RSVP HERE: Lubo Smilenov of Amalgamy Streams via Instagram + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.

If you’re thinking of learning a new exotic instrument and/or how to become an electronic music producer while in lockdown, look no further than Lubo Smilenov for inspiration. For his musical project Amalgamy he plays every beautiful instrument you’ve never heard of including Kora, Kaval, and Gadulka. He is a one-man band and electronic music producer who can play guitar, bass, keys, program drums and is an Ableton Push master. In 2018, Lubo teamed up with cellist Bryan Wilson on Amalgamy’s debut album Cynefin. The album is full of film score-esque textures, homages to various world musical traditions and electronic soundscape experiments. It’s the music you would imagine playing before an ancient battle.

The next chance you can see Lubo shredding his Ableton Push and playing anything from the Kora to Bulgarian bagpipes is Saturday, May 2nd at 8pm. We chatted with Lubo about how he approaches his sound, his practice routine and the $5 key to his live stream set up.

AF: The music you’re performing live these days is a departure from your first album with Amalgamy. How would you describe it and how are you are approaching it?

LS: My approach to music has been so impromptu lately. It can go in any direction at any moment. One second I’m pursuing music fit for film scores. The next I’m putting break core beats over auctioneer samples and archaic goatskin bagpipes. I’ve recently embraced an anything goes approach more than ever.

A lot of the electronic music I’ve been making lately has been done through my Ableton Push launchpad. I really enjoy having a hands on approach to electronic music. Everything is I do is triggered by my fingers the same way it would be with a piano or guitar. It feels just like a sound palette. I just dip a brush into one of every sixty-four buttons and trigger an intended statement of sound. However, the culmination of all these statements creates something that was previously unintended. Sometimes it’s the idea within an idea that we’re looking for.

AF: What is your set up for live streaming?

LS: I plug a dual 1/4” TS to 1/8”TRS cable into my interface’s main output. The 1/8” side goes into a Radioshack Stereo Jack Adapter, and that piece goes into my cell phone. That adapter is the $5 key to this setup. Thereafter, I mix the audio by recording videos on my phone while playing and listen back to how it sound after I’m done. I make adjustments and repeat the process.

AF: You have a large collection of world instruments. Where did you get them?

LS: I’ve been very fortunate to have earned the trust of a few prominent luthiers whom I admire very much. Most of my instruments come from the the village of Kameno, Bulgaria. We’re talking about bagpipes (Gaida), flutes (Kaval), and bowed lyres (Gadulka). My Kora is from The Gambia via Sona Jobarteh’s website. No matter how rare the instrument I’m looking for, I always find it with the help of other musicians. Musicians in NYC generally have each other’s back with these things. It’s amazing.

AF: What is your favorite instrument? Which do you practice the most?

LS: I can’t seem to stick to one thing and it’s so liberating. What I usually do is spend 15-20 minutes a day picking up different instruments around the house at random. If I do end up practicing something disciplinary like scales, I always reward myself with improv at the end. I’ll play at least one bowed instrument, one regular string instrument, and one wind, before moving onto music production.

AF: Where do you think music and technology are going in the next decade? Do you think an extended quarantine will have an effect on the future direction of live music, or music in general?

LS: There are talks of a budding music renaissance based on the current influx of purchases made on music retail sites. Most of these purchases have to do with electronic music via keyboards, synths, beatmakers, etc. It’s still too early to say anything in confidence given the morbid reality we are facing. However, I do think that the role of the bedroom producer will become more prominent in the coming year(s). It really is becoming more important for people to express themselves through creativity. Remote recording and file sharing will certainly increase without a doubt. Cloud servers that host plugins and resources are going to be utilized more than ever.

Extended quarantine will certainly have an effect on the future direction of live music. Music is made differently when musicians prepare for a live show together vs. when they are alone at home. Music made at home has less restrictions. There’s no one to push back at your crazy idea. Suddenly, you have to fill the role of the drummer, singer, bassist, producer, songwriter, video editor, and marketer all at once. Live streaming has never been more valuable as a tool for musicians. As far as performance goes, it’s all we have now.

RSVP HERE for Amalgamy’s set on Instagram Live Saturday 5/2 at 8pm.

