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Chosen One: Tindersticks

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Interview with Stuart A. Staples.

I often say to my kids that the most creative thing that I ever did was to have the bravery to leave Nottingham and go to London: just to take a step because from that step so many things were allowed to happen.”

—Stuart A. Staples

Words: Mark Carry

TINDERSTICKS, 2015

In the liner notes for the classic Tindersticks debut album (originally released in 1993), founding member David Boulter describes the richness of ideas coming from the group: “We had so much music running through us and so many ideas, we knew we had something bigger to make, and we needed somewhere bigger to make it.” The immense batch of songs – including ‘Marbles’, ‘Raindrops’, ‘Patchwork’, ‘City Sickness’, ‘Her’ and ‘The Not Knowing’ – were recorded in the Stone Room, a studio run by Ian Caple, who helped the band achieve the sound they wanted. Across twenty-one songs, every moment on the debut record felt special. Magic emanated from the rich instrumentation, intricate arrangements and poetic lyricism.  The same can be said for each and every Tindersticks record that followed. This original lineup of Stuart Staples, Neil Fraser, Dickon Hinchcliffe, David Boulter, Mark Colwill and Alasdair Macaulay possessed something utterly unique: a subconscious, deep conversation flows continuously between its members that is more than the sum of its parts. And this breathes deeply into the songs.

Two decades on, Tindersticks have a richness of ideas – echoing what Boulter writes in those liner notes albeit from an entirely different moment in time – that are fully realized on masterworks such as ‘The Something Rain’ and ‘The Waiting Room’ (marking the band’s last two studio albums, respectively). Every moment feels special. An infinite array of inspired moments fill these records that carves out a vast treasure of mesmerising beauty and sumptuous artistic detail. The current lineup – consisting of founding members Staples, Boulter and Fraser alongside more recent additions Earl Harvin (drums) and Dan McKinna (bass) – possess a deep telepathic connection that is not unlike that unique moment in time at the turn of the nineties.

The many projects that are interspersed between the band’s studio albums, from the monumental Claire Denis film scores – 2015’s ‘Les Salauds’ containing a beguiling electronic-oriented sound-world that signals yet another milestone – sound installations (from the Flanders museum in Belgium that is beautifully captured on ‘Ypres’) and this year’s spellbinding film and score ‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’. This singular sound of Tindersticks continues to evolve and develop, forever navigating uncharted territories of both the heart and mind alike, never knowing precisely where such explorations will lead us.

Minute Bodies’ is a deeply hypnotic and immersive film and dedication to the incredible work of naturalist, inventor and pioneering film-maker F. Percy Smith (whose work spanned the early years of the twentieth century). Smith developed various cinematic and micro-photographic techniques to capture nature’s secrets in action (take for example the ‘Fly Acrobat’ film). In the words of Staples (director of ‘Minute Bodies’): “His work transcends the constraints of its time, and how it teaches us about patience, commitment, ingenuity and determination.”

The forming of the edit and its musical score evolved over a three-year period. The recording sessions features French percussionist Thomas Belhom and Christine Ott (piano) with cameos from David Coulter (musical saw) and Julian Siegel (saxophone). The score effortlessly maps the hidden beauties of nature that Smith so masterfully portrays onscreen: a true match made in heaven. The ethereal ‘Percy’s Theme’ opens the score with a beautiful delicacy and immersive quality, which leads into ‘Gathering Moss’ and its luminous dreamscapes with gorgeous female harmonies ascending into the foreground. Eerie drone passages are fused with cinematic flourishes on the epic tour-de-force ‘Magic Myxies’ and the gradual piano pulses of ‘The Strangler’ could be a long distant companion to the band’s ‘Trouble Every Day’ score. The timeless cinematic jazz exploration ‘Scarlet Runner’ echoes the work of Mikael Tariverdiev before the star-lit skies of ‘Percy’s Dream’ (Reprise) drifts majestically into the ether.

‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’ is out now via City Slang.

https://tindersticks.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/tindersticksofficial/

 

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Interview with Stuart A. Staples.

Congratulations on the ‘Minute Bodies’ score and film; it’s very special. When did you first come across the work of F. Percy Smith and what led you to go about the project in the first place?

Stuart A. Staples: I wasn’t planning to; I just caught a glimpse of his work – well not necessarily his work but this microscopic world – and I wanted to find out more. From that I found out that there was a few things available on compilation DVDs, I got hold of that and just started making music; that was like three years ago so gradually I’d been able to get further and further into the archive and gradually pick up the support of the BFI. It’s been a long process, it was more like a hobby for a while and it finally got finished up like that after three years working on it – not solidly but sometimes it was an antidote to some of the other things I was working on.

As you say, it feels like a labour of love in many ways. ‘Minute Bodies’ in a similar way to the scorework of Tindersticks and many of your projects in the past, they act as a record in itself (in terms of the music). I wonder for the music of ‘Minute Bodies’ and to score the visuals, did you have the film edits in mind firstly or was it more naturally coming together at once?

S.A.S:  I think the first thing I thought was more about people: about musical characters that I knew and I thought that the first steps probably was to get together with Christine Ott who plays the Martenot and Thomas Belhom who is the French percussionist who we work with and David [Coulter] from the band and see what happened. We had a few days together very early on and we prepared some loops and some atmospheres and then I had chosen some parts of the film that I thought were exciting and so I brutally edited something and brutally prepared something. And then we started – we had a few days playing – it went so well that it just asked for more things to happen and I think that was the story of the project really; every time we took a step it asked for something else to happen and that’s what made it like a gradual thing. I think being for the first time in charge of the image as well as the music created this space where the pictures would inspire the musicians and the way the musicians reacted had an effect on the edit so it was always talking to each other that both elements were always having an effect on us.

It’s amazing listening and watching the finished piece, just how much of a dedication it is to F. Percy Smith’s life and work. Originally I presume there were voice-overs and over-dubs and nothing like it is now?

S.A.S: Obviously I think that when you look at the original educational films now, they feel incredibly dated for me but I felt this pure photography of Percy’s and this intimate moment between him and his subjects – whether that was developing frogs or whatever – there was this intimacy and solitude I felt with his photography. And I think taking that away from the educational films and the context and story and the educational element, the images felt free and wanted as well to deal with something today and something that our lives today are seen in a very different way and I think that was an exciting process.

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And with the music, I love how it feels like one cohesive whole where the pieces flow into one another. Certain pieces – like the lengthier tracks – like ‘Scarlet Runner’ and ‘Magic Myxies’ continually build and draw a lot of elements as they build.

S.A.S: I think to me I was more or less in the middle of so many great musicians that would be inspired by these great images and I just had to be the guy in the middle directing it: enjoying it but also keeping an eye always on where the direction it was heading in. I think that’s the enjoyable part about what I do really I suppose; I had maybe three days with someone like Julian Siegel, a couple of days with David Coulter as well as the band, there was a real richness of ideas of people taking Percy’s things and the way that inspired them and making something of their own out of it and contributing to the overall colours within the music, it was pretty exciting. And I think it was very different to what we’d done before but I think also as a process you can feel it changing as a band, as a group of musicians as well and playing the score live; it’s not like any kind of music we had to play live before. It’s actually having a great, subversive effect on us I think as a group of people.

It must be very exciting for you and the musicians to be playing the score live at these cine concerts. It’s something new but I suppose in recent years there’s been so many different mediums that you’re loosely involved with alongside music.

S.A.S: I think it’s important when you’ve been making albums and playing music for so long I think it has to find different ways of trying to keep being inspiring. And we have to be with each other and play music together, it would be impossible for us to play music together if we weren’t excited by everybody’s input. So I think it’s before we try and change shape, put yourself in a place where you’re not so comfortable and see where that takes you. And I think that’s been the key to I suppose the second part of our career. We had an original line-up and we came to an end, I think we ran out of conversation and I think a lot of that was to do with a semi-successful band; writing, recording, touring and with the cliché of that kind of turnover. I think with the last ten years it’s all been about not falling into that but actually having the confidence to follow your ideas and to where they take you but not feeling bound by these structures that exist and that has kept us alive and engaged.

