The universe is making music all the time

Time Has Told Me: K. Leimer

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Interview with Kerry Leimer.

“There was a sense of the many quiet nights spent bewildered by tape recorders and analog synthesizers, stuff just constantly getting away from me and the few moments when ideas and ability met on level ground.”

—Kerry Leimer

Words: Mark Carry


RVNG Intl. is a Brooklyn-based music institution that operates on few but heavily fortified principles, dealing with forward-reaching artists that ceaselessly push the sonic envelope. From visionary luminaries such as Julia Holter, Holly Herndon, Blondes, Maxmillion Dunbar et al, RVNG Intl. has consistently delivered some of the most adventurous, enthralling and breathtaking records this past decade. One of the label’s cornerstones has become the awe-inspiring archival series which has featured (and celebrated) musical pioneers Craig Leon, Ariel Kalma and K. Leimer. The third installment of the archival series — released last year — was Seattle-based sound sculptor, K. Leimer and a vast treasure of ambient voyages entitled ‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’. I simply cannot think of a more special musical document to have graced my life this past year than Kerry Leimer’s resolutely unique and deeply human canon of pioneering ambient music.

A glimpse into Leimer’s creative process is touched upon on the compilation’s liner notes: “The loop provided an instant structure – a sort of fatalism – the participation of the tape machine in shaping and extending the music was a key to setting self-deterministic systems in motion and held clear relationship to my interests in fine art.”

‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’ offers the perfect entry point (across an exhaustive double-album and thirty spellbinding tracks) into the beautifully enthralling and ever-revolving world inhabited by the special soul of Mr. Kerry Leimer.

Recently released on Leimer’s own imprint Palace of Lights, ‘The Grey Catalog’ encompasses an entire spectrum of enthralling sounds and textures; incorporating percussion, electric guitar, bass as well as found sound, digital and analog synthesis and sampled instruments. Album opener ‘Allegory’ gently fades into focus with gorgeous string passages reminiscent of the likes of Kranky’s Christina Vantzou and Leaf Label’s Murcof. Drifting tones of chimes and soft electronic pulses envelop the electronic balladry of ‘Ritual Thinning’. Elements of analog synths and bass are wonderfully incorporated into ‘Clasp’ before the drone soundscapes of ‘Gesture’ evokes ethereal and surreal dreamscapes of blissed-out sounds.

One of the album’s defining moments arrives with the hypnotic ‘Sung’ built on a returning violin motif that is masterfully melded with piano and bass, in turn, creating an utterly transcendent electro-acoustic exploration. Field recordings and thudding percussion expands the dynamic range on ‘Poesie’, further highlighting the wonderful diversity on display throughout ‘The Grey Catalog’. Neo-classical elements are masterfully embedded in the cinematic cut ‘Europe’, whilst the proceeding ‘Casual Suffering’ – the album’s longest piece – further expands the sonic envelope with dense strings reminiscent of the Touch catalog. The stunning closer ‘At Remove’ feels a distant companion to the opening ‘Allegory’ with its scintillating strings that ebb and flow into the forefront of your heart’s mind.


‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.



Interview with Kerry Leimer.

Please discuss for me your childhood and your early exposure to music while growing up in Chicago. Was there a strong musical background in your family? What records would your parents have been listening to at home?

Kerry Leimer: There was no musical background to speak of. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from post WWII Austria, via Canada. They gradually adopted American MOR of the time, stuff I refer to as misogynist cocktail pop — repulsive on many levels. As befits a lad of Austrian extraction I was given a few accordion lessons, mostly focused on learning the accompanying dance steps. It strikes me now that I was most probably tone deaf: music made no sense to me whatsoever. Tonality was something I had to learn to recognize, and given the environment, there was no real compulsion to do so. Early rock was completely lost on me — experiencing even a two minute song from that period remains nightmarish. So I came to an interest quite late, and it took some very specific exposure. A von Karajan recording of Mozart’s Requiem; ‘Epitaph’ and ‘Dust be Diamonds’ managed to cement an interest that had begun to make itself known a few years earlier, through some ill-defined attraction to parts of ‘Revolver’ and most of ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’. This interest expanded rapidly but to mostly obscure music. I had a suspicion of and dislike for widely popular forms.

Your family permanently settled in Seattle in 1967. Can you please describe Seattle in the late 60’s/early 70’s? What music of the time resonated powerfully for you that would inspire you to create your own unique blend of music?

KL: Seattle’s effect on me was principally depressive. The town was referred to at the time as The Space Needle and the Box it Came In, the box being the only office tower downtown, headquarters for what was then SeaFirst Bank, no doubt the money laundering arm of Boeing. It was a blue collar town, nice landscape, with an unremarkable manscape bereft even of sea shanties. The only things of immediate interest were learning about the Wobblies and to somehow live in nearly perpetual dark. Most of the people I met and went to school with were actively hostile to the arts, pro-war and, between bullying sessions, deeply involved in various sportsball activities. But my overriding interest was the visual arts, so early days were preoccupied with a study of 20th Century art that isolated me from what I took to be an ignorant and angry social order. In many ways, the ideas I pursue were shaped by the visual arts.

Please take me back to your first experiments with sound. What equipment did you have at your disposal? I believe you collected instruments from the local pawn shop- I am sure you must have some beautiful stories – and magical discoveries – born from these trips. I wonder do you feel the creative process involved, very early on has changed or altered in any way over the subsequent album releases?

KL: That would be tape collage with a little AIWA reel-to-reel. It had a splicing block and some splicing tape and I’d just cut up voice recordings, sometimes shredded to unusable size. It was all there: speed change, direction change, odd juxtaposition. Great fun and instantly rewarding: much less work than drawing or painting and generally neater than collage. Then found sound: mic’d stuff off television, radio, random sounds in- and out- of doors. The equipment was always of greater interest than instruments, if such distinction need be made. I found parts in pawn shops, built a primitive bass guitar, located an echoplex, then acquired a few MXR boxes, a Mu-Tron Bi-Phase. Thanks to an interest I had in piano my parents acquired an electric organ — I still do not comprehend this — so first up were loopy echoed drones between rote instruction of “Beautiful Dreamer” and the like. Multi-tracking was still some years off for me, so things were restricted to a single pass and a very few bounces. The first “albums” were done with an art school friend. John Holt had a Les Paul and we produced two cassettes of these sorts of mash-up titled I’d Rather Cadaver, probably a reference to the Surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse, and Grey Cows which culminates in a sparkling interpretation of Faust’s ‘The Sad Skinhead’.

In terms of ambient music, who do you feel have been pioneers of the genre? I was very interested to read that you felt Cluster’s II record was a key revelation early on. I would love for you to discuss this particular record and its significance on you as an artist and sound sculptor?

KL: All the early work of those artists — Cluster, Harmonia, Neu! –– even to some extent records such as IrrlichtCyborg and Zeit –– seemed in a very particular sense to be simple and within reach. I wouldn’t call them ambient and, given the manner in which the meaning of the term has changed, I wouldn’t really call much of what I do or am interested in to be ambient. The horrors visited upon our understanding by genre definitions remains an issue for some other discussion, but the general attractor for me was a form of simplicity, free of grand gesture, self-regulating and owning to the often overt presence of tape or some recording medium.

