“You never know what’s going to happen at a residency.” That’s Chicago electronic artist Brett Naucke musing on his residency at Stockholm’s Elektronmusikstudion aka EMS. EMS was founded in 1964 as a public studio primarily for electro-acoustic and electronic music, and is one of few places where musicians can access and record on two rare, foundational synthesizer systems – Buchla 200 and a Serge Modular – through their artist-in-residency program.
It’s a point of contention who made the first analog synthesizer – it was either Don Buchla’s Buchla 100, created at the San Francisco Tape Music Center in conjunction with Morton Subotnick, or Bob Moog’s “Moog Synthesizer.” As Moog’s synths became synonymous with melodic, more commercial music, Buchla’s embraced the weird. Buchla was famously, notoriously uninterested in replicating results – instead focused on further exploration. The 200 series system set him up for success, and its modules are some of the most coveted in electronic music, but rather than milk that for perpetuity, Buchla pushed his pioneering spirit elsewhere. Buchla 200 modules are elite collector items and can go for tens of thousands of dollars – full systems in the hundreds of thousands arena – which is one reason why EMS opening its doors to the public is particularly meaningful.
Naucke traveled to EMS with the express purpose of creating an album in the spirit of 70s academic synthesizer music, but knew he was going to build it out of exploration. When he thought about EMS residencies, he didn’t think of albums recorded entirely there, and for his tenure, he wanted to flip the script. For EMS Hallucinations, Naucke recorded several hours of audio using EMS’ Buchla 200 and their Serge Modular system. The result is a meditative, immersive collection imbued with the pioneering ethos of artists like Pauline Oliveros, Ruth White, Morton Subotnick, and others, but draws from a more contemporary palette – dance music, especially.
Naucke’s previous output have been personal, narrative works – his album Seed was the result of daily ritual DMT ingestion and his album The Mansion considered a childhood home. On EMS Hallucinations, the intimate is the music, its instrumentation, the journey it took to get there. For over a decade, Naucke has studied and worked with electronics – often beta-testing firmware for Eurorack companies like Make Noise – but EMS Hallucinations marks a conscientious channeling of his history therein.
EMS Hallucinations was crafted as two magnetic side-long compositions that gurgle, hiss, bounce, and invite – the first consists of Buchla 200 recordings, and the second the Buchla in conjunction with the Serge Modular. Following Naucke’s tracking, he painstakingly arranged stems in his home studio across seven months. Within the side-long tracks are shorter songs that transform into each other. For album teasers, Naucke edited two sections from side one into singles – kinetic electronic nuggets that suggest trance, house, and other forms of floor-ready music, while showcasing cascading synth lines and rich analog tones.