Dorian Concept (born Oliver Thomas Johnson; 1984 in Vienna), is an Austrian composer, producer, and keyboard artist, whose work draws on an eclectic variety of sources including modal and free jazz, funk, hip-hop, and electronic, ambient, and soundscape music. Johnson adopted his stage name as a teenager as a reference to the Dorian scale.
Dorian Concept is also a member of the Austrian funk band Jacob's Salty and Bamboozling Ladder (JSBL). He also has periodically toured as a keyboarder for Flying Lotus (with Richard Spaven on drums) and collaborated with the Cinematic Orchestra.
He studied multimedia art with a focus on acoustic engineering and graphics at the University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg from 2005-2009. During this period, he won Elektronikland Salzburg prizes for composition in electronic music in 2005 and 2007 and released his first EP on line in 2006. Between 2006 and 2008, he also posted a popular series of five short videos on YouTube under the moniker of "yorktownrecreation" called "Fooling Around on Micro Korg" that show him improvising on the Micro Korg (and other keyboards, such as the Alesis Micron, Korg Nanokey, and Casio SA-21) and totalled over one million views after posting. He is among the self-proclaimed generation of "bedroom producers" who participated in the emergence of an international beat community based the accessibility of digital production technology and early Internet fora, such as MySpace, in the first decade of the 2000s.
In 2007, the BBC Radio 1 producer Benji B "discovered" Dorian Concept at the Red Bull Music Academy in Toronto, where Paul Movahedi, a Viennese bandmate of his and RMBA participant, gave Benji B a CD with 10 unreleased Dorian Concept tracks that Benji B started airing on his show and playing in London clubs. BBC Radio 1's Gilles Peterson also started giving Dorian Concept air-time on his program "Worldwide" and included him in the line-up of worldwide events, and Dorian Concept subsequently started to receive invitations to major electronic music festivals. He also participated in the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona in 2008 and has since been involved in a number of Red Bull Music Academy events.
His first album, When Planets Explode, appearead in 2009 preceded and followed by a number of EPs and remixes. In 2010, Ninja Tune invited him to contribute a track, "Her Tears Taste Like Pears," to its twentieth anniversary box set, Ninja Tune XX, and Ninja released an EP of his under the same title shortly thereafter. He performed at a number of Ninja XX events in Europe in 2010, including the Ninja gala celebration at Royal Albert Hall with the London Metropolitan Orchestra and the Cinematic Orcherstra in November, where he arranged and performed tracks from his Ninja EP for an ensemble including London Metropolitan string quartet accompaniment and the Cinematic Orchestra's saxophonist Tom Chant.
In 2011, Jason Swincoe invited him to continue his collaboration with Cinematic Orchestra by asking him to compose film music (with Tom Chant) for two avant-garde shorts by Peter Tscherkassky, "Outer Space" and "Dream Work," for the Cinematic Orchestra's "In Motion" series in which musicians are asked to compose original scores for classic short films, which also gave him an additional opportunity to perform in a formal concert settings with string accompaniment at the Barbican Centre in London and Tokyo. He also has performed in a more formal setting at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York City.
As of 2011, his touring and production activity dropped off with the exception of a few remixes, and he spend over two years working on a new sound and material for his second album, Joined Ends, which Ninja Tune released in October 2014.
Although he had classical piano training as a child, he does not consider himself to be classically trained. As an autodidact, he identifies funk, hip-hop, jazz, and electronica as the primary influences for his music. His music cannot "easily be categorized, yet he has already developed his own, recognisable sound" as Benji B has observed in his blog in 2008.
Reviewers of his original releases have noted that his sound "fuses technical jazz flair with . . .programming skills, and strictly bumping beats with abstract electronica harmonics, . . ." and is "synthetic, electronic and beat-driven, and yet . . . musical." "Unconventional chord changes, expressive dynamics and quirky layers of counterpoint melodies,..." also have been identified as "...parts of his unmistakable musical voice,..." along with his ability to "...dot effortlessly through different genres and styles: from sublime electronica to hyperactive garage to avant-garde dancehall."
His trademark instrument for production and performance has been the MicroKORG synthesizer. During solo live sets, he has used the Ableton software to play his tracks and improvises over them on the MicroKORG or manipulates them with the MicroKORG or the tools available on DJ consules. On his "minimal set-up", examples are available online.
The release of Joined Ends in 2014 marked a departure from his established musical voice and reliance on the Microkorg as a platform for digital production and performance. Johnson purchased older retro equipment, including a Moog synthesizer, Wurlizter electronic piano, and Roland SH 101, and began to work with analogue media, including his own voice. His aspiration was--in comparison to his frentic, established sound club--to "do something simple." His tracks are based on the technique of recording himself performing with analogue media and then "self-sampling" the recorded material in the course of production. In an interview, he has described himself as "an autodidact jazz musician, who samples himself." To perform this new material and sound, he also developed a new trio stage show with his long-standing Viennese friends and band-mates from JSBL: Paul Movahedi ("The Clonius") on bass and Clemens Bacher ("Cid Rim") on percussion.
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