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Step Right Up: Martyn Heyne

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“…recording doesn’t capture music; recording creates a recording.”

—Martyn Heyne

Words: Mark Carry

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Transcendence fills the space of Hamburg-born Martyn Heyne’s singular guitar-based compositions. The remarkable debut solo album ‘Electric Intervals’ – and follow-up to 2016’s achingly beautiful mini-album ‘Shady & Light’ – gently unleashes a hypnotic spell with each swirling ambient pulse and divine tones of piano and guitar.

Glorious album opener – and lead single – ‘Carry’ orbits the ether of faded dreams as sublime electric guitar soundscapes reverberate the human heart. Only mere moments into the German composer’s full-length, it is as if we are plunged into an ‘in between’ state, somehow capturing the quiet bliss of this universe that surrounds us. As the title suggests, Heyne’s echo drenched guitar tones transport you to the furthest reaches of one’s inner self, feeling beautifully lost in the pools of your mind.

Dawn light gradually fades in throughout the windswept beauty of sparse piano lament ‘Luxury’. The reflective piano notes unfolds a deeply immersive experience. The striking intimacy of ‘Patina’ with its magical tapestry of electric guitar tones radiates a shimmering warmth, particularly on the piece’s heavenly rise. ‘Faro’s soft beat and drifting guitar patterns serves one of the album’s defining moments. Magical guitar lines that belong at once to age-old folk song cycles or future post- classical overtures. The lyrical quality of a guitar melody such as this illustrates just how unique the sound world captured on ‘Electric Intervals’ truly is.

A Piano Day highlight from last year, ‘2400’ is built upon joyously uplifting piano motifs that meld together effortlessly, emitting a catharsis within the ambient swells. The album’s mystical centrepiece. The dynamics change on the luminescent beats of ‘Come On’ with a seductive guitar groove that inhabits a minimal wave sphere of enchanting sounds. Heavenly sustained piano chords of ‘Wilde Wide’ navigates the human space before the epic album closer ‘Curium’ dazzles with a flurry of delay, drum machines and invigorating guitar lines. The horizon is upon us.

Electric Intervals’ is a truly remarkable debut album from a gifted composer whose musical path is only just beginning.

‘Electric Intervals’ is out now on 7K! Records.

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Interview with Martyn Heyne.

 

Congratulations on your debut solo album ‘Electric Intervals’; it’s a very special experience. I’d love for you to go back to the making of the album itself? In line with the gorgeous debut ‘Shady & Light’, some of these songs were probably in your head for a long time?

Martyn Heyne: It is true that the ‘Shady & Light’ material and this material overlap a little bit in time, like some of the pieces on this one like ‘Faro’ and ‘Afar’ I’ve been playing them in concerts for a very long time and some are totally new like ‘Carry’ and ‘Come On’. And it’s just a mix of what I’ve gotten around to producing or what I wanted to make fresh. So in a way, I always have a big bucket of stuff that’s either an idea or it’s composed or I have some recordings and when I wanted to make the record I just started producing some things and making recordings of things I had. At the end, you look at the lot and think well, I love this composition but I don’t think it came out right so I don’t use that one or other stuff where you feel like I always thought this was never going to make it but now when it’s compared to everything, it fits just right in so I’ll pick that one.

And it’s quite surprising what takes and what compositions eventually I thought fitting for the record. Like for example this piece ‘Wilde Wide’ is one where I got up one morning – like often when I have the time after I get up I just play the piano for a little bit, just to have the first thing in the day to put you on track for the day – and that’s one of those things, I never really thought anything about it because there’s barely any musical content or anything in that piece but somehow it always remained something that I can relate to and that fits the narrative of the album very well (like at a certain position where it is now). I just watch myself from the outside a little bit when I decide what goes on the album and what I sequence so there’s a mix of stuff that’s maybe eight years old compositionally and stuff that was brand new at the time (like just made for this album).

I love how the piano pieces are interspersed among the guitar instrumentals. It works very well and as you say, the placing of certain pieces really compliment each other too or the contrasts to one another too.

MH: Well thank you. I guess I don’t really make any distinction between the piano or the guitar pieces, it’s just going from vibes, like the track ‘Carry’ is very long and then it’s nice to have something short afterwards and so forth. I think it’s easy to simplify why you do things when you try to explain the length or the instrument (or whatever), I just look at it and see and try to find a narrative so that it feels nice to listen through the whole thing as an album. It’s very much sequenced just as an album rather than a collection of pieces.

