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Chosen One: Brigid Mae Power

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“Its hard for me to be interested in music unless it goes deep into a feeling.”

—Brigid Mae Power

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The first week of June marked the eagerly anticipated new full length from the London-based, Irish songwriter Brigid Mae Power. The sublime “Head Above The Water” is the first record for Power on Fire Records after a pair of widely acclaimed albums for U.S. independent Tompkins Square (2016’s self titled LP and 2018’s “The Two Worlds”).

“Head Above The Water” was recorded in Glasgow’s fabled analogue studio The Green Door with Alasdair Roberts co-producing alongside Power and Peter Broderick. Unsurprisingly, with two such revered fellow songwriters as Broderick and Roberts involved, one can discern the sensitivity here to allow Power’s own voice take center stage. The production is beautifully crisp with an impressively wide sonic palette, while also giving Power’s own imitable vocals the space it requires, letting the myriad nuances and endless subtleties take hold of the listener in the process.

The album’s players include Roberts’ own band (Hamilton Beck, Stevie Jones, Liam Chapman; Peter Broderick and Brían Mac Gloinn (Ye Vagabonds), where arrangements are beautifully and subtly varied across the album’s ten compositions (from the piano-led ballads of both title track and “Wearing Red That Eve” to the folk gems such as “I Was Named After You” and the Joni Mitchell-infused “Wedding Of A Friend”), recalling the spirit of Bert Jansch or Planxty, where no single note is superfluous but rather is considered both instinctively and sensitively to highlight Power’s own singularly unique and soul-stirring songs. The use of pedal steel guitar with upright bass and drums provides the captivating rhythm section throughout. Similarly, Mac Gloinn’s impeccably understated contributions (bazouki, violin, fiddle) provide for another set of textures here, giving the wider palette a more Irish-based context, which helps give Power’s songs a delicate link to such Irish treasures as Planxty or Van Morrison before her.

Album opener (and lead single) “On A City Night” provides a beautifully immediate and irresistibly lush introduction to Power’s latest opus. “City lights or country skies at night / Which do you prefer? / He said to me with a smile / And eyes so pure” Power sings in the opening verse, introducing the recurring theme of motherhood throughout the album, where a sense of bright hope and vulnerability often occupy the same planes as that of one’s own innermost feelings of doubt, fears and worries. A sense of fully embracing new beginnings and brighter horizons – while overcoming self-doubts and embracing change often provide a running thread too, as Power sings: “I can’t quite believe / How easy it’s been for you / To let go of everything / You previously knew”.

The heart-stopping piano-led ballad “Wearing Red That Eve” is a hugely affecting ballad which finds Power reflecting on an old memory of a time spent in New York which, while simmering to the surface of her mind powerfully reflects finding one’s own voice and inner strength amidst adversity. The striking use of colour and imagery has also been an intriguing part to Power’s songbook (“From those mountains I draw something deep / Their warm colours and their rough peaks / In my mind I climb them under a burning sun”), something Power’s own artwork (an established visual artist in her own right) equally manages to evoke with much purity and vibrancy.

Equally moving is “I Was Named After You” which, like all of Power’s divine songs, could be sung a cappella and the affect would be no less monumental. The lyrics are stripped back and pared down to only its essential core, revealing a lament of true vulnerability and utter transcendence. The song is more akin to listening to the most cathartic or cleansing of songs, as the intricately layered arrangement expands and flourishes (flurries of flute, fiddle and guitars offset Power’s honest, thought-laden questions) emanating a song of remarkable power where strength and vulnerability are one.

Tempos shift on the pulsating “We Weren’t Sure”, beginning with an acoustic strum and meditative vocal, the composition gradually builds to its fearsome outro of congas, percussion and drums, forming a rhythmic delight after Power affirms: “I’ve come out knowing / That I’m Sure / I’m completely sure”, producing another magical moment of empowerment.

“I Had To Keep My Circle Small”, with it’s pulsating strum and breathtaking harmonies (supplied by Broderick here) is one of the many treasured moments across “Head Above The Water”. “I needed you to favour me / I needed you to favour me / That is not a bad thing at all” sings Power while the arrangement’s glorious harmonies and many feather-light nuances are reminiscent of “Automatic For The People”-era R.E.M. or the songbooks of Nick Drake or Bill Callahan. The song builds to a soul-shattering climax, where layers of voice and sound combine and reverberate, reaffirming Power’s private realizations.

After the fittingly-included cover of Planxty’s “The Blacksmith” (a song, which, together with “As I Roved Out” have been memorably covered by Power live over the years), comes the spellbinding title-track and album closer, where – like so much of Power’s cherished songbook – it feels like we’re bearing silent witness to Power’s innermost musings all on our very own. The song finds Power reminisce about a memory of a lost soul from a distant past, whose faded dreams and lifetime regrets – with a “pain that can’t be helped” – come to the fore. While Power notes his losses and past pains, she also sings: “His sense of what matters is really strong” before touchingly leaving us with the sincerest of wishes: “I wish you luck with your losses from before”.

Once more, the specific and the universal merge wholly as one as Power’s songs – like they always so effortlessly do – traverse both the real (and imagined) and ascend into a near-spiritual realm. For Power’s music, like all the great songwriters of bygone times, truly exists outside of time.

“Head Above The Water” is out now on Fire Records.

https://brigidmaepower.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowermusic/

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Interview with Brigid Mae Power.

Congratulations on your enthralling new solo album “Head Above Water”, an album that feels truly like a culmination, where all points in your musical path leads you to this engrossing destination. Firstly, please talk me through the recording sessions that took place in the analogue studio The Green Door in Glasgow and introduce to me your band for these sessions? Did you have most of the songs fleshed out at this point (lyrically and musically) prior to recording?

BMP: Thank you! It was such an enjoyable experience to record the album and in these lockdown days I’d give anything to be able to go and play live with those musicians again! The band that played on the record live are Peter Broderick (drums + violin, backing vocals), Alasdair (electric guitar, piano, violin, backing vocals), Brían MacGloinn (bouzouki, fiddle, vocals), Stevie Jones (double bass), Liam Chapman (percussion) and myself (guitars, vocals, piano). Then a few overdubs were added after which involved Hamilton Belk on pedal steel, Peter on synths/random sounds and myself playing mellotron organ, piano… I think I’ve remembered everything there!

I had all the songs ready to go lyrically and structurally. I had sent on some demo recordings and chords to the guys and kind of just basically said have a go at playing along with them. When we got to Glasgow, we had a very short rehearsal the day before, just a couple of hours, and then the next day we just got to it! We just figured things out pretty quickly. I like to get the recording process done as quick as possible, and I kinda like what comes out of musicians when they’re on the spot… I like to do things in 2-3 takes max usually.

