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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

Chosen One: Saltland

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And that’s what I love about music is trying to transcend or get out of this reality and move yourself and channel something deeper and find emotional depth within it.”

Rebecca Foon

Words: Mark Carry

Rebecca playing cello

Rebecca Foon’s second album as Saltland unfolds a deeply moving and intense journey, which forges an indelible imprint on one’s heart and mind. ‘A Common Truth’ centers on climate change and the state of the world (issues which Foon has worked tirelessly on over the years as an activist, organizer and co-founder of Pathway To Paris and several other environmental groups). The message of ‘A Common Truth’ resonates powerfully: Humanity needs to act urgently in order to save our planet Earth.

Employing the Montreal composer’s looped layers of cello and voice, stunningly beautiful cello soundscapes furl into the atmosphere as a transcendent flow of captivating strings is channelled from deep within the cosmos. An undeniable force is formed when Foon’s beguiling vocals blend with her layered cello instrumentation. On the achingly beautiful lament ‘Light Of Mercy’, Foon asks “How did we get ourselves here?” beneath mesmeric passages of brooding strings, akin to a late night vigil or desperate prayer to mother Earth. A deeply moving, meditative quality permeates throughout Foon’s otherworldly song cycles, capturing a rich intensity and raw emotion at every turn.

A striking intimacy prevails throughout ‘A Common Truth’. The hypnotic wordless vocals of album opener ‘To Allow Us All To Breathe’ flickers like stars dotted across a night sky. ‘I Only Wish This For You’ is a deeply affecting exploration that navigates the depths of human darkness where a vivid colours of hopelessness and despair engulf the utterly transporting sonic layers (bringing to mind the likes of Dirty Three, Rachel’s and Sarah Neufeld’s solo works).

A Common Truth’ features multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis (Dirty Three, The Bad Seeds) on several tracks, further heightening Foon’s divine tapestry of enchanting sounds. The renowned Australian composer’s instrumentation of violin, pump organ and loops supplies rich textures for Foon’s voice and cello; the record shares the gripping intensity of the scores penned by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, creating, in turn, a timeless journey that forever orbits an ethereal realm.

‘A Common Truth’ is out now on Constellation.

http://www.saltland.ca/

http://cstrecords.com/

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Interview with Rebecca Foon (Saltland).

 

Congratulations on the new Saltland album ‘A Common Truth’, it’s such a gripping and moving journey. Please discuss for me the making of the new record, Rebecca?

Rebecca Foon: Well basically, I was writing this album mostly in 2015 and at the same time I was working quite heavily on organizing with my partner Jessica Smith a concert in Paris at the lead-up to the UN climate change. I do a lot of work in Climate and Change as well so I had that on my mind a lot so it was pieces of creative expression on what was heavy on my mind at that time, and still to this day. And also, it’s a wonderful way for me to challenge myself in different musical ways with singing and writing lyrics and trying to sing on top of my cello playing with loops. And then four songs were co-written by a friend Warren Ellis and that was really a project I worked with him on those four songs and we would send files back and forth. I just really admire his playing and it was such a wonderful opportunity.

I love how the album itself the mix between the voice and instrumentals – it works so wonderfully – and how  you’re able to blend your voice with the cello instrument is amazing and how it comes back and forth throughout the record at different points.

RF: That’s so nice, thank you. It’s definitely been a fun process. It’s challenging for sure because it’s new territory for me but also really exciting and fun.

In terms of the lyrical content – you’ve already mentioned – is stemmed from the world as it is present and climate change, and the effect of these lyrics they really hit you. And more so, the message of the album is very hard-hitting, which is a good thing obviously.

RF: I’m so glad to hear that and your feedback, thank you.

Your approach to writing these pieces, how challenging must it have been to write the different layers to these compositions? It’s a process you must be getting more and more used to?

RF: Yeah it’s interesting because I wrote the lyrics before the music except for that song ‘Light Of Mercy’ which I wrote at the same time. But that song – unlike any of the other songs on the album – just came out, which was very interesting, that was probably the easiest song to write like it truly just came out of me. The other songs, the lyrics I wrote first and then wrote the music and then I would sing on top. I was writing the layers – like a cello groove happening, like a world of cello sounds – that I could then try and sing on top of and then I would flesh them out in the studio.

But because with music – like the melodies and chords –there are no words so it can take you into this trip, playing this. And that’s what I love about music is trying to transcend or get out of this reality and move yourself and channel something deeper and find emotional depth within it. And for the lyrics, writing the lyrics for me there was that poetic element but also because I was tapping into this really real, raw feeling around climate change and the state of the world with a sense of urgency. I think that’s what’s different about this album is like for me and where I’m at I really feel a strong sense of urgency, for humanity to act and I feel very compelled to channel that within my music. And so within that there is definitely a bit of a cerebral element to the lyrics like I’d find my own creativity within it and poetic feeling within that, there is almost an intellectual component to it. But then the music is quite a different experiment and then trying to bring them together was a fun challenge because it’s using two different parts of the brain in a way.

With the input of Warren Ellis as well, I wonder did you have him in mind or particular parts in mind for him before the songs were completed or was it towards the end of the process?

RF:  It was quite organic. Before writing the album, I always wanted to invite him to be part of it but I wanted this album to be very stripped down like on my first album, quite  few friends of mine play on it but this album I wanted to be much more intimate and much more of a cello vocal record. But I always had the intention of inviting Warren to be part of it and then the organic part of it is this concert I organized in Paris with my partner Jesse, Warren ended up performing at it – which was also spontaneous – and that concert was like a unique concert because it was during the UN Climate Change conference and it was really to highlight the importance of establishing the Paris Agreement. So, we had that connection then and so from there, it all came together organically.

The intimacy and just how raw the journey is really is striking. The album has a similar feel to scores by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis as the intensity really hits you.

RF:  I mean I’m really inspired by them and the emotional depth that they can convey in their music is very powerful. I think with the first record, it was my first time doing that world of cello and voice and writing songs from that foundation. I brought in a lot of friends for that record [‘I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us’] because I really wanted to try to not hide away from anything and try to really get to the essence of what I’m trying to channel without trying to vary it in any way and not being scared of that being raw or naked or whatever it is you know. I’m glad that you find that come through; it’s rewarding to hear that.

You’re part of so many groups and bands and being part of the wonderful music scene in Montreal, I suppose all these different projects must feed into one another; as you’re finishing one thing, you’re beginning something else almost at the same time?

RF: Yeah, definitely and that’s quite beautiful because it’s all inter-connected like all the music is connected and everyone’s stories are woven together like my solo record, I would never would have created what I created if it wasn’t for everything; all the experiences that I’ve had leading up to it, which is a beautiful thing about life and the scripts of our lives, it’s so magical in a way.

Would you have memories of first learning music or discovering music in the first place?

RF: Well I started when I was eight. I had a funny story where I don’t come from a musical family. So I started playing cello because I went to a school that had a string programme and so I saw the cello and I totally fell in love with it and then I told my family that I wanted to play that instrument and they were like ‘What’s that? It’s so big’ [laughs] So, because of that experience, I really believe in public education because I never would have had the experience of playing music if I hadn’t had access to that as a kid. And playing a string instrument, it’s hard to start it when you’re older, even when I was eight that was quite old to start playing a stringed instrument so I always felt like I started way too old.

Just thinking of today and the last few years, it’s amazing too with just the cello instrument alone, how much wonderful music is being made with the cello.

RF: Totally because when I was growing up, there was not like the language of cello – it wasn’t violin even – it felt like classical was the way and anything else didn’t exist. There was no musical language outside of classical music like when I was growing up. I decided to not pursue classical music and so that was hard for me because I didn’t have a lot of reference points in the cello community but now that’s changing. It’s still not huge but there’s definitely more out there that I’m inspired by, for sure.

You’re probably touring the album ‘A Common Truth’ quite soon as well?

RF:  Yeah, I’m doing one-off shows and I’ll probably open up for Esmerine on tour. I’ll do my album launch in North America, in Montreal and New York.

Do you have favourite albums at the moment that you’re listening to?

RF: Yeah I guess for me within the Constellation/Montreal world, I’m really inspired by Matana Roberts and Colin Stetson. I love the new Bad Seeds record ‘The Skeleton Tree’, I love some other stuff on Constellation like Jerusalem In My Heart and I love listening to old albums like Mary Margaret O’ Hara ‘Miss America’, I love Marvin Gaye, Neil Young [laughs], I always go back to classic records that inspire me. But you know I have to say something about Marvin Gaye because there is this one album when you listen to his lyrics – it’s super-trippy – he references environmental degradation a lot on some of the songs. It’s interesting that you can go back to some albums from way back and it’s fixed like where we are now as a society. I love Sarah Neufeld and there’s some very interesting female solo albums put out now that makes me feel happy, who are doing things untraditionally like going for it.

There’s a lovely parallel between you and Sarah Neufeld and it shows just how much wonderful female solo artists there are making such important music.

