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Step Right Up: Matt Robertson

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Interview with Matt Robertson.

There’s just something about the way analogue sounds can develop over time that really fascinates me.”

—Matt Robertson.

Words: Mark Carry

matt-robertson-portrait

Matt Robertson is a composer, synthesist, and producer, working with a collection of vintage, modern and DIY synths, and combining electronic music production with classical composition and cinematic soundscapes.

My first introduction to Robertson’s synth-based explorations came in the form of Cillian Murphy’s guest mix, which featured the gradual bliss of synthesizers in the ambient tour-de-force ‘Urdu’ (appropriately) sandwiched between Brian Eno and Holly Herndon.

The studio album ‘In Echelon’ showcases a gifted producer at the peak of his powers, effortlessly encompassing techno, ambient and modern classical realms of sound (think Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins and Kiasmos). In addition to his body of solo work, the UK composer has been the Musical Director for Bjork, Cinematic Orchestra and Antony Hegarty as well as working with Lamb, Emiliana Torrini and Bat For Lashes.

‘In Echelon’ is out now on Tape Club Records.

https://mattrobertson.bandcamp.com/music

http://www.onesevenfive.com/

 

Interview with Matt Robertson.

Congratulations on the incredible solo record ‘In Echelon’. One of the great hallmarks of ‘In Echelon’ is the masterful fusion of organic and synthetic elements and what forms is this stunningly beautiful and expansive envelope of divine soundscapes. Please take me back to the making of your latest solo venture and the recording itself of these nine glorious compositions? I wonder did you have some primary aims or concerns from the outset as to what sonic terrain you wanted to venture down?

Matt Robertson: Thanks a lot for your kind words! From the outset, the idea was that this was a record that I could ‘perform’. What that actually means in terms of electronic music in 2016 is a bit of a grey area, but that was a general goal. The side effects of that meant that a lot of the ideas I was coming up with were things that could happen “real time” and not rely too much on playback systems when I did live shows. Ultimately, I ended up with a fusion of some things being triggered for playback on my live shows, but at least that was a creative direction when I started out!

I was also trying to have a constant sense of some kind of instability with the compositions, sometimes in terms of the individual sounds, but more so in the harmonic progressions. I have this goal of making things that could be totally happy or totally sad at the same time, depending on how the listener wants to frame it. I try and make the harmony a little ambiguous.

I am a fan of analogue synths, and some of the inherent instability of those instruments seems to lend itself well to the sounds I was trying to make. I was also really trying to focus of the theme of Surveillance. This idea that we are under scrutiny all of time, but somehow, we are either unaware of it, or apathetic to it. For me this creates a sense of ambiguity about everything. Who we should trust, what news sites we should read, what we choose to send in an email or not. That was the general theme of all of these tracks – that sense of uncertainty and ambiguity.

A dichotomy of mood, atmosphere and colour all flicker across the record. A dark undercurrent underpins ‘In Echelon’ yet a serene beauty beautifully hangs in the ether. Do you have particular processes or recording techniques when it comes to firstly creating the electronic components of the music and secondly, the organic and classical composition side to the musical oeuvre, so to speak? I’m intrigued to learn at what point do both these worlds collide and blend together? For these tracks, what would often form the starting point?

MR: For a track like ‘In Echelon’ I started with the piano elements and worked backwards. The slightly instable mood of the piano inspired a lot of the other sounds on that track, basically I mess with stuff until I come across a combination of parts that I hope always pushes the track in the direction it needs to go. The long drone note throughout the piece was a kind of accident, I think it was stuck notes on my Oberheim Xpander, but happily when I left it in there all the way through it ties together the first and second halves of the track.

Strangely, the whole intro section was also inspired by some visuals I was putting together for a show. A friend of mine found these great high speed images of colours dispersing in water, and the way he cut them together meant that I reworked the intro and made it much more sparse to make more sense with the visuals!

As the track develops it lands in its root key and just does a bit of a wig out to the end – which was an excuse to use a really old VCS3 that was lent to me for a short while. So, all in all, a combination of lots of approaches and ideas, lots of elements inspiring other elements. Definitely not a linear process!

The title-track feels like an integral part to the record, and I just love how the electronic layers continually build momentum and there are all these immaculate analogue synthesizer elements soaring across the atmosphere. Can you talk me through the construction of this particular track? Also, I assume the layering of tracks can also be big challenge whilst retaining to the vital components you need for a track to fully evolve, on its own terms? For instance, I feel there is a beautiful minimalism and sort of restraint at work throughout that creates such a compelling voyage.

MR: This track in particular came about from a perspective of live performance. I put it together on an Elektron Analog Keys synth, which has a 4-track sequencer. So, there are 4 main elements, and a lot of the time, they do the same thing over and over, but by constantly tweaking the elements of the sounds on those four tracks, you can get a good build happening. So, it’s not so much about layering more and more stuff, but more about leaving the parts the same and changing the sounds of those parts to get the build. The iPad app Animoog was key to this one as well, quite late in the day I was messing around on Animoog and came up with this air raid siren melody which became key to the whole track.

So, I can keep the bass line going with my left hand, play the iPad with my right hand, and bring in some other parts like the drums and apreggiators on the sequencer. 90% of the album version was taken from a live recording I did of this track, and then I tweaked the mix a little and made it a bit shorter! There’s also a little piano on this track. I have a really old piano that I love – it has this really mellow tone that gels really nicely with some of the analogue synths, and adds a more organic flavour I hope.

Can you discuss your love of analogue gear and the synthesizer(s) at your disposal for ‘In Echelon’? Please discuss your love and fascination with the older synths and the range of possibilities you see with analogue? I’m sure you have been slowly amassing quite a collection of gear and parts over time?

MR: Yeah for me, there’s a lot of magic in the old synths! Although I also have been getting really into the new side of analogue with the Eurorack modular explosion in the last 5 years or so. For me its two-fold. Firstly, there’s the sound. But secondly and for me I think more importantly, it’s how you make and perform with that sound. For the most part, there are no presets, so you are starting pretty much from scratch each time, and also the infinite control and tiny degrees of tweakability over the sounds means that for me analogue is still king! (having said that, the Elektron stuff does have presets, and that’s a huge bonus for live stuff).

I have always been able to lose hours of my life listening to two oscillators with varying detune amounts from unison. It’s a sad fact… but there it is. There’s just something about the way analogue sounds can develop over time that really fascinates me. I try to have elements of that in most of my tracks. The tiniest amount of pitch change of one element of a big patch can make a huge difference to the sound, and given the opportunity to listen, I think we are really sensitive to tiny changes in sound. There’s something intriguing about things changing really slowly.

‘Flight’ represents the beating heart of this mesmerising record (the closing orchestral section is perhaps the album’s gorgeous crescendo). The soft, angelic piano tones beautifully drift amidst the electronic bleeps and noise, conjuring up the timeless sound of Germany’s Nils Frahm and UK’s Chris Clark. Can you recount for me the writing of ‘Flight’? It feels like some considerable time must be poured into the creation of a compositions such as this. Furthermore, what is the writing process like for you and would your compositional approach vary depending on the context? 

MR: Yeah this was a journey! The orchestral element came from a love of string writing and also a desire to wrap that into a more electronic sound-world in a way that made sense to me. I wanted to create a feeling of escaping, or trying to escape, but never quite getting there. The Strings at the end try and resolve that idea, but again never quite get there, which I hope leaves a slightly unsettling feeling, even though there is some beauty as well (?)

The writing process for me is pretty slow. I have to leave something for a while and come back to it to try and have some sense of perspective. I don’t think you really can get any perspective unless you leave it for probably about a year and then come back, but then it would take a really long time to put a record out! I also wanted to create a bit of a journey with this one, so when you get to the end, you’re not quite sure how you got there from the beginning. Maybe….

Collaboration is another important part in your wonderful musical life, having worked in the role as Musical Director for luminaries such as Bjork, Anthony Hegarty and Cinematic Orchestra. Please discuss the art of collaboration and how you work on projects such as these? The sum of these experiences must provide such profound musical developments for you?

MR: Totally yes! I have been lucky and privileged to work with artists that I have admired and respected since I was a kid, and it’s difficult to over-estimate what an impact that has had (and still does have) on how I work on my own projects, and how I work with other people. The people you mention are so far ahead of me in terms of their approach to composition and general artistry. But it’s amazing how much you can learn from being fortunate enough to spend some time in these artist’s aura. One of the main things is how incredibly focused they all are on their own direction, their own statement. I find it so easy to get tied up with comparing my work to that of others – “is this progression as good as x’s” or “is this mix as good as y’s” – but somehow the really great artists I have worked for don’t put emphasis on that because the honesty and integrity of their own thing outweighs any of those concerns. Well – that’s my interpretation anyway!

Lastly, what have you been listening to the most of late? What are your plans for 2017?   

MR: Well – I’m writing more stuff – so lots of listening to detuned oscillators!

‘In Echelon’ is out now on Tape Club Records.

https://mattrobertson.bandcamp.com/music

http://www.onesevenfive.com/

Written by admin

January 24, 2017 at 7:29 pm

Step Right Up: Christopher Tignor

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Interview with Christopher Tignor.

