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Chosen One: Tindersticks

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Interview with Stuart A. Staples.

I often say to my kids that the most creative thing that I ever did was to have the bravery to leave Nottingham and go to London: just to take a step because from that step so many things were allowed to happen.”

—Stuart A. Staples

Words: Mark Carry

TINDERSTICKS, 2015

In the liner notes for the classic Tindersticks debut album (originally released in 1993), founding member David Boulter describes the richness of ideas coming from the group: “We had so much music running through us and so many ideas, we knew we had something bigger to make, and we needed somewhere bigger to make it.” The immense batch of songs – including ‘Marbles’, ‘Raindrops’, ‘Patchwork’, ‘City Sickness’, ‘Her’ and ‘The Not Knowing’ – were recorded in the Stone Room, a studio run by Ian Caple, who helped the band achieve the sound they wanted. Across twenty-one songs, every moment on the debut record felt special. Magic emanated from the rich instrumentation, intricate arrangements and poetic lyricism.  The same can be said for each and every Tindersticks record that followed. This original lineup of Stuart Staples, Neil Fraser, Dickon Hinchcliffe, David Boulter, Mark Colwill and Alasdair Macaulay possessed something utterly unique: a subconscious, deep conversation flows continuously between its members that is more than the sum of its parts. And this breathes deeply into the songs.

Two decades on, Tindersticks have a richness of ideas – echoing what Boulter writes in those liner notes albeit from an entirely different moment in time – that are fully realized on masterworks such as ‘The Something Rain’ and ‘The Waiting Room’ (marking the band’s last two studio albums, respectively). Every moment feels special. An infinite array of inspired moments fill these records that carves out a vast treasure of mesmerising beauty and sumptuous artistic detail. The current lineup – consisting of founding members Staples, Boulter and Fraser alongside more recent additions Earl Harvin (drums) and Dan McKinna (bass) – possess a deep telepathic connection that is not unlike that unique moment in time at the turn of the nineties.

The many projects that are interspersed between the band’s studio albums, from the monumental Claire Denis film scores – 2015’s ‘Les Salauds’ containing a beguiling electronic-oriented sound-world that signals yet another milestone – sound installations (from the Flanders museum in Belgium that is beautifully captured on ‘Ypres’) and this year’s spellbinding film and score ‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’. This singular sound of Tindersticks continues to evolve and develop, forever navigating uncharted territories of both the heart and mind alike, never knowing precisely where such explorations will lead us.

Minute Bodies’ is a deeply hypnotic and immersive film and dedication to the incredible work of naturalist, inventor and pioneering film-maker F. Percy Smith (whose work spanned the early years of the twentieth century). Smith developed various cinematic and micro-photographic techniques to capture nature’s secrets in action (take for example the ‘Fly Acrobat’ film). In the words of Staples (director of ‘Minute Bodies’): “His work transcends the constraints of its time, and how it teaches us about patience, commitment, ingenuity and determination.”

The forming of the edit and its musical score evolved over a three-year period. The recording sessions features French percussionist Thomas Belhom and Christine Ott (piano) with cameos from David Coulter (musical saw) and Julian Siegel (saxophone). The score effortlessly maps the hidden beauties of nature that Smith so masterfully portrays onscreen: a true match made in heaven. The ethereal ‘Percy’s Theme’ opens the score with a beautiful delicacy and immersive quality, which leads into ‘Gathering Moss’ and its luminous dreamscapes with gorgeous female harmonies ascending into the foreground. Eerie drone passages are fused with cinematic flourishes on the epic tour-de-force ‘Magic Myxies’ and the gradual piano pulses of ‘The Strangler’ could be a long distant companion to the band’s ‘Trouble Every Day’ score. The timeless cinematic jazz exploration ‘Scarlet Runner’ echoes the work of Mikael Tariverdiev before the star-lit skies of ‘Percy’s Dream’ (Reprise) drifts majestically into the ether.

‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’ is out now via City Slang.

https://tindersticks.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/tindersticksofficial/

 

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Interview with Stuart A. Staples.

Congratulations on the ‘Minute Bodies’ score and film; it’s very special. When did you first come across the work of F. Percy Smith and what led you to go about the project in the first place?

Stuart A. Staples: I wasn’t planning to; I just caught a glimpse of his work – well not necessarily his work but this microscopic world – and I wanted to find out more. From that I found out that there was a few things available on compilation DVDs, I got hold of that and just started making music; that was like three years ago so gradually I’d been able to get further and further into the archive and gradually pick up the support of the BFI. It’s been a long process, it was more like a hobby for a while and it finally got finished up like that after three years working on it – not solidly but sometimes it was an antidote to some of the other things I was working on.

As you say, it feels like a labour of love in many ways. ‘Minute Bodies’ in a similar way to the scorework of Tindersticks and many of your projects in the past, they act as a record in itself (in terms of the music). I wonder for the music of ‘Minute Bodies’ and to score the visuals, did you have the film edits in mind firstly or was it more naturally coming together at once?

S.A.S:  I think the first thing I thought was more about people: about musical characters that I knew and I thought that the first steps probably was to get together with Christine Ott who plays the Martenot and Thomas Belhom who is the French percussionist who we work with and David [Coulter] from the band and see what happened. We had a few days together very early on and we prepared some loops and some atmospheres and then I had chosen some parts of the film that I thought were exciting and so I brutally edited something and brutally prepared something. And then we started – we had a few days playing – it went so well that it just asked for more things to happen and I think that was the story of the project really; every time we took a step it asked for something else to happen and that’s what made it like a gradual thing. I think being for the first time in charge of the image as well as the music created this space where the pictures would inspire the musicians and the way the musicians reacted had an effect on the edit so it was always talking to each other that both elements were always having an effect on us.

It’s amazing listening and watching the finished piece, just how much of a dedication it is to F. Percy Smith’s life and work. Originally I presume there were voice-overs and over-dubs and nothing like it is now?

S.A.S: Obviously I think that when you look at the original educational films now, they feel incredibly dated for me but I felt this pure photography of Percy’s and this intimate moment between him and his subjects – whether that was developing frogs or whatever – there was this intimacy and solitude I felt with his photography. And I think taking that away from the educational films and the context and story and the educational element, the images felt free and wanted as well to deal with something today and something that our lives today are seen in a very different way and I think that was an exciting process.

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And with the music, I love how it feels like one cohesive whole where the pieces flow into one another. Certain pieces – like the lengthier tracks – like ‘Scarlet Runner’ and ‘Magic Myxies’ continually build and draw a lot of elements as they build.

S.A.S: I think to me I was more or less in the middle of so many great musicians that would be inspired by these great images and I just had to be the guy in the middle directing it: enjoying it but also keeping an eye always on where the direction it was heading in. I think that’s the enjoyable part about what I do really I suppose; I had maybe three days with someone like Julian Siegel, a couple of days with David Coulter as well as the band, there was a real richness of ideas of people taking Percy’s things and the way that inspired them and making something of their own out of it and contributing to the overall colours within the music, it was pretty exciting. And I think it was very different to what we’d done before but I think also as a process you can feel it changing as a band, as a group of musicians as well and playing the score live; it’s not like any kind of music we had to play live before. It’s actually having a great, subversive effect on us I think as a group of people.

It must be very exciting for you and the musicians to be playing the score live at these cine concerts. It’s something new but I suppose in recent years there’s been so many different mediums that you’re loosely involved with alongside music.

S.A.S: I think it’s important when you’ve been making albums and playing music for so long I think it has to find different ways of trying to keep being inspiring. And we have to be with each other and play music together, it would be impossible for us to play music together if we weren’t excited by everybody’s input. So I think it’s before we try and change shape, put yourself in a place where you’re not so comfortable and see where that takes you. And I think that’s been the key to I suppose the second part of our career. We had an original line-up and we came to an end, I think we ran out of conversation and I think a lot of that was to do with a semi-successful band; writing, recording, touring and with the cliché of that kind of turnover. I think with the last ten years it’s all been about not falling into that but actually having the confidence to follow your ideas and to where they take you but not feeling bound by these structures that exist and that has kept us alive and engaged.

It’s fascinating to think of the second chapter of Tindersticks – from ‘Hungry Saw’ onwards – it’s always exciting to discover each new release and the new ideas and directions for each of them. For example, ‘The Waiting Room’ – the last studio album – it naturally evolved on from ‘The Something Rain’ and the films made for each song was also very interesting.

S.A.S: It’s all been good and exciting. I think for this line-up – the second line-up of the band – it took us a couple of albums and we had a hard act to follow as well [laughs]. At the beginning our original band was a really fantastic, subconscious thing to be involved in and I never thought that I would end up in another great band in the way that they worked together. So, I think it took a couple of albums but when we got to ‘The Something Rain’ I think there was something going on between the five of us and again the music became more of the sum of its parts. That led into ‘The Waiting Room’ and working with Claire [Denis] and working for the museum in Belgium [‘Ypres’] there’s just a different kind of breadth to our work so it’s been a good time.

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I get the impression that each project and release must feed into the next like how you’re inspired by ‘Minute Bodies’ right now and how that must filter into the next Tindersticks album and so on?

S.A.S: That’s for sure. I think one of the reasons we’re still here and playing together is because of the work with Claire Denis and I think that she has always dragged us away from our thing and made us look into a different place and work in the more extreme parts of what we do. By the time we come back to working on our own music again we’re always changed. I think working on the soundtrack for ‘White Material’ really fed into ‘The Something Rain’ and working on ‘Les Salauds’ have had such an effect on our music; everything is always talking to each other. I’ve got no idea of what the band is going to make next but I’m looking forward to finding out.

The sound installation that is beautifully captured on ‘Ypres’ was another new venture for you and where it was and the history steeped inside it?

S.A.S: I suppose I believe – or maybe I’ve always believed it but just having the confidence to stand by it – if you have a strong feeling for something that you can find a way to make it happen and I think for ‘Ypres’ that was a real example of that for me. I stood in this place and I had this idea but I thought ‘how do I achieve that?’ but I think you have to find the right people to help you; the right people to put these ideas in place and you can actually figure out a way to get to where you need to go. I think ‘Ypres’ in a way was a real lesson that if you’ve got a strong feeling  – even if you don’t know how to make it exist – find a way to get help to do that, it’s a good thing.

It’s always beautiful seeing these long-term collaborations and Claire Denis and Tindersticks is one of those really wonderful stories that started so long ago and continuing with strength and strength. Looking back over the different films and scores, is there similarities or common elements in terms of creating music with Claire for the scores themselves?

S.A.S:  I suppose fundamentally every score has pushed us into different directions. We have this relationship and we have this conversation or narrative going on, I think what the actual ideas have; that’s where the real differences come and I think you can’t help but look at these ideas in different ways. I think for a film like ‘Trouble Every Day’ the ideas came from before Claire had even written it, she was talking about how she wanted to make a film about lovers and why lovers wanted to bite each other. It started off as a very romantic thing for us but I think by the time the film was made tough kind of erotic film really, the score is so romantic it created a very special relationship I think between the images and the music and that’s one example.

With ‘Les Salauds’ – the film before our last one – that was more about the idea of a sailor and when a sailor sees his life as simple and his work is ordered and he doesn’t have any worries but when he puts his feet on dry land that’s when all the complications start. And I think for the main character, the sailor is coming back to Paris to sort out a family problem. I think from that point of view we started thinking about the music electronically so even though it was set in Paris it was for me putting myself into this strange world that I wasn’t sure where I was for ages; I found myself surrounded by machines that I didn’t know how to use. I think that created a strange world within the film and there was a certain uncertainty about it. I think each one has asked for different things and even the last film it’s totally different again. I think it’s how something comes at you and affects you, how she feels about it, how she gets inspired and I think that she’s always open like that.

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The electronic elements in ‘Les Salauds’ worked so well, it was so compelling this journey it takes you on. And the ‘extreme’ sounds of the band you have already mentioned, you can really feel that particularly on the band’s last two albums: it may be only thirty or so minutes long but the range of ideas and sonic elements within each song; it’s fascinating just how much happens in that space of time.