The wonderful Alasdair Roberts co-produced the album (alongside you and Peter) and also plays on the record. I’d love for you to describe the colours and insights Alasdair brought to the process of making “Head Above Water”?

BMP: Well the main thing that really sticks out for me with what Alasdair brought to the process is with the song ‘Wearing Red That Eve’. He had the idea to take the guitar out completely and just have me singing, with him playing the piano. He had the idea to have me singing without playing an instrument at the same time so I would have a different quality of singing I guess, being able to focus totally just on that.

He really opened up that song entirely into something different… something more jazzy, I’m not even sure how to describe! But I love what he did.

Alasdair also was really helpful at arranging the lineup of musicians for the live recording, giving ideas of who would play what and when, in a very open way. He also lended such a varied musical energy to the songs, one might presume he is totally traditional or more of a folk player but he is very versatile!

What I immediately love is the widened sonic palette on display throughout these songs and the adventurous new sonic terrain that is fearlessly tapped into. I feel the duo of “We Weren’t Sure” and “I Had To Keep My Circle Small” serve the empowering and utterly captivating moments of part B. Again, the rich instrumentation and daring arrangements serve the ideal backdrop to your immense vocals. In terms of witnessing these songs develop from the solitary writing process to capturing these songs live to tape; this must have been quite a special experience to be part of?

BMP: Yes, it was really great to hear how they turned out. It always takes me some time to be able to listen back and hear something with a clear listening slate if you get me but I was really happy with how those both turned out. ‘I Had To Keep My Circle Small’ was maybe the trickiest out of all the songs to do… we tried another version entirely in the studio but it sounded too cheesy ha. It was a struggle to get the right vibe for that song.

‘We Weren’t Sure’ was a LOT of fun to do in the studio. There’s one mellotron overdub but otherwise that song is pretty much sounding exactly how it was when were playing it. It was fun and came out so weird, in a good way.

Album opener “On A City Night” begins with your beloved son’s wide-eyed curiosity and child-like wonder (asking you whether you prefer city lights or country skies at night). I’d love for you to discuss this infinite source of inspiration you draw from this special soul in your life and how his ruminations and world views seep into your own train of thought and mind, so to speak?

BMP: I’m so lucky to have this little boy in my life. Saying that, during quarantine, we naturally drive each other mad 50% of the time. But the other 50% is really magical. I’ve always been a more observant and listening kind of person and I really believe if you really watch and listen to kids they are just incredible. Their look on things is so fresh, they’re very connected to the truth of things. He’s very creative and free. And he’s so optimistic. He’s been my teacher in a way!

So yes, he is really inspiring to me. Life and nature and how things circulate around is inspiring to me and something I always need to bring myself back to. Being in touch with this little force of nature every day is a blessing.

As ever, an undeniable power and resolute spirit permeates throughout these songs; in effect keeping your head above water. The song-craft yields immeasurable emotions and a whirlwind of feelings. Do songs (such as these songs captured on the latest album) come to you quickly could phrases and ideas slowly simmer before the final result is in sight? I wonder do you find the song-writing process for you changing in any way- from perhaps your Tompkins Square debut or back to the “Told You The Truth” mini album?

BMP: My song-writing process has largely stayed the same. It usually starts off with the melody on the instrument first and then humming over that. Then words can kind of come to me for that specific tune, or I have a look in some of my notebooks and see if any of my writing feels like it fits into the melody I’m working on. Sometimes words I’ve written a long time ago will fit into a new melody and vice versa – sometimes I’ll have an old melody that I’ve been working on for years and I’ll write new words.

I guess with this album there are a lot of songs based on memories but that wasn’t intentional. I really don’t think much, to be honest, about how to write or what to write or whether it all fits in with each other. I just trust that it does and if it doesn’t sound right then I’ll not add it to the album… but I kind of work in a mostly thought-less way. I work from feelings and mostly unconsciously. I’m not an “ideas” kind of person… but the phrase “Head Above The Water” was floating around in my head for a while for sure. Sometimes little snippets of phrases will pop up for me and I’ll do my best to remember them!

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Your beautiful cover of Andy Irvine’s folk song “The Blacksmith” is the penultimate track. I love how it fits so perfectly among your own material. Can you discuss your love for this song and can you remember first hearing it?

BMP: Hmm I think the first time I heard it was when someone posted on facebook a youtube video of Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny playing it live. Since then I’ve just loved it and didn’t want to hear other versions because I just loved that one so much! I can get a bit repetitive like that. When I like something I really like something! So I played it over and over. Then someone, I don’t remember who, suggested online that I do it as a cover. So I have been playing it live for a while now, and so, often after I’d play it people would ask me which one of my CDs it was on, and it wasn’t on any, so I promised a few people that I would eventually record it and now I have!

I always wanted to sing with Brían because I sooooo love his singing voice. While he was in Glasgow recording with us I suggested it as a sort of last minute thing to do. We didn’t have much time left but Alasdair arranged a format that we could try sing it in and it worked really well. I’m really glad we had time to give it a go!

Your voice is the magical spell that forever emanates from the songs: a wholly unique and incredible sound. Take me back to your earliest musical memories and the different singers and albums and performances that served inspiration for your own unique singing style?

BMP: Oh thank you, that’s a really nice compliment!

Hmm well, I don’t think about my singing style much at all, I remember just always liking to sing and finding some ways of singing easier to lean into than others. I like to sing a lot of wordless melodies, I think that started originally from imagining an instrumental solo while I’m singing a song, but being the only player I would just sing it myself!

My earliest memory of singing (and there is video footage) is of me singing ‘Itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini’ on top of a table in the family living room when I was like 3. God knows why that song, I think it was on an advert on the time. I remember everyone was laughing because it was funny, but I remember taking it so seriously and really feeling like “this is a big performance right now”. I really loved the limelight when I was little and always sort of knew I would do singing. But shyness overcame me as an older child and I didn’t sing again really until I was an older teenager.

I was deeply moved by the singing of Aretha Franklin. She had a huge impact on me when I was about 16/17. I loved blues singers also like Etta James and for the first few years when I was singing, I was deeply influenced by that style. I couldn’t help though have traditional inflections on my singing and the more I let go and sang naturally as I went into my 20’s I sort of let those traditional inclinations come out more.

Another huge influence for me vocally was Tim Buckley. I had grown up listening to Jeff Buckley (also an influence) but when I heard Tim, wow, I was just floored. I felt like that naturally I liked to sing kinda like that too… like holding out notes for a long time… I just hadn’t heard anyone else do it before I heard him. So then I just let myself naturally sing however felt best.

The presence of piano ballads “Wearing Red That Eve” and the album’s title track creates that striking intimacy and delicate beauty that hits you deeply. Growing up, did you learn the guitar or piano first?

