FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Archive for the ‘CHOSEN ONE’ Category

Chosen One: Penelope Trappes

leave a comment »

“… a lot of it is just piecing the puzzle together of these array of sounds that I can just create the emotion with.”

—Penelope Trappes

 Words: Mark Carry

Penelope-Trappes-credit-Agnes-Haus

London-based artist Penelope Trappes’ sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ – and follow-up to her essential debut ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music – casts a hypnotic, luminous spell through its stunningly beautiful song cycles: drenched in reverb that somehow drift into the ether of our innermost fears. The stark intimacy of the Australian-born composer’s compositions is what strikes you immediately; evoking the timeless spirit of early 4AD artists (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins) and kindred spirits of Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tropic Of Cancer.

On the album’s gripping centrepiece ‘Maeve’, the chorus refrain of “let go” is repeated beneath delicate piano chords and lucid guitar haze. I feel ‘Penelope Two’ becomes a process of letting go: to allow the waves of anguish and pain wash over you and, in  turn, to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The raw emotion distilled in Trappes’ soaring vocals casts infinite rays of solace and hope as light flickers from within the depths of darkness.

The way in which the drone infused ambient instrumentals (‘Silence’; ‘Kismet’; ‘Exodus’) are masterfully interwoven with the vocal-based song structures (‘Connector’; ‘Burn On’; ‘Maeve’) creates one cohesive whole of staggering beauty and emotional depth. The ethereal dream pop gem of ‘Connector’ possesses endurance to overcome the darkness. The immaculate production and divine soundscapes immerses the listener inside a wholly other realm. The chorus refrain “I am the connector” epitomizes the magical, far-reaching qualities of Trappes’ immense songwriting prowess.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

We are delighted to welcome Penelope Trappes for a Cork show on Saturday 27th April 2019. The Australian-born artist’s sublime sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ charted #3 on our best albums of 2018 list, so we are beyond thrilled to invite her to play a special live headline show in Cork, Ireland. All details are below.

Fractured Air & Plugd present:

Penelope Trappes & special guests
Saturday 27th April
Roundy (Upstairs)
1 Castle Street,
Cork

TICKETS: https://uticket.ie/event/fractured-air-present-penelope-trappes-special-guests

 

04-penelopeIMG

Interview with Penelope Trappes.

 

Please take me back to the making of ‘Penelope Two’ and if you had a starting point in mind and how the album came to be?

Penelope Trappes: The initial start was not that long after ‘Penelope One’. It was triggered by a dear friend of mine – who lives in Dublin actually – his wife had just passed away, who was a good friend of mine. And it was a very tumultuous, sad state of affairs because she had just given birth to a little kid – and I’ve mentioned it in my press release – it was really tragic and I strangely started feeling incredibly empathetic to his cause and I just sat down and I started to write this song called ‘Maeve’ (which was her name). So, I basically just picked up a guitar and played some chords and sang one take and recorded it: I don’t think I even sat down and wrote lyrics – it just came out of me. I had a few other songs that I may have been working on that were around but that was the one thing that triggered the whole album.

The soundscapes and pristine instrumentation that you use is really striking and also, the intimacy of these songs and the rawness that can be felt throughout the album.

PT:  It’s wonderful that it gets received that way. I suppose you have to dive into the intimacy when you listen to it and people feel that because I was writing stuff and then there was another dear friend of mine who again the same thing: she lost family members in a tragic accident. And it was weird because you don’t ever want to feel like you’re capitalizing in any way shape or form of other people’s grief but I think the intimacy and the addressing of such feelings is something that just started to infiltrate the whole album; that it was important to discuss – whether it be in just sound or with words, to open up: discussing things that may not necessarily be always the most comfortable things to talk about and bearing witness to certain things. And by working as a solo artist on this stuff I was able to be very much ‘in the zone’ and try to put those feelings into sound.

How long was the process itself from – as you say – writing the song ‘Maeve’ to finding that you had the album done because it almost feels as if the songs are flooding out of you (and becomes almost like one long piece of music)?

PT: Well, it didn’t happen rapidly. I reckon it was probably around eight months, from beginning to end of compiling it all. But I guess that eight months became for me a very transformative time since it was inceptions about how I felt about things too.

The production element as well is another wonderful hallmark of ‘Penelope Two’, I’d love to gain an insight into your studio set-up?

PT: It started with ‘Maeve’ on the guitar and then I’ve explored and had on my first album [‘Penelope One’] using traditional upright piano. My first album I had done in like a small piano studio and I really hadn’t gone too far out of that realm (with piano and voice). I’ve always added lots of field recordings and usually just from my I-phone (things where I’ve been in places where I’ve heard things that just stand out). Three tracks were written in New York at a friend’s house using his piano that correlate to my other friend’s moments. And then obviously I doused it in reverb – I love lots of reverb – and a lot of it is just piecing the puzzle together of these array of sounds that I can just create the emotion with. I’m working in Logic software but I try to keep the actual instrumentation for the most part – apart from things like field recordings – to hardware. I have a little analog synth that I like for droning sounds and things like that.

I love the series of photographs that comes with the narrative of the album itself. I wonder was that happening in tandem with the music?

PT: Well I work as part of a collective called Agnes Haus; these photos had been co-directed and shot over a period of time – not necessarily in correlation to when I was writing the songs. But again on ‘Penelope One’ I did a photobook for that as well so the visuals have always been part of the mood and general aesthetic of what I have been working on. I always knew I was going to do a photobook for this album because I had done it before. So they didn’t exactly line up in the calendar of the months  being written and produced.

I was introduced to your other projects – like the duo Golden Filter and your more electronic projects – after first discovering your solo album ‘Penelope One’. I suppose each one is independent of the other but would you find that it has its own set of challenges?

PT: Yeah I mean it’s interesting, The Golden Filter is vastly different to what I’m doing as solo. I tend to likening it to – like on an energy level – the Golden Filter stuff is very yang (it’s got very high energy and live it’s very intense) but this is the yin; both going solo and having my own time and being able to be introspective and more emotionally in touch with the yin side (which in Darwinism is more feminine and less energetic). It’s a tricky balance but I feel like that’s like life as you have low energy times and the high energy times and it’s all about for me to find the balance – I mean The Golden Filter still exists but not as busy; it’s out there and it’s doing its thing – between the two projects and it’s quite a nice way to be able to express all sides of yourself.

For the live setting, how do you find your solo songs translated into the live setting because as you say it’s deeply personal music? It must be an experience in itself to be able to perform these songs live?

PT: On the how to translate these deeply personal moments into the live thing, for example, I’ve been known to tear up a little when I do ‘Maeve’ but as far as the instrumentation of it all goes because there are these amorphous levels in the record (with all these sounds), I have to strip it back because it’s just me on stage. I mean in a perfect case – maybe in a year or so – I could have a few musicians onstage with me but I keep it pretty simple live. I have a keyboard, a sample – again it’s all hardware, I don’t bring a laptop up on stage with me – and then a loop pedal for vocals. I have done a couple of shows not with guitar but I’m thinking I’ll start bringing that along as well. So it’s more minimal but I feel like in that space I’m able to access the more emotional element because a lot of the whole project for me – being solo – is the minimal element so I suppose in the end my voice is the main instrument that is able to convey that. And then I have these spatial times in the set which is almost like meditation time [laughs] between these raw emotional moments.

As a listener I was immediately likening the music to Grouper whose like a kindred spirit in many ways.

PT: Grouper is wonderful, I suppose there are a lot of similarities there. In the beginning when I started the whole thing I was thinking a lot about early 4AD artists like This Mortal Coil and that sort of feel and acts like Grouper definitely feel like a kindred spirit. And then perhaps that’s just tying into what I was saying about the balance of energies in society – the very aggressive fast, full-on energy and the quiet, contemplative and more emotional stuff. And maybe it is just wonderful to know that there are other women – and men too, let’s not be sexist here [laughs] – there are people making this music you can have a very quiet contemplative and perhaps emotional reaction to. I saw her recently play in London and it was like being in church or something [laughs]: you could hear a pin drop; she didn’t say one word to anybody. She was even so humble when the people started arriving at the venue she was actually doing her own sound check still with people who were arriving and she was just sitting there and I mean she’s telling her story I guess – I think that’s what it’s about isn’t it; about finding a quiet place to be able to tell people a story.

Thinking back on growing up in Australia, would you have early musical memories, how soon did you realize how important music would be for you?

PT: I feel like music was always one of those things that was around my house growing up. I grew up in a rural town called Lismore, Australia – funnily enough it’s not far from you in County Waterford there’s a Lismore up there – which is near Byron Bay, it’s a very beautiful part of the world; I generally tell people Byron Bay because people when they travel to the Northern Rivers of Australia, they go there – they don’t go to the town where I grew up in [laughs] because it’s a boring town. And so I was quite isolated from the rest of the world, pre-Internet and Australia is always a bit behind the times due to location and definitely pre-Internet for sure. So I just used whatever I could get my hands on like whatever my parents had on around the house, so a bit of jazz and classical but not as much as I would have liked to have had (but I had to make do with what was around for listening). I studied piano between when I was seven and fourteen and then after that, by high school I was just trying to get my hands on as much music that I could. And then it continued after high school, I was actually studying folk and classical vocals and then I moved into opera for a bit – just to push my voice but I didn’t really resonate personally with the opera singing [laughs]; it wasn’t really my cup of tea, although I do like it now, more. So it started with piano and I taught myself how to play guitar and the vocals was always the thing but I guess as a child I always loved the concept of performing, in some way shape or form.

Would you have plans or future projects for the new year?

PT: I have already started formulating ideas for ‘Penelope Three’ like lyrical ideas, singing and things that I feel like are happening around me – I’ve already started documenting it and this time of the year is a great time with the close of the year and that time of the year where you get contemplative. I’m hoping that this winter – once I get through the madness of christmas – that January, February, March I’ll hole myself up and really start coming up with actually releasing these ideas into music. So that’s definitely going to be for the first half of the year and I’m not entirely sure where it will exist but hopefully I’ve got a few things up my sleeve where it will come out into the world.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

Fractured Air & Plugd present:

Penelope Trappes & special guests
Saturday 27th April
Roundy (Upstairs)
1 Castle Street,
Cork

TICKETS: https://uticket.ie/event/fractured-air-present-penelope-trappes-special-guests

Written by admin

March 12, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Chosen One: Julia Kent

with 2 comments

Creative work–whether it’s making music or writing or performing physically–can sometimes produce its own chronology and in that way seem to escape time.”

—Julia Kent

 Words: Mark Carry

julia-kent-i

Last month saw the eagerly awaited return of world-renowned Canadian cellist and composer Julia Kent’s fifth studio album, ‘Temporal’: a deeply transformative journey into our very being that chronicles the fragility of human existence. The emotional world that Kent’s cello-based compositions innately unfolds – akin to the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates in a natural, hypnotic and gradual rhythmic pulse – unleashes a haven of raw emotion and vivid textures. It is this highly emotive quality of the cellist’s captivating soundscapes – which somehow encapsulates all of life’s fleeting moments in one enthralling, soaring ocean wave – that has been a cherished constant in her storied career to date.