S.A.S: I think the work on ‘The Waiting Room’, you just don’t want to deal with anything that you’ve dealt with before and I think that’s hard. I think say for Neil’s guitar on ‘The Something Rain’ we found this great space for Neil’s guitar and a great sound for it: it was very particular and it came out of so much experimentation, we found this one thing that runs through the whole of the album and Neil’s guitar on ‘The Something Rain’ is just so fantastic. But it need snipping off [laughs] because I think you start looking for new things and I think ‘The Waiting Room’ Neil is present as he ever is but it’s just in very different ways, he plays a lot of nylon string guitars; it’s just looking for different colours, different combinations within the songs, different rhythms: you just want to feel as though you didn’t get into this place before.

It’s something that started back in the early days but those spoken word songs like ‘My Sister’ and the sister song ‘Chocolate’ that opened ‘The Something Rain’ and the incredible ‘How He Entered’ are some of the finest of the band’s songs.

S.A.S:  Well they’re both songs by David [Coulter], ‘My Sister’ and ‘Chocolate’ so they’re very much him; his personality whereas I think ‘How He Entered’ to me is more akin to a song like ‘Marbles’ from the early days, I think it had that kind of connection. I think David’s songs and David’s ideas are always very, very particular to me and very, very special within what we do, so it’s like another different angle to come into the big mixture I suppose.

I’d love for you to discuss your studio and it’s obviously the space in which so much of the music has been made and recorded over the years and what makes it so inspiring to record in?

S.A.S: I think the space itself and feeling that you are in a space that is inviting and open to what can happen I think is really, really important. I think gradually along the way I’ve learned about recording and I’ve learned about the elements of recording that I like that I tend to stick to (which is probably a bad thing) to do with microphones because I’d like to make my job as easy as possible in a way because I spend so much time alone, I want to know what I’m going to get if I’ve got an idea and I want to capture it, I want it to be as straight forward as possible in the recording. Having a studio it’s not like having a recording studio to me, it’s a studio that’s there to go to whether you’re recording or not where different things can happen but the space itself is a very special space to me.

In what way do you feel leaving the UK and living in France has helped inspire your music?

S.A.S: I don’t think necessarily about being in France but I do think about leaving the place that you grew up in that becomes the thing that defines you, I think cutting something like that away brings a certain kind of freedom; it brought me a certain kind of freedom. Talking about my studio, I don’t think about it like “this is this place in the middle of France” I just think to me when I am in there I’m somewhere in Europe; I don’t think that I’m rooted into one place. It has that kind of relationship where it feels divorced from everywhere really, it’s just a place of its own. And I think I wouldn’t have been able to find that even if I could have or would have been able to have that in London, I don’t think I would have got to this point in the way I think about what I do .

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Going back to the original lineup at the turn of the 90’s, you must have strong memories of forming the band and this group of friends making music and particularly the demos for the debut Tindersticks record and how surprised you were when you heard what you were creating as it’s such a singular sound?

S.A.S: That record has a little story. We made a mini-album with Asphalt Ribbons about eighteen months before and we gave ourselves up to that kind of mentality of the music industry, somebody gave us a little bit of money and we gave it up to a studio and a producer to make this record and we walked away from it feeling deflated I suppose. And then we just moved to London and everything that that entails and we spent individually – especially for myself and David – we spent a long time – years and years – trying to getting people to engage with us in some way and not very successfully at all. I think what happened was after one disappointment after another it was like ‘let’s not try this anymore, let’s just do our own thing’.

I think from that moment and also I got a job at a Rough Trade shop and I was just surrounded by – in the early 90’s – all of this energy in London and lots of small independent labels. It was like let’s just make a single in our kitchen the way we want to make it and we made ‘Patchwork’ in our kitchen and we managed to sell 500 copies and then we thought about what would be next and we made ‘Marbles’ and we sold 1,500 copies and we made everything ourselves. And I think this was all leading towards making our first album and we demoed the first album in that situation (in that kitchen).

The demos, for me, are when the excitement really happens and when we went to make the album; the songs were there, the ideas were there but then working with an engineer like Ian Caple, it enabled us to bring the most out of sounds, the whole thing was elevated and making that record it was a surprise: there was a moment when we collectively looked at each other and there was a bit of a moment of ‘wow this is actually really happening’ [laughs]. You can’t really have those moments twice in your life but I remember it very distinctly.

It’s wonderful to think that the music spans from those early days and so much sparks were happening subconsciously between you all?

S.A.S: I think it was a real moment in time. I often say to my kids that the most creative thing that I ever did was to have the bravery to leave Nottingham and go to London: just to take a step because from that step so many things were allowed to happen but sometimes I think those steps are the hardest to take; you don’t get a direct reward from them but you can put yourself into a situation where things can change and things can happen and it is so important to keep a grasp of that as well.

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Another important period was after the band’s hiatus and your two solo albums – both quite different – with some of your finest recordings captured. This must have been a particularly important and creative time for you?

S.A.S: I think they’re both very different to me and I think for the first one [‘lucky dog recordings 03-04’] it’s probably up there as my favourite thing that I’ve ever made. There was a certain stripping everything back to an end of a starting point and that record to me hasn’t got such a connection with ‘The Something Rain’ or ‘The Waiting Room’, it hasn’t got the technique or the confidence but it has desire and it has the ideas; that was a point in time when I think our original line-up of the band got trapped into making music in a certain way and I think that maybe when characters are just together constantly for that amount of time, writing and making music together it maybe becomes impossible to not fit together in a certain kind of way and the more we fit together the more disappointing it was in a certain way.

And I think with making ‘Waiting For The Moon’ it was a very long process and it was very considered but it’s got some really great songs on there I think but at the time I just needed to make something raw and something willing to be ugly; that’s what the idea asked for. It was something that gradually grew in my garage and I think for ‘Leaving Songs’ it was a burst of songwriting, probably the only time that I had written songs of a certain way like that was probably for the second album because all of the songs on the second album were more or less written in a space of six months. Whether it’s ‘She’s Gone’, ‘Talk To Me’, ‘Travelling Light’, ‘A Night In’, all of those songs I can’t really imagine writing that many songs now in a certain period of time but ‘Leaving Songs’ was like that too, I just kept writing them. I just felt like I had to be true to them and maybe get rid of this Nashville thing that has been inside me since I could remember [laughs], it very much helped me to leave that behind so I’m pleased about that.

And there’s certain pieces on ‘Minute Bodies’, particularly the dreamy soundscapes like ‘Gathering Moss’ with the female harmonies, really transports you to that first solo album of yours.

S.A.S: Yeah I can see that. The thing for me about ‘Minute Bodies’ is if I think about that track it was one of the first tracks that we wrote. It was exciting to feel as though it was without a centre; that the centre of the music is the image and the music is kind of like a donut or something, it’s not something solid in the middle that holds it there. I think that’s whats really exciting about ‘Minute Bodies’ it all just holds in the air somehow and that’s pretty exciting.

Is there any records you’re obsessed with lately?

S.A.S: Three years ago I was introduced to Kendrick Lamar by one of my sons, he was playing ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ back to back and I’m surprised of how this guy has had such an effect on me, not going to make music like him but I’m talking about just feeling in tune with the way that he makes music. I think that he’s a very rare artist and that has rekindled a love of a certain kind of music that’s more direct and more about the song and his progression from then has been quite something. I’m glad that’s that’s been in my life the last few years.

‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’ is out now via City Slang.

https://tindersticks.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/tindersticksofficial/

 

Chosen One: Heather Trost

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“My first love will always be my violin, but the Hammond chord organ and Davolisint have a beautiful timbre that was really inspiring in the creative process and allowed me to explore some new ideas.” 

—Heather Trost

Words: Craig Carry

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This year marks the eagerly anticipated release of “Agistri”, the debut solo album by the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based multi-instrumentalist and composer Heather Trost. Best known as violinist and one half of the much-loved and world-renowned duo A Hawk And A Hacksaw (alongside longtime collaborator Jeremy Barnes of Neutral Milk Hotel), Trost has also contributed (in both studio and live contexts) to a wide array of musicians and songwriters in the past, including: Neutral Milk Hotel; Beirut; Josephine Foster; Thor Harris of Swans; and stargaze, the Berlin-based, André de Ridder-led orchestral collective. “Agistri” follows up Trost’s pair of previous solo recordings, the debut 7″ for Ba Da Bing! Records (2014) and 2015’s stunningly expansive and dreamlike “Ourobouros” (Cimotti Recordings), the latter consisting of two epic side-long tracks revealing multi-layered synthesiser-based passages of both quiet intensity and profound beauty.

“Agistri” – released via Living Music Duplication in early June – is named after the Greek Island whose unique Saronic Gulf surroundings provided an early inspiration to the album (Trost first encountered the island while on tour with A Hawk And A Hacksaw in Greece). The spellbinding album weaves its irresistible spell upon the listener from the title-track opener to lead single “Agina”, touching effortlessly upon a myriad of sounds and styles along the way – from Éthiopiques to Brian Wilson and from Van Dyke Parks to the landmark productions by 50s/60s pioneers Spector, Meek and Nitzsche.

Trost’s own stunningly surrealist and poetic lyricism (recalls Lee Hazlewood’s mastery of song craft in being able to imprint such a lasting impression in so few words) beautifully compliments the immaculate musicianship of Trost’s esteemed ensemble, her bandmates consisting of Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeremy Barnes on drums and bass, Deerhoof’s John Dieterich on guitar, and Drake Hardin and Rosie Hutchinson of cult New Mexico band Mammal Eggs.

“Agistri” by Heather Trost is available now on LM Dupli-Cation.

http://lmduplication.com/

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Interview with Heather Trost.

Congratulations on the making of “Agistri”, it is such a special and magnificent album. The breathtaking range of instrumentation and ideas for the songs’ arrangements, the poetic and surrealist lyrics and immaculate production makes the album pulsate with so much heart and life. If you could first take me back to the genesis for the making of “Agistri”: When did the writing process begin for this set of songs? 

Heather Trost: Thank you so much for the kind words! I started working on “Agistri” two years ago. I had done two releases under my name, a 7″ and a tape, and I kept writing more songs. I joined Jeremy Barnes touring with Neutral Milk hotel in 2015, and started thinking of songs in the van, and even playing them on a tiny keyboard with headphones. When I got home I would record them in our studio.

When did you first visit or come across the Greek island of Agistri?

HT: I have always loved Greece, and Greek culture, food and music. Jeremy and I were on tour last summer, and we played in Athens. We had some time off, so we took a boat to the closest two Islands, the second being Agistri. It was extremely hot, you could cut the air with a knife. We rented bikes and rode around the island, and then found a totally isolated cove. The island is basically a bunch of huge hills with pine trees, and very arid. It reminded me of New Mexico, except with turquoise blue water.

The songwriting on “Agistri” is so stunning. I love how – on the one hand – there is a kind of purity and simplicity in the lyrics like those classic 60s pop songs (like Spector, Nitzsche or Wilson), while on the other hand there are so many hidden layers to be found and revealed upon repeat listens (for instance: “I’m a castaway / looking for the shore” from “Agina” or “oceans rising all around / ‘Till I float away” from “Agistri”. In terms of writing lyrics, where do you find your inspiration? 

HT: Thank you so much! I’ve always loved the lyrics of Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson, they tell a story, but there’s multiple layers. I guess I write a lot of my lyrics thinking about dreams, symbolism and trying to create imagery. I have always loved the writing of Carl Jung, especially his descriptions of his dream life.

I also love the fact that you draw upon the landscape and immediate surroundings a lot (the ocean, the moon, the sun, the desert) for your writing. It brings to mind folk spirits like Sibylle Baier or Vashti Bunyan and how you can transform the everyday into something magical. New Mexico itself must be such a magnificent source of inspiration for you too, as its landscape and history clearly finds its way into your music and songs?

HT: I have always loved the New Mexican landscape, but it took leaving New Mexico to realize it’s grasp on my heart and imagination. It’s incredibly varied, from desert to forest, mountains and endless vistas. I found similarities in the topography of Greece and Spain, but it’s totally unique. There is a lot to draw on from your environment if you look around. I’m lucky in that I love where I’m from and draw inspiration from it.

Growing up, which musicians and songwriters did you most identify with and resonated with you the deepest? 

HT: My dad had a great record collection. We listened to the Beach Boys, Santana, Pink Floyd. But we also listened to a lot of classical music. When I first heard “Surf’s Up” by Brian Wilson, I thought it was the most perfect song ever written. I also really loved Fleetwood Mac as a teen, and Stevie Nicks was one of my first concerts. In high school I was into darker music, Björk, Portishead and Black Sabbath.