In the liner-notes of the RVNG Intl’s compilation ‘A Period Of Review: 1975-1983’, you describe the “instant structure” and “sort of fatalism” the tape loop provided you with. This sense of wonderment and fascination with sound is dotted across the multitude of beguiling tracks contained on this very special compilation. I would love to gain an insight please into the looping process that is inherent in these sonic creations and indeed the layering of the various sounds.

KL: The open loop’s appeal is twofold. If the work is to be additive, the open loop is a very efficient tool for piling up a lot of sound without a lot of instruments or tracks — things that were in very short supply at that time. The other is that it’s somewhat self-deterministic. It doesn’t have to be, but it tends to behave as an automatic way to set limitations and then keep you within them.

There is very much a DIY aesthetic to your unique and revelatory music. I love how there are a myriad of ideas in each and every pristine ambient cut. It must have been a fulfilling project for you to cull together these – many of which are previously unreleased – tracks that offers a wonderful snapshot and retrospective of your work? Which songs in particular do you feel you’re most proud of or in a way surprised you, when you first listened back to the final recordings?

KL: Writing and recording are actually pretty difficult for me. Listening to the work, no matter how far removed in time, becomes a sort of chore. The memories are usually about the particular struggles and consequent shortfalls. There was a sense of the many quiet nights spent bewildered by tape recorders and analog synthesizers, stuff just constantly getting away from me and the few moments when ideas and ability met on level ground. In this instance, at the distance of A Period of Review, there was a bit of nostalgia for other people involved or in proximity. But recall that APOR was curated by individuals other than myself and that at least as many pieces were left out as were included.  There’s simply no point in favourites for me: now that it’s been circulated listeners make their own interpretations and the music assumes its own, independent, life.

You launched the Palace of Lights record label in 1979 with your wife Dorothy Cross. A plethora of innovative albums, on various formats would see the light of day on this pioneering label, including your own solo works. Please take me back to the label’s origins and the year of ’79 when the label was given its wings, so to speak? Can you recount some of your most cherished memories from the Paradise of Lights’ musical venture? 

KL: I need some time to consider this question. It’s Palace of Lights and still exists. It started in 1978, a few years before Dorothy and I met… it was a lot of work and many people wanted us to make them stars, which wasn’t the idea. So the memories oscillate between the great joy of building a studio / label and the utter disillusionment of being confronted with people seeking fame and fortune…



‘A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983)’  is available now on RVNG Intl.


Written by markcarry

January 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Mixtape: This Uneven Thing [A Fractured Air Mix]

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This Uneven Thing [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:



01. Antonio Sanchez ‘Get Ready’ [‘Birdman’ OST/Warner Jazz]
02. A Winged Victory For The Sullen ‘ATOMOS I’ [Erased Tapes/Kranky]
03. Ariel Kalma ‘Almora Sunrise’ [RVNG Intl]
04. Alasdair Roberts ‘This Uneven Thing’ [Drag City]
05. Teho Teardo ‘The Outside Force’ [‘Ballyturk’ OST/Specula]
06. Erik K Skodvin ‘Shining, Burning’ [Sonic Pieces]
07. Black to Comm ‘Hands’ [Type]
08. A New Line (Related) ‘The Slow Sound of Your Life’ [Home Assembly Music]
09. Kiasmos ‘Bent’ [Erased Tapes]
10. Thom Yorke ‘Guess Again!’ [Self-Released]
11. Antonio Sanchez ‘Doors and Distance’ [‘Birdman’ OST/Warner Jazz]
12. Charles Mingus ‘Slop’ [Columbia]
13. Mogwai ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ (Nils Frahm Remix) [Rock Action]
14. Peter Broderick ‘Colours of the Night (Satellite)’ (Greg Haines Dub Mix) [Bella Union]
15. Noel Ellis ‘Memories’ [Summer/Light In The Attic]

The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter



Step Right Up: We Like We

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Interview with We Like We.

“How many times does life actually evolve as anticipated? There is something extremely beautiful about these processes and transformations.”

—Katinka Fogh Vindelev

Words: Mark Carry


We like We is an experimental performance and sound quartet based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Encompassing worlds of neo-classical, experimental pop and avant-garde soundscapes, the highly promising and gifted quartet comprises of Katrine Grarup Elbo (violin) Josefine Opsahl (cello) Sara Nigard Rosendal (percussion) and Katinka Fogh Vindelev (voice). All four members are classically trained, but each share a desire for exploring, experimenting, jamming and shaping a sound of their own.

Expanding their inspiration and influence from the classical roots We like We makes music driven by intuition and playfulness. I feel a lovely parallel exists between the Danish quartet’s highly-evocative and intuitive compositions and Iceland’s Amiina such is the unwavering beauty and utter magic the masterful musicians create with each sacred note. Through their collaborative compositions, We like We creates music that travels beyond the grid of genres. The band’s debut album ‘A New Age of Sensibility’ contains a kaleidoscope of enchanting sounds from the rhythmic pulses of ‘Anticipation’; spellbinding intermezzi capturing moments of divine transcendence (‘Tango’ and ‘I Began To Fall Apart’) and multi-layered choral patterns interwoven with immaculate instrumentation of strings and percussion (‘The Sound Of My Own Voice’).

The group’s first live performance took place at FROST festival in Copenhagen in February 2013: a unique double-bill concert with Efterklang, playing on top of a 1400-ton heavy diesel engine. Lead singer Katinka Vindelev has toured the world with Copenhagen’s Efterklang in addition to being in the choir for U.S. luminary singer-songwriter Julia Holter. Furthermore, Vindelev’s solo project of I am now offers an invaluable insight into an incredible talent. Violinist Katrine Elbo has performed with Danish artists Rasmus Seebach, Mew and Sanne Salomonson as well as a host of others (including The Danish National Symphony Orchestra). Percussionist Sara Rosendal has been an integral part to various Danish orchestras like DRUO, DRSO and The Royal Danish Orchestra. Josefine Opsahl (cello) has worked with a wide array of composers, most lately with Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina.

A New Age of Sensibility’ is out now on The Being Music.


welikewe_pressfoto lille

Interview with We Like We.

Congratulations on the stunning debut album, ‘A New Age of Sensibility’. One of the striking aspects of the debut record is the sheer range of styles and musical traditions; at once it feels a beautifully realized fusion of modern-classical and pop music. Firstly, please discuss the writing process for these musical compositions? I can imagine certain pieces such as ‘The Sound of My Own Voice’ and ‘Tisina’ took quite some time to come to completion?

Sara Nigard Rosendal: Thank you for the kind words. All of our music emerges from a place of curiosity and playfulness. In the making of this album we had long jam-sessions that we recorded. We then listened to these and found some interesting themes or sounds that we tried to develop. We have worked with different dogmas in order to always expand the scale of what each of our instruments can do. None of the music is written down and there is always a touch of improvisation when we play. We like it that way, because it keeps the tracks alive.