“But there is another question to be asked for people who want to ask which is ‘What is in the music itself and what is it about how these notes go together that specifically creates this experience or feeling now that another piece of music changes or creates a different experience?

—Christopher Tignor.

Words: Mark Carry

christopher-tignor-1

Christopher Tignor is a composer, violinist and software engineer. Last year saw the gifted musician’s utterly captivating full-length release ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ gracefully emerge into the earth’s atmosphere, released on the ever-dependable U.S. label Western Vinyl. In a similarly hypnotic spell as Canadian violinist Sarah Neufeld’s 2016 opus ‘The Ridge’, Tignor’s shape-shifting compositions gradually unfold a rare beauty that is forever embedded deep within the string-based liturgies of deep meaning and truth.

The ambitious scope of Tignor’s latest musical musings represents one of the great hallmarks of ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’. As Tignor has previously explained: “The music is first and foremost about what can be done together, live in a room, to both transcend and reclaim ourselves from the noise of public living.” On the deep catharsis of ‘Shapeshifting’ (featuring tuning forks employed as musical instruments) or the mesmeric ebb and flow of ‘Artefacts of Longing’s three enthralling movements, one feels an awakening or moreover, an epiphany – an insight into the essential meaning of something previously unknown or buried beneath uncertainty – illuminate like burning embers of an everlasting flame. The ten compositions captured on ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ inhabits a vast space that, in turn, enables the string-based odysseys to transcend the very space – and time – in which the sonic patterns ceaselessly orbit.

‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.wiresundertension.com/

http://westernvinyl.com/

christopher-tignor

Interview with Christopher Tignor.

Firstly, I’d love for you to discuss the innovative software you have created for the new album ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’?

Christopher Tignor: I’m happy to talk about the software. For me, it’s an important thing to share with the world, just like the music. I give it away and I like other people to use it and it’s an important part of my creative output. So, the idea behind the software is that I need to always be playing instruments with my hands – including the drums and violin – I don’t have time to be touching the computer. The computer is on the floor, I never touch it during the performance during the songs at all and I need to able to control all the sounds and I want to be able to do everything gesturally so I don’t want any pre-recorded material. I want to be able to kick a drum or play the violin or do something physical and control the flow of time through the music by triggering other sounds by playing actual instruments.

So, that’s the underlying idea behind it and so there is several pieces of software that I use that all run inside Abelton, they’re devices that you can use for Abelton. And what they let you do is trigger other sounds, in my case I use a trigger on the kick drum and that allows me to play essentially other sounds when I’m playing the kick drum and I can also take my violin and the software lets me configure very specifically auto tune harmonizers that create harmonies that shift independently with my violin playing. So, it’s all made live out of my playing and the software lets you control very specifically how all your physical gestures translate into the rest of the music.

So, the kick drum acts as a cue for you to progress into the next stage of the music?

CT: That’s a good way to think of it. Essentially there is a score programmed in the computer so each time you kick the drum it’ll essentially play a sound which is taken from that score. So you can control the time and how fast you move and you can pause and wait and can be completely flexible with how you are moving through the score. It takes the ability to be able to create a score and to be able to score out your work to some extent.

I know you already touched on it but I love the extra instrumentation; those extra flourishes to the violin itself – those bells that feel like chimes for instance – are dotted beautifully around the album.

CT: Well those are very important for me because they are artefacts of this process that I think of as creating these different rituals. And the bell-like effects – and there’s lots of different bells that you’re hearing like triangles and metal percussion and a hi hat and a tambourine and I have a pastor bell – those really have a beautiful resonant quality which helps evoke this sort of ritual; it’s like the beginning of a ritual every time you sound them.

‘The Artefacts of Longing’ is a very important piece on the album and particularly love how there are three different parts. I wonder was this composition one long piece in your head first and then afterwards you realized it would be three distinct pieces?

CT: I think it was the former, I mean I had in my head that I wanted to do a long form multi-movement work as part of the album. I had started writing this body of music by creating the shorter works, the first work I wrote was ‘Arrow In The Dark’ and then I wrote ‘Shape Shifting’ for tuning fork and I knew I wanted to push myself making longer multi-movement work – something I’ve done on other albums in the past – but I’ve never tried to do anything like that solo and so I wanted to take on the challenge and to make a multi-movement work that was compelling across three parts but just one man playing it. I had some various ideas, bits of music I often shelve if they don’t fit into a piece that I’m working on – I’ll be writing a piece, some part or act of some melody or section will show up if it doesn’t work I will have to shelve it – and so I had some things on the shelf which I knew would work possibly well together.

And so the process for me began with looking at some of these parts like the very beginning of the third movement where I’m playing this counterpoint, essentially with no percussion that has a very Bachian or Baroque quality to it and I had already written this previously and I could never find a home for it, it’s truly one of my favourite things to play on the record and I knew I had to get it in somewhere. So, I had these departure points like that and then the question for me was how to navigate from one point to the other and that process was of course very challenging. The composition’s very much the art of can I get there from here. I knew I wanted to make a multi-movement work and I had these touchstones, I would say.

I feel there is a lovely parallel between your own work and Sarah Neufeld’s music and Colin Stetson too, there’s very much like a unique voice that speaks very strongly throughout.

CT: Well I mean they are some very strong and compelling artists and it’s nice to be in such great company in your mind, you know.

In a way, ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ is very much a performance record like you mentioned already, there’s this need to play in real-time? I also loved the idea how you had the album available as a visual or film, which was a lovely idea and another perspective to see the music unfolding.

CT: I’m glad you enjoyed that. For us it became pretty clear early on when I was thinking even of how to make the music that it was going to have to be made all live, I wouldn’t be able to make overdubs for this music even if I wanted to because there is so much free time and space, it would be way too hard to try and catch it at the right time on the second time around, you know what I mean. It became clear even when recording the audio thing, it would have to be really a live performance and so we went as far as we could with that idea and said that if it was going to be more or less live, why not just record it on video and really show the process and really bring people in to that experience.

You have done so much in your own career being involved in so many different projects you’re involved in. In addition, you have a pHD in Composition, I’d be interested to learn what exactly this study involves?

CT: Technically my advisor hasn’t actually finished my dissertation so I actually don’t have my pHD in Composition yet but that’ll be happening very soon [laughs]. I can only speak for my experience at Princeton where I went but typically it involves really trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how music works and we all love to appreciate music and spend a lot of time listening to it and hopefully think deeply about how we feel and our own response to music. But there is another question to be asked for people who want to ask which is ‘What is in the music itself and what is it about how these notes go together that specifically creates this experience or feeling now that another piece of music changes or creates a different experience?’ So, really getting into the nuts and bolts of how music works is a fascinating thing for me, to really understand this and of course it’s valuable from a compositional perspective.

It’s also really fun and exciting to see that it’s not magic; they’re very nuanced and complicated and they’re very subtle and it’s a very beautiful combination of elements that create these feelings that we relish when we hear music. If you spend time looking at the scores of a lot of music and listening to a lot of music and playing to a lot of music and dissecting it like you would any scientific inquiry where you try to take a problem apart into smaller pieces and examine the components and how they work together, you can get a perspective on music which is very rewarding. I think the program as a whole is trying to give you that perspective; that’s a different perspective than the one you have when you just write music and play music. It’s a more analytical perspective, which is a different but beautiful and complimentary way to think about music.

You have done a considerable work with regard to live sound and I’m sure you must have very fond memories of doing live sound for so many great bands?

CT: For a lot of the same reasons that I love to play live and live performance has been so important to me in my work, doing live sound was always appealing to me from an early age. I was lucky enough to hustle my way into some really great situations in my early twenties and seeing really good rock bands and working with some really good sound engineers at CBGBs and places like that and literally understanding the art and craft of being a live sound engineer. The thing about the live sound engineer is there is no music until it passes through his hands, he’s the last one to touch it so it’s really a very useful and critical part of the live experience is this engineering part. I definitely try to remember that in my own work when I’m working with elements of mixing and in this modern world where electronic music is part almost of every music – it’s just another element in almost all forms of music now – I think those sorts of sensibilities are really, really important.

 In terms of the recording of the album, you had quite a simple set-up in the sense that there was quite a minimal framework you were working from?

CT: Yeah, it’s pretty old school. We just went into a room which we knew sounded really good, I played violin acoustically when we were checking it out and it sounded really good for the violin and it looked really good because we knew we wanted to film it. It was very old school, setting up mics in the room and putting them in the right spot and then getting three video cameras in there and letting that team do their thing. So, it was really fun because the recording studio process – the normal process – can be very antiseptic: close micing everything and doing one track at a time and collaging everything together and this was really like creating an installation and that process in my mind is much more rewarding than trying to go in and micro-manage all the individual little tracks. The thing about the live recording experience is that it really lives or dies in how prepared you are as a musician because you can’t be doing over-dubs or anything so you really have to do a lot of preparation in advance. I think that can come through the music though, the fact that you are so prepared that the music isn’t just pieced together from little parts, I think that can really come through the music if you let it.

