Shihpin the Livecoder – “Stranger Than You” – a crisp avant-garde production

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Shihpin the Livecoder is a solo male artist born in Tokyo, Japan, who uses a live-coding programming language to make tracks. He has performed live in Tokyo and Beijing, and recently released his project “Stranger Than You”. For those of you not familiar with live-coding music, like me, the art requires that via your computer, you enter a commands that indicate beats, melodies, and samples to play. These commands are processed through a synthesizer.  The essence of it, is loop and repeat, but if you change the code during the performance, the music changes too. It’s a different and powerful way to get anyone up and running with electronic music using basic programming concepts.

If this all sounds simple at first glance, apparently it is not, as there are technical challenges to get a language like this to work efficiently and creatively. Though it has been going for a while, in recent times live-coding has steadily become a phenomenon in underground electronic music culture.

Whereas a traditional EDM performance might feature a DJ/Producer cueing up sounds or samples on a laptop, live-coders use computers to play music in a wholly different way, and to make all new sounds. The music delivered bears the fingerprint of the artist but is shaped entirely by the algorithms.

This human-machine equation, is seen as the apotheosis of electronic creation. And is exactly what Shihpin the Livecoder strives to achieve on the “Stranger Than You” EP. Right from the opening track, “Schezophrenia”, you can expect hypnotic and mesmerizing beats, with synth squeaks, whistles ad bells riding on top of growling low-end basslines and banging drums.

“But Rerouted” is awash with warm pads and skittering hi-hats, embellished with dynamic percussion loops. The effect is pleasing, but edgy, with shards of sound ricocheting around the sound spectrum.

“Never Mind” is even more abrasive and proactive, with forceful, complex drumming driving the rhythm. All-round, “Stranger Than You” has many positives, such as its crisp avant-garde production, while almost maintaining an ambient and techno charisma.

All of which means that the genre is not as inaccessible as it may first appear. The beauty of Shihpin the Livecoder’s craft depends on how you perceive the progression of electronic music in general – some revel in the impeccably sculpted rhythms, some in the juxtaposition of dissonant and consonant ideas. Live-coding tracks are constantly developing, littered with blips, bloops, tweaks, clangs and other nuances that are generated along the way.

Shihpin the Livecoder’s music, is something that requires your attention as opposed to demanding it. As such, you can listen to it on a superficial level and still be amazed by the scrupulous rhythms and spotless sound coding.

The EP’s allure is in the details, both in terms of the textural facets and the development of rhythmic ideas through each track. The recording is an interesting chapter in both the Shihpin the Livecoder and the live-coding story, and a must have for anyone who considers themselves a fan of music intricate, abstract and forward-thinking.

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