Katinka Fogh Vindelev: This album has evolved slowly within a period of 2 years. Creating the music after getting invitations from two different progressive festivals in Copenhagen. Firstly FROST in February 2013 and later same year the experimental Wundergrund Festival. So instead of rushing into a studio, we’ve shaped and composed the music with a live concert mindset so to speak, cutting into the core of what we as a group are capable of playing and wanting to express together.

SNR:Tisina’ means Silence and was an attempt to make a track that dwells on simple phrases and sounds and then create a state of meditation. It became very clear, however, that in the deep of silence there are a few demons as well. This was not something we planned – it just happened. It was not really a hard piece to make, it just requires the right state of mind and a good sense of reacting and communication.

KFV: The Sound Of My Own Voice’ was a more complex composition yes, but as we’re always on the lookout for the essence of our ideas, it slowly revealed itself as repeating patterns slightly out of sync, each instrument representing an individual voice, explaining the title as well ‘The Sound Of My Own Voice’.

In terms of the instrumentation, there are gorgeously crafted arrangements throughout the record, for voice, strings and percussion also. I would love to gain an insight into your classically rooted backgrounds? Each member clearly brings their own unique vision to this special record and clearly, a deep connection is formed between the members. 

SNR: We are all studying at the conservatory. Josefine and Katrine (cello,violin) are currently doing their masters at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Katinka (voice) has a BA degree in classical voice and is currently doing her Masters in Electronic Music and Sound Art alongside private singing lessons in Copenhagen and Berlin. I have a BA from the Royal Danish Academy of Music and I am currently studying my masters in the music academy in Malmö, Sweden. We are all very happy to undergo this education. It gives us a high technical level on our instruments that then provides freedom to express ourselves. Having the entire music history as a background when creating music, is extremely helpful. 

I would also love for you to recount your memories of forming We Like We? It’s fascinating (and very fitting) that your first live performance took place at a festival in Copenhagen alongside Efterklang in 2013. You all must have fond memories of this particular concert.

KFV: It took us about a year before we met Sara, so We like We was founded by Katrine [Grarup Elbo], Josefine [Opsahl] and I in August 2012 collaborating with an electronic musician, who happened to be my sister. Due to a life changing event, including the birth of my wonderful niece she pulled out shortly after our first concert and We like We continued for a while being a trio. This was an important transition, realizing that we wanted to create all the electronic layers ourselves as a natural expansion of our acoustic instruments instead of having a fourth member with a non classical background effectuating us. One day in the middle of an improvisation session I desperately grabbed a pair of claves and it became crystal clear to everyone in the room, we needed a percussionist. (Haha) Luckily Sara, who was already a friend of Katrine and Josefine’s, had common ideas and courage and joined We like We in the late Summer 2013, completing the band.

SNR: There is definitely a unique chemistry between the four of us. Each of us really needed the platform that We like We is. We all needed to do something more than what we would get from our schools. We wanted to be a part of the initial phase of the creative process – to be more than interpreters.

KFV: Regarding our first concert alongside Efterklang in February 2013, it was of course an extraordinary event for us. It felt like the beginning of something very unique, That night we performed on top of a 1400 ton heavy Diesel engine, wearing handmade costumes, that we designed ourselves and we had even hired a light designer. Liberating, personal and inspiring at the same time. I’ve been touring with Efterklang for a couple of years (singing and playing keys) alongside starting up with We like We back in Copenhagen, so we were already closely connected personally and professionally. Efterklang have curiously followed us from the very beginning, supported us, showing up at our concerts etc. Such an acknowledgement from a band, that is known for taking quite some musically risks themselves, does of course mean a lot to us.

My current favourite must be ‘The Sound Of My Own Voice’. It’s such an utterly captivating composition with intricate string arrangements and stunningly beautiful choral patterns. Please discuss the construction of this particular composition? I wonder did the words and voice parts come first or was it the cello and violin parts? I just love the dynamic, and how the piece gradually unfolds (and blossoms) before your very eyes.

SNR:The Sound of my own Voice’ was supposed to be a strong proclamation of the right to be an individual. In the case of this particular track, the message came before the lyrics and the music. However, we discovered that there is a lot of pain and vulnerability in saying that you only need yourself. It is a battle between individualism and communion… ‘The Sound of my own Voice’ is a track that has had different shapes before the album-version, where we have worked with different melodic patterns played displaced. It becomes a kind of ‘free polyphony’.

I love the sequencing of ‘A New Age of Sensibility’ where several short passages are inter-woven with the more lengthy pieces. For example, ‘I Began To Fall Apart’, despite it being just over one minute in duration, a spectrum of emotion ascends into the forefront of your heart and mind. Was it a conscious decision to include shorter pieces (which also serve wonderfully as interludes) on the album?

SNR: We have thought of the shorter pieces as intermezzi (we mostly use classical terms when talking about music, because that is the language we know). When in the practice room, we would say ‘we need some ginger’ – something to ‘rinse the mouth for new flavours’. It was conscious that some pieces would be short and some long and that some pieces would only involve one or a few of us (‘I’, ‘Wakey Wakey Beast’, ‘Tango’…). We wanted the entire album to be one long narrative but for each track to still tell a story in itself.

The album was mixed in collaboration with sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard. Was there a stage in the music-making process that proved most challenging for you? Also, during the recording sessions themselves, was it a case that happy accidents would occur naturally that would lead to sketches or ideas of a song?

KFV: It was quite an intense but super smooth recording session. 11 tracks in 3 days back in February 2014 at the former National Danish Radio’s epic studios in Copenhagen. Magical almost, suddenly being in a studio, experiencing how we nailed a lot of the tracks in first take. We obviously had common visions. Recording all at once, giving the album this unpolished live touch that I find very compelling.

Having Jacob Kirkegaard on board, was a fine addition to the post-production, as he has such good ears, specialized in mainly unheard sounds. As he is also my partner he and I spent all summer in NYC on an artist in residency programme, working sporadically on the mix from April sending it back and forth across the Atlantic, for the other’s to give feedback. It turned out to be quite a time-consuming and challenging process while our music demands a lot of shaping and balancing, the instruments in between, being super dynamic, consisting of a group of four equally important voices. But it was worth the effort, of course and we wrapped up the final mix by the end of August.

SNR: Working with acoustic instruments alongside a sometimes heavy effectuation can be challenging, or at least it can be time-consuming to get the balance right. There were many magical moments. I remember that the track ‘Unite Me’, we really nailed first take. When we listened to it, right after recording, it was a complete feeling if unified transcendence. We all cried.

‘Anticipation’ conjures up the timeless sound of Steve Reich’s ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ with its sublime rhythmic pulse and compelling arrangements. I would love for you to discuss the various parts to this particular composition.

SNR: We are big fans of Reich so it is nice to be associated with him. ‘Anticipation’ is one of the more energetic pieces on the album and definitely is inspired by minimalistic pulsating rhythm. This helps underline the title as well.

KFV: We wanted to work with an often experienced consequence of anticipation – at least according to us. You are expecting something. You are eager. You are pulsating from excitement. You are narrowing down your experience of what is actually happening, overshadowed by your wishes, your anticipation, instead of staying connected and true to the moment. And suddenly, bang, reality hits you. You are out of breath.