With the whole production element and your home studio and being involved with so many great records, would you have certain philosophies or your approach to sound as a whole?

MH: What I thought was interesting with this album, looking back is I didn’t really set out to make an album and then thought I’m going to write some pieces for it and then I’m going to produce them in such and such a way and so forth; I didn’t really have a master plan for it from that perspective at all. But rather, like I said I looked a little bit into the bucket of music that was there and developed some things and then saw what came out of it. And surprisingly to me, a lot of these pieces that end up on the album are recorded to cassette tape – most of them – and in a pretty lo-fi sound almost which is really OK for electric guitar and drum machines because they are not particularly fussy instruments to start with (they’re not very pristine, an electric guitar is not a harp). I’m surprised when I read reviews like it’s this pristine sound and very much figured out and people have different ideas about what eventually comes out of the sound but it rather just happens. Like the second song ‘Luxury’ I just read that it has beats or something but it’s just a piano take and it’s one microphone and that’s all there is and it’s just recorded to a really lousy mono joop recorder, you know that made it sound that way and I liked it and I kept it that way. Like I said, I probably tried to re-record it in a pristine and nice way but then eventually somehow this take was the one that I liked best. And a lot of the pieces are like that.

Also, for example the last track ‘Curium’ – the very long one – is always recorded on cassette tape, all running live through a mixing desk so I had the drum machine set up and I play them next to playing the guitar (so every once in a while I would just reach over and like add a snare drum or change the beat a little or put a delay with it or something) and play the guitar next to it. And all the beats, it had six tape echoes running and amplifiers for the guitar and drum machines and just everything went to a board and the reverb’s running and the whole thing of balancing and juggling it live, it just goes into a cassette tape recorder [laughs]. And then this two-track cassette tape (that’s what I used for the whole production) so then I put that into the computer and I edited it down a little bit because it was even longer when I made it. And then I took this down edit into a church and played it back there to record more reverb and make it more pristine and I overdubbed the rhodes on it. It’s almost anti-production in a way. I certainly wasn’t looking for the pristine sound or for the best way to do it but somehow these versions are the ones that were to me the most convincing. I know for example from ‘Curium’ doing like a proper studio production where everything sounds proper and it just couldn’t beat this one somehow and that’s how it goes sometimes.

And maybe also interestingly with the first track ‘Carry’ that’s also just one electric guitar so it’s just a guitar and there’s an echo (and that’s all that’s playing). But I think I must have recorded about a hundred takes of it over a period of about half a year and I just recorded it over and over again, mostly to a quarter-inch tape machine with the reverb and everything going. At the end of that time, I just picked my favourite version so the arrangement changed and the sound changed and it was different every time. So, instead of recording it once or three times and then just working on that sound, I just recorded it over and over again – they were all different – and then I just took one at the end that I liked the best. It’s not my philosophy but that’s how this album happened.

I love how ‘Curium’ has that live performance feel where you feel like you’re in the room as you listen to it.

MH: There is just a bunch of delay pedals that run after the drum machine and this electro part in the middle is just playing with delay machines and making it crazy. And again, I think the original version must have been something like twenty-five minutes so I cut out a huge guitar solo and probably some of the delay dubbing but it’s all from that one performance (it’s not from several takes). The craziness and the distortion and the congruence of it somehow at the end won over [laughs] the technical perfections that are clearly there.

I’m always fascinated when a musician has so many takes – and as you say how each one is different – would you feel a certain fear or anxiety that you are going to pick the right one in the sense that you have so many moments to choose from?

MH: That’s an interesting point that you mention because that is actually something that is part of my recording philosophy or maybe something that I learned about recording that is always very difficult to pass onto the people who I work with especially when they are working on like their first or second album when they have little experience is that people tend to finish a record and after they are done, there’s a few aspects of it that they don’t really like or they wish that they could change. And this is inevitable in a way, this is one of the things that is inherent in recording because I think this is one of the things that many people don’t understand about recording: recording doesn’t capture music, recording creates a recording. If I had a piece of music (like a composition) and I play it for you now ; it’s sunshine and it’s the afternoon and I’ll play it in a certain way. And if I played it to you at one o’ clock in the night chances are I’ll play it in a slower tempo, maybe with a different timbre and if I played it to you at seven in the morning it would again be different. If it’s the summertime I would play it different and if it’s the wintertime I would play it different, you know what I mean. So, things make sense differently in different circumstances. If you play it in front of fifty people you’ll play it in a more intimate fashion than if you play it in front of five thousand and so forth.

