Do you even archive? Breakwave

Do you even archive? is a regular column where we’ll talk to labels and artists about their archiving, cataloguing and preservation practices.

DJ, producer, promoter Jessica Beaumont aka Breakwave, has a dense portfolio. Other than a bi-monthly radio show on NTS Radio, mixes for FACT, RA and Crack Magazine, she’s also the initiator of the Meine Nacht parties which have just grown into a new label encapsulating her excellent taste for nuance in intensity and chaos in minimalism.

As a DJ, Breakwave doesn’t shy away from experimenting with sound, blending styles effortlessly offering a unique amalgamation of genres whether that’s in a warm up set or a headliner slot. Her new imprint, Meine Nacht, only on the cusp of its second release already spells good news for progressive and experimental club sounds. 

The forthcoming second release, Carcass features avant-garde Belgian artist, Obsequies. The latest release is a six-track sound collage, is out on March 18th. Part sonic art, part experimental club music, Carcass is said to represent “the dichotomy of beauty and chaos” featuring powerful, cutting electronics mixed with organic textures and moments of tranquil calm. The physical release is unique as well. Spartan in design but compelling,  it’ll be out on transparent vinyl with a transparent sleeve designed by Breakwave, with each copy containing an engraving of a three-line poem.

With so much density in the sounds she collects, produces, plays and now releases seemingly all done with ease and simplicity we had to ask, Do you even archive? 

So, Jessica, how big is your (sound/music) collection?

I am constantly on the lookout for new music, both digital and records. I’d say my archive is relatively big, It consists of all kinds of different genres, whether that be dance-floor, functional, nonlinear beats, chill out. These days when I’m searching, I think about music for my NTS show, gigs, mixes, chill-out. My studio has now taken over half of my living room. I run through what I have at home with my turntables or I go to the club where I hold a residency ( 24 Kitchen Street) to use their CDJ’s, when I’m preparing a mix or a set.   

How do you manage your digital files? Do you use Rekordbox or iTunes or another tool? Do you keep backups of your digital audio files? 

I use Rekordbox. I used to use iTunes to pre-order my playlists which was then transferred to Rekordbox. I stopped using iTunes at one point, which was a massive mistake as I didn’t back up one of my playlists previous to compiling it in Rekordbox, pressed the backspace on a set list I’d spent hours on and it just disappeared! I back up the likes of Ableton files on about 3 storage devices.

You collect and create a lot of sounds in your practice; how extensive do you get with your metadata? Do you tag things in specific ways? Do you use folders?

I categorise my music using playlists that are specifically built for each place I am playing at, depending on how I envisage the gig, how the place will feel and my idea of the audience’s mood. 

I also compile separate playlists named according to month and year, these are for music I’ve acquired and purchased on a month to month basis. Similarly, I use this method for mixes but here I like to experiment more so I often look for tracks I’ve already got in various playlists or on Bandcamp, which are completely sound design based, no kicks, and I’ll layer them over the more linear dance-floor tracks. Then I’ll incorporate non-linear tracks over that. I use this method when jumping between tempos from say 140 to 160 BPM at gigs. Sometimes it works really well, It’s similar to sampling and works best using 3 CDJ’s. 

Each playlist has an array of downtempo warm-up type stuff, what I class as middle-of-set type tracks and then heavier stuff. I’ve started to have two playlist options for each gig. I catagorise halftime or 160/70 BPM tracks into separately ordered playlists, you wouldn’t even imagine some of the tracks being at that tempo because of the mood they generate. So I have playlists compiled at particular tempo’s that cater to the warm-up. The remix by Bod [包家巷] (on Meine Nacht’s recent release by Obsequies) is 147 BPM and beatless. I like to experiment with these types of tracks in sets. I’ve never catagorised them according to genre because I play all kinds of music. Purchasing new music draws me into this method. There are a limited number of tracks in my digital collection that I’ll use over and over and they go into mood based folders. 

With records it’s more a process of ordering them based on what I would play right now in the club. I’m inclined to play them at 24 Kitchen Street because I know the setup well, I am comfortable with it and confident that little can go wrong. I find this takes a lot of effort and at times I tell myself I should just turn up to the club and play. But I can’t get away from my habit of organising everything! I haven’t even delved into the world of loop cue points that I find a lot of DJ’s use – that’s another ball game.

How do you go about defining certain presets, tracks or versions? Do you stick solely to numerical titles or do you get creative with adjectives i.e. reverb good, roomy, dry v1.2? Is there a rhyme or reason to the terminology you use for these definitions? 

I’m working mostly with audio, I use VST’s to generate something that I am after and then I convert it to audio. It’s very rare that I will save a preset, I think if you create something in that moment and time that you like then a bounce to audio is essential and sometimes it’s good to have these constraints as it allows you to be more creative with the audio. There’s been too many occasions where my computer crashed and I lost the version of the preset I created. I generally give my tracks a name or it will go by date so “March WIP” for example. If there’s something in particular that I want to save at that point in the track I will save another version, rename it to version 2 then save it in the same folder. For the track I am writing at the moment (and generally what I do), the kick has multiple layers so when I was finished with it I bounced it to audio and renamed it “heavykick”. I would then put that kick or other pieces of audio into a folder within the Ableton folder so I can come back to it if I wanted to edit it or use it in another track.   

The Meine Nacht events that you initiated expanded into a record label; how do you go about with the archival process here? Is it different from your process as an artist? How do you deal with other artists’ material?

The initial Meine Nacht events were based on archiving, it was the first event in Liverpool to live-stream events from secret locations. It was totally DIY and I did it via YouTube, it used to take me ages to set up all the equipment and make sure that the internet service’s upload and download speed was strong enough which I had to monitor throughout the night. 

At one of the first events, I fed the ethernet cable through a food lift shaft and taped it along the ceilings and round to where the DJ booth was. At another event it was fed from the gallery space downstairs and upstairs to the owners flat in order to get a direct connection to the modem – There’s still some examples of these archives on the Meine Nacht YouTube Channel and I feel they are good to look back on because I can see how far the party has come with the development into a label. 

Most recently the archiving process has shifted to NTS where I hold a bi-monthly show for the Manchester station. The shows feature a mixture of my own sets, guests’ and label affiliates’. I worked collaboratively on a live set for the label launch at Tate Gallery which was recorded and then aired live on NTS. These are all archived through my channel on the NTS website and documented on Soundcloud. The releases on the label come in the form of physical and digital so technically are involved in the archival process via those mediums. The upcoming release from Obsequies features Limited Edition transparent records with an engraving of a Tercet which is a poetic triplet, associated to the release itself- digital is also available.

Any tips or tricks you use to help you recall certain samples, sounds, pre-sets faster? 

I save audio to my desktop. I’ll do sessions based purely on sound design for instance and save it in a folder on my desktop. I’ll add audio to these files that I think might fit for the track I am working on so if I wanted a particular snare or kick that I’d made previously or a sound I’ve generated with a VST, then it’s in that folder ready for me to import it into a new session in Ableton. 

I wouldn’t say it’s the most time efficient way to work as I’m yet to categorise inside these folders, but it’s good to have the limitations and order. That, for me, comes in the form of a folder full of audio that I can work with. I spend too much time trying to make things sound perfect and often get lost in it all so I’ve had to limit myself to these parameters, sometimes that doesn’t work though and I generate new audio and put it into that particular file as it’s the file I’m working with for that track and something I can come back to at a later date maybe. 

What do you wish you were better at or is there a tool / software you wish existed that would make your life easier both in your personal practice but also in your practice within Meine Nacht?

There’s nothing in particular that I wish I was better at, it’s just fitting everything in. There’s not enough hours in the day.

Are archives ever on your mind as a place to source new material?

For artworks yes – I like to look through archives of really old books in libraries, specifically at the illustrations and images which has sparked inspiration for the label’s artwork, posters for the events, NTS artwork or gig dates. Having said that, I haven’t come across any musical archives in Liverpool’s libraries unfortunately. I found your coverage on that very interesting.

Have you ever lost any material that was never backed up? What and how?

Yes, I’ve lost a lot of material that was never backed up, mainly through Rekordbox so I’m waiting for them to introduce some help on recovering lost data. I’ve lost pictures and videos from my old parties that I would have liked to have kept too, there’s some reels of film that I still have packed away somewhere from the earlier parties that I can reprint hopefully. These were given out at one of the parties to returning guests. I really like that method of archiving and I think it’s a shame that it doesn’t happen so much anymore.  

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