FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Andrea Belfi

leave a comment »

“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/

Written by admin

May 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: