Squarepusher x Z-Machines - Music For Robots
February 13, 2014 9:12 PM   Subscribe

In mid-2013, Zima Japan unveiled Z-Machines, a "social party robot band" featuring a 22-armed drummer, and a guitarist with 78 fingers. While Z-Machines was initially seen by many as a nightmarish reincarnation of the Chuck E. Cheese Band, the Japanese developers have since collaborated with other musicians, and now Warp Records is announcing an upcoming collaboration EP: Squarepusher x Z-Machines - Music For Robots to be released in April.

Squarepusher previously.

And here's another collaboration performance between Z-Machine and Japanese dubstepper, Goth-Trad.
posted by p3t3 (27 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

> ...initially seen by many as a nightmarish reincarnation of the Chuck E. Cheese Band...

Actually the first thing to come to mind was Monkey Drummer.
posted by ardgedee at 9:17 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]

He's nothing if not fresh with a gimmick.
posted by rhizome at 9:24 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]

The Z-guitarist doesn't look like he's actually playing the guitar so much as making a sarcastic jerk-off motion.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:25 PM on February 13

My first reaction: surely this is not the Zima I drank for a while in the 90s, the Crystal Pepsi of beer?

Yep, it's that Zima. I'm getting kind of a bad Dr. Who vibe from all this.
posted by Foosnark at 9:28 PM on February 13

Yeah, I found the rebirth of Zima a much more interesting cultural phenomenon than the robots.
posted by neroli at 9:29 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]

I love Squarepusher. I see he's firmly in his "highly technical wank jazz" territory with this one.
posted by naju at 9:33 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]

I will admit, the Squarepusher song is somewhat impressive. But in spite of being played with robots with an impossible number of hands and sticks and picks, it still sounds like the sort of thing that the middle-period Mothers of Invention could've played in their sleep, and done so with hilarious cartoon noises thrown in to boot. The present-day composers (and musicians) refuse to die!
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:35 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

Wow, I am very impressed with Squarepusher's Sad Robot Goes Funny (p3t3's "EP" YouTube link in the post).

It also made me think about Frank Zappa and his approach to music composition and performance. He'd have preferred a robot band, I think.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:41 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

I think Zima thrives in Japan thanks to the popularity of chuhai, a similar beverage, but one that has managed to avoid the "girly drink" reputation in Japan and has become pretty popular for 20-30 year olds.
posted by p3t3 at 9:41 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

I don't understand how to play Infocom games with them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:50 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]

Wait, this thing is in a band?
posted by rustcrumb at 10:28 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]

Looks to me like somebody actually built the music-makers of Animusic... but it's been done before better (previously here).
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:32 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

First a zima story. I rented a building in 03 that I turned into a temporary hardware store for a nearby event. It had been a bar resturant a couple of years before. Aside from the fridges that had been left full of food after the power had been turned off (I sealed the worst ones with duct tape) the walk in fridge had stacks of Zima. All the other alcohol had been consumed but not the zima.
I put bottles of it buckets of ice and stuck them in the porta potties for people to contiplate while they sat in a 110 F outhouse.

Saw this when I was at ROBODOC in Amsterdam several year ago Robot Drummer
posted by boilermonster at 10:43 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]

posted by mannequito at 10:47 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]

"Wait, this thing is in a band?"

Heh. I was waiting for someone to make that comment.

I have a hard time not thinking of "z machine" as Sandia's Pulsed Power Facility.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:48 PM on February 13

The funny thing about Zima in Japan is that not only did Zima somehow avoid the "girl drink" image (though Japan is less concerned in basically all ways with constant, overt shows of machismo), there's even Zima Pink for those who want to absolutely ensure that, yes, they very deliberately wanted to choose a Girl Drink.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:48 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

A match made in heaven.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:48 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

The thing that gets me about this is that it still sounds sequenced. Nobody gives a shit whether a guitar sound is real or a sample or synthesized anymore, so why go through the trouble if you're just going to have everything quantized the same as it would be out of a laptop? Maybe it's a comment on Zima.
posted by rhizome at 1:54 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]

I think Zima was into this whole robot band simply for the spectacle of it, but with Squarepusher creating an audio only release, yeah he loses that aspect and is left with this odd mix of overly rigid midi programming juxtaposed against very warm resonating sounds interacting with each other and with the room's resonant frequencies. Something that might be compelling to the right sort of techno geeks, but yeah, most folks don't care and won't notice the difference between protools reverb and real room reverb.
posted by p3t3 at 2:41 AM on February 14

At the turn of the century a coworker and I were into electronic music and would sometimes buy albums on lunch break. I picked up Squarepusher's Go Plastic on a whim because I'd heard good things about him. About 10 minutes in my coworker interrupted to ask what it sounded like. "Music to kill someone in your bathtub by" was my response and it took me a good long time to figure out if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, it drowned out the cubicle noise.
posted by yerfatma at 6:12 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

Mr. Jenkinson's ouvre is so broad in terms of style that it's definitely not fair to compare any of his works. Except, perhaps, albums close to each other. Music is Rotted One Note is so Jazzy and "live" compared to most of his other stuff. Hard Normal Daddy is the most retro synth based of them all (and maybe Big Loada).

I would definitely not recommend Go Plastic as a first squarepusher album. I really really love Ultravisitor, Hello Everything and Ufabulum.

I'm not sold on his Solo Electric Bass stuff. I wasn't sold on Shobaleader at first, but recently have really dug it a lot more (I just had to get past the stupid Daft Punk helmet gimmick, which, apparently, Ufabulum did for me).

Anyways, I'm definitely curious. Is it a gimmick? Sure. He kinda does that stuff now and then. But the man knows how to fucking compose. Usually. We'll see how this works.
posted by symbioid at 6:39 AM on February 14

Wow the Goth-Trad link is so weird. What is the robot with the tentacles even doing? Every time there is a shot of it the tentacles just kind of jiggle.
posted by Joe Chip at 7:29 AM on February 14

I actually like this. It does hit all the right composition points of squarepusher for me. The chord progressions... mmm... I hope the rest is as good as this.

Years ago, I came up with this idea that I called the Arachnophone (though that name's been taken, alas), and it was a sort of player-piano type thing with a central core cylinder, and 12 spokes of strings from the top of the central cylinder outward to the base, each tuned to one of the 12 notes. There would be legs that would pluck the strings, looking like spider legs, along with dampers. I suppose I'd need some form of divider to make the strings into octaves or something?

I think these are some nice songs here, but they're too "traditional" in the sense that they seem to be the regular instruments played by robots. I want brand new robotic instruments that play themselves, and have their form to follow their function, not just repeating the human form on human instruments.

And yes, a sequencer and a drum machine and a synth could be considered a virtual programmable robot in such a way, but I still want the mechanical element, not just the stored program element.
posted by symbioid at 7:50 AM on February 14

I really really love Ultravisitor

posted by neuromodulator at 10:09 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

It also made me think about Frank Zappa and his approach to music composition and performance. He'd have preferred a robot band, I think.

Zappa's synclavier compositions were way more interesting than the youtube link in the (first part of the) post!
posted by kenko at 10:19 AM on February 14

I think you should stick with his mid-90s stuff as the best introduction. Feed Me Weird Things, Hard Normal Daddy, Big Loada / Port Rhombus EPs. Still the finest four releases of his career.
posted by naju at 11:18 AM on February 14

I think the tatum score on these tracks should be a bit higher.
posted by idiopath at 4:43 PM on February 15

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