It’s fascinating to think of the second chapter of Tindersticks – from ‘Hungry Saw’ onwards – it’s always exciting to discover each new release and the new ideas and directions for each of them. For example, ‘The Waiting Room’ – the last studio album – it naturally evolved on from ‘The Something Rain’ and the films made for each song was also very interesting.

S.A.S: It’s all been good and exciting. I think for this line-up – the second line-up of the band – it took us a couple of albums and we had a hard act to follow as well [laughs]. At the beginning our original band was a really fantastic, subconscious thing to be involved in and I never thought that I would end up in another great band in the way that they worked together. So, I think it took a couple of albums but when we got to ‘The Something Rain’ I think there was something going on between the five of us and again the music became more of the sum of its parts. That led into ‘The Waiting Room’ and working with Claire [Denis] and working for the museum in Belgium [‘Ypres’] there’s just a different kind of breadth to our work so it’s been a good time.

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I get the impression that each project and release must feed into the next like how you’re inspired by ‘Minute Bodies’ right now and how that must filter into the next Tindersticks album and so on?

S.A.S: That’s for sure. I think one of the reasons we’re still here and playing together is because of the work with Claire Denis and I think that she has always dragged us away from our thing and made us look into a different place and work in the more extreme parts of what we do. By the time we come back to working on our own music again we’re always changed. I think working on the soundtrack for ‘White Material’ really fed into ‘The Something Rain’ and working on ‘Les Salauds’ have had such an effect on our music; everything is always talking to each other. I’ve got no idea of what the band is going to make next but I’m looking forward to finding out.

The sound installation that is beautifully captured on ‘Ypres’ was another new venture for you and where it was and the history steeped inside it?

S.A.S: I suppose I believe – or maybe I’ve always believed it but just having the confidence to stand by it – if you have a strong feeling for something that you can find a way to make it happen and I think for ‘Ypres’ that was a real example of that for me. I stood in this place and I had this idea but I thought ‘how do I achieve that?’ but I think you have to find the right people to help you; the right people to put these ideas in place and you can actually figure out a way to get to where you need to go. I think ‘Ypres’ in a way was a real lesson that if you’ve got a strong feeling  – even if you don’t know how to make it exist – find a way to get help to do that, it’s a good thing.

It’s always beautiful seeing these long-term collaborations and Claire Denis and Tindersticks is one of those really wonderful stories that started so long ago and continuing with strength and strength. Looking back over the different films and scores, is there similarities or common elements in terms of creating music with Claire for the scores themselves?

S.A.S:  I suppose fundamentally every score has pushed us into different directions. We have this relationship and we have this conversation or narrative going on, I think what the actual ideas have; that’s where the real differences come and I think you can’t help but look at these ideas in different ways. I think for a film like ‘Trouble Every Day’ the ideas came from before Claire had even written it, she was talking about how she wanted to make a film about lovers and why lovers wanted to bite each other. It started off as a very romantic thing for us but I think by the time the film was made tough kind of erotic film really, the score is so romantic it created a very special relationship I think between the images and the music and that’s one example.

With ‘Les Salauds’ – the film before our last one – that was more about the idea of a sailor and when a sailor sees his life as simple and his work is ordered and he doesn’t have any worries but when he puts his feet on dry land that’s when all the complications start. And I think for the main character, the sailor is coming back to Paris to sort out a family problem. I think from that point of view we started thinking about the music electronically so even though it was set in Paris it was for me putting myself into this strange world that I wasn’t sure where I was for ages; I found myself surrounded by machines that I didn’t know how to use. I think that created a strange world within the film and there was a certain uncertainty about it. I think each one has asked for different things and even the last film it’s totally different again. I think it’s how something comes at you and affects you, how she feels about it, how she gets inspired and I think that she’s always open like that.

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The electronic elements in ‘Les Salauds’ worked so well, it was so compelling this journey it takes you on. And the ‘extreme’ sounds of the band you have already mentioned, you can really feel that particularly on the band’s last two albums: it may be only thirty or so minutes long but the range of ideas and sonic elements within each song; it’s fascinating just how much happens in that space of time.

S.A.S: I think the work on ‘The Waiting Room’, you just don’t want to deal with anything that you’ve dealt with before and I think that’s hard. I think say for Neil’s guitar on ‘The Something Rain’ we found this great space for Neil’s guitar and a great sound for it: it was very particular and it came out of so much experimentation, we found this one thing that runs through the whole of the album and Neil’s guitar on ‘The Something Rain’ is just so fantastic. But it need snipping off [laughs] because I think you start looking for new things and I think ‘The Waiting Room’ Neil is present as he ever is but it’s just in very different ways, he plays a lot of nylon string guitars; it’s just looking for different colours, different combinations within the songs, different rhythms: you just want to feel as though you didn’t get into this place before.

It’s something that started back in the early days but those spoken word songs like ‘My Sister’ and the sister song ‘Chocolate’ that opened ‘The Something Rain’ and the incredible ‘How He Entered’ are some of the finest of the band’s songs.

S.A.S:  Well they’re both songs by David [Coulter], ‘My Sister’ and ‘Chocolate’ so they’re very much him; his personality whereas I think ‘How He Entered’ to me is more akin to a song like ‘Marbles’ from the early days, I think it had that kind of connection. I think David’s songs and David’s ideas are always very, very particular to me and very, very special within what we do, so it’s like another different angle to come into the big mixture I suppose.

I’d love for you to discuss your studio and it’s obviously the space in which so much of the music has been made and recorded over the years and what makes it so inspiring to record in?

S.A.S: I think the space itself and feeling that you are in a space that is inviting and open to what can happen I think is really, really important. I think gradually along the way I’ve learned about recording and I’ve learned about the elements of recording that I like that I tend to stick to (which is probably a bad thing) to do with microphones because I’d like to make my job as easy as possible in a way because I spend so much time alone, I want to know what I’m going to get if I’ve got an idea and I want to capture it, I want it to be as straight forward as possible in the recording. Having a studio it’s not like having a recording studio to me, it’s a studio that’s there to go to whether you’re recording or not where different things can happen but the space itself is a very special space to me.

In what way do you feel leaving the UK and living in France has helped inspire your music?

S.A.S: I don’t think necessarily about being in France but I do think about leaving the place that you grew up in that becomes the thing that defines you, I think cutting something like that away brings a certain kind of freedom; it brought me a certain kind of freedom. Talking about my studio, I don’t think about it like “this is this place in the middle of France” I just think to me when I am in there I’m somewhere in Europe; I don’t think that I’m rooted into one place. It has that kind of relationship where it feels divorced from everywhere really, it’s just a place of its own. And I think I wouldn’t have been able to find that even if I could have or would have been able to have that in London, I don’t think I would have got to this point in the way I think about what I do .

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Going back to the original lineup at the turn of the 90’s, you must have strong memories of forming the band and this group of friends making music and particularly the demos for the debut Tindersticks record and how surprised you were when you heard what you were creating as it’s such a singular sound?

S.A.S: That record has a little story. We made a mini-album with Asphalt Ribbons about eighteen months before and we gave ourselves up to that kind of mentality of the music industry, somebody gave us a little bit of money and we gave it up to a studio and a producer to make this record and we walked away from it feeling deflated I suppose. And then we just moved to London and everything that that entails and we spent individually – especially for myself and David – we spent a long time – years and years – trying to getting people to engage with us in some way and not very successfully at all. I think what happened was after one disappointment after another it was like ‘let’s not try this anymore, let’s just do our own thing’.

I think from that moment and also I got a job at a Rough Trade shop and I was just surrounded by – in the early 90’s – all of this energy in London and lots of small independent labels. It was like let’s just make a single in our kitchen the way we want to make it and we made ‘Patchwork’ in our kitchen and we managed to sell 500 copies and then we thought about what would be next and we made ‘Marbles’ and we sold 1,500 copies and we made everything ourselves. And I think this was all leading towards making our first album and we demoed the first album in that situation (in that kitchen).

