Turning time limits into art: Forest Sessions & the best of the Techcrunch Hackathon music apps

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For musicians, travelling from festival to festival every summer is really not as exciting as it sounds.  There are hours of waiting around, hours spent waiting to soundcheck, hanging backstage and a constant feeling of displacement. Sure, it’s not the worst job in the world by far but the organisers of French festival Les Nuits Secretes certainly knew how to take advantage of this ennui with their Forest Sessions series (bit.ly/forestsessions).

While the festival was taking place, the organisers offered bands a full two hours of studio time in a purpose-built recording studio on-site which was equipped with lots of recording gear, a mixing desk and engineers. 16 bands took up the offer and recorded new songs in the two-hour time limit. So we have Villagers performing a song about driving with Conor O’Brien on backing vocals and drums for a change. French electronic producer Mondkopf (normally a solo effort) is joined by a selection of musicians and a singer for unusually rocking workout. Best of all, is notorious Super Furry Animals joker Gruff Rhys and a coterie of singers performing a cheeky ode to that peculiar powdered dessert, Angel Delight. All 16 performances were also captured on video and uploaded to Youtube at bit.ly/forestsessionvids

Tech nerds are another subset of people have conjured up new technologically-enhanced ways of alleviating boredom under a strict time limit. In the case of TechCrunch’s Disrupt Hackathon in San Francisco last week, developers were given 24 hours to come up with a some interesting applications.

Diskly adds a social crowdsourcing aspect to the live music experience. “People like going clubbing, and after they’ve had a couple of drinks in them, they think they’re the world’s foremost music critic”, explain Diskly’s Derek Morris and Matt Gilk.  So the pair built an app that allows people to give direct feedback to the DJ. Diskly identifies the song currently playing in the room using audio fingerprinting technology. The audience member can then vote a song up or down along with other users and request songs directly based on what the DJ has already played. It’s unlikely to take off in reality of course but it adds potential to the live music experience. 

Other notable music solutions from the Hackathon include Club Report, an app which allows you to eavesdrop in on the music a club is playing right now before you leave home, the awkwardly-monikered Hey I’m which acts as the real-life counterpart to Turntable.FM by letting groups DJ for each other and a Google Chrome extension called simplyMusic, which scans photos in a webpage for recognisable musicians and then sends you info about them. 

Or how about some new ways to play instruments? Air Beats, an augmented reality app which uses the iPad 2′s front facing camera and motion sensing software to create a virtual drum kit. Air Guitar Whack A Mole uses a custom-built guitar pick (with an in-built accelerometer) to offer a  game which uses guitar strums to make a rock’n’ roll version of Whack A Mole. 

You can watch all of the hack demonstrations at ustream.tv/techcrunch/videos. You can see the six winning teams’ ideas at bit.ly/hackwinners.

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Band of Blogs: Essential Mix archive, Willy Moon, Kimbra & Tinariwen

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Already a rising star in Australia, Kimbra’s debut album Vows is streaming so you can get a taste of her off-beat jazz-pop sound before it hits these shores officially.

Listen at Nialler9

Huge Essential Mix archive
Over 900 Essential mixes from the BBC archives including episodes from Kode9, Carl Craig, Friendly Fires and Deadmau5 are now on Soundcloud.

Willy Moon

Mixing ’50s rock ‘n’ roll style vocals with up-to-date frantic ADHD modern beats. I Wanna Be Your Man, the debut single from New Zealander Willy Moon is a bit of an inspired but divisive song.

Four Tet remixes Tinariwen
London’s finest subtle electronic producer remixes a new song from Sahara desert nomads Tinariwen. The result is a melding of cultures into an percussive soundclash.

Tinariwen – Tenere taqqim tossam (Four Tet remix) by Four Tet

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“As they say, the eyebrows are the way into the soul and the eyebrows are a portal.” Coming to cinemas near you, computer assisted-eyebrow acting will change the acting world.

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