Therefore, when you listen to music or when you perform music or when music is just music, this stuff always just falls into place by itself because it is part of how the performer feels and part of how the audience feels just by itself so they don’t really recognize that they are making these choices. But then in a recording these things are trapped, the microphone is the point where this stuff gets lost. So, it’s simply impossible to pick the right tempo for a recording or to pick the right mood for a recording, rather I advise people to say to find a moment in your life when you’re not too drunk or you’re not too tired and not too angry – or maybe completely tired, drunk and angry – and then you make a decision of the moment that you are convinced that it is a good decision and that is your recording, regardless of what you record later on, in a different day time, in a different mindset, you will want to change things, always forever (that’s just how it is). That doesn’t mean that in the later stage you’re smarter than before or more musical or you have a better view on it, it simply doesn’t mean that, it’s just one of the shortcomings of recording. Recording is not a recording of music; it is a recording. It’s a different animal and therefore this feeling of not having captured everything that the song means to a listener or a performer is inevitable and everybody with every production has to live with this. But this is very difficult to tell people and it’s often the reason why once a mix or a master is done people will call you up every day and want minute changes, hoping to chase this little thing that they want to get perfect, which is simply not possible. So, I love the take that is the take, I play it different now but that’s what it is.

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One of my favourite pieces is ‘Faro’ with its beautiful melody but also how the rise comes in, and the way it’s melded with a soft beat as well.

MH: Again with that one, this is a take that I recorded I think in 2013 really shortly between Efterklang tours so I was just home for a few days and I had this piece that I’ve been already performing in 2012 when I was touring with Nils Frahm I played this piece. And then for the first time in between these tour breaks I played it on electric guitar and I thought this sounds crazy, this is cool so I just quickly recorded a demo take of it to remember what it sounds like on an electric guitar so then I would remember that is an option with this piece. And then later for this record I tried to produce it and make a ton of recordings of it and none of them sounded like this one (so I kept this one). It’s the same story basically. So, this is the original demo of it.

What are your memories of music as you were growing up or even at point did you start recording like that first moment when you discovered recording sounds yourself?I presume you started playing the guitar and piano from a young age?

MH: To be honest I played for much longer than I started to record. I only started to record like for fun when I was fourteen or something (I didn’t really do that before). By that time I had already played for much much longer so that came as a second idea and maybe that’s also what shapes my views so much on it that a recording is not a recording of what happens when you play but it is the production of something else entirely. And when you start out with cassette tape – and as I did also by the way with the Atari computer – then it’s much more obvious that what you capture is something very different and you start to play with that. You see like if I put this in this is what comes out so if I change what I put in, regardless of how that sounds, what comes out? What is it that then comes out? I think I was always very aware that they are different animals.

The guitar itself and the sounds you create it has a whole world of sound that you are able to create with this instrument. I can imagine there’s been different sorts of experiments that are ongoing with you and the guitar?

MH: Absolutely, I think that the guitar is in an unusual position among instruments in that it came very late. I’m talking about electric and electric sounds now although it’s not much difficult with classical because that’s not much older and it has a similar problem (but slightly different). The electric guitar came about in the 50’s and then there’s 60’s and 70’s rock and it kind of stops. Even today, a lot of people when they play the guitar they learn that music that’s been played in that time and try to recreate that sound that’s been done in that time. And similarly on classical guitar people play Villa_Lobos or Bach and try to do it in the sound of these handful – and really a handful – of guitarists that popularised the original classical guitar sound. I don’t know, I feel like the attempt to move it away from that are not too many or not too successful in comparison to I find much broader scope of other instruments. I don’t know if that’s the reason but I could imagine the reason is that it’s simply a pretty recent, pretty young thing, you know and it just doesn’t have the same kind of history as orchestral music or keyboard-based music or vocal music. For me it’s always been a very odd aspect of composing and playing and find sounds that are really exciting and it’s great to crank up a loud amplifier and play a Led Zeppelin riff but it doesn’t provide any of the electricity to me that I get when I find a sound that I feel a personal connection with becauseit’s coming from my own world.

Your voice is heard in so many great records of so many people’s music. You have worked with many musicians on different albums, I wonder how does the collaborative process work for you?

