The Allure | Music for Robots

The Allure | Z-Machines "Music for Robots"

by Joshua P. Ferguson

With a rare Chicago appearance from Kraftwerk quickly approaching, a robot-themed blog post seemed as good a way to set the mood as any. Enter Z-Machines, a merry band of robots including a guitarist with 78 fingers, a drummer with 22 arms, and a keyboardist that nails his cues thanks to the pinpoint accuracy of the green lasers it shoots out to hit the keys. 

The trio, which was created by a group of engineers at the University of Tokyo in Japan, has played a few inaugural gigs in its native land—complete with space-age hype girls—and is now poised to release a five-track EP for the groundbreaking Warp label as part of a collaboration with Squarepusher, the label's natural choice for a pairing such as this. Just as fittingly, the new EP explores the question, can robots play music that is emotionally engaging? 

"Using robots has this eerie narrative associated with it—the twilight area between human and machine," Squarepusher's Tom Jenkinson told CNN recently. "It's just a box of tricks, but it still haunts us because we see it as an impression of ourselves." 

He continues this thought on Warp's press page for the project: "For me there has always been something fascinating about the encounter of the unfamiliar with the familiar," Jenkinson says. "I have long been an advocate of taking fresh approaches to existing instrumentation as much as I am an advocate of trying to develop new instruments, and being able to rethink the way in which, for example, an electric guitar can be used is very exciting."

We're going to leave the final verdict on the results up to you. It's a timely piece of electronic jazz-funk fusion, inline with the Squarepusher aesthetic but carried out in a way we've never seen or heard before. Check out this video of the robotic trio in action to get a better sense of just what is being undertaken. It's pretty impressive no matter what your opinion of the music.

Squarepusher x Z-Machines "Sad Robot Goes Funny"


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