Podcast 627: The Mole
A memorable night in Montreal.
Podcast 627: The Mole
A memorable night in Montreal.
Colin de la Plante (a.k.a The Mole) is one of the most accomplished yet low-key musical Canucks and the architect of one of electronic music’s most kaleidoscopic live sets—the master of percussive surprises and timeless sampling. After a solid decade in Montréal that saw him perform legendary shows and hold down a seven-year residency at the mythical Main staple Laïka, de la Plante set up shop in Berlin, where he’s been settled ever since. While there, he’s released countless soulful edits and infectiously perky patchworks on labels such as Kompakt and Ostgut Ton, and also put out three albums, beginning with 2008’s As High as the Sky, all via his own label, Maybe Tomorrow.
Towards the back end of 2019, de la Plante returned home for the latest chapter in his long and storied history with MUTEK Montréal—his 2004 set is the stuff of legend—in celebration of the annual event’s 20-year anniversary. It was the sixth night of the event, August 26 around 01:30 am, and de la Plante set off with his fired-up, oddball disc cuts, a hometown hero in front of the hometown crowd. Now, de la Plante hasn’t shared too many a live set in the past but he wanted to put this one out into the public domain. Expect just over an hour of eclectic and psychedelic beats with left-of-center electronic loops, flavored with The Mole’s singularly funky flair.
What have you been up to recently?
Woodshedding. Questioning my methods, trying things I would normally avoid or have been putting off. Stirring things up so the mud doesn’t stick. I’ve also recently discovered the internet, which has been fascinating. I bought my first records online. It may seem absurd but it really blew my mind when they arrived. Same with Bandcamp. And internet radio. Global village man. Satellites, man. [Marshall] McLuhan was right!
You’ve shared with us a set from MUTEK Montréal. What do you remember from the set?
It was their 20th anniversary. The biggest memory for me has to be the people. It was the last night of the festival, and returning home after too many years, the emotions were high. I cried that night.
What can we expect with this particular recording?
There is a lot of unreleased music here, with some reworkings or reference to some of the familiar ones. There is some improvising. And chance. I like it when I am also surprised. In my head, I imagined it like a DJ set, going from song to song, with improvisations in between, but the results are not always so easily separated. Time gets mixed up, parts resurface. And some times the change is drastic. The mix is live, you can hear it. Things will jump. And there’s a love song at the end!
Can you talk us through your setup for the live set—what exactly are you using?
I’ve got a computer, running loops I’ve recorded or broken out of songs. I mix the box in a basic style, volume, and EQ with a UC-33 MIDI controller. Old tank. My third. There’s an MPC1000 that is the real boss. It’s loaded with drums and samples. In addition to its own sounds, it also sequences an MFB-522, and a Moog Minitaur. Thick.
I also use an SL1200 and a DJ mixer in conjunction with a Red Sound SoundBITE Pro. This all gets mixed in a line mixer with some effects. For this set it was a Time Factor, a Space, and a BugBrand PTDelay.
A Mu-Tron Phasor III Silver, and thanks to a generous sponsorship from Moog Audio, for this show, there was a row of Eurorack modular in the effects chain acting as a beefed filter box, plus modulations.
What’s the value of the turntable in your live set?
The turntable and SoundBITE are the heart of the improvisations and chance operations. The SoundBITE can record and playback six independent loops at the same time. Ample territory for collage building and surprises. No set of mine is the same, every night is unique.
Quietly, and more importantly, they are the music’s feet in the ground. The music I choose to sample, it’s all microphone-based recordings. I’m a big believer in the rarefied air of the studio, and being able to add this “air,” these airs. I think it gives the music a horizon. Defines the up from the down. I also have this theory that the phono cartridge, acting like a feedback pickup or microphone, connects the room and the people in it directly into the music playing back. Feedback! Subtle to be sure, but that’s where beauty lives don’t it? In the subtlety.
Lastly, there’s the longer bits of music, sometimes up front, like Donny Hathaway and Gloria Ann Taylor in this set, sometimes in the background, off to the side (can you spot the Sun Ra?). These are the eyes and ears on the grooves.
What else are you working on at the moment?
Recording an album of covers for children. Reverse engineering some mix-tapes I bought and loved in the ’90s. Plotting my first 7″ since we stopped 7 Inches of Love. Continuing my desperate search for the perfect beat. Trying to be cool. Plan B.
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Recorded live during the 20th edition of MUTEK Montréal (August 2019) – Mastered by Pheek (audioservices.studio).