Do you have plans for the live show and will you be trying out new approaches to some of these pieces?

CT: Well all the music came out of playing live, I played it live for quite some time before I went to the recording session in order to prepare for it. I worked on the pieces over a long time by playing them out and seeing what works and tweaking them in the studio and going back and forth. This music was certainly born live and existed live before we recorded for quite a while. I mean the live show sounds very close to the record, it sounds almost identical to what you would hear on the album. There are certainly times live when I make changes – relatively subtle changes – to the performance but they’re mostly in terms of the decay of the room, the reverb in the room, there’s a lot of times where I would play a phrase, like in ‘Arrow In The Dark’ where I would play a melody and let it decay in the room before I move on. Or even the first track ‘We Keep This Flame’, I’ll play this first phrase and I’ll let it linger in the room so the pacing and the flow of it is completely unique because it is live and I have that luxury to do that. But the compositions themselves as a whole are essentially finished as far as I am concerned and I’m really just pushing forward now with writing new music for this set so that may include other elements as well as I push into new compositional territory.

What have you been listening to lately?

CT: This is funny because it’s not too far from your part of the world but the thing I like to listen to often on weekends is Cork Sacred Harp Singers. So, there is a collection of shape-note singers from Cork called The Sacred Harp Singers and they have a youtube channel, which is absolutely brilliant and as far as I’m concerned, I could listen to this all-day long. I consider it as such an amazing way to make music not only is the music really moving and I think listening to a lot of that really seeped in to some of the more liturgical pieces on the record, some of the more choral pieces that I played. It’s just fantastic because it really is like a DIY and in my mind, a real punk way to make music because you’re not a trained singer; this is for people who aren’t trying to be professional virtuoso singers, it’s about music that is rooted in people’s lives and is a real active part of their life. Now I’m certainly not a religious person at all – I’m a staunch agnostic – I can completely identify and respect and relish the inclusion of music in people’s lives in a way where it’s really tied in with core values and you can see that in the way they make music if you look at the way the leader is conducting in tune with his hands, it’s really fantastic and the energy is palpable and it call comes from the unbelievably genuine communal place. It’s inspiring.

‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.wiresundertension.com/

http://westernvinyl.com/

Written by admin

January 10, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Step Right Up: Resina

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Interview with Karolina Rec (Resina).

“…it is some kind of story about our ambivalence in experiencing nature: a simultaneous feeling of both beauty and anxiety (at nature’s power and unpredictability).”

—Karolina Rec (Resina).

Words: Mark Carry

resina

 

Resina is the alias of Karolina Rec,a cellist and composer based in Warsaw, Poland. Recently released on the prestigious Fat Cat imprint, 130701, Resina’s s eponymous debut album contains enthralling cello-based compositions, whose quiet bliss and eternal solitude awakens with each of the seven singular works. The pivotal sister companion pieces ‘Tatry I’ and ‘Tatry II’– which form the vital heartbeat to part A – evokes the timeless sound of Icelandic cellist & composer Hildur Guðnadóttir such is the soaring beauty that ascends into one’s heart and mind.

Another hallmark of this remarkable record is just how closely the music feels connected to nature:  a purity resides deep within Resina’s cello works – augmented by the gifted musician’s rich, intuitive playing – which feels akin to towering mountain peaks above and vast deep blue seas below. In this way, earlier Colleen records – such as ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’ from 2007 – could be a reference point to the musical trajectory that is masterfully explored by the Polish composer. In similar ways to Colleen’s third studio album, Resina’s compositions are highly personal as the focus is moved to the natural tones produced by the cello instrument (the viola da gamba in Cecile Schott’s instance), whilst the music is largely unadorned.

Resina’s hypnotic voice is added on the utterly transcendent album closer ‘Not Here’. Rhythmic pulses are wonderfully employed on the looped strings of ‘Nightjar’ (reminiscent of Brooklyn-based composer Julia Kent) and the enveloping darkness of ‘Dark Sky White Water’ unleashes the rawest of human emotion (think ‘Never Were The Way She Was’ by Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld). Resina’s highly impressive debut forges a deeply immersive experience.

Resina’s eponymous debut album is out now on 130701.

https://www.facebook.com/resinae/

http://130701.com/

resina-2

Interview with Karolina Rec (Resina).

 

Congratulations Karolina on your utterly captivating and enthralling eponymous debut album. One of the striking qualities to these cello-based compositions is the quiet bliss and eternal solitude that awakens throughout the album’s timeless journey. Please take me back to the period of time in which the album was written and recorded? As this is a debut record – and seeing that you have such a rich body of collaborative projects also – I imagine some of these compositions have been blossoming over a considerable length of time? 

Karolina Rec: The process of composing pieces for this album started before I moved from Gdynia and was finished after I settled in Warsaw. It all started around 4 years ago, and probably was somehow influenced by slowly leaving behind a favourite place and specific feeling of suspension between past and future, known and unknown. Gdynia is a coastal city full of truly amazing forests and moraine hills around it, which is rather unique – for the first time in my life I felt strongly connected to the nature. However, that movement and also some key changes in my personal life helped me to decide I wanted to focus on my music now.

The process of being a solo artist took some time. Being involved in all those bands and projects, working with brilliant Polish artists was something I really loved and felt I can do really well, at the same time developing my own skills and sensibility. I knew that one day I would try to do my own music, but was waiting very patiently for the time I would feel truly ready for that. Maybe that was the reason the composing process didn’t take so much time itself. Another key moment came when my friend Michał Biela (from Polish band Kristen) announced (after he heard that I was working on my solo) that I would play a show, sharing a stage with him at a very popular Warsaw venue. I was frightened, nothing was fully ready yet, but I agreed and that was enough sign for me that I can take a risk and finally have huge motivation to develop and speak my own language.

A rich, intuitive quality resides in your playing that immediately makes a profound impact on the listener. I would love for you to explain your compositional approach and to what extent does improvisation play in this?

KR: I’m happy you mentioned that! Yes, my composing process is strongly based on intuitive qualities. I believe in intuition because (as science confirms) it’s not magic, it’s a sum of our experiences, predictions and sensibility. It’s a kind of knowledge sometimes hidden in these parts of our mind / brain which are not so easily accessible (but can be). I like to play with and work on archetypical motifs and feelings, digging for them as deeply as possible.

Mostly, the compositions for this album were based on some simple ideas, sketches which had an inspiring potential to improvise on their basis. And I watched where that improvisation would lead me. Very quickly I was able to decide if something captured my attention and had this potential or not, and this decisive process was 100% intuitively. I’ve always tried to improvise first, not to write scores. Actually, it is impossible for me to play any piece twice in completely the same way…and that was the point. I came to the recording studio with some clear ideas but every recorded version was usually quite different from another (however we tried to record in not more than 2-3 takes).

Another thing is that to fully follow my ideas I often had to cross my own comfort zones and find some non-classical techniques, which in the most natural way comes from improvisation. Challenging myself to find other ways of expression in the instrument was (and still is) one of my favourite parts of playing cello. I must admit that only when I left all thinking about any aspect of classical playing did I feel free and really close to the instrument’s fuller possibilities and wooden, organic nature.

The range of possibilities you generate from your chosen instrument is quite staggering. A rich tapestry flows in a beautiful ebb & flow throughout the record’s narrative. Can you talk me through the layering – and looping process – of the cello instrumentation and indeed the mindset and approach when it comes to live performance? I love this live aesthetic that forms a lovely dimension to these tracks, which really feels as if you’re playing a live set once the record begins to play. What is your actually live set-up, Karolina? I presume it’s from quite a minimal framework (which again must be another source of inspiration for you when it comes to composing?)

KR: My current set-up is very simple, which was determined by the fact that I never wanted to change sound of cello itself, but to make a new, unexpected quality by using its natural sound in layers. Referring to that I need only a hardware looper and a reverb+delay. I don’t use a laptop on stage as I didn’t use it during composing process. That was also another idea for this album – to make it possible to play every piece 100% live. From a technical point of view, I wanted to keep the feeling of the creative process each time I played them, and the looper is a perfect tool for that. I try to stick to the most important parts of the composition but also to improvise every single time I perform it. Every time I try to learn a little bit more about the pieces: check what makes them better, moves them further; try to move the border and squeeze out more. Even to make some kind of ritual from that process. Hopefully that helps me keep the intensity.

The album closer ‘Not Here’ is perhaps my current favourite and forms a fitting close to a stunningly beautiful record. Can you talk me through this composition and your memories of writing ‘Not Here’? I just love how your voice appears here, just as the record is approaching the sunlit horizon. Also, the sound from the cello sounds almost like a gamelan, and love then the layering of strings that are placed on top.

KR: It was one of the first pieces I wrote for this album, just after Tatry I&II. I was still living in Gdynia, but just about to move to Warsaw.

