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Central And Remote: This Is How We Fly

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The idea of foreign fields appeals to me in both directions – the strangeness of the vast acres over there, but the memory too of every blade of grass back home, every ditch, gripe and clump of rushes.”

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

Words: Mark Carry

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The live performances of contemporary folk quartet This Is How We Fly forever fill you with awe-struck wonder and inspiration. The gifted quartet of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (hardanger d’amore), Seán Mac Erlaine (clarinets and electronics), Nic Gareiss (percussive dance) and Petter Berndalen (drums) have created their own unique musical language – ever since their self-titled debut dropped in 2013 – with a deep understanding and rich chemistry forever inherent between its members. An evolution it seems is always happening between the players and the band’s latest sophomore release ‘Foreign Fields’ marks a masterful exploration into new sonic plains that delves deeper (than ever before) into enchanting realms of new possibilities.

The opening notes of  ‘A Man Of Few Words’ begins with hushed fiddle notes and delicate percussive dance, before warm textures of electronics and Berndalen’s drums ascend into the ethereal mix. Ó Raghallaigh’s deeply poignant and mournful fiddle notes brilliantly close the piece. Each breath, pulse and texture of ‘The Bittersweet March’ is a joy to savour: the heavenly blend of woodwind and strings amidst the soaring crescendo of drums and percussion (towards the final section) harkens to a symphony of celestial sounds.

Some of the band’s strongest works are beautifully captured on ‘Foreign Fields’ (which was recorded live in Dublin’s Fumbally Stables). ‘Ri Rua’ is an uplifting, heartfelt  lament with a vast array of colours and textures swarming across the sonic space: the duet between MacErlaine’s clarinet and O’ Raghallaigh’s hardanger d’amore is steeped in jazz, folk and classical flourishes. The way the piece transforms and continually builds is further heightened by the myriad of rhythmic textures masterfully supplied by Gareiss and Berndalen.

To trace the origins of the sounds unleashed by This Is How We Fly is a near-impossible task. One of the great hallmarks of their musical identity is the boundless nature of their musical framework: age-old traditions of Swedish folk music and Appalachian music, Irish tradtional are embedded somewhere deep in the foundations but most importantly, many experimental and contemporary sounds and nuances seep into the music, like the river finding its sea. I feel this becomes the essence of ‘Foreign Fields’ and a piece such as ‘Ti Mor’ epitomises the bold spirit of the quartet’s latest masterwork. The hypnotic, trance-like rhythms – which feels rooted deep in Africa – creates an utterly transcendent electronic exploration. The deep dialogue between Gareiss and Berndalen as the footwork and drums become one sound-world of dark, menacing textures. The brooding strings further adds to the cinematic brilliance of this piece, shifting between dub and electronic sound worlds.

The last couple of This Is How We Fly live shows I’ve witnessed, the group played in the round, so the audience and musicians effectively became one. The musicians – and audience alike – share the same experience, feeling each other’s heart beat to the sumptuous textures and sonic timbres to the quartet’s empowering musical journey. It’s precisely this image that encapsulates their remarkable latest full-length where each and every breath is shared, in turn by musician and listener alike.

‘Foreign Fields’ is available NOW.

http://www.thisishowwefly.net/

https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsHowWeFly/

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Interview with This Is How We Fly.

 

 Congratulations on the truly sublime sophomore release ‘Foreign Fields’, it’s such a remarkable and stunning feat. One of the aspects I particularly love about this latest chapter is how the quartet explores much further and deeper into more contemporary and experimental terrain as illustrated by the wide range of sounds and possibilities attained throughout. Please take me back to the three nights of live performances at the Fumbally Stables and your memories of the music-making process during this special time? Describe the space as a live setting and your live set-up in this space too?

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh: The Fumbally Stables is a small room at the back of the Fumbally Cafe in Dublin, just off Clanbrassil Street, which has built up a wonderful vibrant community around it over the last few years, and it is run by friends of ours.  We played three nights in a row in front of a small audience each night, maybe 40/50 people.  We played in the round, which is a real treat for us, and something that we had experimented with at both the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh and the Solstice Arts Centre in Navan.  It’s such a lovely way to play together, as opposed to being fanned out across a stage, much more intimate and easier to connect with and hear everyone.  We played pretty much acoustically, with a small Genelec speaker for Seán’s live processing, and also some reinforcement for Petter’s percussion.

Nic Gareiss: It was January when we recorded so we tried to create as warm and inviting an atmosphere as possible: ambient light, candles, people sitting very close to one another and to us. I think that’s really evident in the recording and in the video Myles O’Reilly of Arbutus Yarns shot for the single “Rí Rua”. The idea of crafting the space for an audience to exist, in addition to the actual music or movement they experience is something I’ve become really interested in lately as a performer.  There’s something quite rewarding about preparing the actual space in which the “event” will occur and realizing that it has a large impact on the way the sounds and dance steps are received!

Seán Mac Erlaine: The really big part of what we do in performance is to make a very real communication between the group and the audience as well as a constant communication between the four of us making the music. So with this second album it seemed important to try and capture that and to try and get away from the typical recording studio set-up where there is physical separation between musicians. At the same time we like to present our music in the best way possible so we didn’t want this to have one of those live-album-so-we-can-forgive-the-crappy-sound attempts, y’know those ones where the singer forgets some of the words and the bass player is a little out of tune sometimes… We hired in Mats Helgesson from Sweden who is an expert in live recording and who managed to make us sound like we were in a studio but with an audience (who remained amazingly quiet!!!).

Petter Berndalen: Just for these concerts I had to think of several different angles. I would both play the concerts as a musician, but I also felt a responsibility to create something that was afterwards formable to a sound that had evolved into my mind from the launch of our debut album and up to now.

With the thought that I would like to mix our new album, the thoughts fell sharply in Mats’s direction. Furthermore, Mats and me put together an audio equipment of utmost quality, the choices we made of, among other things, microphones, preamps, cables, created a first form of what we can hear on the album today.

I’d love to gain an insight into your discussions and creative aspirations – as a quartet – that you would have been sharing and discussing prior to the recording/live performances back in January? For instance, having the gorgeous debut album already under your belt and having played many live shows worldwide in support of that album, you must have had a whole world of ideas and avenues in which you all wanted to explore on this highly anticipated follow-up?

CÓR: I think we wanted to create some music that was more integrated, rather than one person bringing a tune that the rest of the band then subsequently arranges.  So finding ways of writing music together was definitely a priority.  We also chose not to follow the route of making arrangements of traditional tunes, preferring to focus primarily on music we write.

SME: All those live gigs really shape the band so we start to understand more what the group can do and where we might be able to push things forward in our sound. The new album does – thankfully – sound different to the first one and I think it represents how we have grown together. Having writing time together was essential to make that happen and there’s more of everyone, and everyone at once, on this new record.

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The title-track is a formidable piece of music, eternally mystical and bright melodies of rejoice. This piece is essentially in two parts and how the darker, inward patterns of part B fades into focus is a joy to savour. Can you talk me through this piece and the layering/construction of the various elements? It’s one of those incredible feats just how these intricate layers of achingly beautiful sounds fuse together so effortlessly, and these warm textures and motifs forever heighten and inspire. As a title also (and particularly as the album title), I’d love for you to discuss the significance or meaning of the title?

CÓR: The title ‘Foreign Fields’ comes from a poem my cousin Anthony Cunningham wrote for his father.  Sonny left Longford for New York when he was a very young man, and though he reached into his eighties, he never once returned home.  The idea of foreign fields appeals to me in both directions – the strangeness of the vast acres over there, but the memory too of every blade of grass back home, every ditch, gripe and clump of rushes.

SME: It’s an example of what happens when we get to write in the same space together. All the parts are written in the room at once so that they interlock and reinforce each other. I guess it’s this approach to composition that we were really seeking out rather than taking a piece which more or less exists and either just playing it or, worse, playing on top of it. It takes much more time to develop music this way but it’s been really satisfying for us and a nice challenge to play too.

PB: My favorite moment in the creation of this composition was when I and Nic suddenly found ourselves in the rhythmic dark texture that companions the march melody. The sound of that rhythm, the rhythm in itself and the way it fits in its context is the result of my and Nics un verbal common language, constantly evolving over the seven years we have been listening to and communicating with each other.

I get the impression that ‘Fjellvant’ feels like a piece that perhaps Petter brought to the table? The voice treatments and cinematic dimension that this composition inhabits unleashes a wall of raw emotion. I wonder as the quartet would often be split up, both geographically and being busy with other projects and musical incarnations, do you find yourself composing as solo entities and only once you join up as a four-piece, would you suddenly begin sharing all these ideas? Do you see the compositional approach to pieces such as ‘Fjellvant’ or ‘Ti Mor’ (for example) alter in a drastic way, or would the creative process be a more constant process?

CÓR: I think Fjellvant started with the little few notes I recorded on an iPad during one of the band’s writing days.  We spent a few days in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan, and would split up into pairs to work on stuff, so myself and Seán pulled Fjellvant out of the bag and he brought his electronics to the party.  When we brought it back to the boys, it already felt like a complete thing unto itself, so that’s how it remains!

SME: We’ve often played short solo sets so we thought let’s see if we can try duo material. Fjellvant (a Norwegian word pertaining to mountain walking) is one of the duos that made the cut. Also, hiking is something that Caoimhín and I really like to do and perhaps not on all of TIHWF’s to do lists! If I were to recast my life I might try being a singing contemporary dancer and sometimes the guys let me sing a tiny bit (I’m not going to bust out any moves with Nic beside me).

The album radiates the sense of a live performance where the band are playing live; sharing the same as the listener. The special, unique live shows of This Is How We Fly is ultimately translated onto the final album. Was this a primary objective for the band? Also, please discuss the aesthetic quality of your work and this space you travel deep inside when it comes to making music together? I love the solo pieces (however short!) that wonderfully bridge various pieces that form majestic interludes throughout (which again, brings you back to the band’s live shows).

CÓR: The audience has always been such an important part of how this band works, and we felt that perhaps we were losing something by going into studio to record.  We wanted to make this record in collaboration with our audience, from the crowd-sourced funding, to having their listening, enthusiasm and energy as part of the air around us as we recorded.

NG: We’ve experimented over the nearly seven years we’ve been performing together about how best to convey the way that live gigs seem so close to the heart of this project. As I mentioned, this has included work with filmmakers, including several collaborations with Myles of Arbutus Yarns and Donal Dineen, but also the creation of performances in unorthodox spaces, most notably a dilapidated Georgian House on North Great George’s Street in Dublin as part of Seán’s ongoing series The Walls Have Ears during the Dublin Fringe. The privilege and power of creating something in the moment, not only in front of an audience, but in response to them is endlessly invigorating for us. In this way, the in-the-round, mostly-acoustic, live format was the perfect avenue for us to try to share our interest in creating music as a practice of rapport.  This rapport is with the audience, with our own bodies, with the tools of our craft (drumsticks, fiddle bow, clarinet keys, dance shoes) and with each other.