The demos, for me, are when the excitement really happens and when we went to make the album; the songs were there, the ideas were there but then working with an engineer like Ian Caple, it enabled us to bring the most out of sounds, the whole thing was elevated and making that record it was a surprise: there was a moment when we collectively looked at each other and there was a bit of a moment of ‘wow this is actually really happening’ [laughs]. You can’t really have those moments twice in your life but I remember it very distinctly.

It’s wonderful to think that the music spans from those early days and so much sparks were happening subconsciously between you all?

S.A.S: I think it was a real moment in time. I often say to my kids that the most creative thing that I ever did was to have the bravery to leave Nottingham and go to London: just to take a step because from that step so many things were allowed to happen but sometimes I think those steps are the hardest to take; you don’t get a direct reward from them but you can put yourself into a situation where things can change and things can happen and it is so important to keep a grasp of that as well.

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Another important period was after the band’s hiatus and your two solo albums – both quite different – with some of your finest recordings captured. This must have been a particularly important and creative time for you?

S.A.S: I think they’re both very different to me and I think for the first one [‘lucky dog recordings 03-04’] it’s probably up there as my favourite thing that I’ve ever made. There was a certain stripping everything back to an end of a starting point and that record to me hasn’t got such a connection with ‘The Something Rain’ or ‘The Waiting Room’, it hasn’t got the technique or the confidence but it has desire and it has the ideas; that was a point in time when I think our original line-up of the band got trapped into making music in a certain way and I think that maybe when characters are just together constantly for that amount of time, writing and making music together it maybe becomes impossible to not fit together in a certain kind of way and the more we fit together the more disappointing it was in a certain way.

And I think with making ‘Waiting For The Moon’ it was a very long process and it was very considered but it’s got some really great songs on there I think but at the time I just needed to make something raw and something willing to be ugly; that’s what the idea asked for. It was something that gradually grew in my garage and I think for ‘Leaving Songs’ it was a burst of songwriting, probably the only time that I had written songs of a certain way like that was probably for the second album because all of the songs on the second album were more or less written in a space of six months. Whether it’s ‘She’s Gone’, ‘Talk To Me’, ‘Travelling Light’, ‘A Night In’, all of those songs I can’t really imagine writing that many songs now in a certain period of time but ‘Leaving Songs’ was like that too, I just kept writing them. I just felt like I had to be true to them and maybe get rid of this Nashville thing that has been inside me since I could remember [laughs], it very much helped me to leave that behind so I’m pleased about that.

And there’s certain pieces on ‘Minute Bodies’, particularly the dreamy soundscapes like ‘Gathering Moss’ with the female harmonies, really transports you to that first solo album of yours.

S.A.S: Yeah I can see that. The thing for me about ‘Minute Bodies’ is if I think about that track it was one of the first tracks that we wrote. It was exciting to feel as though it was without a centre; that the centre of the music is the image and the music is kind of like a donut or something, it’s not something solid in the middle that holds it there. I think that’s whats really exciting about ‘Minute Bodies’ it all just holds in the air somehow and that’s pretty exciting.

Is there any records you’re obsessed with lately?

S.A.S: Three years ago I was introduced to Kendrick Lamar by one of my sons, he was playing ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ back to back and I’m surprised of how this guy has had such an effect on me, not going to make music like him but I’m talking about just feeling in tune with the way that he makes music. I think that he’s a very rare artist and that has rekindled a love of a certain kind of music that’s more direct and more about the song and his progression from then has been quite something. I’m glad that’s that’s been in my life the last few years.

‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’ is out now via City Slang.

https://tindersticks.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/tindersticksofficial/

 

Step Right Up: Allred & Broderick

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Interview with David Allred & Peter Broderick.

 It feels good to simply play music with another person away from the cables.”

—David Allred

Words: Mark Carry

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Earlier this year, the new duo collaborative project between American musicians Peter Broderick and David Allred (appropriately christened Allred & Broderick) was unveiled in the form of lead single ‘The Ways’: a beautiful acapella folk ballad about “the world in which we live” and how we as individuals will eventually find our way. The gorgeously constructed music video – with handmade signs created by Erased Tapes long time collaborator Peter Liversidge and directed by label founder Robert Raths – was (in many ways) a celebration of the prestigious Erased Tapes label’s 10th anniversary year. The exciting new debut project between these two special souls represents yet another milestone in the label’s far-reaching, genre-defying musical journey thus far.

The pair first collaborated together on Allred’s stunning solo full-length ‘Midstory’ (released on German imprint Oscarson). Full of layered voices and a wide range of pristine instrumentation, the masterful song cycles ranged from intimate acappella laments to compelling avant pop gems. Forward a few years and the collaborative project of Allred & Broderick have dropped their debut record ‘Find The Ways’. Recorded in Broderick’s home studio the Sparkle along the Oregon coast, the ten tracks emit a delicate beauty and honesty that orbits the sound world of folk traditions, jazz flourishes and the modern-classical sphere.

Armed with just their voices, violin (Peter) and upright bass (David), the gifted duo generate endless possibilities with the minimalist framework posed. Some of their finest songs can be found on part A with Broderick’s penned ‘The Wise One’ and Allred’s ‘Hey Stranger’ interspersed between the string duet ‘Two Otters’.  On ‘Finding The Ways’ the pair wanted (in the words of Broderick) “to make something raw which is an honest document of what we are capable of doing together at once, with just two acoustic instruments and our voice”. Allred & Broderick is a marvellous new chapter from two unique musical voices.

‘Find The Ways’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes/

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Interview with David Allred & Peter Broderick.

 

Before we discuss the new record, I would love for you to recount your memories of first crossing paths with one another and how you feel your own musical paths cross over (and complement one another) so naturally?

David Allred: Peter and I had a few email exchanges before we met in person back in 2013. I initially emailed him with a sheet music transcription I made of his piano song called ‘Pulling The Rain’ and asked him if it looked accurate. Peter responded very well to my email which turned into more conversations. I always loved how well he responded to my questions, especially considering that I was a complete stranger to him at the time. There was another time I wrote him an email out of the blue (which was about a week before I was planning to move to Portland) and Peter ended his replied email by saying “best wishes from Portland” – I immediately wrote him back and told him that I was coincidentally about to move to Portland and wanted to know if he was living there or visiting (since he had been living in Berlin for years up to that time) and he replied confirming that he re-located to Portland and that we should meet up when I get there! We did in fact meet one day in 2013 and have been good friends/musical collaborators since.

Please take me back to the recording sessions in your home studio of The Sparkle. I am sure this was an extremely fun and liberating project to be involved in, particularly having just voices, violin and double bass? One of the great hallmarks of the record is just how much you achieve in terms of depth and emotion from a minimal framework. 

DA: Thank you! Yes, Peter and I set out to record this album live without any overdubs or edits aside from general mixing. It was a bit challenging to make a full length record with the limitations that we gave ourselves but in the end we were very happy with the results. It was very refreshing to make an album that was captured exactly the way play the music without needing to layer other instruments or effects. We also enjoy being able to re-create our album in our live performances.

I think that sense of adventure and spark of creativity is always present in both your own solo works and obviously this comes flooding into the recordings contained here on ‘Finding the Ways’. I wonder to what degree were these songs mapped out prior to the recording sessions? I can imagine some happy accidents and spontaneous moments found their way on the final tapes?

DA: I would say most of the record was planned out but there ended up being some spontaneous moments. Peter did the mixing and mastering on this release and we had a fair amount of funny moments when we were talking or reacting to the music and some of which ended up on the final version of the album.

‘The Wise One’ is one of the defining moments of part A. I would love to gain an insight into the background and inspiration behind this particular tour-de-force? (I presume this is Peter’s song?!) The way the double-bass arrives in later and how these intricate components coalesce so wonderfully makes for such a cinematic voyage.

Peter Broderick: Yep, this one is my song, and was the last song added to the collection for this record. In fact, to this day this remains the last song I’ve written with words! The lyrics are about diving within yourself in a meditative way, to consult yourself from deep within, with the objective of gaining guidance and/or insight. During the time that David and I were working on the music for this album, I was practicing this kind of meditation daily. I had such a powerful, profound experience, I felt the impulse to turn that experience into a song.

‘Hey Stranger’ is another deeply heartfelt and poignant moment (which I presume is a song by David?) I would love to gain an insight into the writing and formation of this particular song and your memories of seeing it come to full bloom? 