RF: I think we inspire each other too and it keeps us engaged like seeing each other do it, inspires us to keep doing what we’re doing and it’s helpful to have friends in the community, it’s like a nice and supportive environment.

Lastly, you work so hard and well with all these issues concerning climate change, where do you see the state of the world as we are now and what do you hope for the next decade?

RF: Because I feel the urgency so strongly and because of the world right now with politics all over, I really believe – and part of me is because I am an optimist by nature – we can make it through but we can only make it through with really powerful collaboration and that needs to happen on a city level. And because federal politics are so murky right now and will probably continue to be murky for a while and we don’t have much time in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. I think what needs to happen – and this is what I’m working on with this organization that I’ve started Pathway to Paris – is really focusing on at a city level and I think that if cities can come together around the world and make commitments and action plans and implementation strategies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% by 2050, I think that we will be OK.

If that can happen and it’s going to take flagship cities from all around the world to really start moving on that and for governments to support cities that don’t have funds to do it and have creative funding and creative mechanisms to help cities around the world to join in that effort because it’s much harder for cities like New York for example to make those kind of commitments and implement strategies and movement forward to move towards those kinds of reductions. But I really do think that if we can do that we’ll be OK but it needs to happen fast and it needs to happen very collaboratively. It’s exciting if it does because imagining cities that are not dependent on fossil fuels like that’s a pretty cool world, you can conquer a lot of problems at the same time reinventing those cities. So, for me that’s what excites me, to work towards that goal.

But I do think it requires a global effort and a global effort at this point. It’s unfortunate because with the state of the world right now with federal politics going more and more within federal boundaries and creating stronger and real walls to protect those boundaries but really the world needs to break away from all of that and think of us as a planet and think of it like a global picture to conquer this issue. And this issue is just a reflection of how we see the world, it’s showing us so strongly how we need to perceive the world but unfortunately the reaction is going in the opposite direction. But I do think there is hope there if we take another route, like the city route.

‘A Common Truth’ is out now on Constellation.

http://www.saltland.ca/

http://cstrecords.com/

Written by admin

April 4, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Chosen One: Hauschka

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It’s always a wonderful and fun process to create new music where you actually find yourself unfolding something new and I think that for me is always inspiring and refreshing.”

Volker Bertelmann

Words: Mark Carry

Hauschka_-_Vidas_Cerniauskas_cropped_1200_683

A wealth of magic emanates from the scintillating piano works of Germany’s Volker Bertelmann. Under the guise of Hauschka, the gifted composer has released his most ambitious, radical and enthralling works thus far. ‘What If’ feels like a culmination where the dynamics of Hauschka’s incendiary live performances – particularly post-‘Abandoned City’ with his shows often built around one single, three-dimensional long piece that continually weaves in and out, unfolding into an infinite array of possibilities – becomes etched across the record’s deeply fulfilling journey.

I recall fondly an interview with The Necks’ pianist Chris Abrahams and some of his words echoes powerfully throughout ‘What If’s otherworldly sound-world: “Sometimes, through the combination of a strange instrument and weird acoustics, I have heard the piano speak words.” As the fragile piano melodies of ‘My Kids Live On Mars’ morph into reverb-laden tones amidst deep bass techno flourishes, the piano speaks words so absolute and true. It feels as if Bertelmann’s piano-based odysseys are navigating the deepest parts of our inner selves, a cosmic exploration of immense magnitude.

A circularity resides in these nine sublime texturally rich compositions where certain piano motifs (the rhythmic pulses of the player pianos masterfully employed in several places, for instance) and far-reaching, dense textures (deep techno bass and analogue synthesizers depicting a dystopian universe) circulate the divine minimalism of Hauschka’s singular soundscapes. The record’s penultimate track ‘Trees Only Exist In Books’ transports you to another realm with the suite of synthesizers and piano patterns forming an ethereal bliss of faded dreams. This piece somehow feels inter-connected to Mica Levi’s ‘Under The Skin’ score, such is the intoxicatingly bewitching sounds that are masterfully sculpted.

What If’ is the sound of a producer as much as a pianist. Hauschka’s piano-based tracks of earlier works still remain, albeit as sacred artifacts buried beneath a sea of beautiful noise and electronic elements. New patterns and shapes are forged at every turn, sharing parallels with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Black Ark studio of miraculous sound creation and immaculate hip-hop production. ‘What If’ asks for reflection of the deepest kind.

‘What If’ is out today on City Slang (Europe) and Temporary Residence Ltd. (USA).

https://www.facebook.com/HauschkaMusic/
https://www.hauschka-music.com/

hauschka

Interview with Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka).

From your live shows, you have focused more so on creating one long piece – and obviously that’s something you’ve been developing a lot since ‘Abandoned City’ – how the different ideas and motifs from these performances must go into the new album’s recordings?

Volker Bertelmann: I actually recorded a lot of the music in Berlin with Francesco Donadello and we were setting up the studio like in the way I am doing a concert so we had the two pianos. So, I was performing in the way I was performing live and that was the foundation for at least six tracks of the album and the other three tracks were tracks with player pianos.

The player piano is something new for you, is it?

VB: I have played it at the Brighton festival two years ago and I also played a release show of the ‘Abandoned City’ album in Berlin. I’ve wanted to find a way of playing multi-track things with an acoustic instrument. So I figured out it would be nice to have two pianos to be my band and that was the first thought of it and then I felt very good about preparing one piano as a drum kit and preparing the other piano differently so I was very happy about that.

It feels as if the record goes further and deeper than even the previous releases and particularly the electronic element is very important and where all the many elements come together so well?

VB: Yeah I agree totally. It was challenging because when you work with the player pianos, you have your hands free to actually prepare the pianos with all sorts of stuff while the piano is playing. It was very interesting to work with. I really feel attracted to the precision when working with the player piano because you cannot force create a very electronic and precise score using the prepared piano and that’s very nice.

Did the more analogue equipment like the synthesizers you’re using, would these have been the same equipment used on tour and on previous releases?

VB: No, actually this time I’ve used different equipment. I mean I was always a synthesizer man already when I was young and I collected a lot of synthesizers  but I had the feeling on previous records that I didn’t want to use them. I’m not a big fan of this Jean-Michel Jarre kind of repetitive sequence for using the synthesizer in a particular way. So, I was using an old Roland Jupiter 4 synthesizer and using a Minimoog , which is one of my favourite ever synthesizers and that’s mainly it.

I think the pinnacle of the record for me comes on the penultimate – and longest track – ‘Trees Only Exist In Books’ it feels like these mesmerising strings arrive in halfway through , it really sums up how far-reaching the entire album is.

VB: I was thinking as well about my hip-hop times because there is also a lot of songs that have a little lower tempo but they’re still clubby in a way and there’s some neatness to them. And they’re at the same time not only house or techno tempo but they’re a little bit more in the middle like 100 BPM or 90. I felt like some of the tracks would be nice to get into that channel again – when I was twenty to twenty-five – where I was listening mainly to hip-hop artists and I’m always a big fan of that. Some of the tracks are a little bit oriented on that time as well.

Listening to ‘What If’ you can really hear the sound of a producer as much so as a pianist. For instance, the production of ‘Familiar Things Disappear’ with the transforming sounds throughout.

VB: Yeah totally, I mean it’s something that I’ve always done. I think it was never a part of my previous records because I mainly just played one track and that was it or a little laptop overdubs. But I have the feeling that I want to go more into a direction where I can go more extreme and I felt like this is maybe the way to go.

The album – just like all your previous records – there’s always very much a narrative or a particular chapter with a beginning, middle and end and the pieces on ‘What If’ certainly all feel closely connected with each other.

VB: This time I recorded twenty tracks with this kind of style and at the same time I was recording more piano pieces that I haven’t released yet, about forty that have nothing prepared and no electronics, just one take with me and the grand piano. I have the feeling that I have to switch between my work having all these sounds and my work that has the clearness of the piano; I love both of them so I’m trying to switch between those two styles.

Throughout ‘What If’, there’s like a series of contrasts and wide range of sounds and I love how ‘I Can’t Express My Deep Love’ fits so nicely in the middle, the more bare piano compared to the rest.

VB: This one song ‘I Can’t Express My Deep Love’ is actually from one of those takes that were pure piano recordings and I used this specific track on that album in the middle because I wanted to cut the tracks a little bit in half. This is the only piece that does not belong to the session I did altogether – this was a completely different session – from that session I have many more but I want to focus right now on the more textural  and more electronic and darker side of the music. At the same time, I’m doing a lot of film scores, there’s a lot of music out from my workflow that is very melodic and beautiful and so I felt my own music wanted to be a bit more edgy.

A track that just turned out amazingly is ‘My Kids Live On Mars’ and how there’s this fragile piano and that deep bass sound that floats in the mix.

VB: I really tried to find the balance between my melodic and my rhythm sides but at the same time I also feel like maybe the pieces are not only getting more diverse but they’re a little bit more like a composition, for example more pattern oriented music, which maybe in the beginning it was much more repetitive and I slowly feel like I can give the music more the sense of a journey and let it feel more like a composition that goes in and out and that has more different themes involved.

