FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Heather Trost

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

—Heather Trost

Words: Craig Carry

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

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

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

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

http://lmduplication.com/

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Interview with Heather Trost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What music, books or films have recently inspired you?

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

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

http://lmduplication.com/

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June 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Event Page for launch gig HERE.

Pre-order LP via Diatribe Records HERE.

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

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June 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E05 | May mix

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

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

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

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

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

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E05 | May mix

 

To listen on La Blogothèque:

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

 

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

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

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

 

Chosen One: Andrea Belfi

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

 Andrea Belfi

Words: Mark Carry

 1- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

 2- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Interview with Andrea Belfi.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 - Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

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

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May 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Chosen One: Earthen Sea

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Interview with Jacob Long (Earthen Sea).

 Often I find with many aspects of my music that is the most important thing to do….to step back sometimes and let things happen or just to take a broader perspective on what things are rather than trying to force them to be something they aren’t.”

 Jacob Long

Words: Mark Carry

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Chicago independent label Kranky continues to deliver some of the most dazzling and innovative releases with Earthen Sea’s sublime dub techno soundscapes. The New York producer, Jacob Long has crafted an immense sound world of transcendent ambient bliss and techno explorations on his Kranky debut full-length ‘An Act Of Love’, following on from the essential singles ‘An Act Of Love’ and ‘A Serious Thing’ back in February and 2015 debut full-length ‘Ink’ (released via Lovers Rock imprint).

A multitude of synths and looped sonic passages are beautifully spliced together on ‘About That Time’, forming the gripping heart to ‘An Act Of Love’s intense beginnings. A soulful dimension and deeply emotive core immediately strikes you as the gorgeous pulsating waves of ambient bliss traverses the human space. Texture and motion are two further qualities that permeate throughout the record’s far-reaching voyage. For instance, ‘Exuberant Burning’ yields a highly immersive experience amidst dark techno ripples of neon-lit skies. The addition of drums and further organic components forms a lovely parallel with labelmate Loscil’s sonic sphere of rhythmic, gradual dub techno waves. An empty nocturnal metropolis (as previously described by the New York producer) is etched across the sprawling sonic canvas.

The penultimate cut ‘The Flats 1975’ is a divine slice of psychedelic trip hop flourishes wherein dense swells of techno embellishes drift majestically across vast skylines. Beautiful ambient pulses continually build on the formidable closer ‘Also An Act Of Love’ as a delicate lament gradually fades into the ether.

‘An Act Of Love’ is out now on Kranky.

https://earthensea.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky/

earthen-sea-by-shawn-brackbill-600

Interview with Jacob Long (Earthen Sea).

 

In many ways, I feel this record feels like one sprawling sound collage as the deeply engulfing sound world of utterly transcendent ambient bliss and immersive dub techno crafts such raw emotion and intensity. Please take me back to the making of ‘An Act Of Love’, the themes you wanted to explore and your primary objectives for this latest musical venture?

Jacob Long: I would say for the most part, at least the beginning of the process of putting the record together, it was just an extension of the work I’d been doing previously. A handful of the songs on the record were things I had been working on/or made in the year or so leading up to actually “working” on the album. That said once I had those pieces selected for the record I went back and reworked and created new pieces out of other things I had in various states of completion that I felt complemented the overall feel/flow of the record. In terms of sonic exploration I would say that the process I used to make the song “Also An Act Of Love” (which grew out of what was originally a remix of one of my older songs) has led to my current working method which is to take pieces of audio from parts I’ve played and recorded and use them as the raw sonic material to be manipulated and turned into something else.

I would love to gain an insight into your compositional approach and the precise equipment set-up and instrumentation utilzed for these recording sessions? The gorgeous dub techno swells form a lovely parallel with Loscil’s Scott Morgan’s works and a prevailing darkness of a myriad of forlorn sounds brings to mind the likes of fellow luminaries like Tim Hecker. I wonder would you have a considerable library of sounds collected (so to speak) and you carefully splice different elements and motifs together?