DA: ‘Hey Stranger’ was written about an old friend who mysteriously disappeared years ago. I have been referring to this individual in press as J, who was one of my closest friends from my childhood to early adulthood but I always felt that it was a bit difficult to connect with him as he was always confronting the intense topics of life that most people try to avoid in most social circumstances. I’ve always thought he was an incredibly good person deep down and perhaps that his ways of living and thinking were just either too far ahead of his time or just simply too much for others to digest. He has no online presence as far as I can tell or any clear indication that he is still out there in the world. I was recently getting the feeling like J might pop up on the street when I least expect it and I just couldn’t figure out why this was on my mind. I wrote this song in an attempt to make peace within myself since I felt the situation was too unresolved for me to move on from it.

As the record is completely performed live in single takes, please discuss the live set-up in the Sparkle and your conversations and concerns from the outset concerning the overall feel and sound you wanted to create? I presume the record ‘Midstory’ (David’s solo LP) provided a nice template and perspective when it came to returning together then as an official duo project (in this particular regard)?

PB: Believe or not, David and I actually recorded this whole album twice! Our original idea was to have someone else record it, with only one microphone. We went to Type Foundry studio in Portland, Oregon and recorded all 10 songs in a day . . . but we quickly realized we weren’t happy with the sound . . . partially due to the fact that we didn’t bother to listen back to the recording at all whilst working on it, and afterwards discovered that we weren’t happy with the volume balance between the two of us. So we resolved to re-record the whole thing out at my studio on the Oregon coast (The Sparkle). This time we set up two microphones, one for David’s voice and bass, one for my voice and violin. Again we recorded all 10 songs in a day, and then the next day mixed and mastered all the songs, all at The Sparkle. When mixing the album, we tried to keep it as dry and unaffected as possible, although both David and I have a soft spot for the Roland Chorus Echo out at The Sparkle, and couldn’t help ourselves from using this machine to add some subtle color to the sound. It’s true that David and I had already worked together on his album Midstory, so we were both quite comfortable working together in my studio . . . although the processes for these two records were vastly different.

DA: I started playing electric bass in middle school which eventually led to double bass when I was in high school/college. I am self-taught on the double bass so I definitely lack some proper techniques with the instrument but I still love to play it. The Allred & Broderick project was the first time I ever dedicated a whole project using the double bass, and it was also the first project that Peter fully dedicated himself to the violin, and we both very much enjoyed taking this approach. Capturing this music live with our voices and chosen string instruments was exceptionally enjoyable and refreshing especially after we both have been heavily invested in the technological side of music. It feels good to simply play music with another person away from the cables.

PB: Well, the violin was my first instrument. I started taking lessons at age seven I believe. But aside from a few pieces here and there over the years, the violin has never really been the central instrument to the music I’ve created. I always thought it would be great to one day work on a project in which the violin is the only instrument I use . . . so I was really happy to be able to do that with this project, especially having the low end of David’s bass to balance out the sound . . . not to mention his incredible musicality!

‘Find The Ways’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes/

 

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July 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E06 | June mix

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June’s mixtape features a first listen of “Golden Plover”, Glasgow’s finest Trembling Bells’ stunning cover of the Bert Jansch song taken from his 1979 avian-themed classic “Avocet”. The track is part of the special 4-track EP “Avocet Revisited”, commissioned and issued by Fire Records’ imprint Earth Recordings, featuring: Trembling Bells; Edwyn Collins and Carwyn Ellis; Modern Studies; Alasdair Roberts.
On “Golden Plover”, Trembling Bells are joined by Callum Calderwood (violin), Rory Haye (vocals), Andrew Pattie (vocals) and Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson (12 string guitar). “Avocet Revisited” will be released by Earth Recordings on the 11th of August 2017.

One of the UK’s finest indie bands The Clientele return with “Music for the Age of Miracles” (Merge Records) this Autumn, their first new album in seven years. Thus far the irresistible lead single “Lunar Days” has been unveiled, finding the beloved Alasdair MacLean-led band in typically impeccable form, effortlessly fusing a myriad of influences into miniature pop marvels like only they can.

June’s mixtape also features new releases from: Ariel Pink’s new single “Another Weekend”, from the hugely anticipated forthcoming Mexican Summer album “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson”; Grizzly Bear’s “Painted Ruins”, one of 2017’s most eagerly anticipated albums and follow-up to 2012’s sonic marvel “Shields”; Renowned Irish contemporary classical collective Crash Ensemble release their glorious “Ghosts” album – featuring compositions written by Nico Muhly, Donnacha Dennehy and Valgeir Sigurðsson – which is released via Icelandic independent Bedroom Community.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E06 | June mix

 

To listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2017/06/29/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s02e06-june-mix/

 

01. Virginia Woolf“I. Mrs. Dalloway: Words” (Deutsche Grammophon)
02. The Beacon Sound Choir“Can’t Wrap My Head Around It” (First Terrace)
03. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister“Neptune” (4AD)
04. Crash Ensemble “Past Tundra” (Bedroom Community)
05. Fleet Foxes“I Should See Memphis” (Nonesuch)
06. Trembling Bells“Golden Plover” (Earth Recordings)
07. The Clientele“Lunar Days” (Merge)
08. Bill MacKay“Aster” (Drag City)
09. Ariel Pink“Another Weekend” (Mexican Summer)
10. Justin Walter“Red Cabin” (Kranky)
11. Chromatics“Shadow” (Italians Do It Better)
12. Tobias Bernstrup “27” (12” Version) (Dark Entries)
13. John Talabot“Destiny” (Rave Dub Version) (Permanent Vacation)
14. Daphni“Face to Face” (fabric)
15. Blondes“KDM” (R&S)
16. Laurel Halo“Moontalk” (Hyperdub)
17. Alice Coltrane“Rama Guru” (Luaka Bop)
18. Belbury Poly“The Geography” (Ghost Box)
19. BADBADNOTGOOD“Lavender” (feat. KAYTRANADA & Snoop Dogg) [Nightfall Remix] (Innovative Leisure)
20. Grizzly Bear“Three Rings” (RCA)
21. The Focus Group“The Leaving” (Ghost Box)
22. Gorillaz“Let Me Out” (feat. Mavis Staples & Pusha T) (Parlophone)
23. Aretha Franklin“This Little Light of Mine” (Remember)
24. Philippe Hallais“Hero (Theme)” (Modern Love)
25. Oliver Coates“Peace” (Foom)
26. Radiohead“I Promise” (XL Recordings)
27. Murcof & Vanessa Wagner“Spiegel Im Spiegel” (InFiné)

Compiled by Fractured Air, June 2017. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

Chosen One: Heather Trost

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“My first love will always be my violin, but the Hammond chord organ and Davolisint have a beautiful timbre that was really inspiring in the creative process and allowed me to explore some new ideas.” 

—Heather Trost

Words: Craig Carry

htrost_web_01

This year marks the eagerly anticipated release of “Agistri”, the debut solo album by the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based multi-instrumentalist and composer Heather Trost. Best known as violinist and one half of the much-loved and world-renowned duo A Hawk And A Hacksaw (alongside longtime collaborator Jeremy Barnes of Neutral Milk Hotel), Trost has also contributed (in both studio and live contexts) to a wide array of musicians and songwriters in the past, including: Neutral Milk Hotel; Beirut; Josephine Foster; Thor Harris of Swans; and stargaze, the Berlin-based, André de Ridder-led orchestral collective. “Agistri” follows up Trost’s pair of previous solo recordings, the debut 7″ for Ba Da Bing! Records (2014) and 2015’s stunningly expansive and dreamlike “Ourobouros” (Cimotti Recordings), the latter consisting of two epic side-long tracks revealing multi-layered synthesiser-based passages of both quiet intensity and profound beauty.

“Agistri” – released via Living Music Duplication in early June – is named after the Greek Island whose unique Saronic Gulf surroundings provided an early inspiration to the album (Trost first encountered the island while on tour with A Hawk And A Hacksaw in Greece). The spellbinding album weaves its irresistible spell upon the listener from the title-track opener to lead single “Agina”, touching effortlessly upon a myriad of sounds and styles along the way – from Éthiopiques to Brian Wilson and from Van Dyke Parks to the landmark productions by 50s/60s pioneers Spector, Meek and Nitzsche.