We found it interesting to work with this sort of unexpected collapse. Illustrated by a hectic rhythm suddenly dissolving, breaking down, and turning into a slow tango – out of nowhere. How many times does life actually evolve as anticipated? There is something extremely beautiful about these processes and transformations.

In terms of inspiration and musical influences, please discuss your most cherished composers and artists? Also, what are your earliest musical memories? 

SNR: One of the biggest and also early musical memories is listening to Per Nørgårds I Ching (solo percussion) when I was about eleven. That was when I realized what music could really do. Especially the third movement including a kalimba was mesmerizing to me. My earliest memories is of my father playing the guitar, I think.

KFV: I was very much into Chopin as a kid, but who wasn’t? It’s so catchy and soulful at the same time! Now I listen to all sorts of music and sound. I easily get bored when it comes to mainstream music, classical as well as pop/rock, it’s just too predictable. Silence is great though. I just worked with Julia Holter, and I think she is such an interesting composer. I love when artists manage to create catchy music with a twist. That’s a true skill. Who else… Terry Riley, John Cage, Schumann and Kuku Sebsebe.



A New Age of Sensibility’ is out now on The Being Music.


ON SALE: Colleen plus special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh / Cork Opera House / Sunday 3 May 2015

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We’re delighted to announce a special double-bill concert comprising the world-renowned composers Colleen (France) and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Ireland). Each artist has developed a wholly unique playing style and highly distinctive approach to their own respective instrument of choice: Colleen’s viola da gamba and Ó Raghallaigh’s Hardanger d’Amore fiddle. Taking place on the May Bank Holiday Weekend, this concert will be Colleen’s only Irish performance of 2015 in support of her soon-to-be-released fifth studio album on Thrill Jockey Records. In addition, this one-off concert will take place in the intimate setting of the Cork Opera House where the stage itself will be shared by both musicians and audience alike, making for an unforgettable experience. Colleen plus special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh performs at Cork Opera House on Sunday 3rd May 2015, tickets are €17.50.

Tickets are available now from the Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork), telephone: + 353 (0) 21 – 427 0022, or online from the following link:ó-raghallaigh

Colleen by Iker Spozio_1_web


The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, (an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album will be released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.

While her first album, ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, was made up entirely of acoustic samples taken from her eclectic record collection, second album ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ saw her exploring a wide range of instruments which she all played herself – cello, classical guitar, ukulele, music boxes, windchimes, and a rare 19th century glass harmonicon. After the music box interlude of the ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’ EP, she made an old dream come true with 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’– a modern album using almost exclusively baroque instruments (viola da gamba, spinet, clarinet, classical guitar and crystal glasses), focusing on their resonance and the silence between the notes. Colleen’s performance at Cork Opera House will mark Cécile Schott’s eagerly-awaited return to Cork to mark the release of her fifth studio album.


“An album of unusual sensuality and feeling.”
(The Irish Times)

“…a gleaming treasure.”
(Folk Radio UK)

“Like nothing you’ve ever heard. Astonishing.”

“Lyrical and full of light…magical.”






Ireland’s Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh plays traditional and contemporary folk music on Hardanger d’Amore and other fiddles. The masterful musician and gifted composer is undoubtedly a national treasure; heralding a distinctive and utterly compelling voice in Irish contemporary music. In addition to being an established solo artist, he performs with two groups The Gloaming and This is How we Fly, in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien & Brendan Begley, a trio with Martin Hayes & Peadar Ó Riada, and as part of many other collaborative projects.

2014 was a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January ‘14 saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October, organized by Irish Music Network. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning albums: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration with U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman.


“a seamless and unfettered soundscape… there’s enough space and light here for influences as diverse as baroque to minimalism to breathe free… the work of musicians reveling in the moment: a rare find.”
(The Irish Times)

“possibly one of the most fulsome and beautiful recordings I have ever heard. Great music has this magnificent power over us, a power to which the heart must yield always and without regret.”
(Iarla Ó Lionáird)

“ASTOUNDING… Replete with unexpected melodic twists and turns, the tunes are highly cinematic, painting richly impressionistic images.”
(Colm O’Hare, Hot Press)




Fractured Air presents: COLLEEN plus very special guest CAOIMHÍN Ó RAGHALLAIGH / Cork Opera House / Sunday 3 May 2015

Tickets are available now from the Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork), telephone: + 353 (0) 21 – 427 0022, or online from the following link:ó-raghallaigh

Mixtape: Holding Pattern [A Fractured Air Mix]

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Holding Pattern [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:



01. Miles Davis ‘Julien Dans L’Ascenseur’ [Fontana]
02. Seán Mac Erlaine ‘Dingle’ [Ergodos]
03. Loscil ‘Holding Pattern’ [Kranky]
04. Klara Lewis ‘Msuic III’ [Peder Mannerfelt produktion]
05. Edvard Graham Lewis ‘Bluebird’ [Editions Mego]
06. Julia Kent ‘Missed’ [Important]
07. Fikret Kızılok ‘Haberin Var Mı?’ [Pharaway Sounds]
08. Sattar ‘Kashki’ [Pharaway Sounds]
09. Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Tõnu Kaljuste ‘Für Lennart In Memoriam’ [ECM]
10. Nico ‘Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams’ [Verve]
11. The Stepkids feat. Krondon & Percee P ‘Legends’ (Remix) [Stones Throw]
12. Homeboy Sandman ‘America, the Beautiful’ [Stones Throw]
13. HTRK ‘Feels like Love’ [Ghostly]
14. William Basinski ‘Melancholia I’ [2062]
15. Lewis ‘Things Just Happen That Way’ [Light In The Attic]
16. Mica Levi ‘Love’ [Milan]
17. The Langley Schools Music Project ‘In My Room’ [Bar/None]
18. Laura Nyro ‘The Wind’ [Columbia]
19. Tom Waits ‘Rainbirds’ [Island]

The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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Central And Remote: Adrian Crowley

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Interview with Adrian Crowley.

“There are always words to be written.”

—Adrian Crowley

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Steve Gullick


Some blue morning soon,
We will rise and step into the glowing.
Where once were tears there shall be gladness,
Where once were splinters hope shall rise.”

‘Some Blue Morning’

Some Blue Morning’ is the highly anticipated seventh studio album from Irish singer-songwriter, Adrian Crowley, which reveals (yet again) a song-writing master-class whose poetic prose and interwoven rich sonic canvas captivates the heart. Recorded in Dublin with long-term collaborator Steve Shannon, ‘Some Blue Morning’ features members of the London string ensemble Geese, Ireland’s Seti The First and Waterford singer-songwriter Katie Kim duets on several songs.

The album’s glorious title-track –and sublime opener – unfolds a blissful sense of euphoria as the guiding light of Crowley’s achingly beautiful vocal casts a glowing light over the horizon. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is a song of hope: where rapture replaces tears. The immaculate instrumentation of drums and strings awakens the timeless sound of Jean-Claude Vannier and Serge Gainsbourg as fleeting moments of rare beauty flickers like the embers of a glowing summer sun.