More great live streams this week…

5/1-5/3 Love from Philly: Kurt Vile, G. Love, John Oates, Man Man + More via YouTube. 12pm est, all donations benefit Philadelphia’s Entertainment Community. RSVP HERE

5/1 Foxygen via Pickathorn Twitch. 4pm est, RSVP HERE

5/2 Live From Here: Chris Thile, Watkins Family Hour, Sylvan Esso via WNYC. 6pm est, RSVP HERE

5/2 Remote Utopias: Tame Impala, Weyes Blood and more via NTS App. 5am est, raising money for Gloval Foodbank Network RSVP HERE

5/2 Nap Eyes via Baby’s TV. 8pm est $5, RSVP HERE

5/3 Bang On A Can 6-hour livestream. 3pm est RSVP HERE

5/6 Breathwork with Kimi Class via Instagram. 7pm pst, RSVP HERE 

5/7 Alkaline Trio via Riot Fest Facebook. 7pm est, RSVP HERE

5/7 Tori Amos via Murmrr Theatre YouTube 2pm est, RSVP HERE


ALBUM REVIEW: Michael Gordon “Timber Remixed”


Not too long ago a friend asked me, “What music consistently gives you the chills?” It was more difficult to answer than I would have imagined, and I could perhaps attribute said difficulty to the unrelenting musical sameness we are bombarded with daily. What may have given someone chills in the 1960s, say, psych rock, may no longer have that effect, due to its repetition and ubiquity. So when I first heard Michael Gordon’s Timber Remixed and the hair on my arms stood at attention, I knew it was something special.

Originally releasing Timber in 2009, Gordon – a founding member of the Bang on a Can collective – conceived the work live, when he placed six wooden 2x4s of differing lengths in a circle and then arranged six percussionists around the newfangled instruments to create wildly primal rhythms. The varied lengths of the 2x4s allowed for different pitches to come forth and the wood’s sonic properties resonated to the point that the audiences believed electronics were present.

In September, Mantra Percussion’s Mike McCurdy – who has been heavily involved in the recording process and live performances of Timber – told Stereogum:

“As Timber was first brought to the public’s attention in 2010-2012, one of the most frequently heard responses from audiences, listeners and reviewers were about the electronics in the piece. But there are no electronics in the piece! As it was performed over the years, a disclaimer was actually given in the concert program before each performance that the sounds being produced were all natural, and that the wood itself had such lush harmonics as to deceive the ear, as though some electronic process was being applied to the sound.

All this talk about electronics got Michael Gordon thinking, and he proposed the idea in the fall of 2012 to find people to remix the album. So we came up with a favorites list of composers and musicians to take the music and do whatever they wanted, as long as the underlying composition could be perceived.”

The result is Timber Remixed, a gorgeous, haunting record that is so otherworldly it is difficult to describe. I wouldn’t even say one can hear this album, as it seems more appropriate to say that you will feel it…as if it is happening to you. A kind of vibratory massage throughout the body. As McCurdy mentioned, star producers stud this album, including the likes of Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Oneohtrix Point Never, Squarepusher, and Hauschka to name but a few. Each track is like it’s own warped world, though the 12 remixes form a galaxy as a whole.

While the original Timber is a testament to lumber alone, doing for wood what Glenn Branca has done for the guitar, Timber Remixed re-contextualizes Gordon’s vision into a layered multiverse of electronic manipulation. Timber’s pitch is higher, while Timber Remixed is more guttural, like the boom of a falling redwood.

Favorite moments occur during Fennesz’s ambient, spacey, whirring take on the piece, as well as Greg Saunier’s aggressive, staccato beats that recall video game machine guns. But the final remix by Hauschka has to be my favorite, as it disassembles and puts back together the material, fashioning a complex collage that sits nicely between reworking and staying true to the original.

Please take the next available two hours in your schedule. Lie on your bed, turn off your lights, and listen to Timber Remixed. It’s cheaper than Flotation Therapy and you won’t get salt in your eyes.

Timber Remixed is out now via Cantaloupe Music.


01 “Jóhann Jóhannsson”
02 “Sam Pluta”
03 “Tim Hecker”
04 “Fennesz”
05 “Oneohtrix Point Never”
06 “Greg Saunier”
07 “HPRIZM/High Priest of APC”
08 “Ian Williams”
09 “Squarepusher”
10 “Ikue Mori”
11 “Mira Calix”
12 “Hauschka”