Trost’s own stunningly surrealist and poetic lyricism (recalls Lee Hazlewood’s mastery of song craft in being able to imprint such a lasting impression in so few words) beautifully compliments the immaculate musicianship of Trost’s esteemed ensemble, her bandmates consisting of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeremy Barnes on drums and bass, Deerhoof’s John Dieterich on guitar, and Drake Hardin and Rosie Hutchinson of cult New Mexico band Mammal Eggs.

“Agistri” by Heather Trost is available now on LM Dupli-Cation.

http://lmduplication.com/

htrost_web_00

Interview with Heather Trost.

Congratulations on the making of “Agistri”, it is such a special and magnificent album. The breathtaking range of instrumentation and ideas for the songs’ arrangements, the poetic and surrealist lyrics and immaculate production makes the album pulsate with so much heart and life. If you could first take me back to the genesis for the making of “Agistri”: When did the writing process begin for this set of songs? 

Heather Trost: Thank you so much for the kind words! I started working on “Agistri” two years ago. I had done two releases under my name, a 7″ and a tape, and I kept writing more songs. I joined Jeremy Barnes touring with Neutral Milk hotel in 2015, and started thinking of songs in the van, and even playing them on a tiny keyboard with headphones. When I got home I would record them in our studio.

When did you first visit or come across the Greek island of Agistri?

HT: I have always loved Greece, and Greek culture, food and music. Jeremy and I were on tour last summer, and we played in Athens. We had some time off, so we took a boat to the closest two Islands, the second being Agistri. It was extremely hot, you could cut the air with a knife. We rented bikes and rode around the island, and then found a totally isolated cove. The island is basically a bunch of huge hills with pine trees, and very arid. It reminded me of New Mexico, except with turquoise blue water.

The songwriting on “Agistri” is so stunning. I love how – on the one hand – there is a kind of purity and simplicity in the lyrics like those classic 60s pop songs (like Spector, Nitzsche or Wilson), while on the other hand there are so many hidden layers to be found and revealed upon repeat listens (for instance: “I’m a castaway / looking for the shore” from “Agina” or “oceans rising all around / ‘Till I float away” from “Agistri”. In terms of writing lyrics, where do you find your inspiration? 

HT: Thank you so much! I’ve always loved the lyrics of Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson, they tell a story, but there’s multiple layers. I guess I write a lot of my lyrics thinking about dreams, symbolism and trying to create imagery. I have always loved the writing of Carl Jung, especially his descriptions of his dream life.

I also love the fact that you draw upon the landscape and immediate surroundings a lot (the ocean, the moon, the sun, the desert) for your writing. It brings to mind folk spirits like Sibylle Baier or Vashti Bunyan and how you can transform the everyday into something magical. New Mexico itself must be such a magnificent source of inspiration for you too, as its landscape and history clearly finds its way into your music and songs?

HT: I have always loved the New Mexican landscape, but it took leaving New Mexico to realize it’s grasp on my heart and imagination. It’s incredibly varied, from desert to forest, mountains and endless vistas. I found similarities in the topography of Greece and Spain, but it’s totally unique. There is a lot to draw on from your environment if you look around. I’m lucky in that I love where I’m from and draw inspiration from it.

Growing up, which musicians and songwriters did you most identify with and resonated with you the deepest? 

HT: My dad had a great record collection. We listened to the Beach Boys, Santana, Pink Floyd. But we also listened to a lot of classical music. When I first heard “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson, I thought it was the most perfect song ever written. I also really loved Fleetwood Mac as a teen, and Stevie Nicks was one of my first concerts. In high school I was into darker music, Björk, Portishead and Black Sabbath.

“Me And My Arrow” is my current favourite, I love the progression from the verse to chorus (from “And in the morning when I wake up” onwards) and the melody of the song itself is so pristine and timeless, where the rhythm and vocals work so beautifully together. The magic of how those drum and vocal sounds combine together reminds me of groups like The Ronettes or The Crystals. I’d love for you to reflect on the making of this song? It must have been such a lovely moment for you all when listening to this back in its final recorded form?

HT: This song came together pretty fast, but then we did a lot of tweaking and pulling certain things in and out in the mixing stage. It has a couple of organs layered to make this nice staccato chord things, but then becomes really sparse with just a Wurlitzer and voice during the breakdown. Jeremy did an amazing job of adding piano chords, and electric bass. The piano I think adds a nice organic layer to the sound, giving it a classic acoustic feel. I’m also in love with the way our old upright sounds, it’s got a lot of character, and I’m glad it’s on the album.

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In terms of the song arrangements, I’d love to first go back to your solo tape cassette release “Ouroboros”. Those two side-long tracks “Berkshires” and “Święta Góra” are so gripping and moving, it brings to mind so many of the great synthesiser-based composers of the seventies and eighties but it also touches so effortlessly upon so many types of music and traditions: krautrock, new age, ambient and electronic. I’d love if you could talk about this project and the making of “Ouroboros”?

HT: These were compositions I worked on while on tour with Neutral Milk Hotel. We were driving through the Berkshire mountains, and it was grey and rainy, and I wanted to try and capture the feeling of those gloomy landscapes somehow. I just found myself adding layers and layers, making it feel like clouds and fog covering a mountain. “Święta Góra” I wrote using an Italian Davolisint, and DX7 which is also prominent on “Agistri”, and layering sounds with a tape echo. I was thinking about a mountain in this piece as well, Šwieta Góra means holy mountain in Polish.

The arrangements on “Agistri” are so diverse and nuanced and yet very tight and finely honed at the same time. Yourself and your band members Jeremy Barnes, John Dieterich, Drake Hardin and Rosie Hutchinson combine to create such a breathtaking sound. It reminds me of the inventiveness from Dieterich & Barnes’ “The Coral Casino” or the songbooks of bands like Lambchop, Camera Obscura or Julia Holter in terms of how you can incorporate so many separate sounds into a single pop song structure. In terms of recording set-up, what was the main instrumentation that you chose to use? How were these songs initially composed, was it simply voice and guitar or voice and piano? 

HT: I started many of the harmonic ideas using a chord organ. I often come up with chords, harmonic movement and basslines before melody and lyrics, but not always. “Real Me/Real You” was composed first with the melody and lyrics. I played the beat on DX7 and then started singing over it. Then I added all the other layers and Jeremy played drums, and Drake added electric guitar. “Abiquiu” was written on piano, and then I recorded it on the Hammond chord organ.

“Agistri” and “Agina” were started by Jeremy and I each playing an organ at the same time, both hammonds, and one of us would play chords, the other coming up with a melody on top, and vis versa. Then John added really great guitar lines on “Abiquiu” and “Agistri”, and of course Jeremy added drums, electric bass and a layer of piano and organ on “Plastic Flowers”, “Agina”, “Agistri” and “Abiquiu”. Drake added guitar, vibes and bass on “Me And My Arrow” and guitar on “Real Me/Real You”. Rosie sang amazing back up vocals, and we did some vocal experimenting on “Plastic Flowers” that came out nicely.

I always love how instruments themselves carry their own unique histories and that sense of identity and complex history is always associated with them no matter what new context they are being used in. I always love reading how musicians – for example Jeremy or Calexico’s John Convertino or Joey Burns – talk about how all these disparate music traditions (whether Portuguese fado or Hungarian folk etc.) find their ways into so many new contexts and sounds. I’d love if you talk about the different instruments as used on the album? What are your own most prized musical instruments?

HT: Sure! I mentioned already the Hammond organs, Wurlitzer and the Davolisint which has a totally unique character, and our upright piano. I also used a DX7 to create some different bass and percussion sounds, as well as an 80s casio to add a shimmer. I also used a mellotron on “Bloodmoon” and “Agina”, the saxophone sample. Also just some nice basic things, guitar, bass. John has this tiny French guitar he used on “Agina”. I also played violin on “Abiquiu”.