BMP: On that track its actually played by Alasdair Roberts and I am instrument-less which is rare on my songs. But I grew up playing piano first. I taught myself when I was probably around 13/14. I played the accordion growing up, then slowly figured out how to play the trad tunes on the piano. Then I got really into boogie-woogie piano as a teenager, and got obsessed with playing in that style! I really actually for a while wanted to be a serious blues piano player rather than a singer songwriter!

I started playing guitar when I was 21.. I usually play in DADGAD tuning!

Your ability to draw something deep from the well each time when it comes to creating a new batch of songs awakens something deep within (in terms of the listener’s experience). As the composer and writer, are you aware of that special spark as a song comes into life? Needless to say it must be a very intuitive and natural process.

BMP: I think I always like to go deep. I’m sort of like that as a person. I’m not really good at on the surface stuff, talking on the surface etc. I like to get to the root of things very quickly, which is frustrating for some people to be constantly dug at, but I definitely like to dig deep. I don’t really know any other way. Its hard for me to be interested in music unless it goes deep into a feeling.

Sometimes I am aware of the feeling when a song comes to life, but sometimes it takes some time. There’s a lot of doubt for me with songs I’m writing and usually it’ll have to sit with me a few months before I notice that it has a spark that I need to take further.

Lastly, what is the song that surprised you the most (upon hearing the final version)?

BMP: ‘I Was Named After You’ surprised me a lot. It had started out as a sort of tender song with just finger picking guitar in the demo we made. But when we did it in the room it felt like something kind of spooky happened. It has a kinda ethereal energy to me that song. Part of it is about my grandmother Bridget’s spirit so its kinda ghostly anyway, but I was really surprised where that song took off too. It’s probably one of my favourites on the album!

“Head Above The Water” is out now on Fire Records.

https://brigidmaepower.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowermusic/

 

Written by admin

June 23, 2020 at 7:04 pm

Chosen One: Jim White and Marisa Anderson

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Let’s say we are improvising a piece of music, is it the moment when your mind is still (calm) that is the best, does stillness relate to transparency of what’s behind it?”

—Jim White

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The resolutely unique sound of Jim White’s drumming has long been one of the most beguiling, breath-taking sounds to ever come across: whether it’s from the mythical Dirty Three songbook, or his (more recent) collaboration with George Xylouris (as the legendary duo Xylouris White) or the endless songwriters and musicians he has collaborated with over the years (Cat Power, Bill Callahan, Nina Nastasia, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey). The Australian drummer’s fluid, expansive drumming – whether it’s heard on record or witnessed during a live performance – creates a timeless and utterly shape-shifting experience. The artist’s fingerprint is forever forged inside these recordings; which reflects the unique artistry at hand. The drum also waltzes.

This year sees the arrival of the legendary drummer’s latest collaboration, alongside his close friend and esteemed guitarist Marisa Anderson. ‘The Quickening’ (released earlier this month on the prestigious Chicago-based Thrill Jockey label) documents the coming together of two wholly unique musical voices, which in turn, creates a rich, poignant and highly emotive sonic voyage of boundless horizons.

The rolling thunder of White’s drums serves the perfect opening lines of ‘Gathering’, before Anderson’s cathartic electric blues merges in perfect unison. The guitar and drums as the shared lead instruments. Immediately one feels the electricity and sheer intensity come flooding from the studio’s walls.

The dynamic range of this album is one of its rare feats. How the soft spun of acoustic guitar on the heartfelt lament ‘The Lucky’ is followed later by the psych rock rhythms of ‘Last Days’ is a joy to savor. In between, reverb guitar hangs in the air amidst White’s call-and-response drum patterns of ‘Unwritten’.

The lyrical folk gem ‘Diver’ feels like a long lost parable from ancient times. The album’s title-track highlights the vast riches of this sumptuous collaboration. Introspective moments steeped in beauty, showcasing the deep telepathy between these two remarkable musicians.

As sublime percussive flourishes of ‘November’ are interwoven with crystalline guitar bliss, ‘The Quickening’s rich musical journey comes to a fitting close.

‘The Quickening’ is out now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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https://marisaanderson.bandcamp.com/album/the-quickening

https://thrilljockey.com/

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Interview with Marisa Anderson & Jim White.

 

As a duo, I feel the deep musical telepathic connection between you both throughout these utterly hypnotic and compelling recordings. Firstly, can you recount your memories of first crossing paths? It is obvious from the stellar musical paths you have individually embarked on thus far, how natural and logical this collaboration would become. What were your primary concerns and objectives from the outset?

MA: We first crossed paths in 2014 when Xylouris White and I shared a bill in Portland.  Then in 2015 we went on tour together for 3 weeks. Jim was usually the DJ during the long rides between shows and my early impressions of getting to know him are based on his musical selections in the van.

From the outset of the collaboration, one of my primary goals was that the drums and the guitar have equal roles and voices; that there be no foreground / background instrument. My other main concern was dynamics. I want dynamic range in everything I do. For these recordings I was thinking in terms of fast/slow, loud/soft and the different combinations you get from mixing and matching those four elements between the two instruments.

JW: Xylouris White and Marisa Anderson shared a bill together in Portland in the early days of Xylouris White – around the time of our first album Goats. A friend loaned me a kit with calf skins on it that was so fun and warm sounding, the bounce of the stick is less and the sound much warmer than the synthetic heads. My first impression was Marisa was self-sufficient, her and her guitar and amp. My impression was that Marisa was self-possessed and interested which has been borne out. A year or two later we, Xylouris White and Marisa Anderson shared a tour and vehicle. It was a good trip and I listened to her set often. Before playing two traditional songs she talked about them from a different perspective than that of the obvious protagonist. Marisa and I share a lot of points of view but often have come from a different perspective to get to them, and I like that. We listened to a lot of country music in the car.

Somewhere along the way this idea of playing together came about, for me it was important to not have to make a product out of the attempt to play together. When I was on the west coast of USA I went up to Portland and we played in Marisa’s house once and then in Type Foundry studio. A couple of the songs on the record are from there, and it was enough of a start that later we decided to try to make a record. Marisa spends time in Mexico regularly and I was happy to go and be there. It was a good location because there were no disturbing distractions, we’d get a taxi to the studio, play, listen back, work on sounds at the start and as we went along, have a break, do some more. We listened back and checked and marked some pieces as we went along.