“Me And My Arrow” is my current favourite, I love the progression from the verse to chorus (from “And in the morning when I wake up” onwards) and the melody of the song itself is so pristine and timeless, where the rhythm and vocals work so beautifully together. The magic of how those drum and vocal sounds combine together reminds me of groups like The Ronettes or The Crystals. I’d love for you to reflect on the making of this song? It must have been such a lovely moment for you all when listening to this back in its final recorded form?

HT: This song came together pretty fast, but then we did a lot of tweaking and pulling certain things in and out in the mixing stage. It has a couple of organs layered to make this nice staccato chord things, but then becomes really sparse with just a Wurlitzer and voice during the breakdown. Jeremy did an amazing job of adding piano chords, and electric bass. The piano I think adds a nice organic layer to the sound, giving it a classic acoustic feel. I’m also in love with the way our old upright sounds, it’s got a lot of character, and I’m glad it’s on the album.

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In terms of the song arrangements, I’d love to first go back to your solo tape cassette release “Ouroboros”. Those two side-long tracks “Berkshires” and “Święta Góra” are so gripping and moving, it brings to mind so many of the great synthesiser-based composers of the seventies and eighties but it also touches so effortlessly upon so many types of music and traditions: krautrock, new age, ambient and electronic. I’d love if you could talk about this project and the making of “Ouroboros”?

HT: These were compositions I worked on while on tour with Neutral Milk Hotel. We were driving through the Berkshire mountains, and it was grey and rainy, and I wanted to try and capture the feeling of those gloomy landscapes somehow. I just found myself adding layers and layers, making it feel like clouds and fog covering a mountain. “Święta Góra” I wrote using an Italian Davolisint, and DX7 which is also prominent on “Agistri”, and layering sounds with a tape echo. I was thinking about a mountain in this piece as well, Šwieta Góra means holy mountain in Polish.

The arrangements on “Agistri” are so diverse and nuanced and yet very tight and finely honed at the same time. Yourself and your band members Jeremy Barnes, John Dieterich, Drake Hardin and Rosie Hutchinson combine to create such a breathtaking sound. It reminds me of the inventiveness from Dieterich & Barnes’ “The Coral Casino” or the songbooks of bands like Lambchop, Camera Obscura or Julia Holter in terms of how you can incorporate so many separate sounds into a single pop song structure. In terms of recording set-up, what was the main instrumentation that you chose to use? How were these songs initially composed, was it simply voice and guitar or voice and piano? 

HT: I started many of the harmonic ideas using a chord organ. I often come up with chords, harmonic movement and basslines before melody and lyrics, but not always. “Real Me/Real You” was composed first with the melody and lyrics. I played the beat on DX7 and then started singing over it. Then I added all the other layers and Jeremy played drums, and Drake added electric guitar. “Abiquiu” was written on piano, and then I recorded it on the Hammond chord organ.

“Agistri” and “Agina” were started by Jeremy and I each playing an organ at the same time, both hammonds, and one of us would play chords, the other coming up with a melody on top, and vis versa. Then John added really great guitar lines on “Abiquiu” and “Agistri”, and of course Jeremy added drums, electric bass and a layer of piano and organ on “Plastic Flowers”, “Agina”, “Agistri” and “Abiquiu”. Drake added guitar, vibes and bass on “Me And My Arrow” and guitar on “Real Me/Real You”. Rosie sang amazing back up vocals, and we did some vocal experimenting on “Plastic Flowers” that came out nicely.

I always love how instruments themselves carry their own unique histories and that sense of identity and complex history is always associated with them no matter what new context they are being used in. I always love reading how musicians – for example Jeremy or Calexico’s John Convertino or Joey Burns – talk about how all these disparate music traditions (whether Portuguese fado or Hungarian folk etc.) find their ways into so many new contexts and sounds. I’d love if you talk about the different instruments as used on the album? What are your own most prized musical instruments?

HT: Sure! I mentioned already the Hammond organs, Wurlitzer and the Davolisint which has a totally unique character, and our upright piano. I also used a DX7 to create some different bass and percussion sounds, as well as an 80s casio to add a shimmer. I also used a mellotron on “Bloodmoon” and “Agina”, the saxophone sample. Also just some nice basic things, guitar, bass. John has this tiny French guitar he used on “Agina”. I also played violin on “Abiquiu”.

My first love will always be my violin, but the Hammond chord organ and Davolisint have a beautiful timbre that was really inspiring in the creative process and allowed me to explore some new ideas.

I love the closer “Three Feathers”, its slow pulse and organic flow is like a desert being slowly enveloped in shadow. It also forms such a touching counterpoint (and closing note) to the more up-tempo and more densely arranged songs. It also ties back wonderfully to your “Ouroboros” work. I’d love if you could talk about the making of this piece? 

HT: I think you described it wonderfully! It was a similar process to “Ouroboros” in that I was trying to make a soundscape that would invoke the listeners imagination to create their own imagery.

What music, books or films have recently inspired you?

HT: I recently learned of an incredible hammer dulcimer player and singer named Dorothy Carter, she has an amazing album from 1978 called “Wailee Wailee”, she has a Sibylle Baier quality, and reminds me a bit of Catherine Ribiero, but she is completely unique. I recently read Thomas Mann’s “Der Zauberberg” (“The Magic Mountain”). I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about Mann’s descriptions of place, emotions and time are otherworldly and magical. I have been loving the films of Peter Strickland, especially his Hungarian Epic “Katalin Varga” and “The Duke of Burgundy”, both beautiful films.

“Agistri” by Heather Trost is available now on LM Dupli-Cation.

http://lmduplication.com/

Written by admin

June 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Chosen One: Andrea Belfi

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“I think trying to find a unique sound was my first aim always and that’s what I’m still trying to do.”

 Andrea Belfi

Words: Mark Carry

 1- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Italy’s Andrea Belfi is a drummer, composer and electroacoustic musician whose unique music path has continually developed and evolved throughout the 2000’s with the release of several scintillating solo works and a plethora of collaborative works (many of which have been released on the prestigious Berlin label Miasmah). The gifted Berlin-based composer’s newest solo work ‘Ore’ is his most captivating and deeply affecting bodies of work thus far that marks new independent label Float’s debut release.

Deeply hypnotic soundscapes are unleashed throughout ‘Ore’, creating, in turn, a timeless exploration in the art of repetition and variation. The opening ‘Anticline’ is a sublime dub odyssey that somehow orbits the beautiful intersection between the dub techno of Germany’s Rhythm & Sound and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s dub marvels at the Black Ark. Space is the place. The hugely enveloping piece continually mutates and transforms into new versions of itself as an ethereal dimension is attained at each and every turn. The synth elements – and the intricate array of divine nuances and sonic details – forges new horizons where stunning, unnerving soundscapes evoke the classic ‘Under The Skin’ score by British composer Mica Levi.

Iso’ is filled with the colours and textures of 50’s jazz music. The majestic drums drift in the ether of unknown possibilities. Certainly, this formidable creation transports the listener to Belfi’s near-mythical live solo performances. In fact, the live feel permeates throughout the aching pulse of ‘Ore’, which represents one of the hallmarks of this truly great record. Rewind twelve months and memories of witnessing the Verona-born musician’s hugely inspiring solo live set (alongside Nonkeen) at Nils Frahm’s ‘Possibly Colliding’ festival at London’s Barbican: the raw energy and sheer power of his drum playing hypnotize and enrapture that pulls you in deep akin to the gravitational pull of the earth itself.

The immediacy and pulsating energy of ‘Lead’ unfolds a rich narrative wherein drums and electronics are masterfully woven together. A fragile beauty seeps into the human space. The spectrum of enchanting sounds reveals the composer’s uncanny ability to create vast, empowering sound collages with minimal framework of drums and synthesizers. It’s the rich organic quality that exudes throughout ‘Lead’ that forges a deeply personal and otherworldly experience.

Ore’s pinnacle arrives on the shape-shifting tour-de-force ‘Ton’ with its deep bass rhythm and spectral palette, which continually expands and evolves with masterful use of delays and reverb. The brooding, cinematic atmosphere could depict the neon-lit city skyline of a distant utopia. The tempo is marvelously slowed down on the drone-infused ambient cycle ‘Syncline’ with its gorgeous ebb and flow of divine textures and gradual, swirling rhythms. The horizon is upon us.

‘Ore’ is released on Friday, May 26th via Float.

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

 2- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Interview with Andrea Belfi.

 

Congratulations on your new solo release ‘Ore’, it’s really incredible. I’d love for you to discuss the making of the new music? As a listener, it’s lovely to hear a solo work of yours and just how much you achieve with your tools of drums and synthesizer.

Andrea Belfi: The process of creating this album lasted probably about nine months or so because basically I started recording in May. I started using a method that I developed last year, I started recording some electronic beats but just to use those beats as a metronome or a beat keeper but at the same time some sounds that could bring me to a different world while recording drum beats basically. The idea was to start composing those tracks from drum beats but using these electronic beats in order to get into the hypnotic mood. So I recorded twelve different beats – like electronic beats – that I would use as a metronome but with a sort of a mood already into it. And then I went to the recording studio and I recorded these drumbeats with Mathias Hahn who is Nils Frahm’s stage technician; he’s an incredible sound technician. While I was on tour with Nils with Nonkeen we got along pretty well together and he was saying ‘Nils is getting this new recording studio at the Funkhaus in Berlin and he’s away for a week’ [laughs] so he said ‘We should use it, you can rent it out and we can go there and record it together because I think it’s the right time to do it’. And in a way he was encouraging to do so but I was already thinking about recording a new solo album but at the same time things came together very naturally. So, I got in touch with Mathias and I had this methodology already in mind and it got together pretty naturally. So, after these drum recordings I started editing and composing but in fact the drum beats came first.

It sounds very interesting how there were many stages in order to complete the music-making process. And what makes the Funkhaus so special as a recording space?

AB: I mean somehow it’s a piece of art because it’s an art piece. I think it is one of these very well crafted, beautifully designed studios where you really feel comfortable while playing music. It’s very difficult to describe but it’s very inspiring; it’s a very inspiring sounding room and that’s what makes it so interesting and important somehow plus the decorations are also part of it. The sound there is truly amazing and it has a very nice and smooth reverb which is present but at the same time you feel it’s there but is a preponderant.

The tracks themselves, I love how the opener ‘Anticline’ it’s one of those pieces that’s quite long but it’s that space you are able to create within the piece but also the close dialogue that’s ongoing between the synthesizer parts and the drums and also how the drums keep coming back at various points.

AB: I like the fact that it’s a very minimal piece of music but there is a narrative at the same time so it’s hypnotic but it’s also dubby in a way. It’s dub music if you look at it from a dub perspective it makes sense I think because there is this hypnotic world where you flow in but at the same time there are minimal variations that keep you inside the track. I would say that the first track is probably one of the most song-oriented tracks that I have ever released as a solo artist.

Throughout the album the effect of each component whether it’s the synthesizer or drums is very powerful and feels very much like one cohesive whole.

AB: In fact when I compose my solo music I tend to think of every element as one so I’m more of a composer than a drummer. So I’m really focusing on the composition itself than just my being a drummer if you know what I mean. When I started composing the songs from the drums recordings, it’s a natural process; I create a mood and then I try to dig into that mood. And to develop the synth parts, first of all trying to be as minimal as I can and then to make sound textures – and treating them almost as a melodic element – it’s very simple because there is not many chord changes, it’s very much like drone music basically. So I tend to compose for drums and electronics in an organic way; the drums is as important as the electronic part.

Your special live performances – and one particularly was your performance with Nonkeen last year and your solo drum performances during the ‘Possibly Colliding’ festival – there’s something about the live performance that very much is captured on this album, which is obviously a great thing.

AB: You’re pointing out something very important which is the live feeling of this album and it makes a big difference from the previous production that I did before and that’s something that I really wanted to keep. In fact part of this record – track number 2 & 3 (‘Iso’ and ‘Lead’) – they were basically live compositions that I prepared these compositions for my live set. While recording the material I had two set-ups in the studio; one for the new recordings and one for the live recording so I developed a solo live set within the last two years that I’ve been playing for about two years and that’s also the solo live set that I’ve been playing for Nonkeen’s tour. So the live feeling or the person playing that was really important even when I was really producing the music and crafting the final master; that was really important to keep the live feeling of it. So you have the feeling there is one person playing in front of you even when it’s very produced music.