“Not here” could be a good example of combination of two things I was talking about earlier: an archetypical aspect and very personal attitude at the same time. It’s also the least “improvise-able” and most predictable piece from the album, but that was the concept – to keep it simple and clear, to take a breath, to wake up from a strange dream. Taking this path – we can look on it as on a tale or a picture, and mine was like that: sailors at sea in the night searching for the right way but finding only voices (which finally disappear). Looking from my own very personal point of view: it’s a song to the lost sea, a piece written from my nostalgia for the left-behind landscape. To emphasise that dreamy, unrealistic atmosphere I decided to use my voice in a form of choir (and I think I will try to explore it more in the future). The funny thing is that I made some small changes just before the recordings and just after I came back from Indonesia, so possibly I incorporated some part of the gamelan scale or characteristic structure unintentionally.

‘Tatry I’ and ‘Tatry II’ form the heart of part A. Were these sister companion pieces conceived during the same space in time I wonder? Also, I love the slowed-down and gradual flow to ‘Tatry II’, which forms a wonderful counterpoint to the opening ‘Tatry I’. Are there certain motifs or melodic patterns that connect these two, Karolina?

KR: Yes, they came around the same time and in the same order as on album. What really connects them is not even a melodic motif but an atmosphere, which in my opinion causes specific cello techniques. A lot of very high notes occurring simultaneously – flageolets played on a drone base (but in the case of Tatry II much more minimalistic). In both cases the way of building melody is similar: from the notes which seems to be only a part of drone at the beginning but finally all together create some kind of melodic line at the end.

I would love to gain an insight into the album’s main themes and what you feel connects all these seven cello compositions together? Were there any challenges during the making of the record that you felt was a struggle to overcome in any way?

KR: I found it clearly after the album was finished, but yes, we can say there is a connection between all seven pieces. The album as a whole plays with feelings, memories, imagination, experiences, archetypes which the listener carries and which can be “turned on” as the trigger (music) appears. I always say that I try to take people to some places – but where particularly, that depends on them.

The second common aspect to all seven pieces refers to my own personal experience:  it is some kind of story about our ambivalence in experiencing nature: a simultaneous feeling of both beauty and anxiety (at nature’s power and unpredictability).

The third idea – and the first which appeared in my mind: to use the instrument in a very organic way, to try everything which can help create, also using non-typical, non-obvious cello techniques; be open to absolutely all instrument possibilities, not only traditional sounds. And to stay close the wooden nature of the instrument.

Please take me back to your earliest musical memories and the events that led you on your own musical path? Also, I would love to hear of any defining records, musical voices that you feel were hugely significant for you that in turn led you on this solo cello musical path?

KR: My parents aren’t musicians. They had no musical background at all. the first thing I remember were my mother’s lullabies and my own vocal improvisations – I think my father who was recording that on a tape recorder still has these tapes somewhere… Let’s say “professionally” it had started “by accident” when I was 8 and for the first time heard my friend was playing the school piano. I came home and I forced my mother to take me to the piano teacher. I think she was just as happy as afraid because in my whole family nobody was a musician. But later my mum admitted that when she was pregnant she was listening a lot of Chopin. Chopin’s Polonaise F sharp minor is actually the first music piece I remember (performed by extraordinary Polish pianist Witold Małcużyński).

Getting a typical classical education led me to learn about all the classical composers and pieces. However, I felt that classical music didn’t have to be only a clear ideological concept, or a form, but can be also type of a landscape, pattern or something much more irrational, subconscious when I heard “Gaspard de la nuit” perfomed by Martha Argerich, when I was 15. And then all the other genres came…I feel I’m influenced by nearly every genre of music: at the same time by the aleatorism of Lutoslawski and minimal techno, by gamelan scales and avant rock cacophony.

However, one particular album eventually convinced me to record a solo thing – it was the second solo album of Colin Stetson. That was a final, decisive proof for me that still it’s possible to do something extraordinary, original and powerful even if you’re alone with one instrument and you cannot build any interaction with another artist. I think that my aim was always to find extremely personal, internal language which could be somehow readable for many.

Resina’s eponymous debut album is out now on 130701.

https://www.facebook.com/resinae/

http://130701.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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October 27, 2016 at 3:46 pm

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Step Right Up: Dead Light

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Interview with Dead Light.

“So there’s a very ‘cut and paste’ aesthetic to the textural sounds which we hope make the record feel a lot more intimate, personal and real.”

—Ed Hamilton

Words: Mark Carry

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Dead Light is the moniker for the gifted duo of Anna Rose Carter and Ed Hamilton, whose sumptuous eponymous debut record (released on UK-based Village Green recordings) delves beautifully into electro-acoustic bliss and neo-classical splendour. The intricate piano melodies and compelling string arrangements are masterfully immersed in delicate textures and timbres; drifting majestically in the ether.

The duo’s eponymous debut forges a deeply affecting experience for the heart and mind: the rich, dense textures of Hamilton’s production is masterfully interwoven with Carter’s stunningly beautiful piano-based compositions. A musical trajectory can be made back to Moon Ate The Dark – another of Carter’s glorious collaborative projects – whose neoclassical-infused drone compositions share a similarly otherworldly quality and ethereal dimension. Dead Light’s music draws upon classical, pop, ambient and electro-acoustic influences.

Dead Light’ feels like a new beginning or starting anew where luminous embers of hope burn brightly throughout the record’s drifting melancholy.

‘Dead Light’ is out now on Village Green.

www.dead-light.com

http://villagegreenrecording.co.uk/

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Interview with Dead Light.

Congratulations Anna and Ed on creating such a captivating and deeply moving debut album. These piano-based compositions inhabit a special space, spanning many intricately layered sounds, textures that in turn, elicit such poignancy and rich emotion. Please take me back to the inception of this wonderful collaborative project and the starting point, if you will? I love how one feels the time, care, detail and devotion that is so clearly inherent inside the music, so I presume this record spans some considerable time?

Ed Hamilton: It definitely spans considerable time – It took us about 2 years to make! Most of the first year was spent just playing around together, trying to establish a style and a collaborative voice that we felt represented us, and what we wanted to say…

Anna Rose Carter: We’d just moved out of London, and it took us a while to explore this newfound space, time and quietness and feel comfortable in it. There was a tension that came from moving away from the lives that we were comfortable in and it took us a while to harness this tension into something musically exciting… Once we started recording, a lot of ideas came out of the first sessions, but then we spent a lot of time refining and condensing these ideas into something more cohesive and focused. Space was very important to us but we also wanted to layer many textures into the compositions and it took us a while to get the balance right.

EH: I’m also a massive control freak when it comes to sound! Actually right from the start we were both very protective of the sound, so everything took us that little bit longer… We were dealing with quite an old, rickety, noisy piano, so there were a lot of challenges with the recording… Actually I think this was for the benefit of the sound on the record, because there’s an intimacy there that there might not have been had the piano been really clean, because we might have ended up micing it in a different way and not going off on a ‘texture tangent’! But yes, it did take us a long time to get the sound just right!

As a duo, the listener feels that deep dialogue between the piano and cello instrumentation, and indeed the multitude of effects and preparations that is so masterfully embedded within the compositions. I would love to gain an insight into both the various piano preparations and the many analogue artefacts and sonic wizardry that lies at the heart of this remarkable debut album?

EH: With the piano preparations… the piano we have is a beautiful, old upright that Anna’s grandfather gave her, which has a very nice, warm, round tone to it, but because of its age, it’s very noisy. Initially we fought against that noise a lot, and tried to find ways of recording that didn’t include that noise, but actually when we succeeded in doing that, we felt that the compositions were weaker for not having the textural elements the piano creates within them.

ARC: So, in the end, we started recording again with the desire to harness, and make use of those noises. Some of the preparations included muting the strings, with hands and bits of old sheets and felt and various other things, all of which we used to kind of dampen the sound of the strings, so you actually hear more of the piano rather than less of it. A lot of the preparations were about embracing that sound.

EH: The other elements were ways of underpinning the artefacts inherent in the piano recordings… We wanted the textures to be very real and very tactile so we experimented a lot with tape (which we both love for the richness and realness that it imparts). We’d usually start by cutting tape loops down to size and then recording phrases (from piano, cello, toy keyboards etc) onto the tape. Once we had a loop we were happy with we’d take it out of the cassette and subject it to all manner of processes; from sticking bits of cellotape over the playing side of the tape (to create these sort of gaps in sound), to putting the loops in vinegar solutions, or outside in the sunshine. Anything to see if the process changed the surface of the tape and gave it new characteristics that we were looking for. We’d rigged up a series of reel-to-reel machines as a kind of delay network, which was usually the final stage the loops would go through. So there’s a very ‘cut and paste’ aesthetic to the textural sounds which we hope make the record feel a lot more intimate, personal and real.

Please describe the Pie Corner studio and the inspiration you both must have felt from being immersed in the quiet, idyllic countryside (in stark contrast to the chaotic London city centre)? You must have some fond memories of the recording process itself and seeing these tracks take shape, so to speak?

ARC: Well, I actually found it quite uninspiring at first! In London, I’d be inspired by everything and anything in day-to-day life; just the normal business of a city being a city, fashion, architecture, even just the sounds a train going past, that was all a part of my inspiration. Not to mention watching some amazing musicians and thinking, “Wow, how do they do that?” In the countryside, it’s just us on our own, and you’re like, “Shit. I don’t know what to do.” Pie Corner is this old farmer’s cottage and when we moved in it was pretty run down, old green carpets and floral wallpaper, that kind of thing, which didn’t help…

EH: That’s actually another reason the record took a while, the first month or so was spent ripping up all the carpets, sanding the floors, stripping back wallpaper and painting!