We didn’t want to make up pieces by taking an idea and consciously constructing it, we wanted to take the pieces as they happened. Intentions matter but the music wasn’t belaboured. I think we both had our eye on the overall picture. We didn’t enter into any arrangements where we were committed to a product in anyway, it was no one’s business but our own what we were doing. I didn’t have any externally driven dialogues in my mind. Everything about the record has happened with intention but not stress. As it happens we have what feels like a record. After the session we took the files away. I think I went on tour and Marisa went through the files and sent me more selections and some back and forth and we ended up with this record. Sometimes a record is so besieged by overwork you can’t listen to it for many years without feeling the struggle it was and all its associated memories. This record doesn’t have a lot of peripheral stress in it, not in the action of recording it, no struggle of taking a preconceived idea and trying to realize it in the studio, even though that is, hopefully, one of our skills as musicians – to get into that moment of translation. I can listen to the record without baggage and I’ve noticed that coming back to it now later, in the corona virus isolating period, that its taking on more emotional qualities as time goes past, that’s a good thing. To me.

Aesthetically, the richness and intensity of the music is really striking. Can you talk me through the opening half of the record, from the opener ‘Gathering’ into ‘Unwritten’? The latter could be my personal favourite with its subtle flourishes and many nuances that blend so well together. Also, ‘The Other Christmas Song’ could be vintage Dirty Three with its spellbinding ripples.

MA: In ‘Gathering’ I was playing with a technique of trying to fret all the strings in places that could create as many perfect intervals (octaves, fourths  and fifths) as possible in one position. From there I was playing as many strings as rapidly as I could and moving between positions that gave me those intervals. I wanted to find perfect stillness (my left hand/the intervals) inside rapid movement (the fingers of my right hand).

‘Unwritten’ is a more intuitive piece, I was trying to grab a mood and turn it into a melody.

The first recording session took place at Portland’s Type Foundry. I’m surprised by the fact these songs were borne from improvisation, with no rehearsals taking place prior to the sessions. Did you feel progress was made immediately once you were in the room together? Which of the tracks were formed here?

MA: We recorded Unwritten and November at Type Foundry. We made the decision to record everything from the start for a couple of reasons. I find that first takes on  improvisational musical ideas are often very fruitful and it is almost impossible to recreate those moments. Better to catch them as they happen. Also, we did not decide that we were making a record until after the Type Foundry session. We didn’t go into the studio with the pressure of having to make a record; we went into the studio just to document what we might make together, and once we found that it was fun and interesting, and that we enjoyed the process, we decided to keep going.

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Later on, you recorded songs in Mexico city’s Estudios Noviembres. I can imagine the acoustics of this space was special and proved an inspiration? What happy accidents, so to speak happened musically during this period in Mexico City?

MA: I spend a lot of time in Mexico City, and it’s a place I love. In my experience, it is a city of extremes. The apartment where I stay when I’m there is in the center of the city, and during the day it is unbelievably busy, crowded, noisy, constantly in motion, but in the wee hours of the night it is dead quiet, completely still. When I’m awake at that hour I’m aware that I’m in a silence at the center of 20 million people. Like all cities, Mexico City has a pulse; a current that hums through it that I enjoying trying to tap into.
The studio was kind of a time capsule of the late seventies. I don’t know when it was built, but it had been a recording studio throughout the seventies and maybe into the early eighties? Until something unknown happened and it had to close up overnight. It stayed closed until a few years ago when a trio of young engineers found out about it and tracked down the owner, who was in his eighties, and persuaded him to let them open it back up. You definitely go back in time when you walk through the doors.

Can you describe your mindset and headspace as you improvise- and the inner dialogue that ensues?

MA: In the ideal situation there is no inner dialogue while I’m playing. If  I’m aware of myself talking to myself than I’m in the way- I’m not fully in the music. At best I hope to be immersed, operating beyond language. When things are going well I can see/hear a few beats ahead, I know where my fingers should land, I know what the sound should be. But as soon as I become aware of being in that space, it is gone. So it’s best for me not to think too much about it.

JW: I read an article on a scientific experiment involving brain monitoring. It discovered that when you think for example, to stand up, that actually your body has already decided to stand up, the scientists can see the message going from the brain to your leg and it occurs a tiny fraction of a second before you think that you want to get up.

Presumably you have thought about standing up before in your life and if you are going to the fridge for example you are aware what you bought at the shop. You also learnt that you shouldn’t stand up when the ceiling fan is over your head and really low for some reason, you know all these things, maybe later on you will regret that decision to open the fridge and get that beer and that will be taken into account next time, I don’t know but does that answer the question?

All the decisions, intentions, conversations, are in there but they aren’t gonna help you now. Like yeah, tell yourself what you want to do but don’t look at it in your mind directly, sneak a look from the side maybe, perhaps. Ideally, improvising is no different to anything else. Your body is improvising, not your mind – at that moment, but what you talked about at lunch will affect it, how that happens is your question I suppose. Let’s say we are improvising a piece of music, is it the moment when your mind is still (calm) that is the best, does stillness relate to transparency of what’s behind it? Or when you suddenly wake up and you realize you’ve been in the zone or whatever the athletes call it, was that the good stuff? Or was it just before you got to that, or just after or actually when you were in some horrible struggle trying to get somewhere intentionally which I’m not discounting either. No idea.  

The contrast between the quiet bliss of those introspective moments to the intense maximalist roaring and resounding moments is one of the hallmarks of ‘The Quickening’. Did you have a big canvas of songs to cut down to, in terms of the finished album? Once the recordings were completed, how did you find the process of selecting the final recordings?

MA: There were many hours of music to carve the songs out of. Between the two studios we did about 7 days of recording. Much of that was easy to weed out immediately. I had a couple of weeks after Jim left Mexico to comb through the recording files and pull out what I thought were coherent ideas and work within them to find beginnings and endings and dynamic flow. After that initial weeding, I sent Jim my ideas for what might work and we basically figured out the rest going back and forth on email. I haven’t returned to the bank of recorded files since putting the record together. I worked as close to the moment of creation as possible to find the pieces that made it onto the record.

Finally, what is your musical philosophy?

MA: Wow that’s a big question! I don’t think I’ve ever tried to put words to that idea…

Maybe the closest thing I could say is -Try to sound like yourself-.

‘The Quickening’ is out now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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https://marisaanderson.bandcamp.com/album/the-quickening

https://thrilljockey.com/

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 27, 2020 at 2:44 pm

Chosen One: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

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My only musical philosophy is… the world is never without sound… so I will never be without inspiration.”

—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

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The highly anticipated new solo full-length from American composer, artist and producer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith showcases divine ambient sound worlds whose rich textures, vivid colours and cosmic riches forge an utterly timeless and deeply immersive listening experience. The boundless nature of Smith’s visionary music has long been a trusted constant in the LA composer’s cherished songbook but ‘The Mosaic Of Transformation’ feels like the astral explorations navigate even further – and deeper – into a far-reaching, otherworldly state of being.

