For many of us using Ableton Live (and electronic production tools in general), a loop is often the starting point of a new composition. As great as that initial loop can be, one problem we sometimes run into is not knowing how to move past this initial state. We find ourselves asking how can I make music with loops but also give it a structure? How can I add tension and release to loop-based music? And could I do this in real time, as a performance?
One music-maker whose whole approach seems to have grown out of answering these questions is Binkbeats, aka Frank Wienk from Utrecht, in the Netherlands. Trained as a percussionist, he started on his current musical path by using acoustic instruments to recreate tracks by the likes of Madlib, Flying Lotus, J. Dilla, Aphex Twin and others. Videos of these real-time performances not only helped Binkbeats build up a sizeable audience for his live shows, they were also instrumental (ha!) in getting him to refine his craft ever further.
So for our latest artist movie, we were eager to follow Binkbeats from the studio to the stage and get a close-up look at his practice of using looping techniques to go beyond the loop. While there, we learn how he arrived at his current set-up, uncover some of the technical challenges he’s had to overcome, and find out how a creative approach to arrangement can become the key for turning a perfect loop into a perfect song.
Although it’s unlikely that many of us will want or need to exactly replicate Binkbeats' rather complex set-up, there’s a lot to be learned from seeing how all the parts fit together. In the video below, Binkbeats walks us through the signal flow of his instruments into Live and shows how he uses the software to create elaborate arrangements on the fly. At the heart of it all is a custom-made Max for Live plug-in that Binkbeats uses to precisely control the recording and looping process – he’s generously made it available to download for free from his website.
To see how it all works on stage, check out Binkbeats’ performance, filmed live at the recent Ableton Loop summit in Los Angeles.