Many techno DJs are used to playing music on vinyl, but creating it? That’s another matter. However, Graham Dunning has found a wonderfully strange way to make that idea work. His Mechanical Techno device produces full-on dance tracks by driving several heavily modified records at once with a turntable, with each record relying on unique triggers to produce a sound. Electrical contacts will produce a synth sound as one record spins around, for instance, while piezoelectric triggers create that all-important beat on another disc. The result is techno that’s at once analog and not. It sounds digital, but it has the imprecision and unpredictability that you’d never get from software.
This is a one-off instrument, as you might imagine, and it’s doubtful that most modern DJs would ditch their laptops and mixers for this tower of wax. With that said, Dunning’s sets using Mechanical Techno are something else to behold — the machine leads to happy composition “accidents” that he would never have found on his own. If nothing else, the invention makes a good case for including analog instruments in live performances that could otherwise sound stale.