JL: Thank you for the great compliment of comparing my work to the 2 of them as I admire both of Loscil and Tim Hecker’s music a lot. My setup is pretty simple….these days my main setup is really just my laptop with Ableton and a few MIDI controllers. I mostly create my own sounds by playing synth parts and recording them either onto my 4-track or into my computer and then chopping those parts up into sounds/loops/samples. I then use those in Ableton, manipulating them into what become my tracks. I also have a variety of different drum sounds that I’ve built into a drum library (though I kind of end up using a lot of the same ones a lot of the time). Lately I’ve been working with some field recordings in the same way and blending them in with other sounds so most likely my new work with have some of them in the mix as well.

The wide range of sonic timbres and elements that are effortlessly crafted on ‘An Act Of Love’ is one of the great hallmarks of this latest release. For example, the more techno-infused explorations such as ‘Exuberant Burning’ – the album’s centrepiece – ‘The Flats 1975’ and part A’s ‘About That Time’ form vital pulses to ‘An Act Of Love’s striking narrative. Can you talk me through these techno tracks and the construction/deconstruction of the techno sound worlds you capture so well?

JL: Thanks for the kind words and I feel similar about ‘About That Time’ being the emotional centre for me as well of the record. I would say the process of making the beat/techno oriented tracks on the record is pretty similar in many ways to making the other tracks. Obviously the big difference is programming drum parts. But I tend to approach it in much the same way where I sketch out some ideas and then “jam” on them or play around with them until I get the feel I’m looking for and then once I have that either to expand on the idea (or more often than not) edit down to the essence of what I feel is needed for the piece and then go from there. I guess the other main difference is feeling out the structure and what is needed to hold interest in a piece is different (for me at least) when there are rhythmic elements involved and sometimes that means that more needs to happen in a piece but often it means that less is needed as everything needs a little more space to breathe.

As a bassist in the punk trio Mi Ami, your musical background must tap into your solo project of Eaethen Sea quite naturally. I’d love for you to discuss your musical upbringing and the various paths that you have ventured thus far, and what the pre-cursors were, so to speak that led to the formation of Earthen Sea? 

JL: Well I’ve played music since I was 5 when I started playing violin. I’ve picked up various instruments over the years since then but I can’t remember ever not playing and/or listening to music. And since I was a teenager I’ve been very interested in a wide range of music. I mean even in high school I was playing in a kinda grunge-y band and also making weird soundscapey things on my own on a cassette 4 track…and over the years things kind of just continued like that. I sort of off and on worked on my own music when I had time outside of bands/etc. Anyway Earthen Sea started as a project when I moved to California from DC in 2004 and for a number of years was kind of off and on as well until a couple of years ago when I decided I really wanted to be doing more of it than I had been and since then it’s been pretty full on for me…

I absolutely love the fragile, bare and stunningly beautiful compositions such as album closer (and title-track of sorts) ‘Also An Act Of Love’ and ‘Delicately In The Sunlight’ and how these tracks drift majestically across the ether. Again, it’s how these eight tracks are seamlessly forged together creates such a timeless quality. Can you discuss the sequencing of the record and also the series of counterpoints – and counter balances – that is so masterfully embedded in ‘Act Of Love’s sonic tapestry? 

JL: Well I’m glad it works as I was looking to create a flow that had a consistent or complimentary feel between the disparate pieces that make up the record. I would say that the sequencing and reworking of a few pieces was some of the harder work that I put into the record but it felt important to have the whole be somewhat a composition in and of itself rather than just being a collection of songs. I definitely went through a number of drafts of the record before I came to the final form for it but in the end it kind of revealed itself to me more than me making it fit or something. Often I find with many aspects of my music that is the most important thing to do….to step back sometimes and let things happen or just to take a broader perspective on what things are rather than trying to force them to be something they aren’t.

I wonder were there any happy accidents, so to speak during the music-making process? Also, I get the impression that many of the layers are almost like musical artefacts that have been unearthed from another time and space? In this regard, is the layering or construction of a particular track quite an intensive or challenging process? I love how there is that minimal nature to your music yet how vast the musical possibilities that are generated.

JL: Ha well much of my process is much looser than that suggests to me. I mean a lot of it is happy accidents to be honest. Not to say that I don’t spend time setting up pieces or running sounds against each other/etc but my main process is just to start loading sounds into my template in Ableton and just let them go and start working on them from there (both in terms of the individual sounds and the combination of sounds and the structure/etc). I pretty much never have an idea of where something is going when I start. Once I start and hear what may be working or coming out of something I’ll then kind of hone in on that vibe/sound and see how to go from there. The minimal vs. maximal is sometimes a challenge as it can be easy especially when working to have everything going at once to create MORE sound but usually a lot of my compositional process is sculpting those sounds down into what is needed and to build a structure from there. Also I have spent some time thinking about how to use FX to create those kind of artefact layers of sound and though I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything crazy in terms of their use that is definitely something I’ve developed into part of my “sound”.

Lastly, are there particular records that you have been heavily immersed in of late?

JL: For sure…I’ve been digging a bunch of older Jan Jelinek records as well as his newest album with Masayoshi Fujita (Schaum), a lot of Vladislav Delay, Georgia (especially their newest LP “All Kind Music”, the new Visible Cloaks LP,  both of the Anjou LPs,  Klara Lewis was a new find for me this past year and I’ve been really enjoying her music, Josh Abrams/Natural Information Society is one of my favorite bands of the last few years and I’m stoked they have a new album out, I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of stuff but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head.

‘An Act Of Love’ is out now on Kranky.

https://earthensea.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky/

 

 

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May 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm

First Listen: ‘Not Come to Light’ by The Radiophonic Workshop

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We are honoured to premiere ‘Not Come to Light’ music video by hugely influential electronic pioneers The Radiophonic Workshop, taken from their forthcoming album release ‘Burials In Several Earths’ via Room 13 Records on 19th May 2017.

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Burials In Several Earths is a brand new work by the legendary Radiophonic Workshop – hugely influential early proponents of electronic music and soundtrack architects behind classic British TV music including Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
An evocative suite of synth improvisations, Burials In Several Earths evokes the haunting qualities of their classic work whilst exploring fresh new vistas of sound. This is the first new music by the Workshop to see a commercial release since 1985, and is set for release on 19 May 2017 on the Workshop’s own imprint, Room 13. Burials In Several Earths features guest appearances from Martyn Ware (The Human League/Heaven 17) and Steve ‘Dub’ Jones (Grammy-award winning mixing engineer for The Chemical Brothers, UNKLE, and New Order).

 

The Radiophonic Workshop on Burials In Several Earths:

“The improvisation was done blind – with no preconceptions nor any real start point. We wanted to see what happened if we allowed people to react together with their machines in a very unplanned and spontaneous way. The computers and sequencers were switched off and it led to a very human interaction between all of us. It is important that we maintained this feeling of spontaneity on the final discs – so minimal editing has taken place. What you hear is what happened in the moment. It was liberating to work in such a formless, freeing and immediate way. As we listened back it became obvious that some sections had evolved naturally as “dark” themes, others “watery”, another felt like a journey and so on. We started looking for titles that might reflect these improvised movements and moods. The titles for each piece here are taken from Francis Bacon’s incomplete New Atlantis novel/poem. Bacon portrays a future vision of human discovery and knowledge, expressing his aspirations for humankind, a utopian vision of a perfect and highly functioning technological future. The book depicts a land where “generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit” are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants. Strangely relevant in our post-digital age many of the predictions are startling in the way they map against current ideologies and technologies.”

Founded in 1958 by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was home to a maverick group of experimental composers, sound engineers and musical innovators. In a series of small studios within the labyrinthine corridors of the BBC Maida Vale complex, the Workshop set about exploring new ways of using – and abusing – technology to create new sounds.

Drawing on the principles of musique concréte, found sounds, early electronics, oscillators, handmade synths and tape loops the Workshop created the other-worldly soundtrack to some of BBC television and radio’s most iconic programs: The Body in Question, Horizon, Quatermass, Newsround, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicle and the iconic Doctor Who Theme – still the high water mark for British electronic music nearly 50 years after it was recorded.

The influence of the Radiophonic Workshop on popular music has been profound. From The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince and Pink Floyd through to some of the most innovative contemporary electronic artists and DJs such as Aphex Twin, Four Tet and The Orb (who have all ensured the RWS albums are amongst the world’s most sampled recorded works) – the Workshop’s legacy continues to grow as new generations of musicians discover their catalogue of extraordinary recordings.

The Radiophonic Workshop Live In Surround Sound + Q&A

Friday 16th June @ The Science Museum IMAX Theatre
19.15pm – 22.20pm
Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2DD.
Tickets
To celebrate their new Mathematics Gallery, Science Museum proudly present a very special evening with pioneering musicians The Radiophonic Workshop.

To mark the launch of Burials In Several Earths – their first studio album in 32 years – The Radiophonic Workshop are staging a very special surround sound show in Science Museum’s IMAX Theatre, featuring a performance of new material and classics (including a unique recreation of the Doctor Who theme), with dazzling visuals projected onto their IMAX screen.

The event will also feature a very special visual interlude from original Radiophonic Workshop member Dr Dick Mills, who will reveal some of the tricks behind some of their most innovative and best known work, plus an on-stage panel conversation with the Workshop exploring the role and influence of maths in their work – and electronic music composition more broadly – and looking back at their illustrious and influential career spanning the last sixty years.

http://www.theradiophonicworkshop.co.uk
https://www.facebook.com/theradiophonicworkshop

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May 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Chosen One: Helado Negro

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“I think those moments when you’re finishing something and you’re sharing it with someone, I think that was my realization of something that I understood as what I wanted to do.”

 Roberto Carlos Lange

Words: Mark Carry

Helado Negro - Private Energy (Expanded) - Pic 001 - Credit -Anna Grothe Shive

Roberto Carlos Lange’s awe-inspiring musical project of Helado Negro reached (yet) another summit with his latest full-length ‘Private Energy’. A divine collection of deeply affecting avant pop music. Last month saw the eagerly awaited reissue of the Brooklyn-based artist’s seminal album – in an ‘expanded’ edition – via  the peerless New York imprint RVNG Intl (whom Lange previously collaborated with on the FRKWY series).

Lovingly assembled and packaged by the record label, the captivating pop spheres are similarly crafted and sculpted together with masterful detail and precision. The deeply heartfelt lyrics resonate powerfully at every turn amidst gorgeous synth layers and spectral production. The expanded version contains three sublime reworks of some of the record’s defining moments: ‘Young, Latin and Proud’(December Mix) is sumptuously de-constructed with echoes of reverb and an intoxicating slowed-down dubstep beat. Wah-wah effect pedals and hypnotic interstellar beats form the ideal foundations to the songwriter’s empowering message.

The achingly beautiful lament ‘Transmission Listen’ is a tear-stained love letter from the heart’s core: delicate woodwind and piano notes evokes the timeless sound of 60’s Brazilian tropicalia and Memphis soul. The immediacy and clarity of Lange’s voice is immediately striking akin to crystalline summer seas. The innate ability to merge electronic music and contemporary pop music is epitomised on ‘Runaround’; a deep soul groove and intricate string arrangement swims a majestic dance beneath an ocean bed of Lange’s meticulous songcraft: “No love can cut our knife in two”. Kindred spirits like LA-based songwriter Julia Holter, Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear and Julianna Barwick drift in the ether of the Florida-born musician’s enchanting song-cycles: at the intersection of latin, electronic and avant pop spheres and forever shining radiant light of prayer and hope.

‘Private Energy’ (Expanded) is available now on RVNG Intl.

https://www.facebook.com/rvngintl

https://www.facebook.com/HeladoNegro/

Helado Negro - Private Energy (Expanded) - Pic 002 - Credit -Anna Grothe Shive

Interview with Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro).

 

It’s such a wonderful partnership between yourself and the RVNG label in repressing your very special Helado Negro album ‘Private Energy’. I wonder how was this experience for you when revisiting this record and looking it in a new way?

Roberto Carlos Lange: I had worked with RVNG in 2010/2011 on a project as part of the FRKWY series, so it was me and a bunch of people did it with David Van Tieghem. So, that was my introduction to working with them – I had been a big fan of RVNG before that – and seven years later now there’s this whole new in-depth knowledge of how thoughtful and careful and so much quality control. It was nice how just everything was taken care of – the remastering of it and the artwork – and just everything about the whole process was really special and a compliment to the music (or vice versa).

I love how there’s a few new remixes and reworks included in the expanded version of ‘Private Energy’. I’d love for you to talk me through these new versions?

 RCL: Yeah, that was super unique. The way some of this record was put together, there were so many different live shows prior to finishing the record so I would grab chunks from the live show and edit them and manipulate them to work within the studio versions. So some of that shines a little bit more and peaks out in those three alternate versions that are on the expanded edition.

I’d love to know more about how you craft these songs because you’re developing and evolving all the time with all these releases, there’s just so much intricacies and detail involved musically and lyrically.

RCL: It’s definitely stacked vertically and I think about music and sound a lot like that; like how many layers can I go down or go up, in the vertical sense as opposed to like when is the end of the song coming. That’s part of the process I think where all the layers are intertwined. I keep stealing things that are improvisations with my sampler or my synthesizers or things that are on my computer and also people playing in real-time and also recordings that I do at a residency or a performance or at a rehearsal and just taking all of these snippets and being able to assemble them as moments of times of process and progress like finishing the record or finishing a song or finishing an idea.

An important part of the album is the incredible ‘Young, Latin and Proud’ – it’s almost an anthem really – so many of these songs are like these perfect pop songs with real depth and emotion inside.

RCL: I appreciate music that is committed to these realms whether it’s pop music or something that is committed to extended technique with an instrument and somebody commits their life to that and I appreciate all that kind of music on both ends of the spectrum. So, for me it’s what makes me up when I try to portray with my own version of me, which I think shines through with ‘Young, Latin and Proud’ where I’m talking a lot about myself mostly and how much I want to reflect that outwards or have people reflect that with me through them.

The album was initially made to accompany a dance performance, which I didn’t realize at the time?

RCL: It was parallel for sure, there were so many different things happening to be honest with you. One of the things that was a big aspect of what informed the record were these costumes that were made to accompany me onstage and after working with them for about a year, they obviously liked the visual aspect that informed a lot of what I did musically and what I wanted to do onstage with them. So there was a series of shows that I was commissioned to do in a few different museums and it was specifically ‘Private Energy’ with choreography with the costumes.

The way you’re involved with so many different mediums and the different contexts your music is created for like performances, installations and so on, when you release a new selection of songs it must all feed into one another?

RCL: It’s funny it’s like everything ends up evolving or like I work on a piece of  music and I end up making so many iterations of the same thing, I think it’s exciting and fun to do that. Everything is like an extension of each other; I look at it more as that than it being like the music is over once the record is out. There’s always a chance for it to evolve into something else with other things.

Collaboration is of course something you’re continually involved in. One of my favourites was the wonderful Ombre project with Julianna Barwick, which was such a beautiful release.

RCL: That was one of my favourites as well. I think we started that in 2010 and it came out in 2012. That was such a special project; she’s a super close friend of mine. I toured once in the UK and at the time I was selling some of those LPs on the road and people in the UK specifically were like ‘Oh wow, you work on this; that’s you… that’s awesome man’ [laughs]. It was cool because a lot of different people know about it and a lot of people don’t know about it, it’s interesting when people discover it as well.

Since you moved to New York several years ago, I wonder just how much of an inspiration is the city on you?

RCL: Being here for about eleven years now. I moved actually from Florida to Savannah Georgia to Atalanta and then back to Florida and then back. So prior to New York I was in Atalanta. It’s a special place and every day there’s not a moment where you’re not feeling stimulated somehow; there’s so much going on whether you’re just going to the corner to get milk or you’re out running errands trying to meet people or trying to do something. There’s definitely like this hyper extreme like sensory push and pull, you’re seeing all types of things. And especially right now where it’s transitioning from spring to summer – or whatever is happening right now with the weather – you see just like the trees are stretching out and the sidewalks are getting super crowded and everything is getting louder and more bustling you know.

I wonder what ideas may you have right now for your next release or projects? I can imagine you must have several different things coming together at the same time?

RCL: It’s interesting because right now it feels like there’s a rebirth for this record and to continue sharing it with people, so that’s really nice to have that for something to occupy your time as I’m still exploring what I want to do. I’m recording a bunch of ideas right now and I’m feeling everything out but I’m not in a rush to finish anything at this moment, I feel really inspired but I don’t feel pressure in any way. I think that’s also a result of working with RVNG and seeing and feeling what they’re doing; the way they’ve been able to work with me on this project. It’s nice to feel there is a little bit of air to just move around.

For your musical project of Helado Negro, were there certain albums or defining moments – perhaps when growing up –that happened for you to lead you on your particular music path?

RCL: I think the moment where I started to take it really seriously was in college and I was really alone, experimenting on my own and figuring out how to manipulate sound and realize that I was making songs. And in a non-traditional sense where I wasn’t really learning music, I was messing around with the computer and that sampler that I have. I think those moments when you’re finishing something and you’re sharing it with someone, I think that was my realization of something that I understood as what I wanted to do. I think it’s like both those processes, creating and sharing of being like the feeling of this is what I want to do. I do think there are a lot of people who do create and I do think a lot of people don’t want to share and I think there is that level of commitment of being able to participate and have people participate in what you’re doing as well.

You’ve been touring extensively around the world as well, you must learn so much about your songs and your music by going to all these venues and playing shows where you gather all these different versions and variations of your songs. It must be a great source of learning in one way?

RCL: Yeah it’s frightening for sure because there’s so many times where it goes really well and there’s so many times where you’re like this is awkward or uncomfortable in the past. I definitely think it’s morphed and changed enough where I don’t feel out of control; I feel like I have opened up enough to know that the things that happen that aren’t exactly how I planned are the things that I appreciate the most, taking those moments and building on that. A friend of mine who plays a lot of improvisational music told me like one of the rules they had was you mess up, you do it three times after that. So, it sounds intentional regardless of what it is and there’s something I appreciate about that, like owning the mistake until it turns into something that you want, it’s pretty exciting.

‘Mi Mano’ is probably one of my favourite tracks from ‘Private Energy’ at the moment. It really shows the interwoven layers and masterful production that’s on display across the album, I don’t know how you do it.

RCL: Awesome, well neither do I [laughs]. I’m glad you dig it, yeah it’s one of my favourite jams too. That song is actually a really good example of the idea of error. That song was originally a much faster tempo and I accidentally slowed it down significantly because I was doing something else for a second but I ended up changing the BPM. When I played it back, I was like what is going on and I couldn’t figure out what had happened for a good couple of minutes and I just loved it that way and it stuck like that.

Have you been listening to any albums lately, Roberto?

RCL: I just made a playlist of stuff that I’ve been listening to, I realized that’s my best solution around this question because throughout the years it’s been the question that haunts me [laughs]. I made a playlist of a bunch of ambient jams that I really dig and something that I’ve been listening to a lot was this Gigi Masin record with George Hayward. There’s this band that I heard on the road, they’re called Sneaks and it’s a duo (a bass player and a drummer) and the woman who plays bass is pretty awesome actually, I dig their tunes. What else has been in my ears? There’s also this Ecuadorian cumbia organ synthesizer player from the 50’s and 60’s that I’ve been listening to a lot and his name is really hard to spell [laughs].

‘Private Energy’ (Expanded) is available now on RVNG Intl.

https://www.facebook.com/rvngintl

https://www.facebook.com/HeladoNegro/

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm