Robert van Heumen Composer Improvisor Laptop-Instrumentalist Sound-Designer
The electronic audio-visual trio SKIF++ is a collaboration of Jeff Carey (laptop SuperCollider), Robert van Heumen (laptop LiSa) and Bas van Koolwijk (laptop Max/MSP/Jitter). Sound gets processed into video and back, ranging from sonic bursts to melodic melancholy, using joysticks and selfmade controllers to keep it all in line (most of the time). Every SKIF++ performance is improvised, but based on structures that give each set its distinct character. SKIF++ is part of the N Collective.
The SKIF++ video is generated live with a digital application that was inspired by the workings of the 1972 Rutt/Etra scan. processor The Rutt/Etra scan processor was essentially an analog computer which allowed for electronic real-time manipulation of the deflection signals that generate the television raster. The SKIF++ digital application uses audio signals for input and scans the incoming data to produce its characteristic graphics, delivering a very tight connection between the three players. The SKIF++ audio is generated by SuperCollider3 and LiSa X Ð SC3 delivers highly complex synthesized audio blocks while LiSa takes care of magnifying sampled material into territories unknown - all in a highly responsive environment. While the interaction from audio to video is digital, the counterpart is the musical response of the players to the green thing projected on the screen.
Download SKIF++ promosheet
and high resolution image
After-the-fact (quotes and reviews)
As an example, Rovan points to SKIF++, a Dutch electronic-music group known for performing its own compositions using a combination of playful do-it-yourself instruments and computer-game joysticks.
“In electronic-music circles, they’re kind of like rock stars”, Rovan says of the group, which will give a 10 p.m. concert at the Space at Alice gallery on Friday, Oct. 5. “The guys are all associated with the STEIM Institute, which is one of the biggest institutes in the world dedicated to developing new musical instruments.”
So far, Pixilerations has included openings for gallery shows on Sept. 28, two concerts last weekend and a screening of short films Wednesday at the Cable Car Cinema. Electronic, audio-visual trio SKIF++ will perform tonight at the Space at Alice.
"They’re like rock stars in Amsterdam", Pletcher said. "All around Europe, too."
Brown Daily Herald
SKIF++ CD release on Creative Sources Recordings
The music on this album is performed by Jeff Carey and Robert van Heumen at STEIM’s Studio 2 in February & September 2008. The interactive visuals by Bas van Koolwijk are an integral part of live performances by SKIF++ and as such are present in this music.
Mixing & mastering byJeff Carey
Cover design by Robert van Heumen
Imagery by Bas van Koolwijk
The CD can be purchased through fridgesound: the label
or Creative Sources Recordings.
Click on the titles to play
SKIF++, the laptop-handling trio of Jeff Carey, Robert Van Heumen and Bas Van Koolwijk (the latter also in charge of the visual aspects of the live performances), present a difficult-to-approach yet ultimately galvanizing album whose dual nature is manifest from the outset. Framed by the bracing fragmentariness of the first and the last third of the disc, in the form of seven shorter tracks whose sheer quantity of events renders them utterly indescribable, the central nucleus is the longest track on offer, "thinner", whose gradually unfolding static waves, extraterrestrial harmonies and lunar calls, at times reminiscent of the most otherworldly Roland Kayn, are far removed from the sharp, shooting-star schizophrenia of the remaining chapters. The brain reacts unpredictably to these absurdly morphing accumulations of quirky incidents, disconnected rhythms, subsonic throbs and hyper-distorted spirals – I actually fell asleep while listening, twice. With, I'm told, a smile on my face.
Massimo Ricci, Paris Atlantic
Ein Improv-Laptop-Trio, welches den Videomann explizit in den Gruppencredits führt, was darauf deutet, dass Bild ein integraler Bestandteil der Arbeit ist. Leider handelt es sich bei der vorleigenden CD um ein reines Audio-Produkt. Einer der Musiker ist ex-83 Central-Macher, so verwundert es nicht, dass es gleich im ersten Track relativ wuchtig und brachial losgeht. Knackend-brüchige, zitternde Klangflächen werden vor unseren Ohren ausgerollt, ohna Anzeichen eines strategischen Herantastens. Auch die zwiete nummer bleibt ruckelig-harsch und entfaltet eine gewisse Virtuosität, was bei Komputermusik ja nicht immer erwartet werden kann. Nur die letzte Nummer schwächelt etwas, da hier ein wenig der rote Faden verloren zu gehen scheint. Trotzdem, gerade auch für das Label creative sources eine überraschende CD.