My first love will always be my violin, but the Hammond chord organ and Davolisint have a beautiful timbre that was really inspiring in the creative process and allowed me to explore some new ideas.

I love the closer “Three Feathers”, its slow pulse and organic flow is like a desert being slowly enveloped in shadow. It also forms such a touching counterpoint (and closing note) to the more up-tempo and more densely arranged songs. It also ties back wonderfully to your “Ouroboros” work. I’d love if you could talk about the making of this piece? 

HT: I think you described it wonderfully! It was a similar process to “Ouroboros” in that I was trying to make a soundscape that would invoke the listeners imagination to create their own imagery.

What music, books or films have recently inspired you?

HT: I recently learned of an incredible hammer dulcimer player and singer named Dorothy Carter, she has an amazing album from 1978 called “Wailee Wailee”, she has a Sibylle Baier quality, and reminds me a bit of Catherine Ribiero, but she is completely unique. I recently read Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg” (“The Magic Mountain”). I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about Mann’s descriptions of place, emotions and time are otherworldly and magical. I have been loving the films of Peter Strickland, especially his Hungarian Epic “Katalin Varga” and “The Duke of Burgundy”, both beautiful films.

“Agistri” by Heather Trost is available now on LM Dupli-Cation.

http://lmduplication.com/

Written by admin

June 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm

First Listen: Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Garth Knox – “Tasseography” (Diatribe Records)

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We’re delighted to preview “Tasseography”, a track by world-renowned musicians Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Ireland) and Garth Knox (Ireland-Scotland). The composition is from the forthcoming collaborative full-length album “All Soundings Are True” by Ó Raghallaigh and Knox which is due for release on July 1st 2017 via prominent Ireland-based label Diatribe Records.

The nine compositions on “All Soundings Are True” (featuring a trio of traditional compositions, the remaining pieces are penned by Ó Raghallaigh and Knox) provides an unforgettable listening experience as both composers (both collaborators in the truest sense) clearly revel in each other’s presence and playing. Having met while Ó Raghallaigh was at a residency at the Irish Cultural Center, Paris, the pair’s own deep-rooted love and appreciation for their own chosen instruments – Ó Raghallaigh’s hardinger d’Amore fiddle and Knox’s viola d’Amore – provides the glorious opportunity to plough new sonic terrain while pushing the duo’s own distinctive sound palettes into wondrously open spaces and uncharted territories in the process.

Award-winning fiddle player and composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh has performed extensively as both a solo musician, in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien and Brendan Begley, and as a member of both The Gloaming and This is How we Fly. Ó Raghallaigh is based in Dublin, Ireland.

Classical viola player and composer Garth Knox is most known as viola player of the Arditti Quartet and the Ensemble intercontemporain and has performed works by some of the world’s leading 21st Century composers such as The Kronos Quartet and David Lang. Knox has recorded extensively for the prestigious ECM label (featuring both solo and collaborative works) and plays viola, viola d’amore and medieval fiddle. Knox is based in Paris, France.

 

 

“All Soundings Are True” by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Garth Knox will be released on 1st July via Diatribe Records, the launch gig for “All Soundings Are True” takes place on June 17th (with Ensemble Ériu) at The Complex Dublin. 

Event Page for launch gig HERE.

Pre-order LP via Diatribe Records HERE.

https://caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
http://www.garthknox.org/

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June 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E05 | May mix

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fracturedair_may17

May’s mixtape features selections from a pair of the year’s most essential compilations: Alice Coltrane’s “Turiyasangitananda” (Luaka Bop) and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ retrospective set “Lovely Creatures” (Mute).

“Lovely Creatures: The Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 1984-2014” comprises a gorgeous meticulously assembled archive – spanning music, previously unseen photographs, memorabilia and extensive archival footage – of Cave’s first three decades as frontman to the world’s most revered and significant bands: The Bad Seeds. “Lovely Creatures” is compiled by Cave and founding Bad Seeds member Mick Harvey, with additional help from the current Bad Seeds. On the announcement of its release, Cave issued the following statement via his website:

“There are some people out there who just don’t know where to start with The Bad Seeds. Others know the catalogue better than I do! This release is designed to be a way into three decades of music making. That’s a lot of songs. The songs we have chosen are the ones that have stuck around, for whatever reason. Some songs are those that demand to be played live. Others are lesser songs that are personal favourites of ours. Others are just too big and have too much history to leave out. And there are those that didn’t make it, poor things. They are the ones you must discover by yourselves.”

“World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda” is the spellbinding compilation of music made by the legendary composer, pianist and spiritualist Alice Coltrane with members of Sai Anantam Ashram in California during the eighties ad nineties. Much of the music here is culled from self-released tape cassettes released from the period. As Luaka Bop have said, the music from “Turiyasangitananda” is “inspired by the gospel music of the Detroit churches she grew up in, mixed together with the Indian devotional music of her religious practice, and even finds Alice singing for the first time in her recorded catalog. Originally only made available through her ashram, they are her most obscure body of work and possibly the greatest reflection of her soul.”

May’s mixtape also features new releases from: A Hawk And A Hacksaw’s Heather Trost who releases her sublime solo debut “Agistri” on June 2nd via LM Duplication; Animal Collective’s “The Painters” EP (Domino); Stockholm-based electronic duo Roll The Dice’s “Born To Ruin” (The New Black); “Wade In” by Julianna Barwick (part of the extensive “Our First 100 Days” benefit compilation); Wolfgang Voigt releases “Narkopop” via Kompakt, his latest ambient opus under his GAS guise and first for twenty years; Heather Woods Broderick’s gorgeous new 7″ single “Home Winds” (recorded in response to the photographs of Benjamin Swett and published as a collaborative project between both artists by Planthouse Inc).

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E05 | May mix

 

To listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2017/05/31/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s02e05-may-mix/

 

01. Steve Reich“Come Out” (excerpt) (Nonesuch)
02. Daniel Brandt“Eternal Something” (Erased Tapes)
03. Forest Swords“Panic” (Ninja Tune)
04. Roll The Dice“Cannonball” (The New Black)
05. Everything Is Recorded“Washed Up on the Shore” (feat. Obongjayar and Warren Ellis) (XL Recordings)
06. Dirty Three “Furnace Skies” (Bella Union, Anchor & Hope)
07. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Tupelo” (Mute, BMG)
08. Tom Armstrong“Thunder Clouds” (Tompkins Square)
09. Slowdive“Sugar for the Pill” (Dead Oceans)
10. GAS“Narkopop 5” (Kompakt)
11. Biosphere“Black Mesa” (Biophon)
12. Mount Kimbie“Marilyn” (feat. Micachu) (Warp)
13. Mamman Sani“Samari Da Yan Matan” (Sahel Sounds)
14. Umoja“707” (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
15. Molly Nilsson“About Somebody” (Dark Skies Association / Night School)
16. Heather Trost“Agina” (LM Duplication)
17. Lukács István & Burka Sándor“Szállj Le Hattyú” (Hungaroton)
18. Carla dal Forno“Fast Moving Cars” (Blackest Ever Black)
19. Laurel Halo“Jelly” (Hyperdub)
20. Jlin“Black Origami” (Planet Mu)
21. Alice Coltrane “Om Rama” (Luaka Bop)
22. Shabazz Palaces“Shine a Light” (feat. Thaddillac) (Sub Pop)
23. Bobe Gáspár Ernő és Zenekara“Becskereki Pipagyújtó” (Hungaroton)
24. Animal Collective“Man of Oil” (Domino)
25. Julianna Barwick“Wade In” (Our First 100 Days, Bandcamp)
26. Heather Woods Broderick“Home Winds” (Planthouse Inc, Yebo Music)
27. Saltland “Forward Eyes II” (Constellation)

Compiled by Fractured Air, May 2017. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

 

Chosen One: Andrea Belfi

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“I think trying to find a unique sound was my first aim always and that’s what I’m still trying to do.”

 Andrea Belfi

Words: Mark Carry

 1- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Italy’s Andrea Belfi is a drummer, composer and electroacoustic musician whose unique music path has continually developed and evolved throughout the 2000’s with the release of several scintillating solo works and a plethora of collaborative works (many of which have been released on the prestigious Berlin label Miasmah). The gifted Berlin-based composer’s newest solo work ‘Ore’ is his most captivating and deeply affecting bodies of work thus far that marks new independent label Float’s debut release.

