Glitch Black / Emergent Behavior + Interview
The wait is finally over! Emergent Behavior, the sixth album from Louisiana's Glitch Black, sees the artists positioning himself with the best that dark synthwave has to offer. Never ready to settle, I don't know he even has free time...if he's not making a hypnotic new render, he's playing a show with the who's who in synthwave, or writing new music. Emergent Behavior is a cybernetic behemoth so let's dive right in! After the review be sure to check out the full interview we had with Glitch Black about the album, his legendary live setup, and more!
Emergent Behavior throws you directly into the deep end as soon as you press play. Army of the Dead serves as one of the best album openers in recent memory and truly sets the tone for the rest of the record. I hope you cinched up your seatbelts because this record rarely slows down and is certainly not taking any prisoners. For example, Man of Madness wreathes you in a world of chaotic synths, surrounded by an off center tempo, break neck transitions, and out of kilter tones that settle into a dark and sombre close. Easily one of the coolest Glitch Black tracks to date...not just because of how it sounds, but also because of how it feels...it actually conveys the feeling that you're in the hands of someone who doesn't have the best intentions.
Deathwish greets us at the midpoint of Emergent Behavior with another soon-to-be-a-classic Glitch Black track. It has a headbanger of a hook, a synth score that compliments the dark blitz brought on by the beat of the track. A few songs later you'll find a song called Genesis, which should be familiar to you if you've seen Glitch Black live lately. Blockchain is another track that has been part of his setlists, serving up a combo of face melting tracks as we get closer to the end of the record. Not that the whole album doesn't bring the heat (in fact, when I teased the album last week I mentioned that it was going to melt your face off).
Now that you've had the opportunity to explore Emergent Behavior a bit, let's talk to the genius behind it, who just so happens to be one of the nicest guys in synthwave. I give you, Glitch Black:
Welcome, Glitch Black! It’s been a while since we had you on the site. How have you been?
In a word: busy. In the year since we've chatted here last, I started playing live shows for the first time ever, rendered around 150 new short animations, produced physical media for all my album releases so far, and I'm about to put out a new twelve track album. Oh yeah, and I visited Japan somewhere in there too.
Your new record, Emergent Behavior, is ready to be unleashed. Any jitters?
This will be my sixth release within the 4+ year lifespan of Glitch Black to date, so I don't get jitters anymore. And after playing live several times, it would take a lot to get to me now. That being said, with every release there's always the thought that maybe no one will be interested in my music after it's been let loose upon the world. Some people like to go on and on about how artists should just make art for themselves, but I don't agree with that. You should of course always strive to create work that's true to yourself, but I feel like one of the goals of artistic expression is to affect and influence others in some way. As an artist, engaging the audience matters. There's an undeniable sense of satisfaction when others connect with your art, and I hope I manage to do that with Emergent Behavior. It's definitely the most aggressive album I've put out, and I hope people dig it.
This is your 6th LP. How has your music changed since you started out?
To answer this question, I went ahead and listened to some of the very first songs I ever posted to Soundcloud back at the end of 2013. Basically the stuff that never even got released on any album, as well as my first album Interdimensional. It's very apparent to me now, four years down the road, how far I've come. It's almost like listening to myself learn how to write music - because that's basically what I was doing. I only somehow managed to string enough notes together to make what a handful of people at the time thought was music. I didn't even know what compression was then, or the difference between mixing and mastering. Yeah, I had a lot to learn. Overall I'd say my music is now more cohesive, aggressive, and generally complex.
You’ve been busy on the live performance front over the course of last year and already in 2018. Who have you shared the stage with?
The first live show I ever played in my life was last September (on my birthday) opening for Perturbator at the House of Blues in New Orleans. No pressure, right? After managing not to screw that up, I've gone on to open for Dance with the Dead, Gost, and Magic Sword. I also played at the Echosynthetic Festival in Atlanta alongside Facexhugger, Gregorio Franco, Shredder 1984, Vampire Step-Dad, and a bunch of others. Looking forward, I'm already booked to play at the House of Blues again in April, this time opening for Front 242. Then I'll be a part of the Neon Festival in Rhode Island in August. Several other shows are also in the works.
Your live set up is pretty amazing. What went into its development?
After I was officially offered the chance to open for Perturbator in New Orleans, I had just three months to devise my live show strategy. For your amusement, I'm including the diagram I photoshopped together when I was first conceptualizing everything:
Ignoring the totally rad shirt vest in the picture, I think I came pretty close to my original concept. At first I thought using old CRT monitors would be awesome, but then had to accept the reality that those things weigh a ton and a half each - way too much to lug around show after show. Not only that, but it was actually hard to even find any used ones at my local Goodwill stores. So I gave up on the authentic retro aesthetic and settled for much more common Dell flatscreen monitors. After mounting three of these each on a pair of vertical poles, they did the trick pretty well. The reason I wanted all these screens is because I already had a library of hundreds of looping animations I had been making for fun (all cataloged on my Tumblr page). So my live show has ultimately been an excuse to bring both my music and visuals together in one place.
And then of course, there's the suit. Ever since making the cover art for my fourth album Dominus Infernus, I had the idea that if I ever performed live, I would wear a neon glowing suit kind of like the skeleton guy you see on the cover. I had glowing arteries and veins in mind, with a musculature system to serve as a sort of armor plating. Obviously this was an ambitious concept, and with 3 months to get ready to play live, I accepted that I simply wouldn't have time to learn how to craft the costume, program a raspbserry pi, figure out how LEDs work, etc. All my time would need to go toward learning all the keyboard sections per song and to edit the visual sequences for each song to go on all the screens. So I turned to Etsy and searched the site like a madman, looking for something that might come close to what I had in my head. Luckily, I found a costume artist from Russia (Etsy username stassklass) who designed the LED glowing armor that I've now worn at every show.
You do your own rendering work. How much time goes into their development?
Each render is its own beast. Some take less than an hour to set up and render, while others take multiple nights to set up and then over a dozen hours to render. It just depends on the type of render it is, what kind of lighting and materials I'm using, and how long of an animation I need it to be. Often I'll sit down with nothing specific in mind and will just mess around until something starts to come together. I get asked a lot what software I use, so here's the main list:
Illustrator & Photoshop - for making textures, displacement maps, bump maps, etc.
Cinema4D - for modeling the 3D scenes
Octane - third party software I use to render most of my Cinema4D scenes
After Effects - for compositing and tweaking the frame sequences after they're rendered out by Octane. I also use After Effects to create animated materials used in Cinema4D.
What had been a go to album for you so far this year?
After performing live at the Echosynthetic Fest in Atlanta last year, I got to meet a ton of other musicians and hear their work. I left that weekend with a CD of Gregorio Franco's The Dark Beyond album which didn't leave my car's CD player for months afterward. I had never heard of him or his work before that show but he's become one of my darksynth favorites. I'm also a big fan of Mega Drive and was excited and surprised at his sudden release of The Grid in November. I've looped that album lots of times while working on my 3D renders.
Any parting words?
I feel pretty lucky for how things have gone in the past year. If for some reason Glitch Black comes to an end in 2018, I'll feel like it's all been worth it. Getting to open for so many of the acts that drew me into the genre in the first place will always be something I'll remember.