FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Daniel Thorne

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I’m fascinated by the way that certain ratios and sequences occur in nature, like fibonacci spirals and the golden ratio, and the idea of these things speaking to a kind of higher logic that, even if we’re not explicitly aware of, we recognize and feel on some level of our perception.”

—Daniel Thorne

 Words: Mark Carry

daniel thorne

Released last spring on the awe-inspiring Erased Tapes label, Liverpool-based composer and Immix Ensemble founder, Daniel Thorne’s exceptional debut solo album ‘Lines Of Sight’ is one of those rare jewels in the realm of contemporary music, which confounds, inspires and delights such is its remarkable sonic oeuvre. The album title perfectly embodies the music- the intricate layers of saxophones (and bass synth in places) unfold endless new pathways that beautifully meld, intersect, overlap and yields magic at every turn.

Let’s begin at the end. The album’s final piece, ‘Fear of Floating’ is built upon mesmerizing, pastoral saxophone tapestries, whose gentle patterns forge a staggering beauty like the endless ripples cast upon a stone on water. An intimacy is immediately created.  Some time later, warm textures of bass synth is masterfully added, in perfect unison with the vivid colours of the lead saxophone instrumentation – it’s like a synergy is thus created that brings forth the joyous, heart-rending climax of ‘Lines Of Sight’s deeply empowering musical exploration.

A synergy perhaps pinpoints the process itself – or more specifically, the reaction the listener feels in midst of these otherworldly compositions – where the close interaction of Thorne’s sonic components produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their parts. A joy to witness unfold (and subsequently) transform.

The record amasses one giant cohesive whole, of breath-taking magnitude and raw  emotion, wherein endless contrasts of dense, polyrhythmic, frenetic free jazz waves are masterfully juxtaposed with the intimate, sparse and dappled light of orchestral colours. The rawness and energy that emanates from the utterly transcendent opus ‘From Inside, Looking Out’ (recalling the kindred spirit of Colin Stetson) serves the fitting opening to Thorne’s scintillating solo music path. This cathartic flow leads into the unwavering beauty of the sparse lament ‘From the Other Side of the World’ (reminiscent of English composer Michael Nyman’s timeless works), a piece of music you feel you have known all your life. A closeness and delicate beauty permeates each and every heart pore.

Similarly, the hypnotic,pulsating and blissful ‘From the Heavens’ is laden with heavy synthesizer instrumentation before the introspective stillness of ‘Pyriscence’ beautifully fades in, akin to a labyrinth of faded dreams.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is a very special and transformative solo work from a visionary composer.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.danielthorne.net/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Interview with Daniel Thorne.

 

Congratulations on the sublime debut solo album ‘Lines Of Sight’. The album title perfectly embodies the music- the intricate layers of saxophones (and bass synth in places) unfold endless new pathways that beautifully meld, intersect, overlap and yields magic at every turn. Please take me back to the making of your debut solo album and the challenges/opportunities this writing/recording process offered up (in contrast to your role in Immix Ensemble)?

Daniel Thorne: Thank you for the kind words! This has been a very different project to what I’m used to – in the past most my writing projects have been geared towards live performance, usually with a fairly frantic rush towards a rehearsal, then a premiere, and then often that’s it and I move on to the next thing. Dealing with studio-based composition is definitely a different kettle of fish. I’d been dabbling with it for a little while but had never managed to create anything that I felt was meaningful. I found that the infinite possibilities afforded by that way of working were quite intimidating, and I lost a lot of time trying to decide what instruments to write for, how many tracks to use, etc, etc. I ended up getting around that by basically creating an ‘ensemble’ of four saxophone parts and four synth parts, which was the limitation that I needed in order to get over that.

The other road block for me was being so used to writing music with live performance and performers in mind, which kept colliding with this desire to use the studio to do things that were essentially impossible to perform should I go out and gig the music. In the end I decided to take any ideas of a live realization of the music out of the equation and focus on creating something that was intended to be experienced in recorded form, which was really liberating. The irony is that now I’m trying to work out how to put together a live set that relates to this music, but that’s a whole other thing…

The glorious and mind-blowing opening track ‘From Inside, Looking Out’ serves the perfect opening to this sonic journey. I’m very curious to learn to what extent is a piece such as this born from improvisation (or particularly solo live performance)? The sheer intensity and raw energy unleashed is quite something indeed. Also, the distinct movements that are contained within this composition showcases the masterful arrangements of this record.

DT: I definitely wanted it to have the energy and rawness that you’re talking about, however this piece actually started out as a fairly simple chord progression played on the piano. The majority of the overall structure of the piece was written at the piano, and it was only later, after I’d made those decisions I mentioned before about which instruments I was going to use, that I started to shape and sculpt things in a more focused way. I knew I wanted to start with a bang, and I was very much thinking of the masses of sound created by large free jazz ensembles rather than something more polished and orchestral.

As the titles of the first half of ‘Lines Of Sight’ suggest, there is very much a bird’s eye view of the world – it’s almost as if the creator is above the clouds, inhabiting some otherworldly realm. Can you discuss the themes and central narrative to ‘Lines Of Sight’ please? Was coming up with the album-title a certain gateway into the music, so to speak?

DT: Aerial images and the idea of a bird’s eye view were very much in my mind when composing these pieces. In particular I was interested in exploring the idea of perspective and how that is altered by distance – how something like a river or an ocean that can be incredibly complex and detailed when viewed up close is reduced to a simple line or shape when viewed from high above, how the natural and man-made start to become indistinguishable from one another – and playing with those dualities and contradictions. The first half of the album actually started out as a stand-alone suite in three movements which was titled Lines of Sight, but when I decided to do a full album I wanted to keep those ideas at the core of the additional tracks. I felt that it was a phrase that encapsulated the concepts really well, and that it made sense as the title for the whole album rather than just the first half of it.

‘From the Other Side of the World’ is such a breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt lament that irresistibly floats in the ether. Can you take me back to composing and writing this particular piece? How long were these pieces simmering in your mind I wonder?

DT: This piece evolved in a very organic way, in contrast to some of the other tracks which came out of more rigid processes. It was literally just a case of improvising at the piano, and stumbling onto a chord progression that seemed to unlock everything else relatively quickly – I think I fleshed out the entire thing in about two days, which is fast for me. At the time I was feeling quite homesick and missing family and friends in Australia, so the piece began to take on this feeling of being a soundtrack to saying goodbye at the airport, taking off and arriving back in the UK.

In general, do you find these tracks were captured to tape after very few takes? The intimacy and immediacy of the music suggests they could be live takes in fact? Please describe your studio set-up and if you experimented with new processes on your solo outing?

DT: The way that I’d written things made it pretty difficult to do a full song in one take – dealing with multiple saxophone and synth parts that all had to be precisely synchronized meant that almost everything was fully scored out and had to be multi-tracked following a click track. The one exception to that was ‘Fear of Floating’, where I did one take of the main saxophone part (without a click) and then added everything else around it. I did generally try to limit myself to only doing a couple of takes for each part, mostly because otherwise I would have would up with a lot of material to sift through, but also because I wanted to embrace a certain amount of rawness and imperfection. I didn’t do any major editing other than a bit of comping here and there.