I’d love to know more about your current live set-up and whether your equipment has been the same over the past decade of making music?

AB: I produce all of my electronic sounds through this synthesizer called Nord Modular and it’s a Swedish synthesizer that was made in the mid-90’s through the mid-00’s; I’ve been working on it for about fifteen years now, maybe a bit more, so I developed my own sound palette. And I have controllers so I have a sampler pad which is filled with Nord Modular electronic sounds. It’s a digital modular synthesizer and for me it became like my electronic music tool basically; I have a strong relationship with it [laughs]. And of course while producing the music for the record I used also some delays and some other production tools.

Then regarding the drums, when I play live I have a simple drum kit; there is a bass drum and a snare drum, floor tom and I have one cymbal and I have some percussion that I use, it’s not a complete drum set but it’s a minimal drum set. So I’ve been using this particular brand of drums, Ludwig for about ten years now and it’s an old Ludwig Super Classic drum set from the 1960’s and that’s where I developed my own particular drum sound, I think you’ve seen it when I was playing the Barbican. So it’s a big and fat bass drum sound; it’s kind of jazzy but at the same time it can be very powerful and intense. And last year I got this deal with a new drum company called Sari – it’s a Finnish drum company – I was very interested in those drum sets because first of all they sound similar to that sound that I built through my Ludwig but at the same time they had a twist; they are very interesting drum kits because they’re very similar to early Jazz drum kit from the 1920’s for example because they’re very light and they have a very open sound and long sound and very rich with harmonics. Most of the recordings on the record are with both drum kits so it’s kind of a transition: using two different drum kits for two different kinds of feeling. For example ‘Ton’ – which is the fourth track – is made with the Sari kit. I also have a preference for old jazz cymbals which have the same kind of characteristic so not much attack, very smooth and arc; that’s what I like.

I imagine the extensive Nonkeen tour – and your solo sets opening for Nonkeen each night – must have provided a lot of inspiration for the material on ‘Ore’ in terms of ideas and material?

AB: Oh absolutely, it was very important actually. It gave me lots of ideas to work with it and it was a very inspiring tour. And it was also very hard because playing solo and Nonkeen set was pretty intense but at the same time I learned a lot from that tour especially playing my solo set on the bigger stage; that was very important because I’d been playing this solo set in smaller places where I can really control the dynamics very well and in certain places I really had to deal with dynamics in a very different way: different crowds, different dynamics basically. I mean I really want to communicate to translate my music on a different level but the most important thing is to translate my idea of music on different stages and that was a very challenging situation. Sometimes it was very challenging because maybe you’re in front of several hundred people and you got used to maybe maximum one hundred people in front of you and that makes a huge difference because you have to maybe play louder to get the attention of that amount of people and then maybe get quieter again and use the dramaturgy in a different way [laughs].

3 - Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

You have improvised a lot in your previous musical output and I loved your Miasmah-related projects you have been involved with, especially the B/B/S releases. I suppose that whole idea of having a certain chemistry with other members and musicians and improvising with your own instruments and music is something you have been developing over a long period of time?

AB: Yeah it’s been a long time since I started working with improvised music. I did my first improvised music show in 2001 actually, I remember I was playing in Verona – my hometown in Italy – I was playing this metal sculpture that a local artist made and that was my first attempt to create improvised music. And then within the last few years I’ve been playing with lots of different people and I’ve been travelling quite a lot and I’ve been playing with a lot of different improvisers; different kinds like electronic musicians. And with B/B/S it’s another improvised music project that I really like because even if we improvise, we have our own language so it’s one aspect of improvisation which is having a particular language and using it to improvise. And that’s what I do with my solo way of improvising but also I would bring this into different projects and contexts. In Nonkeen as well, I brought some of this especially while we were rehearsing actually. Before the tour started we rehearsed quite a lot in order to develop a coherent live set. I have the feeling that it helped somehow for the band to get into that territory. I mean Nonkeen used to be an improvised music band.

You feel that very much on the two Nonkeen studio records as well as much as when you see the live show. I remember you were saying before how you were inspired hugely by Ennio Morricone?

AB: It’s a huge influence. I mean everyone in Italy of my age – but not just my age – and watching Sergio Leone’s films as kids and we know these albums and tracks by heart but then I started discovering more and more of his music through the last fifteen years or so. He’s always pushing boundaries of film music into his own world, it’s really inspiring. He’s very influential on my more song-oriented music but the atmosphere he creates is just incredible and very influential on my music. There are certain albums that I love. My favourite Morricone album is Come Maddalena and there’s something on it which is so complex and so simple at the same time, it’s so beautiful; under the simplicity there is a huge complexity. I mean you can say this about a lot of music but I think that’s the thing I really like about Ennio Morricone. He has a unique sound; that’s what I really like, whenever you listen to some of Morricone’s music you say ‘Ah,that’s him!’ and that’s what I like about artists and musicians in general when you listen to something or when you see something and you recognize a trademark: something original and compelling and at the same time it’s personal and experimental.

I get the impression you probably started playing the drums at a very young age? I’d be curious to know how you started and developed when you were younger?

AB: I started at the age of fourteen playing drums. There was this band  – friends of mine – that I used to skateboard with so it was this young crew who wanted to start their own punk band and I really wanted to join that group so I started how to play drums, I had to be pretty fast [laughs]. In terms of the learning process and also rhythmical wise, it was pretty fast rhythms so I started to take drum lessons when I was fourteen and then I had my first show at fifteen in a local pub, it was really, really exciting. In fact that’s something that I hope I will never lose; this kind of excitement about playing gigs. I mean sometimes it is not so easy to have this feeling all of the time – I play a lot of shows – but in general that’s the spirit I try to bring always on stage basically.

Then I’d been studying for a few years but I started in punk bands from fourteen and then I moved on into different directions after that. First of all, all kinds of hardcore punk; I was into that scene in the mid-90’s when I was a teenager. It was life changing. Then I moved to different strands of music and then I discovered this band Gastr del Sol: for me it’s still one of my favourite bands and in a way I really think that their combination of straight forward rock music and electroacoustic music like the weirdest experimental music is somehow I feel that’s where my music comes from. I also got to play with David Grubbs (the founding member of Gastr del Sol) I started collaborating with him back in 2009, he was based in New York but sometimes we had the chance to play together.

At the same time by the end of the 90’s I got into electronic music a lot, so Warp Music Records basically [laughs] and lots of minimalist music like La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine: it was nothing really about drums – sometimes it was about drums – but it was more a different type of music that I really loved in general. And I got into radical improvised music so I started combining drums and electronics. I’ve always been trying to develop new ideas through exciting music that I have discovered through the years.

That’s the cool thing listening to your solo music it’s like blurring the boundaries where it’s hard to describe the music or pin point exactly what  it is.

AB: It’s not a great business tool [laughs] not knowing what kind of music this is but in a way that’s what I like. I was trying to in my own little world to push the boundaries of the music that I knew and to make it different all the time like using references – not really doing it literally but getting inspired by certain solutions like combining field recordings and drums or electronics and drums or certain atmosphere – I think trying to find a unique sound that was my first aim always and that’s what I’m still trying to do.

Are you listening to any particular favourite records at the moment?

AB: That’s a good question actually, I mean I listen to a lot of records at the moment. I really like this sound poetry electroacoustic music by an Italian musician called Francesco Cavaliere, he’s pretty cool in his way of using sounds and narrative, it’s beautiful. I really like Mark Ernestus’s (one of the two from Rhythm & Sound) new project called Ndagga Rhythm Force, he’s producing this Senegalese band; it’s mind-blowing, very unique music. There is a musical style in Senegal called Mbalax (or Mbalakh) so he produced it in a dub way so cutting out solos and dubbing voices, it’s pretty great actually and in fact they’re playing tonight in Berlin so I might go tonight and see them playing. I’m really into Ellen Arkbro’s last solo record, Giuseppe Ielasi’s record and I’m really into Raymond Scott.

I usually listen to a lot of African music in general, I really like Congolese music; Soukous music is the style of music that was developed in the Congo in the 60’s and the 70’s, that’s a style that I really love. I really loved ‘Under The Skin’ by Mica Levi, it’s an amazing record. I like Rashid Bakr’s last two albums he did, those are amazing records and Miasmah Records’s Svarte Greiner records are beautiful. I like Sun Araw’s music, I’ve seen him play two or three times, he’s really great.

There is this cassette that Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy made, it’s called ‘Bonnie Prince Billy II’ and there are some beautiful songs there. I’ve been listening a lot to Bill Callahan’s music. Mario Batkovic’s accordion music is really beautiful and a really inspiring record [self-titled record via Invada Records]. I listen to a lot of Sun Ra’s music. There’s a record that I really like called ‘The Union’ by Elton John and Leon Russell and was produced by T Bone Burnett’ it’s amazingly produced and there are two drummers that I really love who are on there: Jim Keltner and Jay Bellerose who are both crazy drummers. They have the same kind of feeling, in fact I really love those two drummers because they have this kind of blues feeling on drums with a rich full sound but very loose, it’s very musical so it’s not like straight and square, they sing in a way.

I’m also playing in July with Circuit Des Yeux, a singer-songwriter from the U.S. I’m playing drums for her and I’ve played with her for two shows before, one in Berlin and another in Utrecht at Le Guess Who? festival. She has an incredible voice and she is a great performer so I’m really excited to listen to her next solo album; she will send it to me pretty soon as we will play some of her new songs.

Another solo artist that I really like and I’m digging his music is called Seth Frightening. He’s from New Zealand and is very interesting music; he is a big talent I would say and he has a very good sensibility for songwriting.

‘Ore’ is released on Friday, May 26th via Float.

http://www.andreabelfi.com/

https://www.wearefloat.co.uk/

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May 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Chosen One: Earthen Sea

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Interview with Jacob Long (Earthen Sea).

 Often I find with many aspects of my music that is the most important thing to do….to step back sometimes and let things happen or just to take a broader perspective on what things are rather than trying to force them to be something they aren’t.”

 Jacob Long

Words: Mark Carry

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Chicago independent label Kranky continues to deliver some of the most dazzling and innovative releases with Earthen Sea’s sublime dub techno soundscapes. The New York producer, Jacob Long has crafted an immense sound world of transcendent ambient bliss and techno explorations on his Kranky debut full-length ‘An Act Of Love’, following on from the essential singles ‘An Act Of Love’ and ‘A Serious Thing’ back in February and 2015 debut full-length ‘Ink’ (released via Lovers Rock imprint).

A multitude of synths and looped sonic passages are beautifully spliced together on ‘About That Time’, forming the gripping heart to ‘An Act Of Love’s intense beginnings. A soulful dimension and deeply emotive core immediately strikes you as the gorgeous pulsating waves of ambient bliss traverses the human space. Texture and motion are two further qualities that permeate throughout the record’s far-reaching voyage. For instance, ‘Exuberant Burning’ yields a highly immersive experience amidst dark techno ripples of neon-lit skies. The addition of drums and further organic components forms a lovely parallel with labelmate Loscil’s sonic sphere of rhythmic, gradual dub techno waves. An empty nocturnal metropolis (as previously described by the New York producer) is etched across the sprawling sonic canvas.

The penultimate cut ‘The Flats 1975’ is a divine slice of psychedelic trip hop flourishes wherein dense swells of techno embellishes drift majestically across vast skylines. Beautiful ambient pulses continually build on the formidable closer ‘Also An Act Of Love’ as a delicate lament gradually fades into the ether.

‘An Act Of Love’ is out now on Kranky.

https://earthensea.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky/

earthen-sea-by-shawn-brackbill-600

Interview with Jacob Long (Earthen Sea).

 

In many ways, I feel this record feels like one sprawling sound collage as the deeply engulfing sound world of utterly transcendent ambient bliss and immersive dub techno crafts such raw emotion and intensity. Please take me back to the making of ‘An Act Of Love’, the themes you wanted to explore and your primary objectives for this latest musical venture?

