FRACTURED AIR

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Central And Remote: ELLLL

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Interview with Ellen King (ELLLL).

You have these moments where you lose yourself completely in what you’re playing.”

—Ellen King

Words: Mark Carry

ellen-king-1

ELLLL is the pseudonym of Ellen King, a producer based in Cork City. Her music utilises heavily manipulated samples, resonant beats and dark textures, whilst also drawing influence from drone and noise crossed with vigorous techno leanings. The highly anticipated debut ‘Romance’ EP comes out soon via Sligo-based Art For Blind Records (pre-order here) and is available to download now.

The title-track – and glorious opener – contains a myriad of utterly transcendent moments distilled into one gorgeous cohesive whole. An array of luminescent beats serves the vital pulse as LA-based producer Laurel Halo; early sample-based works of French artist Colleen and the Modern Love roster all flicker into full-focus. ‘Romance’ forges a deeply immersive experience. The following cut ‘Pegasus’ is built upon many warped sounds that are masterfully assembled into a lo-fi techno-fused sound collage. The repetition and returning melodic motifs creates un utterly timeless feel, which continually evolve, looping forever into some blissed-out utopia.

Part B of ‘Romance’ changes and mutates once more, displaying the gifted talents of this Cork producer. Acid house beats and hypnotic vocal-based samples continually weave in and out of focus, creating a dense sound-world of melodic patterns and radiant textures which bring to mind the seminal works of Aphex Twin and the Warp & Kompakt label’s output. Closing cut ‘Tease’ blends vigorous techno, noise and drone soundscapes to tremendous effect. The near-tribal, pop-oriented vocal sample serves the track’s compelling main theme, which becomes mashed and transformed across a multitude of manipulations and treatments. Endless moments of complete transcendence are effortlessly embedded within these spliced treatments. ‘Romance’ represents the glittering first chapter in ELLLL’s music path.

‘Romance’ is available to download HERE. Vinyl pre-order HERE, which will be released on Art For Blind Records.

https://www.facebook.com/Ellllmusic/

https://soundcloud.com/ellll

ellll-live

Interview with Ellen King (ELLLL).

Congratulations on the sublime ‘Romance’ EP. Please discuss the space in time in which these formidable tracks were constructed and recorded? The many intricate layers inherent across these four tracks is a joy to savour and feels as if these loops could go on forever. I would love to gain an insight into the library of sounds you have collected – and the sources perhaps – and indeed the process of collecting these fragments and splicing the tracks together?

Ellen King: Most of the tracks were recorded between Dec 15 – March ’16. I’m a total hoarder when it comes to sampling. Pretty much anything goes. Old B movies, foreign films, field recordings, a lot of pop music from the 50’s/60’s. I’m a sucker for anything with the Phil Spector – Wall of Sound production.

In terms of splicing tracks together, I’m a big advocate of sound collage. Layering sounds, even things you think could never possibly work, tweaking and manipulating them in subtle ways. That being said, trial and error can be a big part of composing too.

Sometimes I’ll have audio that I’m desperate to use but it just never quite ‘fits’. I could be editing something for weeks. It’s tedious. Eventually, you just have to let it go.

Other times I come across a sound that feels so magnetic the piece seems to come together almost instantaneously. You have that light bulb moment where you just have to keep the momentum going and bang it out.

Most of my time is spent on chopping up samples and manipulating them. Generally, they’re very tiny fragments. I’m constantly trying to get the most out of the least amount of material. Imposing this limitation is important to my workflow; otherwise it becomes overwhelming. I’m constantly trying to scale things back.

I can imagine your live shows and testing material in the live context must have played a big part in the final versions and entities of these new tracks, Ellen. Furthermore, your live show has developed and evolved greatly over the last couple of years, which is reflected in the ‘Romance’ EP. One of the great hallmarks of the EP is the translation of your live shows – and particularly, the energy and transcendent nature – into the studio versions. Can you talk me through the equipment and tools at your disposal and how you feel you have developed as a producer (which is so clearly shown on ‘Romance’)?