ARC: But actually once we finished decorating, the house became this amazing space… We made the living room into a studio, it’s a really nice room looking out onto a beautiful wild garden, with white walls and these big, floor length red velvet curtains which we use as ‘sound proofing’ (not very well – I’m sure you can still hear birdsong and planes at points on the record!), it’s really atmospheric and it’s kinda got a Twin Peaks vibe, hasn’t it?

EH: Yeah, it’s very Twin Peaks! It’s great having the studio in the building you live in, combined with the freedom we have living here means we can create music whenever we feel the urge to do so; we’re not restricted to studio hours – if it’s the middle of the night, or maybe we’re watching a film, and are inspired to create something, we can just walk next door! ‘Little Blue’ for instance, was created one night when I couldn’t sleep… I went downstairs and started tinkering with that tape machine delay network I mentioned and just ran some piano from a mic test we’d done through it.

For me this record feels like a new beginning – starting anew – where and an overarching feeling of hope resides throughout the record’s drifting melancholy. Many defining moments are dotted across the debut full-length but a piece such as ‘Falling In’ – the album’s centrepiece – epitomise the spirit of the album: an empowering piano composition with a tender, warm heartbeat filled with such divine textures. Please talk me through this particular piece of music and shed some light (if possible) on the collaborative process between the pair of you?

EH: ‘Falling In’ was the first track we wrote in Pie Corner. It was one of the few tracks where we didn’t really condense or refine what we had captured live. As it came after this long process of adaptation and renovation I think you’re right – for me it’s very much about beginnings, renewal and rebirth.

ARC: In terms of our collaborative process, it really varies from track to track. As Ed mentioned, ‘Little Blue’ was just him messing around with some test recordings, ‘Blooms’ was me writing a piano piece to go with some loops I found on his machines whilst he was away one weekend, ‘Falling In’ was live improvisation with a couple of overdub ‘joining’ sections… On the whole it was mostly Ed and me playing with compositions until we were happy with them, then recording our parts live and then fleshing them out with other elements and writing parts for guest musicians (‘Sleeper’, ‘Slow Slowly’, ‘The Ballad of a Small Player’ for example).

EH: We tried not to be too restrictive about how we worked. We were very keen to limit ourselves to quite a minimal sound palette, but wanted to have an ‘anything goes’ style of collaborating!

Another great hallmark of the debut is the sheer range of textures and sonic timbres that are crafted and so carefully inter-woven. For example, the ethereal vocals on ‘Sleeper’ are mesmerizing; the ambient pulse of delays of album closer ‘Outpour’, the joyously uplifting melodies of ‘In Red And Red’ and the utterly transcendent crescendo of the tour-de-force, ‘Slow Slowly’. I wonder were there any happy accidents so to speak during the album recording sessions (or indeed the writing process)? Do you feel there were any challenges or concerns posed during any of the music-making stages?

ARC: The whole record is happy accidents!

EH: I’m not sure if ‘accidents‘ is the right word, because we spent such a long time establishing a musical relationship with each other that we kind of put ourselves in a position where things would come instinctively… but definitely not always on purpose… so actually, maybe ‘accidents’ is right! I do think that these ‘accidents’ are a part of that process and not removed from it though.

Looking back over the album, what do you feel were the sum of influences and inspirations that found its way into the music itself?

ARC: I think the lack of cultural activity surrounding us during the process of making the record has meant that the sound palette is a bit more curated than it could have been otherwise… the lack of gigs etc around us means we spend a lot of time listening back through our record collections, watching films and being out in the countryside. We had to work to feel inspired, well I feel like we did anyway.

EH: I totally agree, and I think that this wide array of listening coupled with not having access to music in a live environment has meant that the record, whilst it does have influences, and they’re, at times, quite apparent, is a very personal record… This coupled with the rickety piano and living room studio means it’s definitely not a pristine, polished record. I feel like it’s got personality and a soul…

‘Dead Light’ is out now on Village Green.

www.dead-light.com

http://villagegreenrecording.co.uk/

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October 19, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Step Right Up: Ben Lukas Boysen

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How can I make a programmed piano – or basically a piano that I never really touched, that I never saw or that I never recorded myself – how can I make that feel human and interesting?”

—Ben Lukas Boysen

Words: Mark Carry, Photography: Claudia Gödke

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The Berlin-based composer, producer and sound designer Ben Lukas Boysen represents the prestigious Erased Tapes label’s newest signing with the scintillating sophomore full-length release of ‘Spells’. The German studio composer masterfully crafts a deeply moving sound world of ambient, electronic and modern-classical textures as programmed piano pieces are fused with live instruments (drums, cello, harp and an intricate array of echoes, delays and compressors), merging sound design and music to become one beguiling stratosphere of mesmerizing sound.

On the sleeve notes of Laurie Spiegel’s seminal work ‘The Expanding Universe’, the American composer discusses the great advantage of computers: “Music consists of patterns of sound. One of the computer’s greatest strengths is the opportunity it presents to integrate direct interaction with an instrument and its sound with the ability to compose musical experiences much more complex and well designed than can be done than can be done live in one take.” Journeying through the infinite beauty and meticulously crafted sound collages captured on ‘Spells’, Boysen has composed complex musical experiences that combines the controllable digital world and the often unpredictable aspects of live improvisation. The remarkable achievement of ‘Spells’ is the hugely humanised sound – and rawest of human emotions – that is emitted from these programmed piano pieces that floats in the ether between the blurred lines of electronic and organic spheres. Undoubtedly, the source or origin of the German composer’s work is secondary to the sprawling emotion and deeply affecting nature of ‘Spells’’ highly innovative and compelling body of work.

One of the record’s most formidable moments arrives during ‘Golden Times 1’ – the album’s longest cut and perhaps centrepiece – which is built upon a delicate piano-led melody that echoes the solo piano works of Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick among others. Later, heart-wrenching strings are melded together before a euphoric cascade of energy and emotion is transmitted amidst electronic walls of sound that forms the towering counterpoint to the aching bliss of ambient pulses (think ‘Looped’ by Kiasmos inter-woven with Nils Frahm’s ‘Says’).

In the same way as two distinct movements are composed for ‘Golden Times’ (‘Golden Times 2’ is a slowed-down neo-classical-infused-electronic tour-de-force recalling the likes of Scottish duo Boards of Canada), ‘Nocturne 3’ and ‘Nocturne 4’ finds the rich narrative of Boysen’s previous LP, ‘Gravity’ developed further. The brooding strings of ‘Keep Watch’ shares gorgeous remnants of A Winged Victory For The Sullen such is the unfathomable beauty that permeates the ebb and flow of neon-lit skylines and the gradual motion of the sea waves encapsulated within the soaring music. Indeed, ‘Spells’ is laden with a beating heart that awaits your every lost thought and faded dream.

‘Spells’ is out this Friday, 10th June on Erased Tapes Records.

 

Interview with Ben Lukas Boysen.

 Congratulations on the sublime new record ‘Spells’. I’m sure it has taken considerable effort and time to program all the piano parts in particular?

Ben Lukas Boysen: Yes, a little, it actually doesn’t take as long as it would take me to play it [laughs], it takes a while but I can’t really play that well. So I needed to find a way to make that work otherwise and the programming is a very comfortable way of doing that. But it’s mostly the other musicians involved – they were a lot faster with everything because they are all very good instrumentalists. Most of the things were done pretty fast – it only took two years to get the piano stuff together and then the rest was faster.

Would the piano parts always come first and then the instrumentation of drums, harp and so on come after?

BLB: It depends actually. The way I record drums, I go into the studio with the drummer and I just hand him an idea and he starts jamming – I mean just like a track idea and he starts improvising. Most of the time (80% of the time), I remove my track afterwards and write something new for the drums and that’s how most of the tracks – with drums at least – come together. There was a certain idea at the beginning and it was all removed and something completely new was written underneath it. Hearing other musicians work normally inspires me a lot and gives me new ideas of what I want to do with it. So most of the time there is nothing really pre-written; it’s very subject to change there.

I must say ‘Golden Times 1’ – and I love also how there are two different movements with the second towards the end -it’s amazing how it morphs into the more electronic and as the piece extends, the piece builds continually. It really is wonderful how it develops.

BLB: Thank you so much. Right now as we speak I’m at a point where it’s very, very hard for me to judge the album. It’s very flattering and nice to hear that it seems to work because right now it’s this hunk of work that’s passed me. Musicians will tell you they need to get a distance from their work before they can actually enjoy it again.

Like ‘Golden Times’, I love how there are also two different movements of ‘Nocturne’ and it’s wonderful to see – and hear – the different variations between those pieces?