Temporal’ begins with the epic tour-de-force ‘Last Hour Story’; a striking piece centered on a metronomic pulse. But it is the way in which the continually morphing and mutating strings somehow navigate into the hidden depths of one’s heart and mind – constantly changing direction, and forever exploring deeper into the unknown – which conveys a celestial beauty of unknown magnitude. A timelessness is created, for the listener, is taken into the here and now, with the heart pulse as our trusted compass.

The combination of hypnotic electronic pulses and contemplative strings is masterfully employed on the luminescent ‘Imbalance’. Momentous sound worlds of neo-classical, electronic and drone soundscapes are interwoven, overlapped and joined in synergy. The journey is undeniably taking its course: to here knows when.

Experimentation with vocals (bringing to mind kindred spirits of Kelly Moran’s latest Warp full-length or Kara-Lis Coverdale) on the dazzling ‘Conditional Futures‘ creates an utterly transcendent drone-infused-ambient creation. The hidden details are sculpted together into a labyrinth of time, wherein the strings serve the vital link.

The modern-classical splendour of ‘Floating City’ shares the timeless spirit of Hauschka and Olafur Arnalds such is its sublime spell. Heartwarming and enlightening, in equal measure.

An inner dialogue forever occurs deep within the very heart and soul of Kent’s glorious sound worlds. The album’s gripping penultimate track, ‘Through The Window’ encapsulates the empowering nature of the Canadian composer’s immense talents: it is as if our very inner reflection – both the darkness of fears, tension, doubts and the light of love, hope and joy – becomes reflected through the looking-glass. Music that becomes part of you.

‘Temporal’ is out now on The Leaf Label.

https://www.juliakent.com/

http://www.theleaflabel.com/

julia-kent-by-pepe-fotografia_1

Interview with Julia Kent.

 

Congratulations on the stunningly beautiful and transformative latest full length ‘Temporal’. An album title that epitomizes the intense spirit and emotive energy that permeates throughout: reflecting at once the transient nature of life and human existence but also a celebration of life’s ripple flow of fleeting moments. Please discuss the narrative of this latest solo work, Julia and recount your memories of witnessing these hypnotic pieces come to fruition?

Julia Kent: Thanks so much! The album came together over a few years and rather than there being a narrative thread running through the pieces, there is more the idea that they were reflecting on, as you say, the passage of time and the way in which we can sometimes seem to arrest it by creating something that intersects with it. Creative work–whether it’s making music or writing or performing physically–can sometimes produce its own chronology and in that way seem to escape time.

You have collaborated quite often in the field of dance and I was very interested to discover many of these pieces were born from your work in the world of dance/theatre. Please discuss the relationship between sound and movement and how your subconscious responds to these cues, so to speak? 

JK: I love working with dance because there’s a really specific and amazing energy that happens with dancers on a stage. What they do is so physical, obviously, but also transcends physicality. Dance turns our existence, as bodies negotiating our way through the constraints of gravity and the construct of chronology, into art.

‘Last Hour Story’ forms a significant foundation to ‘Temporal’s captivating sound world. The gorgeous textures of strings and subtle electronics creates this otherworldly, far-reaching stratosphere. I’m curious as to the song title and how this epic piece develops gradually over time. I can imagine the space – be it your headspace or indeed this ‘other’ space the music brings you deep inside – is very much apparent during the making and construction of ‘Last Hour Story’?

JK: “Last Hour Story” was originally developed to accompany a theatre piece called “Il Tempo Scolpito,” which of course references Tarkovsky’s autobiography, and that was my original working title for it, until I realized I just couldn’t presume to use that title. The whole piece unfolds over an unchanging metronomic beat, and I used it as an opportunity to explore how musical ideas can develop over something that remains unchanged and, in a way, inexorable. “Last Hour Story,” as a title, came from the idea of how time can compress or dilate, depending on how we’re experiencing it: the concept of how it changes depending on our perspective, like the way, allegedly, at the end of our life we could potentially have a bird’s-eye view of it.

Can you discuss the processes and techniques utilized on ‘Temporal’ and indeed if any new avenues were navigated on this latest exploration? As a composer, do you find you approach – in essence – has remained a constant throughout your storied career? 

JK: I think I do make music in the same way always: for me it really is about communicating emotion. For “Temporal,” because much of the music was created in response to external concepts, either from choreography or from text, I think perhaps it might have ended up being less interior than some of my other records. The compositional process definitely had one more step than some of my other music in terms of the pieces developing in a really immediate way in rehearsal or in response to concepts and then being refined over time as it became clear that this music could come together to be an album.

‘Conditional Futures’ conveys your masterful use of vocal textures and how these textures are interwoven with the cello instrumentation unleashes a fragile beauty amidst a dark undercurrent. Can you outline any challenges posed by adding these vocal treatments to your music? I wonder how much time goes into the production of ‘Temporal’, after which the tracks are put to tape?

JK: I’m always interested in processing organic textures and combining them with electronic textures in a way that blurs the boundaries between both, so that it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. I think in “Temporal” I’ve done that more than in my other records. I did a lot of processing of the cello sound and the “found” voices that I used to turn them into textures. It makes them almost into ghosts of what they are. That’s something also, that seems inherent to looping. Someone in a recent interview referenced the concept of “hauntology” with reference to looping, which I thought was so interesting. It seems relevant in terms of the way repetition can create a phantom existence.

I’m in awe of the inner dialogue that forever occurs deep within the heart and soul of your sonic explorations. I feel ‘Through The Window’ encapsulates the deeply empowering nature of your cello based compositions. Can you discuss the act of layering pieces of strings and indeed how you – in effect – respond to musical ideas and build a piece from a starting idea to its finished, gleaming whole?

JK: That is a lovely way to describe the end result–thank you!–but, of course, my process is very much a process, and all the errors and imperfections contribute to the whole, the way our faces and bodies reflect the lives we live. There are always lots of side roads taken on the way to the destination, but those are the most interesting journeys!

Lastly, what music, film, theatre, books (or one or any of these) has inspired you in a big way?

JK: It’s not necessarily a direct inspiration on anything but, in New York, I just recently saw Elevator Repair Service’s production of “Gatz,” which is “The Great Gatsby,” turned into theatre, every word read onstage, and every character inhabited. It’s something like eight hours long and was so demonstrative of how art can intersect with time. It takes what is already an incredible work into another dimension. And so resonant to the American experience, historically and, especially, now.

‘Temporal’ is out now on The Leaf Label.

https://www.juliakent.com/

http://www.theleaflabel.com/

Written by admin

February 11, 2019 at 9:39 pm

Posted in CHOSEN ONE

Tagged with ,

Chosen One: Peter Broderick

leave a comment »

“When covering someone else’s work, one can’t help but wonder sometimes, what would the artist think about these new renditions?”

—Peter Broderick

 Words: Mark Carry

peter-b

Released initially on Christmas day, “Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell” is a loving tribute to the 20th century musical visionary.

Many parallels exist between these two cross-generational composers, for Russell and Broderick’s genre-defying and deeply moving musical works are boundless (in terms of crossing a myriad of styles and many times within the same record) and limitless (in terms of the sublime beauty that soars from each artist’s wholly unique song-craft). The full spectrum of Arthur Russell’s compelling songbook is celebrated – and re-interpreted – across the album’s ten pristine recordings, from post-disco (‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’); sparse folk (‘Words of Love’) to soul-stirring minimal wave of ‘Losing My Taste For The Nightlife’ and folk country gems (‘You Are My Love’).

This deeply heartfelt record reflects just how these American composers are in fact, kindred spirits and this precise timeless spirit emanates from the album’s captivating narrative (of which spans many of Russell’s divine records). On ‘Ballad Of The Lights’, a young boy’s voice (replacing Allen Ginsberg’s original spoken word) talks about life and mortality and hopes and fears: “He wonders about life and he wonders if he will ever get old”. It is one of the most beautiful and deeply moving recordings to grace your ears, to hear a boy (full of innocence, sincerity and hope) that “mystifies his younger years” and hits you profoundly.

This album invites a cast of family and friends to offer new insights into Russell’s music. ‘Come To Life’ sees the gorgeous harmonies of Brigid Mae Power’s blend effortlessly with Broderick’s, creating a divine avant pop folk odyssey. The two previously unreleased Arthur Russell recordings are also captured to tape here, further revealing (yet again) the endless mystery and innovative nature of Russell’s tower of songs.

‘Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell’ is available now via Pretty Purgatory:

https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/peter-broderick-friends-play-arthur-russell

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
https://arthurrussell.bandcamp.com/

peter1-cropped-e1466110967767

Interview with Peter Broderick.

 

Congratulations Peter on the truly spellbinding Arthur Russell covers record, it’s such a loving dedication to a special voice in music. One of the lovely aspects of this collection is how you interpret Arthur’s songs, and in many ways make them your own (or at the very least, put your own unique fingerprint to these songs). Please take me back to the recording sessions and this beautiful ensemble you had by your side? Having played several live shows in the recent past with this concept, I wonder did you have quite a clear picture in how this album would become?

Peter Broderick: Thank you Mark. As you say, I had already done a number of Arthur Russell tribute shows, so it felt like a natural next step to record some of those songs. And after getting the chance to meet Arthur’s niece and nephew in Maine, as well as making some other friends in Maine whom I wanted to collaborate with in some way, I got the idea to record the songs there, in Portland, Maine, and to invite Rachel and Beau to contribute to these new versions of their uncle’s songs. After recording the basic tracks there, I put the finishing touches on the recordings at home in Ireland, inviting some more friends and family to contribute.

Can you recount your memories of first discovering Arthur’s music? Which record or musical period did you first fall in love with his unique sound? I must say there is a lovely correlation between you and your musical hero, in particular how you both really have created a plethora of wide-ranging musical journeys (in terms of the boundless nature of your music)…in the process of delving into this album, were there new insights and learnings you feel you uncovered about Arthur Russell’s songbook and musical genius?

PB: The first record that caught my ear was Another Thought, which I heard at a friend’s house in 2008 or 2009. I had already heard of Arthur Russell quite a bit before then, and even had quite a few people tell me I reminded them of Arthur Russell . . . but for whatever reason that was the first time the music really caught my attention. But once my attention was caught, I quickly went down into the rabbit hole. I just love everything he did, and how much musical exploration there is in his catalogue. I tracked down everything of his I could get my hands on. The most expensive record I ever bought is an original pressing of ‘Tower Of Meaning’ . . . I’m not gonna tell you how much I payed for that!

Two songs are previously unreleased, never to have been released by Arthur Russell. I was very interested to hear that you were given full access to his vast treasure chest of unreleased recordings. Can you perhaps discuss the reasons why you picked these two particular songs, Peter? I’d love for you to describe this experience and indeed how you crossed paths – and collaborated closely – with many of Arthur’s family, not least his partner Tom Lee?

PB: I wouldn’t say I was given full access to the archives. But Steve Knutson, who manages the Arthur Russell Estate, handed over to me several hours of unreleased material, which I then combed through to retrieve anything listenable . . . some of which needed considerable finessing to get into a decent sonic state. But the whole process was deeply fascinating to me, and along the way I discovered some absolute gems of songs, including those two on the record, which Steven and Tom Lee so graciously allowed me to release. And it’s been wonderful getting to know Tom. He has such a pure love for Arthur’s work, and he creates such beautiful works of art himself. I’m really honoured to have his painting on the cover of my little record of covers.

Portland Maine is the place of birth for both you and Arthur Russell. What was Maine like as a place to grow up in? The coast must be something that served a big inspiration for you, throughout your life?

PB: I was born near a small town called Searsmont, a couple hours away from Portland, Maine. And Arthur was actually born in Iowa. But much of Arthur’s surviving family is based in Maine nowadays. My family relocated to Oregon when I was just 3 or 4 years old, so it’s only in the last few years that I’ve been reconnecting with my birth place a bit. I’ve come to realize that I really love Maine.

Your beloved step son – and a big hero of mine! – Seán Power is prominently featured on the gorgeous and deeply moving cover of ‘Ballad Of The Lights’. I just love how Seán’s spoken word segments are beautifully interwoven with your heavenly harmonies. Please take me back to the recording (and even your initial ‘sketches’ so to speak) of this incredible song (and new recording)? Needless to say, it must have been a fun session to participate in…

PB: I’m not sure when exactly I got the idea in my head to ask Seán to recite those lines, which are spoken by Allen Ginsberg on the original recording . . . but once I got the idea, I couldn’t shake it. I asked Seán if I could hire him for the job, and I believe we settled on €30 plus a trip to the toy store immediately after the recording session. I am absolutely delighted with the result, and I think he was pretty happy with his new toys. It seems like people are enjoying that part of the record, which I’m really glad to hear. Seán is an awesome dude and I’m so grateful he’s on there.

One of my all-time favourite Arthur Russell songs is ‘Losing My Taste For The Nightlife’ and your version here is so fitting and blissfully beautiful. Again, the immaculate instrumentation and your vocal delivery (a constant across all these songs) breathes new life into Arthur’s sacred songbook. Did you have any concerns or doubts about (not only) playing Arthur’s songs (in terms of the live shows) but recording a whole batch of songs and releasing them?

PB: When covering someone else’s work, one can’t help but wonder sometimes, what would the artist think about these new renditions? I was definitely a little self-conscious about turning ‘A Little Lost’ into a reggae song . . . but I just LOVE playing it like that, and it’s one of my favorite ones to listen to from the record. There are some songs, like ‘Eli’ for instance, which I tried to learn pretty much note for note . . . but then there are others which I felt compelled to make a bit more my own. I suppose like anything, some people will like it and some people won’t. I’m happy with all these versions though.

Were there any happy accidents – I’m sure there were, as often in your recordings some spontaneous wonder occurs – that took place during the making of this record? I also love how you cover a lot of the composer’s various releases and in turn, this record really does convey just how inspirational and genre-defying his music truly is….

PB: Well I was really surprised by some of the contributions from friends on this record. The pedal steel parts from Hamilton Belk really blew my mind and just added so much to the songs. David Allred’s horn arrangement on ‘A Little Lost’ was a lovely surprise, and I love the bass part that Daniel O’Sullivan came up with on ‘Come To Life’. All of Beau Lisy’s percussion additions are really special to me. He likes to play this thing he calls a ‘Shitar’, which is basically a guitar with a bunch of shit glued onto it (get it? shit-ar?) . . . there are some really groovy rhythms on ‘That’s Us/Wild Combination’ which were played on that thing.

What’s next for you, Peter?

PB: Just a couple hours ago I finished mixing a live recording which, if all goes according to plan, will become my first live album, to be released later in 2019. More details to come on that one. I’m gearing up now to do some shows with my friend David Allred, working on some music for a film . . . it seems like 2019 will be another busy year with lots of music. And hopefully some time to do some of my favorite outdoor activities like foraging for wild food. I also hope to continue learning and sharing Arthur’s songs.

‘Peter Broderick & Friends Play Arthur Russell’ is available now via Pretty Purgatory:

https://prettypurgatory.bandcamp.com/album/peter-broderick-friends-play-arthur-russell

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
https://arthurrussell.bandcamp.com/

Written by admin

January 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Chosen One: Mary Lattimore

with one comment

I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records.”

—Mary Lattimore

 Words: Mark Carry

mary_lattimore-press_1-photo_credit-rachael_pony_cassells_wide-24352ea2ec84a91dae0261a3be323269944fb1bf-s800-c85

Having first discovered Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore’s 2013 debut ‘The Withdrawing Room’ (released on Desire Path Recordings), each new release has been a hugely exciting discovery. On this year’s ‘Hundreds Of Days’ – and third release for the prestigious Ghostly label – Lattimore’s ethereal, dream-wave bliss of her harp-based compositions casts a spacious, luminescent and captivating sound world of unknown dimensions.

The gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ feels just like that: the sacred harp tapestries drift in the ether of faded dreams amidst swathes of celestial harmonies. Utterly timeless. Jonsi’s Healing Fields remix is a fascinating re-interpretation that conveys the inspirational quality of Lattimore’s hugely unique and shape shifting compositions.

Guitar, keyboard and percussion is added on the poignant folk gem ‘Never Saw Him Again’: forging a dreamy pop opus from a past we have not yet quite arrived upon. The soundscapes and intricate layers continually build, as if reawakening some once-vivid memories of a loved one. The sparse ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ maps the human heart and Lattimore’s love of the natural world. The lyrical quality of this piece is quite something to behold.

Baltic Birch’ blossomed from the composer’s recent trip to Latvia where she was struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic Sea.  A desolate landscape is etched across the ambient soundscapes with the electric guitar haze recalling Lattimore’s collaborations with Jeff Ziegler.

The LA-based harpist – in much the same way as fellow contemporaries Julianna Barwick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and so on – possesses the ability to transport you to an entirely new realm wherein the music becomes beautifully buried in the pools of one’s mind. ‘Hundreds Of Days’ is yet another gleaming treasure in the composer’s storied career.

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

rsz_mary_lattimore-press_4-photo_credit-rachael_pony_cassells

Interview with Mary Lattimore.

 

Congratulations Mary on the stunningly beautiful latest solo full length ‘Hundreds Of Days’. Firstly, please take me back to the record’s inception and particularly this redwood barn overlooking San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This must have been such an inspiring setting in which the compositions of ‘Hundreds Of Days’ emanated from? Please recount your memories of these colourful, creative days?

Mary Lattimore: I was awarded this artist’s residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in a national park outside of San Francisco. I stayed there for almost two months, absorbing the rugged, romantic landscape and meeting other artists who were painters, poets, activists, dancers from all over the world. We shared dinner together and lived in these Victorian military houses surrounded by eucalyptus trees. During the day, we were each alone in our own zones, writing or hiking, with barely any cell phone service or internet. My studio was this large barn where I’d set out all of my instruments, some I didn’t know how to play. Walking back to my house late at night was very star-lit and felt a little dangerous, in a safe way. Mountain lions had been spotted there.The ocean was grey-blue and the beach was rocky. We were surrounded by redwood trees, lots of fog, coastal sage and tsunami warning signs. We each had total freedom and met up at the end of the day to eat delicious food cooked by a gourmet chef. It was a very blissful couple of months of total creative freedom, where no one could hear me experimenting with things I didn’t know how to use or trying out vocals, embarrassingly. That kind of space and freedom within a time constraint of a two month, once-in-a-lifetime residency is very intense and very special. I’m really grateful for it.

As a listener I’m always struck by how expansive your harp-based creations truly are, and how the rich tapestries of sumptuous sounds drift in the ether of unknown dimensions. Looking back over these six pieces, I wonder were some of these borne from the act of improvisation? Also, I’d love to gain an insight into your mindset when you perform your trusted harp instrument? It feels as if there is some liminal state forever orbited when your music ascends into the atmosphere.

ML: Wow, that’s a beautiful way to put it. In general, all of the pieces are borne from improvisation, where I’ll press record and start to make something, then if I like where it goes, I’ll add the extra layers and morph where those layers go by adding layers on top of that. So it’s just kind of stacks of improvised tracks. Part of that method might be because I don’t really know how to edit, technology-wise, so I just add until it sounds cool and sounds the way I want it to. I guess it’s the same way when I play live. There are always happy accidents and loops that I have to figure my way out of, so it remains thrilling because there’s so much improvisation woven in there around the themes.

One of the new directions here is the added instrumentation of keyboards, guitar and grand piano, intricately woven with the harp tapestries. Truly, these new layers further heightens the otherworldly and timeless quality of your musical works. I’d love for you to talk me through the gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ (a title which perfectly encapsulates the entire record)? Did the various layering provide any challenges? How long was this particular melody simmering in the pools of your mind, Mary? It feels such an effortless process, it’s almost as if a piece of music just comes to you, like a raindrop falling from the sky….

ML: I mean, I have to say, it’s not effortless, but it did just come to me, where I was just messing around, came up with that little figure that starts the song, and then I hit record and that’s what came out. It’s not effortless but I’m basically just playing with a kernel of an idea and then just seeing where it goes if I add other things. As I’m bad at editing, I scrap the whole take if I don’t like it and then just make something else. But usually, I can get myself out of trouble if I just add more things or take away big chunks rather than going in there and dissecting the tiny bits. It Feels Like Floating came from a place in which I had a little heartbreak and was trying to digest that. The title is a quote from the conversation I had with the dude, and I thought it was a pretty thing to say. Making up songs is how I navigate myself out of those things, in a way, too, I guess. But I also love to swim and that feeling of floating is one of the best feelings in the world.

The artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts must have served a significant source of inspiration for you, and particularly spending time with an entire community of creative souls. It reminds me of the Loft in New York or the Big Pink house in Woodstock from different moments in time. I would love to read a diary entry (if you will) from this time you spent along the Northern Pacific Coast and the characters that filled these days? 

ML: I should’ve kept a diary! Instead, I wrote lots of letters to other people. I was really psyched to get so much mail and to generate so much mail while I was there. I read 14 books in 2 months, which is a lot for me. A lot of my favorite days were those spent not talking with anyone, just making a little breakfast, drinking coffee, walking to the studio, playing some, then taking a hike down to the beach or up to one of the abandoned military structures high on a hill, then coming back down for dinner, then walking up to the studio, playing a little more, drinking a little wine, walking back home under the stars, reading and going to bed. I think the simplicity, the simple options of what to do during the day, the lack of mental chatter/worry and general stability where you didn’t have to fret about driving anywhere or the news or anything outside of the little bubble was super unique and luxurious. I’ll remember it forever.

Can you discuss your set-up for the recording of ‘Hundreds Of Days’? I wonder did you try out and experiment with new processes and techniques on this latest record? 

