Analogue techno music might sound like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what Graham Dunning has done with his Mechanical Techno project. It’s similar to looping machines that Reggie Watts uses in his live acts or looping iPad apps like Jimmy Fallon used to form a two-man doo-wop group with Billy Joel, but also very different because it requires no human interaction beyond initial set-up.
In the video above, Dunning demonstrates the set-up of his apparatus, which involved using a turntable and vinyl records that have been modified in different ways. He blocks out portions of a couple records for the synth and melody parts, uses a record with copper portions and a magnetic receiver for a buzzing sound, a cut-up record with raised portions to simulate a kick drum and cowbell. It’s better to just watch the video yourself, because the process is super cool and unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Dunning has tried making music using digital audio workstations like Fruity Loops, but he said that “one thing that I found really frustrating is that in a computer everything is so rigid.” He sought organic samples from old records, but still, he said ” you get sick of hearing the same disco sample over and over again, and it always sounds exactly the same. It’s always exactly on point in the bar. This system introduces quite a lot of unknown elements.”
All in all, his device is an amazing mix of electronic and analogue music. Some of its elements produce computerized sounds, while other trigger organic, genuine instrumentation. It might seem like more effort than its worth, but most DJs also aren’t making sounds like this.