In terms of my studio setup, it’s pretty basic and low budget, just a laptop with a nice preamp and a microphone in the spare room at home, plus a synth and few effects pedals. The fact that I was multi-tracking everything and recording in a space that was fine but not particularly special in terms of its acoustics meant that the saxophone recordings were mic’d pretty close, which I think again helped to highlight smaller details and imperfections in each part, rather than creating a more homogenous, orchestral vibe.

The dichotomy of worlds and series of counterpoints and contrasting textures is something that occurs throughout ‘Lines Of Sight’. I love the more electronic/techno bliss of ‘From the Heavens’ and how this flows into the more fragile and organic sound world of ‘Pyriscence’. Was the sequencing of the record a significant challenge, to create that endless flow, as it were?

DT: That’s very flattering, but I actually think I just got lucky as in my mind there really only seemed to be one logical order for everything – as I mentioned, the first side was originally conceived as a suite and I didn’t want to break it up, while ‘Fear of Floating’ had always felt like an ending to me. Because the album began with quite a loud dramatic statement, I didn’t want to repeat that gesture to start the second half, which pretty much meant it had to be ‘Pyriscence’ – I really didn’t feel like there was any other way that made sense. I also really liked that that this meant that the two sides were sort of opposites of one another in terms of the balance between more- and less-dense pieces.

I would love to gain an insight into your compositional approach and the highly calculated nature of some aspects to your music-making process?

DT: Several of the pieces were developed out processes like isorhythm, long-range polyrhythm, and ratios. I’m fascinated by the way that certain ratios and sequences occur in nature, like fibonacci spirals and the golden ratio, and the idea of these things speaking to a kind of higher logic that, even if we’re not explicitly aware of, we recognize and feel on some level of our perception. I wanted to see how using similar kinds of devices and logics to inform the form and proportion of the pieces, without making them overly explicit, would influence the way the music was perceived by the listener. Probably the most strictly calculated in that regard is “Threnody for a Burning Building”, where all of the harmonic material comes from a very simple chord sequence moving at three different speeds simultaneously, while all the changes in the rhythmic texture are dictated by a series of polyrhythms and their interaction with one another. Having said that, that piece is definitely the most rigorous example, there are other tracks that grew in a much more organic way, while others contain a balance of both.

What’s next for you? Have you been enjoying any particular records of late?

DT: I’m doing my best to figure out my solo live set, and trying to find a way of creating a similar sonic environment to the album while also focusing on the kinds of things that I enjoy about live performance such as improvising, stretching material, etc. I’m also going to be working with Forest Swords to compose a piece for Immix that will be performed as part of the PRS New Music Biennial in London and Hull later this year. In terms of records, I love the new Szun Waves album, ‘New Hymn to Freedom” and I’m completely obsessed with David Lang’s ‘Mystery Sonatas’.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.danielthorne.net/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

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July 10, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Guest Mixtape: Resina (Poland/130701)

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To coincide with the release of last month’s utterly compelling ‘Traces – Remixes’ EP via the essential 130701 imprint, world-renowned Polish cellist and composer Resina’s follow-up to last year’s ‘Traces’ full-length, we are delighted to present a special guest mix compiled by the revered Warsaw-based cellist. Across the EP’s sprawling sonic terrain, Resina’s cello-based compositions get re-imagined by four of her favourite artists, that in turn, explore further into the heart of human emotion and the spectrum of life itself.

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The shimmering bliss of labelmate Ian William Craig’s breath-taking remix of ‘In’ serves the achingly beautiful centrepiece. Looped cello lines become beautifully interwoven with the Vancouver artist’s glorious vocal melodies – creating a symphony of timeless bliss and unfathomable beauty. Tape artifacts are masterfully implanted deep inside the slipstream, creating an otherworldly sound world  of post-classical rapture.

The hypnotic ‘In In’ is further transformed by Icelandic composer Ben Frost with added drumming elements, further heightening the cinematic atmosphere and charged intensity of Resina’s original composition. Swells of vocals and synths are distilled in the track’s shape-shifting and continually morphing elements that reveal endless moments of complete transcendence.

Berlin-based Lotic takes ‘In In’ to a completely new world of playfully rhythmic electronic wizardry. Serbian ambient artist Abul Mogard’s epic remix of ‘Trigger’ expands space and time, as beguiling ambient waves fade beautifully into the headspace, before a crescendo of scintillating noise fills the void. These fascinating remixes give new perspectives on Resina’s deeply moving and inspiring sonic landscapes.

‘Traces – Remixes’ EP is out now on 130701.

 

Resina – Fractured Air Mix – July 2019

01. Christina Vantzou – ‘Glissando for Bodies and Machines in Space’ (Kranky)
02. Ben Frost – ‘Touch the Heart’ (SATV Music)
03. BNNT – ‘The Last Illiterate’ (Instant Classic)
04. Zamilska – ‘Front’ (Untuned Records)
05. Lotic – ‘Distribution of Care’ (Tri Angle)
06. Emilie Levienaise-Farrouche  – ‘Persephone’ (130701)
07. M8N – ‘Through the Waterfall’ (SADKI REC)
08. Abul Mogard – ‘The Sky Had Vanished’ (Ecstatic Recordings)
09. Resina – ‘In In’ (Ben Frost Remix) (130701)
10. Ian William Craig – ‘Some Absolute Means’ (130701)

‘Traces – Remixes’ EP is out now on 130701.

https://resina.bandcamp.com/

http://130701.com/

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July 3, 2019 at 10:20 am

Time Has Told Me: Dennis Young

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“…you become one with this sound and I think I’ve experienced that a few times and that’s really quite an amazing feeling when you have that.”

—Dennis Young

 Words: Mark Carry

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Dennis Young is best known as the marimba player and percussionist for the legendary New York group Liquid Liquid, a trend-setting, shape-shifting early 1980’s post-punk band whose timeless rhythmic, beat-driven (and incidentally guitar-less) explorations continue to inspire bands of today. In truth, Liquid Liquid never fit into the No Wave movement of the time across the New York underground or moreover the noise scene that followed a short time later. Utilizing immaculate instrumentation of marimba, percussion, bass and vocals, its group’s members would become one with the music, creating utterly timeless gems such as ‘Optimo’, ‘Cavern’ and ‘Scraper’ across a series of essential singles and ep’s – and over the years – some vital re-issues housed by Domino and Mo Wax (originally released on legendary imprint  99 Records).

During the mid-80’s, Young was busy, in between playing the legendary clubs of New York, the gifted musician undertook his own solo explorations from his home studio in Jersey. Young released a plethora of solo recordings from ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’ to ‘Reel To Real’ and ‘Synthesis’ encompassing electronic, jazz, krautrock, folk, African and a myriad of other influences etched across the sonic tapestry.

Earlier this year, the beloved Edinburgh independent label Athens Of The North lovingly assembled a new compilation of Young’s career spanning solo recordings, entitled ‘Primitive Substance’. This is a record that showcases the uncanny musical abilities of the multi-instrumentalist and composer, beginning from ’87 right up to 2004. The title-track is a stunning jazz odyssey with added textures of colourful trumpet and melodic bass guitar lines. ‘Berlin’s irresistible synthesizer groove feels as if it could loop forever such is its divine spell.