Jacob Long: I would say for the most part, at least the beginning of the process of putting the record together, it was just an extension of the work I’d been doing previously. A handful of the songs on the record were things I had been working on/or made in the year or so leading up to actually “working” on the album. That said once I had those pieces selected for the record I went back and reworked and created new pieces out of other things I had in various states of completion that I felt complemented the overall feel/flow of the record. In terms of sonic exploration I would say that the process I used to make the song “Also An Act Of Love” (which grew out of what was originally a remix of one of my older songs) has led to my current working method which is to take pieces of audio from parts I’ve played and recorded and use them as the raw sonic material to be manipulated and turned into something else.

I would love to gain an insight into your compositional approach and the precise equipment set-up and instrumentation utilzed for these recording sessions? The gorgeous dub techno swells form a lovely parallel with Loscil’s Scott Morgan’s works and a prevailing darkness of a myriad of forlorn sounds brings to mind the likes of fellow luminaries like Tim Hecker. I wonder would you have a considerable library of sounds collected (so to speak) and you carefully splice different elements and motifs together?

JL: Thank you for the great compliment of comparing my work to the 2 of them as I admire both of Loscil and Tim Hecker’s music a lot. My setup is pretty simple….these days my main setup is really just my laptop with Ableton and a few MIDI controllers. I mostly create my own sounds by playing synth parts and recording them either onto my 4-track or into my computer and then chopping those parts up into sounds/loops/samples. I then use those in Ableton, manipulating them into what become my tracks. I also have a variety of different drum sounds that I’ve built into a drum library (though I kind of end up using a lot of the same ones a lot of the time). Lately I’ve been working with some field recordings in the same way and blending them in with other sounds so most likely my new work with have some of them in the mix as well.

The wide range of sonic timbres and elements that are effortlessly crafted on ‘An Act Of Love’ is one of the great hallmarks of this latest release. For example, the more techno-infused explorations such as ‘Exuberant Burning’ – the album’s centrepiece – ‘The Flats 1975’ and part A’s ‘About That Time’ form vital pulses to ‘An Act Of Love’s striking narrative. Can you talk me through these techno tracks and the construction/deconstruction of the techno sound worlds you capture so well?

JL: Thanks for the kind words and I feel similar about ‘About That Time’ being the emotional centre for me as well of the record. I would say the process of making the beat/techno oriented tracks on the record is pretty similar in many ways to making the other tracks. Obviously the big difference is programming drum parts. But I tend to approach it in much the same way where I sketch out some ideas and then “jam” on them or play around with them until I get the feel I’m looking for and then once I have that either to expand on the idea (or more often than not) edit down to the essence of what I feel is needed for the piece and then go from there. I guess the other main difference is feeling out the structure and what is needed to hold interest in a piece is different (for me at least) when there are rhythmic elements involved and sometimes that means that more needs to happen in a piece but often it means that less is needed as everything needs a little more space to breathe.

As a bassist in the punk trio Mi Ami, your musical background must tap into your solo project of Eaethen Sea quite naturally. I’d love for you to discuss your musical upbringing and the various paths that you have ventured thus far, and what the pre-cursors were, so to speak that led to the formation of Earthen Sea? 

JL: Well I’ve played music since I was 5 when I started playing violin. I’ve picked up various instruments over the years since then but I can’t remember ever not playing and/or listening to music. And since I was a teenager I’ve been very interested in a wide range of music. I mean even in high school I was playing in a kinda grunge-y band and also making weird soundscapey things on my own on a cassette 4 track…and over the years things kind of just continued like that. I sort of off and on worked on my own music when I had time outside of bands/etc. Anyway Earthen Sea started as a project when I moved to California from DC in 2004 and for a number of years was kind of off and on as well until a couple of years ago when I decided I really wanted to be doing more of it than I had been and since then it’s been pretty full on for me…

I absolutely love the fragile, bare and stunningly beautiful compositions such as album closer (and title-track of sorts) ‘Also An Act Of Love’ and ‘Delicately In The Sunlight’ and how these tracks drift majestically across the ether. Again, it’s how these eight tracks are seamlessly forged together creates such a timeless quality. Can you discuss the sequencing of the record and also the series of counterpoints – and counter balances – that is so masterfully embedded in ‘Act Of Love’s sonic tapestry? 

JL: Well I’m glad it works as I was looking to create a flow that had a consistent or complimentary feel between the disparate pieces that make up the record. I would say that the sequencing and reworking of a few pieces was some of the harder work that I put into the record but it felt important to have the whole be somewhat a composition in and of itself rather than just being a collection of songs. I definitely went through a number of drafts of the record before I came to the final form for it but in the end it kind of revealed itself to me more than me making it fit or something. Often I find with many aspects of my music that is the most important thing to do….to step back sometimes and let things happen or just to take a broader perspective on what things are rather than trying to force them to be something they aren’t.

I wonder were there any happy accidents, so to speak during the music-making process? Also, I get the impression that many of the layers are almost like musical artefacts that have been unearthed from another time and space? In this regard, is the layering or construction of a particular track quite an intensive or challenging process? I love how there is that minimal nature to your music yet how vast the musical possibilities that are generated.

JL: Ha well much of my process is much looser than that suggests to me. I mean a lot of it is happy accidents to be honest. Not to say that I don’t spend time setting up pieces or running sounds against each other/etc but my main process is just to start loading sounds into my template in Ableton and just let them go and start working on them from there (both in terms of the individual sounds and the combination of sounds and the structure/etc). I pretty much never have an idea of where something is going when I start. Once I start and hear what may be working or coming out of something I’ll then kind of hone in on that vibe/sound and see how to go from there. The minimal vs. maximal is sometimes a challenge as it can be easy especially when working to have everything going at once to create MORE sound but usually a lot of my compositional process is sculpting those sounds down into what is needed and to build a structure from there. Also I have spent some time thinking about how to use FX to create those kind of artefact layers of sound and though I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything crazy in terms of their use that is definitely something I’ve developed into part of my “sound”.

Lastly, are there particular records that you have been heavily immersed in of late?

JL: For sure…I’ve been digging a bunch of older Jan Jelinek records as well as his newest album with Masayoshi Fujita (Schaum), a lot of Vladislav Delay, Georgia (especially their newest LP “All Kind Music”, the new Visible Cloaks LP,  both of the Anjou LPs,  Klara Lewis was a new find for me this past year and I’ve been really enjoying her music, Josh Abrams/Natural Information Society is one of my favorite bands of the last few years and I’m stoked they have a new album out, I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of stuff but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head.

‘An Act Of Love’ is out now on Kranky.

https://earthensea.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky/

 

 

Written by admin

May 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Chosen One: Helado Negro

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“I think those moments when you’re finishing something and you’re sharing it with someone, I think that was my realization of something that I understood as what I wanted to do.”

 Roberto Carlos Lange

Words: Mark Carry

Helado Negro - Private Energy (Expanded) - Pic 001 - Credit -Anna Grothe Shive

Roberto Carlos Lange’s awe-inspiring musical project of Helado Negro reached (yet) another summit with his latest full-length ‘Private Energy’. A divine collection of deeply affecting avant pop music. Last month saw the eagerly awaited reissue of the Brooklyn-based artist’s seminal album – in an ‘expanded’ edition – via  the peerless New York imprint RVNG Intl (whom Lange previously collaborated with on the FRKWY series).

Lovingly assembled and packaged by the record label, the captivating pop spheres are similarly crafted and sculpted together with masterful detail and precision. The deeply heartfelt lyrics resonate powerfully at every turn amidst gorgeous synth layers and spectral production. The expanded version contains three sublime reworks of some of the record’s defining moments: ‘Young, Latin and Proud’(December Mix) is sumptuously de-constructed with echoes of reverb and an intoxicating slowed-down dubstep beat. Wah-wah effect pedals and hypnotic interstellar beats form the ideal foundations to the songwriter’s empowering message.

The achingly beautiful lament ‘Transmission Listen’ is a tear-stained love letter from the heart’s core: delicate woodwind and piano notes evokes the timeless sound of 60’s Brazilian tropicalia and Memphis soul. The immediacy and clarity of Lange’s voice is immediately striking akin to crystalline summer seas. The innate ability to merge electronic music and contemporary pop music is epitomised on ‘Runaround’; a deep soul groove and intricate string arrangement swims a majestic dance beneath an ocean bed of Lange’s meticulous songcraft: “No love can cut our knife in two”. Kindred spirits like LA-based songwriter Julia Holter, Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear and Julianna Barwick drift in the ether of the Florida-born musician’s enchanting song-cycles: at the intersection of latin, electronic and avant pop spheres and forever shining radiant light of prayer and hope.

‘Private Energy’ (Expanded) is available now on RVNG Intl.

https://www.facebook.com/rvngintl

https://www.facebook.com/HeladoNegro/

Helado Negro - Private Energy (Expanded) - Pic 002 - Credit -Anna Grothe Shive

Interview with Roberto Carlos Lange (Helado Negro).

 

It’s such a wonderful partnership between yourself and the RVNG label in repressing your very special Helado Negro album ‘Private Energy’. I wonder how was this experience for you when revisiting this record and looking it in a new way?

Roberto Carlos Lange: I had worked with RVNG in 2010/2011 on a project as part of the FRKWY series, so it was me and a bunch of people did it with David Van Tieghem. So, that was my introduction to working with them – I had been a big fan of RVNG before that – and seven years later now there’s this whole new in-depth knowledge of how thoughtful and careful and so much quality control. It was nice how just everything was taken care of – the remastering of it and the artwork – and just everything about the whole process was really special and a compliment to the music (or vice versa).

I love how there’s a few new remixes and reworks included in the expanded version of ‘Private Energy’. I’d love for you to talk me through these new versions?

 RCL: Yeah, that was super unique. The way some of this record was put together, there were so many different live shows prior to finishing the record so I would grab chunks from the live show and edit them and manipulate them to work within the studio versions. So some of that shines a little bit more and peaks out in those three alternate versions that are on the expanded edition.

I’d love to know more about how you craft these songs because you’re developing and evolving all the time with all these releases, there’s just so much intricacies and detail involved musically and lyrically.

RCL: It’s definitely stacked vertically and I think about music and sound a lot like that; like how many layers can I go down or go up, in the vertical sense as opposed to like when is the end of the song coming. That’s part of the process I think where all the layers are intertwined. I keep stealing things that are improvisations with my sampler or my synthesizers or things that are on my computer and also people playing in real-time and also recordings that I do at a residency or a performance or at a rehearsal and just taking all of these snippets and being able to assemble them as moments of times of process and progress like finishing the record or finishing a song or finishing an idea.

An important part of the album is the incredible ‘Young, Latin and Proud’ – it’s almost an anthem really – so many of these songs are like these perfect pop songs with real depth and emotion inside.

RCL: I appreciate music that is committed to these realms whether it’s pop music or something that is committed to extended technique with an instrument and somebody commits their life to that and I appreciate all that kind of music on both ends of the spectrum. So, for me it’s what makes me up when I try to portray with my own version of me, which I think shines through with ‘Young, Latin and Proud’ where I’m talking a lot about myself mostly and how much I want to reflect that outwards or have people reflect that with me through them.

The album was initially made to accompany a dance performance, which I didn’t realize at the time?

RCL: It was parallel for sure, there were so many different things happening to be honest with you. One of the things that was a big aspect of what informed the record were these costumes that were made to accompany me onstage and after working with them for about a year, they obviously liked the visual aspect that informed a lot of what I did musically and what I wanted to do onstage with them. So there was a series of shows that I was commissioned to do in a few different museums and it was specifically ‘Private Energy’ with choreography with the costumes.

The way you’re involved with so many different mediums and the different contexts your music is created for like performances, installations and so on, when you release a new selection of songs it must all feed into one another?

RCL: It’s funny it’s like everything ends up evolving or like I work on a piece of  music and I end up making so many iterations of the same thing, I think it’s exciting and fun to do that. Everything is like an extension of each other; I look at it more as that than it being like the music is over once the record is out. There’s always a chance for it to evolve into something else with other things.

Collaboration is of course something you’re continually involved in. One of my favourites was the wonderful Ombre project with Julianna Barwick, which was such a beautiful release.