It brings you to your live shows as well, especially after ‘Abandoned City’ where some of the shows had this feeling like it’s this blank canvas and you start at one point and you don’t know where you’re going to go from that point on.

VB:  Yeah absolutely, that’s what my intention was to actually connect those two worlds with each other.

VB: I remember how you mentioned before how much an inspiration Nicolas Jaar was for you and it’s actually his first album ‘Space Is Only Noise’ that shares that atmosphere and dimension when revisiting your new album.

VB: Totally, I think above inspiration, music that you listen to where maybe a part of your world is incorporated where you feel like this is something that where the mixture is different from where you normally would mix everything up. But I think especially with Nicolas Jaar’s way of combining real instruments with a DJ approach is very nice and I have a feeling there are elements in there that I would say a musician would do differently in a way when you just come from the instrumentalist point of view. And I really like how he’s dealing with samples and how he’s like weaving it into each other, I really love that.

In terms of your own studio – you mentioned how one part was made in your own studio and also in Francesco Donadello’s studio– is this set up where you create most of your work in general?

VB: Francesco works a lot with Johann Johannsson and Dustin O’ Halloran and he mainly mixes a lot of their albums. He went on a couple of tours with me, doing my sound and I know him from back in the early days when he was in the band Giardini di Mirò. He also mixed the album and he had a different view on my music, which helped as well because I wanted to find somebody that I feel very close with in a way but at the same time I wanted a viewpoint of looking into the mix and finding maybe weaknesses or strengths. In his studio [Vox-ton] they have a Steinway D grand piano and I was very inspired by that piano so I think I will get one pretty soon. But at that time when I recorded the album, I had no grand piano and I wanted to have this full-bodied sound. All the albums beforehand were made with an upright.

And once the mixing stage is completed then, is it a case of doing overdubs and other final tweaking by yourself?

VB: Yeah, I mean mostly I’m trying to go in different places. In previous albums I was mostly recording the albums in my studio so the whole workflow was already clear, I just started it and recorded something and then I finished it in a way. With my workflow this time, it was forcing me into a different field, make an appointment and just go in by yourself and start recording as much material as possible and then go back with that material to my studio and mix that with stuff I already had. There were a lot of tracks of mine that were very, very rich in how I worked with them because there was already an option of live recordings and rich textures that I had collected.

So, this time I said I’m working much more like in the live situation as you mentioned but in a very good surrounding with great microphones and all sort of stuff. So, I am very pleased that it turned out so well especially as I was doing two films at the same time, back to back. And I was not sure I would be able to do it but I’m very happy in the way – like the flip-side in what I was doing with the moog in a way.

In the moment that you have laid down all your tracks – and you know there’s obviously a pool or a well of material to choose from – I wonder is that a fun process or is it challenging to select the right parts, considering the wealth of material that has gathered?

VB: I mean you know yourself, you have for example the opportunity to find out when you work best and a lot of times I have the feeling that I need some pressure when I’m working best and not pressure that is stressful but it’s more like I’d rather wait longer to the point where now I have to start otherwise it’s taking too long. So, that’s how I work and so a lot of times I’m trying to force myself into the situation where I have to move. It’s always a wonderful and fun process to create new music where you actually find yourself unfolding something new and I think that for me is always inspiring and refreshing. I’ve never failed so far making a record and having the feeling like it’s painful or I won’t get this done, so far I’ve been lucky [laughs].

I must congratulate you on the ‘Lion’ score you did with Dustin O’ Halloran and the many nominations you received for this music. Like you said about Francesco Donadello, it must have been a real pleasure to create music together with Dustin?

VB: I mean he’s the most humble, non-egotistic person in the world and that makes it totally nice to work with somebody who you can actually work on the creative side but you never have to battle the human element. But you know with musicians it’s not always easy because musicians of course want to express themselves and they want to be seen in the right way and at the same time when you have to make a movie it’s also a service and it’s also collaboration with the director who has certain ideas. So you have to decide what’s best for the film rather than for your own artistic expression. And finding that balance was so easy with Dustin and we are already long-time good friends so that was a pleasure to experience this whole journey with him.

As you mentioned previously, you obviously had a big starting point with hip-hop and a love for rap music, I’m curious to know would there be defining artists and records for you from this world of hip-hop that was very important for you?

VB: I was always a big fan of Timbaland as a producer and I love his way of approaching rhythms. I was a fan of N.E.R.D and all their records, it had the minimalism, which was the most interesting thing for me: how they work with beats and so I would say these two. And also, of course all the work that Timbaland did with all the collaborators. There’s also one collaboration with 2Pac and Dr Dre that I really love. This kind of hip-hop production for me was very inspiring I have to say.

With your tour coming up, it must be exciting to have this new music that’s so fresh, it must make the experience of the live show different and new again for you?

VB: Totally. I’m trying to prepare right now. Touring and finding the right sounds and the right lights and I am working again with Michael Buchholz who is doing the sound and we’re travelling with a light guy. But you know what I don’t want to do is like I’m not going towards the stadium show – I’m not a big fan of that – I rather smaller and more intimate spaces, I have to feel the audience, so that’s what I’m aiming for on this tour.

‘What If’ is out today on City Slang (Europe) and Temporary Residence Ltd. (USA).

https://www.facebook.com/HauschkaMusic/
https://www.hauschka-music.com/

 

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March 31, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Chosen One: Echo Collective

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Interview with Neil Leiter (Echo Collective co-founder).

I love playing this music and feeling my heart slow down in the pulseless moments, and then the opposite, getting carried away by the wall of sound and transported to the next realm.”

Neil Leiter

Words: Mark Carry

Photograph: Jesse Overman

official echo photo

Echo Collective is a collective of classically trained and professionally active musicians based in Brussels Belgium. Past and ongoing collaborations include A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Stars of the Lid, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Laniakea, Adam Wiltzie, Dustin O’Halloran, and Christina Vantzou.

The live experience is one of those rare occurrences where a multitude of emotions can engulf your every thought, like a whirlpool of forgotten dreams that suddenly resurface to the pools of your mind. Of course, an experience such as this is impossible to quantify but the feelings and profound impact caused by these sonic transmissions is absolute and true.

When I think of some of these live experiences, the Echo Collective string quartet lies at the heart of several otherworldly live shows: Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson; A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s ‘Atomos’ tour (several years later) and Stars Of The Lid’s 2016 European tour. Undoubtedly, the gifted quartet have developed a common musical language with these awe-inspiring modern composers and the wall of intense sound unleashed by these live strings – blended with electronics, drone noise, ripples of piano notes or otherwise – navigates the depths of the human heart and (unknowingly) transported to another realm.

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. In a similar way to André de Ridder’s exceptional Stargaze modern classical ensemble – their reinvention of Boards Of Canada’s ‘HI Scores’ EP or the divine ‘Deerhoof Chamber Variations’ record are just two examples – Echo Collective are continually searching to redefine the boundaries of music (and in turn, these boundaries become beautifully blurred).

www.echocollective.be

https://www.facebook.com/collectiveecho/?ref=bookmarks

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. For details of the first edition of the BRDCST Festival and Echo Collective’s show (as a double-bill with Germany’s Hauschka), please visit HERE.

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Echo Collective performing with A Winged Victory For The Sullen at the BBC Proms, 5 Aug 2015, Royal Albert Hall, London.

 

Interview with Neil Leiter (Echo Collective co-founder).

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about your awe-inspiring musical project of Echo Collective. Firstly, can you please take me back to the founding of Echo Collective and the particular space and time in which this collective began on their music path? I’d love to gain an insight into your musical background and classical training. Also, please introduce to me the current personnel who comprise of Echo Collective.

Neil Leiter: First Mark, thank you for your interest in Echo Collective. It is a true honour to be part of your inspiring blog.

Echo Collective began five years ago. I was introduced to Adam Wiltzie by a childhood friend Caroline Shaw. She plays violin as part of ACME in New York and is a fantastic and renowned composer. As part of ACME, she had played with Adam as part of A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Stars of the Lid. Adam was looking for European based musicians to play with, and she put us in touch. I will be forever grateful for that introduction.

Margaret Hermant and I put a team together to collaborate with AWVFTS and Echo Collective grew out of that initial relationship. All of our musicians come from a classical background. For example I studied viola performance at Indiana University Bloomington, and had been an active professional in Brussels for ten years before Echo. Margaret our violinist and harpist, studied in Brussels and has also been an active professional for many years before Echo. The list goes on, but the background is the same. Classically trained musicians, searching to redefine the boundaries of music and what it means to be a classical musician.

Echo was and still is primarily a collaborative group. Though we have started to branch into our own projects, our roots remain collaborating with modern composers on their new projects, recordings, and tours. Though we tour mostly as a string group, normally between three and five musicians, our team in residence at the AB in Brussels this year, is seven strong: Margaret on violin and harp, myself on viola, Harm Garreyn on cello, Gary De Cart on piano, Hélène Elst on bassoon/contrabassoon,Yan Lecollaire on clarinet/bass clarinet/baritone sax, and Antoine Dandoy on orchestral percussion. The upcoming albums that we plan to release also are in this formation.