BLB: Indeed, that is a fun concept actually. It’s normally only heavy drums and a sad piano theme, like that’s the only restriction and everything else is fine. There’s the first two pieces [‘Nocturne 1’ and ‘Nocturne 2’] from my previous album ‘Gravity’ and it just developed, there was never really a plan. I liked how this worked so I do three more. There will probably be two more on the next one to close the trilogy or something [laughs].

You set up your own studio in Berlin around ten years ago. That sounds fascinating too because you’re obviously involved with so much projects from sound design where your own two studio albums are one part to the overall picture really.

BLB: That is true, the albums are personally at least, the most important one. The sound design and commission work is what pays the bills and what puts the food on the table. For the albums, you could never take that much time with a commercial project than you can with an album. You just sit down and take time and don’t do anything but that for a while. And in that time that it takes to make an album – the way I wanted it to be – I would be completely broke and on the street by the time it finished. I am very happy that I’m allowed to work in a craft that where music pays my bills; I feel incredibly privileged. The sound design was always part of it but I always try to make sound design musical and music more sound design: to find something within there. It’s hard to explain but they should become one eventually and this is very hard to hear on ‘Spells’ at least. But on the previous stuff – all the releases I did under HECQ – this approach is much more obvious there because it’s very electronic. But for my solo stuff it’s the same, ultimately I want to merge sound design and music into one.

I’d love for you to discuss your early memories of growing up with music? I presume you began playing the piano at a young age and progressed from there?

BLB: That is true although I was never really an instrumentalist in that way. I come from a musical family – my mother was an opera singer and vocal coach later on in her life and my father was an actor – so music was always very present and always a very important topic, and always being quite eclectic about it, my parents were and still are.

I started playing guitar and piano but I noticed this is not where I will be good at. It is more the abstract and programming part – the meta level of music – for example like ‘Spells’ and ‘Gravity’ are good examples: how can I make a programmed piano – or basically a piano that I never really touched, that I never saw or that I never recorded myself – how can I make that feel human and interesting? And how well that worked I guess is still to be seen when the album is out [laughs].

Well quite a few people – pianists actually – asked me how did I record the piano and I explained that I did not at all, it all comes from a machine. And their reactions were very interesting from amazed to almost disappointed and every reaction was in there; it was very funny really. There is a certain value system behind it like some people might value the result even less once they know that it’s not recorded as in no live piano. I thought that’s very interesting how you get this value system behind it or why is it that your perception tells you this is better because this is live or not live. That’s what I meant with meta level like it’s not only listening to a record, it’s also as a producer or as a musician questioning what is actually important for you during the production process and also when you listen to an album and why it might be more or less worth to you when it is done.

For example, I never sat down with the musicians in one studio at a time; they are all scattered either in Berlin or elsewhere in the world, and always recorded on their own almost. I mean I was in the studio with the drummer [Achim Farber] but the cellist [Anton Peisakhov] did his own thing and the harpist Lara [Somogyi] she is in LA so we were just bouncing off ideas really and then I merged them together here on my own. That’s also very interesting because there is a lot less life about this album than people might think [laughs] or at least how it sounds and that is done on purpose. It is probably without the listener knowing, a little challenge to question your perception.

As a listener listening to ‘Spells’ for example, overall there is a hugely humanised sound where you feel it’s very much an organic world that you wouldn’t think for a second was manipulated in any way.

BLB: Yeah that’s very interesting because that is how it should sound. It’s not an active act of deception or anything. I mean to make it sound human and very much alive was a goal but especially because everybody who starts to make computer music will have heard the phrase ‘oh so it’s not actual music’ when you work with a computer quite often and I’ve heard that many, many times. I mean computer musicians and electronic composers are absolutely established and are artists and a group of composers in their own right but still most of the people who are not actively involved in it they still have this preconception of this is not actual music and for some reason that I wanted to contribute a bit to that discussion saying that you can combine these things wonderfully. It’s quite tricky to sync a VST piano or any synths that are not improvised or played live to an actually live-played instrument because the moment you put a human being behind an instrument it will have its own very human factor and it will be quite faraway from any quantised digital world. This is very thrilling, I could do that for at least three more albums, it’s really fun.

There is a lot of chance and accidents in the sense that it is not set out too finely that goes inside the process too?

BLB: Indeed, it’s like recording mistakes, I would normally leave them in. I really like that, it’s not only to enhance the live feeling but I just normally really like what live mistakes and outtakes do to a piece of music like don’t over-polish it, that was my motto.

There is a lovely parallel between you and the other Erased Tapes artists like Nils Frahm and Kiasmos particularly where you’re certainly on a similar wavelength.

BLB: I hope so; I mean this is a big comparison so thanks a lot for thinking that way [laughs]. The mastering and mixing was Nils and he obviously added a lot of his input. It was very important for me that he is very free to do his thing and to work these little details and the extra twenty percent that this album would need – I mean twenty percent to say the least. When we were done after the two days, I really re-discovered the album and noticed things that I didn’t notice before and that’s why these sessions are always very helpful. He did that already on ‘Gravity’ and mostly because ‘Gravity’ didn’t sound like I wanted it to sound at all when I went into the mastering session and he really did something amazing there. ‘Spells’ was much closer to what I wanted it to be and he also adapted that fantastically so it’s an amazing job that he did. I mean he is adding a certain feel to it as well that makes it fit in with the rest of the bunch as well.

I wonder for the live performance it must be very exciting too because I presume the live set-up will transform the songs again even further?

BLB: Indeed, but that’s the trickiest part so far [laughs]. I’m really trying to figure out how to do that; well basically set up a band and come up with a concept. I actually never anticipated playing ‘Spells’ live. I mean I’m a studio composer and producer – not even a musician – so I have not much experience playing live other than a couple of DJ gigs back in the day and I’m working on something but it will take a while. It’s going to be a bit tricky – for me at least – I’m very critical with what I present to the outside world and so the live show needs to be very impressive, it needs to be something else. It’s not enough to go there and play on a stage with a laptop, there needs to be a concept behind it otherwise it’s not going to be the experience I want it to be. That’s why it might take a bit of time but you are absolutely right; listening to the layers of the tracks gives me a lot of ideas on how to solve that and how to go about the live idea – it’s very inspiring but it’s also very challenging, especially if you don’t really have a lot of experience in that area. It’s exciting times and I will spend a good portion of this year on figuring out how to do this.

I love how ‘Keep Watch’ is more rooted in the modern classical world but I love how the little layers of percussion are added throughout, especially during the later stages.

BLB: The cellist had to accompany himself. It’s a piece written for three cellos actually and he had to play all the three layers himself, the poor boy and he did an amazing job I think. He told me – and I wasn’t aware of – it’s very hard for a cellist to accompany himself and not in real-time; like you record one layer, then you record the second layer and then you record the third layer. And apparently it’s very hard to accompany yourself because of the re-intonation stuff like musician stuff that I wasn’t aware of [laughs]. He did an amazing job and for the live show it would have to be at least three cellos and this is one of the challenges.

Most of the live stuff is a logistic challenge because it’s easier for me to resolve that in a studio setting, you can basically come up with an entire string ensemble with just one musician in a studio but in a live scenario it has to be actually three musicians at least and so far, for only one track. So I would to need to write a bit more of that so it would make more sense to have three designated musicians there. I really enjoyed ‘Keep Watch’ because it is so focused on the strings and it’s quite a challenge to actually compose that way, it’s interesting.

You have a previous version of ‘Sleepers Beat Theme’ done already am I right to say?

BLB: Absolutely, it was the score for a short movie for at least half of it, the other half was done by Jon Hopkins. He heard the demo version of this track when the movie was done a couple of years ago almost and asked if he could use that for his Late Night Tales album, which was obviously a gigantic honour. It was a demo version because at that time I didn’t have all the tracks recorded and so it’s an alternative version but the album one is maybe my preferred version because it fits in better with the sound of the album. But the Late Night Tales version or the short movie version – I don’t want to say demo version –  I just like that on ‘Spells’ it blends in much better with the sound of the album. So that was done two years ago and it really never left me. I don’t remember exactly where the name comes from; it had something to do with the movie but since it’s a completely beat-less track, I’m not exactly sure where the name comes from anymore [laughs].

Would there be very important or defining albums for you, Ben?

BLB: There were a huge amount of wonderful albums absolutely that inspired me drastically through my youth and especially all the techno stuff and all the Boards of Canada stuff. I’m not sure who today in this kind of music did not listen to that or was not inspired by it, it’s really interesting. Over the last seven or eight years, I have noticed that if something has really inspired me it’s ancient: it could be Bach or a lot of blues and jazz records and also a lot of choral works; very basic, almost primitive choral works (it could be from Germany or from Bulgaria).

Here are five albums (in no specific order) I think are utterly important for me (and everyone ;))

01 Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Seven Days Of Falling

02 The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

03 Max Loderbauer – Transparenz

04 Thomas Köner – Teimo

05 Deaf Center – Vintage Well 7″

‘Spells’ is out this Friday, 10th June on Erased Tapes Records.

 

Written by admin

June 7, 2016 at 10:58 am

Step Right Up: Oliver Coates

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Interview with Oliver Coates.

“I still think of myself of an interpreter, always channelling something from outside of me.”

