One day, I took a recently recorded compact cassette from a cassette deck, wrote something on the J-card and called that my first album release.
That day – November 22nd of 1989 – was exactly 30 years ago.
It’s been a ride.
In the 30 years since that first album, I released about 30 albums (depending on how you count), and am still aiming for another release this year, and maybe one or two next year as well.
Time to look back at the story of Moinlabs releases (which is also linked with the technology behind it, but mainly with my musical development), and at the future of it.
Sidenote: All of the stuff starting from 2000 is available for download. Follow the players below.
1989: The Ceteron Legacy
A Korg PE-1000. A DJ mixer that was (even by my standards back then) rather crappy. Two ancient record players, a cheap microphone, and a dual tape deck (that was actually quite ok). And on two tracks, my classmate Murmel Clausen. These were the ingredients for this release.
Although there was a rerelease on CD in 1999, I don’t look back with joy or pride to this debut album of mine.
Finally I got a MIDI interface for my computer (anyone remember the term “MPU”?), and software (Cakewalk 2.0) to go with it. And two MIDI-equipped synths – Kawai K-1 and Roland MT-32.
What followed was a train of two releases each in 1990 and ’91, and a somewhat oddly titled Best of… compilation in 1992. The master tape was DAT, yes!
The only track here from this period is the opener of Digitale Schachtelteufel, called Pegasus.
What were the dominating elements in this era? Musically, me listening to 80s rock jazz/fusion by the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and John McLaughlin. Technically, a Roland MT-32, a Kawai K-1 and later (what an improvement!) the E-Mu Proteus 1/XR+.
Five years of no proper album of mine didn’t mean I was unproductive, and I pointed out some of the details for that timespan in the project’s timeline.
Technology-wise, it saw the move to a DAW in 1996 (back in these days, that really was something!), and musically, it meant both rounding off new experiences and taking looks towards the future.
1997-1999: JANUS and onwards
JANUS is, to this day, one of my favourites from my back catalogue.
It also included a big count of collaborators, and all in all, a big effort.
It was followed the next year with Sauflieder Band 1: A Blessing of Beers, for my first experiments with delay loops.
For a final album in this period, I did a soundtrack for a novel penned by a friend of mine: Andreas Winterer’s Cosmo Pollite und der Ring der Haluten. The corresponding album, The Cosmo Sessions, was also the first album of mine to use a software synthesizer (Rebirth) – and also the last one to do so for many years to co.
2000-2008: Radical Live Improvisation
Following the experiences of A Blessing of Beers, I made a decision: work with realtime-recorded loops, and work in a radically improvised format exclusively. I started to grab info (mainly on Looper’s Delight), grabbed some gear and started to play. Interestingly, a lot of the releases from that period were live recordings, and some albums were just the recordings of a single concert.
From here on out, everything has been released or rereleased online, so more players for you to play with.
This was an interesting period, and some of the earlier albums from that period have benefited greatly from recent remasters. In the first half of this period, they included groxis tafelbilder (2000), SAUBER! (2001), Neinnein auf dem kleinen Weg (2004) and inbetween, the highly introspective Dem Andenken eines Engels (2003)
Retrospectively, I consider this first half of the era more as a kind of training. My understanding of the compositional approach, as well as of the tools involved, constantly grew.
A key moment was my headlining performance at the Y2K6 International Live Looping Festival in Santa Cruz/CA, for which I had forced myself to design a highly-portable computer-centered rig. Two of the tracks from this tour made it onto Weird Specialist, and two years later, the 2008 World Tour resulted in a move to trombone an album of its own that is very dear to me – wie groß ist die luft?
Quietly and on the side, I designed and implemented a workflow for improvised performances via internet connection – the resulting kybermusik: Quelque Papiers D’Abord consequently was also collaboration-heavy.
2009-2011: Radical At Home Improvisation
For the previous decade, a lot was about going to a venue and playing live in front of an audience. How about intensifying the live playing but cutting down on the venue part?
Improvements in internet-based products – specifically video streaming – paved the way for this, so in April of 2009 I started a bi-weekly event series called The MoinSound Studio Sessions.
Retaining the concept of radical free improvisation for this, it provided a great basis from an album release perspective. Playing for ca. 40 minutes every two weeks, you get more than ten hours of new original material per year. And so it doesn’t come as a surprise, that this two-year time span created four album releases, two limited-edition fan-only EPs and a further album still in the making.
With questions such as how to assemble an airplane-ready touring rig out of the way, this was a platform for taking any instrument, any effects processor and any other crazy thing and work with it. Why not mike up the flat with five microphone channels, add speakers, delays and effects and see what happens (Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen – one of the limited-edition releases)? Or connect every piece of electronic audio whatever and play with it for one week straight (An Ambient Manifold – the upcoming final album from that series)?
In that context, I still find it interesting that among those releases, two albums are piano-only, and one of them (Akustik Kies – Transitiv Sehen), the one that doesn’t even add loops or effects, is perhaps my personal pick from this period.
2012-2016: Back to the Manuscript Book
More than ten years of radical improvisation, most of it based on realtime loops. A style of creating that also brings with it relatively long tracks. I decided it was time for a change.
Dubbed the #secretalbum project, my next endeavour was about taking out the manuscript book, write compositions with a maximum length of 90 seconds, and have them performed by other people.
What started with two releases unfortunately then came to a standstill of sorts. There are two further EP-sized releases completely ready safe for recording some parts, and a further one which is in part recorded, but still needs some composing and recording. Let’s see where this goes.
To make up for the lack of releases, there were further composed productions: oscillator theory (also an EP, and a very electronic one) and Erlanger Programm (which, compositionally uses something not too dissimilar to Stockhausen’s so-called Superformel).
A thing all of these releases brought with them was a tendency to dust off the collection of synthesizers, and to change the studio wiring towards more deterministic productions. Successfully. Somewhat.
2018-: More than Moore, More than Modular
My reawakened interest in synthesizers, especially analogue ones, showed in project ideas and actual album releases since 2018.
I started with the project idea of More than Moore, meant to be a CC-only synth music release with a very short (read: direct to master) purely analogue signal chain. Along the way, I got into modular synthesizers, and sound design, and with that, while this period lacks any of the really big productions so far, there’s a lot of interesting playful things, among them two RPMChallenge releases from 2017 and 2018, respectively.
And this period still goes on, but how is not fully clear at this very moment.
Status Quo – and Future?
The status quo is a stable one. Moinlabs has settled into a release schedule of slightly more than one release per year for the last twelve years, and that is something I’m happy with. Will I be able to sustain it?
There’s An Ambient Manifold on the horizon (still this year, unless I move this to January 2020 for a 10th anniversary kinda thing), and somewhere down the line also More than Moore. In between that, there might be more stuff with modular synths – and maybe an acoustic ensemble project (yes, I’ve been saying that for years…).
And finally, two #secretalbum things still in the pipeline.
Annex: Personal Favourites
If I had to pick a few personal faves from all this time:
- JANUS for the early period,
- wie groß ist die luft? for the improvised period,
- Verschluckbare Kleinteile for the current era.
Honorable mentions go to Akustik Kies: Transitiv Sehen and oscillator theory (no honorable mentions for material from the last millennium, though).