You have formed an integral part with many of the finest modern composers of today, including Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Christina Vantzou and more. Please discuss how the process of collaboration has developed between Echo Collective and these array of composers? It is clear that there is a dedication, trust and openness between you and these collaborating musicians. Each of these projects must take you on some deeply rewarding and fulfilling experiences. How have you developed as a string quartet in light of these wonderful projects and collaborations?

NL: You are completely right that collaborating with the aforementioned composers is deeply rewarding and fulfilling. Part of what makes it so special is that there is a real dialogue between us and the composers. Because we come from such different backgrounds, part of working with each of them is developing our own common language for musical communication. And as we develop this language together, there is a deep bond that develops. All of these people are like family now.  I think that these strong relationships come from learning how to communicate in our own special way, in an individualised way. In a way that only relates to their music.

I know that these composers appreciate that dedication. And all the people that take part in Echo have that innate ability to live the music live. In fact my wife jokes that I am probably the biggest Winged Victory fan. And I might be, I listen to their music and the music of all these amazing people all the time. And I truly do love it. All the people of Echo do. And that love is felt by our collaborators and hopefully the audience.

It is hard to say how we have developed over these years. I think that probably, we are faster in understanding what the composers want. Often times anticipating ideas before they are brought up. After playing so many concerts together, mostly it just takes a few words or a certain look between us to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.

The live experience of playing cities around the world with these incredible artists must be another truly inspiring avenue and path to be on. I was fortunate to witness Echo Collective onstage with Stars of the Lid last year and Jóhann Jóhannsson a few years previously. Can you shed some light on the preparation and rehearsals that are involved with these tours? I wonder what particular stage in the live context would be your favourite? The energy and depths of emotion that fill the atmosphere during these shows of yours create such a deeply profound impact on the listener. Can you somehow reflect on the live performance of music and the effect of strings (and the live string quartet) has on the live setting?

NL: For me personally, music is at its best live. I think that is where the greatest range of emotion is communicated by the performer and felt by the audience. And this is where the live strings really add the most. Because we are naturally acoustic, we can give the soft moments the transparency of un-amplified sound. And because we are amplified, as the music reaches those mind bending peaks in volume, we can help give it that extra oomph. In those forte moments, often times I feel that even in three we sound like one hundred.

We have worked over the years with Tom Lezaire (our long time sound engineer with AWVFTS and SOTL) as well as other sound engineers to keep the natural sound of the string instruments.  Even in the loud moments, the audience should feel the direction of the sound from the strings, the bow moving across the strings, the hiss of the contact point. Though the audience only sees the musicians on stage, the relationship that we have with Tom and the other sound engineers is imperative to a strong live performance.

As we play these great compositions, we try to feel the emotion that we want to convey. As a result, if we are doing our job correctly, the depth of emotion that we feel, should be the feeling that the audience gets swept away by. I love playing this music and feeling my heart slow down in the pulseless moments, and then the opposite, getting carried away by the wall of sound and transported to the next realm. That is by far my favorite part of the live context, being transported by the music.

As Margaret always says, and she is so right, having a stable team that is able to communicate and feel in these common ways is essential to being swept away and sharing that feeling with the audience. It is not by accident that we convey these feelings, it comes from years of playing together.

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Echo Collective plays ‘Amnesiac’ is an ongoing residency at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, which culminates in April 7ths Brdcst Festival performance. Firstly, please discuss your reasons for choosing Radiohead’s Amnesiac album and indeed your love and fascination with this band? This of course was a special time, when ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ were unleashed into the world at the turn of the millennium. What are your memories of first hearing ‘Amnesiac’ and the impressions it left on you?

NL: This might surprise you, but I had never listened to the Amnesiac album before Kurt from the AB proposed it as the focal point of our residency. I grew up singularly focused to a fault on classical music. In fact it is a kind of running inside joke how little popular culture I actually have.  That being said, other members of Echo are huge Radiohead fans.

Kurt Overbergh, the artistic director of the AB in Brussels, initially proposed a choice between Kid A and Amnesiac as the focal point of our residency. At that point, I asked for a week, and immersed myself in these great records. We decided to work on Amnesiac because it is more complex, more built on layers, in my opinion more based of classical construction and colours, and in many ways more of a challenge.

The live recordings of ‘Amnesiac’ from AB Brussels, are quite extraordinary and the intricate arrangements are a joy to savour. Can you talk me through the process of notating, arranging and fleshing out these songs, so to speak? What I love is how you add many colours, textures and new perspectives to the sound world of ‘Amnesiac’. What have been the most challenging aspects of this project?

NL: Gary, our pianist, and I have been working this year to arrange these songs. Of course the process involves notating all the parts from the original songs (Gary is a real pro at this) and then imagining how to apply it to our ensemble. In a lot of ways, reworking the songs without voice has been freeing. Where a traditional rock song has to leave lots of room for the vocal line, we have allowed the secondary lines to be more equal with the vocal melody. This results in more interaction between the lines, and as a result hopefully lots of colours and variation in sound and form.

The hardest part has been finding our voice within, while still remaining ‘true’ to the original.  We want the audience to feel like they are meeting an old friend for the first time. To feel comfort in hearing a song that they love, but to be challenged to listen and interact with it like it is the first time. That is a real fine line to balance.

After our initial arrangements, all the fleshing out and balancing happens collectively in rehearsal.  We try things, see if they work, play a concert, reimagine, and repeat. We are constantly searching to take the sound to the limit, to appropriate each line as our own. In this way, the pieces are not just interpretations but reinventions. Our residency at the AB has really allowed us the time to work through all these processes, and to assimilate the music for ourselves. It has been a fantastic opportunity that we are very thankful for, and I think that we are finding that illusive balance.

The opening ‘Pyramid Song’ is magnificently re-arranged. The woodwind instrumentation replaces Thom Yorke’s voice but retains that sombre, brooding, dense feeling and atmosphere. Can you talk me through the instrumental make-up of ‘Pyramid Song’ and what new layers were composed for some of these parts?

NL: Like almost all of the songs, there is very little composition added to these amazing pieces, the lines from the original are kept, but readapted in our colours and techniques. In Pyramid Song the intro and outro are wind like color effects that we added to help set the mood. We achieved this through extended techniques in the strings and winds. And the baritone sax replaces Thom Yorke’s voice, later doubled by the contrabassoon. We chose those instruments to try and capture the amazing timbre he is able to achieve. It was one of the first arrangements we did, and still one of our favorites.

‘Hunting Bears/Like Spinning Plates’ epitomises the dynamic range of your ‘Amnesiac’ performances and just how aesthetically rich these compositions are. One of the defining moments arrives with the gradual awakening of ‘Like Spinning Plates’, coming after the sparse ‘Hunting Bears’. So much colour is added to the latter, it’s a piece I’m sure you particularly enjoyed arranging and performing? The strings on top of the piano and percussion – arriving on the rise of the song – is one of the defining moments of this live set.

NL: Hunting Bears is originally a big guitar solo, but for us was very reminiscent of a recitative from opera. Very free and in a way spoken. Margaret plays both the harp part and then the violin part which replace the guitar, and we follow her seemingly free form improvisation like an orchestra would accompany a singer in a recitative. We chose to use it more as an introduction to Spinning Plates than as a standalone piece.

And our version of Spinning Plates is based on Radiohead’s live version of this song. Their live version spoke to us directly, almost like something that we would have composed ourselves. It is probably my favorite, and also the most classical of all the songs. Like in many of the arrangements the vibraphone and glockenspiel are integral in creating the resonate atmosphere.  Everything just fits together like a clock. The contrabassoon line, which is not really the melody in the original, is a great solo line in our version. Put all together it gives the sensation of flying.

‘I Might Be Wrong’ and ‘You and Who’s Army’ remain as vital and affecting on these live recordings. I feel listening to these arrangements of yours, it not only reminds us how incredible Radiohead’s works are but how you are able to channel new energy and perspectives into these songs. ‘You And Who’s Army’ was always one of my favourite songs from the original and to see how this instrumental version slowly bloom and continually build is certainly the record’s crescendo.

NL: Part of the work that went into these arrangements was imagining the dynamics in a classical way.  That means creating long crescendos, or dynamic contrasts that might not be evident in the original.  ‘You and Who’s Army‘ was in fact reimagined as one long crescendo. The soft color of the bassoon solo accompanied by harp and soft viola and cello, that transitions into a raucous jazz inspired baritone sax and violin solo. This version really shows our full dynamic range both in terms of volume and color. As the layers pile up, so does the emotion. This is an extremely classical construction, and is part of what helps us reclaim the song as our own.

What are the kinds of conversations you’ll be discussing about honing in on your sound as you’re working together for the next number of weeks before the Brdcst festival? It must also be quite liberating to be undergoing a project such as this where there is vast possibilities as to how to bring ‘Amnesiac’ to life with your artistic vision?

