Browsing through items in a second hand shop in LA, Robot Koch came across an old cassette. The pencil-written inscription in its cover, which read “Cousteau“, caught his eye momentarily, but the German electronic music producer didn’t think much of it. He bought the two-dollar tape to record his own material over it. “What you seek is seeking you,” says Robot quoting the Sufi mystic and poet Rumi. As Robot would find out later that evening, the cassette wasn’t blank – it contained a mysterious recording of a lecture by the late Jacques-Yves Cousteau. “It’s pure magic. I found something I didn’t consciously know I was looking for,” he adds. At that moment, Robot couldn’t have imagined that that serendipitous instant in which he found the tape, or, the tape found its way to him, would mark the beginning of the story of The Next Billion Years, his latest album.
The 20th century French naval officer and explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a true renaissance man who became best known for his undersea research and adventures. With no science degree, Cousteau became a leading voice in oceanography and marine life conservation through his story-telling skills alone – a prowess which even awarded him a Palme d’or at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival for his documentary The Silent World. The tape Robot found was a 1973 lecture by the man himself in which he contemplated the future of our species and planet, “What blew me away is how accurate and relevant his prediction of the future was back then. He talks about current topics such as climate change, poisoning of the environment, overpopulation and gives an outlook about the survival of our species and how it depends on the decisions we make right now,” says Robot.
But far from being just an interesting speech, that recording was of special relevance to Robot whose whole body of work revolves around similar meditations. His music, characterized by the juxtaposition of analogue and synthetic sounds, evoke both familiarity and alienation, humanism and futurism, “I’m fascinated by the future and I was really into sci-fi as a kid. This otherworldly element, exploring the unknown, and pushing the boundaries of what’s known and possible, really enthralls me,” he says. In 2018 Robot released Sphere, an album which took the exploration of space to new grounds that reached far beyond sound. Conceived as the soundtrack to an audiovisual live show, designed in collaboration with the artist Mickael Le Goff, the project was not only a musical exploration of space, but also an observable voyage through outer space made especially to be exhibited in planetariums and fulldome venues.
Listening to Robot’s music, it is obvious that it is the macro rather than the particular which moves him, “I perceive myself as part of a bigger picture. The more I learn about the big picture, the more I learn about myself. I try to understand more about how everything is in cosmic interdependence, to understand myself better,” says Robot. It was this big-picture view that informed Robot’s decision to work with the grandeur of an orchestra and the famed Estonian conductor Kristjan Järvi on The Next Billion Years. Apart from his forward thinking approach to classical music, Järvi, like Robot, injects into his music a great deal of philosophy and existentialism, “Once, over dinner in Estonia we found out that we share a common interest apart from music: the universe and cosmic consciousness,” Robot reminisces.
The Next Billion Years is an album which, at its core, asks what the future might look like, and it was Cousteau’s own predictions on that tape which ignited such a question in Robot, “When I first heard the recording I was really blown away by its long term vision. When we think about the future we usually think about our own lifetime or the one of our children, but who really thinks a thousand or a million years into the future? Or even better, a billion years?” asks Robot. But different from Cousteau’s verbal meanderings, Robot’s exploration is sonic, “That’s what’s beautiful about music, you express yourself with so much more depth than you ever could with words. It’s beyond the conscious mind, it touches you deeper. You don’t need to understand it, you just feel it,” he says. Having always had a cinematic approach to music-making meant that Robot also felt that the album called for a visual element. Following their successful collaboration on Sphere, Robot paired with artist Le Goff again for The Next Billion Years, “My work is always very visual, I create music like soundtracks to imaginary movies in my head or to moments and feelings that I can almost see as a picture,” says Robot. That intensely visual approach to music also united Robot and Järvi’s creative process, “Kristjan works very intuitively and gives his ensemble images to work with, such as ‘imagine you’re walking in honey” explains Robot “Comparisons like that makes the musicians feel a certain way when playing. It’s all about the feeling, not just about playing the right notes from the music sheet, but to really connect emotionally with the music.”
