FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Step Right Up: Justin Wright

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

“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

leave a comment »

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

First Listen: GIGA)PUDDY by JOYFULTALK

leave a comment »

We are delighted to premiere GIGA)PUDDY, a special 39-minute instrumental DJ mix of original material from JOYFULTALK’s Jay Crocker. The critically acclaimed Constellation duo play Canadian shows this weekend (details below).

JT_GP_1jaypinkV2 (1)

The brainchild of instrument builder and sound alchemist Jay Crocker – joined by multi-disciplinary artist Shawn Dicey – JOYFULTALK is a junked-analog duo operating from a secluded outpost on Nova Scotia’s mystical South Shore. We were introduced to the critically acclaimed duo last year with the arrival of their utterly transcendent – and Constellation full-length debut – trance-like odyssey of masterfully sculpted analogue soundscapes, ‘Plurality Trip’.

Following its release they’ve been performing across North America and Europe to strong acclaim. Their touring action continues this spring with an appearance at MUTEK SF in May, and leading up to that show we’ll be sharing GIGA)PUDDY, a special 39-minute instrumental DJ mix of original material from JOYFULTALK’s Jay Crocker.

“GIGA)PUDDY is a collection of solo improvisations. It is a playful documentation of the soft transition from darkness to light when winter lets go and spring melts the ice and softens the ground. It is an interpretation of this fundamental change through the lens of immediacy, the evolution of palette in context with an exploration of process. NO MISTAKES. NO WRONG TURNS. NO TURNING BACK FROM THE LIGHT.”

—Jay Crocker

 

 

Tour dates:

Saturday 04 May 2019: King Eddy, Calgary, AB, Canada

Sunday 05 May 2019: The Rec Room – South Edmonton, Edmonton, AB, Canada

https://joyfultalk.bandcamp.com/

https://cstrecords.com/

Written by admin

May 3, 2019 at 6:16 pm

Mixtape: Fractured Air – April 2019

leave a comment »

fracturedair_april19

April saw a host of essential new releases surface into the stratosphere. Fixity’s latest full-length ‘No Man Can Tell’ – and second for the ever-dependable Cork-based Penske Recordings imprint – is another stellar sonic journey showcasing deep musical telepathy at each and every turn from a cast of Irish and international musicians.

The eagerly awaited return of Leafcutter John’s new Border Community record ‘Yes! Come Parade With Us’, whose sumptuous sound worlds contains the UK composer’s trusted modular synth and a plethora of field recordings. In addition, guest drummers Tom Skinny (Sons Of Kemet) and John’s Polar Bear bandmate Seb Rochford.

Canadian cellist and composer Justin Wright’s debut album ‘Music for Staying Warm’ is an artistic creation of staggering beauty and wonder. Liquid Liquid luminary Dennis Young’s solo record ‘Primitive Substance’ is a vital document from the solo artist’s post-Liquid Liquid career.

 

 

Fractured Air – April 2019

01. Students of the Salonica Quaker Girl’s School“Dance of Jerissos (lerissos)” (Sublime Frequencies)
02. Ariwo“Ireme” (Manana Records)
03. The Comet Is Coming“Birth Of Creation” (Impulse!)
04. Kate Tempest“Tunnel Vision” (Lex Records)
05. Naive Ted“Blood & Guts” (Unscene Music)
06. Hype Williams“Hype Williams Meets Shangaan Electro” (Honest Jon’s)
07. Dean Blunt“And Ill Show U Heaven If U Let Me” (Hippos In Tanks)
08. The Rationals “Glowin’” (Night Time Stories Ltd)
09. Fixity“Woo” (Penske Recordings)
10. Crevice“In Heart” (Fort Evil Fruit)
11. Carla dal Forno“Fever Walk” (Kallista Records)
12. Josef K “It’s Kinda Funny” (LTM Recordings)
13. Leafcutter John“This Way Out” (Border Community)
14. MorMor“Outside” (Self-released)
15. This Mortal Coil“The Lacemaker” (4AD)
16. Tim Hecker“Step Away From Konoyo” (Kranky)
17. Heather Woods Broderick – “I Try” (Western Vinyl)
18. Justin Wright“Harmonic Loops – Playground Swings” (First Terrace Records)
19. Gigi Masin“The Word Love” (Music From Memory)
20. Anna Peaker“Helicidae” (Alter)
21. Maria Somerville“Dreaming” (Self-released)
22. Raymond Scott“Portofino 1” (Basta)
23. Ingus Bauskenieks“Lidojums Uz Sauli” (Stroom)
24. Prins Thomas“Feel The Love” (Smalltown Supersound)
25. Daedelus “It’s Madness” (Nosaj Thing Remix) (Magical Properties)
26. Four Tet“Teenage Birdsong” (Text Records)
27. Dennis Young“Forgiveness” (Athens Of The North)
28. Ishmael Ensemble“First Light” (Severn Songs)