NL: At this point we are fine tuning. Everything is basically set, and we are working towards esoteric things like flow, how to connect the pieces, in which order, communication, balance etc.  This is the part of the work where it really becomes chamber music.

How ‘Dollars and Cents’ is transformed into a sweeping orchestral jazz work out is another important part of Echo Collective’s ‘Amnesiac’ and how it serves a wonderful prelude to ‘Knives Out’. What have you learned about this body of work by Radiohead and what new insights and feelings/impressions you may have now after being immersed deeply in this project for the past few months?

NL: As we have worked through this large undertaking, we have been confronted with many things that we are not often confronted with as classical musicians. For example, non-classical musicians often talk about the groove, whereas classical musicians talk about pulse. This immersive process has really helped us to find that alternative perspective and abandon many of our preprogrammed classical clichés. By working through these arrangements we have in many ways transformed into a band. And that is exciting. But I am continuously struck by how classical and jazz oriented Radiohead is. It is ironic, but as we move away from what we know best, we continuously come full circle and are confronted with our origins. I feel that these songs are as much classical as they are not. And that paradox also gives the energy to reimagine what is already a great piece of art.

What other plans for Echo Collective lie on the horizon? I hope there will be (physical) releases made available in the near future.

NL: Thankfully there are many things on the horizon for Echo Collective.

We plan on releasing three albums in the near future, though where is still a great mystery. Of course we want to release the Amnesiac rework which we will record in August. We also want to release a reworking of Burzum’s ‘Daodi Baldrs‘ that was commissioned by the AB two years ago, which is already recorded, and we continue to play live. And we would like to release an album of our own original material that we have been working on in parallel to the Radiohead as part of our residency.

And then of course we will continue to work with AWVFTS as well as other artists in collaboration.  For example, we are in the beginning of collaboration with Daniel O’Sullivan. And of course we are always looking for new collaborations with artists.

We are doing more and more film work these days. As well as teaching graphic scores in collaboration with Christina Vantzou. All in all we are very excited as our activities continue to diversify.

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www.echocollective.be

https://www.facebook.com/collectiveecho/?ref=bookmarks

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. For details of the first edition of the BRDCST Festival and Echo Collective’s show (as a double-bill with Germany’s Hauschka), please visit HERE.

 

Chosen One: Gareth Dickson

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Interview with Gareth Dickson.

For me recording is almost a necessary evil, writing is where the fun is but once a song is written I am always quite anxious about how I will manage to capture it on a recording.”

Gareth Dickson

Words: Mark Carry

garethdickson_web

 

Windswept beauty is immediately forged across ‘Orwell Court’ on the achingly beautiful folk lament ‘Two Halfs’. Scotland’s Gareth Dickson continues to explore deeper into mystical realms and otherworldly dimensions on his latest crowning jewel of timeless folk gems steeped in ethereal sound worlds of ambient and drone flourishes. These seven sumptuously crafted song cycles drift majestically into one’s heart and mind like the unfolding of dawn’s vast skies.

Delicate guitar tones coalesce with Dickson’s hush-like whisper on ‘Two Halfs’, casting a hypnotic spell. The returning guitar motif feels like an age-old melody unearthed from the depths of an ocean, before Vashti Bunyan’s ethereal voice – and carefully placed synths – further heightens the celestial and sublime human experience. The Glasgow-based musician has collaborated closely with folk luminary Vashti Bunyan – touring the world with Bunyan adding his distinctive guitar sound – and it’s her 2005 FatCat album ‘Lookaftering’ album that could form some reference point to Dickson’s latest sonic trajectory. For it’s not only the immense songcraft on display across ‘Orwell Court’s striking narrative but the rich textures, luminous tones and vast space in which these deeply moving songs – or closer to dense sound collages – forever inhabit.

The album’s vital pulse arrives with the duo of ‘Snag With The Language’ and ‘The Hinge of the Year’. Dream-like tapestries are weaved across the former, as gorgeous guitar patterns flicker like midnight stars before Nick Drake-esque vocals creates a brooding, cinematic atmosphere. Later, warm percussion is wonderfully added on the song’s middle section, displaying a kind of meticulous detail that feels all-too-rare in these modern times. Gradual ambient flourishes of acoustic guitar passages begins ‘The Hinge of the Year’ that belongs to the world of Brian Eno, Sweden’s Tape, Finnish duo The Gentleman Losers, Berlin’s Martyn Heyne as it does Bert Jansch, Jackson C. Frank and Nick Drake. Towards the final section, the tempo slows amidst Dickson’s singing of “snowfall” wherein the guitar instrumentation transforms into a viola de gamba (whose rhythmic pulses share the cosmic spirit of French artist Colleen).

The brooding tour-de-force ‘Red Road’ takes you down dusty roads and ghosts of memories as immaculate guitar tones and harmonica lingers in the pools of your mind. The dense, atmospheric instrumental ‘This Solid World’ serves the fitting prelude to the closing Joy Division cover ‘Atmosphere’. At every corner of ‘Orwell Court’ sublime reverie abounds. “Don’t walk away, in silence”.

‘Orwell Court’ is out now on 12K (and available in Europe via Discolexique).

http://garethdickson.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/garethdicksonmusic

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Interview with Gareth Dickson.

Congratulations Gareth on your sublime new record, ‘Orwell Court’. The seven sonic creations captured here inhabit an otherworldly dimension, in which the songs – more like sumptuously crafted sound collages – drift majestically into one’s heart and mind. I have always felt this way with your music and ‘Orwell Court’ prevails with that mystical, far-reaching quality that renders the songs utterly timeless. Please take me back to the recording sessions themselves and your memories of writing ‘Orwell Court’? I would love to gain an insight into the place of ‘Orwell Court’, its resonance with you and whether there was a certain moment, mood, lyric, melody that perhaps served the trigger to the inception of this batch of songs?

Gareth Dickson: Thanks Mark, very good of you to take the time to engage with the record, and I’m glad you like it! ‘The Big Lie’ was the starting point for the whole album and very much set the theme for this record. In a sense ‘Orwell Court‘ could be described loosely as a concept album, it has a constant theme which applies in some way to all of the songs – it deals with concepts such as power, the state, myth, war, mass surveillance, manipulation of language etc. These are all topics which interest me at the moment and ‘The Big Lie’ was the first musical outlet for these thoughts. The rest of the album followed from there. ‘Orwell Court’, the place, is a street near where I grew up, George Orwell recovered from TB in the hospital near my house and they named the street after him. The similar themes he deals with in ‘1984’ made the name an obvious choice for me. It’s not, however, an album of ‘protest songs’, this album is as personal as any of my previous ones, it’s a personal reaction to what I see going on around me in the world whereas previous work was a personal reaction to what was going on in my own life.

The album was written and recorded at my home in Glasgow. Initially I spent a lot of long nights drinking coffee, improvising with the guitar (usually in altered tunings and through some effects pedals), and slowly allowing ideas to form. When I’m working like this I can spend weeks and months playing every night and hoping to find something new, but only very rarely will something excite me enough that I want to keep it and build on it. When that happens it’s just a case of trying to expand upon that initial idea, or combining it with other existing ideas which are in the same tuning. I recorded the songs myself in my living room after experimenting a great deal with microphone placements and effects set ups etc.

For me recording is almost a necessary evil, writing is where the fun is but once a song is written I am always quite anxious about how I will manage to capture it on a recording. It’s kind of a question of practicing the songs enough that you can play them well but not so much that they lose feeling. It’s a tricky balance and one which you don’t always feel has gone right. And recording itself is full of trade offs, a vocal mic placement which is good for voice may not be ideal for the guitar or whatever (I always record guitar and voice at the same time). So the whole process of home recording can be a difficult one, but one which has the advantage of having more control over exactly when you record, and therefore what mood you can achieve etc.

‘Two Halfs’ is the perfect opening line; I feel the gradual light of dawn appear across the horizon as the bright, joyous melody unfolds. Vashti Bunyan’s added harmonies heighten the song even further, a gorgeous match and haven of celestial sound. Please talk me through the construction of ‘Two Halfs’ and your memories of hearing the final recorded version? The echo and reverb from the instrumentation – and vast space created as a result – is a joy to behold.

GD: ‘Two Halfs’ is essentially built on two different riffs, the opening one for the verses and the interlude in the middle where the tempo drops. Some of the various pitched drones which you can hear in the background are from the delay pedal, and there is also some synth in there which Vashti added afterwards. I sent her the track and asked if she could add something to it, I was really blown away when I first heard what she had done. Her vocals are beautiful as always and the synth part she added is great. After this there was a long process of mixing, editing and eq-ing so the track emerged slowly from there and there was no one point where I heard it for the first time.

What were the challenges or biggest difficulties posed during the making of ‘Orwell Court’? I am curious whether the words appear for you first, prior to the musical framework or is it a case of painting words on a canvas of sound? For instance, has the creative process itself changed in any significant way from previous works like ‘Quite A Way Away’ and ‘The Dance’?

GD: Initially I would say that this album came together a little more easily than any of my previous albums, because I am now used to the process and have developed certain practical skills along the way in my guitar playing and recording (even though recording still remains a difficulty, it’s maybe less so now than previously). Later on the mixing process took a lot longer than I expected, I struggled with eq and reverb levels etc as it’s such a subjective process. What sounds like a good mix one day can the next day sound muddy and unclear, this part drove me mad for a good few weeks or more. Lyrics always take a certain amount of effort for me, I feel like guitar playing is a very natural thing to do but writing lyrics definitely takes more thought. They are always added after I have written a melody on the guitar, usually the guitar melody will suggest a certain mood and I will start the lyrics from there. In the past I have written entire songs in a night (Two Trains, Like a Clock were written this way), but now I would say they are more crafted and tend to take longer. Other than this my creative process hasn’t changed at all really since I started writing.

Please take me back to your musical upbringing and your earliest musical memories? What were the first defining moments for you that made a big impression in you and soon did you realize just how significant music would play in your life? Also, what particular records and musicians made you want to develop your own unique guitar playing?

GD: My parents were both big music lovers who grew up in the 50s and 60s so mostly around the house I would have heard things like The Beatles and Elvis when I was very young. I loved listening to the charts on the radio and watching Top of the Pops just like everyone else of my generation. In my early teens I played in punk and metal bands and listened to things like Metallica, Slayer, Fugazi, Snuff, Minor Threat. I think the first time I really realised how significant music would be to me though was when I was around 19 or 20 and started listening to acoustic stuff like Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, Incredible String Band.

These people were a revelation for me in terms of the depth of emotion they reached. This is when I really started playing guitar properly, practicing a lot and learning whatever I liked the sound of at that time. Not long after this I discovered electronic and ambient music – Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno. I think really what drove me to form my style initially was the desire to merge these two worlds – to have the discipline and direct connection with music that playing an instrument brings, but with the abstract and ethereal sound-world of electro. Since then I feel I have tried to incorporate many other types of music in to my own but this was the starting point. Other people who have had a big impact but not always in an obvious way would be Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, Robert Johnson, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner…..

I love how there are meticulously crafted layers of instrumentation dotted across the record, which serves as a lovely complement to your voice & guitar. ‘Snag With The Language’ has some beautifully warm percussion added in the closing section and harmonica flows beneath ‘Red Road’. I can imagine the later stages in making ‘Orwell Court’ was a very enjoyable part of the process, when the songs are fully formed but you have the opportunity to add certain shades and textures to the songs? I personally feel the duo of ‘Snag With The Language’ and ‘The Hinge of the Year’ forms the vital pulse to ‘Orwell Court’s rich narrative (particularly the poetic prose of the latter).

GD: I also imagined that this would be the enjoyable part but it wasn’t always the case unfortunately! This was uncharted territory for me as I have never added extra instrumentation to my music before so there was a lot to learn. The main thing I learned, after a lot of experimenting, was that the overdubbed parts had to be kept extremely simple in order for them to work. I am used to being able to write what I like when I’m writing songs, but adding parts afterwards is quite a different thing. In the end I realised that anything added afterwards had to be simplified to the bare bones in order for it to work, so that took some time. But hearing these things back once I had honed them as much as I could really brought the album to life and that definitely was fun. I agree also that the two tracks you mentioned form the heart of the record in a sense, without choosing those over the rest of the album they are definitely important for the record.

The closing cover of Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’ somehow fits so perfectly with the rest of the album, a song that embodies the record in many ways. I wonder did you envision this (utterly transcendent) cover version to be part of ‘Orwell Court’ from the very beginning or did this just happen in the midst of it all? I’d love to hear your memories of this particular song and the importance of Joy Division’s music in your own life?

GD: I am not actually so knowledgeable about Joy Division’s music to be honest but I have always loved this song, and of course ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. A few years ago Taylor Deupree (who runs 12k Records) asked me to record a cover version of this and the plan was for him to add some extra instrumentation and release it as a collaboration. When he heard it he decided that it worked well as a solo piece however, so we left it at that. During the recording of Orwell Court I thought that it would fit well with the rest of the album so I re-recorded it when I was recording the other songs.

You have played guitar alongside Vashti Bunyan on many tours across the world and have closely collaborated with this special soul. I would love to gain an insight into this collaboration and the experiences and deep learning you must have obtained as a result of this wonderful musical partnership?

GD: It’s been one of the defining experiences of my life, not just as a musician, and I have loved every minute of us playing together. We met in 2006 after FatCat let Vashti hear my music when she was looking for a guitarist to accompany her live. We’ve had some pretty memorable shows, from concert halls to little clubs and everything in between. We both learned a lot on the road together because we were both pretty new to touring and working with sound engineers etc, it took us a while to find our feet initially I think. Recently we’ve been playing often as a duo which is something I’ve really loved, playing with a band was great but a band has its own rhythm which is hard to break out of. With just the two of us it’s possible for Vashti to speed up or slow down or whatever and I can try to follow. Rehearsing together has always been great fun, a lot of cups of tea and catching up, and playing together without amplification, just a couple of guitars and Vashti’s voice, those for me are maybe the most special moments. I feel very lucky to have been involved with this, hard to put in to words what I’ve learned but I know that our playing together has had a deep impact on me.

Finally, in terms of the guitar set-up and the many delicate intricacies embedded deep in these guitar tapestries, can you outline your approaches to making these soundscapes and how you feel you ‘see’ music from a compositional approach point of view? There must be endless experimentations with various tunings and technical set-ups in order to generate such rich and lyrical layers of sound?

GD: On a technical level the guitar sound itself can be achieved fairly simply, I run my guitar through two effects pedals – an analogue delay (Electro Harmonix Memory Man) and a reverb (Electro Harmonix Holy Grail). There is definitely a fair bit of experimenting with altered tunings, sometimes I use existing tunings and sometimes I look for new ones myself. The Memory Man delay pedal has a really great warm and deep sound, especially the older ones, the new ones have changed and are a lot more clinical sounding. The older ones are like a musical instrument, with a lot of character. That’s all I use for the guitar sound, just these two pedals, there are no overdubbed synths or anything like that, the pedals provide any extra sound that you hear on the recording.

When I’m improvising though I’m on the look out for interesting things happening with the effects almost as much as for melodies that I like. In ‘Two Halfs’ for example, which you mentioned earlier, the effects pedals create drones of various pitches that enhance the original melody. In ‘The Solid World’ it’s the same again but with a lot more effects rolled in, the delay and reverb settings are turned up and I pick the guitar quite fast and very quietly so that almost all of the sound you hear is from the delay and reverb and not much from the guitar strings themselves. This gives the piece a kind of electronic feel but there are no synths or anything used there.

Another technique I use often is playing directly on the fret rather than just behind it as would normally be the case. This allows me to mute certain notes which gives a very different and maybe harp-like sound to the guitar, especially when combined with reverb. The main guitar part during the singing in ‘Snag With The Language’ is an example of this, and also the intro to ‘The Hinge of The Year’ which sounds quite different but is the same technique.

‘Orwell Court’ is out now on 12K (and available in Europe via Discolexique).

http://garethdickson.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/garethdicksonmusic

Written by admin

March 1, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Chosen One: A Winged Victory For The Sullen

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Interview with Dustin O’ Halloran.

I mean it was important that it would be a standalone experience.”

Dustin O’ Halloran

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The highly anticipated arrival of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s third full-length, ‘Iris’ marked the commencement of the New Year. The awe-inspiring duo of Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O’ Halloran have carved out some of the most vital and captivating modern-classical-infused-ambient explorations, in the shape of the band’s eponymous debut record and sophomore full-length ‘Atomos’: each record represents a beautiful time capsule, steeped in divine beauty.

On the ‘Iris’ film score, the band masterfully expand their sonic palette with use of analogue equipment. The results are nothing short of staggering as the otherworldly sound world of Mica Levi’s ‘Under The Skin’ is navigated amidst a beguiling atmosphere and forever-building wall of intense emotion. The opening ‘Prologue Iris’ is built on an achingly beautiful piano melody (similar to Wiltzie’s gorgeous ‘Salero’ debut solo score). A vast sea of symphonic sounds is combined with pulsating synthesizers on ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’. One of the album’s defining moments arrives on the scintillating ‘Gare Du Nord, Part 1’ where organic and synthetic worlds fuse together.

The recording sessions began with their long time sound collaborator Francesco Donadello in the form of some modular synth sessions in Berlin. The final sessions to what is now the score of Iris were recorded with a 40-piece string orchestra at Magyar Radio in Budapest. ‘Iris’ also features the duo’s trusted string quartet, Echo Collective.

‘Iris’ OST is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://awvfts.com/

http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Interview with Dustin O’ Halloran.

Congratulations Dustin on the new Winged Victory record; the ‘Iris’ score is really amazing. I’d love for you to discuss the making of this record? One aspect I love is – in contrast to the previous two records – the addition of all the beautiful synthesizer elements and seamless mix of analog with the strings in these new pieces.