The opening verse of American multi-instrumentalist – and kindred spirit – Laraaji’s celestial psalm ‘All Of A Sudden’ could best describe the effect of Smith’s latest visionary electronic voyage: “All of a sudden/It’s another time/In another world/And another state of mind.” From the opening lush tones of fourth world spheres captured on ‘Unbraiding Boundless Energy Within Boundaries’ we are immediately displaced into the slipstream of our inner-self: someplace else.

The gorgeous meditative lament ‘Remembering’ is awash with celestial harmonies and hypnotic rhythms which very much belongs to the here and now. As the organ-like sustained melodies ascend into the foreground, time and space fold into itself. Some moments later, the addition of Smith’s mesmerizing vocal refrain further heightens the sumptuous sonic landscapes, cultivating an engrossing and captivating psychedelic expedition.

The back-to-back pairing of ‘The Steady Heart’ and ‘Carrying Gravity’ is a pinnacle moment of this transformative musical soujourn. The sublime crystalline avant pop sphere of ‘The Steady Heart’ reveals infectious pop brilliance with overlapping harmonies and luminous electronic beats where Smith invites you to “open your heart” beneath a flurry of soothing electronic flourishes.

The ambient bliss of ‘Carrying Gravity’ orbits planets, stars and even galaxies such is its far reaching and shape shifting qualities: a piece of music that permeates each and every heart pore. Infusion of soul into art.

Smith has described ‘The Mosaic Of Transformation’ as being her “expression of love and appreciation for electricity”. As the song-title suggests, the glorious album closer ‘Expanding Electricity’ serves a vital cornerstone to the album. It is almost as if all points lead to here, like a river finding its sea.

A deep spiritual connection is forged amidst Smith’s achingly beautiful vocal delivery embedded within rapturous orchestral arrangements and swathes of synthesizer. The mantra of “I feel it, can you feel it expanding?” becomes the very essence of the gifted composer’s latest masterwork: the point of total transcendence is met.

‘The Mosaic Of Transformation’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://kaitlynaureliasmith.bandcamp.com/

https://ghostly.com/

KAS

Interview with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

 

Congratulations on the sublime new full length ‘The Mosaic Of Transformation’; filled with an intricate array of divine sound worlds. 

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Thank you! 

Can you discuss the main themes of this new record and your primary aims from the outset?

KAS: The inspiration for this album came to me in a sudden bubble of joy.

When the inspiration came it was accompanied with a multitude of shapes that were moving seamlessly from one into the other.

When the shapes came to me they were made by the human body.

I felt the inspiration for this album in response to contemplating my appreciation for electricity.

I have spent a lot of time collaborating with electricity and transforming electricity into music.

I have also spent a lot of time in my life collaborating with what it means to have a physical body and be embodied.

I began to notice that what allows me to feel embodied in my physical body is also electricity.

The inspiration for this album came to me both through music and through visuals of movement.

I have synesthia and have always experienced that through the combination of sound, movement and visions.

I am not a dancer but have always had a deep connection with movement.

I wrote this album with specific movement shapes in mind.

Accompanied with this album is the visual movement language that first inspired the music – intended to be cymatics made by the body. https://youtu.be/OIm1jT0JZDE

I guess in one sentence this album is my expression of love and appreciation for electricity.

I approached this album the way I approach my physical practice… show up everyday with dedication and will power, without expectation and with the intention of expressing joy.

I wasn’t naturally a physically capable person, none of these movements came easily to me and have taken a lot of daily work to develop.

I was not naturally flexible or strong.

My movement practice has been a constant transformation piece by piece.

I made this album in the same way.

Everyday I would transform what I did yesterday on it into something else.

This album has gone through about 12 different versions of itself.

Can you discuss your studio set-up and what new processes you may have experimented here?

KAS: Right now I have sectioned off a piece of my studio for practicing the live performance of this album. I am using a Buchla 200e, Buchla lightning wand, and some middi controllers.

For the making of the album I made some of it at a residency and some of it at my home studio. I often use residencies for the making of my albums so I can have access to rare instruments. My intention was to write parts for orchestral accompaniment for this album. I have all the parts written but I was unable to find the resources to record an orchestra, so I delegated those parts to synthesizers. I still hope to perform with orchestras when artists are able to perform again.

I just love how each of these tracks effortlessly flow into one another, the album truly feels like a single shape-shifting piece of music. The glorious album closer ‘Expanding Electricity’ serves a vital cornerstone to the album. Can you discuss your compositional approach to this piece? It feels like each and every detail of the sonic canvas leads to this final track- in many ways becoming the essence of the record.

KAS: Thank you – That was the first piece that was written for this album and is the piece that sums up how I feel about electricity through sound. ☺ The rest of the pieces are intended to be an introduction to that piece. ☺

Your music is very much at one with nature – and akin to a study of the self. Can you describe the practice of listening within and how you visualize music, so to speak?

KAS: For me, listening is my meditation… I tried pushing my thoughts aside in meditation and quieting the mind and I always felt a struggle… a while ago I decided to invite all my thoughts in and listen to each one fully and what is beyond the thoughts… until finally after I heard all of my thoughts…then I heard sound… then I decided to embrace all the sound I heard and listen to it fully… until finally I heard music… I continue to practice listening to each layer as it arises and learn from it.

What is your musical philosophy?

KAS: My only musical philosophy is… the world is never without sound… so I will never be without inspiration.

‘The Mosaic Of Transformation’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://kaitlynaureliasmith.bandcamp.com/

https://ghostly.com/

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm

Chosen One: Ben Lukas Boysen

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…so in many ways Mirage is about seeing these roots from a distance, seeing how both my younger and older self tackle the same ideas with all these years in between.”

—Ben Lukas Boysen

Ben Lukas Boysen - press photo 01 by Patricia Haas_landscape_WEB

The prestigious German composer and producer Ben Lukas Boysen’s latest sonic marvel, ‘Mirage’ – released last week on the ever dependable Erased Tapes label – continues his impressive path to create shape-shifting sound worlds that masterfully inhabit modern-classical, ambient and electronic orbits, all at once. His innate ability to blur the boundaries of organic and synthetic elements remains a vital cornerstone of the artist’s compelling sonic oeuvre. In truth, the source of the sonic details may prove impossible to determine but therein reveals the infinite radiance of music’s power. As a listener, we (subconsciously at the very least) analyze and dissect each moment-within-moment that is magnificently captured in the ceaseless flow of consciousness (translated into sound).

Album opener ‘Empyrean’ begins with gradual pulses of reflective saxophone tones before warm electronic textures seeps into the mix. This glorious piece almost feels as if it converges on the axis between (label-mates) Nils Frahm’s ‘All Melody’ and Daniel Thorne’s ‘Lines Of Sight’ such is its immaculate brilliance and hypnotic quality.