ML: I want to keep moving forward and trying out new things. I had this beautiful Moog Mother 32 and the Theremini and some pedals and some cheap thrift store keyboards, electric guitar, there was a grand piano in the main building, I just wanted to make the palette as full of colors as I could, so that was the main difference in this record, expanded palette. I didn’t really try out new techniques but I also think that the hourglass of two months being turned over, the limited time, inspired me to get lots of work done.

Mary_Lattimore-Press_7-Photo_Credit-Rachael_Pony_Cassells-1366x1001

‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ is such an achingly beautiful lament with the graceful harp notes unfolding a quiet magic instantaneously. As the title suggests, this piece of music is an ode to mother nature. I’d love for you to discuss the narrative of this particular piece and your memories of writing ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’? Were you steeped in nature from your upbringing back home in Philadelphia?

ML: I’m actually from North Carolina, so I did grow up amidst a lot of nature, in the mountains in the western part of the state. I figured out pretty early on that I love cities, the culture and the anonymity and the possibilities that come with living in a big city. I moved to Rochester, NY when I was 17, which is a larger city than the town where I grew up. My life in Philly didn’t have that much nature except for a park overlooking the river at the end of my block. I think being at the Headlands was the closest to immersion in nature that I’d felt for a while and it really lined up with my need to make something that encompassed heartache and a general sadness about leaving Philadelphia, where I’d lived for thirteen years. The record and this song are both a love letter to the wildness and jewel box beauty of the California coast and a postcard back to Philadelphia from my new location. I see this song as a postcard. It’s a little musical transmission from my new planet.

The act of travelling and road-trips across America has provided you with many stories, I’m sure which get captured beautifully into your deeply affecting music. As a musician and artist, I’d love to gain an insight into the ways by which your creative mind becomes unlocked (and the flood gates open, so to speak) when you’re in motion and witnessing different places along a continent spanning trip? For example, the seeds were for sewn for the predecessor ‘At The Dam’ LP from a U.S. road trip?

ML: Yeah, it’s true. I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records. My memory is pretty shot and it’s my way of recording the places and the feelings and it’s my way of communicating with other people, albeit wordlessly. Being on the road or being in a strange new place really flips a switch on in your brain, where you’re more aware and alert and awake, more present in your own body. I watch a lot of tv and I drink a lot of cocktails and mess around on my phone a lot and just hang out kind of duuuuhhhhhh, so being in motion really makes me right again, where I have to revive things that have fallen asleep, if that makes sense. So residencies and road trips feel important to the music because that’s when my ears and hands and brain and way of looking at the world and assessing situations are most alert. I want to go to Copenhagen in the summer to make a new record and to get to know that place, so that’s the next escape route.

Please describe for me your trusted 47-string Lyon and Healy harp. When did you first play this instrument and in what way do you feel you have developed this special relationship with the harp instrument? After first discovering your music in the form of ‘The Withdrawing Room’, it feels as if you are continually evolving with each new release. The possibilities are endless, perhaps the essence of your harp-based creations.

ML: Thanks so much! Yes, I want to keep evolving and seeing what the instrument has to offer, sound and personality-wise. I started playing the harp when I was 11 but didn’t really have such a personal relationship with it until I went to college (music conservatory) and had to spend solitary hours and hours in a practice room focusing on one piece at a time. I got close to my harp in a love/hate kind of way that felt like an important war we went through together. Now, it’s only love, though, because I have to protect it so much, taking it with me places. It’s like a sister to me.

Lastly, can you shed some light on your compositional approach when it comes to your harp playing, Mary? For instance, the myriad of sublime moments dotted across pieces such as ‘Never Saw Him Again’ and ‘Baltic Birch’ could never have been as a result of solely improvising? I love how transporting these pieces are, and these masterfully sculpted sonic creations feel like a sprawling abstract canvas of deep, resonating meaning.

ML: Baltic Birch was one where I had the main melody line in my mind beforehand in a singular melodic voice, so I thought of how I could build it. I thought I couldn’t loop that melody line because it was too long, so I looped the accompaniment, but then I realized that the melody actually could also be looped if it became kind of a round. Never Saw Him Again was definitely all improvisation and experimenting and I definitely thought it sounded kinda cheesy when I first made it. I also don’t really like my voice, so I put it through some Garage Band filter reverb stuff and had Jeff, who mixed it, kinda tweak the pitchiness of it when he was mixing just to make it not horrendous. I definitely just use vocals as texture and don’t claim to be a singer at all. Haha. I was just going with it. Everything comes with just messing around. I’ve never made a (solo) song in a real studio, only on my own with flexibility and an empty room and Garage Band on a laptop, so maybe it’s time to see what would happen if there was a little more pressure, with somebody a little more experienced controlling the actual recording and actual songs that are thought about more in advance. Who knows. Gotta keep trying things out! Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions! I always love to read your take on things!

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

Written by admin

January 9, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Chosen One: Colin Stetson

leave a comment »

And I don’t imagine that there is ever a time when you simply say: “Ok, that’s it, this is the end of the hole that I’m digging and this mine is all bored out”; I don’t imagine that life and art works that way. So, I just continue to search and enjoy it.”

 Colin Stetson

Words: Mark Carry

Colin_Stetson

Colin Stetson’s utterly captivating score to Ari Aster’s debut horror film ‘Hereditary’ marks the latest instalment to the Montreal composer’s groundbreaking songbook and storied career. The gripping intensity of Stetson’s intricately-layered compositions serves an integral character to the film’s depiction of self-destruction and (spiralling) depths of the human condition.

The vivid textures and beautifully crafted soundscapes interject a pulsating energy and tension to the looming darkness that gradually takes hold of the Graham family. But as ever Stetson’s sound explorations maps the full spectrum: from the deepest of fears, anguish and loss to fragile beauty, hope and undying love. The soaring pieces encompass melancholic ambient excursions; genre-defying, cathartic sound worlds that unleash raw emotion akin to infinite swells of ocean waves.

A parallel could be drawn between ‘Hereditary’ and the artist’s latest solo work (last year’s incredible ‘All This I Do For Glory’). Across the album’s six exploratory compositions, Stetson examines the concepts of the afterlife; similar to the aftermath of destruction that crazes the skies in Aster’s film. The striking narrative of the world-renowned  composer’s musical endeavours forever take you in deep and far with a force and intensity that rarely is captured to tape to such masterful effect.

Tom Waits once described the creative process being like translation. “Anything that has to travel all the way down from your cerebellum to your fingertips, there’s a lot of things that can happen on the journey”. I imagine Stetson – a kindred spirit – and the vitality of the resonating sound waves travelling down the bell of the ancient saxophone, in turn, capturing the soul of all natural things. This fascintaing journey of Stetson’s continues to uncover new ground with each and every fork in the road ahead. Onwards. Always, onwards.

‘Hereditary’ OST is out now on Milan Records.

Colin Stetson’s forthcoming Autumn European TOUR.

http://www.colinstetson.com/
https://colinstetson.bandcamp.com/

Colin Stetson3

Interview with Colin Stetson.

 

First of all I’d love for you to discuss the making of the incredible ‘Hereditary’ score. Something that strikes you immediately is just how good a match it is for your music in the horror genre and indeed the plot itself? It must have been a very interesting process for you?

Colin Stetson: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been talking to Ari [Aster] for actually a couple of years about this project. He first contacted me two or three years ago and we started talking about the prospect of me scoring. When he contacted me, he was just in the finishing stages of the first draft of the script and so had reached out and told me that he’d been inspired by some of my solo work in the writing of the script and was asking if I’d be interested in scoring. So he sent me the script and as soon as I read it and I realized if he had got the thing made and pulled it off it was going to be a really unique and fantastic picture. And just from the get-go Ari and I had a really good rapport and so I felt comfortable about it from back then.

It’s been a few years and because of that – because we had so much lead time and I was in the loop as things came closer to fruition in terms of getting distribution, getting funding and getting casting and everything and when pre-production started – I was able to actually start scoring well before filming even started. So we were able to get to jettison some of the normal protocol: in the film-scoring world where you have to be scoring off temp music primarily and for this (since I had written a lot of material beforehand and before there had been even shots made or any edits made to picture), they could use a lot of what I had written specifically before the movie as a temp which was great. So, to some capacity I’ve been working on this film since January of last year and finally finished on January 12th of this year.

It’s not surprising in one way that your music was created in response to reading the script itself from the director so it’s interesting how it’s more your reaction to getting inside this story. And there’s a lovely parallel also – thematically and the particular world the film exists in – between your solo works and the themes of ‘Hereditary’?

CS: I think that because we were of such a like-mind and because he knows my solo music so intimately and at the same time understood that we weren’t going to approach this as though it was a solo record and we were able to seamlessly find a continuity and well agreement as to what the character of this score should be early on so there really weren’t any major disagreements or anything which is rare and the working relationship had been throughout the whole process just completely positive – not saying that it wasn’t collaborative because certainly there were things to go back and forth on from time to time – but in terms of the major theme ideas, sonic ideas and the general arc of the whole film, I was very pleased to find we were on the same page throughout in our inspirations and our ideas.

You typify this incredible sphere of contemporary music that’s happening this past decade or so. I’d love for you to go back to your last solo record which was another incredible feat, ‘All I Do This For Glory’. As a listener, it’s always fascinating to realize there’s never any overdubs where it’s all very much in the moment and live.

CS: That’s the major parameter that I set for the solo recordings and which I set many years ago when I first started making them back in 2006 (when I started making Vol. 1). It was just this one simple rule that there wouldn’t be anything added and there wouldn’t be anything extra beyond the relationship between myself and the instrument. And what that does is it challenges you to use to a full extent everything that is there in front of you, to a degree that you wouldn’t have if you could look elsewhere for other avenues sonically – shortcuts and whatnot. But with that, it opens up in the context of something like a film score is that I have a whole host of sounds, approaches and musical aesthetic that I have developed over the years for this solo stuff that I can mime in the context of the film score.

So, for this one I used – although nowhere is there anything stripped down to a single instrument the way that I would do on a solo record – there are moments where the foundation of the cue is completely captured exactly how I would capture a solo piece and then simply embellish upon after the fact with overdubs and more arrangement just to put it in the greater continuity of the score as a whole. So, sometimes a score for me won’t be like that at all and I did some music for a film called ‘Outlaws and Angels’ which was very sax-centric; there wasn’t a whole lot of embellishing and arrangement on top of that so one that was very stripped down. And then other things like a score I did for ‘La Peur’ (a French film ‘The Fear’) where it’s basically a chamber orchestra ensemble with a bit of the flair of the characteristics of my solo pieces as more of an after-thought: an aesthetic and not foundational.

This one [‘Hereditary’] I liked doing to such a degree especially because we got to start so early and really get into the character of the score as an individual; as another member of the cast as it were; we really got to find an overall continuity that I don’t think you always get to find in a score, so I had a lot of fun making this one.

Another aspect to this score I love is how there are the more epic pieces interwoven with the shorter pieces and where – as always – there’s this light versus dark element with dark, foreboding, menacing segments in contrast to the achingly beautiful, fragile moments throughout as well.