Deeply hypnotic soundscapes are unleashed throughout ‘Ore’, creating, in turn, a timeless exploration in the art of repetition and variation. The opening ‘Anticline’ is a sublime dub odyssey that somehow orbits the beautiful intersection between the dub techno of Germany’s Rhythm & Sound and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s dub marvels at the Black Ark. Space is the place. The hugely enveloping piece continually mutates and transforms into new versions of itself as an ethereal dimension is attained at each and every turn. The synth elements – and the intricate array of divine nuances and sonic details – forges new horizons where stunning, unnerving soundscapes evoke the classic ‘Under The Skin’ score by British composer Mica Levi.

Iso’ is filled with the colours and textures of 50’s jazz music. The majestic drums drift in the ether of unknown possibilities. Certainly, this formidable creation transports the listener to Belfi’s near-mythical live solo performances. In fact, the live feel permeates throughout the aching pulse of ‘Ore’, which represents one of the hallmarks of this truly great record. Rewind twelve months and memories of witnessing the Verona-born musician’s hugely inspiring solo live set (alongside Nonkeen) at Nils Frahm’s ‘Possibly Colliding’ festival at London’s Barbican: the raw energy and sheer power of his drum playing hypnotize and enrapture that pulls you in deep akin to the gravitational pull of the earth itself.

The immediacy and pulsating energy of ‘Lead’ unfolds a rich narrative wherein drums and electronics are masterfully woven together. A fragile beauty seeps into the human space. The spectrum of enchanting sounds reveals the composer’s uncanny ability to create vast, empowering sound collages with minimal framework of drums and synthesizers. It’s the rich organic quality that exudes throughout ‘Lead’ that forges a deeply personal and otherworldly experience.

Ore’s pinnacle arrives on the shape-shifting tour-de-force ‘Ton’ with its deep bass rhythm and spectral palette, which continually expands and evolves with masterful use of delays and reverb. The brooding, cinematic atmosphere could depict the neon-lit city skyline of a distant utopia. The tempo is marvelously slowed down on the drone-infused ambient cycle ‘Syncline’ with its gorgeous ebb and flow of divine textures and gradual, swirling rhythms. The horizon is upon us.

‘Ore’ is released on Friday, May 26th via Float.

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

 2- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Interview with Andrea Belfi.

 

Congratulations on your new solo release ‘Ore’, it’s really incredible. I’d love for you to discuss the making of the new music? As a listener, it’s lovely to hear a solo work of yours and just how much you achieve with your tools of drums and synthesizer.

Andrea Belfi: The process of creating this album lasted probably about nine months or so because basically I started recording in May. I started using a method that I developed last year, I started recording some electronic beats but just to use those beats as a metronome or a beat keeper but at the same time some sounds that could bring me to a different world while recording drum beats basically. The idea was to start composing those tracks from drum beats but using these electronic beats in order to get into the hypnotic mood. So I recorded twelve different beats – like electronic beats – that I would use as a metronome but with a sort of a mood already into it. And then I went to the recording studio and I recorded these drumbeats with Mathias Hahn who is Nils Frahm’s stage technician; he’s an incredible sound technician. While I was on tour with Nils with Nonkeen we got along pretty well together and he was saying ‘Nils is getting this new recording studio at the Funkhaus in Berlin and he’s away for a week’ [laughs] so he said ‘We should use it, you can rent it out and we can go there and record it together because I think it’s the right time to do it’. And in a way he was encouraging to do so but I was already thinking about recording a new solo album but at the same time things came together very naturally. So, I got in touch with Mathias and I had this methodology already in mind and it got together pretty naturally. So, after these drum recordings I started editing and composing but in fact the drum beats came first.

It sounds very interesting how there were many stages in order to complete the music-making process. And what makes the Funkhaus so special as a recording space?

AB: I mean somehow it’s a piece of art because it’s an art piece. I think it is one of these very well crafted, beautifully designed studios where you really feel comfortable while playing music. It’s very difficult to describe but it’s very inspiring; it’s a very inspiring sounding room and that’s what makes it so interesting and important somehow plus the decorations are also part of it. The sound there is truly amazing and it has a very nice and smooth reverb which is present but at the same time you feel it’s there but is a preponderant.

The tracks themselves, I love how the opener ‘Anticline’ it’s one of those pieces that’s quite long but it’s that space you are able to create within the piece but also the close dialogue that’s ongoing between the synthesizer parts and the drums and also how the drums keep coming back at various points.

AB: I like the fact that it’s a very minimal piece of music but there is a narrative at the same time so it’s hypnotic but it’s also dubby in a way. It’s dub music if you look at it from a dub perspective it makes sense I think because there is this hypnotic world where you flow in but at the same time there are minimal variations that keep you inside the track. I would say that the first track is probably one of the most song-oriented tracks that I have ever released as a solo artist.

Throughout the album the effect of each component whether it’s the synthesizer or drums is very powerful and feels very much like one cohesive whole.

AB: In fact when I compose my solo music I tend to think of every element as one so I’m more of a composer than a drummer. So I’m really focusing on the composition itself than just my being a drummer if you know what I mean. When I started composing the songs from the drums recordings, it’s a natural process; I create a mood and then I try to dig into that mood. And to develop the synth parts, first of all trying to be as minimal as I can and then to make sound textures – and treating them almost as a melodic element – it’s very simple because there is not many chord changes, it’s very much like drone music basically. So I tend to compose for drums and electronics in an organic way; the drums is as important as the electronic part.

Your special live performances – and one particularly was your performance with Nonkeen last year and your solo drum performances during the ‘Possibly Colliding’ festival – there’s something about the live performance that very much is captured on this album, which is obviously a great thing.

AB: You’re pointing out something very important which is the live feeling of this album and it makes a big difference from the previous production that I did before and that’s something that I really wanted to keep. In fact part of this record – track number 2 & 3 (‘Iso’ and ‘Lead’) – they were basically live compositions that I prepared these compositions for my live set. While recording the material I had two set-ups in the studio; one for the new recordings and one for the live recording so I developed a solo live set within the last two years that I’ve been playing for about two years and that’s also the solo live set that I’ve been playing for Nonkeen’s tour. So the live feeling or the person playing that was really important even when I was really producing the music and crafting the final master; that was really important to keep the live feeling of it. So you have the feeling there is one person playing in front of you even when it’s very produced music.

I’d love to know more about your current live set-up and whether your equipment has been the same over the past decade of making music?

AB: I produce all of my electronic sounds through this synthesizer called Nord Modular and it’s a Swedish synthesizer that was made in the mid-90’s through the mid-00’s; I’ve been working on it for about fifteen years now, maybe a bit more, so I developed my own sound palette. And I have controllers so I have a sampler pad which is filled with Nord Modular electronic sounds. It’s a digital modular synthesizer and for me it became like my electronic music tool basically; I have a strong relationship with it [laughs]. And of course while producing the music for the record I used also some delays and some other production tools.

Then regarding the drums, when I play live I have a simple drum kit; there is a bass drum and a snare drum, floor tom and I have one cymbal and I have some percussion that I use, it’s not a complete drum set but it’s a minimal drum set. So I’ve been using this particular brand of drums, Ludwig for about ten years now and it’s an old Ludwig Super Classic drum set from the 1960’s and that’s where I developed my own particular drum sound, I think you’ve seen it when I was playing the Barbican. So it’s a big and fat bass drum sound; it’s kind of jazzy but at the same time it can be very powerful and intense. And last year I got this deal with a new drum company called Sari – it’s a Finnish drum company – I was very interested in those drum sets because first of all they sound similar to that sound that I built through my Ludwig but at the same time they had a twist; they are very interesting drum kits because they’re very similar to early Jazz drum kit from the 1920’s for example because they’re very light and they have a very open sound and long sound and very rich with harmonics. Most of the recordings on the record are with both drum kits so it’s kind of a transition: using two different drum kits for two different kinds of feeling. For example ‘Ton’ – which is the fourth track – is made with the Sari kit. I also have a preference for old jazz cymbals which have the same kind of characteristic so not much attack, very smooth and arc; that’s what I like.