Contrasts and counterpoints are beautifully placed on the record. ‘Kenotaph’s fragile beauty of sparse piano notes provides an absorbing, introspective moment. Later, drums and synthesizers coalesce together, forming post-rock bliss conjuring the sound of ‘TNT’ era Tortoise. The lyrical quality of Boysen’s solo work is always a pure joy to savor.

The intensity is increased on the magnificent tour-de-force ‘Medela’ with soaring electronic beats and ripples that ascend deeply into the slipstream. This morphs beautifully into the ambient bliss of ‘Venia’ (with distinctive saxophone flourishes of Daniel Thorne) which effectively marries acoustic and electronic spheres into one otherworldly dimension.

The penultimate track ‘Clarion’ serves the climax to ‘Mirage’s luminous journey. Live drums and Anne Muller’s radiant cello lines combine with the angelic tones of felt piano keys. The closing ‘Love’ transmits euphoric swirls of synth-laden tapestries infused with vocals that convey the boundless nature of ‘Mirage’s colossal musical expedition.

‘Mirage’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

2020-patriciahaas-benlukasboysen_high_46

Interview with Ben Lukas Boysen.

 

Congratulations on your latest solo full length ‘Mirage’. I feel the spirit of adventure and fascination with sound can be felt throughout every moment of this special record. Can you please take me back to your starting point, if you will, and how you set about creating ‘Mirage’? In terms of having a back catalogue of work behind you, I can imagine you found a specific narrative for this newest venture quite quickly?

Ben Lukas Boysen: Thanks so much! It was actually a rather long process at first. I collected a lot of ideas after wrapping up a series and a film in 2018 and early 2019 and was struggling a bit with bringing these ideas to life. I was looking for ways to get to the next logical step after Spells a bit too hard at that time and ended up going in circles. Remembering my musical roots, which are clearly in electronic music and mutated forms of it, really helped spark the songs that ended up on the album. 10-15 years after making the first album(s) you are a different person and approach these questions differently, so in many ways Mirage is about seeing these roots from a distance, seeing how both my younger and older self tackle the same ideas with all these years in between.

While writing my earlier records, I had the great benefit of not knowing a lot about music production and how opinionated and political it can be. While many of these opinions and politics were extremely welcome and helpful here and there, back then it allowed me to be very free and not being afraid of doing anything wrong. Not being afraid of technical or stylistic trends or wisdoms but actually trying to do what I feel like doing, which was very liberating and sounds like common sense but it can be surprisingly difficult sometimes. In other words: I’m not totally sure there is a narrative, other than it being an attempt in reconnecting with my former or younger self and building a connection between these two different timelines.

As you have said previously, ‘Mirage’ is almost like ‘Spells’ in reverse; with your aim of trying to hide the human. Like all great composers, the ability to blur the boundaries wherein the exact origin of certain sonic ideas or motifs are unknown (or at least indistinguishable from its original form). This is utterly fascinating for the listener. Can you shed some light on the music-making process and which stage in the process do you find the most relishing?

BLB: Hiding at least some of the human element is a natural side effect of writing electronic music to me. Making it distant, otherworldly and somewhat intangible can give it a wonderfully different dimension and makes it perceivable in a different way.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic and vintage feel of many current recordings, I had the feeling that I don’t have a lot to contribute to this particular direction – at least not enough to fill a whole album with – and the idea of focusing more on the digital and architectural nature of the album became very appealing.

While the construction of the instrumental and human feel played a huge part on Gravity and Spells, the synthetic sounds are the high ranking authority on Mirage. Wherever they lent themselves to be used more ostensibly, I would let them and also feature them but i never wanted the album to feel ‘live’ in the true sense of the word, but much more ‘alive’. The tracks should seem somewhat distant and constructed, engineered even while at the same time give of a romantic and emotional feel. As if a heartfelt message is conveyed by messengers who are trying to make sense of what they are saying. The most relishing part was when i felt this tension was happening as most songs started off as either noisey patterns/drones or simple melodies and needed more composition to be interesting.

‘Empyrean’ is an interesting example as it show’s this process and described the image quite well. All elements are in and out of order at the same time for the first half of the piece. They are rhythmically pretty unsynced, and the chord changes are the only thing that aligns them. Just when things start to groove in, the original melody does not develop further and only towards the end, when the grooves start to pass, a melodic development comes back, introducing a variation of the original theme. It’s not perfectly clear which instruments/elements are in this piece, neither what exactly it is they do and what seems like a recipe for chaos actually still turns out to be a rather harmonious and emotional few minutes.

Some label-mates further heighten the sound worlds across ‘Mirage’, most notably the distinctive voices of Daniel Thorne and Anne Müller. I am curious to know at which point in these tracks did you arrive at before these musicians added their unique musicianship?

BLB: This depends strongly on the track and also has to do with me thinking of a track as a highly organic, shapeshifting thing where influences from every side will change its character dramatically. That’s something I welcome strongly and try to let happen as much as possible.

‘Medela’ sounded very different in the beginning, at the point that i sent it to Dan.

I had written a saxophone line, which he recorded and sent back, but i felt that the actual recordings – as opposed to the midi files i sent him – changed the track for the better. I noticed that the track had turned into something much more interesting than what i had in mind originally so i overhauled most of the idea to end up what is now the final track.

A wonderful first collaboration and surely not the last!

Anne and I have been working on quite a few things before, from commercials to live concerts and albums. Her feeling on how and when to chime in on the state of a piece is incredibly sensitive and on point and i always feel the music gained is a very special and irreplaceable touch. Sometimes it’s subtle additions, where the Cello becomes more of a textural element (like on ‘Clarion’ or ‘Venia’), sometimes it’s very obvious sections (like in ‘Medela’ or ‘Love’) but all of them come from a point of giving over a big portion of control to the musician (in both Anne’s and Dan’s case) to see how they shape this organism that is a piece of music.

BLB_Mirage_Press_Goedke_21

The opener ‘Empyrean’ is such a gorgeous and fitting opener. Daniel Thorne’s mesmerizing saxophone lines permeate the clouds before electronic manipulation and treatments creates an even deeper experience. Can you recount your memories of witnessing ‘Empyrean’s development and mutation, so to speak?

BLB: I had to think about this a little as Dan is not in this song but it probably means that the goal to confuse people about who worked on this record worked. It is however another, very dear collaborator of mine, Lisa Morgenstern. She provided a few recordings while I was trying to figure out the tone of the album.

There was a day when I loaded one of these recordings into a granular synth and started playing some simple chords. The result of this is actually what you hear in the first seconds of the track.

The wonderful unsynchronized triggering of the vocals inspired me to treat all other elements on there in a similar way. Mildly detuned or unsynced but all having a point of unison eventually.