CS: Exactly. The main challenge with the score was to – as Ari had put it early on – he simply wanted to avoid sentimentality at all costs and just create from the opening of the film, to create this sense of foreboding and an all-encompassing evil and how to do that without it seeming tongue in cheek or having it melodramatic to a degree where people stop believing you after a little while. So for me it was really just about making sure that everything was done as patiently as possible and being as minimal as possible with each cue in terms of an economy of arrangement and instrumentation but also an economy of motif so that things like you said the subtle moments can really play up and even those big moments there’s still like a central focus in them and the bombast doesn’t become like an intricate cacophony to a degree where it takes your eyes off of the propulsion through the narrative.

Being able to step away from the score as a whole and find a grand continuity throughout the whole thing; it’s hard to talk about this one specifically because there’s so much danger of spoilers because it’s one of those things where it’s hard to even watch a trailer because I feel as though so much of the movie is given away [laughs] by throwing up so many images and from scenes throughout it because basically the first scene happens and then everything is a spoiler [laughs]. There are a great many things that I did throughout all of it that I can’t discuss in their function or in their structure because even to discuss it musically would be to give away some aspects of the narrative.

ColinStetson_HowardAssemblyRoom_0316C_photoDannyPayne-970x550

As a composer and having  a string of solo albums, scores and the many collaborations you’ve done too, I’d love to gain an insight into your compositional approach if you have certain processes that you feel serves as a constant irrelevant of what the specific album you’re working on? Or if you have certain philosophies in terms of how you score a particular work?

CS: Well, there are a few different levels or layers to the process. I guess the first step is what is the story? What is this narrative? What is the overwhelming and underlining theme or intention that’s imbued? So there is always a bit of an epic tale as it were through each solo record. The last one was probably the first one that I did where I was trying to scale back and make it more in terms of the character of it, it’s more of a character study of a fictional individual in a parable-type story that I had written as a side narrative to the continuity of the trilogy and its opposite and relative character will be coming out with the next record. So that’s the first step: to really abstractly figure out what it is that I’m trying to say; what is the basic emotionality that you’re trying to imbue everything with so that’s carried through to the listener. And that would be the same thing for a score as well: what are the parameters in which we can say it.

The next step is figuring out the overall character and what is the instrumentation. For me, because I do everything myself: I perform all the instruments myself and record everything myself, it’s always a question of do I have the instrumentation already or do I need something that I don’t have ; do I need to learn something new that I don’t yet know how to do in order to make this music the way that I want it to be. So then that can be a brief process of really just identifying what the sound structures and characters of instruments that I’m going to be using the foundation for will be. Or it could be complicated and a little bit longer process where I’m actually buying new instruments and in some cases completely learning new skills in order to accomplish something that I don’t yet know how to do. And then along with that is if I know the general abstract emotional narrative and the character and then I have the nuts and bolts technicality of what are the instruments and what are the machinations of how I can make this happen.

Then it’s the process of doing it: I start to listen or read or I’ll start to really curtail my intake and consumption of media be it music or books so that it’s emphasizing the things that I want to emphasize and making sure that I’m not distracted by things that I don’t want to be distracted by. So in the case of ‘Hereditary’ I specifically and forcibly didn’t listen to any horror film scores or try to really watch any horror in anticipation of this because I didn’t want to be influenced by it. But at the same time I did specifically go towards other things to get at the resultant emotional qualities that I wanted to obtain through different means because I think trying to implement different tropes but not in conventional ways and not in a way that mapped onto the regular world of horror scores (so that will be the case with every record). Something like ‘Judges’ I think that I listened to almost exclusively gospel music for like a year as I was preparing and writing music for that record. And something like the last record I was just consuming so much of a cross of 90’s electronica and metal; it was like a practice of nostalgia for me of that era of my early adulthood so that being a very specific motives for me wanting to take music from my life experience in that particular era of my life but also the particular music that I mimed from that era were intentional; so I would be imbuing this record with the spirit of that background I guess.

As you say that too Colin, the last solo record certainly had the textures and colours of the techno producers of that time throughout that record.

CS: Great. I feel like it always comes through. I think I probably consciously micro-manage everything to a degree that most people aren’t used to but it really just worked for me.

Thinking about your solo records or works in general, do you find yourself for an intense period during the recording stage in particular because as you do it all live, do you find yourself rehearsing for extended periods and going through things before you step into the recording studio?

CS: It would be impossible for me to even sum up how much time. So, by the time that I get to the studio: I’ll take the example of the last record which is definitely the record that I spent the most time making because I recorded it myself in my studio, I was able to take the kind of time that I always wanted to be able to take. So, sometimes you spend years writing songs, getting them to a place where you can physically play the things that you have imagined because sometimes you imagine a piece but I can’t actually physically pull it off until I do x amount of work and sometimes it’s years of practice to get to a place that I’ve envisioned.

So then you have it to a place where it’s adequate: you can see capturing the piece of music as it is finally whole but then the process of getting it into the studio is sometimes long and drawn out because I use an array of microphones; choosing where those microphones are going to go sometimes is a bit of trial and error; choosing what sort of gear – which microphones, which pre-amps, which compression. How I’m capturing the sounds is entirely paramount to the mix at the end and then just hearing how the songs themselves are being captured so there are certain things that I need to be played over and over again and listen to over and over again for me to see how the mics are responding to certain dynamic changes.

Sometimes a whole piece will have to be recorded massively quieter overall than I would normally perform it live or sometimes the dynamics have to be exaggerated to a degree that I would never have been inspired to do in a live context but in the recording it is really necessary. So this process could be just days in the studio going over and playing it like half a dozen times every day or more to get there and that’s just the last stretch (like the last week of recording) and not to mention all of the hours on end throughout the years of writing stuff. It all comes from a place of just an enormous amount of rigour.

Colin-Stetson-Sorrow-1140x760-by-Courtesy-of-Artist

All your releases have this essence that your life’s work is contained within these songs; there’s so much borne inside the music. When ‘Sorrow’ came out, it’s such a special record and your reimagining of Gorecki’s third symphony. This is something you had in your head for many years and with the Sorrow Ensemble, it feels like this close family of musicians. I gather this must have been an amazing experience to fully realize a dream of yours and seeing it come to fruition?

CS: Absolutely. That one in particular because as you know I don’t tend to do too much in the company of others at this stage in my career – it’s not because I don’t ever want to; there’s just limited time to get everything done. But that group, as you said it’s put together first and foremost by who the people are in my life and our relationships together. And then it also is a fact of my close relationships in that they are with people who have this astounding talent and facility on their instruments and very specific sounds and characters. So something like the ‘Sorrow’ thing I’ve been imagining it for a couple of decades really almost, how it would change, what I would change, why I would change the things that I would. And then it really was just a confluence of this particular set of people that was the final piece of the puzzle: this takes it from being something conceptual and makes it into something concrete.

Now we have performed this fifteen or sixteen times at this point over the course of the past couple of years and we continue to book more and it’s such a lovely thing to know that all of us just inhabit this music – we have it, it’s a thing that exists at all times and all we need is a call to get everyone in one place and this big beautiful and terrible thing can happen [laughs].

The live performance must be such a thrill especially as you say just to get everyone in the one room, it must be a special moment in itself to actually perform it live as a group?

CS: Oh absolutely. Again it’s one of those things where the majority of what I do has been – especially for this past decade – is solo performance so just having the pleasure and privilege of the company of all of those players. It is some of the most joyous backstage hangs ever is with that group of people [laughs], it is a beautiful band and I’m hoping to find the time and the circumstance so that I can have that group do something that lives on past the Gorecki reimagining and into other original work.

The physicality of the sound has long been one of the great hallmarks of your music and seeing you play live the listener can physically witness it. Your relationship and engagement with the saxophone instrument; I wonder looking over your discography you must find that you’re continually finding new ways and insights into your instrument because it feels like you are always covering new ground?

CS: Yeah I mean I’m surely trying; that was the purpose of the setting behind those basic rules in the beginning of the solo music was that if you just set up a few very simple parameters then you still have freedom – and music can be anything – but you have to find it in a certain source. And so then if you narrow down the relationship and the source of all sounds to particular instruments and your physicality then the challenge is what can you imagine and what you can think up and then figure out ways to implement with your body is the key. It all stems from that.

Some things will be immediately accessible and will just happen because already you have the ability to do it and some things will be more imagined and it will take sometimes years to get to the place where you can actually pull off the performance of a piece through a very specific and pointed practice regimen to get there. And I’ve just always really thrived on that structure and the thing that is thrilling is that I continue to find more: sometimes subtly and sometimes decidedly not so with the instruments, with the process of capturing sounds; sometimes there was a pretty massive evolution to the capturing of sounds between Vol. 3 and this last record where I’m given so much more time and experimentation with different mics and different placements and different mixing processes that I get it that those things have completely evolved from earlier renditions.

And I don’t imagine that there is ever a time when you simply say: “Ok, that’s it, this is the end of the hole that I’m digging and this mine is all bored out”; I don’t imagine that life and art works that way. So, I just continue to search and enjoy it.

In terms of your chosen musical path and the development of your own musical voice, did you have certain eureka or significant moments during your upbringing or even as you were a bit older where you really felt that you wanted to pursue your own solo music?

CS: Well, the earliest and biggest influence in my life was Hendrix, my dad used to listen to a ton of Hendrix so I defaulted and I just grew up listening and appreciating it. I had a huge infatuation with the music of Tom Waits and then continued to. And through that discovering Marc Ribot and really just becoming enamoured with his career and the way that he had not only been able to be such a  prominent figure as a sideman in different people’s careers but also as a soloist and bandleader for himself was very inspirational.

And Tom Waits, for that matter, learning how to play – in some part – through listening and playing along to his records. Working with him: that experience was pretty integral to me stepping outside the normal way of how things are done or in the way that I had been doing things compositionally or improvisationally and I started to look at things more narratively and more theatrically, more from a storyteller’s perspective. And so I wouldn’t have gotten to the kind of place as a composer or as a storyteller without that relationship for sure.

cstetson

It must have been a dream scenario working with Tom Waits? What records were you working on?

CS: That was in 2002 and 2003/2004. Most of what I did with him was the horns on two albums, ‘Alice’ and ‘Blood Money’ and then I did a few tracks that ended up on the ‘Orphans’ album box-set. Yes it literally was that dream come true situation because quite specifically I moved to the San Francisco Bay area in order to be near to where I knew he lived, so that I could – totally in a non-stalker kind of way – perhaps get onto his radar at some point in life and make some music for and with him. So it was one of those things that really seemingly comes out of nowhere but where it comes out of is entirely traceable and it’s really just having an intention, putting yourself in a certain position and being as prolific in the scene as you possibly can and ensuring that every time that you step up to playing with people you not only represent yourself as best as can as a player but also as a person and friend with them because it’s through those friendships and the performances that all the other relationships are going to come out of.

The EX-EYE record was another amazing release of yours. Again like what you were touching on before, it’s you with your close musical friends; I love the sheer wall of sound that you are able to conjure up and how it’s captured then on the album itself.

