Oliver Torr is an Athens-based multidisciplinary artist whose work in sound design and experimental music spans galleries, nightclubs and performance spaces. As a veteran of central and Eastern Europe's DIY music scenes, he has released albums, EPs and cassettes of experimental electronics and participated in SHAPE+ Platform, a European initiative for emerging audio-visual artists and musicians.
His various pursuits are united by a common inspiration: the idea of Glazmo, a post-industrial dystopian city he devised where recorded sounds are currency and it's illegal to produce new ones. The ban motivates underground counterfeiters, or audio technicians who covertly synthesize, record and circulate sounds. Glazmo's extreme pollution compels residents to regularly escape the city via its public transportation system, "Jumpservice ports," a glitch-prone method of teleportation that sometimes abandons users in space or time.
"For a long time I kept [Glazmo] to myself and used it as a tool just for me," Torr told us. "Sometimes you don't really know why you're making this song or piece of art, and now I can be like, 'I'm making it for this lore for this reality.' And I decided that it's cool for it to be more public."
Glazmo debuted in Torr's work in the form of set pieces for one of his live performances, and now as his muse for Glazmo Transmissions, a Bitwig sound package presented in collaboration with Czech hardware manufacturer Bastl Instruments. The raw material used in the package — mutant synth sounds, odd ambiances, etc. — Torr generated and/or processed with their gear, sampled from forgotten electronics he gleaned from flea markets, or recorded in arcane locations like urban sewers and haunted caves. These he sorted into a collection of extraterrestrial Drum Machines, slimy Sampler presets, and Grid patches full of audible rust and patina, each treated by a chain of Bitwig audio FX.
"The process [for making Glazmo Transmissions] was like, putting myself into situations that had a high chance of interesting audio things happening," Torr explained. "It's like, 'Let's go to a place that's sonically unique in some way.' It could be on a technical level, like the echo or the reverb or the materials there that produce a certain timbre, or it could be a weird situation."
The result is a unique, bold assortment of presets and clips that can emit textured drones and glitchy sound FX as well as more traditional leads, keys and basses — all with Torr's special twist. "The package reveals a lot of my sound design process, but it doesn't reveal much of my composition process," he said.
Although the content in the package bears Torr's distinct taste and aesthetic, it can be used in a variety of musical contexts, styles and workflows. "I wanted to make it more universal," he said. "I'm not giving you 100% of my aesthetic. I'm giving you 50%, and the way you fill it to 100 is your decision. Anyone can use it for any type of music — it doesn't have to be crazy sound design-y music." To that end, he designed each preset so that its components — note FX, instruments, audio processing chains — can work separately and in any context a user desires.
"My aim was really to make tools for people to use. It wasn't really to present myself," said Torr. "It was more like, to present an aesthetic that people can bend to their own aesthetic. You can sprinkle it on top of anything."