PB: Sharing the same thing as the listener. To me, this is probably the only way I can or rather want to play music. I find no greater interest in sharing with a monologue. What’s interesting in a meeting with a listener, is the listener’s contribution back to the musician and the musician’s ability to take in this, do something of it and then share the next phrase with the listener, to hear what this one has to say this time!

The same is true of how we communicate with each other in the band. Just playing a song straight off just like it sounded last time, there are many others who find joy in that. But in the musical context I myself want to find myself in, I prefer to be 100% communicative in each phrase, every breath, every second.

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As solo musicians and composers, you have carved out unique solo paths with your own singular sound and musical identity. Please take me back to your earliest musical memories and the landscape that you feel has shaped and influenced your own individual musical paths? For instance, Nic, you have a really beautiful spoken word piece where you recount your memories of a teacher of yours in Limerick, the lyrics for which are truly inspiring. It is the way each member brings their own colours and rich language to the divine sonic canvas of the overall sound and how each one complements and further heightens one another, this must have taken you by surprise (in some ways) when you first came together and played together?

CÓR: I have so many memories from both listening to and playing traditional music that have shaped what I’m aiming for when I play.  Hearing Tony Mac Mahon stopping time playing ‘James Connolly’ in the Cobalt Cafe; fourteen hours non-stop playing with Dermy Diamond in Queally’s Pub in Miltown Malbay during the Willie Clancy, day after day after day, lit up by the man of the house throwing a step out of the blue; playing ‘The Rolling Wave’ by myself for hours upon hours on a New Year’s Eve, over and over again, until music became magic for the first time…

NG: Thanks! Often as part of our concerts, we each take a moment to allow one another to stretch out, allowing the audience to engage with our sounds individually. The piece “Scraping for Peggy” came out of this little band ritual and is dedicated to legendary Cork Irish dance teacher Peggy McTeggart. She said, “I’ll have no scrapers in our class”.  For her, “good” dance technique was adroit, crisp, and clean, resulting from a short sharp connection to the ground. This became a provocation for me to make whispery, gritty, hushed, or “dirty” sounds by sustaining my contact with the floor. There’s a playful sense of the joy of transgression, of doing what you’re told not to do, that honestly fills my heart with glee every time I get to dance the piece in her memory. For me, the connection to this older dancer and the way that tradition begs as many questions as it provides answers becomes a locus of performance but also of pleasure for me and hopefully for the audience as well.

SME: I’m not sure I have many early musical memories, I was into my teens by the time I got hooked on Bob Dylan and worlds surrounding that, but I don’t think you will hear much of that in my playing. Often the non-musical will inspire me as much as my listening habits. These days all I try to do is get out of my own way and let music flow and the direction I’m moving in is that the music has less and less to do with me than with the moment present, the players present and the people present.

PB: I remember that an early wish I had was the desire to possess the technical skills I have today on my instrument, but at the same time never heard of music of any kind before.

Today, however, I realize that my physical ability at my instrument and how it is intertwined with my wider musical understanding is the essence of what I do.

But to easily summarize how I have received my unique musical signature, I can say that it has arisen from many years of trying to translate Swedish folk music played on violin to same thing, but on drums.

An important question within my work is how central aspects of melody, such as hierarchical form and phrasing, melodic contour, ornamentation, etc. can be represented percussion playing on a drum kit where precise pitch transitions are not possible. Other important questions concern how to capture the rhythmic and metrical flexibility and ambiguity of Swedish traditional fiddle music on an instrument in which the rhythmic expression is precise and explicit.

Please shed some light on the Irish compositions ‘Ti Mor’ and ‘Ri Rua’. Can you recount your memories of the earliest versions of these pieces and how they bloomed over time? ‘Ri Rua’ feels like it could have originated between Sean and Caoimhin whereas ‘Ti Mor’ was a duet between Nic and Petter?

CÓR: Rí Rua was such an enjoyable tune to work on with Seán – trying to find ways of weaving notes, rhythms and phrases together on the two instruments.  I think the earliest version started with Seán’s phrases, and we worked out from there.

NG: Tí Mór began with a particular groove that’s created by a step known in Appalachian dance communities as the Tennessee Walking Step. The step is credited to Robert Dotson and was later modified and used by dancers in the US folk revival of the 1970s and 80s. It’s an insistent, bass-treble movement produced by stepping onto the floor and dropping one’s body weight through the foot (that’s the bass), then sliding backwards on the floor creating a sibilant brighter sound (that’s the treble part). Petter remarked that we rarely access this particular rhythmic pattern in our music and suggested we create something inspired by it. The piece winds up feeling like a track of Electronic Dance Music in which the beats are actually made by dancing!!

Lastly, the sprawling tour-de-force ‘Agus a hAon :: Mumpsimus :: Counterline’ spans the breadth of part B. I love this drifting, floating quality to the piece, how the woodwind dances its majestic dance amidst infinite colours of percussion and soaring fiddles. I get the impression this piece must have taken a considerable time to flesh out, so to speak and write the distinct movements inherent in this piece of music? Some of these melodies on the record sound at once wholly familiar and utterly unknown; perhaps one foot is steeped in tradition and the other is searching deep into new, unknown horizons.

CÓR: Yeah, I really love these three tunes! The second part of the first tune is really satisfying to me in its simple confusion. Mumpsimus is a waltz that initally made perfect sense to me but to no one else, hence the name, which means ‘a person who obstinately adheres to an idea in spite of evidence that they are wrong or unreasonable’.  And Counterline always feels SO good to play, again it’s very satisfying to me how the various parts interlock.

SME: There’s a mixture here of tightly written material and quite loose improvisation which feels nice, one moment we are in unison and then the atmosphere loosens and, as a player, you are free to contribute whatever feels just right for the piece. I know what you mean about the familiar sounding melodies, sometimes I wonder when we are writing, hey, surely someone has written this melody already, it’s so… simple! It’s hard to be objective but I haven’t heard anyone else playing them yet so I think we are in clear!

Your musical philosophy as a quartet. Can you somehow pinpoint what this is? Also, what you feel you have learned as a group over the past six (or so) years and what you feel comes next for the band, as you continually develop and evolve?

NG: I think Petter summed this up beautifully once during an interview we were giving at a French folk festival. He said, “You don’t need to practice to talk with your friends.” While we do of course see the value in rehearsal, the idea of being open to conversation in music-making – and being open to that conversation taking a radically different turn in performance than when you had it earlier in rehearsal, feels really crucial to this project. We want our performances to be very much about responding to one another and to audiences, wherever they (and we!) are affectually. As for what’s next: deeper rapport, perhaps an exploration of “home-ness” as opposed to the wonder and amazement of the “foreign fields.”  And maybe even an entire dance step-based EDM release!

SME: Yes, the essential philosophy would revolve around ideas of togetherness. Being together and listening. It may sound odd but listening is more important to us than even playing and there have been occasions where, on stage, each musicians stops playing but continues listening and we continue the piece without there being any piece left! In the seven years I hope we’ve learnt more about each other and, through that, ourselves. I think we are all pretty happy to continue as we started off with an openness to explore and push and learn and what that will sound like just depends on whichever moment you hear us.

PB: A dream I’ve been wearing for a very long time and which has become true with TIHWF is the fact that there’s no difference at all to just being together and playing music together.

‘Foreign Fields’ is available NOW.

http://www.thisishowwefly.net/

https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsHowWeFly/

 

 

 

 

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October 12, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Central And Remote: Clang Sayne

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“I like the idea that there’s always room for manoeuvre; that the music should be able to change with us as we change personally.”

–Laura Hyland

Words: Craig Carry

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Clang Sayne are the Irish-based four-piece led by Wexford-based artist and founding member Laura Hyland. Having formed in London in 2008, the group (comprising of Laura Hyland alongside Peter Marsh on double bass, James O Sullivan on electric guitar and Matthew Fisher on drums) released their debut album “Winterlands” the following year to wide acclaim. The album revealed the spellbinding poetic lyricism of Hyland’s songwriting, together with the group’s innate ability to channel their diverse influences (jazz, folk, sound art, traditional) into their own distinct sound. The band’s captivating sound and thrilling lyricism continue to expand and flourish on the band’s follow-up, “The Round Soul Of The World”. Released in March of this year, the group’s second album is a stunning achievement in distilling myriad themes (chiefly those of mortality, death and love) in such a quietly breathtaking and poignantly moving way. Clang Sayne’s latest incarnation – Judith Ring on voice and cello, Matthew Jacobson on drums and voice, and Carolyn Goodwin on bass clarinet and voice (some of Ireland’s most gifted contemporary musicians in their own right)– are also undoubtedly responsible for weaving their own unique and diverse musical backgrounds to the recordings here. There is a clear sense of trust and appreciation in one another’s playing and musicianship (something that can only result from years of playing alongside one another and trusting one another completely) which makes “The Round Soul Of The World” such an ambitiously complex and genuinely fascinating album, all at once, one which manages to simultaneously move the heart and mind.

“The Round Soul Of The World” is available now.

http://www.clangsayne.com
https://www.facebook.com/clangsayne

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Congratulations on “The Round Soul Of The World”, it is such a startlingly complex and beautifully poetic and endearing album. First of all, I’d love if you could trace back the beginnings of this album: When did you begin to write this set of songs?

Laura Hyland: Thanks for your very kind words, Craig, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed listening.

I wrote ‘Mocking Moon’ shortly before leaving London in 2010, but it was a while before anything else followed. Several months later I returned to Co. Wexford, Ireland (where I grew up), and moved into an old farmhouse on the coast with Jude (Ring) and my cousin, Ann. Every morning I’d play my guitar in the garden. I was so taken with the soundworld there (wind, sea, birds) after so many years of living in cities that I felt it was a real shame to play over it, and so eventually I just started playing with it.

There were no other songs at that point-only this guitar-based soundworld that felt very soft and spacious and other-worldly. That feeling corresponded to my return to a rural home. Suddenly I was surrounded by a lot of wide open space, and a lot of love from family and old friends. It was a very stark contrast to the anonymity of city life (which I also love). There’s a kind of paradox in connecting with that sense of space and that kind of connection with neighbours: it’s ancient and timeless and immediate all at once.

I didn’t have an album ‘theme’ in mind at that point – just this feeling of space and expansiveness, and it kept emerging in everything I was playing with at the time – from sounds to words. Lyrics materialised, and gradually got worked into these guitar soundworlds and songs began to emerge, but they were very ethereal and shape-shifty for a long time. Newborn, Ashes, and Requiem were the first. Then Round Soul, the music for which I wrote some time later.

I was also seeking that same feeling of space in the dynamic I felt with other musicians. It took three years to find the right people – Jude was there from the outset (we’ve been friends and sonic ‘playmates’ for many years), but Matthew and Carolyn came later (2012/13 respectively). I felt a great calm and trust when we all played altogether – space for everyone to be themselves and roam around comfortably within the music but at the same time, always circling each other. I feel very lucky to have found these brilliant people/musicians.

By November’13 I had a collection of songs that fitted together. Mocking Moon was a kind of London ‘swan song’ – an inner heralding to myself that a change was in order. Requiem, Ashes, Newborn & Round Soul  were all a kind of ‘landing’ into a new place, having made that change. Blackbird & This Love I added at the very end – late in 2015. (This Love was actually written in 2005 on the conception of my first niece, but I never played it very much after that). These last two songs seemed to balance it and brought a kind of simplicity or groundedness to the album that wasn’t present in the other songs, but that felt very much a part of the bigger picture of what the whole album was about. On searching for a suitable engineer/studio I eventually found Les Keye/Arad Studios in Dublin, who recorded and mixed the album. He was great to work with, and has since become a very dear friend.

Musically, it embodies the spirit of so many different types of music so effortlessly and organically – folk, sound art, jazz, traditional, modern classical – and I love how each band member brings so much of their own unique backgrounds and personalities (for example, Matthew Jackobson’s extensive traditional and jazz playing or Judith Ring’s highly expressive cello works) into the final album cut. 

I would love to gain an insight into how song arrangements as challenging and as organic as these come to fruition? Is it a case of rehearsing or is it more a case of being aware of each other’s playing so much that it’s ultimately a very natural and fluid process?

LH: It’s both: rehearsing, and exactly as you say, being aware of each other’s playing to the point where it becomes fluid and cohesive. It’s also a case of choosing to play with people whose playing I like, and who like the music I write and the way I play. That cuts out a lot of work really. Often there isn’t much need for discussion or arrangement as everyone just appreciates what everyone else does. That to me is the perfect scenario – sometimes just listening is the best arrangement! Within that there are conscious decisions made, but this mutual appreciation comes first, and is very fundamental as far as I’m concerned.

I usually know the kind of soundworld and atmosphere I want to hear for a given piece, and the shape or contour I want it to follow. I communicate that to the others and then we improvise around these ideas. I listen back to recordings to pick out what I think works, and we all discuss it together too while we’re playing it. Through this feedback loop of playing and recording and listening and discussing we settle on an arrangement, though usually it’s quite loose. I like the idea that there’s always room for maneuver; that the music should be able to change with us as we change personally.

As for embodying the spirit of different types of music, I think that comes from a deeper place. We all share a very deep love of sound and music, and we’ve all arrived at that point from different paths. Apart from playing, I really enjoy talking about music and listening to music with Carolyn and Jude and Matthew. It’s a very great source of joy and inspiration for all of us. I think we’re each at a stage where we’ve left our training or ‘genre-home’ behind, and now we each just want to play and have space to continue growing within our playing.

That said, invariably the different paths we’ve traveled leave their mark, but ultimately I think it’s personalities that comes through, rather than genres. I think if you spend years exploring any artform you develop a bigger sense of what that artform is all about. You start to recognise graceful self-expression – that’s something that runs far deeper and has far more impact than any given genre. I think it’s what all artists aspire to – I certainly do.

There is also a beautiful sense of intricacy to the lyrics on the album which reveals many layers of added meanings on repeat listenings. As well as your own poetic and moving lyricism there is a number of other sources drawn upon here (for instance texts by both Maureen Barry and Austin Clarke on “The Emptying Of The Ashes” and “Blackbird” respectively) which strikingly combine together to paint a picture of both the finite and infinite over the course of the album. I’d love if you could detail the themes you wished to express yourself with these songs?

LH: The Austin Clarke line from Blackbird is taken from his poem, The Blackbird of Derrycairn in which a blackbird appeals to St Patrick who is busy studying his scriptures and praying in his cell, to leave his studies and come out to join in the world.

We become obsessed with particular aspects of life (art, childrearing, career, money, religion, political causes – whatever), at times to the exclusion of all else.  It makes hermits of us. That can bring its own rewards, but it can also be lonely and very isolating. I believe a varied and diverse daily life brings with it a sense of connection to the world, and the sense of a spacious and rich life. That to me is happiness.

I wrote that song after I had been to visit Charlie – an elderly and ailing friend of my emigree sister’s (Sorcha, to whom the album is dedicated). Charlie was a tricky but colourful character who had alienated herself in many ways. She spent a lot of time alone; as do I, and as does my sister – all for our own individual reasons. That line from the poem “still no handbell has a glad sound” literally popped into the song as I was writing it. It summed up very succinctly what I needed to say (essentially “whatever “handbell” or sense of duty that is calling us to isolate ourselves for some supposed higher cause or ambition will not bring happiness or immortality. So let’s ignore it and join in the world”), so I left it there.

‘The Emptying of the Ashes’ is an excerpt from a column that a woman from my local area, Maureen Barry used to write for the farmer’s journal for many years. She was of a generation that put religion (catholicism) at the centre of absolutely everything. Obviously that brings its own problems, and I would never wish for a return to that outlook, but by the same token, I do believe very strongly in faith – not in a deity (for me personally), but in our being a small part of something bigger  – a lifeforce – that we cannot control, and cannot understand, certainly not in any ‘rational’, or supposedly ‘objective’ quantitative terms. We can’t control or understand that lifeforce, and yet we’re utterly dependent on it, and that makes us vulnerable. What is there to do but give in to that vulnerability??

She nails this idea in this piece of writing: she presents herself as something small – a tiny element going about the daily tasks necessary to keep her existence ticking over. In doing so she becomes one with the world around her, and through this she perceives a sense of majesty – a sense of something huge and powerful and incomprehensible, and she’s humble in the face of that – she accepts that life or ‘lifeforce’ is incomprehensible. To me that is real faith: it isn’t god or church – it’s simply being and loving and not knowing why.

I’d love if you could talk and expand upon the influence of Maureen Barry? I know from hearing your live show that she seems to be someone who has had an important role and influence on you as an artist?

LH: She was a very intelligent and forward-thinking woman whom I’d known all my life. She was a feminist at a time when feminism was considered morally reprehensible. She earned a scholarship to study mathematics at UCD, again at a time when women were not encouraged to pursue academic ambition. She married a farmer and reared a family, gave maths grinds to local kids (myself included) and wrote a weekly column for the Farmer’s Journal, amongst many other things. I wouldn’t say she in particular had an important influence on me as an artist, but definitely she typifies a kind of woman from that era (which I grew up with the tail-end of) for whom I have huge respect. These women basically kept the community together. They were omnipresent in rural life when I was a kid. They had huge faith and strength and drive. They get forgotten about because their lives were quiet and supposedly apoltical, but I think many of them were true harbingers of change in Irish thinking – they distinguished between faith and institutionalized religion, and between women’s social status and the importance of their work as homemakers and childrearers. And they acted upon these distinctions, passing on subtle but clear messages through their actions to the likes of myself and other kids at the time, but they had to do it quietly and cleverly because such ideas were not socially tolerated.

The use of vocals on the album is really special which is all the more apparent in a live context. Your own vocals – when accompanied even simply by guitar – is always so special (the range of vocals extend from spoken-word like delivery on “Blackbird” to the glorious “Curse You Mocking Moon”, can you recount your earliest memories of wishing to be a singer, Laura? Or was it a case of being a musician to begin with, where being a singer happened at a later stage?

LH: I don’t ever remember wanting to be a singer as such, but I’ve always sung as far back as I can remember, and the feeling I had singing as a child is much the same feeling I have when I sing now. It’s very physical and very empowering. There’s something very primordial about sounding out your breath. It feels like another great big call to union with the world. I played violin as a small child, and I swapped over to guitar at 11-12ish, because I found it awkward to sing with an instrument under my chin. So I guess singing led the way and instrumental accompaniment followed. I think everyone should sing. I hate to hear people say they can’t sing. Everyone can sing – it’s a birthright!

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When adding and weaving so many other vocals (where effectively the entire band – Judith Ring, Carolyn Goodwin, Matthew Jacobson – will accompany you) – elevates the effect to another level altogether (for instance, on the title-track) and opens up so many possibilities when considering song structures and arrangements. It’s clear you all treat the voice like another instrument and that’s really striking on the album. Are these vocal arrangements conceived during rehearsals or at the studio? It must also be a really interesting and powerful experience singing like this in live shows, as it’s really apparent as a listener just how close a bond you each have to one another?

LH: I more see them all as just sound sources. Every sound source or ‘instrument’ has its limitations, yes, but those limitations are largely determined by social convention and music tradition. In truth, the sound one can elicit from an object is simply a product the object’s physicality and the player’s imagination. Organising or playing with those sounds in a pleasing fashion is music. I think it really is that simple.

If I have to think of them in terms of conventional instruments I would more see it as treating instruments as voices rather than voices as instruments! Voice is infinitely flexible in the range of sounds it can produce: continuous or discrete, pitched or inharmonic, an infinite range of timbres, incredibly subtle dynamics, and above all, because we communicate primarily through voice as a species, as listeners we’re highly sensitive to its nuances. To me, there’s no other sound source – ‘natural’ or synthesised – on the planet that is as universal or sophisticated.  So it makes sense to me that other instruments aspire to voice in terms of sonic potential or flexibility. Rather than relying on a palette of sounds that an instrument traditionally produces, I prefer to think in terms of what sounds/soundworld I want to hear, and then I try to find ways of eliciting that sound from a given instrument. That’s what we do with our voices all the time – for example, when we want to convey the kind of sounds an aeroplane or an explosion make.

Yes, it is a very powerful experience all singing together. It’s my favourite part of playing in this group and I really hope we do more and more of it as the years go on. I had an interesting experience recently while on holidays: my friend and I visited these ancient caves. The acoustics were incredible inside and so we spent the afternoon singing in them. We were just singing long tones – no songs as such. Other tourists came by throughout the day and the same thing happened 3 times, whereby a passerby would stand in the entrance of the cave to see/hear what was going on, and then to my great surprise and delight they’d join in! And it wasn’t a particularly ‘hip’ place where lots of right-on artists were wandering around; each time it was a very different ‘demographic’ that joined in: one young man our own age, two elderly german couples, and a middle-aged man. It was a very special experience. Humans want to sing. It’s such a great shame that we don’t make more space for it socially.