The endless nuances, textures and intricate patterns can be found deep in the music’s flow. The avant pop sphere of ‘Somerset Hills’ is filled with sumptuous pop hooks and celestial harmonies.One of the compilation’s highlights is the achingly beautiful lament ‘Forgiveness’: Young sings on the opening verse, “Hold me/Help me carry on”. A song to soothe the darkest depths of pain. The retrospective’s nine genre-bending explorations carves out a kaleidoscopic, visionary oeuvre of enchanting sounds.

‘Primitive Substance’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-substance

 

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Interview with Dennis Young.

Firstly, can you discuss the new compilation ‘Primitive Substance’ which came out recently on Athens Of The North?

Dennis Young: I got in touch with Athens Of The North and they were excited about this; it’s basically a compilation of more the songs I did over the years: starting from 1987 all the way up to 2004. So after Liquid Liquid disbanded I continued on recording music – all different types of music – and this is kind of like more the songs I did in world music, jazz, alternative dance beat type of music on this recording. So I compiled the best songs I had and then Athens Of The North put it out so I’m really excited about how it turned out.

It’s precisely all the styles you hear all across the compilation where you get the sense that there’s just so many ideas and elements that goes into each song.

DY: I never did the same record twice – I always try to do something different on each recording and a lot of those songs are out of print right now or there’s some unreleased music on there also. I always try to do something with each record different and there was a point in time when I had a lot of keyboards and sequencers and drum machines and so I was doing a lot of programming that way. There was no computer on any of those songs: there was a sequencer and recording.

Do you have memories of composing and performing ‘Primitive Substance’ – the piece itself – because it’s an amazing jazz track?

DY: That was done in a studio; I never recorded that live. Basically it was about a really amazing recording session: I was doing a record ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’, I was working on the record and the engineer said “I know a really good bass player and a really good trumpet player” and I said “Great, bring them down” because the song needed something added to what I had. So this bass player came down and he was Gerry Carboy, a really amazing jazz bass player and he also had a homemade bass that was made for him specifically as you can hear on the record and he had such a great sound. And then the trumpet player, Michael Gribbrook just came in and he did those parts on one take: he had a flugelhorn and he had a trumpet and it was just a magical session, it just happened really amazingly how it all came together.

My current highlight is the amazing ballad ‘Forgiveness’, the vocals and lyrics in particular are really quite something.

DY:  Yeah that’s one of my favourite songs on the whole compilation – that was a special song. That one came together also really well. David Axelrod –not the famous one but a local friend of mine who I’ve done music with on other types of projects – he came in and did this really amazing bassline on that also: I mean that really just put it over the top and it’s such an emotional bassline on there and really he tied the whole song in there together. Those mixes were done, at that time it was all done on analog tape so the mixes were really just we had to set it up on the board and after the mix was done, that was it: it was gone, you didn’t save it back then. And so who I worked with at the time in the studio really did a great job getting those mixes good.

Can you describe the Gabriel Farm Studios in Princeton which was run by your collaborator Andy Gomory (particularly on your earlier solo records)?

DY: Andy Gomory I found on a local ad in a music paper – I was looking to mix my first record: it was the electronic record that I did called ‘Concepts’ and by chance Andy had a studio and I called him up and said I wanted to do some mixing with this first record. And I went there and we blew because he played keyboards and he had this DMX drum machine and after we did mixing, we started playing together and we started jamming. Andy is a really amazing musician: he did some great programming on those drum machines and he was a really fine keyboardist.

You were a huge part of Liquid Liquid, I’m sure you must have strong memories of pursuing your solo path when the band disbanded?

DY: I was doing solo music at home when the band was still happening, I was exploring electronic music at home at that time, even when the band was happening. I had a reel-to-reel at that point – in fact there is a record out called ‘Reel To Real’ on Staubgold that’s all 2-track live reel-to-reel recordings I did basically when the band was going on at that point [’82-‘83]. So I was basically doing my own music still even when Liquid Liquid was happening, I mean we were playing a lot but I still had a lot of time for my own explorations of music.

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You must have particularly fond memories of New York and this whole vibrant music scene happening during that time?

DY: It was amazing, the clubs were really happening. At that time you didn’t have cell phones, you didn’t have everything online so people came out to hear music. And we would play at these really top clubs in the city, I mean we were on 99 Records – and we were very lucky to get on 99 – and we were playing some of the top clubs. And then when The White Lines and Cavern hit and we even played the huge disco place the Roxy, the Funhouse, Paradise Garage and we had that experience. So it was pretty amazing, we never thought we’d be involved with a lot of the big dance clubs because we were basically an alternative type of group: it was very rhythm oriented, we relied on the beat and rhythm and so it was an exciting time- we were at the right place at the right time.

I can imagine those jams with the band – you must have realized you were onto something very early on?

DY: Oh Yeah. I played with these guys before Liquid Liquid in The Idiot Orchestra. I met Richard McGuire in college and we had a jam back then that was really exciting and we gelled and there was a drummer involved. But then I played four shows with The Idiot Orchestra (which Richard was in as well as Scott Hartley from Liquid Liquid) so we even gelled then. So that was the foundation of this and when we started playing it was this amazing chemistry we all had and made it unique.

I presume you played drums from a very young age?

DY: That was my first instrument as a teenager was the drums. So I was playing in a lot of covers bands in high school and that kind of thing – I was really a drummer and I wanted to be a professional drummer when I was a teenager, that was my real goal. I never thought it would sidetrack to a marimba player and percussion and doing all this electronic music so it was a surprise to me because as a kid I really wanted to be a drummer – that was my real instrument that I loved as a kid.

I wonder in your teenage years were there certain bands or albums or live shows too in New York that really made you want to pursue music?

DY: I think back then we had a really great recordstore by us that got a lot of imports in – they were called Cut-outs at the time and I would get records like a lot of prog rock stuff like things from Can and Neu! and all types of stuff. And so I was getting exposed even at high school and early college on some of these really progressive type of music. I was very impressed by Bill Bruford and King Crimson was a big influence on me –  that type of music. So I was listening to a lot of that in highschool and into college but I had access to a recordstore there that would all this amazing cut-outs for two dollars: all this amazing from over in Europe and in Germany and England so that really opened my eyes to different ways the music can be influenced by.

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A collection like this with ‘Primitive Substance’ you’re someone who has made so much music across different sounds and styles, is it almost a challenge to pick out bits and pieces from a large library of so many different sounds?

DY: It is a challenge. It was a challenge with each record to find a new synthesizer to buy, a new sound to find especially ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’which is an accumulation of everything because it has so much on it: so many instruments, so many unique players: that record really is the last one I did which has ‘Primitive Substance’ and ‘Forgiveness’ and a couple of other really good tracks. I still have copies but like I said these are getting harder and harder to get because they’re limited runs that I did. But thanks to Athens Of The North and Bureau B and these other labels that I’ve been working with, people are able to hear this music for the first time mostly because a lot of people haven’t heard a lot of this stuff.