DO’H: That was a bit of a collaboration. When Jalil Lespert – the director – he heard ‘Atomos’ and he really thought that was the sound for his film and he wanted us to explore a more electronic side for his film. At the same time, Adam [Wiltzie] and I have been getting into working with modular synth, working with our long-time collaborator Francesco Donadello. It was something we wanted to explore as well so we ended up doing some sessions with modular synth and we liked the idea of this very organic electronic element. The thing we love with the modular synth is that you can’t ever repeat it: it’s a real instrument and there’s no settings to save so you have to capture performances. It was an element that we were just exploring but we were really pleased with how it works with our sound. And it was a nice, new element to bring in and explore.

As you mentioned those sessions with Francesco, would that have been in isolation or before you ever got to writing for the string parts and so on?

DO’H: When we started work on the film – around the time he gave us the script and he hadn’t shot anything yet – so there was a lot of time to just do some experiments. So, the first experiments happened just with modular and some of the pieces are really built from those first sessions. The film has a thriller element to it so we needed also to create tension. We were bringing in this idea of pulses and things to give us movement that would move us along but still have a tonal identity and a sound identity. So, some of the pieces were really built from those first sessions.

The beauty of ‘Iris’ – and indeed all the many scores you have created – is how it’s very much a new studio album as it is an actual score for a movie as it works so well on its own.

DO’H: Yeah, you never know what you’re going to have at the end of a commission or collaboration like this. I think we’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to start in the way we make our own records and we had a lot of time. Then we took the pieces and what we released is more our vision for a stand-alone record so we’re able to go back into the tracks and rework them a bit and make more of a studio record out of it. We were happy with what we got, I think it feels connected to our sound but it’s an evolution as well.

And as you say, the atmosphere, there’s a collection of the more electronic pieces work so powerfully, such as ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’ and ‘Gare du Nord Pt. 1’, there’s something quite breath-taking when the synths come in: there’s the space for it and you’re waiting for them to appear.

DO’H: We’re happy with how the modular and the orchestra work well together. We tended to use the modular for the lower end sounds and working with space and rhythm and then having the orchestra. It’s like light and dark is a big subject of the film; it’s a love story but there’s also a lot of deceit and treachery and so the film is always like light and dark fighting against each other in this way. The modular has this more aggressive, synthetic, cold feeling and the strings are definitely this warmer love story that ultimately both elements are in the story.

I wonder for those final sessions in Budapest – for you and Adam as the composers of the music – it must be quite something when you’re all in this room and you hear this big ensemble perform the music at the final end of it all?

DO’H: Oh yeah, I mean it’s definitely a satisfying moment when it all comes alive. I love recording with real instruments and it’s always something very important to me. I think with Winged Victory too, we’re always trying to put as much care sonically into everything that we do and record it in the best way. I’m a big fan of records that are great sounding records and those are the records that usually stay in my collection so it’s something we try to put a lot of care into.

For those final sessions, is there still room for accidents to happen or surprising things happen in the sense of the music altering in any way?

DO’H: Yeah, I mean up until the point of doing the strings everything is always flexible and changing and we’re exploring different things and obviously, we hear different things. And when you’re recording the modular stuff, it’s a lot of experimenting and sometimes you find something and you’re not even too sure how you got there. By the time we got to the strings everything had to be pretty much worked out but there’s a lot of extended techniques used in the strings – a lot of harmonics and glissando effects – that we did that were really fun to do in the studio. And to get the orchestra make a lot of noise [laughs] and do less traditional sounds and that was fun so we got to explore that a little bit in the studio and then that was the last phase before we mixed.

I was interested to read how it was edited down – well everything is edited for a final mix of the album – was it difficult to see it as both a film score as well as a studio album in the sense that you needed to remove parts to reduce it down?

DO’H: There was always like a push and pull of what we were leaving in and we were pulling back. For some of the studio record we took out some elements that we needed for the film to help push the picture a bit and then there’s other elements that we decided to bring back in that didn’t work so well with the picture. We definitely approached the record because we wanted it to work on its own. I mean it was important that it would be a standalone experience.

It’s fascinating to see how you have the three studio albums (with Winged Victory) in terms of the speed in which they’re coming out, it feels that there’s a sort of flow between you and Adam where you must always be learning from this partnership?

DO’H: Well I think we’ve been lucky to work on some really great projects and each time we’re definitely learning more about our own process. I think that maybe we’re getting better at working a little bit quicker although there’s a beauty to taking your time and that’s something we just haven’t had the luxury of for a while. So, when we start working on another record, we’re hoping that we will give ourselves a little bit of time and let things percolate, you know that’s something that’s also important to me. With these projects, you have a finite amount of time to work on it but hopefully we’ll be able to take our time again soon but it’s good to know that we can do it and we can be happy with the results.

I must congratulate you also on the amazing ‘Lion’ score and collaboration with Hauschka. It’s wonderful seeing all these musicians and composers and realizing it’s this small community that you’re all releasing amazing albums in your own right whilst collaborating so much with others too. I wonder when did you begin working on this particular project?

DO’H: Yeah, as I was finishing ‘Lion’, Adam and I were starting ‘Iris’ so it was kind of a cross-fade [laughs] But it’s been great, I feel super lucky to be working with people that I love to work with and there’s been so much care. Robert [Raths] has put a lot of love into the releases and we’re grateful to work on some good projects. I mean it’s busy times, the hard part about it is the amount of music you have to produce when there’s a lot of requests, it’s the most demanding aspect but those are good problems to have, you just have to be more diligent and have more time in the studio [laughs].

For ‘Lion’, were you and Volker in the same room together for these sessions?

DO’H: With Volker, we started in our own studios for about a month working on the film and then he came to Los Angeles to work in my studio here and we finished everything here and we worked for about another month. We didn’t have as much time and we came in after the film was already edited so we were in pretty deep pretty quickly.

The same thing happened with you and Adam in the way you spend quite a bit of time in your own respective studios?

DO’H: We try to get together as much as possible (Adam and I) because part of the Winged Victory sound is really both him and I working on stuff together, there’s just something that happens when we’re doing it together, it feels different than when we’re just sending files back and forth because I think we both let go a little bit more when we’re together and we’re able to follow instinctual things quicker and we write quicker as well so it’s always good when we get together.

A very important part of A Winged Victory is the Echo Collective string quartet. I just remember witnessing your live show – and also with Stars of The Lid – and feel the hypnotic effect of the strings, it’s something out of this world when you’re at the live show in one big space.

DO’H: I mean without us finding them, it would be so hard for us to perform live and to translate what we want. We’ve been really lucky. We went through a lot of different string players and we had a lot of bad shows and a lot of shows that didn’t really work out. We’ve been really fortunate to find a bunch of string players that have been so dedicated to helping us find what we need. Our music is very slow-moving and it takes a lot of patience and a lot of string players can look at the sheet music and be really dismissive; it’s actually much harder to get a good sound than it appears on paper. We’ve been really, really lucky, they’re great players, they’re so dedicated to us and I think a lot of other people are starting to work with them because of that dedication that they have. But we definitely couldn’t do it without them, they’re a huge part of our sound.

I loved your solo EP ‘3 Movements’ that came out towards the end of the year.

DO’H: It’s the first time I haven’t collaborated in a while. I’ve been slowly working on different pieces and I’m working on my own solo record but it’s definitely nice to finally get some solo work out [laughs].

And lastly, have there been any live shows that you’ve seen in the last few months that struck a chord with you and have been blown away by?

DO’H: There was a festival that happened in Berlin that the Michelberger Hotel put on, it was at the Funkhaus. There was a twenty-piece choir who performed with Bon Iver who did this acapella piece and it was really beautiful. It was in the old East German recording studios and I forgot how beautiful just the sound of voices is, you know I’ve been listening to so much amplified music and to hear just a choir of voices, it just gave me goosebumps, that was my last moment.

‘Iris’ OST is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://awvfts.com/

http://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

February 13, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Chosen One: Mario Batkovic

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Interview with Mario Batkovic.

“Being an Accordionist is something very natural to me, just like my origin or my skin colour. It’s a pure coincidence.”

—Mario Batkovic.

Words: Mark Carry

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The forthcoming debut solo full-length from gifted composer and accordionist Mario Batkovic – released on Geoff Barlow’s prestigious Invada Records later this March – is already destined to be 2017’s crowning sonic treasure. The Bosnian-born and Swiss-based musician has forged an utterly captivating and resolutely unique solo album, which, in turn, ceaselessly expands the possibilities of the accordion instrument.

One of the great hallmarks of Batkovic’s solo accordion music is the sheer intensity that is not only attained but held magnificently across an ocean of shape-shifting pulsating notes, engrossing melodies and deeply affecting human emotion subsequently emitted. Previously, the Bern-based musician has described his underlying creative process as “absolute submission to the sound.” It is precisely this – an artist‘s undying devotion – that lies at the heart of these nine groundbreaking compositions.