Connecting to a piece of art on an emotional level will always be a determining factor on that piece’s impact. In The Next Billion Years however, emotions gain an added weight as even in its most abstract and philosophical forms, engaging in the existential exploration of the future of humankind is, and will always be, an emotional topic. For both Cousteau and Robot, an emotional connection, both to the earth and to each other, might also be the key as to what will determine the survival of our species, “To save mankind from total disaster is a matter of a collective decision. Cousteau proposes the idea of a global consciousness which needs to develop in people’s minds, and I couldn’t agree more. Part of the problem we have today is that people feel separate from nature and each other. I think we need to perceive ourselves as part of nature, part of life, working as a single unified pattern, not separated, but integrated,” says Robot. While Cousteau hoped to ignite that consciousness in us through his books, films and lectures, Robot counts on the power of music to awaken us, “Music is a means to allow a higher consciousness to enter. Everything is energy, everything has a frequency and with music we can connect and raise our frequency in a way we would not be able to do with the limitations of the mind.”
Release Date: 24.04.2020
3. All Forms Are Unstable
4. Stars As Eyes
9. Post String Theory
11. Particle Dance
Complementarity, the kind where ideas meet, merge and materialise into something new, is something truly special and often the most soughtafter effect of an artistic collaboration. This synchronicity was not unfamiliar to Robot Koch and Savannah Jo Lack, who had successfully worked together on an album in the past, but for their newest EP, Otherwhere, both artists were venturing into uncharted territories; the duo would be joined by an orchestra.
Approached by Neue Meister label to be a part of its concert series by creating a special piece with the the Deutsche Kammerorchester, Koch was immediately eager to bring the Australian violinist and composer as well as long-time friend, Lack, onboard. Back in 2016 both artists paired up for the album “Particle Fields”, an acclaimed release which proved that their distinct sounds, Koch’s electronic and cinematic productions and Lack’s lush string compositions, complemented each other. But this time around, there was also an Orchestra to be considered, “Some of our usual approaches to recording were not available, so we were very conscious of writing in a way that served the ensemble,” explains Lack.
Otherwhere is a work of synergy both in its compositions and execution. Koch and Lack’s sensibilities not only magnify one another but also give an added vibrancy to the sound of the Deutsche Kammerorchester, “The album, for me, is a meeting of minds, hearts and methods of composing. It juxtaposes very visceral, instinctual musical choices with more cerebral approaches to creating mood and feeling,” says Lack.
The creative process behind Otherwhere was contained in a specific time-frame. Once the material had been written, Koch and Lack had three days of rehearsal with the orchestra before a live performance in Berlin, with the album being recorded on the third day. Writing the music flowed organically – sometimes Lack would propose an idea for a string composition which Koch would add layers of sub bass, percussion and synths to. At other times, Koch would experiment on the piano and Lack would complement his idea with the strings, “we both fed each other’s ideas and bounced them back and forth,” explains Koch, “What took some time was the actual orchestration part, creating the sheet music for the players, which was masterfully done by Savannah.” The symbiosis between the artists also meant that they would venture out into each others musical worlds. Rather than Koch keeping to the electronic and leaving Lack to the acoustic arrangements, he would create some of the sound design elements from the actual orchestra recordings, “it’s a real fusion rather than superimposing strings over a prewritten electronic track,” explains Koch.
The resulting 5 tracks on the EP are an amalgamation of these talents and ideas. In the track ‘Light through a canvas’ Lack’s classically informed violin soars over Koch’s futuristic and dark backdrop, culminating in a dramatic furor only befitting of an orchestra. ‘Steam’ is a personal favourite for both artists, perhaps for synthesizing their working relation and expressing their complementarity so well, “I wrote the original idea for that on the piano. It has a certain simplicity to it that I like while creating a very distinct atmosphere inspired by artists like Eno and Lenois or Harlod Budd,” says Koch of the track. “Robot’s piano sketch was so alive with mood for me, that the strings just kind of ‘knew’ what they wanted to do to serve that arc and vibe,” adds Lack. All throughout the EP, the combination of Koch’s electronic production with Savannah’s strings yields a certain tension within the listener – there are moments of heart-tugging comfort and moments of eerie displacement. Delving into these opposing feelings of safety and unfamiliarity is not new for Koch, the composer often juxtaposes the organic with the synthetic to provoke both intimacy and alienation, humanism and futurism, “I’m fascinated by the unknown. it’s something that excites me rather than scares me,” explains Koch. In Otherwhere, this tension is only heightened by the orchestra.