With the whole technological advances of today and things are changing quite quickly with music and so on, what is your perspective on the music path now as opposed to back in the mid-80’s?

DY: Back then everything was recorded on tape: I went through a number of different tape formats, you had the reel-to-reel, the porto studio, the DAT. I think now it’s too easy to get music perfectly these days with a computer. I use a computer to edit but I don’t use any sounds off of a computer as much but it makes it too easy make things sound really good. Back then it was a challenge to get the music right and it was all done with sequencers and actual playing. I think now, it’s still a challenge but it makes it more easier to make music and there’s so much out there now, there’s just a flood of stuff, you can’t keep up with so many bands and names, it’s just hard to keep up.

I love how you have an array of guests that just do their thing and add certain textures to your songs. I get the impression that must always be an exciting thing for you to invite certain people over and things like that?

DY: Oh absolutely. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the ‘Shadow’ record that I did: it was a singer-songwriter record that I did after ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’. I was able to get a classical violinist to come down to the studio and record some amazing parts so these people really add to the puzzle of a song. So the finished song has somebody else’s playing on it and I let the musician play what they feel, I don’t dictate usually what they do on these songs so I’ve been very lucky to get really good musicians to play on the songs and to add really great parts.

I’d be curious to know about your set-up in the studio. Do you find that you have a certain routine or way of laying things out or does it change with the different records?

DY: I think with a lot of the records especially electronic I would have to get a sound that to me feels like it could go somewhere – either it’s the beat or the texture of the sound, especially with a lot of electronic music. And the same with the later stages where a lot of it started on a keyboard or a drum machine together, it was just the feel that I had that I felt would work. And then from there it would build up, I would add the additional instruments, the singing, the vocals – the vocals always came after the music on all the songs that you hear, especially on ‘Primitive Substance’, that was always the last thing that I added. Nothing ever developed with just the lyrics first, that was always after the music but it was like a feel that I had from the instruments and so I thought, well maybe this might turn into a song.

Would you have an earliest memory of playing the drums and the special reaction you had?

DY: I don’t know about the drumset as much but maybe with the Liquid Liquid band, our first few shows where we really excited an audience and everything gelled, it’s quite a feeling when the band reaches this level where you’re more than the individual parts, you become one with this sound and I think I’ve experienced that a few times and that’s really quite an amazing feeling when you have that. I might have experienced that as a drummer but I think more with the band I felt that.

‘Primitive Substance’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-substance

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July 2, 2019 at 11:17 am

Mixtape: Fractured Air – June 2019

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This month’s mixtape opens with the peerless, beloved Austin-based songwriter Bill Callahan and his hugely anticipated “Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest” (Drag City), the breathtaking twenty-song opus and follow-up to 2013’s “Dream River”. June’s mix also features: the wonderful Nashville-based composer Eve Maret with her scintillating “No More Running” full length; more beautiful bittersweet folk pop creations from Welsh songwriter and musician Cate Le Bon (from her Mexican Summer-debut ‘Reward’). Other essential 2019 releases include the peerless Irish songwriter Maria Somerville (‘All My People’ remains our favourite of the year); Cork-born and Berlin-based producer ELLLL’s latest ‘Glisten’ EP (released via the Barcelona imprint Paralaxe Editions) and Earthen Sea’s sophomore full-length for the ever-dependable Kranky label.

Dazzling re-issues from Liquid Liquid’s Dennis Young (via Scottish imprint Athens Of The North); Julie Coker’s musical career retrospective showcasing the Nigerian queen of television’s formidable songbook; and Portland, Oregon’s Little Axe compilation of Andean party music from the central sierra of Peru.

 

 

 

Fractured Air – June 2019

01. Bill Callahan‘Shepherd’s Welcome’ (Drag City)
02. Ditto‘Pop’ (Ditto Records)
03. Cate Le Bon‘Here It Comes Again’ (Mexican Summer)
04. G.S. Schray‘District Lizards’ (Last Resort)
05. S. Maharba‘For Someone’ (Cleaning Tapes)
06. Felicia Atkinson‘Shirley to Shirley’ (Sheltered Press)
07. Earthen Sea‘A blank slate’ (Kranky)
08. Nina Simone‘Tomorrow (We Will Meet Once More)’ (Colpix Records)
09. Aldous Harding‘Treasure’ (4AD)
10. Los Solitarios Del Ande‘Mi Pachito A Muerto’ (Little Axe Records)
11. Hailu Mergia & Dahlak Band‘Sintayehu’ (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
12. Julie Coker ‘Ere Yon’ (Kalita Records)
13. White Fence – ‘Fog City’ (Drag City)
14. Dennis Young‘Berlin’ (Athens Of The North)
15. Dylan Moon ‘Song For Jerry’ (RVNG Intl)
16. Eve Maret‘Pink Ray’ (Banana Tapes)
17. ELLLL‘Ride’ (Paralaxe Editions)
18. Fly Pan Am ‘Distance Dealer’ (Constellation)
19. Stereolab‘Diagonals’ (Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks)
20. Sons Of Kemet‘My Queen Is Anna Julia Cooper’ (Impulse!)
21. Maria Somerville‘Brighter Days’ (Self-released)
22. Giuliano Sorgini ‘Notte Nella Savana’ (Four Flies Records)
23. The Langley Schools Music Project ‘In My Room’ (Bar/None Records)

Step Right Up: Justin Wright

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When a phrase resolves, you feel release, because it finally wrapped up the way your brain thought it should.”

—Justin Wright

 Words: Mark Carry

justin wright

Having supported the likes of Colin Stetson, Hauschka, Bing & Ruth and Mount Eerie in recent times, Canadian cellist Justin Walter’s debut full length comes with a significant wave of feverish anticipation. Released last month, ‘Music for Staying Warm’ is a breath-taking suite of nine stunningly beautiful cello-based compositions: music to escape into the pools of one’s mind amidst a labyrinth of forgotten times.

The first taste of the Montreal-based composer’s striking debut was the lead track ‘Modular Winter’ whose string melodies – an intricately layered dialogue of rich string instrumentation (violin, viola, cello, double bass) that serves a heavenly inner-dialogue throughout.

Four (specifically titled) drone pieces are masterfully embedded across the record’s striking narrative. ‘Drone IV: Breath’ – perfectly placed immediately after ‘Modular Winter’ – awakens the senses as a plateau of forlorn, achingly beautiful colours and textures gradually exude ripples in the waves of your innermost self. This cinematic quality and highly emotive power is nothing short of staggering.

Music for Staying Warm’ is one of those rare jewels that unleashes an infinite, hypnotic spell with its modern classical splendor and immaculately interwoven instrumentation. ‘In Sunlight’s dazzling ebb and flow of brooding strings maps the warmth of the emerging light at dawn: illumination at every turn.

‘Music for Staying Warm’ is out now on First Terrace Records.

https://justinwright.ca/

https://www.firstterracerecords.com/

JR

Interview with Justin Wright.

  

Congratulations Justin on your stunningly beautiful debut full-length ‘Music for Staying Warm’. The seeds were sewn for this record when you were asked to write and perform a set of string works for a relaxation room at an event during the Montreal winter. Firstly, please take me back to this particular performance – and the preparatory work/writing stages that you undertook in the build up of this show? Do you have memories of the live set itself and how you felt during/immediately after the performance?

Justin Wright: Thank you! That was a really fun performance, there’s nothing like a pressing deadline to get you working hard, so I wrote about 45 minutes worth of music over a week, but a lot of those minutes were actually repeated segments. I thought I would be playing background music, and from my experience as a hire musician for weddings, nobody notices repetition when they’re not paying close attention. But to my surprise everyone sat there and listened attentively, making me very self-conscious about whether this music was boring or not, but ultimately it was great to see that people stayed interested and seemed to really like it. I remember at one point during the performance someone left a note at my feet, and it turned out to be a really sweet note written in beautiful calligraphy, telling me my music makes the world a better place. I still have that note hanging on my fridge door!

I’m very curious to learn how you developed these ideas further over a period of time following on from this Montreal show? I get the impression you felt you had a strong foundation of string works to build on, so I’d love to gain an insight into the process by which you further developed these compositions?

JW: I probably shouldn’t say this, but the original compositions were partly written to fill as much time as possible. They had sections doubled, had a lot more room for improv, and were written to be performed rather than recorded. So a lot of the work was cutting out unnecessary notes, letting some of the improvised segments calcify into real compositions after playing them many times, and adding textures or elements that might be hard to play live, but add a lot to the recordings. I also just wrote more tracks whenever I would feel inspired.

The title of the record perfectly embodies the deeply affecting cello-based works: the album permeates a beautifully immersive landscape for you to get lost in. Can you talk me through the narrative of this album that ties these nine pieces together? Also, I was interested to read how conceptually the music was heavily inspired by types of Ethiopian music. Please discuss the various elements of Ethiopian music that you wanted to draw from, so to speak?

JW: I think there are two main concepts that tie all the tracks together. The first is reflected in the title, which has a bit of irony. I had set out to write music that keeps us warm, but the album ended up being more of an exploration of that search for warmth, hence the occasional melancholic, brooding track. Maybe there’s a narrative in there, but I leave it up to the listener to decide what it is, and frame it in their own experiences.

The second is the idea of losing your sense of time, and different tracks do this in different ways. So much of music (and art in general) revolves around tension and release, and that kind of helps place the listener temporally in the piece, giving you expectations about where the piece is going. When a phrase resolves, you feel release, because it finally wrapped up the way your brain thought it should. It was from listening to a few styles of Ethiopian music that I learned that just doing away with this tension-and-release phrasing can create a beautiful and comforting feeling of aimless wandering, once you come to terms with the fact that it’s going nowhere. So a lot of the album uses this idea, either doing away with tension and release, or by dancing around a listener’s preconceived idea of where the track should go.

Four (specifically titled) drone pieces are spaced evenly throughout the album. ‘Drone IV: Breath’ for me serves the endearing heart of part A and how the piece gradually builds awakens something deep inside. Can you discuss the relationship you find between these drone pieces and also, the sequencing/spacing of the tracks themselves?

JW: For a while I considered releasing this as sort of a double EP, with the drone tracks on one side, and the more composed pieces on the other, but the tracks had such a good flow when mixed together. The drone tracks end up serving as pillars that give the album a steady foundation. They all have quite different feelings, but I think it creates a nice effect of always returning back to something familiar. The numbers in the titles actually refer to the order I wrote them in. I briefly considered renumbering them to fit the track order, but I like that they’re out of order. I’ve been really getting into the idea of strongly reinforcing and committing to moments that seem kind of arbitrary and fleeting, and I think that’s something I want to explore more on the next album.

For the recording sessions, can you introduce your various string collaborators and friends who guested? What was the day-to-day routine like for the ‘Music for Staying Warm’ recordings?

JW: I can’t say there was a day-to-day routine, because we recorded 90% of the album in a single 6-hour session! I expected it to be more of a preliminary session to set the foundations for longer recording sessions, and we said we’d just record as much as we could in that time, but it went so smoothly that we got nearly everything, and I just did minor overdubs later. I did have to do a lot of logistical planning for the session though. There’s always a trade-off to recording as a full ensemble versus recording each instrument individually, and I tried to get the best of both worlds by pairing specific layers to record at together.

My main string collaborator on the album is Kate Maloney; I’ve worked with for many years and she really knows what I’m going for, so I got her to play both violin and viola. I really lucked out, because she just happened to be performing in a series of shows in Calgary while I was at the Banff Centre. So she took the two hour bus ride over and we got straight to recording. Simmy Singh, a great viola player who was also at the Banff Centre at the time also joined us for one of the tracks that I wanted to record as a trio. Then finally back in Montreal I recorded some violin overdubs and background textures with Taylor Mitz who was studying at McGill.

What are your earliest musical memories? Can you recall the moment you knew the music path was the destined path for your own life?

JW: I started playing cello, when I was 8, so my memories from back then are a bit shaky, but I remember instantly loving the cello and learning melodies from some of my favourite classical pieces. I loved playing more modern and contemporary stuff pretty early on, and I was lucky to have teachers who found me the rarely-encountered contemporary classical music that was easy enough for a child to play.

I never really thought I was destined for music, I just always enjoyed it, and it’s only recently that I’ve realized that it’s actually a pretty viable path for me. When I went to science school instead of music school, I really didn’t think there was a place for me in the classical music world, where it’s hard to really excel even after you have decades of intense training and practice. But I think that ended up being a virtue, and it let me carve out my own niche instead. I can say pretty confidently that if I had pursued a degree in performance, I wouldn’t be performing in some of the venues I get to perform in now!

You have supported a number of incredible voices in contemporary music thus far. I’m sure you must have learned a lot from these different experiences? Can you recount your memories of these tours and how it felt to open for some of these artists?

JW: It always feels pretty surreal when some of these bigger concerts happen. I’ve played many shows over the years, and never get stage fright when I feel prepared, but these bigger shows happen infrequently enough that I get pretty freaked out, and it almost feels like a movie playing out in front of you. But it’s really rewarding, they’ve always gone better than expected, and you feel great after. Artists always like to say it’s humbling (do people actually know what that word means?) but it’s the opposite! It’s really reassuring to see people take your art seriously after you’ve always felt like an impostor, and it’s a big confidence boost that keeps you motivated and proud of what you’ve accomplished.

What other musical ideas and desires do you feel are itching to come out next, Justin?

JW: I’ve started composing for my next full-length album, and I’m bringing back the synths. I’ve been really getting into the idea of using microtonality in a subtle way, and finding new ways of creating it without strict microtonal scale systems. You can expect a much wider tonal palette, and a more contrasting and narrative set of tracks.

I’m also starting work on an unconventional immersive live performance for a medium/large ensemble, but won’t spoil the details just yet!

‘Music for Staying Warm’ is out now on First Terrace Records.

https://justinwright.ca/

https://www.firstterracerecords.com/

 

Written by admin

May 20, 2019 at 2:02 pm

Chosen One: Deaf Center

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“Low Distance can be seen more of an epitome of the years of playing live together, experimenting and finding our way to a meeting point.”

—Erik K. Skodvin

 Words: Mark Carry

deaf center main

As warm feedback tones drift beneath a seabed of mesmerising analogue soundscapes on the divine electro acoustic exploration ‘Gathering’, one feels the significance and enchantment of this eagerly-awaited return. The cherished Norwegian duo of Erik K Skodvin and Otto A Totland (under their trusted Deaf Center guise) have been responsible for some of the most captivating and vital ambient-infused-drone creations of the past fifteen years and last month‘s release of their third studio album ‘Low Distance’ – after an eight year hiatus – holds a significant presence in the atmosphere akin to the air molecules we breathe.

I feel the piece ‘Gathering’ embodies the sacred space that this gifted duo seem to innately inhabit – through the art of sound. A few minutes in, emotive piano tones meld effortlessly with the gentle hiss and warmth of analogue sounds: gradual music that ebbs and flows into the ether of some unknown dimension. In the final section, Totland’s piano instrumentation comes to the fore as a silence descends all around us: it is as though the minute details and sonic artifacts are embedded deep within the music’s tapestry.

The hypnotic bass groove (reminiscent of Colleen’s viola da gamba) serves the vital pulse of ‘Red Glow’ wherein sustained piano chords form the ideal counterpoint. Neo-classical splendor is etched across these two or so minutes. ‘Movements/The Ascent’ reveals the special fusion of modern-classical and electro acoustic realms as otherworldly, far-reaching moments-within-moments are captured in one fleeting swoop.

It is important to remember the many solo – and collaborative – works that the pair have released during the eight years of the last Deaf Center record. For example, the breath-taking solo piano albums of Otto A Totland can be found in the rich tapestry of ‘Low Distance’ – particularly on part B with the deeply affecting piano compositions ‘Far Between’ and ‘Yet to Come’ which closes this incredible musical journey. Also, Skodvin’s rich experimentation with sound on his Svarte Greiner project, in addition to score-work (last year’s poignant collaborative score ‘A Score For Darling‘ with Spanish artist Rauelsson) and several solo works; these many documents all filter into the sonic palette of 2019’s Deaf Center’s oeuvre.

The epic tour-de-force ‘Entity Voice’ is another triumph in minimalism and restraint – and with a maximum yield of raw emotion and cinematic atmosphere. The jazz noir piano tapestries swirl in the midnight air (echoing the spirit of legendary film composer David Shire’s 70’s works) alongside the utterly transcendent abstract canvas sculpted by Skodvin. The music becomes one sprawling, cohesive whole. The great hallmark of this special band – reflected on ‘Entity Voice’ – is the revelatory quality of the intricately layered sound collages that captures a singular beauty and unknowing mystery all at once.

‘Low Distance’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://deafcenter.bandcamp.com/

http://sonicpieces.com/

deaf center iii

Interview with Erik K. Skodvin & Otto Totland.

 

Congratulations on the utterly enchanting latest full length ‘Low Distance’, it’s a real pleasure to discuss this incredible new music with you both. The minimal and quite sparse nature to quite a portion of these recordings unfolds a quiet magic and mysterious beauty all at once. Firstly, please take me back to your recording sessions together – which must have been several years since the last Deaf Center recording session? Talk me through what music was released during these sessions and the nature of these tracks – for instance I presume some of these piano compositions were freshly composed (by Otto)? How much of these tracks were born simply from improvisation – music created during that moment when you were in the same room together?

Erik K Skodvin & Otto A Totland: Thank you, Mark. It´s indeed been a while since our last encounter. We released the EP ”Recount” in 2014, though this was 2 older live recorded pieces without any studio or planning involved. Other than that, our last meeting in a recording studio was back in 2010. This time we met in Berlin in the summer of 2017 as we got the chance to use Nils Frahm’s Funkhaus studio for 3 days while he was going away. Looking back at it, it feels strange to say that since the new studio is now so hyped and seen all over the place. A lot have changed in just those 2 years. We´re still glad to have recorded there though, as it is a beautiful, great sounding place.

A major part of the finished record was made there and then, in intimate in-the-moment improvised sessions. Gathering f.ex is one of those magic moments where we synced up really well and something special was created. A minimum of editing has been done to the final piece you hear on the record. This also goes for several of the other tracks.

The lengthy pieces such as ‘Entity Voice’ and ‘Gathering’ serve the vital pulse to the record’s first half. The warm, vivid textures of piano, strings, drone, ambient noise that are masterfully interwoven on ‘Gathering’ unfolds akin to a faded dream and a piece that epitomizes the sheer beauty and wonder that fills this record. Can you talk me through these particular experiments and indeed this deeply innate ‘call and response’ inner dialogue you have as a musical pairing?

ES & OT: Both as individuals and our approach to making music; we are very different. So much so that it’s strange that our cooperation works, and works so well. When we play together and inspire each other – when we enter that “zone” – we both feel that special fusion that can only arise when we play together. Then it happens so effortlessly and spontaneous. It surprises us too. Luckily we have managed to capture many of these moments – the track “Gathering” is an example of this. The album version sounds almost exactly the same as recorded, with only minor alterations and edits. The track ‘Entity Voice’ is a collection/fusion from many different parts of our recording session that started with the piano & feedback tones you can hear in the first 2 minutes. The remaining sounds and development is all layered in detailed fine-editing.

When we started getting requests for live performances after Neon City & Pale Ravine was released, we transitioned more and more towards analogue equipment and instruments over the years. Less and less digital electronics and samples. Now we have a fully analogue sound with a similar expression. We feel a relief from removing ourselves from everything digital, especially when performing live. Low Distance can be seen more of an epitome of the years of playing live together, experimenting and finding our way to a meeting point.

Please describe your studio in Norway and the precise set-up please? I get the impression that the formidable solo works of yours (the many vital records you released as solo artists in the interim between the last Deaf Center record) must have tapped into the musical tapestry of Deaf Center? How do you see this duo evolving, so to speak?

ES & OT: I live in Berlin and to be honest, my studio situation is not what most might expect. I never really had a proper ”studio”. I have a room with a lot of stuff in it, which is in my apartment. I used to have outside spaces to work, but not since 5 years now. I have no clue about gear really. I have a bunch of instruments of rather sketchy quality. My main ”gear” is my effect-pedals that is use for my live setup as well as some sound making devices. The bunch of pedals i have i use in my own way, but i couldn’t tell you much about them. Having said that, my most important instrument the last 4 years is this custom built analogue electronic device built by a friend of mine called Derek Holzer. It was a commissioned job and he constructed a benjolin as a guitar effects pedal for me. I’ve been fighting with that thing live the last years, and i´m still surprised what i can do with it. It´s of constant revelation, both good and bad. You can hear this all over the record.

Otto lives in Norway and has no studio. It’s hard to say anything about our evolution from here on. The ongoing development of Otto as a pianist and improviser as well as my own urge to explore sounds and instruments is for sure the tapestry of Deaf Center at this moment. Especially since when we meet we tend to both think a little differently than when we go solo. Since our beginning it´s been no plan to do more records or continue DC. So far the ones who kept us alive is the people who book us to play live, as that´s mainly where new Deaf Center material has come out through the last 10 years. We also have to give credit to Nils Frahm for our continued presence, as we recorded both Owl Splinters and Low Distance in his spaces. Both of Otto´s solo piano albums was also recorded with him. So wherever you are these days Nils, thanks for that.

I love the contrast between the deeply layered explorations and the sparse, minimal works – one of the great hallmarks of ‘Low Distance’. Can you discuss the mixing process and the art of layering these soundscapes together? Is it a case of revisiting musical ideas that were captured in the studio and continually navigating inside these and further sculpting the layers together? I wonder what are the fears and challenges you faced during this period of time?

ES & OT: Mixing is something we probably see quite differently from most producers. I personally have my own way of taking a standpoint in the source material and making pieces from them. Although Low Distance has several minimal tracks that has little to almost no post-editing, there are several that are heavily “mixed”. I´d call it editing or collaging rather than mixing though. It´s all about working in details & layers. A lot of pitch-shifting, copying, stretching, reverbs, delay. Otto and me both have a similar idea about certain way of mixing when it comes to Deaf Center. It´s more of an unspoken rule which intertwine our sound. Owl Splinters has a bit more of a Nils Frahm touch, as he was a big part of the production. This time it´s more back to our original sound, but with source material recorded in a professional studio instead of the lo-fi sample based sound of Pale Ravine.

As we both live different places, and this can be a time taking job, i was mixing it myself over a longer period while keeping a dialogue with Otto through we-transfer and email. An invitation for a week´s residency at Stockholms EMS studio was also a key part of how the record came to be. The first major part of the mixing was done there, where i could also record some warm Buchla Synthesizer sounds and noises that ended up as a core interwoven part of the record. From there it was then to sew it together into a world of it´s own. With a beginning, middle and end. To create somewhere we´d like to be that both comfort and challenge us. Something that grows on repeated listens and makes you forget your surroundings and make up new ones.

Of course it´s a challenging task since we already have quite some to live up too. And with a 8 year gap between albums it can be scary. Will people still care what we have to put out in the world? Will they remember us? A lot have changed since the last album came out. Both in the world and for us.

The cinematic quality and otherworldly dimension of the piano-based compositions is a joy to savor. ‘Faded Earth’ feels just that: something lost beneath our very foundations. The penultimate track ‘Far Between’ is such a gorgeous neon lit lament. It must continue to surprise you to see and discover what music you are able to create together? The warm textures beneath ‘Far Between’ makes for such a heavenly sound.

ES & OT: Thank you. We are both very conscious about the dynamic of a composition. To let each other “swell” then pull back and give each other room. We both enjoy the unpredictable. Like a build-up ending in a silent relief rather than a climax. Adding subtly small details that can only be noticed with focused listening. Keeping random coincidences like background noises, crackling and clicks, welcoming them as part of the piece. As long as every sound feels good to the ear. We prefer to avoid uncomfortable frequencies.

Over how many years do you feel the music captured on ‘Low Distance’ stems from? I get the feeling there is always some happy accidents, so to speak that find their way into the sonic tapestry. Can you shed some light on these particular moments?

ES & OT: The record is a culmination of musical development and changes in our own lives through the last years. It wasn’t composed or thought through beforehand. Experiences both good and bad gets soaked into the music, impulsively. Also during our studio meeting, a lot of “mistakes”, sounds and objects found it´s way into the sound. After listening back to it we really found these accidents and sonic “mistakes” to be complimenting the music in a good way. Something to grow on, to find new details that you might not like the first time around. One really great mistake, if you can call it that, Is when we played “Gathering” and when Otto came in on the piano after about 2 minutes we both got really surprised. We had not tuned the guitar and piano, and what came out was this surreal half-detuned lamenting sound. We both kept playing on even if we could hear something was off. When we finished and listened back to it a few times, we felt it was something special and unique. So we left it like it was.

Lastly, please discuss your own musical upbringing and how soon did you realize music would become your destined path?

ES & OT: Neither of us have had any musically education or upbringing. We both have a natural pull to explore, play and create music since childhood. It’s the creative process itself and what arises that we both share a fascination of. We never feel in control. Erik is much more comfortable with that than Otto.

‘Low Distance’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://deafcenter.bandcamp.com/

http://sonicpieces.com/

 

 

Written by admin

May 9, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Time Has Told Me: Carola Baer

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The lyrics tell a timeless story, the story is in almost every song, be nice, care, be close.”

—Carola Baer

 Words: Mark Carry

carola ii

Towards the end of 2018 came the special discovery of Carola Baer’s early 90’s private home recordings, released on the new Portland, Oregon re-issue label Concentric Circles (curated by Freedom To Spend’s Jed Bindeman). The collection’s  eleven highly emotive song cycles were recorded, composed and performed between 1990 and 1991 in San Francisco. The minimal arrangements for Yamaha-DX-7 and Casio CZ-101 synthesizers creates utterly beguiling soundscapes – masterfully blended beneath Carola Baer’s mesmerizing vocal delivery.

Themes of betrayal, isolation and anguish seep throughout the album’s striking narrative. Album opener ‘Maker of Me’ unleashes an empowering dimension as Baer quivers “I asked you to hold my hand/But you let go” on the opening verse.  Luminscent piano notes drift in the ether of broken dreams: Baer’s voice shares the hypnotic spell of 4AD alumnis Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins.

Total transcendence is attained on the hypnotic ‘Golden Boy’ wherein reverb drenched vocals swirl majestically alongside pulsating drum machines and divine synths. This belongs at the axis of Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’ and vintage Cocteau Twins: a tortured soul is struck down and laid to bare. Cinematic spoken word passages permeates throughout ‘We Already Feel’ while ‘Doors Talk’ contain ethereal chime-like organ dreamwave soundscapes that meld effortlessly with Baer’s powerful voice.

Gorgeous tapestries of keyboards and synths flow on the enthralling ‘See The Lights Again’ – a song of hope. The lyric “You must walk alone” resonates powerfully. The song’s rise serves one of the album’s most poignant and hope-filled peaks: from the depths of darkness uncovers the first glimpses of hope and optimism “to see the lights again”.

‘The Story of Valerie’ is out now on Concentric Circles.

https://concentriccircles.bandcamp.com/album/carola-baer-the-story-of-valerie

valerie

Interview with Carola Baer.

 

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about your captivating and beguiling song cycles. I was first introduced to your music with the wonderful compilation ‘The Story of Valerie’, released towards the end of last year. These batch of songs were recorded, composed and performed between 1990 and 1991 in San Francisco. Please take me back to this period in time and your memories of creating these sonic creations? Would this have been the first collection of songs you had written?

Carola Baer: Set in the 80’s bleak economic Thatcher years young me 24, I left UK for one year open ended trip to San Francisco, Australia, Bali and back to UK with work permit for Australia. I had no intention of coming back. Went to SF, met someone within 3 days who turned my world. It’s as much a story of immigration, betrayal, trust, hope, despair, tragedy, loss, growth, coming of age, determination and ultimately success ending with the discovery of story of Valerie and two beautiful children and a loving husband.

Gist of the Story. I was in SF for 2 weeks to pick up my Australian girl friend. I met Ian. Ian had a girlfriend who had left him with if /when I return we’ll see if we want to be together. Do what you want, I will. So we could be together but with understanding Diane would come back. Because of time restraints, passion runs high, he was a musician and I was in limbo, but bottom line I loved him from head to toe. Deeply vulnerable, insecure me, beautiful confident talented golden boy. (Though that song was written 2 years later).

Diane came back, betrayal was deep and not just between him and me but others got involved. I wrote See the lights again either the day he broke with me or just before. Nothing left to say was written a day or two after he left me for Diane. I wrote a whole first album called Open Door. All 10 songs about Ian. See the lights and Nothing left to say came from this first album. I’ve done nothing else with these tracks and they still remain in a horrible badly tuned piano cassette live recording.

Ian went back to Diane, I was determined to complete the album (as he started recording on a 4 track and that all stopped before completion), I went to a proper studio to pay someone to record. Ended up in a green card marriage and 7 months later Diane and Ian broke up. He called wanted me back, mistake to have gone back to Diane, I said I got married 9 days ago. I was thinking of calling story of Valerie 9 days. Tragic. Much craziness happened in these first 4 years in SF. Ian and I remained friends but my marriage was an utter disaster, I was rendered homeless at one point and lived in fear of deportation due to failed marriage. It was a serious mess. Described as a tightrope from one cliff to another. I walked, I wobbled, I fell and caught on with one hand then one finger and eventually crawled back up and made it across.

Carola i

These songs were described beautifully as “a one off mixtape of newly recorded songs”. I’d love to gain an insight into your musical set-up (at this time- during the early 90’s) and your song-writing process? I feel the lo-fi, minimal quality to your songs creates such a striking intimacy that hits you deeply upon every listen.

CB: Giving up on the Ian songs I joined a band called Process. Industrial early digitalized drum machine programmed bass duo with 064 Freeman multimedia experimental from 1988 to 1991. He played electric guitar and organised all sounds. I sang and wrote lyrics. Later added keys. Shared a creative space with him and 5 others. We shared equipment. It was during the last year of Process 1991 to 1993 that I worked on my solo keys music represented with story of Valerie. But all of story of Valerie was recorded by me on a 4 track using my keys. I would go to the studio on weekends when no one else wanted it and set to record some thing. I’d always start with a keys part improvised on the spot. I love to just play and record whatever comes out. Sometimes magic. It may be 5 minutes or 25 minutes long. You kind of know when it’s time to stop. Then rewind cassette and record either another keys part or vocal part. All live no dubs first takes, occasional punch in. Then add a second vocal . I love mixing duel vocals parts. Then mix it all beautifully.

‘Maker of Me’ is the glorious opening track to this timeless musical document. This track is drenched in reverb and the far-reaching qualities evoke the 4AD luminaries such as Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. Can you recount your memories of writing this song and witnessing the song come to glittering life? The spoken word elements are superb also. 

CB: ‘Maker of Me’ was an original jam. I may even have an early recording of this initial jam. I developed this into a song by sequencing the piano part and probably playing along. The intent of the song was directed at God or a greater spirit being as I have no idea of my faith. My faith is for the love of life, respect life and a sheer disappointment in the unnecessary cruelty that goes on or is permitted to happen. So an accusation to this higher power who are you to judge us when you don’t offer help or that you stand back and let this happen. Cold.

In terms of the recording process, were there challenges posed in order to capture the raw emotion and feeling in the songs? Were these live takes (as I get the impression they are, or at least with very minimal overdubs)?

CB: The aim of the recordings were experimental, to find out my limits, exploration, release of emotions, therapeutic.

I have always been looking for others to collaborate with as I feel I have limitations especially when it comes to self-promotion, something I am terrible at. So the tapes were made in order to share with others to find musical mates.

‘Golden Boy’ is an utterly transcendent and hypnotic tour-de-force: one feels the pain and anguish come flooding out the speakers. Across the album, there is a duality of light and dark but ultimately there is a self perseverance that reigns true. As a listener, it feels that the act of the music-making process became a cathartic and healing process for you? 

CB: Golden boys as mentioned was written 2 years after I met Ian as we were in and out of each others lives for 5 years.

The immaculate instrumentation utilized is another hallmark of this great sonic journey. For example, the middle section of ‘Doors Talk’ (with the gorgeous organ tapestries beneath your emotive vocals) and the lucid synthesizer experiments of ‘Save Me’ forms a deeply affecting and empowering experience. Was the sequencing of this compilation important for you? 

CB: Sequencing was experimented with. I like repetition, getting into a zone and feeling the movement there. It provided rhythm and could free me up from playing complex patterns while singing.

 

carola

Please take me back to your earliest musical memories? Were there particular records or musical voices, so to speak that proved defining moments? 

CB: I loved spacing out to The Dark Side Of The Moon as a teen, and loved the 4AD label – This Mortal Coil more so than Cocteau twins, but also Dead Can Dance – that ethnic intensity. I also liked Brian Eno, Mazzy Star.

I am half Armenian so the eastern aspect of music runs though me. My grandfather was the sole survivor of his entire family after the Armenian genocide 1906. He used to cry silent tears each time us grandchildren went round. We thought funny man but as an adult I know his tears were relief that what he went though was over.

You kindly sent me on newer recordings – both solo guitar recordings and your band Quiet Wish. Can you discuss your latest projects and how you see these fit alongside the early 90’s document of ‘The Story of Valerie’?

CB: I have been playing in a band called Quiet Wish for 4 years. We play intensive powerful music mixed in with moments of sweetness and suspense. Drums, loops, dual guitars, keys, effects and voice. Potential to be brilliant but currently struggling due to internal issues. I cannot go into details. The band is at a crossroad currently and decisions on which direction need to be made.

I don’t believe I could stop making music. I can get out and perform more solo and hope to meet just the right people to bring this music, past and present, more out there so others or more can hear it.

The lyrics tell a timeless story, the story is in almost every song: be nice, care, be close.

I can stay in this band, I can form a new band, I could collaborate on something magnificent with others.

valerie casette

Lastly, my favourite track is perhaps the prayer-like, ethereal pop gem ‘See the Lights Again’. Can you talk me through this particular recording? Looking back on these songs, you must feel quite surprised in a way of hearing the timeless quality of these songs? 

CB: See the Lights was either the day Diane came back or during those 4 or so weeks for Ian to decide which lady he would take, I think Nothing Left to say was the day of break up song.

The story of Valerie is a collection of songs and pieces of captured moments from those times I recorded solo. I recorded solo because I had the opportunity to do so in the shared musical space, and because at times I was lonely and wanted to get out of the house but not go out to a club or bar alone. So the music studio was a kind of refuge. Unfortunately my solo time was cut short because a very controlling person came into my life and cut me off bit by bit from everyone including my music and I lost the studio. I made many mistakes as a vulnerable immigrant but you are ripe for exploitation. I say just because you have a dog by your feet doesn’t mean you have to kick it, you can be nice.

‘The Story of Valerie’ is out now on Concentric Circles.

https://concentriccircles.bandcamp.com/album/carola-baer-the-story-of-valerie

Written by admin

May 7, 2019 at 1:42 pm