The vocals on ‘The Round Soul’ are based on an arrangement that I made multi-tracking my own voice at home, and I gave a demo recording of it to the others. There are specific points in the song where I wanted to replicate what I’d done on the recording, but there are also sections where the recording was simply to give an impression of the soundworld I had in mind, for example, in that middle section where our vocal lines overlap each other, I wanted it to be very fluid and elastic, so that nobody is tied down to a specific melody or harmony, and we’re all free to respond to each other as we play, so that the music becomes a living organism. Composition and improvisation are much like gardening to me in this regard: there’s a balance between manicuring plant growth and letting it grow wildly out of control. I find sound has the same propensity for chaos and order and growth: you lay out a structure and then you let things grow together within it. Some bits are manicured and others are wild. Some sounds are more rampant than others and require either more control or more space; others need more nurturing and coaxing…

Jude and I spent a long time singing and playing with each other over the years, before ever Clang Sayne came about. We share a very strong unspoken sense of what sounds good and interesting. Carolyn obviously has the clarinet in her mouth a lot of the time so she can’t always sing, but she’s found out all the places where she can swap between the two. Sometimes it’s quite a feat of breathing! Of the four of us, Matthew has sung least in the past, but he was really up for it when I first suggested it, and he joins in more and more as time wares on. Every now and then when we play live I hear him come in somewhere new where I haven’t heard him sing before. That makes me very happy.

My current favourite piece is the title-track “The Round Soul Of The World”, it encapsulates the album so magically and embodies everything that’s so spellbinding about the album’s breathtaking musicianship. From the incredible clarinet-driven outro to the wondrous use of texture from the drums and percussion, it’s such a powerful and fitting closer to the album. I’d love if you could reflect on the making of this song? It must have been a particularly proud moment for you all, listening to the finished recording of this song back?

LH: I wrote this while living in the farmhouse I mentioned in Q1 above. That was such a special few months, and we lived very simply in a very beautiful place. The day pretty much consisted of eating, sleeping, swimming, playing music, gardening and spending time together  – very idyllic, and very much a privileged 1st world life, but paradoxically also incredibly frugal.

All three of us were working hard on different projects – Jude and I, on our respective musics, and our other flatmate, Ann on visual art and teaching. Life felt very complete and fulfilling, and above all, very ‘blessed’ for want of a less corny word. I had just returned to Ireland and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for where I had arrived – geographically, socially, artistically  – in every way. I also felt during that time all three of us had space and time to give the world our ‘best’ selves, and that’s a rare opportunity. So it’s a song of gratitude for that, and a song of conviction for living. If I could strike a deal with the world this would be it: “I give you my best self and you give me shelter in return”.

I set the text to music a couple of years later, after I’d met Carolyn, and I had the bass clarinet in mind. I wanted a big, low, spacious drone, and a very elemental and big sound. I set it so that the lowest note on the bass clarinet formed the drone, so that she’d have maximum instrumental range to let loose on it, and then her and Matthew could really go for it together. Jude had also just begun playing the cello during that time, so it was a good one for her too as she could focus on one open string and all the sonic possibilities she could elicit from that. I’m very chuffed that her cello debut is on this recording!

It was good fun recording it! The first time we all listened back to the whole album together was a special moment. I think we were all proud of it, not necessarily this song in particular, but the album as a whole. I do remember listening back through the various takes we’d recorded of that song, and being so blown away by Carolyn’s solo on this take in particular  – it’s so full of life and gusto and conviction. There’s this one harmonic that she pulls out at the very end and it’s like glass. Even now when I hear it I can’t understand where or how that sound came out, but it’s a little piece of magic.

The true spirit and unique sounds Clang Sayne generate are obviously due to the very unique and singular musicians in the band, who each of course are responsible for such a wealth of music courtesy of many other projects and bands here in Ireland. I love how each musician’s style and background shines through so naturally on the album, it brings to mind fellow Irish-based band This Is How We Fly and the true spirit of jazz.

I’d love if Matthew, Carolyn and Judith could talk about what it’s like for them to play with Clang Sayne? It must be a really exciting departure from your other projects and a beautiful way of pushing your own creative energies into many different directions in this context?

Matthew Jacobson: What struck me from the very first time I played with Laura was her complete openness and willingness to collaborate. Given that her music is so personal and emotive, it is unique that she is so prepared to give musicians carte blanche when performing it. I think this is what gives her songs such a sense of life, allowing them to breathe and remain fresh.

None of the musicians’ roles in the band are confined to the instruments that they play ie I don’t feel like a drummer in the band, rather as a facilitator and collaborator in Laura’s stories, poetry and music. Instead of playing a specific groove, I may at times aim for textures or soundscapes or I may play nothing at all! Playing in a group where the composer or songwriter places their full trust in you gives you the platform to be spontaneous, creative and free. This can bring the music to entirely new spaces, without losing the integrity of the original material. I really love being involved in projects in this capacity and this one is particularly special for me as it has allowed me to sing on an album for the first time!

Carolyn Goodwin: Because of the delicacy in Laura’s writing, her songs demand intense focus from the listener on every hearing. I feel that this is still the case for me and that even from my seat within the band, I am having an experience akin to that of a member of the audience. With each song you are confronted with something that is both powerful and fragile at once, and as musicians we are given the responsibility to be mindful of the craft that has gone into the writing, along with the freedom to make something new at every performance. Striking the illusive balance between these two elements is something I think we collectively strive for in every execution of the music, and what ultimately unites us as Clang Sayne.

Judith Ring: Clang Sayne is an incredible group to play in. It gives us all a chance to deeply explore various sonic ideas and really develop a cohesive sound that represents our individual talents as well as our capability to blend together into something unique. As a composer I typically work alone and hand my music over to other people to perform but as part of Clang Sayne I get to explore that world myself and certainly my own music often influences what I bring to the table. Working with Laura on her music is such a rich experience as the material at its core is so powerful and gives us so much to play off. The aspect of freedom within the work also allows us to grow with the music and vice versa. It’s an ever-evolving thing!

What albums have you been listening to lately?

LH: My favourite thing over the past year is definitely the music from William Kentridge’s exhibition, ‘The Refusal of Time’. It’s a series of texts and stories written and recited by Kentridge and set it to music by South African composer, Philip Miller. It’s mind-blowing, both in Kentridge’s reflections on time and in Miller’s arrangements.

Others this past year or so in no particular order include:

Matana Roberts: ‘Coin Coin Chapter Two: Missippi Moonchile’

Johnny Nash: ‘Eden’

Claudia Schwab: ‘Attic Mornings’ 

A compilation called ‘I’m in a Strange Town: Blues and Gospel 1927 – 1967’

Ancient Ocean (aka J.R Bohannon): ‘Blood Moon’

Ellen Fullman ‘Through Glass Panes’

Josephine Foster ‘I’m A Dreamer’

Matthew Jacobson & Sam Comeford: Insufficient Funs EP

Peadar O Riada’s 1987 album (untitled).

Marissa Nadler – various albums

Arvo Part – various choral works

Ivor Cutler: Jammy Smears

Laurie Anderson: various recordings

An album conceived by Mark Garry for The RHA’s Artists Curate Series in 2006, entitled ‘Plane’

Katie Kim: Salt

Bitchin Bajas & Bonny Prince Billy: ‘Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties’

Planxty’s entire back catalog

What are the next plans for Clang Sayne?

LH: I’ll start writing a new body of work in September, based on a set of poems I wrote several years ago. I’d hope to get that wrapped up before Christmas and then bring it to the others in Spring 2018 with a view to recording it maybe next summer. I’ve been ridiculously slow in the past getting albums over the line. This time I really want to try turn it around a bit faster.

Otherwise, some touring in Ireland in the Autumn, and hopefully further afield in 2018. Recently I just hooked up with booking agent, Emma Kelly from Merakindie. It’s the first time I’ve worked with someone else on the business end of things, and it feels good to get help with this part of the project as it’s not something I find easy, so I’m pretty focused on that for the summer – finding good people to help: that includes a manager and a PR person – anyone interested please get in touch!!

“The Round Soul Of The World” is available now.

http://www.clangsayne.com
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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

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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.

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https://soundcloud.com/ellll

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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.

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https://soundcloud.com/ellll

 

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December 9, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Central And Remote: Katie Kim

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“You really don’t know if it’s day or night when you’re in there and that was more than perfect for me. Every now and then, you’ll hear the trains approaching and rolling above your head and it’s one of the most beautiful sounds.”

—Katie Kim

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Terry Magson

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One of Ireland’s finest and most intriguing songwriters, Dublin-based and Waterford-born Katie Kim has two albums to date, beginning with the 2008 debut solo album “Twelve” and 2012’s seminal masterwork, the double album “Cover&Flood”. Also available is “The Feast”, a collection of ten previously unreleased remixes of songs from “Cover&Flood” while the “VALUTS” series compiles various unreleased songs. The highly anticipated third studio album ‘Salt’ will be released on the 14th October 2016 (500-limited heavy weight vinyl can be pre-ordered here). “Salt” was recorded in a self-built recording and artist space in Dublin called Guerrilla Studios which has become an integral part of the Independent Irish music scene. Since Cover and Flood Katie has toured the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium playing mostly sold out venues.

Katie Kim has supported the likes of Low and Slint to date and her influences stem from the realms of experimental, folk, post-rock, shoegaze, ambient and outsider folk. Kim’s distinctive sound is characterized by her fragile vocals, breath-taking lyricism and a constant striving for both purity and simplicity in her truly unique and utterly beguiling recorded output (akin to Grouper’s Liz Harris or early period Cat Power) casting a deeply profound spell on the listener in turn.

Delving into Katie Sullivan’s cherished songbook, the listener is catapulted deep inside a realm of raw emotion and blissful transcendence. The home recordings captured on debut full-length ‘Twelve’ shared the glittering spark of Cat Power’s deeply-affecting songbook (particularly ‘Moon Pix’ or ‘You Are Free’) where a lo-fi warmth and wonderful minimalism floats beneath the Irish songstress’s deeply-affecting voice. ‘Oak Tree’, the album’s towering penultimate track is a sparse folk blues ballad that could just as easily be one of Chan Marshall’s eerie folk tales.

The sonic envelope is pushed much further on the 2012 follow-up ‘Cover&Flood’, revealing soaring soundscapes and immaculate instrumentation. The introspective, slow-burning songs (twenty tracks across this defining double-record) and utterly hypnotic quality almost immediately felt like songs you’ve known all your life. The timeless nature of ‘Cover&Flood’ is exactly the reason why the soon-to-be-released follow-up ‘Salt’ comes with such feverish excitement and genuine anticipation. It is clear from the album teaser, ‘Salt’ sees the revered musician explore deeper into the ethereal dimension, for which she has long ago established.

‘SALT’ will be released on 14th October 2016 (500-limited heavy weight vinyl) can be pre-ordered HERE.

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katie kim

Interview with Katie Kim.

