Following from their previous collaboration which focused on audio reactive imagery for the most glitched out electronic music possible, creating the experience to match the mood of a live jazz band required a softer touch.
With Shobaleader One they've taken a different approach to live visuals – instead of having large projection screens or pixel walls for the musicians to perform in front of, the live visuals take place on LED face masks that the performers wear on stage.
For Squarepusher’s new live project Shobaleader One, the emphasis was always on trying to create something which gave the band an almost mechanical anonymity.
The duality to this is that they are a fully live 4 piece jazz band. There is no MIDI to latch on to, a time signature and music register that is constantly in flux and no guarantees that what the band did last night is what they will do tonight.
The masks were a great way to reconcile these points, as they gave us enough to control to populate the key elements of the environment manually, whilst the manipulation could be controlled by the band themselves through the timbre and velocity of their live music.
Zak worked alongside lighting operator Steve Hough and fabricators Lucid Illusions to create the unique system you see in these videos and images.
There were also restrictions in the technical side, in so much as all of this needed to be set up and operated by a single person, who would also be responsible for all of the other lighting elements. The challenge was to create a small touring system that was complex enough to manage the programming, but simple enough to be operated from a lighting desk.
And of course we've got a bit of behind the scenes from Zak about how it all works.
The hardware setup are the 4 x Custom built LED Masks connected to Macbook at FOH via a Madrix Luna Artnet node.
Each mask has its own DMX universe and is sent video from VDMX using the Video to DMX plugin.
Inside VDMX each mask has its own channel/layer, with an individual Media Bin, FX Chain and Audio Analysis. For the audio analysis, each channel is sent a feed directly from a send from the sound desk, giving individual feeds from each musician to each layer (Bass, Drums, Keys & Guitar). This way, each musician has tactile control of their own mask by what and when they play.
The media consists of Quartz Composer plugins developed by Black Box Echo and vade, which are modulated by the incoming audio. There is a different patch for each track, with each musician having a different variation of the patch so they are always individual in one way or another. Each of the patches can be controlled and reprogrammed live directly from the lighting console.
The band has just finished playing its first few shows at Over Tijd Festival and a few other select locations in Europe, but hopefully we'll all get a chance to see this show live in the coming months! Also check out the Black Box Echo website to see more of the awesome projects that Zak is involved with.