SKIF++ are a very interesting example of how the whole Austro-German axis of laptop electronic music is continuing to impact in other countries; the trio comprises the American player Jeff Carey (87 Central) and two Dutch artistes, Robert van Heumen and Bas van Koolwijk. Exhibiting little of the control-freakery and clinical approach we might expect from some exponents of the Cologne school, the trio deliver lively and unpredictable digital high-energy bursts by working in a very dynamic and inter-active environment, where one’s merest gesture or thought is transformed instantly into powerful sweeps of crackly texturised beltage. This may be determined to some extent by the visual side of the project, which uses technology to transform sound into patterns across the video screen (as done in the 1990s by ECM 323, to name but one). Most of the ugly and noisy material on .next spews out on the short opening five cuts, but listeners with an ear for delicate and refined minimal pointillism may prefer the 26-minute ‘[thinner]‘. Fine work which transcends many of the clichés and pitfalls of laptop music.
Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector
A laptop trio, this SKIF++, consisting of Robert Van Heumen on a laptop playing LiSa, Jeff Carey (whom you may know as 87 Central, who plays with Super Collidor on his laptop) and Bas van Koolwijk who plays with Jitter and is responsible for the groups' visual side. They already had a CD release on Fridgesound (see Vital Weekly 627) and now there is a new one, simply called 'Next'. If the word laptop trio scares you, thinking of microsound, careful crackles and minor beeps, then this is something you should investigate as its nothing like that at all. The first piece, cut into five separate pieces, explodes loudly in your face. A bumping collision of collidors and LiSa, with heavy bass end and noisy top end. Think Merzbow running on a random generator. A blast of laptop burning. Great, heavy weight noise, and words like carefull simply don't apply here. That happens in '[Thinner]', in which SKIF++ expand their horizon and show us that they also know how to play a piece that is quiet as well as unsettling. Maybe a bit long as a whole this piece (lasting well over twenty minutes this one), but then such is the nature of improvised music. Using computers means also that there are repeating blocks of sound, so that the average listener - say the type who is not used to improvised music - has some form to hold on to. The final two pieces are excursions again into distinctly louder music again. This is not an easy work to digest, but certainly with some great untamed power. Sadly no visuals here.
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Recorded at STEIM in 2008 a trio of "laptop" (I don't like catgorizing this way) musicians gives a rich and eclectic overview of how music generated via laptops can be. Assembled with van Koolwijk visuals is a viable and flashy base for sonic explorations which don't seem boring at all as in many cases of improvised laptop music can be. The tracks are nicely put into the form of more and less dynamic passages. I like its quivering and rustling bit which is harsh in a nice way. Steady way of work, I like it a lot...
Herbal Kerbal - felthat reviews
I've carped a bit above about excess activity on the part of some of the musicians. Well, this trio of electronicists can be as active, scurrying and scrabbling as anyone...but it works. Freewheeling while managing to maintain some kind of control, they're perhaps comparable to Lehn/Schmickler in approach when they have pedal to the floor. But also quite capable of reining things in as on the lengthy "[thinner]", a fine, low, rumbling series of quivers and rustles. Good, solid recording.
Jeff Carey en Robert van Heumen zijn zowel samen als individueel sinds een paar jaar actief in de Nederlandse laptopscene. Als zodanig zijn ze allebei betrokken bij de Amsterdamse Studio voor Elektro-Instrumentale Muziek. In Studio twee van STEIM namen ze hun tweede cd op onder de naam SKIF++. Bas van Koolwijk verzorgt live de beelden bij de muziek van SKIF++ en maakt het trio van laptoppende heren compleet. Het eerste stuk op de cd is in vijf kortere stukken gehakt en roept associaties op met Merzbow. Woeste algoritmes uit de laptop van van Heunen gaan het gevecht aan met het ondefinieerbaar gekraak en gesis dat Carey’s manipulaties van de programmeertaal SuperCollider voortbrengt. Het tweede stuk heet [thinner] en is een sinistere, ambient-achtige trip vol zoemende bits en bytes door het onderbewustzijn van een micro-processor. Carey en Van Heumen voegen telkens nieuwe elementjes toe, een subtiel piepje hier, een verfijnd knorretje daar, voordat het stuk eindigt in een lang aangehouden drone. [@_ ] en [ffffffffffffff++] zijn weer staaltjes van wat eentjes en nulletje allemaal vermogen als je ze de vrij hun gang laat gaan. Een zekere kwaadaardigheid doortrekt de klanken-brei. Ook hier houden Carey en van Heumen de touwtjes gelukkig strak in handen. Helemaal vrij van het ‘geflipte laboratorium-assistent’ syndroom is SKIF++ niet. Hoewel deze muziek voor het grootste deel is geïmproviseerd hebben de makers echter een goede balans weten te bewaren tussen vorm enerzijds en het gefreak wat aan het genre eigen is anderzijds. Zonder dat laatste was de muziek hopeloos verzand - de soundtrack voor een porno-film op Alpha Centauri kan bij aardse luisteraars weinig losmaken. Ongetwijfeld is dit te danken aan intelligent knip- en plakwerk, zodat de menselijke inbreng tenslotte de doorslag geeft, ook hier tussen de laptops.
Peter Vianen, Gonzo (circus)
A trio of laptoppists that more than one review compares to rockstars, so well regarded are they. However, Jeff Carey, Robert van Heumann and Bas van Koolwijk make a kind of music most unlike a lot of laptop sound. The first and last improvisations here are rapid successions of sounds and textures that are difficult to process, memory being of no aid. The dizzying parade of howls, chatterring, warbling tones and grainy clicks can be quite jarring and very alien sounding. At the same time, things move so quickly that the chance of becoming bored is almost nil.
The longest track here ,"thinner" (indeed!), slows things down considerably, and takes its time assembling a more careful and cohesive statement. Sounds hang around longer and transform more slowly, starting from a base of winds and insectile chirping. There's a bit of that weird heterodyning effect that's often on evidence with digital sound, and in this context it adds to the overall coldness of the music, one that could only be made with technology. This is not a criticism of SKIF++'s work, indeed one of their stated aims seems to be to expose the sound-making and altering devices for what they are, and even turn them against themselves, bringing to mind all manner of philosophical ponderings perhaps better left to others. I prefer to listen as the sounds uncoil out of the speakers. A mid-section of quiet beeping and gentle burble/crackle is particularly nice, even more so as it hangs around for a while. I was often reminded of recordings I've heard of sound from space, albeit a bit more unnatural sounding, no doubt due to the machines involved.
The liner notes state Bas van Koolwijk's contribution to be "interactive visuals", and are described as an integral part of the live performances by SKIFF++. I had to wonder then why said visuals are not represented on this release except as cover graphics. A trip to their web site gave me an example of van Koolwijk's contribution. I cannot say at this point whether the music was any better or worse with the graphic representation of the sounds, just different, giving the mind a different context, rather like an odd cross of a scientific display and a feature film for robots.
Jeph Jerman, The Squid's Ear
Jeff Carey, Robert van Heumen and Bas van Koolwijk "synchronize" their laptops, moving between SuperCollider, Lisa and Max/MSP/Jitter. Synthetic musical tremors, glitches and disturbed drones (in the first two), hyper-vivid visual sequences (in the latter) combine to create a performance with consistently intricate audio-video relationships . The recording used in this release was created in 2008 at the STEIM, an Amsterdam-based center for research and development of instruments and computer tools for electronic art, a worthy institution dedicated to multimedia experimentation. The record's dark, industrial, subdued atmospheres are channeled to condense contemporary electro-acoustic influences in suggestive ambient drifts, unfolding very "manufactured" and "manipulated" developments, but also leaving room for more suspended and sidereal interludes, which are always overwhelmed by fractures, elliptical crackles and digital lamentations. Uncompromising sounds, organized in structures, but then performed "improvisationally", prove that happy developments and insights are in play even at these stylistic latitudes.
CD: SK ++ [01,02,03,04,00]
SKIF++ enhanced audio-visual CD release on fridgesound
: SK ++ [01,02,03,04,00]
The audio part of the CD can be played in every CD player - for the visual content a computer is needed.
The CD can be purchased through fridgesound: the label
Click on the titles to play
An older video, SKIF++ in it's early years, can be found here
The electroacoustic trio SKIF++ consist of Jeff Carey and Robert van Heumen, both of whom work on laptops, with Bas van Koolwijk adding a visual component. Van Koolwijk's stated intention is to use video to expose its essential falseness, to reveal the cold machinery behind the "placating curtain" of the visuals it generates. This is a facet of the music also, which has a certain feral, vicious quality to it - as if using machinery as some sort of vengeance upon itself. Using devices such as joysticks to exacerbate the chance, improvised nature of this music, this is musique concrete that has torn away from its formal, academic origins. The openingtrack "SK01" uses conspicuous samples of kitchen implements, battered and smashed into near uselessness, alongside coruscating bursts of voracious noise. "SK02" meanwhile starts out as nothing but the random movement of tiny particles, pinging and colliding, before accruing into a larger, more malevolent shape. Deconstruction and reassembly in nasty extremis.