—Oliver Coates

Words: Mark Carry

Oliver Coates by Gaelle Beri 2015-5

My first introduction to Oliver Coates’s music came in the form of a rather splendid mixtape compiled by British composer and organist James Mc Vinnie. The appropriately titled mix, Music for Travel consisted of Coates’s utterly beguiling cello-based composition ‘The Room is the Resonator’ as the fitting opening track. A gorgeous ebb and flow of mournful cello strings coalesces effortlessly with gentle ambient pulses and field recordings, evoking the sound world of Brooklyn-based cellist Julia Kent and Canadian violinist Sarah Neufeld. A returning motif of fragile cello pizzicato forms the pulsing heart of this incredible composition that not only signifies music for travel but music for motion of the beating heart and stirring soul.

The London-based cellist, composer and producer has released records on PRAH Recordings – an offshoot of the legendary Moshi Moshi label – and SLIP and in addition, his collaborative work with the London Contemporary Orchestra, Jonny Greenwood (‘The Master’ score) and Mica Levi (score for ‘Under The Skin’). The gifted composer’s first full-length ‘Towards the blessed islands’ was Prah’s first release and earlier this month saw the eagerly-awaited new solo full-length, ‘Upstepping’. A scintillating record of disparate influences where vital sounds of electronic and techno collide with neo-classical elements, which somehow feels closely adjacent to the works of Aphex Twin, Four Tet and Boards of Canada as it does to the modern-classical realm of today.

Coates has described ‘Upstepping’ as “pumped-up body music”. The record’s meticulously crafted and sumptuously layered tracks forms a lovely parallel with Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ LP, the early Warp output and Canadian artists of Dan Snaith’s Caribou and Owen Pallett’s otherworldly odysseys. The album opener ‘Innocent Love’ feels a lost companion piece to Kieran Hebden’s ‘There Is Love In You’ opus with a hypnotic female vocal line delicately placed in the forefront of the mix alongside a deep bass groove and utterly transcendent cello sections. ‘Innocent Love’ epitomises the inventive spirit and deeply engaging voyage that ‘Upstepping’ takes you on, transitioning between many musical forms in the process.

A myriad of warm textures and flourishes are masterfully embedded in the following cut of ‘Timelapse’, which maps the cherished memories of childhood as the radiant warmth of nostalgia permeates each and every aching pore of this joyously uplifting electronica exploration. ‘Bambi 2046’ contains looped samples and meditative strings that evokes the neo-classical splendour of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ‘IBM 1401, A User’s Manual’ culminating in a glorious crescendo of distorted strings. Deeper house grooves are employed in ‘Perfect Love’ with scintillating techno beats reminiscent of master producers DJ Koze, Mathew Herbert et al. The masterful transition to the brooding cinematic soundscapes of ‘Memorial to Hitchens’ reflects the soaring emotional depth and rich intensity of ‘Upstepping’. The gradual strings and enveloping emotion of ‘Memorial to Hitchens’ shares the immaculate beauty of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s modern-classical masterworks.

‘Upstepping’ is out now on PRAH Recordings.

http://www.olivercoates.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olivercoatesmusician/

Oliver Coates by Gaelle Beri 2015-1

Interview with Oliver Coates.

Congratulations on the truly stunning new record, ‘Upstepping’. One of the great hallmarks of this new full-length is the marvellous marriage of the dance sphere and modern-classical realm; a voyage brimming with ideas, sonic nuances, textures and intricate detail. Please take me back to the recording sessions of ‘Upstepping’ and the main objectives and desires you wished for this solo effort? I wonder were any challenges posed during the making of these compositions?

Oliver Coates: It was an out-of-my-head combination of recording sessions, writing sessions and mixing sessions mixed up into one type of behaviour. There was a laptop, mic and cello, sometimes working all night sometimes grabbing 5 minutes to write a new pattern. There was never a plan – only a desire to make the music come to life. I had more, ambient, noise and dance tracks and then Stephen from PRAH helped me pick for this. Lawrence’s artwork completed it. Desiring the track to exist, for it to be satisfying, a kind of internal ecology with the materials, I don’t think about where it’s going to go or who it’s for. Except maybe for my wife and Stephen. The most intense periods alone, making and listening, were in Hong Kong late 2014, Egypt – a couple of days in 2015, and Waterloo summer 2015. I listened to a whole USB stick of Egyptian pop in the desert in a taxi one day and I learnt a lot from that.

Two sister tracks that feel the vital pulse to ‘Upstepping’ are the sublime techno-infused explorations of ‘Innocent Love’ and ‘Perfect Love’. If there ever was an opener to a record it would be ‘Innocent Love; conjuring up the sound of Four Tet at his finest. Can you talk me through the various layers of these particular tracks, Oliver? In terms of the cello instrumentation, how much of these tracks contain cello and what ways do you treat and process the cello sound? A beautifully euphoric sound radiates throughout and reflects the dynamic and shape-shifting sound of ‘Upstepping’.

OC: Four Tet’s arrangement and editing of sampled sound has an intuitive sense and flow which impacts the way I play the instrument. The practice of taking old sounds, chopping them up, and reconfiguring them digitally until it sounds natural and spontaneous has had an impact on my bowing technique on the old wooden analogue instrument. Maybe this is ironic but to me it feels obvious – the manner in which you approach any instrument which makes its acoustic sound, body language, repetition, improvisation, reduction, ornamentation (or special effect), continues to evolve even if you don’t update the technology – I play on a normal old cello with four steel strings. The microscopic and infinite ways you can vary the attack; you can repeat as if you yourself have been sampled – these electronic processes from the last 40 years affect my work – they set the bar higher. Right now I think a lot about arpeggiators as used by Boards of Canada and also Shackleton’s percussion patterns.

I’m not really sure how I made Innocent Love. I remember walking around Hong Kong Island through the night listening to different mixes.

‘Timelapse’ transitions effortlessly between warm, inventive electronica and luminous ambient flourishes. It feels there are several distinct sections contained within this one piece. For example, I love the middle section’s rhythmic groove and the final – what feels to be – soothing synth passages. In terms of constructing ‘Timelapse’, does a gradual process lie at the heart of layering/fusing the many elements together?

OC: The structure for that track revealed itself quite quickly. Staying in one hotel for a couple of nights when we found the home we had just completed on – our first flat – had been completely flooded out. There’s a repeating sample of a child talking that got in there. Instantly that takes me back to early ’90s Aphex and how to straddle that feeling of innocent bright melody and something a bit sinister creeping along.

Upon many revisits of ‘Upstepping’, the spirit of Arthur Russell most certainly feels present, floating through the ether. Again, it’s the many transitioning styles, contrasts, and moods that morph together throughout the record. Can you discuss for me your approach to the cello instrument and the different techniques or processes you have developed when it comes to performing on this instrument?

OC: The cello is often recorded then transposed to another pitch digitally. There are a lot of notes in this record tuned away from the 12 semitones, microtonally shunted around. It keeps the harmonies alive, pitches have more magnetism or so the intervals between them, being reconfigured from the 12 notes of the piano. Cello unadorned plus beats direct and simple hasn’t yet gelled for me. I don’t know if it will. I add a tonne of processing until it feels right. But the best technique of all is the oldest – slowing down or speeding up recordings. Jonny Greenwood does that too when he records strings. Listen to The Master- things are not quite what they seem. For me it sounds good to record a long pure tone like a harmonic then pull it down to the bass register. You bring these spectral colours down too, into the mid-range. You’re more aware of a spectrum soaked in adjacent tones.

The aesthetic and feel to the new record is another important aspect to the sense of journey the music takes you on. For instance, the placing of the more neo-classical-based pieces, ‘Memorial to Hitchens’ and ‘The Irish Book Of Death & Flying Ships’ (and also, the fragile closing lament of ‘Rise and Fall’ embody the emotive and deeply affecting nature of the music. Can you shed some light on the narrative to these particular pieces? The spoken word segments on the latter works so beautifully, evoking the works of Gavin Bryars and Steve Reich along the way.

OC: If there’s a narrative then it’s personal – a lot has changed recently. I still think of myself of an interpreter, always channelling something from outside of me. And not knowing what kind of musician I am. That way I’m going to keep listening and not just churning music out – listening to nature most of all, but also the rhythms of other people as they go about their lives. The poet Alice Oswald speaks well about this. So much is indirect – I made Rise & Fall in a cupboard in 20 minutes while I was waiting for some dancers to warm up. My brother-in-law heard it playing out of my laptop speakers a few months later and took interest in it so I asked if we could add it on the end of the record.

Please discuss your love for dance music and the more techno-infused sound worlds you obviously have such a strong affinity for? Who would have been the most ground-breaking producers and dance records for you when it came to forming the direction of ‘Upstepping’?

OC: I never consciously formed a direction but I’ve always loved fast dance music. I used to have Moving Shadow & Metalheadz compilations on cassette but I think the Come to Daddy EP was a big moment for my head. I was mostly playing Shostakovich cello music at the time so it was weird to try to make sense of the two. Burial, we had some at our wedding, Enya too.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Stash’ for me is the record’s defining moment. The otherworldly dimension and sense of movement captured is revelatory. I wonder would it be a case of finding one or two motifs – whether it’s a cello-based melodic pattern or some interesting sample – where you then piece these elements together and in turn, embed these into a rhythmic structure? It feels there must be some difficulty in piecing together these various sections whilst retaining the liquid state of the music?