Hungry Grass’ follows next; its warmth, immediacy and delicacy astounds each and every heart pore. The transformative work contains soaring strings that shares the illuminating spark of U.S. group Rachel’s such is its mesmerizing brilliance. A skyline at dusk. The impending arrival of darkness. The comfort in solace. Dancing flames of “cyan, silver, crimson and gold”. ‘Hungry Grass’ is a distillation of a seamless array of transient moments; snapshots or artefacts of life. As Crowley sings “the embers wink before they die”, I feel the hurt of loss but also, the treasure trove of entrusted memories we share and hold onto.

Lay me down on the hungry grass
Among the seedlings and the winter bark.”

‘Hungry Grass’

Some weeks before the eagerly awaited arrival of ‘Some Blue Morning’, I was fortunate to witness Adrian’s enthralling live performance. The special setting was Cork’s L’Attitude 51 wine-bar/sometime-live venue – formerly the near-mythical Lobby bar, a venue the Irish troubadour visited many times in the past. A small space, steeped in history, and so fitting that the prized songwriter would return last October. As part of the East Cork Early Music festival, Crowley was joined by the gifted talents of cellist Ilse DeZiah and violinist Justin Grounds. As the trio weaved their spell-binding magic, the audience was invited to soak in the splendour of the artist’s world of song. The power of words: its alluring charm, infinite radiance and raw emotional depth. The night offered a vivid snapshot into the intricate arrangements of Crowley’s sonic creations; from ‘The Beekeeper’s Wife’ to ‘Juliet I’m In Flames’ (the latter which featured the sole use of the Irish singer’s guitar – the reverb hanging beautifully in the air) and all points in between (not least the majority of ‘Some Blue Morning’s illuminating batch of songs).

One song that immediately comes to mind is the hypnotic ‘The Angel’ with its cinematic, eerie strings and Crowley’s lingering baritone floating beneath. The utterly transcendent tour-de-force contains such shape-shifting sounds, mood and rhythm that (larger) groups such as Balanescu Quartet or Kronos Quartet could only summon to create. Elsewhere, the achingly beautiful ‘Trouble’ – one of the many gorgeous duets with divine Irish songstress Katie Kim – centres on starting anew with the dream of a quieter life.

The Hatchet Song’ comprises ethereal strings and the similarly dream-like baritone voice that melts effortlessly into the sonic palette like pockets of ice on a woodland path. The deeply affecting ballad is reminiscent of Robert Wyatt and Lambchop whose poetic prose details an engraver with “a blade so eager”. The folk opus ‘Magpie Song’ flickers between the surreal and the visceral, where Crowley sings of “the ways of chance” that results in the magpie taking flight (after several encounters with the revered bird).

The Leonard Cohen-esque ballad ‘Follow If You Must’ is yet another remarkable achievement. The stunningly beautiful ballad (again featuring Katie Kim’s awakening voice) feels as though it’s forged from a “forgotten dream”: the melded voices of Adrian and Katie gracefully rises like the “morning dew”. The sheer beauty and utter transcendence unleashed by their momentous duets is nothing short of staggering. In fact, I’d like to think of this rare thing of beauty being kindred to the fireflies that light up the dark (sung by the pair on a later verse).

The cinematic spoken-word opus, ‘The Wild Boar’ – conjuring up the sound of a Cormac McCarthy travelogue – serves one of the album’s defining moments as “miles of pines” become entrenched in your memory. The striking narrative centres on a driver’s encounter with a mystical creature amidst a drive through a forest at dusk. A meditative and deeply contemplative experience is masterfully created in the opening verse: “He thought about his life and as his mind drifted/He was almost finding some kind of peace/All his frustrations of his troubled days seemed to fall away”. Crowley’s baritone evokes the richest of colours and detail, from the “distant hum of an engine”, the “clicking of a blinking indicator” along with the “scent of pine” and the “recent rain that infused the air.” The enraptured listener becomes hypnotized by the rhythm of Crowley’s poetic prose wherein a spellbinding magic takes hold of the mind’s imagination. Similarly, a sprawling canvas of mesmerizing sounds – beguiling soundscapes of meandering guitar tones, warm percussion and gentle ripples of acoustic guitar notes – floats majestically beneath Crowley’s soothing baritone. The words and music somehow evokes the vast expanses of the forest of trees; the sheer beauty of the wilderness and the further reaches of one’s mind where what once was unreachable has become attainable.

Some Blue Morning’ sees Adrian Crowley’s cherished songbook continuing to push the sonic envelope with enlightening tower of songs. I feel the opening verse of ‘Follow If You Must’ serves the perfect embodiment of Crowley’s superlative, sprawling canvas: “And the bonfire’s still burning bright/Throwing sparks up into the night/To linger there with the stars.”


‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.



Interview with Adrian Crowley.

Congratulations Adrian on the incredible new album, ‘Some Blue Morning’. It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about this truly beautiful work. Firstly, I’d love to gain an insight into the world that surrounds ‘Some Blue Morning’ and in what way you approached this record differently to its predecessor, ‘I See Three Birds Flying’.

Adrian Crowley: The pleasure is mine. Thank you, you are very kind! I will try to offer an answer! Well, I wrote the songs for ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ all in the same room and I wrote the songs for ‘Some Blue Morning’ in a different room… but both rooms are in the same house. I think that is an accurate description of my approach in more ways than one.

I also love the ode to Lee Hazelwood in the album-title. Furthermore, I feel the gorgeous duets between you and Katie Kim share that similarly magical spell cast by the timeless recordings of Nancy & Lee. Can you talk me through these particular duets, Adrian. Did you envision Katie would be part of these songs during the time of writing them? 

AC: The similarity in the title isn’t necessarily a coincidence but neither is it an ode in that way at all. The title, the phrases, the words I use resonate and have purpose in the songs I write, so I don’t try to mirror a song by someone else. But I often say, subconscious plays a part in how I work and I am always surprised when I wake up and see what I’ve written.

Gosh, I adore the duets of Nancy & Lee. They are gold to me. One of the decisions I’m proudest of in the making of this record was asking Katie to be involved. When I wrote the songs that she ended up singing on, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of duets. At first I heard wordless distant notes sung by a woman. It was very clear to me. For instance in the ‘The Magpie Song’ I heard a kind of haunting and dispossessed voice in the wilderness. And in ‘Follow If You Must’, I had already started recording the song and soon I imagined another voice there as part of the narrative and in a way to bring a different meaning to some of the passages.

It was uncharted territory for me, though, to invite someone in and give them my songs to sing. Sometimes the answer is with us all the time. I had spoken to Katie about the idea of making a record together. But it was a case of “when my record is done and when your record is done…and when we’re finished all the things that go with making a record…” Then I thought, that could take years… So I thought, why not get cracking now? And we can always do more later.

So I gave Katie a couple of songs and she came back with magnificent parts. So I gave her a couple of more songs and then I said, “here have more songs”. And then I said, “stop me if it’s all too much”. And she said, “keep them coming, Adrian, sure it’s grand”. And that was that. It was clear it had been a good idea.

In terms of contributions, the wonderful London-based string ensemble of Geese and Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy further heighten the rich sonic canvas of immense beauty. I would love to gain an insight into the arrangements of these new songs and the collaborative process that exists between you and these cast of musicians. 