RCL: That was one of my favourites as well. I think we started that in 2010 and it came out in 2012. That was such a special project; she’s a super close friend of mine. I toured once in the UK and at the time I was selling some of those LPs on the road and people in the UK specifically were like ‘Oh wow, you work on this; that’s you… that’s awesome man’ [laughs]. It was cool because a lot of different people know about it and a lot of people don’t know about it, it’s interesting when people discover it as well.

Since you moved to New York several years ago, I wonder just how much of an inspiration is the city on you?

RCL: Being here for about eleven years now. I moved actually from Florida to Savannah Georgia to Atalanta and then back to Florida and then back. So prior to New York I was in Atalanta. It’s a special place and every day there’s not a moment where you’re not feeling stimulated somehow; there’s so much going on whether you’re just going to the corner to get milk or you’re out running errands trying to meet people or trying to do something. There’s definitely like this hyper extreme like sensory push and pull, you’re seeing all types of things. And especially right now where it’s transitioning from spring to summer – or whatever is happening right now with the weather – you see just like the trees are stretching out and the sidewalks are getting super crowded and everything is getting louder and more bustling you know.

I wonder what ideas may you have right now for your next release or projects? I can imagine you must have several different things coming together at the same time?

RCL: It’s interesting because right now it feels like there’s a rebirth for this record and to continue sharing it with people, so that’s really nice to have that for something to occupy your time as I’m still exploring what I want to do. I’m recording a bunch of ideas right now and I’m feeling everything out but I’m not in a rush to finish anything at this moment, I feel really inspired but I don’t feel pressure in any way. I think that’s also a result of working with RVNG and seeing and feeling what they’re doing; the way they’ve been able to work with me on this project. It’s nice to feel there is a little bit of air to just move around.

For your musical project of Helado Negro, were there certain albums or defining moments – perhaps when growing up –that happened for you to lead you on your particular music path?

RCL: I think the moment where I started to take it really seriously was in college and I was really alone, experimenting on my own and figuring out how to manipulate sound and realize that I was making songs. And in a non-traditional sense where I wasn’t really learning music, I was messing around with the computer and that sampler that I have. I think those moments when you’re finishing something and you’re sharing it with someone, I think that was my realization of something that I understood as what I wanted to do. I think it’s like both those processes, creating and sharing of being like the feeling of this is what I want to do. I do think there are a lot of people who do create and I do think a lot of people don’t want to share and I think there is that level of commitment of being able to participate and have people participate in what you’re doing as well.

You’ve been touring extensively around the world as well, you must learn so much about your songs and your music by going to all these venues and playing shows where you gather all these different versions and variations of your songs. It must be a great source of learning in one way?

RCL: Yeah it’s frightening for sure because there’s so many times where it goes really well and there’s so many times where you’re like this is awkward or uncomfortable in the past. I definitely think it’s morphed and changed enough where I don’t feel out of control; I feel like I have opened up enough to know that the things that happen that aren’t exactly how I planned are the things that I appreciate the most, taking those moments and building on that. A friend of mine who plays a lot of improvisational music told me like one of the rules they had was you mess up, you do it three times after that. So, it sounds intentional regardless of what it is and there’s something I appreciate about that, like owning the mistake until it turns into something that you want, it’s pretty exciting.

‘Mi Mano’ is probably one of my favourite tracks from ‘Private Energy’ at the moment. It really shows the interwoven layers and masterful production that’s on display across the album, I don’t know how you do it.

RCL: Awesome, well neither do I [laughs]. I’m glad you dig it, yeah it’s one of my favourite jams too. That song is actually a really good example of the idea of error. That song was originally a much faster tempo and I accidentally slowed it down significantly because I was doing something else for a second but I ended up changing the BPM. When I played it back, I was like what is going on and I couldn’t figure out what had happened for a good couple of minutes and I just loved it that way and it stuck like that.

Have you been listening to any albums lately, Roberto?

RCL: I just made a playlist of stuff that I’ve been listening to, I realized that’s my best solution around this question because throughout the years it’s been the question that haunts me [laughs]. I made a playlist of a bunch of ambient jams that I really dig and something that I’ve been listening to a lot was this Gigi Masin record with George Hayward. There’s this band that I heard on the road, they’re called Sneaks and it’s a duo (a bass player and a drummer) and the woman who plays bass is pretty awesome actually, I dig their tunes. What else has been in my ears? There’s also this Ecuadorian cumbia organ synthesizer player from the 50’s and 60’s that I’ve been listening to a lot and his name is really hard to spell [laughs].

‘Private Energy’ (Expanded) is available now on RVNG Intl.

https://www.facebook.com/rvngintl

https://www.facebook.com/HeladoNegro/

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Chosen One: Moiré

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Interview with Moiré.

or maybe it’s going to be something totally different because it’s meant to be about the new music; that for me is what techno has always meant.”

Moiré

Words: Mark Carry

Moire-Photo_1_686

London-based producer Moiré continues his remarkable output on his latest full-length ‘No Future’, recently released on the prestigious Ghostly label. The gifted producer has continually evolved with a string of captivating blissed-out techno and synth odysseys (beginning with 2013 debut EP ‘Never Sleep’ via Actress’s Werkdiscs label) and ‘No Future’ sees Moiré exploring further and deeper into realms of deeply engaging and compelling techno explorations.

Of course, ceaseless lines are beautifully blurred amidst Moiré’s masterful songcraft from the utterly transcendent ambient bliss of album closer ‘Auteur (Outro)’ (whose heavenly cosmic synth patterns feel could loop forever) to the hypnotic acid house of ‘Jupiter’ and deeply-affecting soulful hip-hop (DRS is the trusted MC for two sublime cuts ‘No Future’ and ‘Bootleg’). Elements of dubstep and grime are dotted across the James Messiah guested opus ‘Facade’. ‘No Future’ is a reflection on humanity wherein a dystopian vision burns through the embers of fear, pain and doubt. The mantra of “fallen angel” echoes powerfully across the thumpy bass and gauzing synths of ‘Bootleg’.

“Techno music has always been about new music” reiterates Moiré. In many ways, revisiting ‘No Future’ serves a fitting parallel alongside  the enigmatic UK artist Actress, who similarly crafts singular, shape-shifting works. The trippy ‘Opium’ and Afrobeat rhythms of ‘Magma Dream’ supply yet more neon-filled rapturous dance music. The perfect come-down arrives on the final two cuts: the introspective and multi-layered hazy ambient tour-de-force ‘System 100’ and the forever evolving musical patterns of ‘Auteur’ waltzes, mutates and dazzles.

‘No Future’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://www.facebook.com/MoireMusic

https://www.facebook.com/ghostly/

Moire_1-Credit_Netti_Hurley_6863

 

Interview with Moiré.

 

Congratulations on the new album ‘No Future’, which is really quite incredible. Please discuss the making of the new record? I mean you’re very prolific with an array of wonderful releases under  your belt, I wonder when did you begin working on ‘No Future’ and the ideas you had for this latest set?

Moiré: Making music is probably the starting point when I did my first album on my first record because I think once you start you want to continue. ‘No Future’ for me is just a continuation of something I wanted to do from the start. And when I finished my first album and then I did some gigs and I toured and then I did maybe another single or two and then there was time to do another album because suddenly there was so much material to work with that I decided it’s time to make another record (in a technical way). I don’t just go and make music like ‘Today I’m going to make an album’, it didn’t happen that way it’s a more organic and natural process of making something like that. So it was inspired by everything that was happening in my personal life during that time and then it coincided with what was happening in the country in the UK and the announcement of all sorts of political changes that will be happening and then of course the changes that were starting to happen in America. That combined with my life situation and my family situation and some other things created in my head the need to have to finish the record; now is the time because I have the reason to make it, I have the reason to express myself in that way. And so that’s how it started and that’s where it started.

And then I mean the process is I’m sure as you know it’s quite a lengthy procedure. I like to take my time to make sure the tracks or whatever that is I release are the ones that I want. I mean there’s millions of versions of each track probably and you’re getting to the point where you’re doing two hundred versions of the same track and then you’re like ‘OK, actually I think the first version was the best’ and so the process is very long sometimes. But sometimes the tracks just happen, you know there’s certain ideas, certain sketches, certain experimentations, certain emotional expression, or sometimes I feel bad and I’ll go to the studio and make a track or sometimes I actually create a composition where there’s little planning and sometimes there’s a lot of planning into the making of music, I mean it really depends. As I say, I see this as an art form rather than like a session musician going in and doing a job. So, millions of hours in the studio; loads of nights and loads of days. My studio doesn’t have any windows, it’s quite a secluded environment and quite isolated in that sense so I was just on my own for a year with music basically and that’s the effect of it.

As you describe perfectly that’s exactly as a listener you feel as you hear the tracks, there’s just that outpour of everything that you put into the work because it’s fascinating the multitude of layers and moments within each song.

Moiré: That’s always been my thing. I mean I understand what journalists and the industry are always trying to put certain sounds to a certain box so they can tick the box and this is that or this is this. And for me, the music which of course has elements of techno and house in it and ambient and all sorts of things but that’s the thing it has everything because I think of just making music so I’m not going to limit myself to one particular sound or one particular concept. And also that was always for me the main idea behind techno – or any techno-related ideas – was that this was meant to be about new music, not the genre thing that established itself as this one particular type of dance music but actually for me that was never the point; the point was that it was maybe going to be dance or maybe it won’t be, maybe it would be experimental music or maybe it’s going to be something totally different because it’s meant to be about the new music; that for me is what techno has always meant. Or any kind of electronic music for that matter was always like ‘So what I’m going to make the next record and the next record’ is meant to be some sort of evolution; I should be trying new things. That in a way is my obligation as an artist that is engaging with music and trying music and being allowed to make music, to actually give music something back in terms of giving music some justice and some time of the day that actually I feel very lucky that I am able to do and release records.

In a way I don’t like it easy but also I feel like it’s so important, maybe not now but in ten or twenty years someone is going to find this record will be like ‘Oh this is a really interesting record’ and that’s how I discovered a lot of stuff that I’ve been inspired by that just now are getting the recognition after decades of being hidden. And I think that’s my attitude; it’s just basically art. I know it’s  a club music that maybe people are going to dance to it but I never think about it that much. Of course there are these elements that are driving the tracks forward and that there is this constant step and I am always trying to see what’s underneath the classic conventions that we have or industry trends.

Someone earlier today asked me would I be willing to have tracks with no beats or something like that and I thought about it and basically it’s like maybe why not but that shouldn’t really be a conversation, that should be left to the artist to decide I feel like there is an industry push towards certain things to be like ‘OK this season we’re going to do ambient and next season we’re going to do noise and next season we’re going to do new wave’ and it’s pretty much all the same but we’re just going in loops in terms of what’s trendy or what should be done. So, I’m just trying to look in music and tracks and give them as much passion and artistic approach as I can and I guess that’s what you’re talking about and I hope this somehow comes out when you listen to it.

I love the flow to ‘No Future’ as well and the sequencing. For example the closing track ‘Auteur (Outro)’ and its construction and the different sub-sections within it brings everything to a fitting close.

Moiré: Thanks. Yeah, I think it’s interesting how the sequence works on people differently. I don’t know how many people are aware but it’s really like the biggest headache; one thing is to make the track and the other thing is to sequence the tracks if you have several of them, so it makes sense. It’s always the biggest problem like which track will be first and especially with this  kind of abstract concept of vocals on techno beats and the trouble of course for everyone is who is Moire and what is the music and what are the beats and I think it’s like unfortunately because the way things are it’s really difficult sometimes to get it to people because you’re going to be classified as experimental or leftfield dance or whatever.

But I remember when I was growing up in the 90’s and when drum & bass happened in the UK and then in Europe, nobody knew how to dance to it; people leaving the floors, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know how to classify this at all. And then fast forward ten years later and it’s like the biggest export from the UK after punk or actually the UK ever had. It’s weird how long it takes for things to break but not in a pop sense but more in terms of having people react to the sounds and compositions and new ideas. It doesn’t have to always be dance and it doesn’t have to be always dancing, just being together in a space and listening to music to be the whole thing. But that’s how the album happened and that’s what my approach was to it.

And of course when I was finishing it everything that I thought would happen in terms of the political changes happened and it was funny because when I spoke with the guys from Ghostly about the current president in America, nobody really thought it would happen. I’m quite socially aware, I come from a standard working class family – even in some standards I would say lower than working class – and I think I understand the basic person and what drives them to make certain decisions and also looking on the politics, I’m quite into it because if affects my life and it affects everyone else’s lif e so I decided that maybe I should engage with it a little bit more and try to understand what’s happening. So this was weird because I called the album ‘No Future’ before any of these things were obvious and then it happened and it was like I didn’t really mean it to be negative or pessimistic in any way. And that’s why the music is not really dark or really depressing because that was never the reason for it to be depressing, it was more about being different and the hinting of something.

The guests who are on the album works so wonderfully and even in terms of where they come in on the album too, the two tracks by DRS are outstanding.

Moiré: Yeah, he did an excellent job and also James Messiah was a totally different thing (in terms of the style) but again he fit perfectly with his message. I  just gave him hints – and with DRS as well – I didn’t have to do any like crazy description of telling them what to do. These collaborations I am very happy about them, they just happened so naturally and it was a really good time just to work with them even over email it was just like ‘click’, they got the vibe and I think that’s when you appreciate how professional people are. How some people basically have that amazing quality of being able to jump on any track and deliver something interesting, I’m really into that.

I’m very curious to know about your equipment and the musical set-up that you’re using?

Moiré: Well the studio I had for this – and I’m still renting – is not my studio but it’s someone else’s who put a lot of work into it. It’s a really amazing room with double walls and it’s kind of a floating box, no windows and it sounds really good. So any imperfections or perfections can be heard and you could be really close to the sound. The room is great and the acoustic treatments is basically excellent and then the speakers actually came with the studio. I used to work in Adams before and on this record these are the speakers that I used. One thing is producing and I go quite often and listen in many different places so at home I have Adams and Dynaudio monitors and then in another place I have a bigger Adams system that I would go and ask my friends if I could use and listen to stuff and then in the studio the speakers that are there I think are Focal CMS65 and they were great. On the back of the room –it’s really clever – other speakers like really bad ones like Mackies, you just listen on the really bad ones as well. So it’s all very compact but perfect. For the vocals of course I made the beats and all the sketches and the MCs would do their thing on them, for example DRS did everything from the internet, I just sent him the beat and he sent me the vocals; it was as simple as that. DRS is based in Manchester so obviously there was a distance issue so email was the best thing. James Messiah is based in south London so he just came on his bike and he just recorded it live over the ‘Facade’ track and that was it. I think we actually did also vocal on ‘Jupiter’ as well but I never finished that, so basically they did their thing.

A lot of the tracks themselves are made live with samplers, a bunch of synths (Moog Nord and JD 800 and Octatrack sampler) and loads of other little synths and boxes that are placked together and I just jam on it until I’m happy with the stuff and then it’s all getting recorded live to old Logic, I still like the old one and so for some reason I’m still using that. And then for production I use Universal Audio, I think their tools are really excellent. It’s all very simple, I don’t have any expensive gear in terms of like crazy compressers that you can see some famous people with and stuff like that, I cannot afford it, I do not have stuff like that [laughs]. I just learned to work with what I have, I mean that was always my concept because as much there is talk about analog versus digital and so on, everyone who makes music knows that even if they’re going to use all the analog gear they’re going to end up having a digital file delivered for mastering and a mastering engineer quite often will use a PC to master it. You can record stuff to tape but it will always go through digital, I mean you will need to have the tape machine and record the tape and then deliver the tape if that’s the sound you’re after. And that fact that we’re dealing with the digital file in my head was always meaning that you can sculpt it the way you want.

The ways you record it are important for me and that’s why having Universal Audio and analog plugins is quite cool and I wish I had some of the hardware but I think for me that’s fine, I like the way it sounds and I like the quality of digital plugins as much as anything else. I may be quite unusual in terms of the way I use this, which is difficult to explain because my whole concept of making music is like obviously pretty much everyone has the same tools and studios are very similar because by default it’s a pair of monitors and some gear but it’s about how you wire stuff and how you plug things and what triggers what and how you play it and this is something that you cannot explain and that’s something that takes time to develop and I think that for everyone is going to be a different process and some people care about certain things and some people don’t like everything is super-tight whereas other people will leave a but of space for loose swing and maybe not accurately cut beats because that’s the idea. Some people record everything live and I do a lot of stuff live, a lot of the tracks happened just as live jams and I would have parts played from a sampler and then parts played from live synth and other synths sequenced together and then everything going through some distortion box and then everything recorded. So that’s pretty much the technical side of how this happened but I think the room is very important for me, the way it sounds for this particular one was important but who knows maybe on the next one I will do just on headphones.

For the live show – and live jams – there must always be new workings and new versions of the various tracks being formed?

Moiré: Yeah, this is true that is happening. I mean for the live aspect of course it allows you to be constantly doing versions and edits and all sorts of things and experiments. My live stage set-up which I’m building right now – but I’ve already played like this for a while – is that I’m trying to bring as much studio gear to the stage as possible. So I’m trying to do what I’m doing in the studio live basically to an extent because you cannot do everything. And there’s certain things you cannot do because it won’t work but that’s the concept and I always loved that; bringing some machines, some toys to the stage and doing edits of the tracks tha have been released. And obviously when you play for the crowd you can also try new stuff and it’s great to do that so you’re not just stuck to doing DJ, you can actually do something else and every show can be different as well.

I was very interested to read on the Ghostly page that Philip K. Dick and his sci-fi stories and the inspiration this had on ‘No Future’?

Moiré: I like this books and I like his dystopian visions. The phenomenal thing about Philip K. Dick is that if you read his books; they’re portraying us moving to mars and all sorts of other things like ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and even if you look on the cover of this book and the American flag and the way it’s portrayed and everything. And the ideas he had; he was predicting a lot of the things that are happening right now and potentially he was predicting a lot of the things that will happen in the future. I mean the ‘Martian Time-Slip’ is this little novel describing our life on mars but some of his books were crazy bonkers like really proper sc-fi but this stuff you read it now and you think we are not so far from it and it’s possible that we are going to do that and there’s actually nothing that futuristic about it anymore. It’s quite funny, us setting up a place in mars, I think we are quite near to doing that and it’s very political as well, they had NATO on mars and all sorts of other things and you’re like, yeah NATO can be on mars, why not? All these kinds of things and issues and problems that actually he was at time writing it he was reflecting the current world problems in his books partly as well like whatever wars were happening on the planet and transforming this to another planet and the same happening, to be more interesting rather than just describing the reality. He’s definitely incredible and I love his work.

As a producer and someone who has so much music in your life, I wonder growing up at what point did you realize you would go down the path of making music yourself?

Moiré: That’s a difficult question. I don’t know, I mean I can only remember when I was growing up when I was a kid I wanted to be in a band and I forced my parents to buy me a guitar and then after a while I was like well maybe the guitar isn’t for me so I think I destroyed that guitar or I did something to it but whilst I was doing it I had a cassette tape deck and I was just recording all the noises of that guitar destruction and I was basically sampling myself doing all this banging as a kid on that tape and not because I had any concept of sampling – I don’t know if sampling was something that was happening – but I was just doing it because I wanted to listen to it myself [laughs]. I was curious about how it’s going to sound if I was going to do this or if I’m going to do that and obviously recording on the tape allowed you to listen to it back and I didn’t loop or anything, I didn’t understand any of these concepts, I was just always into making noise and making something with sound.

And I wanted to be in a band and I was in a band with my friends and we played some punk stuff and all sorts of things. I was always into music like I mean just as a fan buying all sorts of stuff and I was into all sorts of things and also feeling that I always wanted to be a performer because I started doing nights as a promoter with my friends during university and all this kind of stuff and booking bigger DJs to come and play at our parties and then I started opening and being a DJ as well a little bit at the beginning and then my other friends asked me to collaborate with them on some projects. It evolved in that way so in a way to answer your question I was always into it, I was always in it unconsciously, I was following the path and in my case some things happened that pushed me further in that direction and I still do not understand to be honest how some things happen that you do not have control over like OK I’m going to do this now.

There were some other opportunities or I had to do some other work or other directions in my life and suddenly something happened and they disappeared and it’s like OK I think I should be doing music or I should be working with these people. In my case a few things happened like that in life that were really dramatic that in a way I was like OK this is what I am doing or more like I have to do this in a way that I wanted to do it but also life puzzled itself that way. And it’s always been complicated but I guess that’s why my music has a certain attitude and certain abstract concept behind it because it reflects some of the things I go through. So that’s how it all evolved from my early days, it was not always that obvious and it’s still maybe not that obvious even today, I mean I guess anyone can sit there and ask themselves a question ‘Should I be making music?’ I know that people today are growing up thinking like ‘Fuck it, I’m going to be a DJ and I’m going to buy a bunch of techno tracks from Detroit and I’m going to be a DJ’ and a lot of people do that – or electro or whatever that is in a shop – and some of them probably have bigger careers than many other people who are making music. But it’s crazy because if you look at what happened with the digital social medium and how it changed everything.

Someone asked me ‘Is it difficult for people today in the music industry to go forward?’ and if I look on my profile – like some shitty Instagram account or something – every second person that follows me has got a soundcloud account, that says it all; that means that millions of people are doing the same thing and obviously it’s just going to be affecting everyone else and everyone’s going to be affecting each other basically. But that’s the thing it’s always been the path that has been in front of me, I was not planning or I did not have a business plan like I’m going to make millions of dollars making lots of crazy records or something. The thing for me was always like I am expressing myself and I’m going to try to do my best and be the best in the area that I want to be; that’s my goal and I’m still on my way.

Have there been certain records that you’ve been listening to lately?

Moiré: It’s always the most difficult question. There is just loads. Recently I really like these guys Worried About Satan, they’re quite cool. Pye Corner Audio makes some interesting tracks; I heard some of those from a documentary which was cool. I mean there is so much stuff, I’m always going to be listening to any type of jazz stuff; any Coltrane…anything. I always love Moondog, Flying Lotus. The major inspiration was when Actress released his first record – that was great – and that showed that there is a possibility with the music in that kind of fashion. I just listen daily to so many things, loads of old hip-hop as well like Casual, Hieroglyphics, Wu Tang and Mobb Deep and sometimes I come back to these records because I think they’re just so incredible; they had some magic in them like the fire of the new act where there was really no compromise but just really, really well done. And this kind of interesting movements or moments, there isn’t much of it unfortunately at the moment, it’s really difficult to find these kind of acts where they are interesting musically but there is also some movement behind it and I think everything is watered down based on hype, not much of content really. But there are loads of great records out there.

‘No Future’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://www.facebook.com/MoireMusic

https://www.facebook.com/ghostly/

Written by admin

May 4, 2017 at 8:01 pm

Chosen One: Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble

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I always loved music even as a very young child I was very fascinated by it. I always thought it was miraculous somehow, it was divine and otherworldly.”

Laetitia Sadier

Words: Mark Carry

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French artist Laetitia Sadier has continually evolved along her rich musical path, from the early 90’s inception of legendary indie outfit Stereolab – who released several vital musical documents, encompassing French new wave, krautrock rhythms, film music with an irresistible punk DIY ethos – and later, her own mesmerising solo works (under the moniker of Monade and under her own name) while this year presented yet another of the French chanteuse’s artistic reinventions: Ladier Sadier Source Ensemble.

Source Ensemble represents several of Sadier’s close collaborators, including Brazilian bassist Xavi Munoz and French drummer Emanuel Mario as the trusted rhythm section. The scintillating new record, ‘Find Me Finding You’ sees an ever-evolving spectrum of life-affirming music shine brightly across the sun-lit horizon. The radiant light of Sadier’s artistic vision burns brightly as a deeply empowering energy permeates this new musical space.

The lead single ‘Undying Love For Humanity’ contains infectious melodies and warm polyrhythms amidst Sadier’s undying hope for humanity. The vivid light and colours of ‘Galactic Emergence’ is beautifully embedded in psychedelic flourishes where instrumentation of organ and flute dance a majestic, slow dance. ‘Love Captive’ is a gorgeous duet with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble represents the latest chapter in the renowned French artist’s canon of work, crafting an otherworldly, divine sound-world, portraying new extended versions of an intriguing artist.

‘Find Me Finding You’ is out now on Drag City.

For forthcoming UK & European tour dates (kicking off in Dublin THIS Thursday), visit HERE

https://www.facebook.com/LaetitiaSadierOfficial/

https://www.facebook.com/dragcityrecords/

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Interview with Laetitia Sadier.