OC: Everything was arranged sound by sound on a timeline. This was the last track I made. The most live cello playing is in the sliding sounds near the beginning, between snatches of conversation and found sound. Then the big melody in the middle bit is a cello harmonic played through an arpeggiator in different patterns. I now have a new version for live performance of this track with new live harmonised cello layers and dubby delays – it’s starting to sound more tropical, maybe this is my seapunk record. I have some great new pressure-sensitive devices which are helping me perform these sounds live.

I must ask you about your collaborative work, if you don’t mind Oliver. I’m a huge fan of your collaborative work with Jonny Greenwood and Mica Levi. These scores represent some of the most deeply affecting, adventurous, compelling and timeless soundtracks of recent times. Can you recount your memories of working with Mica and Jonny on some of these scores, for which you must have some particularly strong memories for (‘Under The Skin’, ‘The Master’ to name two)?

OC: It’s mostly nonverbal. There’s a curious magic to it – a kind of quick-read knowingness and a sort of quiet understanding. Pieces of paper with different musical cues. Sometimes these feel finished and polished on the page or sometimes they are a starting point. A studio with lots of mics and some great freelance players getting together. You figure out as quick as you can what to do, where you can help most in each track. A good thing about both Mica and Jonny is they don’t talk much, they listen hard and they trust. They let go and want to do what you can with the notation (obey it precisely with lots of dynamics I find is the best) until it starts to fit with the mood of the scene. With the Under the Skin I enjoyed going in and multi-tracking Mica’s viola playing with my harmonics. Jonny and Mica both play viola very well (amongst many other instruments). Funny that.

‘Upstepping’ is out now on PRAH Recordings.

http://www.olivercoates.com/

https://www.facebook.com/olivercoatesmusician/

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

May 30, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Step Right Up: Ah! Kosmos

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Interview with Ah! Kosmos.

“I work on a song like a meditation, I’m trying to get to a state where my mind stops talking so that I can reflect transparently what’s going on inside.”

—Başak Günak

Words: Craig & Mark Carry

Ah! Kosmos_Credit_Yusaku_Aoki-m

Ah! Kosmos is the music alias for the Istanbul-born artist Başak Günak. Thus far, Günak has released the EP-length ‘Flesh’ (released via Istanbul-based independent Müzik Hayvanı in 2013) and this year’s debut full-length ‘Bastards’ (released via German independent Denovali). Currently, Ah! Kosmos is embarking on a European tour in support of her debut LP ‘Bastards’, support from these show come from French composer and Denovali labelmate The Eye of Time (Normandy-based artist Marc Euvrie) which includes shows in Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Netherlands, France and Turkey. Interestingly, extensive studies into sound (Günak has pursued an MA in both Sound Design & Engineering and Cultural Studies, the latter also with a keen focus on sound) is also evidently pushing Günak to push the sonic envelope while constantly challenging her own sound and music. Much like such contemporary musicians as California-based Holly Herndon (RVNG Intl, 4AD) or Stockholm-based Klara Lewis (Editions Mego), a constant soul-deep desire to push the sonic boundaries while defying any expectations in the process is a cause for much acclaim and celebration.

Listening to ‘Bastards’ proves an intriguing listening experience while it’s also increasingly evident how live performance continues to evolve Ah! Kosmos’ own distinctive sound palette and Günak’s individuality as an artist. One can continually marvel at Günak’s innate ability to conjure such hugely immersive, highly imaginative and utterly compelling soundscapes as they seem to ebb and flow in their own independent timeline in complex, ever-changing and evolving patterns over the course of the album’s sprawling canvas. Crucially, such densely arranged compositions never strive to inhibit the listening experience: the challenge for Ah! Kosmos lies evidently in the pursuit of capturing – and holding – onto emotion above all else. A wide array of emotions are always brimming at the surface as if quietly awaiting a listener’s response to begin a chain of reaction – to somehow “contain” such emotion, to stem the blood flow of Ah! Kosmos’ ever-beating heart.

‘Bastards’ is available now on Denovali.

http://ahkosmos.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

Interview with Başak Günak.

Congratulations on the sublime debut full-length, ‘Bastards’. It is a remarkable album whose  intricate layers and masterful use (and cross-over) of organic and electronic worlds of sound reveals new significance upon each revisit. Please discuss the musical canvas utilized on ‘Bastards’? In terms of the layers of sound, would the live instrumentation such as voice, guitar comes first (and in turn, form the song) or do the electronic elements form the initial spark?

Başak Günak: Thank you so much. For me the musical canvas is changing in each song. Initial layers of them keeps its mystery for me.  Each time I try to approach with another perspective to not build-up a solid tendency. When you get out of your comfort zone, you experience an open space where you can experience a new landscape. I believe this is what keeps the excitement for me. To talk specifically about some songs, for instances in “Always in Parenthesis” the initial layer is my voice sounding like a synth. I recorded myself and modify it until I feel it is transparent. I like improvising with the relation between organic and electronic sounds.

In terms of the studio set-up, how much did the recording of ‘Bastards’ differ from your debut ‘Flesh’ EP? I can imagine the subsequent live performances and shows since 2013 has affected the tone and shape of the debut record?

BG: Exactly, live performances played really important role in transformation of my sound. They open up an inspiring space for the production. I love to perform as much as I can. I don’t think I can release a song before performing it live.

In terms of studio set-up and time, I focus on ‘Bastards’ a lot. In that time period, I experienced a difference between making  a LP and an EP. I think really carefully for ‘Bastards’ as a whole. I would like it to have a flow and landscape. Finally I’m happy that I break the connection between the songs and me and release them to make new bonds, new connections.

Please talk me through the spoken word elements embedded in many of these songs, from the outro to ‘Always In Parentheses’ to the album opener, ‘Out/Ro/In/Growth’? These segments further heightens the cinematic feel to the record and pulsing human connection.

BG: These spoken words are read by Selen Ansen which are fragments from Deleuze & Guattari.

The reason for these spoken words is coming from the title of this album “Bastards”. Selen Ansen is an art philosopher and I was attending to her lectures. In one of them she spoke about pharesia and she said how glorious is to embrace being a Bastard. After that lecture, I though a lot about it. Bastards means for me a ground for challenging the sovereign in the every realm of life. I like the idea of embracing the negative attributions to “Bastards” in my heart and in my art. Because with this embracement you are taking the power of the sovereign for the categorization homogenization towards Bastardy; “not having power to patronize”. Then I asked Selen to read some fragments for me. I’m really glad that we collaborated.

‘Trace of Waterfalls’ is such a tour-de-force and represents the album’s towering centerpiece. The ambient pulses and the beautiful fusion of the voice, guitar, and electronic wizardry evokes a timeless and searching sound and emotion. Can you trace back to your memories of writing this particular song and indeed, the construction of ‘Trace of Waterfalls’? The song-title is also incredibly powerful.

BG: Thank you so much for those beautiful words. I focus a lot my time on making music. I work a lot on songs, however when there is something special that touches me, I seize it. So the same thing happened with ‘Trace of Waterfalls’, I had a very inspiring conversation with a person, more about life and connections. And in the minute I left alone, I concentrated deep down on sound to release this waterfall feeling that is flowing in me. And at one point I felt that I was finally able to express the feelings as lucid as possible.

In terms of the production – ‘Bastards’ is self-produced – what process lies at the heart of this stage of the music-making process?

BG: I’m doing music every day like keeping a diary. I’m trying to transform and release how encounters and events affect me.  And to do this, I play and record some instruments, start improvising or just try to manipulate a sample. I work on a song like a meditation, I’m trying to get to a state where my mind stops talking so that I can reflect transparently what’s going on inside.

Please take me back to your musical upbringing? At which point did you begin your fascination with sound and indeed began your musical experiments?

BG: Since many years, I have already been engaged in music. I was performing in bands as bass player, I performed with many people from different musical background. After I finished my BA, I started doing MA degree on Sound Design & Engineering. During these years I have had a chance to deal with electronic possibilities for sound. I also had experience with the analog ones as well. In these years, I started to focus more on improvisation and composition. After I started to make music on computer alone, it turn into another experience which is  more powerful and introverted. Then, my ongoing researches on sound and composition encouraged me to decide to compose and perform solo under name “Ah! Kosmos”. And now I’m doing another MA in Cultural Studies with the focus on sound.

You have also composed and created sound design for contemporary dance and plays, short films and installations. How do these varied mediums affect the resultant sound you create/compose?

BG: It is enriching to work with artists from other disciplines. I find it really exciting to approach ideas with different perspectives. Especially working with choreography inspires me a lot.

 

 


 

ahkosmos_bastards_300

‘Bastards’ is available now on Denovali.

http://ahkosmos.com/
http://www.denovali.com/

 

 

Written by admin

November 25, 2015 at 11:18 am