AC: Well it’s more the case that Emma from Geese played on two songs: ‘The Magpie Song’ and ‘The Hatchet Song’ . Vince from Geese played viola on the latter. Emma, Vince and I had played ‘The Hatchet Song’ live before a few times, like in St Pancras Old Church in London and on a short tour in The Netherlands. We had developed that cascading, overlapping motif that grew and grew. Then in a bar in London I told Emma about a song I’d written about being incessantly assailed by a bird. I told her it had loads of verses and that I imagined her helping the narrative with her violin. She seemed intrigued. Then she played like a woman possessed.

Yes, Kevin Murphy plays cello on several of the songs. We have been working on live shows together too for quite a few years now and I like to think we have a special rapport. Mary Barnecutt who is also a member of Seti The First plays some cello on the record too. Both Kevin and Mary are part of my live show now. We just work intensely and quickly and then we arrive at the treatment that feels right. Many of the parts we developed further with Steve (Shannon) in the studio. Steve is very gifted, I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. It really is an exciting thing to have the string parts grow and grow. The song kind of tells you what it wants sometimes. It could be either sparse and skeletal or lush and resplendent.

There are an infinite array of moments distilled in each and every song on ‘Some Blue Morning’, like movements contained in a concerto. I wonder were there any happy accidents, so to speak that happened by chance during the making of the record? I can only imagine there must be quite a few stories behind each of these special songs.

AC: One thing I must say is that the vocal takes were far from laboured. I would say 80 or 90% of the vocals on the record are the first take. I am always aware that even if you are planning to put a vocal down as just a guide, it’s worth keeping in mind that it may be a keeper. I remember on one of the first days of the recording sessions Steve asked me to sit down in the live room and run through some  guide vocals to just get a handle on how it all wad sounding . Then a short few moments later we had what turned out to be the final vocal takes of about seven songs of the album. I think there is probably some kind of character in each song and what Steve calls artefacts in each song that have their own idiosyncrasies that probably would be impossible to replicate or repeat.

And speaking of happy accidents…I accidentally discovered I could play clarinet during the making of the album. I’m happy about that! I was browsing in my local charity shop one day and saw a black box on a glass shelf. I looked inside and there was a clarinet. I got the feeling that it should be mine. I bought it there and then and later that afternoon I started getting a sound out if it. Then I showed up in Steve’s studio with the black box tucked under my arm. Steve said “what have you got there?” Then we set about laying down clarinet parts. All as a result of walking into that charity shop by chance that day.

One of the album’s (many) defining moments arrives in part B with the cinematic spoken-word opus, ‘The Wild Boar’, conjuring up the sound of a Cormac McCarthy travelogue and the likes of ‘My Sister’ or ‘Chocolate’ by Tindersticks. I particularly love the lyric “He felt like a hunter for the first time in his life”. I would love to gain an insight into the narrative of ‘The Wild Boar’ and your memories of writing this poetic work? In some ways (in reference to the “miles of pines”), the song feels a distant companion to ‘Alice Among The Pines’. 

AC: It was exciting and revealing to me how ‘The Wild Boar’ came about. (And I love those two pieces by Tindersticks, especially ‘My Sister’). I spend a bit if time in France and once I had heard about something happening to a guy driving down a lonely road along the pine forests. The story became embellished in my mind and I told it a few times to different people. Then on tour I was telling a friend of a friend this story… we were in a venue in Berlin just sitting at a table before the show started. Then during my set the same person shouted out to me to tell the story about The Wild Boar. So I did and it went on and on.

Then a couple of weeks later I told it again during a show in Brighton. Eventually I wrote it all down in the form of a short story. It just seemed right to me to record it and in some strange way it fits on the album, I think. It’s interesting what you say about ‘Alice Among The Pines’. I like the idea of some things coming from the same landscape… a bit like aspects of a story that is told over time.

I fondly recall the central lyric to ‘Trouble’ originated from your European travels in which a local told you, “the only trouble you get around here is when the leaves stick to the rail-road tracks.” Please recount for me your memories of this particular song and indeed, the influence the act of travelling must have on your song-writing?

AC: Yes, I fondly recall the event that sparked off this song. I was on tour in Europe and this particular day I was playing in a small town in The Netherlands. When I arrived in town for the show, I looked at my map and saw the venue was in walking distance from the station, so I set off on foot carrying my two guitars and dragging along this big suitcase. I crossed the road and there was a guy on a bike facing me, waiting at the traffic lights. He was watching me as I trudged and shuffled along. Then he smiled and nodded to me, and said something in Dutch. I said “Pardon?” and this time he spoke in English… “Are you okay?” He was looking at all these things I was carrying. “Yes, I’m fine, thanks”. I answered. The lights turned green and he cycled off.

Then I continued down the road and a woman with a child and a dog were coming towards me. They were all looking at me curiously. Then as I approached them, the woman asked me something. “Are you okay?” I nodded and continued along my way. Then a couple of minutes later, I heard a car slowing down behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there was a police car. I stopped and the window rolled down. Two cops were looking at me. One cop leaned out the window and nodded at me. He said something in a low voice. I looked quizzical. He repeated “Are you okay?” I said “Yes, I’m just on my way to play a show”. And I pointed at the venue at the end of the street. The cop nodded and looked a bit disappointed, then rolled the window up again and they drove off.

Then after the show, I told the story to three chaps who had come over to talk to me. They nodded knowingly as I was telling the story. When I finished, one of them said… “Yeah, we don’t get much trouble around here”. Then he said, “The only trouble you get around here is when wet leaves stick to the railway tracks”. I thought it was sweet and funny and sadly beautiful. A song emerged over the next few weeks about someone moving to another town, a small town to lead a simple life and not get into any more trouble.

In terms of writing, would you find yourself writing words on a page before the music is ever thought of or considered? The lyrics to your songs are sheer poetry and the poetic prose contained on ‘Some Blue Morning’ offers everlasting inspiration. Are there certain writers/literature/song-writers that hold a particular resonance for you, Adrian?

AC: Thank you, that’s a very nice thing to say. I don’t know if I really settle on any one songwriter. I just love words. I love it when you hear a song somewhere for the first time and it has a kind of spark that gives it a kind of transcendence. In terms of literature, I love the writing of Richard Brautigan, Raymond Carver, John Mc Gahern… There are others of course but I find these deeply inspiring. Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller were/are longtime favourites of mine too. In terms of contemporary Irish writers. Kevin Barry, I think is brilliant. Songwriters…there are so many great ones.

I was really interested to hear how you spent time over the past year devoted entirely to writing. How has this technique of yours developed or changed during the course of this time period? Can you discuss the mind-set and transformative process that must occur during writing? How has this affected the song-writing process of yours, Adrian?

AC: I did decide at one point, when I could see that I had no trips planned for a while, that I was going to set a few hours a day writing words and stories. I had finished recording the new album and I felt I needed to get something more out. It’s still coming out. I am very happy with the discovery. It’s funny, sometimes I touch on something that clearly needs my further attention, then I think… “okay, I’ve just set myself a goal, I better do justice to the idea and see it through”. So in that way I’ve been building something just on paper…words on paper. I see sometimes songs growing out of those pieces, sort of like a parallel counterpart. And that has influenced how I write songs, I think. Almost approaching from a new direction. There are always words to be written.




‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.


Chosen One: Hauschka

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Interview with Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka).

“…you have to reset your mind at some point to create something different.”

—Volker Bertelmann

Words: Mark and Craig Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry


A wealth of magic emanates from the scintillating piano works of Germany’s Volker Bertelmann. Under the guise of Hauschka, the gifted composer has carved out a string of phenomenal neo-classical masterpieces from spontaneous improvisations (‘The Prepared Piano’); ‘Ferendorf’’s ode to his childhood home in Germany (which features intricate arrangements of strings and brass); the ‘acoustic techno’ of ‘Salon des Amateurs’ featuring drummers Samuli Kosminen (Múm) and Calexico’s John Convertino and Joey Burns; and ‘Silfra’’s gorgeous collaborative effort with violinist Hilary Hahn. This year marked the highly anticipated maser-work of ‘Abandoned City’; a captivating record of illuminating soundscapes that marks Hauschka’s crowning jewel and most staggering work to date.

Witnessing Hauschka’s Volker Bertelmann — whether in live setting during his renowned concert performances or in recorded contexts — a certain sense of magic fills the air. Sylvain Chomet’s 2010 animated marvel ‘The Illusionist’ comes to mind, as we are left in wonderment to observe the artist’s vast collection of skills and unlimited wells of talent. Known worldwide as one of the most recognizable 21st Century proponents of what is known as Prepared Piano, Bertelmann has amassed a considerable body of work over the last decade, ceaselessly weaving his own singular path — and on his own terms — to wondrous effect (much like fellow modern composers and restless souls Nils Frahm and Max Richter or such Twentieth Century masters as Eric Satie, John Cage and Steve Reich). Importantly, the album itself draws from research Bertelmann made (after the discovery of a series of photographic prints depicting the subject of abandoned cities) on the number of actual vacated cities in existence (each track title references a particular city). As Bertelmann has said: “I was interested in finding a metaphor for the inner tension I feel when I’m composing music, a state of mind where I’m lonely and happy at the same time.”

‘Abandoned City’ proves a certain milestone in Hauschka’s recorded output to date. An intriguing sense of both adventure and discovery seeps through every pore of the album’s ten compositions. Like all of Hauschka’s art, nothing is as it first seems. As we delve further into this abandoned city Hauschka has built for us we begin to lose all sense of what we initially thought was important in the process. We lose all traces of ourselves for that beautiful instant we are under Bertelmann’s sacred spell and that is what Hauschka’s divine art forever manages to do.

‘Abandoned City’ is available now on City Slang (EU) and Temporary Residence Ltd (USA).



Interview with Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka).

From your live shows, it’s really inspiring – to not only witness your music live but – to see the process. As a listener, you normally don’t get to obviously physically see how it happens so it’s amazing to catch a glimpse of that when you see your live show.

Volker Bertelmann: It’s something in a way that I was not intentionally in the beginning when I was working on prepared piano but in general the prepared piano is something that is mostly happening on the spot, you know. I mean it’s stuff that where you definitely have to create things while you are at the venue because the instrument is a lot of times different and the sound is different and the room – some pianos sound completely weird and others sound really beautiful – so there’s always a big difference between every evening.

I wonder too, Volker, with the new album ‘Abandoned City’– which I must say is my favourite of all the Hauschka albums – was it a case of using new approaches again on the new album? There is definitely a wonderful dub and electronic feel to the songs as well.

VB: Yes, it’s actually because in a way I was hoping to get back to a little bit to the roots without using any other instruments because I was doing a lot of electronic music beforehand and I was always interested in dance music and music as well like Aphex Twin or stuff like that and that was always music for me that I really love. And in a way when you go to the piano; suddenly it can happen that you miss everything like that because you suddenly have a different approach and the piano sounds so beautiful and clean, in a way. So for me, it was a really important to frame an angle that actually allows me to do as well like quite more experimental stuff and more dance stuff: the whole palette of sounds possible. On this record, all the sounds that are on there; there are no processed sounds by synthesizers and stuff like that; it’s all acoustic sounds used with delay and reverb.

That’s amazing in itself to think that it’s just acoustic sounds. On one level it’s not surprising because it does have that organic and very human feel. In one way, the music is quite sad but after many revisits, I must say I find it very uplifting where the pieces of music are filled with hope.

VB: Yeah, I mean to be quite honest that is something that I am very interested in, not that I am doing this intentionally. I mean maybe I am a person of hope and at the same time, I’m sad and I know that things at some point will be finished and life is just limited in a way and if you work on something all the time, you are always aware of the limitation of your life. And I think that creates a kind of interesting feeling in sadness and hope and you enjoy every day and stuff like that, and I had the impression ‘Abandoned City’ has a similar feel to it.

In a way there was something happening there: life was happening there; then all the life disappeared and then maybe new people are coming in or new animals are going into the village. So in a way, there is always this circle that represents hope – some new creation and at the same time it disappears at some point and there is death and from that something new is rising. So in a way I was hoping to find a circle like that and it’s not finished because I’m still interested in this theme. I mean ‘Abandoned City’ was much more superficial in the way that I just picked out the cities and now I’m working on a cycle of three pieces that are dealing with this circle of loss and death, and the new perspectives in a way.

Oh wow. So in a way, this could be the starting point of a series nearly?

VB: Yeah, and maybe it’s something because of my age. I mean I was always aware of it, even as a kid; you know I was aware that I have to find a way of enjoying every day so you never know when the circle is over [laughs]. I thought it would be a nice theme in the music and in a way it appeared at that time I was writing ‘Abandoned City’ my little son was born; Lucas and at that point I had the impression that I was very touched by that on one side. And on the other side I felt like I’ve experienced so much already myself and there was a lot of tension in myself and it felt like it was a nice expression of that.

When you did your research on each of the abandoned cities for each piece of music; this must have been a lovely process too, in a sense that you had the music but you wanted to put a certain city to a particular piece.

VB: Yes, I mean the music was already written so you know, for some people it may be strange that I have not visited some of those cities. For me it was like, first of all writing the music and then other times, I am trying to find an angle and what I feel when I’m writing the particular music. So I found a picture of an abandoned garage like a parking garage, in Las Vegas in a friend’s house, and I was telling them, “Man, I think this picture is exactly the stuff that fits totally to my music; can I use it as a cover?”. He replied “Yes it’s my picture, I actually took it when I was in Las Vegas” and so that’s actually the cover of the record.

I am very curious about the state of mind when you are performing music on one side but also when you are composing in particular?

VB: Composing is something you know, in a way you have to clear your mind constantly to start from scratch and create something new. This makes it sometimes very difficult because of course you know what you have done before and so you have to reset your mind at some point to create something different. I think this is also a life-circle which is a mental circle and particularly with this record, I was much freer in terms of form and I think I was much closer to the way I performed live than the albums before. On the previous albums, a lot of times it was conceptual albums in terms of I was using albums to create dance music or in a way, I always had songs in mind which I didn’t have with this album. This album was more like an endless stream of music.