David Stubbs - The Wire magazine
Some weeks ago I reviewed the very first solo CD by Robert van Heumen, and wrote that he's, among the many other things he does, a member of SKIF++. There is now a CD available by this group, which is Van Heumen on a laptop playing LiSa, Jeff Carey (whom you may know as 87 Central, who plays with Super Collidor on his laptop)) and Bas van Koolwijk who plays with Jitter and is responsible for the groups' visual side. The recordings were already made in 2006, but it took some cross-atlantic mixing as Van Heumen lives in Amsterdam and Carey in Washington. This is a typical work of the improvising computer laptoposse. Things beep, scratch, hiss and meow about in a brittle, fast manner, but SKIF++ is all to aware of the trap of unlistenable noise music generated with too many ones and zeroes. Hence the extensive editing process applied to this music makes this so much stronger than your average laptop doodling. SKIF++ knows how to pull back gear and play a piece that is softer, with even a hint of melody such as in '02'. On other occassions things seem to explode and large, extensive clouds fly over, like over the flat Dutch ground. But here too things never become boring or long. SKIF++ knows when to pull back, make a move, a new gesture and offer new insights. Also on the CD is a film by Bas van Koolwijk, which gives us the exact representation, I think, of what SKIF++'s music looks like: academic and in a odd, fresh way, also old fashioned, but then entirely updated to these times. Get my drift? (FdW)
Frans de Waard - Vital Weekly
Bio SKIF++ accomplices
Jeff Carey - http://jeffcarey.foundation-one.org
Electronic music composer Jeff Carey, based in the US and in the Netherlands, has been working with experimental, improvised and composed electronic, electro-acoustic, and acousmatic music since the early 90's. Originally from the suburbs of Washington DC, he has performed a handful of hardcore bands and has played electronic music or presented pieces and installations in the US and Europe at festivals and venues such as Boralis (NO), Gaudeamus Music Week (NL), Chelsea Museum of Art (US), Transmediale (DE), NuMusic(NO), Sonic Acts (NL), Ekko Festival (NO), Cave 12 (CH), DNK-Amsterdam (NL), Trondhiem Matchmaking (NO), MOCADC (US), The Network (BE), and Placard (UK). Having studied Audio Technology at American University (1994), and computer music composition at the Instituut voor Sonologie in the Koningklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag (2002), his work has evolved from an interest in no-input-mixer and field recordings to include a focus on non-standard synthesis, algorithmic composition and digital instrumentalism. Apart from purely acousmatic and electro-acoustic composition, he is focused on performative aspects of computer music and improvisation. He has played in the groups 87 Central, Office-R(6), SKIF++, USA/USB, N-Ensemble, and collaborated or performed with Francis Marie Uitti, Gert-Jan Prins, Cor Fuhler, Oren Ambarchi, Tobias Delius, Jaap Blonk and the numerous members of the N-Collective to name a famous few. Recent compositions include the acousmatic pieces 'Blueshift', 'Music for Broken Flute and Stolen Computer', and 'Point Source 01' for Double Bass and computer. Carey builds custom electronic instruments for musicians (most notably, MoHa!) and teaches courses in the synthesis programming language SuperCollider 3, recently at new media/arts institutions including NoTAM, BEK, TEKS (NO), STEIM (NL), and ITP (US). He is one of many founding members of the N-Collective, a pan-European music collective, and works to promote and present N-Events in the Americas.
Robert van Heumen http://west28.nl
Robert van Heumen is an electronic musician-composer using an extended laptop instrument to perform highly immersive and hyper-dynamic electro-acoustic music. As a musician, live sampling is his main tool. With a joystick and other tactile controllers, live sampled source sounds are gesturally manipulated and reworked within open ended narratives. Van Heumen is constantly searching for new strategies for live sampling and for the perfect balance between free improvisation and structured music. The laptop is used in an instrumental, tactile way, connecting action to sound like any acoustic instrument, and is used live as well as in the studio to generate sonic material for fixed-media works.
Bas van Koolwijk http://www.umatic.nl/info_bas.html
Video and audio artist Bas van Koolwijk analyses the disturbances produced by video, transforming them into numeric code, in order to produce a visual and acoustic sequence in which sounds and images vigorously interact. His video works can be seen as an aggressive attack on the illusion of the medium itself. Through a rigorous and formalistic approach, Van Koolwijk exposes the face of the machine which lives behind the often-placating veil of the televised image.
Distributed by the Netherlands Media Art Institute, his videos are regularly screened at international video art festivals, museums and art galleries. Next to producing single screen works and installations, Van Koolwijk creates performances with realtime audio/video applications, solo as well as with others. His performances have been hosted by numerous festivals and events including MUTEK (Montreal CA), Netmage (Bologna IT), Club Transmediale (Berlin DE), Avanto (Helsinki FI), Sonic Acts (Amsterdam NL), Dissonanze (Rome IT). Recent collaborations include projects as SYNCHRONATOR with Gert-Jan Prins, N-collective's SKIF++ and YOKOMONO/VIDEO with Staalplaat Soundsystem.