Huge anticipation surrounds your forthcoming full-length release of ‘Salt’, which reflects again just how special and wholly unique your sacred songbook is to so many people. I would love for you to discuss the making of the new record? In terms of the recording and sonic terrain explored on ‘Salt’, the songs go deeper and further than ever before and creates a most captivating experience in turn. Please shed some light on your priorities/objectives you had in mind for the new record? I can also imagine the simple factor of time (being on your side) – and allowing the songs to slowly evolve and blossom – also helped shape these new songs into glittering life?

Katie Kim: Before this year I was always writing or playing. At home mostly and then bringing new half formed songs to live shows and playing them for a while before I got bored and moved on to the next one. So I nearly always have all these little “things” hanging around sometimes getting played, sometimes not, sometimes I record them at home, sometimes not. So the ones that stayed with me, I made part of SALT. Sonically it was a partnership with John Murphy. He brought it to quite a dark place. I mean we had to trim a lot off the endings of many songs where he went deeper and deeper into great big guttural soundscapes because we wouldn’t be able to fit them on the vinyl otherwise. So we had to meet a happy medium. Regarding time though, it was never an issue. Well I suppose actually it is, because I can’t spend too much time on anything or it loses life. It degrades for me.

The recording space is vital to the (resultant) sound of an album. On previous releases such as the seminal ‘Cover&Flood’, I fell in love with that DIY aesthetic/home recording warmth that permeates throughout those sparse recordings. ‘Salt’ sees you recording in a self-built recording and artist space in Dublin. What were your first impressions of the space itself and what do you feel led you to choose Guerilla Studios as the recording space for the latest album? I would love to gain an insight into the studio itself and what were the equipment and actual set-up utilized for sculpting these new tracks?

KK: Well we all (meaning John, myself, Ian Chestnut and Elly from Percolator) were looking for a rehearsal space /potential recording studio for John, in Dublin and a project didn’t scare us. In fact, it was preferable. So a big one fell through and we came across the three arches on the North Strand road. Under a railway track. It was an old garage. Patrick Kelleher’s rehearsal space was next door. It was reasonable, so we took it and started the work. I can’t claim much of the hard graft mind! But I painted and cleaned and scrubbed to help until it was what it is presently.

So we had a place to play, John had a place to record, so organically SALT had to be created there. I’ve never felt so comfortable recording than I did there. John has a mix of beautiful vintage tape machines and a big old wooden analogue mixing desk along with some digital equipment, but the main feeling is one of quietude. You really don’t know if it’s day or night when you’re in there and that was more than perfect for me. Every now and then, you’ll hear the trains approaching and rolling above your head and it’s one of the most beautiful sounds.

The single ‘Foreign Fleas’ – released last year – gave a lovely taster in many ways of the new sonic explorations you’ve been gravitating towards. For example, the masterful production and beautifully sculpted layers of drone-infused sound conjures up the sound of Portishead or Grouper’s Liz Harris. Can you talk me through the production stage itself and indeed the collaborative process between you and John Murphy. I can imagine it must be very rewarding to witness how the bare bones of a song is transformed as a result of the subsequent happenings undertaken by the various music-making stages?

KK: It was very relaxed. John is part of my band, so I never felt like I couldn’t say anything if I was uncomfortable with the way things were progressing. I’m the first to admit I can be extremely particular. I know this has sometimes been problematic in the past when working with people in other areas but with John, we really understand each other, so it was fun and I learned from him and for him he was interested in the vocal production element so we bounced well off each other. It was a really fluid organic process.

I fondly recall your live show in Cobh at the Sirius Arts Centre last year. The hypnotic effect created by your looped harmonies unleashes an ocean of raw emotion, which belongs in its own realm of utter transcendence. This magic and sheer beauty is etched across the canvas of ‘Salt’, where an intimacy is forever captured. Can you talk me through the layering process and particularly for your voice? I also love the minimal nature of the music formed but just how much is obtained from a minimal framework. I imagine there are some challenges posed by adding layers and knowing when you have enough, so to speak?

KK: The looping began because I felt quite bare when I initially started playing live. When I recorded I would go down wormholes for hours adding layers upon layers of vocals and I missed that when I played in public. So I bought the pedal and it became an extension of the live show which I really had fun with. It’s the looping that people would really grab onto at shows and still do, but I’d hate for it to become a gimmick. So I’m trying not to rely too much on it these days, getting ready for the upcoming shows. It’s a little trickier now that I play quite a bit more piano, but I still like to use it for sonic reasons here and there. Knowing when enough is enough is purely due to technical reasons. After a certain point the sound starts to distort and although I don’t mind that, it doesn’t translate well in venues. Otherwise I could lose the run of myself. It would probably be horribly self-indulgent!

Collaboration is an important part to your music, Katie. I would love to gain an insight into the collaboration between you and Crash Ensemble for instance, who will be arranging your new songs for a special show? The new perspectives a collaborative partner must bring to your own music must always feel quite revelatory and as a listener, gives new insight into a musician’s music. I also love the many other collaborations you have been part of, not least the beautiful ‘Some Blue Morning’ – and subsequent European tour – by Adrian Crowley.

KK: I’m so excited for The Crash show. Sean Clancy is spearheading the arranging and he’s an absolute master. It’s good to collaborate when it’s right. Sometimes it doesn’t always fit. Even though all the numbers look right on paper, the solution isn’t always the right one. It’s happened a few time in the past, so it’s great when something works. Like Some Blue Morning. I think that’s such a beautiful album. When Adrian sent the songs over for me to hear and play around with, I didn’t have to spend any time sitting with them. I felt like I’d known them already, for a long time.

What were your earliest musical memories, Katie? I wonder how soon did you realize the importance music would have in your life? I love how each record of yours represents a special document – and distinct moment in time -yet each one very much belongs to one distinct realm of endless possibilities. Who were the musical voices that guided you on your own musical path?

KK: It’s been fairly well documented by me that The Carpenters, Mariah Carey and Queen were my childhood! But kneaded into all that I remember my sisters having the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack and Julee Cruise’s voice was the most mysteriously beautiful thing I had ever heard up to that point. Most young girls sing with the hairbrush in the mirror and I was no different, but I remember buying a little notebook when I was very young. Maybe 8 or 9 to write songs in. I had no instrument at that time but I would just make up melodies to go along with them, so that may indicate a deeper interest in songwriting.

Lastly, I’d love to know what records, films, books that have made a big impact on you, Katie?

KK: So many. The most formative time for me was around 14. I got my first guitar, me and my friends started smoking and drinking and discovering people like Harmony Korine and Larry Clarke. “Kids” was a mind blower when I first watched it. We were all deathly silent watching that movie together in my first boyfriends house. Watching that for the first time as a teenager in Waterford was eye opening. I loved documentaries. I watched Instrument repeatedly. There’s a beautiful Low documentary that follows them around on tour [“Low In Europe”, Plexifilm, 2004] that I had but was taken at a party and I could never find it again. Don’t Look Back and The Year That Punk Broke, Jean Michel Basquiat The Radiant Child. I wore tapes and CD’s out. Cocteau Twins Treasure, Radiohead’s Amnesiac, Elliott Smith Either Or, Low I could live In Hope, Cat Power – Everything. Stina Nordenstam – Everything. Sibylle Baier Colour Green, Beck One Foot In The Grave, Sonic Youth Evol, John Jacob Niles, John Lennon, Sebadoh, and I can’t forget Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral. I listened to that record for 5 straight years.

Books – The Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave (this was a big one for me and inspired more than one track on Cover & Flood) In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, and more recently The First Bad Man by Miranda July is weirdly wonderful.

Movies have probably inspired me musically more than anything else. I loved and still do love a well compiled soundtrack, whether it be an original score or otherwise. Big ones for me would be Gummo, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Kids, The Doom Generation, The Tree of Life soundtrack is heart-breaking.

 

‘SALT’ will be released on 14th October 2016 (500-limited heavy weight vinyl) can be pre-ordered HERE.

https://www.facebook.com/DANCEKATIEKIMDANCE/
https://katiekim.bandcamp.com/

Katie Kim performs with Crash Ensemble at the Engage Arts Festival, Bandon, Cork on Friday 30th September at The Court House, Bandon (TIX & INFO HERE).

Fractured Air & Plugd Records present XYLOURIS WHITE (Greece’s George Xylouris plus Dirty Three’s Jim White) with very special guest KATIE KIM at the TDC, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork on Friday 28 October (TIX & INFO HERE).

 

Written by admin

September 26, 2016 at 8:17 pm

Central and Remote: Brigid Mae Power

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Interview with Brigid Mae Power.

What generally happens with me is that I seem to live life, soak everything in like a sponge and then after a few months everything comes pouring out.”

—Brigid Mae Power

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Peter Broderick

brigid-5_peter-broderick

In the liner notes of Sibylle Baier’s treasured folk opus, ‘Colour Green’, the German songwriter’s son Robby Baier writes: “My mother’s music is simply amazing in its intimacy and closeness.” I feel these precise words perfectly describe the similarly magical and empowering music of Irish singer-songwriter, Brigid Mae Power and particularly reflected on Power’s (self-titled) masterpiece recently released on the prestigious U.S. label Tompkins Square.

A quality always vividly present in Power’s songbook has been how her personality shines through in the music whereby an honesty and purity simmers beautifully in her fragile folk explorations. In much the same way as Sibyl Baier’s ‘Colour Green’ LP, Power’s deeply moving body of work portray intimate portraits of life’s sad and fragile beauty.

Brigid Mae Power’s stunningly beautiful new solo full-length – and Tompkins Square debut – is an album drenched in reverb-soaked emotion and lament. Enchantingly performed and produced, the record showcases a songwriter of immense talent in a soundscape that naturally merges itself to Brigid Power’s engulfing sound. The magic lies in the songwriter’s expression of raw emotion, in all its delicate beauty. Themes include transformation, change, motherhood, acceptance, strength, courage and trust. In the words of Power, the album is about “trusting if you lose yourself or your way — you can come back.”

The seeds were sewn for the album after playing a string of UK & Irish shows with esteemed American songwriter and musician Peter Broderick during May 2015. Peter invited Brigid to record a batch of new songs in his Portland home studio, The Sparkle, along the Oregon coast. The Irish musician finished writing this collection of songs in June ’15 just before the recording sessions would take place in the early summer. The new record boasts an impeccable sound quality in which Power’s mesmerizing voice lies in the forefront of the mix. “I craved having my voice sound larger but more intimate,” Brigid explains. It is abundantly clear upon encountering Power’s newest work that there is a newfound confidence permeating throughout the songs, augmented by Broderick’s intuitive musical direction, which in turn helped the songs evolve. All songs were written by Brigid Mae Power, performed by Brigid and Peter Broderick and recorded, mixed and mastered by Peter Broderick at the Sparkle.