EK: In terms of tools at my disposal, I don’t own a lot of gear. I’ve used a lot of different software over the years but these days I feel most comfortable using my laptop, Ableton live, a APC MK2 and decent studio monitors. Portability is for sure a concern too.

With regard to playing live, it has certainly been an integral part of the way I write music. When I started making electronic music most of my friends were in bands, none of them were DJ’s or producers; playing live was just a given.

At the time, I was doing bits and pieces of improvisation with friends, some noise and drone type gigs too. So, when I started playing live sets as ELLLL, they were fully improvised and meandering. A lot of the tracks I recorded were just that; recorded and unedited.

You mention the word transcendent, and without sounding cheesy or clichéd, it’s such a big part of making music. You have these moments where you lose yourself completely in what you’re playing. This can be on stage or in the studio. In the case of the latter I try and record everything I do, oftentimes these recordings serve as the basis for tracks (although, granted; there’s a lot of files that get scrapped too).

This approach has developed quite a bit, you get older, learn more skills, figure out what works and doesn’t. I’m constantly trying to improve as a producer. By large most of my tracks are still composed around improvisations, but now I’m much more critical about what remains in the final edit. A 30-min improvisation could end up being refined to a 6-minute track.

Now, in a live context, I have tracks to play, edits to consider, all these elements in post-production that I never had before. If I tried to stick to all that live I’d go insane; it would be so rigid and stressful. Instead, I’ve got integral components that I try and use in an improvised way. I’ve got a pool of effects I like to use and some Max for Live instruments too. Overall this makes playing live very malleable and fun.

The whole set is much more loose as a result and gives me more freedom. You’re never going to hear a track exactly as it was recorded, but honestly, who wants that anyway?!

There is a wide range of sounds and flourishes etched all over the recordings, calling to mind the vintage Warp output, pioneering producers, minimalist techno and imprints such as Modern Love, Kompakt et al. What do you feel are the sum of the inspirations and influences that have found their way on this particular musical chapter, Ellen? Did you have a specific set of aims or objectives for what sound worlds to channel into this batch of songs?

EK: I didn’t have any specific aims or objectives at the time of writing the EP, I wanted it to accurately represent my interests and skill set as a producer at that time. I didn’t set out thinking ‘I want it to sound like X’. I wrote some tracks, picked the ones I thought complimented each-other and went from there.

That being said, there’s an undenying influence of imprints like those mentioned that rooted themselves in my composition early on. Modern Love in particular; a lot of its output was a big catalyst for me to write more beat driven material, the style of production and the atmosphere resonated with me.

A minimal approach to writing electronic music has always appealed to me and is still something I gravitate towards. I like the challenge of trying to push the boundaries of a 4/4 groove in a creative way. Labels like Faitiche and Scape~ also had a huge impact on me, especially when I began writing electronic music. The juxtaposition of these with more experimental and noisy output from labels like Subtext, Prologue, Pan… then artists like Black Dice, Terrestrial Tones, Teengirl Fantasy. The list goes on and on. It’s a pretty mixed bag.

The title-track serves the perfect opener. The ambient loop and luminescent beats form this stunningly beautiful cohesive whole. Can you talk me through the construction of the layers of ‘Romance’? Again, just like the other tracks here, an infinite array of breath-taking moments come to the fore as the track grows, mutates and evolves.

EK: Romance was one of those rare moments where the whole track came together quite quickly. I think in a day or two. It’s mostly stretching and inverting the same idea and actually has quite few new elements bar the percussion. Most of the sounds are taken from the same source but are heavily manipulated and inverted to create something new each time.

As I started compiling samples for Romance, it began to come together as a vivid narrative in my head that I wanted to translate into a cohesive piece of music, almost like a piece of program music.

This sounds a bit intense and OTT for writing what essentially ended up being a 5-minute techno tune, but it’s what was going on in my mind at the time.

‘Bear’ contains such a monster groove and compelling techno soundscapes unfold throughout. I get an impression that the transitions within the songs are quite integral to the overall composition? For instance, I love how there is distinct phases or patterns embedded within a track, and where certain moments or motifs return at various points. I would love for you to shed some light onto your compositional approach and how you visualize music?