Mixtape: Fractured Air – March 2019

leave a comment »

fracturedair_march19

This month’s mix features new music from the magnificent Berlin-based, Cork-raised producer ELLLL with the arrival of her essential “Febreeze” 12” last month, carving out multi-layered, seductive techno cuts. Irish songwriter Maria Somerville’s exceptional debut full length “All My People” we continue to fall for, with the record’s divine song cycles rooted in beautiful 50’s/60’s pop songs that are encapsulated in wondrous post punk/indie spheres of today. A wholly unique labyrinth of astral song cycles.

New music also from the imitable London-based, Australian songwriter and producer Carla dal Forno (and excitingly the first release for her newly established label, Kallista Records); Immix Ensemble’s Daniel Thorne’s magnificent debut solo album on Erased Tapes; Norwegian duo Deaf Center’s highly anticipated return on Sonic Pieces; Forma’s John Also Bennett’s wondrous solo LP (under the JAB psuedonym) on Shelter Press and two formidable new releases on the ever dependable North American label Constellation. Grouper’s sublime new project Nivhek (self-released), Italian composer Caterina Barbieri’s forthcoming Editions Mego-debut and Craig Leon’s forthcoming release on Brooklyn institution RVNG Intl are other highlights.


Fractured Air – March 2019

01. William Basinski – “On Time Out Of Time 1.1” (Temporary Residence)
02. Nivhek“Cloudmouth” (Self-released)
03. ELLLL“Sunrise edit” (First Second Label)
04. Patricia“No One Needs Nothing” (Opal Tapes)
05. JAB“Jacob’s House” (Shelter Press)
06. Maria Somerville“This Way” (Self-released)
07. Houston & Dorsey“Ebb Tide” (Numero Group)
08. The Cryin’ Shames“Please Stay” (Decca)
09. Rupie Edwards“Buckshot Dub” (Spectrum Music)
10. Vivien Goldman“Launderette” (Window)
11. Carla dal Forno“So Much Better” (Kallista Records)
12. Oqbqbo “All This Waiting” (Posh Isolation)
13. Antena“Camino Del Sol” (Les Disques Du Crepuscule / Numero Group)
14. Khotin“Water Soaked In Forever” (Ghostly)
15. Daniel Thorne“From the Other Side of the World” (Erased Tapes)
16. June11“White Bird” (Stroom)
17. Craig Leon“Standing Crosswise In The Square” (RVNG Intl)
18. Don Cherry“Utopia and Visions” (Caprice Records)
19. Talk Talk“New Grass” (Verve Records)
20. Deaf Center“Far Between” (Sonic Pieces)
21. Poppy Ackroyd“The Dream” (Penelope Trappes Remix) (One Little Indian)
22. Efrim Manuel Menuck & Kevin Doria“We Will” (Constellation)
23. Light Conductor“Chapel Of The Snows” (excerpt) (Constellation)
24. Carola Baer“Golden Boy” (Concentric Circles)
25. Aponogeton“Prologue” (Stroom)
26. Caterina Barbieri“Fantas” (excerpt) (Editions Mego)
27. Laraaji“I Can Only Bliss Out (F’Days)” (Numero Group)

Chosen One: Andrew Wasylyk

leave a comment »

Performing, writing and listening to music’s a deep, rewarding privilege. An ongoing revelation, really.

—Andrew Mitchell

 Words: Mark Carry

andrew was ii

My introduction to Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Mitchell (under the guise of Andrew Wasylyk) was the captivating instrumental ‘Journey to Inchcape’, played on Oliver Coates’s essential monthly NTS show.The piece begins with a gradual drum machine beat before immaculate instrumentation of harpsichord and a divine blend of strings and woodwind gently coalesce together, akin to the ebb and flow of the ocean waves. The arrangements are stunning: the carefully sculpted sonic elements feel somehow out of time as the hypnotic swirls of tape delays overlap with the pastoral splendor of flute passages. Music to truly savor.

This formidable composition serves a poignant moment to the Scottish musician’s enchanting third solo studio album ‘The Paralian’ – placed between the harp-based celestial pop lament ‘Greendrive #2’ and the gorgeously introspective neo-classical gem ‘Welter in the Haar’. ‘The Paralian’ is a collection of immersive soundscapes that feel at once steeped in tradition and buried in the past: a timelessness abounds at every pulse and endearing moment.

The broad palette of instrumentation dotted across Mitchell’s meticulously crafted song cycles is another hallmark of this great record. Jazz inflections of double bass slowly fade into the reflective ‘Dreamt The Breakers Spill’, combined with shimmering bliss of brass and percussion. Cosmic energy permeates throughout the utterly seductive groove of ‘Flight of the Cormorant’, emitting a catharsis of infinite depth.

The record opens with the soft rumblings of footsteps and birdsong – an array of field recordings that perfectly embodies ‘The Paralian’s empowering journey. The listener is taken on a voyage, and in the process becomes one of self-exploration in the deepest sense. The echo and reverb of euphonium resonates as the opening piece swells into the ether. The addition of vocals on ‘Adrift Below a Constellation’ creates a soul-stirring moment of the record’s heartfelt penultimate track. Images of a mariner lost at sea. Adrift and yearning to be found.

‘The Paralian’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://andrewwasylyk.bandcamp.com/

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/

andrew wasylyk i

Interview with Andrew Mitchell.

Congratulations on the utterly sublime latest full length album, ‘The Paralian’, a divine sonic journey across modern-classical and folk realms. Firstly, please take me back to the artist residency you were invited to in a historic house in Hospitalfield, Scotland. Can you trace the starting point or origins of what would become the inception of ‘The Paralian’? 

Andrew Mitchell: When I arrived for the extended residency in Arbroath it quickly became apparent that there would be no shortage of inspiration. The history of Hospitalfield House, its Scots Baronial architecture and Arts & Crafts interior all fed in to the approach. Encouraged by the surroundings, I slowly began to recognize my relationship with the east coast and the north sea, and the bones of the album were laid.

The inspiration you sought from your surroundings must have really tapped into the music. For instance, the looming North Sea horizon from your vantage point and the specific project to create new music for the restored 19th Century Erard Grecian harp. Would I be right to say these compositions all began with composing music for this harp instrument and for the remaining instrumentation to be added and interwoven later? Looking back on the residency, how do you feel the creative process developed (or evolved if want for a better word)? 

AM: Partially, some of the harp pieces I wrote with minimal intentions that could weave in and out of piano progressions. The aim was delicate and ornate, to echo the building’s interior. The coastal environment infiltrated that process; at times fueling temptation to let areas evolve using drums, bass, brass, strings and synthesizers. “Greendrive #2” is an example of that initial intimacy that broadens on the journey. Other routes would start with a field recording or perhaps a title. For me, it’s important to have different doors in to a song. “Adrift Below A Constellation” arrived before a note had been played.

The immaculate instrumentation – such a gorgeous range of sounds – is what one of the hallmarks of this great record. Please introduce to me your trusted ensemble and recount your memories of having these musicians together in a room (which I presume was the case?) and witnessing these pieces fully bloom into life?

AM: As a keen procrastinator, I’ll often chisel away at an idea until it gives way and trundles into life. The majority of the tracking was actually just myself in the studio on drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, piano, synthesizer, guitars and glockenspiel. However, I was lucky to work with a lot of talented, patient folk. The brilliant Sharron Griffiths played Concert and Grecian harp, Seth Bennett provided double bass, Rachel Simpson, Iain Robertson and Tony Sellars were the brass section, Paul Wright droned his tanpura, Carol O’Rourke was on oboe and Brighton’s Thomas White drummed on “Mariner’s Hymn”.

As I pulled the recordings together a few areas still felt a little light to me, in terms of depth and character. The wonderful arranger and cellist Pete Harvey kindly excepted an invite to write string arrangements for “Westway Nocturne”, “Mariner’s Hymn”, “Adrift Below A Constellation” and “Welter In The Haar”. I’m grateful he did, they may be my favourite tracks of the album. Violin, viola and cello were in the able hands of Simon Graham, Emma Connell-Smith and Harriet Davidson.

‘Journey to Inchcape’ is a stunning cinematic voyage; and how the intricate layers meld together so effortlessly is quite something to behold. Can you talk me through the various layers and the moments-within-moments that seem to just happen throughout this piece?

AM: That was developed after a boat trip out to Bellrock Lighthouse, eleven miles east of the Firth Of Tay. We arrived during a serene low tide to cormorants basking, and seals singing in crisp morning sunlight. There was some sort of brooding elegance I was reaching for, hence the brass and the pastoral-tinged Mellotron flute on the choruses. How well I achieved that is another matter. I was initially wary of the number counter melodies, to be honest. There’s a temptation to impose on an idea when there’s no vocal to curtail that fourth cascading harpsichord line, or that whim of triple-tracking the feedback delay. I’m often adding and subtracting in the effort to find the path.

‘Adrift Below a Constellation’ is the only vocal track, which fades in towards the album’s final section – the looming horizon, in a way. The addition of the vocal/lyrics further heightens the experience, evoking the timeless spirit of Robert Wyatt or Talk Talk….can you discuss the reasoning for having the one vocal track (I wonder did you have more to choose from?) and the song-writing process itself?

AM: Being very fond of Robert Wyatt and Mark Hollis, that’s humbling to hear. Thank you. This was initially meant to be a brass arrangement for just euphonium, trombone, trumpet and flugel. I had this recurring image of a mariner dreaming of dry land, alone at sea with no one to share the sunset with. It seemed only fair to try and give him or her a voice.

I absolutely love the psych/cosmic groove unleashed in the hypnotic ‘Flight of the Cormorant’, again revealing the endless and boundless nature of these sound worlds. This piece feels almost like a jam in the studio – was this the case? In this regard, I wonder were there many happy accidents, so to speak that happened during the making of ‘The Paralian’?

AM: There wasn’t the luxury, or time, for working a group up in the studio. While there were certainly things that fell in to place last-minute, this song was fairly established beforehand. I was striving for something hypnotic with its linear drone nature. If that alludes to spontaneity, then I suppose you might call that a ‘happy accident’.

‘Through The Field Beyond The Trees Lies The Ocean’ opens the album, but was one of the last things committed to tape. I was playing back some of the field recordings made during a study trip out to Seaton Cliffs and stumbled upon the motif while improvising on piano. It stuck, and struck me as an invite to ‘The Paralian’.

The meaning of ‘The Paralian’ is a dweller by the sea, and this resonates powerfully throughout the record: there is a solitude or quiet bliss deep within the space of these recordings. At what point did you come up with the album title itself and the particular narrative that unfolded? Please discuss the inspiration of your homeplace – and the Scottish countryside and nature – that clearly seeps into your consciousness?

AM: It came to me about a quarter of the way in to the project. At that stage, I held it as more of a working title, a temporary focal point to see me through. There were others in contention, however, when my friend Matthew Marra heard the album he told me “The Paralian” was the one. Rarely is Matthew wrong about that kind of thing.

Scotland has many magical landscapes and shorelines. I’m very fortunate to live on the east coast by such gateway to the North Sea. It’s offered me a number of things; a great deal to consider and plenty to write about. It can soothe and provoke you in equal measures. It’s a curious thing, and I’m not sure where I’d be without its presence.

Take me back to your earliest musical memories? Were there certain moments in time that were these eureka moments that you just knew that the musical path is destined to be the chosen one?

AM: When I was sixteen my uncle gave me an eighties Stratocaster. A kind gesture that would prove fairly pivotal in opening doors to the exotic world of music, books, film and art. I still use the guitar today. I don’t know if I’d subscribe to the idea of a single eureka moment. Performing, writing and listening to music’s a deep, rewarding privilege. An ongoing revelation, really. Naturally, there’s frustrations and disheartenment, but the decent days can be sublime. Providing it’ll have me, I’d like to traipse this path for longer and continue learning.

Lastly, what books, music, films have you enjoyed recently? What’s next for you?

AM: I was just gifted “Devotions”, the selected poems of Mary Oliver and have been listening to the eagerly awaited vinyl reissue of Paddy McAloon’s “I Trawl The Megahertz” a lot, along with Josephine Foster’s “Faithfull Fairy Harmony”. The last film I saw was Aleksei German’s deliriously brilliant “Khrustalyov, My Car!” a couple of weeks ago at Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre.

There’s various plans afoot. I’ve some writing to finish and other ideas that need started upon. I’m hoping to play some more shows this year, experimenting with the live set up and, if I can, go further afield than the UK. A duo I’m involved with, called Art Of The Memory Palace, are releasing a new record, “Dusk At Trellick Tower”, later this month too.

‘The Paralian’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://andrewwasylyk.bandcamp.com/

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/

Written by admin

March 20, 2019 at 2:58 pm