It was the starting point for the album and set the concept for Mirage. The fact that it’s now the first song on the album is incidental because the tracklist was created much later but it’s a nice side note. The sound of ‘Empyrean’ encouraged me to step away from what i thought this album could be and focus on where I’d actually like to venture off to.

The middle section of the epic pairing of ‘Medela’ and ‘Venia’ is the album’s gripping centrepiece. The hypnotic electronic pulses of ‘Medela’ fades into the soulful bliss of ‘Venia’. I can imagine the sequencing of these tracks is something that takes quite some time to get right? As a whole, I get the impression that you visualize the music (contained on the final edit of an album) as one large seamless track with an array of moments? I’d love to gain an insight into your approach to getting all these details right?

BLB: On my previous albums (as HECQ) that’s exactly how it was – I wrote the pieces chronologically most of the time and when it hit the 50 or 60 minute mark I knew I had an album ready. I did not spend a lot of time thinking about sequencing albums – only on the later ones did this start to matter to me.

A certain aspect of this thinking is still influencing current albums including Mirage. To me an album is always a story, a snapshot of the time period I wrote it in. So it is a self-contained story or project but while earlier albums had a timeline, on Ben Lukas Boysen albums I can jump from chapter to chapter, look at individual events of that time and respectively can also listen to pieces on the album in random order and out of context. That’s why the exact sequencing of the tracks is not overly important to me as long as all tracks ended up being part of that story.

I think ‘Clarion’ really embodies the sublime aesthetics and intricate layers captured on the record. The addition of percussion and drums adds many new textures and love the gradual building of the piece. Were some parts recorded live? This certainly feels more like an ensemble playing here.

BLB: Yes the drums are live indeed. Achim Färber, who plays drums on all my albums, has the wonderful habit of playing or sending me random recordings or just starts improvising when we’re in the studio and that’s frankly where most of the album takes are coming from. Similar to Anne Müller, his contributions are the next natural evolution for most pieces. There are live drums, cellos and flügelhorn in ‘Clarion’ but all were recorded separately because the pieces are often not finished in my mind and recording one instrument leads to spark the idea of recording another. Not being a great instrumentalist, let alone session musician, I really prefer producing and arranging the pieces and then do the recordings, so realistically there’s never really a session where all musicians come together. I work with them separately and often remotely to get the work done.

Independent of its sound and intention, all my albums are ensemble projects though – every part, no matter if instrumental recordings by Achim (Drums), Stefan (Trumpet), Anne (Cell), Dan (saxophone) Maria (Harp) or on this special occasion also the great Neil Cowley, or the post mixing, done by Martyn Heyne at Lichtestudio or the mastering by Zino Mikorey, becomes part of the music. I do prefer to write and produce alone but it’s these people that breathe in that extra specialty and aspects that I could simply not bring to the table.

What particular albums and artists have you been heavily immersed in of late?

 BLB: All time faves i frequently rediscover:

– Nav Katze: Never Mind The Distortion

– Various Artists: 8, 8.5, 9 Remixes

– Olan Mill: Orient

– Billie Holiday: Lady In Satin

 

Current favorites:

– Daniel Ögren: Fastingen -92

– Christopher Bissonnette: The Wine Dark Sea

– Kit Sebastian: Mantra Moderne

– Bobby Krlic: Midsommar OST

‘Mirage’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

Written by admin

May 5, 2020 at 2:06 pm

Chosen One: Daniel Thorne

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I’m fascinated by the way that certain ratios and sequences occur in nature, like fibonacci spirals and the golden ratio, and the idea of these things speaking to a kind of higher logic that, even if we’re not explicitly aware of, we recognize and feel on some level of our perception.”

—Daniel Thorne

 Words: Mark Carry

daniel thorne

Released last spring on the awe-inspiring Erased Tapes label, Liverpool-based composer and Immix Ensemble founder, Daniel Thorne’s exceptional debut solo album ‘Lines Of Sight’ is one of those rare jewels in the realm of contemporary music, which confounds, inspires and delights such is its remarkable sonic oeuvre. The album title perfectly embodies the music- the intricate layers of saxophones (and bass synth in places) unfold endless new pathways that beautifully meld, intersect, overlap and yields magic at every turn.

Let’s begin at the end. The album’s final piece, ‘Fear of Floating’ is built upon mesmerizing, pastoral saxophone tapestries, whose gentle patterns forge a staggering beauty like the endless ripples cast upon a stone on water. An intimacy is immediately created.  Some time later, warm textures of bass synth is masterfully added, in perfect unison with the vivid colours of the lead saxophone instrumentation – it’s like a synergy is thus created that brings forth the joyous, heart-rending climax of ‘Lines Of Sight’s deeply empowering musical exploration.

A synergy perhaps pinpoints the process itself – or more specifically, the reaction the listener feels in midst of these otherworldly compositions – where the close interaction of Thorne’s sonic components produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their parts. A joy to witness unfold (and subsequently) transform.

The record amasses one giant cohesive whole, of breath-taking magnitude and raw  emotion, wherein endless contrasts of dense, polyrhythmic, frenetic free jazz waves are masterfully juxtaposed with the intimate, sparse and dappled light of orchestral colours. The rawness and energy that emanates from the utterly transcendent opus ‘From Inside, Looking Out’ (recalling the kindred spirit of Colin Stetson) serves the fitting opening to Thorne’s scintillating solo music path. This cathartic flow leads into the unwavering beauty of the sparse lament ‘From the Other Side of the World’ (reminiscent of English composer Michael Nyman’s timeless works), a piece of music you feel you have known all your life. A closeness and delicate beauty permeates each and every heart pore.

Similarly, the hypnotic,pulsating and blissful ‘From the Heavens’ is laden with heavy synthesizer instrumentation before the introspective stillness of ‘Pyriscence’ beautifully fades in, akin to a labyrinth of faded dreams.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is a very special and transformative solo work from a visionary composer.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.danielthorne.net/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

daniel thorne 2

Interview with Daniel Thorne.

 

Congratulations on the sublime debut solo album ‘Lines Of Sight’. The album title perfectly embodies the music- the intricate layers of saxophones (and bass synth in places) unfold endless new pathways that beautifully meld, intersect, overlap and yields magic at every turn. Please take me back to the making of your debut solo album and the challenges/opportunities this writing/recording process offered up (in contrast to your role in Immix Ensemble)?

Daniel Thorne: Thank you for the kind words! This has been a very different project to what I’m used to – in the past most my writing projects have been geared towards live performance, usually with a fairly frantic rush towards a rehearsal, then a premiere, and then often that’s it and I move on to the next thing. Dealing with studio-based composition is definitely a different kettle of fish. I’d been dabbling with it for a little while but had never managed to create anything that I felt was meaningful. I found that the infinite possibilities afforded by that way of working were quite intimidating, and I lost a lot of time trying to decide what instruments to write for, how many tracks to use, etc, etc. I ended up getting around that by basically creating an ‘ensemble’ of four saxophone parts and four synth parts, which was the limitation that I needed in order to get over that.