The album’s epic opener ‘It’s Clearing Now’ serves the ideal prologue to the record’s intensely powerful and moving journey. Initially recorded live with Brigid on guitar and Peter Broderick on drums, new layers of violin and meticulously crafted sonic elements were added by the American producer. Some of the songs such as ‘Is It My Low or Yours’, ‘Let Me Hold You Through This’ and ‘How You Feel’ were written very quickly, during the month before Brigid embarked on the transatlantic trip to The Sparkle. The others, mostly the deeply-affecting piano-based ballads (‘Sometimes’, ‘Lookin At You In A Photo’, ‘Watching The Horses’) – are comprised of old melodies the Irish musician had been playing for years but had never put lyrics to.

A wave of inspiration abounds the sprawling canvas of sound, mapping the rawest of emotion and deepest of fears. A mystical spell is cast by the meeting of these two kindred spirits: Brigid Mae Power’s songwriting prowess and Peter Broderick’s deep musical understanding. Asked about the creative process, Brigid explains, “It’s a mystical thing for me, I don’t usually remember when or where I write something or when I finish a song. It just appears.”

If ever the spirit of a record is distilled in one single song it is ‘Watching the Horses’, the album’s scintillating penultimate track. As Power’s achingly beautiful vocal refrain of “I am free” ascends into one’s heart and mind, the Irish songwriter’s masterwork chronicles brave new beginnings amidst a rejuvenated spirit. The changing of your whole outlook on life. Transformation.

As reflected in the lyrics of closing heartfelt lament of ‘How You Feel’, this deeply personal and intimate set of songs become a place of hope and solace where the path laid out in front you is filled with the light of day and sea of love.

‘Brigid Mae Power’ is out now on Tompkins Square.

 

Brigid-4_peterbroderick_web

Interview with Brigid Mae Power.

Please discuss these batch of new & delicately beautiful new songs, Brigid and indeed the space and time in which these songs blossomed from? Also, I wonder were the majority of the songs initial sketches prior to the Sparkle sessions or was it a mix where some were very much fully formed whereas others took on this life of their own upon the recording sessions?

Brigid Mae Power: I finished writing these songs in June ’15, just before I was to fly out to Portland, Oregon to go and record with Peter. Some of them, such as ‘Is it my low or yours’, ‘let me hold you through this’, and ‘how you feel’, were written very quickly and in the month before I went out. The others, mostly the piano ones, were old melodies I had been playing for years but had never put lyrics to them. I had been procrastinating for years with them and then in May I really buckled down and forced myself to finish writing them so that I would have them ready to record out at The Sparkle. So I had them all ready and written before I went out.

Writing at the moment, but maybe that might change, is quite a private process for me, so I wanted to have them ready to record for when I was out there. So yes they were all fully formed, lyrics and melodies etc. But Peter added a lot to them after I had left and helped them evolve.

What is the common theme or narrative that you feel bridges all these songs together on this record?

BMP: Hmm a theme or narrative. I guess I will just throw some words out here – Transformation. Change. Acceptance. Transcending. Healing. Healing from trauma. Not letting past incidences and feelings/ideas/judgements others and yourself have about you define you.  Moving on. Strength. Courage. Trust. Moving past negativity and hard times. Trusting if you lose yourself or your way you can come back. Sensitivity. Getting rid of guilt. Being a single mother. Clearing out old things/habits/patterns before you start a new with someone else. Feeling connection with life. Appreciating being alive.

Following on from ‘I Told You the Truth’ ep, it’s abundantly clear the new music comes from a different place: new perspectives and a different outlook on all matter of life’s happenings seem to flicker across the horizon as a confidence and striking immediacy comes very much to the fore. What were your main concerns for this new record in terms of the sound and feel you wanted to create?

BMP: I guess my first and foremost intention was to have a good sound quality. I used to just record myself with a handheld recorder in a reverberant room. Which I do like the sound of but I craved having my voice sound larger but more intimate. My ears are sensitive to how I like a recording to sound, and sometimes I preferred it almost to sound of lesser quality than too squeaky clean. But when I heard Peter’s voice on his recordings I knew that he would instinctively know what sounded good for me and how to have my voice sound. I didn’t need to explain at all to him, he just knew, but even when I was trying to explain to him, sometimes through just a feeling, he knew what I meant, it was like he spoke my language. It’s hard for me to describe things in words a lot of the time, but especially creatively so I was really lucky to have Peter speak my language!

The epic opener is the ideal prologue to the album’s intensely powerful and moving journey. I recall Peter describing the many listens/playbacks of this track in order to get the layering right. Discuss the construction and gradual formation of this stunning torch-lit ballad?

BMP: Well, I can’t remember exactly when I finished that song but I remember I wrote it when I was sitting in my car staring at the sea and just had a strong feeling of leaving behind a feeling of being stuck. I had gone on tour with Peter in May and came back, and I felt hugely inspired from meeting him. It opened my mind to possibility, so much, and I saw how I had been limiting myself previously in my thinking.

When we recorded it, we just recorded it live me on guitar and Peter on drums. It felt really special when we were playing that song. But what he did after to it was just so incredible and how I had envisioned it to sound without expressing it to him at all. He worked on it when I had gone home. So I don’t know the in’s and out’s of what he added, but I think a lot of violins and a lot of tiny sounds that you wouldn’t notice but have a big impact.

The sparse piano ballads are some of the most poignant moments. ‘Sometimes’ is vintage Joni Mitchell or Marissa Nadler for example. The piano is an instrument I always wanted to hear more in your recordings so it was such a delight to witness the beauty unfold as the delicate piano notes meld with your voice. What are your feelings on these piano laments Brigid? Were there challenges as to how you wanted each song to sound e.g. the arrangements and how full or conversely how bare a recording should be?

BMP: These songs are the first I have written for piano and voice, I love playing it and singing. I guess I gravitated towards writing with guitar for a long time because it’s easier to play live!

I had those songs ready when I went out there… we recorded them in a guy named Corey’s studio in Portland. I made the guys stand out of the room because those songs were very intense for me to sing! I just wanted them to sound how they did live really; I didn’t necessarily want anything added but I was open to suggestion. Peter added a lot to ‘Watching the Horses’ after.

How bare a recording should be – I’m generally a less is more kinda person, and I prefer the feeling that is captured. But there is a place for everything and I like a balance of having some things bare, some things not so bare, some things with a minimal thing added. In ‘Sometimes’ Peter adds the tiniest sound in it that gives the song so much! So much that when I play it on my own now I’m missing that tiny little beepy sound whatever it is…

Can you recount for me the experience of working closely with Peter and the daily routines at the Sparkle & Portland itself? What are the memories you cherish and the proudest aspect to this stunning body of work you feel personally?

BMP: Well working closely with Peter never felt like work. It just felt very natural and easy. We actually got so much recording, we couldn’t believe how much we had gotten done as the whole time we were there we kept lazing around. So we only recorded a few hours a day for maybe 2 or 3 days. The whole time was such a special time for me for so many reasons. I kept kind of pinching myself to see if it all was real, I just loved Portland. I’ve always felt very at home in the states musically and just generally anyway. There’s this kind of openness that I love. And I hadn’t been back there since I had my son, so I was just soaking so much in.

The Sparkle was near the ocean and near forest. There were deer and racoons. Me and Peter sat out on the porch and a raccoon came right up near us. We drank a lot of coffee. Sat in parks. Swam in the river. It was really a pivotal moment for me. The last six years or so for me had been so hard and I felt just like all my trust and hoping that things would change had paid off and I was enjoying this great opportunity.

I’m most proud of just doing it. I think if it had been the year previous and that opportunity to go out and record there had come up that I probably wouldn’t have taken it up. I was way too shy and anxious.

Can you shed some light on the song-writing process? I get the impression that patience and allowing a song to slowly bloom is important to the process itself? Would you have any trusted techniques or rituals you feel important to the creative process?

BMP: For me yes it really is to do with patience. What generally happens with me is that I seem to live life, soak everything in like a sponge and then after a few months everything comes pouring out. I never try to create. And when I do its usually bad news. It’s the same with painting for me, I have to come across things accidently, if I am asked to draw something in particular I really struggle to do it because there is an idea about it. I see artists that can really work like that with ideas first and make really amazing work, but for me it’s like the opposite way or something. It’s also a mystical thing for me, I don’t usually remember when or where I write something or when I finish a song. It’s like that exact when I finish something doesn’t really exist. It just appears.

Discuss the singers and musicians that lie rooted in your own sonic canvas and musical landscape? I fondly recall you singing (acappela) several Irish traditional standards back in Galway and Cork in the past, which leaves such a hypnotic spell on the audience. Discuss (if you can!) the techniques and voicings you have developed when it comes to delivering this sort of cathartic vocal performance?

BMP: I think that I heard a lot of different types of music growing up and I sponged it up. So I heard a lot of Planxty, Dolores Keane, De Dannan as far as traditional music is concerned. And also in my family gatherings singing was a big thing. Then in my own development with singing – I always got a lot of inspiration from certain singers that went that extra bit further, and to be honest I don’t think it was the technique that grabbed me, it was the depth they went. So I drew a lot of inspiration from singers like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and of course Tim Buckley. But also I always found John Fahey’s guitar playing a vocal inspiration too because I felt like he played the guitar like someone singing. But basically I don’t think I developed much technically or in a “learning how to do something way” it was more like I allowed myself to touch on something that feels quite outside of myself and maybe ancient sometimes.

Lastly, the cover painting (of your own creation) that adorns the record’s sleeve evokes the delicacy of this remarkable album and batch of songs. There is a nice backstory to this particular artwork I recall you telling me previously?

BMP: Ah yes, my friend the artist Vicky Langan has this really sweet daughter called Sionnach which as you know is “fox” in Irish. I think she was four or five at the time and she made such an impression on me, she was so imaginative and funny. So then a few weeks later I found myself subconsciously drawing a fox so I named it “A Fox for Sionnach” and gave it to her!

‘Brigid Mae Power’ is out now on Tompkins Square.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

June 14, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Central and Remote: Slow Moving Clouds

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Interview with Slow Moving Clouds.

“It was tricky to bridge the gap between the Irish and Finnish music traditions, which have a lot more differences than similarities. To effectively combine the two we had to come up with an approach and way of playing which was independent of both traditions…”

—Danny Diamond, Slow Moving Clouds

Words: Mark & Craig Carry

Slow Moving Clouds

Slow Moving Clouds are an Irish-based three-piece who have recently released their debut full-length, ‘Os’ which beautifully draws inspiration from both Irish and Nordic music traditions. Slow Moving Clouds’ comprise the vastly experienced and critically acclaimed trio of Danny Diamond (fiddle), Aki (nyckelharpa, vocals) and Kevin Murphy (cello). Interestingly, the trio have worked extensively together in the past and have known each other for many years. Both Aki and Diamond have recored and performed as a duo (nyckelharpa and fiddle) under the moniker Danny & Aki while Murphy and Aki have performed together in the special cello-based outfit Seti The First (their debut LP ‘Melting Calvary’ is one of the finest albums to be made form Irish shores in recent years). Much like the Irish/U.S. ensemble of The Gloaming, both the personal and musical bond that exists between members is of paramount importance in both the genesis and results in forming such a collective, it is the basis for all the magic at work which shines forth clearly from each recording where each one seems to innately know and appreciate what each other can create.