The first single of the album, Light Through a Canvas, is out today (30th of August). Watch the video by by Mickael Le Goff below:
Perhaps it is unsurprising that both Koch and Savannah are fans of, and were inspired by surrealist art, where distinct shapes and figures melt and morph into one another to form bizarre and intriguing worlds, “I discovered Leonora Carrington’s work in 2010. There is a dark mysticism in her paintings that really resonated with me,” tells Koch “I love her creative depiction of dreams, ghosts, and surreal creatures, all rooted in legends and magic of ancient cultures.”
As the very name of the EP suggests, Otherwhere is based on this fusion of different ideas and concepts in order to create something new, strange and alluring. Putting the worlds of classical and electronic music in an open dialogue was a means both artists found to achieving that, with Koch and Lack’s complementarity making the fusion all the more exciting, “I think our mutual willingness to let go of the expected restraints of our genres lets us collaborate in a very sympathetic, organic way,” says Lack, “Basically, we are striving for the most moving, most interesting way to express a particular emotion or musical idea.”
Release date: 20.09.2019
01. Light Through a Canvas
03. Stars Aligned
Acclaimed electronic music producer Robot Koch releases his new EP “Sphere Outtakes” – the follow-up to “Sphere” out 10/5 last year – via his own label Trees and Cyborgs on April 26. Designed as the soundtrack to an audio visual live show and conceived in collaboration with the artist Mickael Le Goff, the project is a musical exploration of space and will be exhibited in planetariums and full dome venues across Europe and North America starting at MUTEK San Francisco on May 2nd.
“I wanted to do something entirely new and different, move out of my comfort zone. I‘ve been playing in clubs for more than ten years and the idea of doing something in a planetarium has been in my head for a while. I just loved the idea of it being totally immersive; it lies somewhere between a 3D movie and a concert,” Koch explains.
With “Sphere Outtakes”, Koch delves into dark pockets that separate stars, sounds, and ultimately feelings: “The space around things, the nothingness of space, fascinates me and I seek that space in my work too, the right amount of reverb around a sound, making it small and intimate or epic and far away is something I play with a lot.” he adds.
Building sound from a neoclassical sphere, he rapidly switches to more immediate and experimental outbursts, threading the line between drony, twisted and skeletal German minimal to spectral, transcendental techno. It’s a visual and sonic bath inspired by sci-fi, Robert being a massive fan of Blade Runner and Alien and intrigued by space and the possibility of a life above the stars. Tracks such as Another World and Data Religion showcase dark pulsations and clanks that channel a post-human dystopia. BBC’s Bobby Friction described it perfectly; “it sounds like artificial intelligence discovering religion.”
This new release with Berlin based singer May is the latest addition in the collaboration series on Robot Koch`s Label Trees and Cyborgs.
May met Producer Robot Koch already in 2012 in Berlin. They co-wrote a few songs together and then kept in touch after Koch relocated to LA in 2013. It wasn`t until 2017 that they got back together in the studio and recorded new material. Gold is the first song they wrote in 4 years.
Recorded at the Red Bull Studio in Berlin, the music for Gold was composed by Robot Koch and his frequent collaborator Julien Marchal. May`s fragile and yet present voice adds her own unique magic to the song.
Another Highlight of the EP is the stripped down cover version of the Moderat Song „Bad Kingdom“. Koch knows the Moderat guys since the early 2000`s now, has released on their Monkeytown Label and supported them live in the US. It was with their blessing that he and May made this heartfelt version of their biggest song as part of this EP.
Berlin based artist Parra for Cuva`s Remix for Gold could easily go between tracks by Bonobo or Kiasmos in a DJ Set, while Natureboy Flako shows that his influences go as wide as Vangelis and Dilla on his cinematic flip of the original.
Released January 18, 2018.
ROBOT KOCH Remixes Inner Tongue ‘Underworld’
A project undertaken by one man in his mid twenties, Inner Tongue offers the sound of victory over an uncertain future: in 2013, its exponent was diagnosed with a vocal cord disorder so severe that only a handful of specialists throughout the entire world were capable of treating it at all. Still, given that the gift of voice is sacred to a musician, he worked day and night to raise the funds necessary to pay for the required operation, and, after the procedure, embarked on a protracted period of silence. With this, inevitably, came the unbearable uncertainty of not knowing whether he’d ever be able to use his voice again.
After last year`s hypermoment release on Modeselektor`s Monkeytown label, Robot Koch returns with a special collaboration album. Particle Fields was written and recorded with LA based composer/violinist Savannah Jo Lack earlier this year in Los Angeles. The album features Koch ́s hallmark detailed and organic soundscapes as well as the cinematic, lush string arrangements by Savannah Jo Lack giving the album both an emotional depth and a contemporary production that is highly visual.
Koch and Lack wrote the songs together from scratch, instead of superimposing string arrangements over existing electronic compositions, they let both musical worlds grow together organically, which was exciting and creatively challenging for both artists. Particle Fields embraces the stark and rich emotive qualities of both the classical and electronic music worlds, mashing them up to create a new sonic landscape that is both visceral and cinematic.
Particle Fields is out this week on Trees & Cyborgs.
ROBOT KOCH is an award winning producer/composer from Berlin, now living in Los Angeles. He released on labels like Monkeytown Records, Friends of Friends, Bpitch Control and Project Mooncircle.Koch`s unique sound of organic electronic music has been called “Wonderful and Strange“ by legendary John Peel of the BBC already 10 years ago.His cinematic music lends itself to picture and has been placed on dozens of major TV shows and films over the past few years, including NBC`s the black list on and ABC`s how to get away with murder, as well as movie trailer for „San Andreas“.He currently works on the Soundtrack for an upcoming Series on ZDF. His single „Here With Me“ has reached more than 20 million plays on Spotify and his social media following doubled since his last album release.Apart from pursuing his solo career, Koch is an established producer, composer and songwriter for other artists, responsible for numerous german gold and platinum records (Casper, Marteria).Koch won the German Music Composers Award 2014 in the category „best composer electronic music“.
Dnte has had the opportunity in doing an official remix for Berlin’s Robot Koch. “Eclipse” was originally released on his Hypermoment album on Modeselektor’s Monkeytown imprint.Available for free download here.
Hailing from Budapest, Dnte is a fresh new artist making a big impact on the electronic music scene. His unique approach combines classic instrumentation and synthetic sounds to achieve a surreal, other-worldly effect. In his debut EP, Wake Me Up, Dnte puts an unconventional spin on hip hop music as we know it, merging elements of hip hop music with wonky, soul, funk, and electro.
After a succesful run at SXSW, KYTES return with their new single ‘I Got Something’ featuring a remix by Berlin’s hotly tipped producer, Robot Koch.
Celebrated in their native Germany, newcomers Kytes have grown from strength to strength over the past year with the release of their acclaimed singles ‘Inner Cinema’ and ‘On The Run’, described by Noisey as “hit-you-over-the-head catchy indie-pop”. Charting on German radio, winning accolades and kudos from broadsheet media and blogs locally, the band look to take their inimitable sound further abroad; taking their cross over indie-dance grooves to this year’s SXSW.
Kytes also impressed the powers that be at Vodafone Germany, who immediately chose ‘On The Run’ to soundtrack the new Vodafone CallYa campaign nationwide.
‘I Got Something’ creates a positive feeling, telling us to look ahead in life, to take the leap and try something new.
Remix duties come courtesy of Robot Koch, who lends his melodic, delicate touch to the track. His organic, textured productions were deemed ‘wonderful and strange’ by the late and great John Peel.
The single and remix will be available seperately and as bundle from 29th April 2016.