The other road block for me was being so used to writing music with live performance and performers in mind, which kept colliding with this desire to use the studio to do things that were essentially impossible to perform should I go out and gig the music. In the end I decided to take any ideas of a live realization of the music out of the equation and focus on creating something that was intended to be experienced in recorded form, which was really liberating. The irony is that now I’m trying to work out how to put together a live set that relates to this music, but that’s a whole other thing…

The glorious and mind-blowing opening track ‘From Inside, Looking Out’ serves the perfect opening to this sonic journey. I’m very curious to learn to what extent is a piece such as this born from improvisation (or particularly solo live performance)? The sheer intensity and raw energy unleashed is quite something indeed. Also, the distinct movements that are contained within this composition showcases the masterful arrangements of this record.

DT: I definitely wanted it to have the energy and rawness that you’re talking about, however this piece actually started out as a fairly simple chord progression played on the piano. The majority of the overall structure of the piece was written at the piano, and it was only later, after I’d made those decisions I mentioned before about which instruments I was going to use, that I started to shape and sculpt things in a more focused way. I knew I wanted to start with a bang, and I was very much thinking of the masses of sound created by large free jazz ensembles rather than something more polished and orchestral.

As the titles of the first half of ‘Lines Of Sight’ suggest, there is very much a bird’s eye view of the world – it’s almost as if the creator is above the clouds, inhabiting some otherworldly realm. Can you discuss the themes and central narrative to ‘Lines Of Sight’ please? Was coming up with the album-title a certain gateway into the music, so to speak?

DT: Aerial images and the idea of a bird’s eye view were very much in my mind when composing these pieces. In particular I was interested in exploring the idea of perspective and how that is altered by distance – how something like a river or an ocean that can be incredibly complex and detailed when viewed up close is reduced to a simple line or shape when viewed from high above, how the natural and man-made start to become indistinguishable from one another – and playing with those dualities and contradictions. The first half of the album actually started out as a stand-alone suite in three movements which was titled Lines of Sight, but when I decided to do a full album I wanted to keep those ideas at the core of the additional tracks. I felt that it was a phrase that encapsulated the concepts really well, and that it made sense as the title for the whole album rather than just the first half of it.

‘From the Other Side of the World’ is such a breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt lament that irresistibly floats in the ether. Can you take me back to composing and writing this particular piece? How long were these pieces simmering in your mind I wonder?

DT: This piece evolved in a very organic way, in contrast to some of the other tracks which came out of more rigid processes. It was literally just a case of improvising at the piano, and stumbling onto a chord progression that seemed to unlock everything else relatively quickly – I think I fleshed out the entire thing in about two days, which is fast for me. At the time I was feeling quite homesick and missing family and friends in Australia, so the piece began to take on this feeling of being a soundtrack to saying goodbye at the airport, taking off and arriving back in the UK.

In general, do you find these tracks were captured to tape after very few takes? The intimacy and immediacy of the music suggests they could be live takes in fact? Please describe your studio set-up and if you experimented with new processes on your solo outing?

DT: The way that I’d written things made it pretty difficult to do a full song in one take – dealing with multiple saxophone and synth parts that all had to be precisely synchronized meant that almost everything was fully scored out and had to be multi-tracked following a click track. The one exception to that was ‘Fear of Floating’, where I did one take of the main saxophone part (without a click) and then added everything else around it. I did generally try to limit myself to only doing a couple of takes for each part, mostly because otherwise I would have would up with a lot of material to sift through, but also because I wanted to embrace a certain amount of rawness and imperfection. I didn’t do any major editing other than a bit of comping here and there.

In terms of my studio setup, it’s pretty basic and low budget, just a laptop with a nice preamp and a microphone in the spare room at home, plus a synth and few effects pedals. The fact that I was multi-tracking everything and recording in a space that was fine but not particularly special in terms of its acoustics meant that the saxophone recordings were mic’d pretty close, which I think again helped to highlight smaller details and imperfections in each part, rather than creating a more homogenous, orchestral vibe.

The dichotomy of worlds and series of counterpoints and contrasting textures is something that occurs throughout ‘Lines Of Sight’. I love the more electronic/techno bliss of ‘From the Heavens’ and how this flows into the more fragile and organic sound world of ‘Pyriscence’. Was the sequencing of the record a significant challenge, to create that endless flow, as it were?

DT: That’s very flattering, but I actually think I just got lucky as in my mind there really only seemed to be one logical order for everything – as I mentioned, the first side was originally conceived as a suite and I didn’t want to break it up, while ‘Fear of Floating’ had always felt like an ending to me. Because the album began with quite a loud dramatic statement, I didn’t want to repeat that gesture to start the second half, which pretty much meant it had to be ‘Pyriscence’ – I really didn’t feel like there was any other way that made sense. I also really liked that that this meant that the two sides were sort of opposites of one another in terms of the balance between more- and less-dense pieces.

I would love to gain an insight into your compositional approach and the highly calculated nature of some aspects to your music-making process?

DT: Several of the pieces were developed out processes like isorhythm, long-range polyrhythm, and ratios. I’m fascinated by the way that certain ratios and sequences occur in nature, like fibonacci spirals and the golden ratio, and the idea of these things speaking to a kind of higher logic that, even if we’re not explicitly aware of, we recognize and feel on some level of our perception. I wanted to see how using similar kinds of devices and logics to inform the form and proportion of the pieces, without making them overly explicit, would influence the way the music was perceived by the listener. Probably the most strictly calculated in that regard is “Threnody for a Burning Building”, where all of the harmonic material comes from a very simple chord sequence moving at three different speeds simultaneously, while all the changes in the rhythmic texture are dictated by a series of polyrhythms and their interaction with one another. Having said that, that piece is definitely the most rigorous example, there are other tracks that grew in a much more organic way, while others contain a balance of both.

What’s next for you? Have you been enjoying any particular records of late?

DT: I’m doing my best to figure out my solo live set, and trying to find a way of creating a similar sonic environment to the album while also focusing on the kinds of things that I enjoy about live performance such as improvising, stretching material, etc. I’m also going to be working with Forest Swords to compose a piece for Immix that will be performed as part of the PRS New Music Biennial in London and Hull later this year. In terms of records, I love the new Szun Waves album, ‘New Hymn to Freedom” and I’m completely obsessed with David Lang’s ‘Mystery Sonatas’.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.danielthorne.net/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

Written by admin

July 10, 2019 at 2:28 pm