MH: I work with many people but I wouldn’t say I collaborate. I have to say there’s barely any collaboration going on. Most of the time I work to facilitate their music. When I work in my studio with other people it’s mostly about seeing what they want to achieve and hearing what they want to achieve and seeing what they have done and helping them to move that further to a more finished place basically. In that capacity, that’s different from a collaboration where I would at some point say no but I want it like this, let’s go there and that’s sometimes not so clear for people to see maybe where the cut-off is between what I do as a studio job with my studio and my own music. For my own stuff basically so far you can only get these two albums. Of course in Efterklang I was also pretty much left to my own devices as to what I do with the music and stuff but that’s different. Studio work for me is really studio work. I am very honoured and happy that many people come to the studio because they like sounds of what they’ve heard or stuff that I have made and they say like ‘oh can you make it sound a little bit like that?’ or ‘how did you get that sound?’ or we come with such and such with certain reference. That’s the only reason why people come I guess, I only get requests based on other work that I’ve done before basically. But still I don’t  interfere with what they’re trying to do, I just try to give them some of what they’re looking for if I can. And for that reason also sometimes I get requests for studio stuff where people ask for something and I don’t think I can give them or I just have no clue what they’re on about [laughs] and I just say sorry I can’t help you there.

You have a big European tour coming up. This must be exciting to see how the songs change and mutate depending on location and time and different things like that? And also how these songs off the latest album are translated to the live setting?

MH: Absolutely, I’m curious to find out about that too. I’m very happy on this tour that Balmorhea are taking me with them and I’m opening for them every night and they are a great band, I’m sure you know that because I think that they play for an audience who could be interested in the general field of music that I’m also involved with and their last record ‘Clear Language’ is really fantastic so I’m looking very much forward to that tour. It’s four weeks of shows. Playing shows for me is one of the best things of the whole job you know. I think it’s almost a bit underrated how important concerts are for this kind of music and I’m very happy to be able to do some. I will play some from ‘Electric Intervals’ of course and also from ‘Shady & Light’ and also some new things and so I think it will be a good mix and we’ll see how some of them will change over the course of the tour.The last concert fortunately is in Berlin so at the moment that it is most mixed up it is nice to do a home show at the very end.

In contrast to playing as a duo or in groups, playing solo must be like a completely different beast?

MH: Performing solo is very different from playing with a group, it has advantages and disadvantages. The great thing is that you can change direction on the go whenever you feel like it and you can switch the set-list around, you can play songs longer and shorter, you can change the mood and the vibe and take a turn at any point. And it’s also not too complicated a set-up so that is all great. Sometimes it’s a little less fun because if you go onstage with a band you have these moments where you can just sit back and watch what people are doing; what the other people in the band are doing and the audience and you can take a little bit of a break whereas as a solo performer you are always the thing, the entire time, you have to stay on the ball much more. From that perspective it can be a lot of fun to play with a band too and you share a bit more but luckily in this case I am also touring with Balmorhea the whole time so they are six people and then we’ll have a great team for technical side of things so I think it will be much more fun altogether than if I was actually on my own (which I will be only on the stage).

Are there certain albums you’ve been listening to a lot lately?

MH: The Bill Callahan ‘Apocalypse’ record. I started listening to it when it came out maybe four years ago and it just gets better, I really like that one. And also recently I very much enjoyed listening – maybe because it’s winter – to Wagner opera overtures. I’m not so into the singing bits but the orchestral beginnings I think it’s really worthwhile to give that a spin as well.

‘Electric Intervals’ is out now on 7K! Records.

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March 20, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Step Right Up: Spirit Fest

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Interview with Markus Acher.

It was one of the best personal and musical experiences for me.”

—Markus Acher

Words: Mark Carry

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Warm percussion and soft strum of acoustic guitar opens the irresistible torch-lit folk pop gem ‘Deja Vu’. Welcome to the bewitching world of Spirit Fest: the newly formed supergroup built around acclaimed Japanese duo, Tenniscoats, and featuring members of Notwist, Jam Money and Joasihno. The intricately woven vocals – swapped between Notwist’s Markus Acher and Tenniscoats – reels you in deep, creating a haven of celestial sounds that swirl majestically in the ether.