EK: ‘Bear’ features a lot of material that I had been playing for a while in various reincarnations live, so, when I was writing it I knew the sounds inside out. I wrote it at a point that I had finished a few live shows and was just really excited about writing music.

I had the luxury of playing much of the track through on some nice sound systems and wanted to make it come to life; give it some form and shape. It’s a lot of interweaving repetitions, ducking in and out, with these acidic bloops, chugging throughout, keeping a sense of movement and motion going.

Some pieces are incredibly visual for me and these narratives unfold, as I mentioned with ‘Romance’, ‘Bear’ was much the same. Everything about it reminded me of Baloo the bear from the Jungle Book. Not the story line. Just the Bear (ha!) I’ve no idea why. None of the sounds are even remotely related to the Jungle Book, I haven’t read or watched it in years, but once I had the idea in my head, that was it. This lucid bear sauntering through a lush green jungle.

Some of the music I write goes that direction, storytelling in some warped sort of way. On the other hand, it can be solely focused on one specific sound that I’m completely fixated on for a time, and I try to challenge myself to use it in as many creative ways as I can. A feeling, or a mood. Sometimes you just want to make something bangin’, obnoxious and unapologetic. I’m all for that too. I love that.

 

What records, producers, artists have you been enjoying lately?

EK: A lot of the music coming out on Don’t Be Afraid; Karen Gwyer and Herva in particular. Also output from BANK records, Enrique (Miguel Alvariño) and Via App especially.

I’ve been revisiting Murlo’s Odysessy from last year and that still gets me excited, it’s just such a good time. The new Pangea is really fun too.

Also, looking forward to get my hands on the new Andrew Pekler record, which I’ve only heard snippets, but sounds great.

It’s always striking chatting with you about music: you have a  wide-ranging taste and love and appreciation for a wide range of genres and styles/periods of music – Delia Derbyshire & BBC Radiophonic; Colleen; Powell; The Soft Moon; Laurie Spiegel, Linda Perhacs etc. – it’s obvious from listening to your music that your collection does not only cater for techno/electronic sounds. Could you pinpoint key albums that influenced you as a composer and made an impact on you growing up? In terms of influences who would you most admire?

EK: Growing up I didn’t listen to much electronic music at all, not intentionally, it just wasn’t an area I was all that aware of.  The major exception here would be Aphex Twin, both volumes of Selected Ambient works and also the Druqks record.

As a teenager, I was mostly preoccupied with metal and offshoots of that; alongside with psychedelic pop of the late 60’s and 70’s. The Mama’s and the Papa’s self-titled record definitely brushed off on me, I go back to it time and time again, catchy yet sometimes melancholic pop songs with a nostalgic feel. I love the story that they tell, the overall narrative. My mother was also very partial to throwing their best of on in the car as a kid, so even going further back, I’ve some nice memories attached to their sound.

In a big contrast, Ulver’s ‘Blood Inside” also had an impact on me, but in a completely different way. It was a drastic break away from their previous sound, which was a lot more black metal. The record is still really dark and moody, but has some many different elements to it regarding electronics, instrumentation and texture. It’s really interesting to listen to, their use of sampling especially got to me.

Fantoms ‘Suspended Animation’ is another one i’d include in this too, it shook me up. The juxtaposition of so many different elements, sometimes sounding quite frantic sometimes really beautiful.

I can’t really mention sampling without Musique Concrète and the music from RTF and Radiophonic Workshop. The composers involved have not only being very influential compositionally, but I’ve a strong admiration for them, women like Eliane Radigue, Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire in particular.

Likewise, I’m very fond of the Scape~ recordings label and the producers involved. It’s all very considered and beautiful production with some really precise components that seem to be a mixture of found and man-made sounds, yet still not withholding to any particular genre. Jan Jelinek – Loop Finding Jazz Records is a favourite of mine.

I also have to include Emptyset and their record Demiurge. The physicality of their sound is something I really appreciate; I find their music very compelling.

 

‘Romance’ is available to download HERE. Vinyl pre-order HERE, which will be released on Art For Blind Records.

https://www.facebook.com/Ellllmusic/

https://soundcloud.com/ellll

 

Written by admin

December 9, 2016 at 12:42 pm

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