 

Congratulations on your new album ‘Find Me Finding You’. Even though it’s a new solo album, I love even how there is a new band name of Source Ensemble for this record. Please discuss this new chapter?

Laetitia Sadier: Yeah, I mean it’s always a new chapter in the continuity of a journey I guess, of a self-exploration in a complex world and in a world of relationships to others.

I’d love for you to take me back to the making of the new album in the sense of your approach to writing the songs?

LS: Well, the songs are written according to my usual formula of just collecting ideas as they arrive and as they are magically delivered by the universe. And then, when it comes to actually writing songs I refer to these ideas and develop on certain things and knock them into songs. It’s always a process of just being guided by what the songs need or require and asking certain friends to contribute like Emanuel Mario or have Rob Mazurek play a part on such a song or asking Alexis Taylor to do a duet with me. I mean these things just fall into place as the songs develop and you know there is a place for everything. It’s an organic process really.

The idea with the Source Ensemble was to have an insistence on the collective aspect of doing things and of making sense of the world and that always inscribes itself in a wider political world of human existence. I like the parallel between doing something – in this case artistic – but making it a collective process as well, we’re not alone in this and we need to establish connections with others, to make sense of the world.

I loved the first single – and first taste of the new album – ‘Undying Love For Humanity’ because like you said, this song really touches on the themes and the message of the album, in terms of the lyrics.

LS: I came up with this title after watching a documentary on the Black Panthers and how they organized their struggle to be properly respected and accepted as full members of American society and to what extent they had to go. It wasn’t just about fighting off the opression, it was also about them organizing themselves in a revolutionary organization; they organized schools and they organized breakfasts in the morning for children who didn’t have breakfasts in the morning. And how revolutionary it all was; of how people gathered to organize a society that was viable for them and taking their destiny into their own hands, which they actually achieved but then of course it was all destroyed by outside forces who didn’t want the people organizing themselves autonomously and successfully and so it was a rather tragic end for that movement but still they did do it.

It also reminds me of the French Communes, the Communards at the end of the nineteenth century and how they organized also their schools and how everything was distributed and they even had an army because they needed to defend themselves. It was really democratically organized for the best of anyone and how that was truly revolutionary, it was a revolutionary struggle to self-organize. It also ended up tragically because there are forces out there that don’t want us to organize – to organize for our best needs – but it is still possible to organize in that way. And I find that very inspiring and I see how it’s feasible and how we can achieve that as a human society.

I love how your music is almost like a platform where there is a powerful commentary carefully placed inside the music. Your music always belongs to this very unique sound world where there’s always new directions which you explore.

LS: In every album I want to be new [laughs] and in the end it’s still always me, always the same person making this music and so it’s kind of recognizable. But indeed I see life as an evolutionary process whereby I want to venture into new versions of myself, new extended versions of myself and of course that should reflect in the music and I hope it does and sometimes I feel it doesn’t do it enough, you know [laughs]. Of course I want a more mature expression of myself through my songs and thank you for saying that this is a new direction because this is how I wished it to be.

I love ‘Galactic Emergence’ and the beautiful video that accompanied it. The visuals match the music so well, I suppose it shows your love of nature and the universe as a whole.

LS: Yeah, of course, whenever I can I will honour nature and art as much as I can. When it comes to videos, I mean to me video is a very tricky art form whereby it has to serve the music and enhance the music through image. I find it’s a difficult thing to really achieve and again thank you for saying that it matches the image. I see us as natural beings living in a natural environment that more and more perceivedly, it’s being spoilt or exploited and tragically because we are cutting the branch on which we are all dwelling and it’s the tragedy of our time.

We are faced now with a choice of carrying on the way we’re going or breaking away from our ways and maybe calling ourselves into question and reorganizing life on earth in different ways so that we can sustain ourselves and sustain what sustains us, living more harmoniously with the forces of nature. At the moment we are not doing that – well some people are – some people are realizing that. We’re currently staying with friends here [in LA] and they work on an organic farm and they host schools to teach young people to pass on a certain knowledge of how best to harmoniously cultivate the land and the products that come out of this land are really beautiful, tasty and nutritious. So, some people are quite active or proactive. We just need to have a shift in human consciousness, to shift our ways of living towards something more harmonious with nature. I quite intimately know this now and I guess more and more people are and lets see if the shift is important enough that it can prevail or not.

You mentioned the Black Panthers documentary, was there other sources of inspiration that you drew from on the rest of the album?

LS: For instance, in ‘Psychology Active’ I usually observe myself [laughs] and I see how for instance, I will tend to not want to do the hard things or the unpleasant things. Like how we as a species want to eliminate any effort, any hardship and in fact in the end it’s quite punishing. In fact, we should always face our hardships and try to also live with them and develop our own strength. I feel we are weakening ourselves. I feel that the system by creating all of these desires and thekind of sit down in front of the telly and forget about it is aggravating our situation and the narcissistic thing of how to please ourselves all the time and have everything on demand now and the idea of instant gratification and all that. And how in fact it is disservicing us quite profoundly and how there is value in patience and  facing up to hardship. So, I explore this theme in ‘Psychology Active’ for instance.

Also, in ‘Undying Love For Humanity’ it is a song about replacing the power onto us, onto the people who really have the power by just voting every four or five years, going here you have the political power and displacing the power onto other bodies. The professional politicians are also doing us a disservice because we know that this displaced type of power only leads to corruption, 99% of the time. It’s also about learning from that; historically we’ve seen it happen time and time again and how it doesn’t work like that like we have to dig deeper into the structures of power and how to really empower ourselves. And already that’s difficult enough but it leads to more successful ways of interacting and organizing. To remember that we’re impactful as a societal body, as individuals we impact society and society impacts us in return. We’re not powerless but we are in fact quite responsible in our ways of being, we’re very powerful.

There’s of course ‘Love Captive’, the song about free love and how we could look at reinventing love and our rapport to love and ownership of the partner in wanting to belong. And how it’s not completely realistic to how we’re built as a human being that inevitably it leads to conflict and deflation of desire. What’s the way around that also like do we need to seal the deal through marriageand through the idea of living together for eternity. I mean they are all subjects that we are being faced with and either we really embrace them – and seriously and honestly look at them – or do we sweep it under the carpet and then have to learn to deal with these things in more brutal ways.

Of course I am thinking of the political situation like Brexit and over here it’s Donald Trump, how the refusal of a system that is not working and that is not bringing about satisfaction and how there is a vote of revolt of saying ‘no’, which I think is healthy but how it’s also misplaced because these things will send us to a collapse, I mean quicker because we’re heading anyway towards a collapse. How we’re organized now is not sustainable; the capitalist forces or the neoliberalists are not sustainable of course. It’s like do we want a soft collapse or a hard one? It looks like we’re heading towards the hard one and I guess that’s how people learn when there’s something really hard happening. Do they go ‘So what do we do now? Where do we turn to next?’ in terms of reorganizing. I don’t know if it’s desirable but that’s what people chose, you know, the hard collapse.

And it’s repeating itself across the world in different countries.

LS: Yes, it’s a general thing. I think we are becoming more and more aware of our unitedness here; that planet Earth is rather small and we’re all interconnected. I mean that’s a good thing to realize, I think to best organize in the future. It sounds paradoxical but we have to organize more locally. I think that’s what Buckminster Fuller was saying,  ‘Act locally, think globally’; be aware and be conscious of the global aspect and this goes even beyond the realm of our planet, the earth and our cosmic connections. If we could organize ourselves around this principle, I think we would be more successful at living harmoniously and happily. And of course there will still be conflict but we could accomodate human life much better.

I particularly love towards the end of the album ‘The Woman With The Invisible Necklace’, there’s something very intriguing about the song-title.

LS: Yeah I mean I followed the footsteps of the Stereolab legacy of having strange titles that don’t neccessarily immediately match the song. Here we have a text about tyranny and how tyrants only exist in as far as we confer certain power to them. If we don’t feed them energetically, the tyrants and through our beliefs they are nothing, they’re just like thin air. To a large degree, we also as a collective also create our own tyrants – again people voted for Brexit and people voted for Donald Trump – and also the whole mediatic realm fed these feelings and fed these votes. Trump, even in the Guardian every day they talk about him, sometimes in two or three articles, it’s like there’s a fascination for him, which confers him power. So we have to be careful also what we feed with our intentions and our energies and that we could be looking at feeding other things, more positive things but we’re morbidly fascinated by these people.

Growing up in France, there must have been a wealth of music surrounding you and great records that made a really big impression on you?

LS: I always loved music even as a very young child I was very fascinated by music. I always thought it was miraculous somehow, it was divine and otherworldly. I mean I think music really saved my life and was like my best companion; it just transported me, it gave me the confidence I needed, it gave me ideas, it motivated me. I used to go to concerts alone as a teenager and it was my raison d’être. I was really into all the after punk era of do it yourself, you don’t need to go to school, you don’t need to have a degree in music, if you want to do it get some amps, get some guitars and get a band together, do it and be in the act of it.

And there was a really vibrant scene in the mid-80’s and late 80’s that I was totally into. In France too there were some really good bands going on and they were unapologetic or uncomprimising like there was a vision and they were serving that vision. And often that vision was a political one in the sense of transforming society; transforming oneself and to lead a more exciting and full life; a life that you create and not be a victim but be an active participating member of this world, of expressing and manifesting your visions and your ideas. And I loved that, it made sense to me – it made so much sense – it was complete, you know because it was about the self and it was about society and about the self within that society. I was very elated by the music of the mid to late 80’s and I wanted to serve that. I really wanted to be part of that.

I met Tim [Gane] and we started Stereolab together and that was where I wanted to be. And there were no expectations of becoming big stars or anything, that was not the goal but doing it and we were very lucky. We grew very organically – there was no big hype or nothing – and somehow the people responded to the music. We had a great run of making albums, touring and having a very thriving band life all this time. And I carried on, after Stereolab stopped I thought ‘maybe I’ll get a job’ but no, I signed up to facebook and I had invitations to go and play in Greece, in Belgium, in Portugal, in Brazil and I was like ‘Oh right, I’m taking on board for another run here’ [laughs] and I went along with it because it was there, like the path was opening and I’m going, I’m going [laughs] and so it was really exciting.

That’s the great thing, like you said about the DIY ethos that has been – and continues to be – so inspiring where there was something so organic and fresh about all your albums, with Stereolab and after.And there is always a natural connection and development with them all.

LS: To me that’s how it should be; that’s what I want in a band, I want a true expression and not some kind of formula where they think they should be projecting so that they are better liked. But just the real thing, the real singularity of an artist is what I’m after; of an artist and of people I meet and I want to sense that; the deeper insights can resonate with me.

Are there certain albums or books you have been inspired by lately?

LS: As I grow more mature, it’s true I feel there is a more spiritual connection being established with my environment and coincidentally I was offered a book at Christmas called ‘To Believe In The Forces of Spirit’ (a French book) and it’s about a woman, she’s a psychologist and she started in the 80’s and she was appointed in the role of end-of-life care, it’s when people are about to die and maybe have one month or a few weeks to live and how to better make them live those last few moments, to accompany them towards their death but within a life affirming situation and environment. It’s a really nice book, it’s very unassuming – it’s not hippie or anything – it’s very down-to-earth experience of this woman how to better bring people to that moment. Also, she had a spiritual relationship with François Mitterrand in the last twelve years of his life and so he was the President at the time and very erudite and it’s relating their conversations around the subject of spirituality and how it manifests through the body, how it manifests through land, how it manifests through trees and through certain stones. It’s a very nice book and I’m happy to be reading it at this moment.

In terms of albums, there’s an album that I love at the moment, the Aquaserge album, which is on Crammed Discs, it’s called ‘Laisse ca etre’ (to translate the French version to ‘Let It Be’). It’s a fantastic album, both moving and invigorating, it’s really a perfect album. And listen to it fully because what you first hear is not necessarily where you end up, it’s a journey.

‘Find Me Finding You’ is out now on Drag City.

For forthcoming UK & European tour dates (kicking off in Dublin THIS Thursday), visit HERE

https://www.facebook.com/LaetitiaSadierOfficial/

https://www.facebook.com/dragcityrecords/

Written by admin

April 5, 2017 at 11:07 pm