CS: For sure. The whole point of EX-EYE was to make a very specifically and intentionally virtuosic music – a friend just described it as “transcendent virtuosity”. I wanted to get this group together; Greg [Fox] and I were talking more and more about this idea of ‘maximalism’ (which I think is a misuse of how the term was initially quoted for), but the way we tend to think about it really is like a hyper-saturated virtuosic minimalism where you’re overfilling limited space with enormous amounts of melodic and rhythmic information but doing so in a way that unfolds in the same sense that minimalist music would melodically, harmonically and thematically. So the end result is this really heavy, very, very dense [sound] and through that, much bigger strokes are formed. It’s incredible to have music written with them and to perform with them and we’re starting to work on some new stuff.

‘Hereditary’ OST is out now on Milan Records.

Colin Stetson’s forthcoming Autumn European TOUR.

http://www.colinstetson.com/
https://colinstetson.bandcamp.com/

Written by admin

August 21, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Chosen One: The Gentleman Losers

leave a comment »

So we had a feeling of being stuck in this insane limbo, this quicksand, where no matter how fast we run, we don’t make headway.”

 Samu & Ville Kuukka

Words: Mark Carry

 TGL-Promo-2018-2-Large

Last winter saw the highly anticipated return of Finnish duo The Gentleman Losers with their sublime third studio album ‘Permanently Midnight’ (released on Estonian boutique label Grainy Records). With the addition of vocals (on several tracks) and synthesizer instrumentation, the band’s unique sound world has further evolved, producing a rejuvenated, cathartic and deeply bewitching sonic experience.

The Gentleman Losers consist of brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka from Helsinki, Finland. The duo’s immaculate instrumental music first surfaced in 2006 with their universally acclaimed self-titled debut full length, followed by the equally exceptional ‘Dustland’ in 2009. Looking back, the band mapped magnificently the gorgeous ambient and modern classical recordings of the 00’s. The duo’s first two records capture a fragile beauty of long-lost folk relics, forever filled with cinematic wonder and a lyrical quality is forever inherent in their stunningly beautiful musical works. In fact, many conversations with musicians over the years has seen the name of the Gentleman Losers pop up – often with a flood of excitement and a warm smile. A remarkable band whose return last year was akin to the return of a longtime friend to grace your very presence.

The long hiatus in these intervening years saw the Kuukka brothers form a synth pop outfit Lessons (with extensive touring in addition to the band’s debut album release) and film scores and other commissioned music. Says Ville, “We were really itching to get them out”. The album’s immaculate ten tracks contains a bold spirit that resonates powerfully throughout the quiet bliss of synthesizer-layered opener ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ right through to the closing harmony-laden opus title-track.

As ever, keen attention to detail is clearly evident across the mesmerizing sonic canvas. Gorgeous harmonies are intricately placed on the late night bliss of ‘Swimming After Dark’ while the closing two tracks (forthcoming single ‘Rising Tide’ and ‘Permanently Midnight’) merges Memphis soul and 60’s/70’s Americana to magnificent effect. A healing quality prevails throughout the sumptuously layered creations.

The album’s towering centerpiece ‘Wintergreen’ epitomizes the visionary nature of the duo’s latest sonic jewel. Cinematic strings and brooding synthesizers are effortlessly fused with clean guitar tones and a plethora of pristine instrumentation, radiating a deep catharsis as a result. ‘Occultation Of Hesperus’ is a live jam, bustling with hypnotic guitar riffs and pulsating beat. The range of the band’s sound  is widening yet their trademark ambient aesthetics remain beautifully intact.

Permanently Midnight’ becomes an experience of in-betweenness. Says Samu, “Permanently Midnight explores the idea of liminality, of being stuck in a stage where the old has ceased to exist, but the new hasn’t yet begun”. A timelessness spreads across ‘Permanently Midnight’ like the impending light of dawn.

‘Permanently Midnight’ is out now on Grainy Records.

The Gentleman Losers’ upcoming single “Rising Tide” will be released on June 22nd on all major digital services.

https://www.gentlemanlosers.com/

https://thegentlemanlosers.bandcamp.com/music

30443387_2122838307986294_8106836017710891008_o credit Mirjam Varik

 

Interview with Samu & Ville  Kuukka.

 

Congratulations on the utterly compelling and stunningly beautiful new full length release “Permanently Midnight”. I just love how on one level, it’s unmistakably the unique sound world crafted by The Gentleman Losers but also there is many new elements inherent in your sonic oeuvre in this newest chapter (particularly, the use of voice and harmonies and more heightened use of synthesizer in places). Firstly, please discuss the primary concerns you both had for this new record (from the outset) and indeed the conversations you must have been having concerning the desire to add these new colours to your musical language?

Samu & Ville Kuukka: Thank you so much! I have to say, whenever we set out to make new music as TGL, it’s always very, very hard to meet the standards we’ve set for the band. We’re not happy with almost anything that comes out of our fingertips. I don’t know how many times we’ve cursed ourselves for being so demanding. I mean, who needs this kind of madness in their lives? Sonically, stylistically, and emotionally, we’ve set these boundaries, more or less strict, within which we operate. The world is very finely tuned, and it breaks easily, so each note and idea and sound needs to be carefully chosen to preserve the magic. That said, we felt that, since the gap between the releases ended up being so big, it was time we brought new elements to the sound. The expectations were high, I suppose, from our fans, to come up with the goods again, but at the same time, we’re not the same people as we were eight years ago. So it would have felt a tad disingenuous to keep making the same music we were making then.

There has been quite the hiatus from the second Gentleman Losers record (“Dustland”) and last year’s eagerly awaited follow-up. I get the impression your involvement in the synth pop band Lessons (and particularly the numerous live shows) helped inform the sound of what would become “Permanently Midnight”? The ambitious scope of the record is what strikes you immediately where the glorious compositions inhabit this remarkably empowering and cosmic spirit. During these years of allowing the new compositions to bloom naturally – and gradually I presume – there must have been a proud moment for you once the album finally came into being?

SK & VK: We never meant to take a break from TGL.”Dustland” materialised rather easily, so it wasn’t a question of being fed up with the band or anything. What did happen, was in fact our “side projects” – seeking film music commissions, then getting them, and the Lessons band – ended up taking way more time and energy than we had thought. Lessons in particular turned out to be much more demanding than we expected, much of it owing to the fact that the third member of the band, our singer and co-writer Patrick Sudarski, lives in Germany. But then Lessons got signed to Sinnbus records and there were releases and tours and interviews and the lot. Which was all lovely, obviously exactly what we wanted to happen! But when there are people involved in your endeavours, like label folks, PR people, booking agents, radio promoters, and what have you, it sort of becomes more serious. It’s a job then, really. There are people expecting things from you. With TGL it as just the two of us, more or less, especially after our label City Centre Offices decided to call it quits, after which we in fact had no outlet for the music. But certainly it was writing synth pop songs for Lessons that got us thinking that we might write vocal songs for TGL too. It was a very natural progression, too.

It wasn’t like we were working on the album all this time, but there were long stretches when it in fact was all we did. The film music stuff and the synth pop band were helpful in opening new creative doors for me personally, but I think there were times for Ville when he felt the opposite to be true. And at some point progress on the album got mired down. Those were difficult times for us, I can’t deny it. There was depression, a feeling of futility. The growing panic of having wasted years on a project that might not ever see the light of day, and if and when it did, would we even be on anyone’s radar anymore. And as always, the question of making enough money to pay for the rent. Which, of course, is a real struggle for indie musicians. It’s genuine poverty; there’s no nice way to put it. Ville had a serious bout of burning out and it took him a long time to recover. I was getting serious physical reactions from the constant stress of years on end. I was actually in physical pain for months, and no cause was found.

So we had a feeling of being stuck in this insane limbo, this quicksand, where no matter how fast we run, we don’t make headway. This is what the album came to be about at some point. We kept working on it, because it was already way past the point of no return, and we knew it would be great eventually, because the songs were there. Then we reached the moment where we thought the album was finished. We were in Berlin, and we played that version to some musician friends – Nils Frahm, FS Blumm, Takeshi Nishimoto, Martyn Heyne – and they all liked it. But for us, this was an ear-opener. We somehow heard the thing with fresh ears, and knew that it wasn’t anywhere near finished. So from that moment on, we got back to the drawing board and after some serious reworking, we finally found the right approach and the album became what it is.

And I need to point out that in spite of all the struggle, we love the album now. Once we had conquered the biggest issues and things started moving into the right direction, we knew that we had a great record in our hands.

IMG_3159 credit Samu Kuukka

In terms of the musical set-up and equipment at your disposal (and particularly your home studio set-up in Helsinki), I’d love to gain an insight into your studio set-up and the many innumerable instrumentation and analogue gear that were vital to “Permanently Midnight”‘s enchanting sonic canvas? Following on from the first two albums, were there new musical discoveries (instruments, gear, pedals, production tools etc) that served significant foundations to this latest release?

SK & VK: What has happened is that over the years, we’ve lost access to a lot of excellent gear! On our first album we had what was probably our best-sounding set-up. It was really a matter of serendipity. We just happened to have at our disposal pieces of equipment that, when combined, gave us a gorgeous sound. Often some important pieces of gear have been on loan from other people, so we’ve kind of lost them from our arsenal since then. Over the years we’ve always kept some key pieces that we own, such as our Telefunken mixing console from the 1950s, a Studer tape machine, a tape delay, some choice mics.

Among the new stuff on this record there’s the Roland SH-101 synth, which is mainly appreciated in dance music circles, but is a really lovely instrument. Another unique thing was the kantele, which is a traditional, zither-like, Finnish instrument. It was used for some colours on ”Night Falls in Nowhereland”. Other things included boring, technical stuff such as some Neve mic preamps. And towards the end of the mixing stage we got a pair of these most amazing speakers called Kii Audio. Those things are like the first real major development in speaker technology in decades. Absolutely groundbreaking stuff.

What we hope to achieve is a certain level of randomness and happy accidents. Things that we don’t have total control over. Which is why we like analogue gear, all things lo-fi, and even malfunctioning units. It’s a matter of letting chance take its course, and then editing the results in the digital domain. We do use digital stuff too, Pro Tools and such, and recently, Ableton Live.

The gorgeous soulful americana, neon-lit lament “The Good Bird Singin’ In The Twilight Tree” represents one of part A’s deeply enriching moments. The meticulous layering of the pristine sounds emits such a vivid warmth, particularly the heavenly harmonies atop the warm percussion. Can you talk me through this song’s construction and how it blossomed over time? Did you envision this composition to turn out in this way (or rather, you may never know until much later in the recording process)?

SK & VK:”Good Bird” was a relatively late addition, and one that, thematically, tied the album together. It was a song that came very easily. The music was somehow just waiting to come out. I lifted some of the lyrics from another, unfinished, song, and with minor alterations the song was there. The album’s main theme is sort of condensed in the words of ”Good Bird”. The production side took much, much longer. We knew we wanted this soulful sound for it, but it took a fair amount of experimenting. It used to have just the drum machine as the rhythm section. Then we wondered how it would sound with an acoustic drum kit. We didn’t want a regular-sounding drum kit, so we recorded it with a plastic toy mic onto this 70s cassette deck we had – and voilà! Mixing the song was pretty hard, mostly because of the terrible-sounding mix room that was our bane back then. But once Ville had the mix down, we knew we had a centerpiece track for the album.