Much like Murphy’s Seti The First project, Slow Moving Clouds in truth draws as much from the traditional as it does from modern classical aspects of music, in turn a vast spectrum of soundscapes are created which are at times expressively lush and orchestral while elsewhere drone and ambient-influenced works come into sharper focus. All the while, a breathtaking sense of emotion is held (and builds gradually layer by gorgeous layer) for the duration of the album’s eleven tracks. Like The Gloaming’s Iarla Ó Lionáird, a tangible sense of both history and time can be discerned from both the vocal delivery and use of very specific, time-honored traditional texts (the Finnish-inspired pieces here such as ‘Hiljainen Suru’ and ‘Os’ break all limitations and borders posed by both language and place, creating in turn moments of pure, blissful reverie). The beautiful strokes and tones created by the cello/fiddle/nyckelharpa axis is a joy to savor (the simple joy of witnessing such music where feeling overrides everything else recalls such special musical souls as Iceland’s Amiina or Sweden’s Tape).

This is an album – and band – who deserve the recognition for their extraordinary achievements.

‘Os’ is available now on Bandcamp HERE.

http://slowmovingclouds.com/
https://www.facebook.com/slowmovingclouds

Interview with Slow Moving Clouds [Aki, Danny Diamond & Kevin Murphy].

Congratulations on the stunningly beautiful debut record, ‘Os’. It’s really quite incredible & contains such a world of sounds and traditions that crafts such a timeless, beautiful sound. Please discuss the inception of this trio (I know Kevin and Aki from Seti The First and certain fingerprints from this wonderful ensemble seep into the music here) and how the sound developed and blossomed over time? Also, both the title of the debut record as well as the band name are both intriguing before ever hearing a single note…

Aki: Thank you. Danny and I have been playing traditional music as a duo for awhile, and we released a duo album in 2012. I played with the live incarnation of Kevin’s band Seti the First, and had a duo project in development with Kevin. Instead of having two separate duo projects, we decided to try something with three of us. Most of our early dance music stuff (polskas) are complete rearrangements of material we had with Danny & Aki.

In terms of the aesthetics and flow of the record, the combination of instrumental and vocal tracks works so wonderfully. The diverse range of styles, from more polska/dance rhythms to achingly beautiful ballads and soaring modern-classical pieces creates a very enriching experience. Can you take me back to these particular recording sessions and indeed the challenges you may have faced during this stage? There is a real sense of this joy of making music together as a group of musicians that really radiates and shines brightly throughout ‘Os’. It feels that the recordings themselves were quite effortless? Also, I can imagine the arrangement aspect of the music-making process would have been the most intensive period?

Aki: We did a fair amount of rehearsing before going in to record. The arrangements were developed organically over time. Some of the arrangements changed during the recording process, even at the mixing phase. The songs were the newest material on the album. In fact, we had only played one of the songs (Hiljainen Suru) live before recording them.

Danny Diamond: We dealt with a lot of the aesthetic questions and challenges in the months before recording so that, as Aki said, most of the basic arrangements were solid before going into studio. It was tricky to bridge the gap between the Irish and Finnish music traditions, which have a lot more differences than similarities. To effectively combine the two we had to come up with an approach and way of playing which was independent of both traditions and then treat all the material material in that ‘third way’.

Irish music tends to often focus on the performer’s interpretation of traditional material, what the individual does with a tune. In the Finnish tradition the melodies, phrasing and ornamentation are much more defined, and are taught through a formal classical-based music education system. We didn’t buy into either of these very different mindsets, instead we took an approach that focused on arrangement, structure and atmosphere. Our way of working is (despite the difference in material and instrumentation) closer to a pop/rock band than anything else, writing intros, bridges, outros and defined parts for each instrument to play.

We thought a lot, talked it out, and tried different approaches to the material before settling on this approach. We were very conscious that the results would have to make musical sense and not end up an awkward or superficial exercise in cultural fusion. We’re quite happy with the results of the recording, which has achieved the result of not sounding directly like either Irish or Finnish music but like something completely new, albeit with both traditions still audible as important influences.

Kevin Murphy: While echoing what the lads have said I think that a key difference between what we did and what the traditions tend to dictate is that we simply chose to mix and arrange in a way which gave us the most pleasure. Frequently we were presented with dilemmas such as: do we need to find another tune to run in from the previous one or can we simply drop in an abstract instrumental part which tend to musically work better? Or should the instrument playing the lead melody always be the loudest in the mix? Etc. The answer to all these questions was what ever feels the best stays. Therefore hedonism often trumped tradition. Therefore odd musical bits appear where straight ahead tunes might be expected while in the mix the instruments tend to blend together in a layered and interconnected way rather than always having a loud lead part. In this we probably unashamedly borrow from My Bloody Valentine in trying to create a melodic mush from which barely discernable patterns occasionally emerge. It is however, unlikely that you will be left with any major hearing loss after going to one of our gigs.

Please talk me through some of the traditional material contained on ‘Os’ and discuss why you chose these particular songs and indeed your memories of first discovering the songs? I would love to gain an insight into the approach (and process) you used when deconstructing and reworking these traditional melodies?

Aki: ‘Hiljainen Suru’ (Quiet Sorrow) is a haunting traditional song that I have known for a quite awhile. I learned it from the singing of a friend of mine – Maija Karhinen. ‘Os’ (full title: ‘Os Fera Liluli’) is an unusual traditional song from Finnish tradition. It combines two ancient Nordic languages and Latin. I learned it from a recent recording by Arto and Antti Järvelä. ‘Suru Suuri’ (Great Sorrow) borrows the melody from an old Carelian call-and-response chant. The simple meditative quality of the tune caught my attention in the first place. The polkas on the album are from the Finnish fiddle tradition, mainly from the West coast of Finland.

Danny Diamond: As for the traditional Irish material, we stayed clear of dance music (reels, jigs, etc), as that repertoire didn’t seem to fit so well with the sound and atmosphere we were trying to create. Since the backbone of the contemporary Irish traditional repertoire is dance music, we had to look a little deeper to find material for Slow Moving Clouds. In fact, all four of the traditional Irish tracks on ‘Os’ are based on (obscure and very old) song melodies. For example, ‘The Conquering Hero’ is derived from Handel’s chorus ‘See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes’ from the oratorio Judas Maccabaeus. Aki found a version of it as a march in an old Irish tune collection from the 1800s, so it must have slipped into the Irish tradition at some stage. We took the march as a starting point, simplified and partly re-wrote the melody to fit our sound. So it’s a three-times-removed 18th century classical piece.

We arranged it in a verse-chorus fashion and set it in a simple but effective drone-based arrangement, hoping that the track would evoke a unique atmosphere. This approach, although straightforward, is very different to the typical Irish traditional approach of my background, where the individual voice of the performer(s) playing melody tends to takes precedence over almost all other factors in an arrangement. I personally found it very interesting to have to recalibrate my approach – gaining a greater appreciation for tone and texture, contributing to the overall arrangement and mood, rather than ‘playing the tune’ in the traditional fashion.

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‘Suru Suuri’ is a heavenly Nordic folk lament. The arrangements are impeccable and the voice is beautifully melded with the string instruments. Can you talk me through this song? The strings evoke the magical spell of a Sigur Ros creation such is its brilliance.

Aki: This song really came together in the studio, although we had a basic arrangement in mind when going in. We wanted to keep the chant-like quality of the song, but also add a new layer of texture to add variety and a build up.

Please discuss your chosen instrument – nyckelharpa, fiddle and cello) and how your playing has developed over the years, inspired perhaps by the various collaborations and projects each of you have been immersed in these past few years? Certainly, SMC sees a perfect meeting point for these three unique voices in contemporary music.

Aki: Nyckelharpa is an interesting unusual instrument. I have developed my own style of playing that uses a lot of chords rather than single notes. The combination of the three instruments covers a wide pitch and tonal range. On one side we have a folk fiddle sound and on the other side we have a very organic experimental string trio.

Danny Diamond: My fundamental grounding is very deep in the Irish tradition, coming from a family of traditional musicians, working for nearly a decade in the Irish Traditional Music Archive, studying and performing  traditional music since my early teens. Listening to solo fiddle players on archival recordings has hugely informed my style and approach to Irish music, a habit which has grown so extreme that the traditional material which excites me most these days are wax cylinder recordings from the very early 20th century.

In my solo playing and in the melodies I write I’m trying to connect to the roots of the Irish tradition, to the very free, expressive music you can hear in iconoclastic fiddle players such as Bobby Casey, Tommy Potts, The Rainey brothers, Johnny Henry and Máirtín Byrnes. I’m fascinated by a particular approach to intonation which is common to the players mentioned above, and heard a lot in the sean-nós singing and piping traditions as well. Non-standard and very expressive, it allows the musician to imbue their music with a huge range of emotion by bending notes, playing intentionally slightly sharp or flat at just the right moment. This expressiveness stands in refreshing contrast to the more codified/structured modes of playing that have grown in the traditional scene over the intervening generations.

In parallel to looking back into the Irish tradition I’ve been working on integrating influences from Nordic & American folk music into my playing- this mostly takes the form of alternate open tunings and rhythmic / phrasing patterns, I haven’t delved really deeply into the other traditions, just enough to pick up a couple of exotic techniques & accents here and there. This exploration was really kick-started back when Aki and I started working together as a duo in 2009 or 2010.

Another influence is the broad genre of music spanning avant-garde pop and minimalist music, running from John Cale to Eno to Gavin Bryars and Philip Glass. Music I’d been listening to since my teens without ever considering that there could be a way to combine it with the traditional fiddle music I was playing. Now with SMC there’s a perfect place to explore that combination.

Slow Moving Clouds is an exciting project to work on, for me it continually pushes and tests my musical boundaries. I’m looking forward to exploring further with Aki and Kevin as the project progresses, and I’m also conscious that the experience of working with them will come through on any future projects from here on. It has broadened my perspective and my capabilities hugely.

Kevin Murphy: Although the cello is certainly not associated with traditional music (Finnish or Irish) I have been involved with different trad bands for years. However, the expectation generally tended to be that the cello would hold down the root notes which were already pre-dictated by the guitar or bouzouki. I found this pretty limiting. Also the cello tends to be low in the mix on such recordings. I always felt this was an extremely limiting use of an instrument which could have a much more intense impact on Irish traditional music. With SMC there is scope for the cello to provide much more chordal colouring while we tend to have it much higher in the mix than would be normal giving the music a lot of aggressive intensity.

The title-track (reflected also by its placing in the record) feels like the glorious centrepiece: how it slowly builds, like leaves swaying slowly by the autumn wind. Did this song perhaps form the gateway into the rest of the record?

Danny Diamond: Actually the opposite was the case! ‘Os’ (the song) was very much constructed in the studio. We had only started working on it a few weeks beforehand, and didn’t have time to refine the arrangement before recording commenced. We tackled it relatively late in the recording sessions and it ended up coming together very naturally.

What do you feel is the essence of Irish and Nordic music traditions for you? What aspect of these musical worlds resonates most powerfully with you that in turn, gravitates you towards these spheres of sound?

Aki: Interestingly enough, the traditional music I like is the solo playing where you can really hear all the nuances and stylistic variations. What we are doing is clearly not traditional music. I’m interested in soundscapes and textures that can augment simple beautiful melodies. Danny comes from a traditional music background and I have a long history in traditional music as well, so those influences are naturally present in the music we make. Kevin and I have been playing both experimental and popular music for years. Slow Moving Clouds’ sound seems to combine all those elements seamlessly. Although the Nordic and Irish traditional music has been a strong starting point for our sound, I have a feeling that as our sound develops we will start introducing a lot more of original material.

 


 

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‘Os’ by Slow Moving Clouds is available now on Bandcamp HERE.

http://slowmovingclouds.com/
https://www.facebook.com/slowmovingclouds

Written by admin

November 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Central And Remote: Conor Walsh

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“THE FRONT” E.P. PREMIERE & Interview with Conor Walsh.

“I feel like I have found my own sound.

— Conor Walsh

Words: Mark Carry

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Conor Walsh is a minimalist piano and electro acoustic composer from Swinford, Co. Mayo, Ireland. His compositions draw from a variety of genre’s that span Minimalist and Neo-Classical to electronic and ambient worlds. On the Irish composer’s brand new ‘The Front’ EP – released today on the Irish independent label Ensemble Records – shimmering textures of atmospherics and subtle effects are masterfully embedded in the beautifully crafted piano-based compositions.

The delicate beauty of the title-track’s celestial piano notes immediately conjures up the timeless sound of ‘Felt’ by German composer Nils Frahm. ‘K Theory’ employs heavy use of atmospherics and looped voices that fuses acoustic and electronic walls of sound together, somehow foraging between shoegaze, drone and minimalism to wonderful effect. Gradual pulses of ambient soundscapes and returning motifs here are reminiscent of Kranky’s Christina Vantzou’s drone-infused ambient creations or Aphex Twin’s minimalist electronic works. A joyously uplifting feel permeates the closing cut, ‘One Swallow’ that feels like the return of Spring with its soaring, soothing piano patterns interwoven with warm, radiant electronic textures.

 

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‘The Front’ E.P. is out now on Ensemble Records.

http://conorwalsh.bandcamp.com/
http://ensemble.ie/

Interview with Conor Walsh.

Please talk me through ‘The Front’ EP, it’s a wonderful collection of four beautiful piano works and particularly the making and recording of these songs?

Conor Walsh: It was recorded at home, in my home studio and it was co-produced and co-mixed with Enda Bates – Enda is from The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock and he is also a lecturer in Trinity – we worked remotely together; he was up in Dublin and I was down here in the countryside in Mayo. I did most of the work here and then got some of the heavy technical end expertise from Enda from his side.

I love the title-track and the different sections within the piece, especially in the final third where a more ambient feel comes in.

CW: The tunes all began as solo piano pieces and I suppose over the last few years, I honed my sound to include lots of layers and atmospherics. Those sounds are a big call because it’s very tempting to over-do it and very easy to over-do it I guess. I feel like I have found my own sound. The atmospherics seem just right now, it’s an interesting journey with the textures and atmospherics and eventually just knowing that is enough or a feeling that’s enough in the background. So I hope they are subtle enough at times and not too overpowering but they feel just right to me anyways.

A piece that typifies that is ‘K Theory’. I’m not sure if it’s a voice but I love how there are looped samples in the mix creating drone/ambient textures that work really well.

CW: ‘K Theory’ originally, that whole idea was like a non-tron kind of sound that morphs all the way through. So the idea was it’s almost like a synthetic voice that morphs back into itself. I guess it’s like a voice that sounds like a voice at the beginning but ends up returning to its synthetic form by the end of it.

It’s been a great time for music too and especially the whole world of neo-classical music with people doing a lot of similar things where it feels like there’s almost a movement for making this particular type of music?

CW: There certainly is an appetite now. ‘K Theory’ is four years old but there certainly is a scene there at the moment. One of the first guys I would have been interested in from the neo-classical scene was Dustin O’ Halloran. I’ve always had a real soft spot for awesome little piano tunes that just sound so good and there’s not to have any sort of huge complexity about the piano at all. Simplicity sometimes is the best and it’s like a return to the whole minimalist movement of the 60’s where it was almost like a counter response to serialism, just to go back to simplicity. It’s been great to know actually there seems to be an appetite for that in the world right now. I could namedrop tons of people like Nils Frahm, Olafur Ornalds, Dustin O’ Halloran but classically as well, from the turn of the twentieth century – from Erik Satie to now – there always seems to be a place in the music world for minimalist piano.

I’d be curious Conor, for composing music, is a lot of it more improvising and a lot of playing until you find a certain motif or pattern that you go back to then and hone in on or does it vary?

CW: No that’s exactly what I do. All of my stuff I guess is heavily reliant on repetition and making the decision as to what is enough and what is too much and what’s just enough with regards to repetition. From a compositional point of view, a lot of the tunes and melodies and motifs just come from literally playing over and over and over again. And very often I find happens with the compositional process is that I start off with an idea and I find a hook or a melody and I keep repeating and repeating. And what very happens is then another separate melody develops from that so something I wouldn’t have seen at the beginning will just develop. It’s quite difficult to explain but through repetition and playing something – a hook or a melody or a motif – over and over again, sometimes it just leads logically to another melody or another hook and what very often happens is the first one gets discarded completely and I stick to the second one.

Do you have plans for a full-length release?

CW: Definitely, yeah. I mean I guess in a way I’ve already started, I’ve been putting these collections of piano tunes together since I was nineteen really so I have lots and lots of tunes and I’m really anxious and really excited to get an album out there. I think the journey for me has been about finding my own sound and being happy with that. I think through the process of doing the EP I really feel like I’ve become comfortable finding my own sound and there is definitely a plan for an album on the way.

The artwork for ‘The Front’ EP is really beautiful and complements the music very well.

CW: The artwork was done by Louise Gaffney from Roscommon, from the band Come On Live Long. It’s been really great working with Louise and has been a huge part of the whole idea of the music and the minimal nature and its non-directive quality. With instrumental music and for my own music, it’s about being non-directive and allowing the listener to put their own thoughts on it so there is as little direction as possible. I’d like it to be like an emotional rollercoaster but not necessarily directing the listener, you know. So Louise was really, really good at listening and discussing it and I think it’s reflected in the artwork as well: the repetition and the minimal nature of the music. It was really great working with Louise in that we spent as much time talking about stuff than anything else so she really grasped the whole idea of the music really, really well with the ideas of repetition and minimalism; leaving stuff out is just as important as leaving stuff in.

I wonder growing up with music, did you go through the different stages of being in bands and stuff like that before finding your own voice with the solo piano?

CW: Well funnily enough, I would have started like most teenage guys in the 90’s playing guitar and singing and writing songs with vocals. I did it all the time, I used to record on tape. just on a basic twin deck recorder with a built-in microphone . What I did from the very beginning – when I was probably 15 – I always recorded everything because I was always afraid of forgetting something so I have a huge box of tapes at home with songs of guitar and vocals. But what happened when I was around 19, I started to play some of those songs on the piano and I really, really got stuck into the idea of this whole non-directiveness: not having lyrics, not having a story or a narrative and not directing the listener just appealed to me much more than writing songs and writing lyrics.

Have there been certain albums that really inspired you and making your music?

CW: One album that really changed my musical life was Aphex Twin ‘Selected Ambient Works 19851992’. I just consider that like a modern-day minimalist ambient masterpiece. It was just so simple but so beautiful and I couldn’t understand it at the time when I heard it first. It became an album that I got absolutely hooked on; I couldn’t understand how something could be so simple and so beautiful. I think Aphex Twin himself cites Erik Satie as an influence, from almost a century beforehand where he did pretty much the same thing to express this beautiful, beautiful emotion and really dark emotion through very, very little. So that was a huge, huge album for me.

More recently, I’ve even taken influence from the progressive rock band Tool, quite different but they have some amazing hooks and melodies that get repeated over and over and over. It seems like a really good time in Ireland and with the music industry at the moment, it’s almost like the recession had some benefit in the way it has probably given a lot of people time to write music that otherwise may have been distracted by a career. But even more contemporary artists like Clark and Evian Christ who recently got signed to the Warp record label – basically anyone on the Warp label I really love – and of course also everybody on the Erased Tapes label. One contemporary pianist I’ve been really, really blown away by the last couple of years is Lubomyr Melnyk from Erased Tapes. I’ve got to see him last year at the Unitarian Church, he came over for Homebeat and that was amazing. Again he uses repetition heavily but he’s also an amazing virtuoso pianist as well, it’s an interesting combination of the two.

What plans or projects do you have next or in the pipeline?

CW: Well one of my main ambitions this year in 2015 was – I did an interview last Christmas and I was asked what was one of my ambitions in the year – to score my first film so I actually got to do that last February. I worked with director Kamila Dydyna, she’s a Polish lady and I scored her first short film, ‘Testimony’ so that was a really amazing experience and it’s something I’m really interested in. I also did some work for TV3, some documentary work and I’ve had lots of my music used on radio documentaries and some stuff on TV too. I’ve also worked with a company called Twopair films in Clare and providing some music for their gorgeous short films. So I guess in a way it’s something I have just discovered that I really, really love and would love to pursue that further.

There is that whole cinematic quality to your music that would lead you to scoring music as well, in the much the same way as those names you’ve mentioned – Dustin, Nils, Olafur – do this too in addition to their own solo albums, it’s almost all the same thing in the end.

CW: I mean it’s kind of a weird one I mean you think of the conventional film composer having an orchestra and directing the orchestra and having a huge budget and going to London to record an orchestra but you can do so much from home now, from your computer. I think it’s an amazing experience for someone involved in minimalist neo-classical music, it’s the ultimate compliment really to have a moving story and have your music put behind it.

 


 

 

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‘The Front’ E.P. is out now on Ensemble Records.

http://conorwalsh.bandcamp.com/
http://ensemble.ie/

 

Written by markcarry

October 30, 2015 at 6:33 pm