CONCRETE: Experience the Premiere of Khompa's Live Audiovisual Performance
Khompa is the solo electronic project of Italian drummer/producer Davide Compagnoni. In April of 2022, Compagnoni released 'Perceive Reality,' his second album under this moniker, via Monotreme Records. This project uses Sensory Percussion on an acoustic kit to create a vivid world of synth pads, basslines, and sequenced melodies--all triggered live from the drums. Now, Khompa is combining Sensory Percussion with additional video software to create a series of immersive audiovisual experiences using the 'Perceive Reality' material. These A/V pieces explore the distance between perception and reality by taking photo-realistic 3D models of natural spaces and then processing them with effects controlled by the drums. We're proud to debut the brand new live video for 'CONCRETE,' the second video of this series, below (this video is an excerpt of the full song, which is available on Bandcamp):
For those who aren’t familiar, can you explain what photogrammetry is and how you used this technique to create the visuals for your videos?
Photogrammetry is the science and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images. Basically, combining a lot of pictures, you will be able to create an accurate three-dimensional image.
We deliberately used photogrammetry to explore the relationship between perception and reality. It's the perfect system for the observation and extrapolation of data from reality because it includes a precise view of the object. It creates a texture recomposed from photographs and also a spatial visualization with the 3D mesh. This technique allows us to explore our perception of reality starting from the objective data, then expanding its content.
This method is quite different from traditional modeling of 3D objects: photogrammetry immortalizes a moment and a form, it's a software-mediated copy and not a "handmade" or human attempt to reproduce it.
For the visuals for Conceived, visual artist Riccardo Franco-Loiri started from the photogrammetry of a cave close to our hometown Torino. He then manipulated the visual content in TouchDesigner, modifying the point clouds with noise and other mathematical operators that blindfolded them and exploded them into space. The second part of the song, after the cave reveal, was designed in Adobe After Effects.
Photogrammetry immortalizes a moment and a form, it's a software-mediated copy and not a 'handmade' or human attempt to reproduce it
How did you first meet and start working with Alberto Ricca and Riccardo Franco-Loiri? What roles did each of them play in the production of ‘these live pieces?
Alberto (AKA Bienoise) and I have been fans of each others’ work for years, but never actually collaborated before this album. We spent a couple of days in his hometown on Lake Maggiore working on several musical ideas, also experimenting with my physical setup. Alberto had the idea of using MaxForLive Envelope Followers through a standard microphone placed in the middle of the drum kit to harness the dynamics of the drums to manipulate electronics in different ways. This idea was fundamental for the sound of the record and my live performances. In fact, the audio captured by that simple microphone goes into several Max Envelope Followers, with which I control several parameters in Ableton Live, making everything more organic and dynamic.
Regarding the visual part, a friend of mine told me that Riccardo (aka AKASHA) could be the right person for this project. And they were right! After a couple of brainstorming sessions, we started working on the visuals and we quickly generated something that was satisfying for both of us. I'm really happy about this collaboration with Riccardo because it's never easy to find the right people for a new project, especially if it's the first time you collaborate. He turned out to be the perfect guy and we're a proper team now.
What is your physical setup?
My hybrid setup includes:
• 20” kick
• 13” snare
• 16” floor tom
• 3 Sensory Percussion sensors
• 14” hi-hat
• 21” ride
• a stack made of two crash cymbals (17” and 16”)
• a Keith McMillen BopPad
In terms of hardware, I use a MacBook Pro (M1 chip use a major leap in terms of CPU usage and latency, working seamlessly with 64-sample buffer), a cheap Beringher UMC404HD as audio interface, a MIDI Fighter Twister controller, and a programmable Logidy UMI3 USB Foot Controller that I use to switch patterns within my custom MaxForLive step sequencer (to move from one section of the song to another and to switch on/off audio effects in some cases).
What role does Sensory Percussion play in this software setup?
When I started working on the album 'Perceive Reality' I was still using standard drum triggers. Then I had the honor to start my partnership with you guys, and everything changed. Even though I wasn't using Sensory Percussion technology at its full potential, I basically had to throw in the bin the songs I was working on in that period, and started working on new ideas with SP. The way it affected my creative process was huge.
I use several zones depending on the song. While a traditional drum trigger only sends one MIDI note per drum, Sensory Percussion allows me to send different notes from different zones, which in turn allows me to add or subtract sounds to the song depending on which zone I am hitting.
Since I'm also sending info through Ableton/Max, I chose not to overcomplicate the Sensory side of things. Besides, you can do a ton of things with just a few zones.
What is your process for writing with Sensory Percussion? Do you come up with a groove on an acoustic kit first and then decide on samples, or do you have a set of samples in mind and then sit down at the drums?
It really depends, sometimes I start from samples, sometimes I start from a groove. In most cases, I start by loading a sample that I like into Ableton’s Simpler set to Slice mode. Then I add a Random device and start triggering those slices using Sensory Percussion. Once I find the right mood/groove, I start adding the bass and arrange the whole song. It’s never been a quick process to finish a song, but it's definitely super inspiring. It's my favorite way of making music.
You mentioned that you used your own Max for Live patch to send MIDI to Resolume. Can you explain more about this patch and how it's used in conjunction with Sensory Percussion?
Yes, it's a custom step sequencer I made with a friend of mine, which has been improved several times in the last years (especially since I started using Sensory Percussion; I added a few features to exploit the sensitivity of the SP sensors). Regarding the visuals, I send MIDI notes and MIDI CC signals from Ableton to Resolume. We use two computers linked through an Ethernet network (no audio interfaces involved to send the MIDI signals from one laptop to the other).
From my laptop (the audio laptop) I send MIDI notes to the visual laptop to trigger clips/effects in Resolume, and MIDI CCs to modulate Resolume effects in several ways. For example, in the intro of “Conceived” video, you can see that the image changes its shape as I hit the floor tom harder (from 00:15 to 00:35 in the video on YouTube). That's happening because I'm sending MIDI CCs to an effect in Resolume, manipulating the shape of the visuals in real time.
Generally, how do you go about setting up a melodic song structure from behind the drums? Do you have any tips for other drummers looking to do the same thing with Sensory Percussion?
There's no secret recipe; you just need to have a lot of patience. I think the best way to do it is trying not to overcomplicate things, especially at the beginning.
With all of this complicated setup happening, is there room for improvisation in the tracks from ‘Perceive Reality’, or are they all tightly structured?
They are mainly tightly structured but there is still space for improvisation, given that they all started from improv sessions. This is true of all the music I’ve done as Khompa and most of the music I’ve done in the past with several projects including my band Stearica.
Did you write the music with the visual aspect in mind, or did one come before the other?
From the very beginning of writing the record, I knew that it would become an audiovisual show, so while writing the songs I always kept looking for inspiration from visual artists that I like, although I mainly focused on the music first.
Anything else you’d like to add or promote?
I have an unreleased song coming out in January, which is the last song of the Perceive Reality A/V performance. Also new gigs to be announced soon. Stay tuned!