Guest Spots: Epstein on Rhythmic Trash Sculptures

Epstein is Roberto Carlos Lange, a.k.a. sample-based collage maestro Helado Negro. Known for dense pastiches of drum-machine beats and piled MPC-filtered ephemera, as well as flashes of pop and psychedelia, Lange just released a new LP on Asthmatic Kitty entitled Sealess See. Leave it to a man with a wildly inventive, ever-changing sound to make something out of nothing. In this piece he penned for ALARM, Lange tells the story behind his collaboration with artist David Ellis and their trash-based music machines.

Rhythmic Trash Sculptures
by Roberto Carlos Lange (Epstein)

Video 1 (Quicktime)
Video 2 (Quicktime)

When I started working on the Rhythmic Trash pieces with David Ellis, it happened at a time when I felt defeated in NY and wasn’t trying to hang around for too long. The first time I came over, everything was all theory, and we didn’t have a good direction on how to get everything to work. We took so many things apart and saw sparks and smokes many times. The idea was to make an acoustic instrument out of trash that looked like a pile of trash. No wires showing or any electric plumbing out for the eye to see, just simply a pile of trash that came to life and sounded like nothing you had heard before.

We worked at it for a few days, then, finally, a breakthrough; we got it to work. Here are two clips from the day we got it to work. We were half doing this to see what happened for the love of something new, and also because Christian Marclay had asked for something for a group sound show he put together at the ICA in Philadelphia.

This show defined a lot of what came later in the work that I’ve done with David, with the rhythmic trash and the other creatures that came to his mind, including: a bird made from beer and liquor bottles that flaps its giant wings, and plays beats on the bottles; an owl that was also made from liquor bottles that played like the bird; a 25-foot percussive beast of a catfish that opened and closed it’s mouth; a typewriter that typed the lyrics to Grand Master Flash‘s “The Message” in beat; and many other garbage-can and trash-pile variations. At this point I’m starting to lose count, but these can be Googled (David Ellis + Roberto Lange on YouTube)

The two videos I’ve included are the most important ones to me; they are from the moment in which this all clicked. Sometimes these moments are private — the times where what you’re doing makes sense, and the thing that communicates is what you produce from it. It will have your filter and hands on it, so it’s not exactly the purest moment or the purest thought, but it’s birthed from that moment. I always try to think back on that time of momentum and enjoyment. It’s what has always made me want to do the thing.

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