That’s very interesting because the album does feel more like a performance in the way that you can imagine you are playing the piano in your living room when listening to it.

VB: Yes, I mean that is how I was working on it. I was creating music while I was in my studio I just pressed record and then I recorded it. I go into my living room and just start performing; that’s what I mostly do, I press record and what’s coming out of my hands will be recorded and I make the decision whether I like it or not.

And this is the Bechstein, the grand upright piano?

VB: Yes, it’s a grand upright. I mean for the last four records I recorded with this. Actually it’s my first piano that is like a real concert piano and the older records I recorded with quite old pianos that I was given by people as a gift because I had no money for affording the piano. The next step might be that I’m looking for a grand piano; you know in a way there is always developments [laughs].

It’s really interesting too, you know with yourself and other pianists/composers like Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick and so on, it’s amazing how each of you; you all have your own sound but there is also this thing that you are searching for new ways of generating new sounds.

VB: In a way I have the impression that each of those guys you mention are experimenting their way very much; they are not interested in borders even though I would say there’s always a difference in terms of the accessibility. For example, I think Nils’ music is quite accessible for a lot of people while Peter and I, we might be much more at the edge sometimes which I think in a way for me it’s very interesting because you can stay at the edge you can always create stuff that is at the edge for your whole life.

But if you start getting into accessible mode, it’s very hard to get back. I had this experience when I was younger; I was in this hip-hop band and I realized that once you are forced on making hits it makes you very vulnerable in terms of the next step you have to do. So, I’m very glad I’m not forced to make the next record a big-selling album because the places I play are so huge they have to fill them. There’s also some tension in there, of course you are always aiming for making a career but at the same time you can be a kind of bargain, you know. I’m very glad where I am right now because everything is big enough where I can travel all the time and on the other side, I don’t have to go into stadiums [laughs].

You must also be influenced by John Cage and all his theories and the whole prepared piano process?

VB: To be quite honest, I mean in some interviews I mentioned him already. But in the beginning when you are connected with hip-hop or pop music you never come across people like that you know, so I was completely disconnected from that guy. By working with prepared piano sounds, I was getting much closer to John Cage and I love actually the humour and the way he thinks about sound in general. It’s so liberating and he was doing that already like twenty, thirty years ago and so I’m such a big fan of his theory as well of his music. It’s for me a very uplifting artist.

I wonder for you growing up and stuff, what was the first kind of music you got into? Were you in bands first before you ended up on your piano path?

VB: Well the first thing is that I learned classical piano as a kid from nine years old. Then I was in my first band at the age of twelve where we played Rolling Stones covers and a lot of rock music. It was at the beginning of the eighties because I was born in ’66 so in 1978 I was twelve and so maybe it was the end of the Beatles era and I was totally influenced by this kind of music at the time and still think that the music and songs created at the time is incredible. So in a way I was trying to write songs at that time with my band.

From there, I went into all sorts of rock bands like keyboards and synthesizers and I wrote music for singer-songwriters and all sorts of stuff. Then suddenly after the hip-hop group and the whole hits discussion – it was a major record label – I had the feeling that I had to change something because it was not really me. You know, I’m not a really big fan of the show to be quite honest. If I want to perform, I want to perform aesthetically nice and I want to do every now and then something with video or more like an installation where people watch but in general I’m not interested in having a big live show with me being the focus of the set of the show; like I’m coming with smoke out of ground of the stage, you know that’s not my thing. But if you go into a poppy area, you have to do that because the stage size is so huge and you have to get more and more into light and big laser shows and you have to be the focus and all the fans are cheering even before you get onstage without playing a bloody note.

So I’m interested in creating music where it’s more about an experience with both of us like when the audience gives you something and I give the audience something. So we are both in a room and we share. That’s what my feeling is and then I made the decision at some point that maybe the only way to do it is by playing the instrument that I can really play good and that I have to find a way of experiencing me as a solo performer without any nets under me by performing improvisation. I think that’s the best decision that I have made for myself and I am very thankful that people give me the feedback that I should continue. Sometimes you can imagine that you are doing this and people are saying ‘Please, don’t come back’ [laughs] but they don’t and they’re really forcing me to do my next thing and I’m very happy about that.

Even looking ahead, Volker do you have other projects in mind?

VB: Right now, I have a one year residency with MDR Symphonic Orchestra in Leipzig which is the hometown of Bach and I’m working there with the symphonic orchestra now for a year and a conductor called Kristjan Järvi who is a very well-known classical conductor but also having a great experimental ensemble called the Absolute Ensemble so he is a guy with a real connection with more modern music and classical music. He invited me and asked me if I would be interested in writing music for the symphonic orchestra. I wrote my first two pieces in September and recorded them already. And the next three pieces – which is the cycle of three pieces I told you about – this will be a composition for orchestra without me, there’s no prepared piano by me in there, just the orchestra. I want to figure out now what does the orchestra sound like without me and then I can incorporate myself at some point and I can perform both; I’m expanding.

And do you hear the pieces performed by the orchestra along the way?

VB: They perform the pieces onwards and the pieces are also notated now and they are offered to all sorts of orchestras in the world. I don’t know if they want to play it; that’s one thing. And another thing I am working on new solo piano pieces because in a way when I was in Japan two weeks ago, I felt that my style of performing and incorporating electronics has changed. I think it was getting different so I had the impression that I have to record something and there’s also still an open record for that I want to record with my friend Samuli Kosminen, the drummer from the band Múm. The two of us, we have performed so many times that we really would love to work together. All these plans are in the air.

The other thing I want to continue with Hilary Hahn, the violinist, we have plans because we really love working together and we perform live every year maybe three or four times which is awesome that we still work together but I’m not in a rush. There’s so much stuff happening that I’m glad I can stretch this into the next couple of years.

One last thing Volker, I wonder are there certain albums or records you’ve been listening to lately?

VB: To be quite honest for me at the moment it is quite difficult to listen to music. The only thing I am listening to a lot of music on classical radio which is called WDR 3 because at the moment I am extremely interested in all variations of classical music that is written just to get an idea you know, what is the spectrum I have to work with when I’m working with the symphonic orchestra and that is for me at the moment very interesting.

If I could point out one composer that I really adore, it is Schoenberg, I am a big fan of his music. Whenever I have the time I try to listen to music of his.

And do you have a particular favourite?

VB: I mean there is one piece called ‘Verklate Nacht’ which means ‘clearing night’ in a way and it sounds a little serial and I think sometimes the music is for a string sextet. It’s an awesome piece, like really dark but at the same time very romantic. Schoenberg was also a twelve-tone composer where he started at some point to experiment with music by not using melodies and tonal music and I think this is at the edge where he was thinking ‘I have to change because I have done everything that I can do’ which is also an interesting development in everyone’s life, you know, in my opinion I have done everything I can do and now I have to change the city or change the style or change my living, you know all these things.

As you say, it’s that whole thing about circles and how everything comes back and forth really.

VB: Yes, yes absolutely and Schoenberg’s music at that time really encourages.




‘Abandoned City’ is available now on City Slang (EU) and Temporary Residence Ltd (USA).


Written by markcarry

January 6, 2015 at 12:29 pm


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