Album opener ‘Quatere’ is built upon a mesmerizing melodic pattern, which continually builds as a pulsating energy gradually surfaces like pores of Autumnal sunlight. An awe-inspiring and beautifully uplifting sonic exploration. A gripping intensity is attained on ‘Gravis’ where the depths of darkness is navigated: the range of timbres and textures is a joy to behold from the drone-infused world of repeatedly sprawling, sustained notes. Catharsis. A fitting parallel exists between Batkovic’s singular, captivating accordion-based compositions and fellow luminary Colin Stetson (and his similarly powerful saxophone explorations). A wall of immense, stunningly beautiful and empowering sounds.

The utterly timeless ‘Restrictus’ unleashes an unwavering beauty as several movements unfold an entire spectrum of mood, colour and feeling. The epic, tour-de-force ‘Inuente’ conveys the sheer power and glory of the composer’s capabilities to expand the possibilities of his chosen accordion instrument to its very outer limits. The fragile lament ‘Somnium’ brings this exceptional record to a fitting close. The illuminating horizon is soaked in radiant light. We, the listener need only rejoice in its infinite beauty.

‘Mario Batkovic’ is out now on Invada Records.

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

 

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Interview with Mario Batkovic.

Congratulations Mario on your utterly captivating and wholly unique debut solo album. Your solo accordion music elicits the rawest of human emotion where a striking narrative (and gripping intensity) is masterfully captured throughout this phenomenal solo record. Can you please talk me through the making of the new record and your memories of writing these compositions? It feels as if many of these accordion pieces were gradually blooming in your head for quite some time? 

Mario Batkovic: Thank you very much for your questions. They are interesting and reflect many of my own reflections. Many of your questions already express a wonderful picture. I will try to answer your questions as good as possible.

You’re right, it’s not just music that recently came into being. It existed not only in my head, but it was just not ripe for the stage. There were a lot of stumbling blocks. I couldn’t play my music but had to let her flow into my projects by the way. Unbelievable, but there was a kind of censorship. Only when all the requirements would conform, I released my music. Which demanded more of an art of Persuasion than the creating of art itself.

When it comes to recording these tracks, I can imagine were there technical difficulties when recording the solo accordion to tape? One of the great hallmarks of the album is just how intimate these recordings are – it’s as if you’re playing alone in the room with its listener – and your spellbinding performance and all the beautiful imperfections and human artefacts form the vital heart of these songs. Were there certain techniques or processes you feel you have developed that were critical processes to the recording of the album itself? 

MB: Beautiful how you put my music into words. Right, there were technical problems to handle. Since the recording of the Accordion is done in a wrong way. That’s why today we see a Musical picture of the Instrument that is only a remnant of how the Accordion really sounds. That’s why this Instrument has been pigeonholed so much it’s hard to take it out of this box. Every sound engineer keeps telling me he knows how the Accordion sounds. But that’s not true. They don’t because they are not Accordionists. My sound engineer and I collaborate in an extremely intense way. It’s a Duet. It took years until him and I realized how the Instrument works and how we can make it sound. Many people may know this but they don’t have the experience. I hope our technique is inspiring other artists and initializing my instrument to new possibilities. I was just not willing to record one single tone until we didn’t solve those technical problems.

The wide range of possibilities you generate from your chosen instrument is staggering, which is reminiscent of Colin Stetson’s saxophone and Lubomyr Melnyk’s piano music, kindred spirits in many ways. I would love for you to discuss your earliest musical memories and your first discovery of the accordion instrument. How soon would you realize just how important your chosen instrument would serve in your life, Mario?

Also, please discuss your musical path thus far – as a virtuoso accordion player – and the ways and approaches to which you have developed your unique, innovative and magnificent solo accordion music? As a debut solo LP, the music represents like a life’s work and so many of your life’s experience and musical journey is dotted all across these glorious nine compositions.

MB: Of course I was influenced by all the moving. That’s how I ended up in the situation of adapting in a new society. At the same time I had to adjust and remain true to myself. That was not always easy. But it finds its way into my music. I love all kinds of music just as I love all kinds of people, no matter which society they belong to. To exclude something would not suit my philosophy of life. Only the music created of greed doesn’t interest me. But after all that’s not true music. This opinion was sometimes hard to get along with.

Every society has its vogue, its trends. So I tried to find a merge of the sweet with the bitter. To listen between the lines and to get an own impression of things. That’s why I don’t like it too much when I’m compared to other musicians. I’m an original, just as you are an original. There’s everyone of us just once on this planet. And my music reflects me. It’s a mix of baroque, contemporary, kitsch, obscure, deep, sweet, sad. Just what life is all made of.

Being an Accordionist is something very natural to me, just like my origin or my skin colour. It’s a pure coincidence. I’m a musician in the first place, and then I am an Accordionist. There could have been a flute or a guitar. Now, for me, there was the Accordion.

‘Gravis’ is one of the album’s defining moments. The range of timbres and textures from the accordion instrument is a joy to behold. Can you talk me through the distinct movements crafted in this stunningly beautiful composition? The rise in this piece forms one of the most heavenly, enchanting sounds; an utterly timeless sound world of vast possibilities. Can you shed some light on your compositional approach, Mario and how it may vary between the various compositions? 

MB: Different from my other projects where I can listen to a composition in my head already like a radio song, the music I interpret myself is developing way different. First I have to take regard to the technical possibilities of playing the instrument, because I record it myself, not like when I compose film music and have other musicians playing the sound. The instrument can do a lot but also has its limits. First of all I have to subtract many components like playing techniques, sound techniques, bellows shake and so on, and then I can get started. Then I can start to thing freely. Then it comes to the philosophical part. Gravis is the picture of a huge ship, an animal, a being that fights for its last breath. It doesn’t give up until the very bitter ending. This fight consists of a high and a low C. That’s all. I try to breathe life into these two tones. And not more.

In terms of the arrangements, how does this particular point in the music-making process work for you? For instance, the cathartic, spellbinding ‘Restrictus’ conveys the sheer beauty of angelic tones and the intricate arrangements of the distinct sections contained within this gorgeous song cycle. What are your memories of writing ‘Restrictus’? Endless moments of sublime beauty ascends into one’s heart and mind here.

MB: Restrictus is a kind of friend to me. It’s a perfect match. I don’t think it’s very virtuosic but you need to have a sporty approach here. I feel very comfortable with this piece on stage. I’d say if I didn’t break it in the middle it was limited to a typical minimal composition. But Restrictus didn’t want this. It literally screamed: “Break me!”

Please bring me back to your formal musical education, Mario. Can you describe for me your learning whilst studying under Professor Elspeth Moser and your musical outlook and what musical voices you feel have shaped your music in the most profound way? 

MB: I have always been opposition. It was a kind of a guarantee to survive. I could and should never be like the others. Never! So my education was, like many things in my life, just a fight. At school I first had to learn the German language when we moved to Switzerland. At University in Germany then I’ve had a lack of scholastic knowledge because of the language barriers. So I had to develop a strategy. And this was to learn but don’t let yourself be bent. In Hannover I studied classical music, so I missed out the Rock ‘n’ Roll. And with my Rock Bands I missed the classical precision. With folk music I missed the seriousness. I always wanted to develop and connect everything. But that was not always easy.

An artist’s sheer devotion to one’s art and the sacrifice therein becomes the essence of your solo accordion music. What do you feel is your one musical philosophy that remains true for you? What are your hopes and ambitions for your next chapter? What are you most proud of about this triumphant debut record?

MB: I don’t feel pride but gratitude. I’m grateful for all the people who support me with all the passion, patience and a lot of work. At the same time I’m very grateful to be a musician. It is something positive, something with much love to put into the world. That’s also what I see when I look at the world today (so much horrible things), and music is the opposition!

Lastly, the epic tour-de-force ‘Inuente’ reflects the hypnotic quality of your playing. At times, the instrument undergoes various transformations, sounding like an organ  and synthesizer at various points. Can you shed some light on your mind – set when it comes to your solo live performance and indeed your mind – set for crafting such a monumental work as ‘Inuente’. I am curious whether improvisation plays a part in the writing/composing stage? I just love how the variations of a theme return throughout ‘Inuente’ and the many places that a single piece of music can take you.

MB: It flatters me that the audience does notice something this beautiful that has it’s origin in an undesirable side noise. With this composition improvisation didn’t matter too much although I have a Master of Arts in improvisation. So to say I’m a professional improvisator. But there also, the improvisation is not awarded so much but is of such an important value for us human beings. Improvisation is getting lost in all our over systemising and structuring. I’m convinced that we should listen more to our intuition and we should act more impulsively. Improvisation can only take place in the actual space and situation I’m in. Every time I play I have to get into it in a new room and a new sound. That’s what my music lives from.

Inuente is a song you can’t play everywhere in the same way, even if the compositional structure stays the same. My magical moment with Ineunte is the break. A precious thing nowadays. There are some long breaks but they are fully packed. Break doesn’t mean relaxation but highest tension! I need to build up for 10 minutes to reach a total break of 5 seconds. I love this magical moment with Ineunte when people can hear themselves or the ventilation or the birds or any other small noises. Ineunte takes them there. It’s a transporter to themselves.

‘Mario Batkovic’ is out now on Invada Records.

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

 

Written by admin

January 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm