesting. Most other stuff I kind of like but it gets old so move on to other things.

> I don't know anything much about music

Some recommendations...

For upbeat, fun electronica try Take's Only Mountain:


For minimalistic, meticulously-composed sounds try Jan Jelinek's Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records:


For an impressionistic, watery sound try Limalo's Human Bloom:


For a dark, hazy sound try Lotide's Moonless:


For boundary-pushing weirdness try Bunbleman's Anthill (especially the track "Focus Tous" as an introduction):


For chiptune-infused beat music try Snubluck's Square Wave Phonetics:


For pure retro chiptune try cTrix's A for Amiga:


These are pretty random but all are probably different than what people normally associate with electronica. I don't like most of the popular electronica out there.

One guy I recently discovered and fell in love with is Jeremy Blake, who is also behind the YouTube channel Red Means Recording [1].

A few weeks ago, he released a song, Reggie's Song [2], which has been like an absolute mind virus. If I'm not playing it on my bike commute to work, I need to get it in during the day somehow. The song was mostly created on a Pocket Operator OP-1 [3]. The whole video is super entertaining, as he annotates the creation process via textual inserts, and has arguments with an alter-ego, Octocat (the GitHub one?).

Another EP that I really enjoyed recently, though not in the same style, is OVERWERK's Canon [4]. The same artist also created a Daft Punk anthology a few months back, which is a great way of going through the many years of Daft Punk's history, all in a single song [5]

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChnxLLvzviaR5NeKOevB8iQ

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK5cU9qWRg0 (This video covers the creation of most of the song. The whole song is available at 12m37s)

[3]: https://teenageengineering.com/products/op-1

[4]: https://soundcloud.com/overwerk/sets/canon-ep

[5]: https://soundcloud.com/overwerk/daft-punk

Edit: It's also through issues with playing OVERWERK's and Jeremy Blake's songs that I discovered that SoundCloud appears to have some pretty major issues with their CDN. They've never gotten back to me, but some people can't play a bunch of songs, and the Android app silently skips over them. https://twitter.com/teotwaki/status/847140656715837440

Re: Edit

Wierd. Same thing with Microsoft Groove

I really liked some of these, especially Jan Jelinek and Lotide. I 'm not the OP but thanks for the recs! :)

No problem! Here's a few more. You might like the first two especially since you like Lotide:

Perfume Advert's +200 Gamma, dreamy with lots of atmosphere:


Frank Riggio's Psychexcess II - Futurism, intense music that reminds me of highway driving on a rainy night:


Kristen Zwicker's Hydrazine Dream, impeccable sound design:


Telephobia's You Must Feel Strange, uplifting futurebeat:


Teeb's Collections 01, a quite popular artist from LA, but awesome nonetheless:


Thank you. Much appreciated. This is first time I heard about most of them.

I feel the same way, but ironically I attribute this to his knowledge of music outside of the electronic genre. I do listen to a bit of electronic music, but generally I prefer the sound of "real" instruments and what human hands play.

In other words, Aphex Twin is the most "organic" electronic music out there. This acoustic drum is a great example of how far he will go to achieve that.

I'm really impressed by the detailed work described in this page!

I've got this weird place in my mind for electronic music. I listen to it in the background nearly 9 hours a day while working. I've got a pretty huge collection on Spotify and a well-tuned Pandora channel. Generally up-beat, few words for the most part, not too Vegas or rave like. It needs to be interesting but not necessarily so interesting I start paying attention to it.

I've got some classical mixed in, but I found that either I get bored of it or I start paying attention to it, and thus, it's purpose as background music is nullified.

When I'm in the car or at home, anywhere else other than in my office I never listen to electronic music. Heavy metal/rock for the gym, and then basically anything under the sun that I like when I'm just listening.

And at the same time, he is the most inorganic ️

In what sense?

Anyone know of great albums similar to his songs Avril 14th or Aistsan[102]? I have little musical context if this is a dumb question.

I like all his albums but those songs are really some of the most relaxing sounds I have heard.

Mishima by Philip Glass (Kronos Quartet plays Philip Glass would be a good bet). The album Asperities by Julia Kent, just out last year, is pretty phenomenal. Systems/Layers by Rachels and Vulnicura Strings by Björk might work. Soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream.

Note that there's an album of classical versions of Aphex songs by Alarm Will Sound which is very good (their Avril 14th is inferior though)

Avril 14th is one of my absolute favorite songs. It's my go-to song when I need to just relax and push away from reality for a bit; one of the few I can just put on repeat and be happy with.

I just discovered the violinist Daniel Hope recently, and in the following album: http://www.danielhope.com/listento/for-seasons/ you will find a beautiful cover of Avril 14th (Spotify link: http://open.spotify.com/track/3MjbuOV1RDEdXfyJwuzzOS)

Nils Frahm's Screws Reworked is usually tagged 'new classical' but certainly has roots in the same space as Avril 14th. New classical as a whole is an interesting genre.

Try Chilly Gonzales - Solo Piano (first one). Then try Erik Satie and John Cage. Then maybe Goldmund and Yann Tiersen (Amelie soundtrack). Then give up and go back to Richard.

If you like Satie and Cage, try Leos Janacek's piano music. I have sought out a lot of piano music in this style, but Janacek stands out for me.

Johannes Brahms op.117 nr. 1

Pēteris Vasks fourth string quartet, nr.5 meditation

edit: also, some of the calmer tracks by Lullatone

Dada Machines have a Kickstarter for a set of MIDI-controlled solenoids that can be used to a similar effect. (Not affiliated, just a backer.)


This was a really interesting project to explore. The videos were well-produced and whet my appetite for playing with this a bit.

It's probably something I can do more cheaply with an Arduino, assuming I don't count the value of my time.

Shameless self promotion: Over here at SonicRobots we are working on electronic music and robots as well http://sonicrobots.com/tripods/

We also got a huge list of music robot projects for anybody who wants to read more about that stuff http://learning.sonicrobots.com/list-of-music-robotic-projec...

Based on the timeline [0] I'm guessing that these were used in his album Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2. I assume that this robot is used on the track snar2 [1] and perhaps others.

[0] - "15.01.2015: Aphex Twin announces a release using Robosnar as well as our HAT robot."

[1] - Listen to an unauthorized upload here: https://soundcloud.com/xiao-bao-ming/02-snar2

Which is a fun and enjoyable album. (e.g., http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/20156-computer-controlle...)

I found it an interesting concept but pretty lacklustre as a piece of music, especially after the incredible Syro.

What's there is nice, but hardly any of the ideas develop beyond "hey, look what I did with these instruments". More like a demo than an EP.

I read speculation somewhere that the first track of that album is the finished product, and the other tracks are works in progress or mood/jam palettes or investigatory scraps of various parts, some of which went unused. When I listened through with that in mind it made sense (and made the album more approachable), and the track titles may indeed support that theory. But, as with all things Aphex Twin, we are left to interpret on our own -- who knows?

Richard has been around long enough. I don't think he cares if everything he does is a masterpiece, he just likes fooling around and experimenting with new things.

You can also listen and send a few pennies Aphex Twin's way on Apple Music, at least in Canada.

Also on Amazon, Google Play (https://warp.net/releases/computer-controlled-acoustic-instr...), and Spotify (https://play.spotify.com/album/5IUjJ4VcmUvZnGAONAp2IX).

I just wanted to give people a quick taste of what the thing actually sounds like.

The Spotify artist page UI is an abomination.

If you go to the "Aphex Twin" artist page https://open.spotify.com/artist/6kBDZFXuLrZgHnvmPu9NsG, the Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments EP isn't listed at all.

However if you search for it using the search interface you can find it.

It's listed under singles for me.

Go on, give us a snare rush


If you liked this, you might also be interested in Squarepusher and Z-Machines "Music For Robots". It has significantly fewer technical details, however.


Please also note "The absurdity of copyright" by Dr. Godfried-Willem RAES:


Really interesting writeup. The contraption has parallels to some of what we do with software: automating a legacy system without completely reinventing it.

For such an accomplished practitioner, the author made one glaring mistake:

> We will use one solenoid on each side of the snares, thus doubling the force

Clearly they have a system with one solenoid pulling from each end of the same thing. This does not increase the force at all. Pulling on a rope with one end fixed is just as good as pulling on both ends (from the rope's perspective there is no difference).

Couldn't it mean that the inner solenoids are active in pairs, so the two most external ones hit at the same time?

That would mean hitting in the same direction on two different spots on the diameter of the circle, effectively doubling the force...

The Hit AnyThing bot is pretty cool too. You can hear them both on "Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP" (2015).


What a neat project. I've wondered about the robots for that album, cool stuff.

Very cool write up. If you like this, and aren't familiar you should definitely check out Pat Metheny's orchestrion: http://www.patmetheny.com/orchestrioninfo/

If you like this you might also like http://FelixsMachines.com by my friend Felix. From a good few years before this one :)

An outfit called Polyend has commercialized the concept with something they call PERC, though I don't believe they have something capable of engaging and disengaging the snare like this contraption.


[Not affiliated]

FYI - Aphex Twin owns this / several of these and speaks very highly of them.

Awesome! I just started building a robotic band with rasberry pies and a bunch of selonoids :)

Video? :(

You can listen to some of the tracks made with these instruments here:


Track 2 ('snar2') is basically a demo of the device.

I've been searching, so far coming up empty.

Would love to see a video of Richard James sending midi data to that snare that was meant for a completely different instrument, maybe one of the melodies from Windowlicker :-P

Even though I think this was video trickery mostly, I often wonder if the later experiments with computer controlled instruments were partly inspired by this Monkey Drummer video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1ZGIrNf71Q

Hadn't seen that before, thanks for the link!

That video is funny, perplexing and frightening all at the same time! I was a little relieved to realize the human appendages were added digitally (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_Drummer).

This was the first thing I thought of as well. I remember rigging up some colored gels into makeshift 3D glasses to watch this back in the day.

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