I imagine the extensive Nonkeen tour – and your solo sets opening for Nonkeen each night – must have provided a lot of inspiration for the material on ‘Ore’ in terms of ideas and material?

AB: Oh absolutely, it was very important actually. It gave me lots of ideas to work with it and it was a very inspiring tour. And it was also very hard because playing solo and Nonkeen set was pretty intense but at the same time I learned a lot from that tour especially playing my solo set on the bigger stage; that was very important because I’d been playing this solo set in smaller places where I can really control the dynamics very well and in certain places I really had to deal with dynamics in a very different way: different crowds, different dynamics basically. I mean I really want to communicate to translate my music on a different level but the most important thing is to translate my idea of music on different stages and that was a very challenging situation. Sometimes it was very challenging because maybe you’re in front of several hundred people and you got used to maybe maximum one hundred people in front of you and that makes a huge difference because you have to maybe play louder to get the attention of that amount of people and then maybe get quieter again and use the dramaturgy in a different way [laughs].

3 - Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

You have improvised a lot in your previous musical output and I loved your Miasmah-related projects you have been involved with, especially the B/B/S releases. I suppose that whole idea of having a certain chemistry with other members and musicians and improvising with your own instruments and music is something you have been developing over a long period of time?

AB: Yeah it’s been a long time since I started working with improvised music. I did my first improvised music show in 2001 actually, I remember I was playing in Verona – my hometown in Italy – I was playing this metal sculpture that a local artist made and that was my first attempt to create improvised music. And then within the last few years I’ve been playing with lots of different people and I’ve been travelling quite a lot and I’ve been playing with a lot of different improvisers; different kinds like electronic musicians. And with B/B/S it’s another improvised music project that I really like because even if we improvise, we have our own language so it’s one aspect of improvisation which is having a particular language and using it to improvise. And that’s what I do with my solo way of improvising but also I would bring this into different projects and contexts. In Nonkeen as well, I brought some of this especially while we were rehearsing actually. Before the tour started we rehearsed quite a lot in order to develop a coherent live set. I have the feeling that it helped somehow for the band to get into that territory. I mean Nonkeen used to be an improvised music band.

You feel that very much on the two Nonkeen studio records as well as much as when you see the live show. I remember you were saying before how you were inspired hugely by Ennio Morricone?

AB: It’s a huge influence. I mean everyone in Italy of my age – but not just my age – and watching Sergio Leone’s films as kids and we know these albums and tracks by heart but then I started discovering more and more of his music through the last fifteen years or so. He’s always pushing boundaries of film music into his own world, it’s really inspiring. He’s very influential on my more song-oriented music but the atmosphere he creates is just incredible and very influential on my music. There are certain albums that I love. My favourite Morricone album is Come Maddalena and there’s something on it which is so complex and so simple at the same time, it’s so beautiful; under the simplicity there is a huge complexity. I mean you can say this about a lot of music but I think that’s the thing I really like about Ennio Morricone. He has a unique sound; that’s what I really like, whenever you listen to some of Morricone’s music you say ‘Ah,that’s him!’ and that’s what I like about artists and musicians in general when you listen to something or when you see something and you recognize a trademark: something original and compelling and at the same time it’s personal and experimental.

I get the impression you probably started playing the drums at a very young age? I’d be curious to know how you started and developed when you were younger?

AB: I started at the age of fourteen playing drums. There was this band  – friends of mine – that I used to skateboard with so it was this young crew who wanted to start their own punk band and I really wanted to join that group so I started how to play drums, I had to be pretty fast [laughs]. In terms of the learning process and also rhythmical wise, it was pretty fast rhythms so I started to take drum lessons when I was fourteen and then I had my first show at fifteen in a local pub, it was really, really exciting. In fact that’s something that I hope I will never lose; this kind of excitement about playing gigs. I mean sometimes it is not so easy to have this feeling all of the time – I play a lot of shows – but in general that’s the spirit I try to bring always on stage basically.

Then I’d been studying for a few years but I started in punk bands from fourteen and then I moved on into different directions after that. First of all, all kinds of hardcore punk; I was into that scene in the mid-90’s when I was a teenager. It was life changing. Then I moved to different strands of music and then I discovered this band Gastr del Sol: for me it’s still one of my favourite bands and in a way I really think that their combination of straight forward rock music and electroacoustic music like the weirdest experimental music is somehow I feel that’s where my music comes from. I also got to play with David Grubbs (the founding member of Gastr del Sol) I started collaborating with him back in 2009, he was based in New York but sometimes we had the chance to play together.

At the same time by the end of the 90’s I got into electronic music a lot, so Warp Music Records basically [laughs] and lots of minimalist music like La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine: it was nothing really about drums – sometimes it was about drums – but it was more a different type of music that I really loved in general. And I got into radical improvised music so I started combining drums and electronics. I’ve always been trying to develop new ideas through exciting music that I have discovered through the years.

That’s the cool thing listening to your solo music it’s like blurring the boundaries where it’s hard to describe the music or pin point exactly what  it is.

AB: It’s not a great business tool [laughs] not knowing what kind of music this is but in a way that’s what I like. I was trying to in my own little world to push the boundaries of the music that I knew and to make it different all the time like using references – not really doing it literally but getting inspired by certain solutions like combining field recordings and drums or electronics and drums or certain atmosphere – I think trying to find a unique sound that was my first aim always and that’s what I’m still trying to do.

Are you listening to any particular favourite records at the moment?

AB: That’s a good question actually, I mean I listen to a lot of records at the moment. I really like this sound poetry electroacoustic music by an Italian musician called Francesco Cavaliere, he’s pretty cool in his way of using sounds and narrative, it’s beautiful. I really like Mark Ernestus’s (one of the two from Rhythm & Sound) new project called Ndagga Rhythm Force, he’s producing this Senegalese band; it’s mind-blowing, very unique music. There is a musical style in Senegal called Mbalax (or Mbalakh) so he produced it in a dub way so cutting out solos and dubbing voices, it’s pretty great actually and in fact they’re playing tonight in Berlin so I might go tonight and see them playing. I’m really into Ellen Arkbro’s last solo record, Giuseppe Ielasi’s record and I’m really into Raymond Scott.

I usually listen to a lot of African music in general, I really like Congolese music; Soukous music is the style of music that was developed in the Congo in the 60’s and the 70’s, that’s a style that I really love. I really loved ‘Under The Skin’ by Mica Levi, it’s an amazing record. I like Rashid Bakr’s last two albums he did, those are amazing records and Miasmah Records’s Svarte Greiner records are beautiful. I like Sun Araw’s music, I’ve seen him play two or three times, he’s really great.

There is this cassette that Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy made, it’s called ‘Bonnie Prince Billy II’ and there are some beautiful songs there. I’ve been listening a lot to Bill Callahan’s music. Mario Batkovic’s accordion music is really beautiful and a really inspiring record [self-titled record via Invada Records]. I listen to a lot of Sun Ra’s music. There’s a record that I really like called ‘The Union’ by Elton John and Leon Russell and was produced by T Bone Burnett’ it’s amazingly produced and there are two drummers that I really love who are on there: Jim Keltner and Jay Bellerose who are both crazy drummers. They have the same kind of feeling, in fact I really love those two drummers because they have this kind of blues feeling on drums with a rich full sound but very loose, it’s very musical so it’s not like straight and square, they sing in a way.

I’m also playing in July with Circuit Des Yeux, a singer-songwriter from the U.S. I’m playing drums for her and I’ve played with her for two shows before, one in Berlin and another in Utrecht at Le Guess Who? festival. She has an incredible voice and she is a great performer so I’m really excited to listen to her next solo album; she will send it to me pretty soon as we will play some of her new songs.

Another solo artist that I really like and I’m digging his music is called Seth Frightening. He’s from New Zealand and is very interesting music; he is a big talent I would say and he has a very good sensibility for songwriting.

‘Ore’ is released on Friday, May 26th via Float.

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

https://www.wearefloat.co.uk/

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May 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm