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Step Right Up: Ensemble Economique

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Interview with Brian Pyle.

“Like anyone, you discover you have a knack for something, be it combining colours/images as a visual artist or words as a writer and for me sounds. Seemingly a musician is what I was meant to be, it just comes naturally.”

—Brian Pyle

Words: Mark Carry

EnsembleEconomique20142

Earlier this year marked the release of Ensemble Economique’s latest sonic voyage, ‘Melt Into Nothing’ on the prestigious Berlin-based Denovali imprint. The prolific Humboldt County musician (Ensemble Economique is the solo project of Brian Pyle, formerly of Starving Weirdos) has quickly amassed a colossal body of work that encompasses a seamless array of scintillating sounds and styles, from drone, ambient to shoegaze and electronic music. After releasing the shape-shifting ‘At The Foot Of Nameless Roads’ in 2008 (released on Digitalis Recordings), a string of self-released CD-R’s and tour CDs followed. Last year, several Ensemble Economique records were seen the light of day; the Denovali-released ethereal gems of ‘Light That Comes, Light That Goes’ and ‘Interval Signals’, and ‘The Fever Logic’ LP (released on Not Not Fun). The works of Pyle continues to evolve and explore new terrain where the gifted multi-instrumentalist refines his craft on each of his utterly transcendent works.

Melt Into Nothing’ reveals a more stripped-back sonic palette which features contributions from Toronto artist DenMother and Parisian artist Sophia Hamadi, also of dark-wave Opale. Album opener ‘Your Lips Against Mine’ is a shimmering odyssey into beautiful new horizons, recalling the timeless sound of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. Gentle wave of celestial harmonies and lazer-guided guitar melodies ebb and flow, shifting in and out of focus, creating a truly captivating sound in the process. Organ and synths are the added instrumentation on the sublime instrumental cut, ‘Make-Out In The GDR’ that contains a seductive groove and layers of fuzz-drenched guitars and warm percussion. Field recordings and tape manipulation (unidentifiable voices flicker into the mix at various intervals) are masterfully inter-woven in the anthemic wall of sound.

The tempo is slowed on the delicately beautiful ‘Hey Baby’, a gorgeous ballad that blooms into vivid colours and textures with each and every fragile guitar note and luminous beat. The epic ‘Fade For Miles’ is the longest cut on ‘Melt Into Nothing’ (close to ten minutes in duration) that forms the record’s centrepiece. Pyle’s beguiling vocals melts effortlessly into the mix of drums, guitars and synths that forms a haven of shimmering soundscapes. As ever, the masterful song-craft of Ensemble Economique’s Brian Pyle pushes the sonic envelope as he expands new horizons in sound.

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‘Melt Into Nothing’ is out now on Denovali.

https://www.facebook.com/ensembleeconomique
http://www.denovali.com

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EnsembleEconomique20141

Interview with Brian Pyle.

There are some wonderful guest contributions on ‘Melt Into Nothing’, most notably on the stunning album opener, ‘Your Lips Against Mine’ which features the talents of Toronto artist DenMother and Parisian artist Sophia Hamadi. I would love to gain an insight into this particular collaboration please? The beautiful ethereal vocals melt into the mix of gorgeous guitar tones that creates in turn, something very special (MBV, Slowdive et al).

Brian Pyle: Thank you! This collaboration happened rather seamlessly. I had been working on music with Sophia for a couple of years, notably with the pre-Opale project, Playground. Our sensibilities are very close, we both very much love this emotive/romantic dynamic, it was truly a pleasure to collaborate with her on this track. And once the music was finished, I sent it to Denmother with just this intuitive feeling that her vocals would be perfect.  We had been in contact and wanted to do something together and ‘Your Lips Against Mine’ just seemed like the perfect track to try something out. Couldn’t be happier with the results, the chemistry.

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It never ceases to amaze me just how prolific you are and I wonder how you manage it? For example, with Ensemble Economique, there have been a plethora of exceptional releases in a relatively short space of time, not excluding your other off-shoot projects. Do these varied projects all feed into the one slipstream, as it were?

BP:  Yeah, I think so. If you were to take a release like ‘Interval Signals’ and match it with the current ‘Melt Into Nothing’ work I think a listener divorced from the knowledge of who was creating these works may not hear the connection. But it is indeed there, just channelled in a slightly different way. As with all working artists I’m in the studio quite a bit, working on various ideas, a bit here, a bit there. So I’ve amassed a fair amount of material. I don’t really set out to “work, work, work”, its measured. And perhaps the way releases come out, it can give the impression that I’m just producing a new record every 4 months or so. But for sure, after many years, I do have a solid methodology and the confidence in my work to produce at a pretty decent rate.

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Can you discuss the instrumentation and recording equipment utilized on ‘Melt Into Nothing’ please? One of my personal favourites is the neon lit instrumental cut of ‘Make-Out In The GDR’ that combines organ, synths, percussion and tape manipulations to magnificent effect. 

BP: Ah, one of my favorites as well, thank you. With that particular track it was built up from the beat, with each element added accordingly, very minimal at first and then carefully built up to deliver the exact emotion I was trying to express. So once the spine of this track was composed it all fell into place rather quickly. The pieces of the puzzle coming together. The actual recording was quite simple. Everything through analogue preamps into a digital interface and then run through more analogue modelled software. As someone who cut his teeth on a million hours of tape recording, this sort of warmth is paramount to the EE sound. But all quite simple, no sequencers, just classic intuitive overdubs and very concise editing.

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A song that feels the centrepiece to the new record (and also the longest cut on the album) is the hypnotic ‘Fade For Miles’. I love the abstract electronic manipulations present here. Is the process of looping various elements live in the studio borne from this particular track?

BP: Yes, you’re right. I never get tired of listening to this track and I’m not one to revisit work once it’s finished so much. I truly had a magical moment with the last 3rd of this song. I did something very radical, reversing the entire dynamic and cross-fading it in. I had the thought to try this and I remember distinctly after trying this experiment, leaning back in my chair, listening, bobbing my head and just thinking, “oh man, I love this”. Magical moment, the power of “out” experimentation. And when you really try something “left-field” in the “pop” context and it works I think the results can be quite striking.

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I would love to gain an insight into the beginnings of your fascination with sound? What triggered this interest and obsession? Were there certain records that proved defining for you, Brian?

BP: Yeah, for sure. ‘The White Album’ comes to mind, especially the distorted guitar solo in ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’. That was really my first time having this feeling the a sound, its delivery could produce this intense “feeling”. It was so cool, I really couldn’t believe my ears. And then of course as I got older just realizing how much music can affect you emotionally and being aware that I was quite sensitive to this. The power of sound. Like anyone, you discover you have a knack for something, be it combining colours/images as a visual artist or words as a writer and for me sounds. Seemingly a musician is what I was meant to be, it just comes naturally.

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Lastly, I must ask you about the wonderful collaborative work between you and Félicia Atkinson, under the moniker of Naked Island. I feel the combination of Félicia’s cinematic voice and the sublime techno beats works so beautifully. Again, across the two tracks the music evolves gradually and ‘Deep, Transcendent Waves of Golden Light’ is a fitting title. Please discuss the collaborative process between you and Félicia and indeed how these tracks were formed? 

BP: It’s an interesting collaboration. We each did the music independently for each side, myself for ‘Deep, Transcendent Waves of Golden Light’ and Félicia with ‘Play it As It Lays’. Félicia sent me a vocal track and I processed it and layered it in as I saw fit and I sent her a vocal track and she did the same, presto! A bit unorthodox I think but it really worked. I think for our next record we’ll collaborate a bit more on the musical side of things. Very excited about Naked Island and I love working with Félicia, she’s amazing.

 


 

EnsembleEconomique_MeltIntoNothing

‘Melt Into Nothing’ is out now on Denovali.

https://www.facebook.com/ensembleeconomique
http://www.denovali.com

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Written by markcarry

September 2, 2014 at 11:07 am

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