A solo modular set from Carter Tutti Void and Factory Floor’s Nik Void.

For the first of a series of Patch Notes episodes filmed behind closed doors by Fact at 180 The Strand, we invited Nik Void of Factory Floor to perform a solo modular live set with visuals by Nika Milano.

Void had been preparing this set for several months prior to the performance, as it was meant to be the first live outing for some new tracks. “I had just returned from Mexico City just before lockdown had hit and was about to go to Berlin to perform at the Editions Mego 10-year anniversary,” she tells Fact. “So it’s great to have the chance to play a section of it here.”

The set offers a preview of her debut solo album, which is yet to be formally announced. “Two of the tracks I have performed versions of, ‘Demna’ and ‘Interruption Is Good’ – bridged together with improvisations, this is a close representation,” she says. “I wanted to make an album that has a balance of keeping it authentically experimental and interesting but also making it communicative to all kinds of listener.”

“The experiences I have had with bands and collaborations have influenced my need to organise – bring in some structures and builds that I feel work well. The difference here is the raw emphasis for this album is dedicated to the process. The idea is my identity is present in the action rather than me presenting the action.”

In the performance, Void uses part of the modular setup she uses for live performance, a rig she’s been building for four years. “It’s sectionally organised, top right is my percussion, top left are my samplers and loopers, bottom left are my trigger, sequencer, MIDI and clock section, then there’s my main synth voice, Intellijel Dual Oscillator and so on.

“I’ve reintroduced Ableton sending me sequences for live but other than that, this is the core of my studio setup. At home in my studio, I have many outboard units like the Eventide H8000FW and Empirical Lab distressors, compressors, Delta Lab and many other racks, modules to push and process my sounds more.”

Void’s adoption of modular synthesis came out of her experience with the electric guitar, which she played using experimental methods while she was with Factory Floor and Carter Tutti Void. “My guitar playing became further away from generic playing to more sound-making, manipulating the body and the strings using extended techniques and running with the physicality of it in relation to my own body.”

“When performing as Factory Floor I used a bC16 patch synth – the designer modified it for me so I could run a quarter-inch jack and feed my guitar through and furthered the chain by introducing Electro-Harmonix units like 8 Step Program and filtering through Wah pedals. I almost abandoned having much interaction with the guitar, it just lay on a table while I processed the feedback, so it seemed natural to move to Eurorack.

“The use of extended technique is an invitation to focus and using a modular synth inhabits much the same headspace. Sometimes you are in control, other times the unexpected happens and if it sounds good, you go with it. I found with the more collaborative work I said yes to and becoming more of a solo performer a demand for a wider palette became essential. I can modify the set up for different situations, it’s the perfect tool.”

Like many other artists, Void has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but she says it’s given her a reason to pause and finish her record. “I would be still thinking I should push it a bit more keep going,” she says. “My trouble as being primarily a live improviser is I continually live in the present then move onto the future, so I find it very hard to go back and listen and accept what the past has produced. Time to pause has made me sit and evaluate what I’ve been working towards and get it ready for people to hear, a platform of permanence I find uncomfortable, this makes me a rubbish recording artist and this is why up until now I have had to work within a band or collaborative structure.”

“I’ve also made some steps to take permanence further,” she continues. “I have made plans to launch a new label with a London visual artist collaborator, a combination of visual art with sound/music performance, details of this will be announced in the future. This is something I’ve wanted to do since working on the ICA residency back in 2011. Shows and exhibitions experiencing a temporary halt amplifies the need for music and art not just to give our cities a cultural identity but also as individuals a cultural and social reference – a prompt for discussion and action, open minds, a voice that’s listened to, breaking down those boundaries that so need to be broken.”

Nik Void performs at Semibreve Festival, which takes place from October 24-25, 2020, in Braga, Portugal. She will be taking part in an artist residency and roundtable talk on post-pandemic performative logic.

Watch next: Fact Live: Loraine James



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