Recording over several years and in many cities across Europe must have been a very interesting experience. I wonder would you have been working very specifically on certain songs in these various recording times you had together? Looking back on the album’s inception and creation, did certain tracks bloom much quicker than others? I’m very curious to know how late in the day (so to speak) did the composition (such as “Swimming After Dark” for example?) tell you to add vocals? 

SK: The multitude of recording locations was not something we planned, or meant to happen. It was just a fact of life then that we were moving round a lot. For example Ville was living in Paris with his girlfriend Kaisa Ruotsalainen for a while, and he had set up a little studio around a laptop and Ableton Live. So stuff kept coming to me from Paris, and then I worked on those  ideas, and some of them went somewhere, and others didn’t.

Some of the songs really took forever to find a final form – most of them did, I suppose. Good Bird, like I mentioned, was an exception. Some other didn’t require that much work, if you count the hours we put into them in the end, but they were recorded in a few sessions that were far apart in time. I think ”Soft Rains” was started in this lovely old house in Switzerland and finished years later in Helsinki.

“Swimming” is a song we had lying around for years. If I remember correctly, a version of it was left off ”Dustland”. It didn’t have vocals then, and it wasn’t at all the way it turned out now. Once the decision was made to have vocals on the new album, we found that song draft and fooled around with. That’s when it really came to life.

21-3551 credit Ville Kuukka

A snippet of “Wintergreen” was heard first on the band’s album trailer in the weeks leading up to its release. I feel this piece is one of the album’s pinnacles (and the band’s songbook thus far) with luminescent beats, smoky jazz flourishes and beguiling cinematic soundscapes. It’s clearly demonstrated that as brothers, each of you informs the other – as a near telepathic connection forever connects the pair – where a certain electronic beat or synth line informs the following vibraphone passage (and so on). Please shed some light on the creative process inherent in your work and indeed has the process remained the same or changed in any way from your early days?

SK: Ville has this favourite quote when talking about the way we play on a song like ”Wintergreen”: Keith Richards talks about the ”ancient art of weaving”, which is what he does with Ronnie Wood. The players listen to each other and just trade licks and lines, and the fabric of the song comes out of that. Certainly Ville and I have a wordless understanding when playing music, most of the time, at least. Which doesn’t mean that we always exist harmoniously in the studio! There have been some major shouting matches over the year, that’s for sure.

When we start writing new material, it’s always a very intimate process. It’s rare that we sit down and write together starting from scratch. Usually each of us brings something to the table that we’ve written alone, then see how the other one responds. So it’s this two-part filter always at work on the music. There are so many rejected ideas as a result that I can’t even guess at the number. But it means that only the strongest stuff gets a green light. This process has remained the same over the years.

“Permanently Midnight” encapsulates this in-between state, so it’s as if the immaculate sounds capture precisely this feeling of tension, despair and melancholy but therein also lies burning embers of hope within the darkness. Please talk me through the album’s title and the themes central to this latest journey of yours? The accompanying photobook (beautifully depicting “pictures from the in-between”) offers another perspective on this striking narrative built. Can you recount your memories of taking these many photos – the places you were, the feelings you were striving to capture – and the visual nature of your music (and the undeniable cinematic quality to the band’s sound)? The relationship between sight and sound must forever serve undying fascination and inspiration for you?

SK &VK: It was something that dawned on us as the recording process dragged on, and, in essence, took over our lives, that we were living in this weird place, or non-place, outside of time. We had the feeling that our lives or careers hadn’t really progressed much, in spite of our ceaseless work. We were working on something new, a piece that was to redefine us as artists to a great degree, but the work wasn’t finishing; we were stuck in a moment of transition. In anthropology, this is called a liminal state. In a broader sense, liminality has always been recognized as special, even dangerous state. In folk magic, certain places and times have been considered liminal, and therefore supernatural, such as a crossroads, a place between the worlds, so to speak. Think of the myth of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads at midnight in exchange for superior guitar skills. So for example, the twilight is a time that is between day and night, and, of course, midnight is a time that is no longer the day before, nor yet the next one.

We then realized that we weren’t alone in feeling this. Many of our friends were feeling this in-between-things state as well. Culturally, politically, and technologically, so many things have changed recently that it has left us all reeling. The whole world is in a state of transition, but not really moving on into the future. Technology seems to have altered, in a profound way, a whole generation’s perception of the world, and what it means to be a human being in the world. The world as we knew it has vanished, seemingly overnight, because of technological progress running amok, this inhuman greed setting the pace, and people as the body politic behaving like idiots. Things are changing, but there is nothing in anyone’s field of vision to replace the old. I certainly don’t know what to expect from the future anymore. Like they say, the future ain’t what it used to be.

The photos were something that just happened on the side. We have both been avid photographers for years. So we always go everywhere armed with a camera of some sort, at least a compact 35mm. We shoot a lot of pictures, and at some point near the completion of the record, we realized that we have actually been sort of documenting the process all along. Not really capturing the actual work, but rather our lives, and how the world looked like to us during the recording. And turns out that many of the pictures can be seen as a visual continuation of what we were trying to put down in the music. I guess we tend to have a similar approach to taking pictures, where it’s a mood that we’re capturing, and the mood we’re in ourselves defines the subjects and the approach. So it’s really about this mental and emotional free association. You see different things depending on you’re feeling. The pictures in the book have been shot in many places, from Helsinki to Paris, and Tallinn to Leipzig. To put it in grand terms, I suppose we’re trying to capture how it feels to be alive at this particular time in history.

IMG_3166 credit Samu Kuukka

What also strikes me is the sequencing of the album and how the gorgeous celestial harmonies ascend into the atmosphere, towards the album’s close? It almost feels as if the crystal light of the impending horizon is nearing us. The meticulous attention to detail abounds at each and every turn. Is the sequencing a significant challenge?

SK & VK: We’re happy that you appreciate this! The sequencing is indeed an essential part of our art. We give it a lot of thought and go through endless permutations before find the kind of dramatic and emotional arc that delivers the kind of feeling that we’ve been looking for. We’re big fans of the Album as an art form, and it sort of baffles us that, really, very few artists seem to be interested in offering a good album, a whole, instead of a random collection of songs. I know this is very old-fashioned in this age of throwaway singles, but this is in fact a great loss that albums aren’t appreciated anymore, or supported (or even acknowledged) by many digital platforms. Mainstream music, of course, has never been about the album as a thoroughly thought-out piece of art, the label people just want to have the most obvious hit song to be first, then the next best song, and so on, until there’s the godawful side B. But if done well, the music album can be a unique form of expression. And the vinyl record, by its physical attributes, becomes a two-act show, which is a splendid way to present a suite of music. For the listener, there is a physical and psychological aspect to it as well, getting up, walking up the record, and flipping it over. It’s like reading a book. You have to do something physical to find out how the story continues.

The album’s final harmony-laden gems “Rising Tide” and the gorgeous title-track really conveys just how far the band has come and this sense of a journey – undoubtedly one of rejuvenation – that this music takes the listener on. Recount your memories of writing the lyrics and the various musical layers to these beguiling creations? Were there reference points (certain albums or films or books even) that you turned to throughout ‘Permanently Midnight’s album making process?

SK: The song ”Permanently Midnight” searched its form for a good while. Again, the demo had been around for a couple of years, sans lyrics, but it wasn’t until the phrase ”permanently midnight” came to me, and we decided to do something unexpected with the vocals, that the song found its form. It’s a very sweet tune, but we didn’t want to go too far in that direction. It was another song that was essential to our rebirth. The lyrics are really simple, to drive the point home. And the phrase ”all dressed up and nowhere to go” felt like a good way to describe what we were feeling.

Lastly, I must ask you about the menacing, seductive groove of “Occultation Of Hesperus”. It feels this glorious cut saw the light of day from a jamming session one evening? There is a live feel to this recording, which I love and a charged immediacy and rawness. It must be an exciting prospect for the pair of you to be touring the new record, will you be expecting new versions to evolve as a result of the chemistry of live performances?

SK:”Hesperus” was indeed a live jam, back in our dingy studio in the Punavuori neighbourhood of Helsinki. The basic track was just a drummachine, Ville on the electric guitar, and me on the Rhodes. It’s relatively rare for us to record like that, but it’s something we enjoy doing, and, indeed, will be doing on the road! We just recently played our first live show in many, many years. The reception was amazing and it really left us wanting to do it more.

‘Permanently Midnight’ is out now on Grainy Records.

The Gentleman Losers’ upcoming single “Rising Tide” will be released on June 22nd on all major digital services.

https://www.gentlemanlosers.com/

https://thegentlemanlosers.bandcamp.com/music

Written by admin

June 13, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Chosen One: Actress & London Contemporary Orchestra

leave a comment »

“…but I do love the meshing of beautiful sound ideas, textures and tones. I like the idea of running them through a computerised process without it seeming as if it’s been touched.”

 Darren Cunningham (Actress)

Words: Mark Carry

Actress-x-LCO-Press-Shot-v2

‘LAGEOS’ is the utterly compelling, shape shifting debut full length release from renowned electronic producer Darren Cunningham (aka Actress) and the London Contemporary Orchestra. At the heart of this captivating record is both artists’ ceaseless fascination with sound wherein new pathways of discovery are forever attained.

The first traces – committed to tape at least – was last year’s beguiling ‘Audio Track 5’ EP. The divine title-track (which is also found halfway through the record’s second half) comprises of beautifully drifting strings that float amidst crunching percussive rhythms and piano patterns. The splicing of the various components creates a shimmering odyssey of rapturous, luminous soundscapes, where the abstract techno sphere is masterfully blended with modern classical elements. Importantly, lines become blurred throughout ‘LAGEOS’, one cannot pinpoint to any one musical landscape, for it is a far-reaching kaleidoscope of timbres, textures and tones.

LCO’s Hugh Brunt has described the collaboration as being “about exploring an ambiguity of sound that sits between electronic and acoustic spaces.” The new co-write ‘Galya Beat’ embodies just that as majestic violin lines are blended with rippling percussion and intense electronic passages: a rich new musical language is formed before your very eyes.

The gorgeous opener – and title-track – ‘LAGEOS’ opens with a gentle crackle of electronics which feels akin to a magical fireworks display dancing across a night’s skyline. Chaotic string patterns ascend into the mix like shooting stars with glorious illuminations of mind bending sounds. The near-choral bliss of ‘Momentum’ follows next with dazzling pulses of achingly beautiful sound waves (precisely orbiting the ether of unknown dimensions).

It is a joy to discover new contexts and insights into the cherished Actress discography as classics such as ‘Hubble’, ‘N.E.W’ and ‘Voodoo Posse, Chronic Illusion’ become a deep stream of consciousness and energy flow. The meditative bliss of ‘N.E.W’ with an endless array of enchanting instrumentation, supplied by the LCO, flows deep into your veins. The irresistible cosmic groove of ‘Voodoo Posse’ serves the record’s fitting penultimate track before the joyously empowering ‘Hubble’s techno fuelled odyssey maps one’s innermost fears and dreams.

Alice Coltrane once said “I just go within” and this echoes powerfully throughout this incredibly inspiring collaboration between Actress and LCO, the sumptuously layered tracks come from deep within one’s soul, heart and spirit.

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

https://ninjatune.net/artist/actress

 

Actress2013_PiotrNiepsuj

Interview with Darren Cunningham (Actress).

 

Congratulations Darren on the utterly captivating new full length ‘LAGEOS’; a glorious collaboration with LCO. Please take me back to the process by which you received the individual LCO recorded instrumental parts and, in turn, your manipulation of these sounds? It feels like such a fascinating sound experiment, and I wonder how your approach varied depending on the nature of the music you got hold of?

Darren Cunningham: Tar thanks 🙂 It was a split process of sorts really. The process of recording the instrumental parts were organised separately in a different acoustical sound environment in the UK. This process layer was then moved to another sound environment in Berlin. It was at this point that I started to receive stems from the first process, and from that point created a demo of what the album could soon like based on what id heard from outside of the recording process, so at each point there’s a flow of information that can be reorganised and captured in the studio.

At the final point I receive the stems created for each instrument and begin the electronics process in my studio. Dipping sounds through chromdioxid super II at different frequencies and layering sound oscillations via subtle modular relays. Some were layered chaotically within the framework of orchestration, or in some cases specifically mapped to expression.

The classical world combined with the electronic sphere conjures up such a shape shifting, mind bending experience. Can you discuss your desires and hopes for this project (from the outset) and your love of classical music (I believe your first musical instrument was the clarinet, so ‘LAGEOS’ is almost like the completion of a full circle for you)?

DC: Hmmm “love of classical music” I  wouldn’t technically describe myself as someone who “loves” classical music, but I do love the meshing of beautiful sound ideas, textures and tones. I like the idea of running them through a computerised process without it seeming as if its been touched.

I came across and begun to appreciate classical music by chance, having heard Gabriel Faure’s – Requiem, but I was exposed to a classical instrument when i was about 10 and that was the clarinet. I committed to the ritual of practice for a reasonable amount of time (2)years. Brief stint in orchestra (2hrs), and that was it. So definitely the clarinet forms some sort of symbolic reference, but ultimately for me this was just an exercise to learn more about music.

This project began with the live show in the Barbican back in 2016. I’d love for you to discuss the source of inspiration that this space and its architecture has had on the music making process and the resultant recorded output?

DC: I’d say the Barbican is a great space for capturing a sort of introspective analysis.

Amped up isolation

An exchange of communication

Like a friendly council estate for the arts

Enriching lives

community

and waterfalls

‘LAGEOS’ gives beautiful new insights into several classic cuts from the cherished Actress back catalog. In what ways do you feel these tracks (such as N.E.W. or ‘Voodoo Posse, Chronic Illusion’) have metamorphosed given this new classical context?

DC: They’re just so weirdly inverted its endlessly fascinating to me.

Lastly, the immense detail and intricate layers – forever colliding particles that feel a distillation of endless moments within moments – of the vastly compelling Actress sound unleashes such a timeless, far-reaching state. Please shed some light into your compositional approach and your fascination with sound? Are there certain musical philosophies that you feel have been central to your artistic creations

DC: DISCOVERY

 

Photography by Tom D Morgan - www.tomdmorgan.com

 

Interview with Robert Ames (co-Artistic Director of LCO).

 

The forthcoming Actress & London Contemporary Orchestra ‘LAGEOS’ record is really quite special. Firstly, I’d be very curious to learn how this particular collaboration was conceived and to bring me back to the original live Barbican show in 2016?

Robert Ames: So about a year before we did that show at the Barbican, we sat down to have a think about who in that world we’d really love to work with (it came out of the meetings that we had with Boiler Room; there was a bunch of us there) and we all agreed that Actress would be amazing for it because he’s got such an incredible ear for the detail in the music and there’s so many layers of interest as well. So it would be really interesting to give him orchestral instruments as a palette to play with – just like he works when he’s creating his tracks with a load of found sounds to create his music before; it would be interesting for him to treat out orchestral instruments in the same way. So, that was about a year before the Barbican show. We had a long process of introducing instruments to him; we were all hitting ideas off each other and then we got the Barbican show.

The classical world and the techno/electronic world really complement each other, it just combines so well.

RA: Yeah, it’s a really interesting time at the moment where – I’m trying not to use the label contemporary classical music because it doesn’t make so much sense – there seems to be a really interesting natural cross-over that’s happening quite a lot between genres and particularly electronic music producers and composers in the world we work in more it seems to be a lot more fluid now and ideas seem to be flowing between each other and it’s hard to pigeon-hole the music in a specific genre so much. And I think that’s something that really exciting about the LCO is finding those ambiguous spaces where it’s really exciting in to make it happen and try to facilitate that and facilitate recording and the live shows. Actress is one of the most exciting examples doing that and we’re really looking forward to the Barbican show that’s coming up and for everybody to hear that album.

I was very curious to hear how much a source of inspiration the Barbican itself was in terms of the space and the architecture?

RA: That’s right, the architecture – especially for Darren more than anybody else – was a big influence in his thought process for the initial show: that brutalist, concrete architecture I think you can definitely hear that in some of the music.

‘Audio Track 5’ was the first taste of this collaboration when it came out last year. Again, it’s the organic feel to it and very distinctive timbres happening like these found sounds etched in the detail somewhere. You presumably had good fun putting a track like this together?

RA: It’s an interesting one that one (I’m just trying to remember off the top of my head). Of the specific instrument or sounds you hear on that; you hear that kind of low crunching sound and that’s a prepared piano and  stuff that is going on high up, you get a lot of plucked harp sounds that have obviously been treated by Darren as well as violin lines (which are played by our lead violinist Galya Bisengalieva).

For these live shows, is it a case of rehearsing a lot in advance or is it an intense short burst of a period?

RA: It’s a fairly intense process. The really nice thing about these shows – we’ve played a couple now and have more planned and obviously they’re all happening in different places but they happen in very different atmospheres as well. So for example we played the Barbican in London last year, we did a show in Moscow that was more of a club venue and it was a standing capacity. We haven’t had a set-list (like bands would have a set-list): we go into the space, we see how we all feel and how the musicians feel and think what audience we’re going to get and we chop and change the set-list depending on that so it’s got a nice programming behind it depending on the space, the atmosphere, the audience and the musicians.

Thinking about your other collaborations, Mica Levi is another person who really typifies this sort of uncategorizable sound and someone who is so unique in the current music world.

RA: That’s really interesting; we’ve just been working on something new with her at the moment. So, Mica Levi and another musician called Koby Sey and a visual artist called Hannah Perry and some musicians from LCO. And so far that’s been four days: very open, work shopping and improvisation and throwing ideas out. So the work we do with her ranges from that all the way to a very specific commission to write a string quartet and we just performed that at the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, we performed it at the Roundhouse as part of Ron Arad’s Curtain Call. And we’re just about to fly off to Salzburg to perform that and that’s a much more standard process where she writes a piece of music, she comes and she presents it to us; we work on it a bit with her, share some thoughts and then we enjoy performing her work.

Does the LCO change or alter in size depending on the nature of the project or time and other constraints?

RA: Yeah it does. I started the orchestra with co-founder Hugh Brunt in 2008 and it started off being large orchestral but we’d like to think of the orchestra as a collective of musicians as opposed to something that’s really inflexible. So, in one concert we could have like a solo piece of music all the way up to a ninety piece orchestra all the way down to a string quartet; so we do a massive array of different types of concerts and different line-ups of ensembles. We record a lot of stuff as well, so something like ‘Alien: Covenant’ which we recorded with Jed Kurzel (and that was a 90-piece orchestra) and we just did a string quartet concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and we’re going to be doing a massive orchestral show in October at the Barbican called Other World which is the amazing batch of shows, eight of our core musicians that we work with a lot. So it’s really changing all the time and it’s nice to be able to do that; it means instead of going to a composer and saying ‘this is what we’ve got, you’ve got to write this’, we can say ‘this is what we’ve got, enjoy it and we can be flexible to what you want.’

There is a wide range of found sounds on ‘LAGEOS’. So, as a listener you’d be asking ‘what is this sound?’ and I just love how all these elements are spliced together so brilliantly.

RA: Yeah, that’s right. A lot of the sounds on there are devised by the musicians themselves so instead of being standard classical sounds, there is a lot of extended techniques on there you especially hear that on the violin, viola and cello. Then you hear a lot of great, interesting percussion techniques like the Marimba’s with blankets thrown over them; plastic bags being used; the clarinet being used more of a percussive instrument. So it’s these very well-known instruments that are being explored throughout their whole sound world. So that’s coming from Darren first or wanting to find out exactly what more instruments can do, the musician having the technical ability to create all these sounds and show them to him.

The studio itself that you record in, is this a space that you all would be familiar with?

RA: This was a slightly different recording process to what we’d usually do. So, although we perform and rehearse together, we actually recorded the stem – the stem being we recorded every single instrument independently and built them up so we could give Darren control over the individual lines and so Hugh and I would have control as well. And the mixing stage we did with our friends at Spitfire Audio Studio: they are a really amazing company; they make sound library store for composers so we recorded in their studio which we recorded our sound library we did with them and we had a great engineer called Harry Wilson.

Was the process itself a short intense period or more lengthy, gradual stages?

RA: It was quite intense, it happened over two very, very long days of each musician independently and obviously each track has a different amount of musicians; some of them have scores and some of them don’t so some were quicker to record than others. So I think safely to say by far my favourite track on the album is a track called ‘Galya Beat’ and that’s not scored at all and that’s written by Galya (the violinist), Sam Wilson (the percussionist) and Darren, so that’s a pure co-write between those three guys and for me is what the collaboration is al about. And there’s elements of improvisation in the writing of that, so something like that was really quick and fresh to record because they performed it so much. The other ones which are a little bit more notated took a bit more time.

One of my favourites at the moment – and it’s where it’s placed as well – is ‘Voodoo Posse, Chronic Illusion’and that groove that goes on throughout.

RA: Yeah it’s a great one, I mean it’s one of his classic tunes, it’s really amazing. It’s fun exploring that groove and it’s fun exploring the darker sound worlds of that piece. And the nice thing about that is the way we perform and the way the music is notated it doesn’t have a set duration, so if we see the audience is enjoying the groove we’ll keep it going for longer.

I gather it’s these live performances would be the most fulfilling or rewarding parts of it all? You’re so deeply involved with everything from composing and writing to arranging, recording and so on, is the live performance the ultimate part of it?

RA: Yeah, the live performance is the really, really fun bit. But it’s actually just being in a room with Darren and just working through sounds has been an incredibly rewarding experience because we’ve learned so much from him and his process; the way he works so it’s been really fulfilling the whole thing.

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

https://ninjatune.net/artist/actress

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

June 5, 2018 at 1:58 pm