Corina MacDonald aka CMD has been busy recently, releasing two EPs in the last few months of 2021; Precarious Pursuit on Bandcamp and Social Factory Reset with the US label Fixed Rhythms. For Montrealers, her voice might be familiar from CKUT radio where she hosts the program Modular Systems every other Sunday.
As a producer and DJ, she has performed at editions of MUTEK, Piknic Electronik, Igloofest, and in many of Montreal’s club nights and venues, where she fuses synth-laden aesthetics of acid, techno, electro, and house music. This mix is representative of some of her musical predispositions, setting the more abstract and ambient up against some techno and electro gems, mixing up the old guard and newcomers alike.
What were your staple music artists in your DJ sets in the 00s and 10s? Would you like to share some of your current favorites?
I have some well-worn records from the past 20 years for sure, some staples would be Orlando Voorn, Shinedoe, my UR and Electrofunk records, and some early 2000s records by Polish artist Digital PrinceZZ. I would still play these today, but more recent staples include Bézier, Archivist, Analog Tara, Nikki Nair, Sepehr, and I’ll include Shinedoe here again ;)
Can you describe your current workflow for music-making? Do you have any special concept you try to explore and develop before making and recording beats and sounds?
I’m more drawn to process (rather than concepts) as a starting point. For example, my osc.jamz EP was made from a series of improvised recordings of a simple homemade oscillator sequenced through the Electribe ESX-1. I like to spend time just exploring and working through trial and error with different setups. I probably started off this way because I have no formal music training, and part of what I love about making electronic music is that there’s always so much more to learn.
You are now making music with hardware instruments instead of pure software. How much do you think your compositions have changed? What are the most important changes in your compositional process with this change?
Working with hardware was new to me a few years back when I was building my new live set, and I really liked the learning curve, and the different constraints of each piece of gear. I found I had more focus working this way, and live jams have now become my main creative practice. Then at some point, I decide it’s time to record and arrange in the DAW. Right now these two workflows – creation and arrangement/refining – are separate, but that is really just a limitation of my home studio setup. So I hope eventually I can better integrate these parts of the process.
You sang in Social Factory Reset, your latest release. Is this your first exploration of having acoustic signals in your music? How different and new was listening to your voice and lyrics in the context of your music-making?
I’ve used my recorded voice in other releases, usually just as small samples. Dream-Life Cycles is the first track that I’ve recorded lyrics for, and it wasn’t really something I planned to do initially but the track just seemed to call for them. I don’t consider myself a singer or know very much about recording vocals so my first instinct was to hide my voice behind a lot of reverb, which I then had to scale back to make the words more comprehensible. Now I’ve gotten used to hearing my voice this way I’d like to learn more about recording and mixing vocals so I can try it again.
How different is it for you to perform as a dj rather than a producer? What are the differences, for you, in each context?
I’ve been djing for much longer than producing, and I think that experience has definitely influenced the way that I put together my live sets. So even when playing live I think about timing and transitions and how to sustain/build energy in a continuous way between tracks. Performing a live set can be more complicated than djing, there’s a lot that I have to manage at the same time – machines, sequences, effects – so I sometimes have notes with me to remind me what is where. It always feels closer to potential chaos than a dj set, so I’m really focused and immersed in what I’m doing. I get immersed in djing as well, but there are more opportunities to step back and just enjoy the music for a minute.
What are your thoughts on recent initiatives to diversify representation in festival/club lineups?
I’m glad it is happening because it indicates that wider awareness is growing about the systemic inequalities of the electronic music industry that have resulted in white male dominance of the field. Looking at representation in festival/club booking, label rosters, and the music press gives us a window into the power brokering behind the scenes that influences what we hear and see. In some ways representation offers the most direct and public-facing site of critique, so it is a good starting point. But the critique needs to go further than this, and the pandemic for example has highlighted a lot of systemic issues related to nightlife and labour that are critical to sustaining artistic communities.Related to this question, I want to add that a new FACTS survey of gender representation in electronic music lineups will be released on March 8, 2022 by female:pressure (full disclosure I joined the volunteer survey team in 2021).
All FACTS surveys can be found online here.
Imagine the perfect party of the future. What are the musical features of the music at that party?
Hard to imagine a party of any kind at the moment, but we have to dream right? Musically, I’d love to hear a night of bangers I haven’t heard before ;) I’m less interested in hearing music I already know, unless it surprises me somehow, which has definitely happened and I love it! I’m especially happy when djs/performers can take some chances musically and the crowd is open enough to follow them in different directions. The crowd is a big part of what makes a great party for me, when people are absorbed in the music and in the collective experience then it is really special.