The last month has been busy on a number of fronts, but nothing kept me quite as occupied as preparing for last night’s Laptop Battle.

Check out three of my tracks from last night:

  • First round (and, by luck of the draw, the track that opened the battle): Anion
  • Second round: Laptop Party
  • Encore: Luminous

As usual, Tom and I prepared our tracks collaboratively to generate new ideas in a short timespan. It paid off again — last time Tom beat Kris Moon in the finals with a track called Diverge that we prepared together; this time I made it to the finals using Live preparations of two Void Stars tracks in the third and fourth rounds rather than my original intended battle trax (sometimes you’ve got to improvise based on circumstances.) Sadly, Tom went out in his first round last night even though he had, um, awesome flute samples.

Up-and-comer m.0 beat me in the final round so I came in second. This was as it should be: m.0 rocked the house pretty hard with some filthy four-on-floor sounds. He also had much better stage presence (something of which I have next to none) and a far more refined live/improv performance technique.

Second place earned me a free copy of Ableton Operator and a trip to the national battle to be held in Seattle as part of the annual Decibel Festival. That’s pretty exciting; the nationals are in September so I’ve got plenty of time to improve my live performance techniques. (Though it is dubious that I’ll actually be living here in September, another story for another entry…)

The sound system at Chop Suey was busted last night. Those on stage had to listen to the monitors. Every time I performed it sounded terrible to me. This was especially true in the third round where as far as I could tell my computer had frozen and my track had completely misfired without a beat. It was chaos in the extreme. On the other hand, KJ Sawka’s track came over the monitors sounding tight, tight, tight. Somehow, I won anyway. Audience members claim that my track sounded awesome while KJ’s sounded like a random wall of bass. That’s certainly the opposite of what I heard on stage. But having been in the audience before, I’ve definitely experienced this strangeness first hand: when Tom dropped a track that he and I collaborated on in the previous battle, it sounded like garbage out in the audience but apparently was tight through the monitors. I happen to know that track was well mixed; it’s hard to interpret the data to identify the root cause.

Anyway, it was fun. If you’re just tuning in, you’re probably wondering what these laptop battles are all about. Go ahead and check out the NPR radio spot from last week. Also of interest is a short video from the DC Laptop Battle held last month.