The pair of Acher-penned tracks ‘Rain Rain’ and ‘River River’ are sublime avant pop gems that form the vital pulse of the debut album’s opening half. A journey unfolds as the immaculate guitar tones simmer beneath Acher’s achingly beautiful lyrics. The hypnotic quality is not unlike a ripple of raindrops falling onto the surface of water: the meditative refrain of “rain on me” rises beneath the ebb and flow of Tenniscoats’ ‘River River’ invites reflection, of the deepest kind as a healing force prevails throughout this gorgeous pop lament. The sumptuous layers of blissful tones offers solace and hope.

Spirit Fest is a vital musical document from some of independent music’s most treasured artists. This divine pop odyssey represents one of their most accomplished works thus far (in terms of Tenniscoats or Notwist studio albums and the many marvelous collaborations all of these musicians have undertaken). A journey to awaken and enlighten.

‘Spirit Fest’ is out now on Morr Music.

https://www.facebook.com/spiritfestmusic/
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Interview with Markus Acher.

Congratulations on the irresistible pop opus of Spirit Fest, a collection of stunningly beautiful pop songs, for the here and now. Please recount your memories of first discovering the music of Tenniscoats and what paths led to the inception of this inspired new collaboration?

Markus Acher: Thank you very much! I’m very happy you like it.

When we visited Tokyo for the first time in 2005 with Lali Puna, I was looking for independent-underground-music from japan apart from the pop- and noise-bands, I knew. A friendly lady at tower-records recommended the CD “Songs for Nao” on chapter-music, a compilation with bands mainly centered around tenniscoats and their label majikick. This CD to this day is one of my favourite albums, as it opened up a whole new world to me. The music is intimate, folky, experimental, strange and familiar at the same time, and incredibly touching… wonderful songwriting and singing.

So, from that point, I tried to find tenniscoats-CDs, where-ever I could, which is difficult in Europe. They became one of my favourite, or maybe my favourite band.
As our friends from the Tokyo-based label afterhours are friends with Saya and Ueno, I had the chance to meet them, and we also talked about a collaboration. When we had the chance to invite bands for our festival Alien Disko in Munich last December, they were the first band, I invited.

It is a joy to witness these songs unfold and the rich musical language that is shared and communicated between its members. There is certainly a fluency and clarity to these avant pop gems. Can you please take me back to the recording sessions of Spirit Fest and your impressions of these particular days, making music together? I can imagine as Alien Disko festival was happening around the same time, this energy and atmosphere channeled into the music in some way?

MA: We recorded all together in the small apartment-studio of our friend Nico. It’s only two rooms, one of them his bedroom, and a small kitchen, with a beautiful view on a playground and the river Isar. It was very narrow and intimate, but that worked very well. It was a great time, between jetlag and sleepwalking, somehow. Also, I was the only person, who knew everybody… it was a gathering of fine people, who didn’t know each other: greek ( Tad klimp), english ( Mat Fowler ), japanese ( Saya + Ueno ) and german ( Cico + me ). We played each other songs, and recorded, without much trying. Mostly everything you hear was recorded live, with some overdubs, and editing afterwards.

In terms of the songs themselves, it’s clear that different members brought songs to the table; where some recordings are tonged with the signature Tenniscoats sound whilst others are more Acher/Notwist oriented creations. I get the impression that the starting point of these songs were perhaps just rough sketches and you must have seen many of these songs undergo a blossom and transformation as the various members put their touches on the recordings? Were there many happy accidents, so to speak that happened during the recording sessions?

MA: The songs were all composed as far as chords and melodies and most of the words go. We played them to each other and everybody found their part. We added new words and parts sometimes. It was so easy, as every one of them has such a clear voice and idea. It was one of the best personal and musical experiences for me personally.

The beating heart of the album (for me) arrives with the sister songs of ‘River River’ and ‘Rain Rain’, both achingly beautiful and meditative laments from the pores of the heart. I’d love for you to discuss the construction of these songs and I wonder were these songs written around the time of the album sessions or were they in your conscience for quite some time? The heavenly harmonies and intricate layers of sonic detail beneath the poetic prose flows like a majestic river, and those clean, warm guitar tones melt into the mix.

MA: These ( and ‘to the moon’ ) were two songs, I wrote with the tenniscoats and the possible collaboration in mind. As their lyrics so beautifully take pictures from nature to tell stories, I wrote about rain and rivers. Also, these songs were composed in not so good times for me, so they are just plain sad, to be honest… that wasn’t a time to be clever…they are just what they are. But what everybody added to the songs, was incredible… and Saya added these new vocal-melodies and arrangement, which made them whole new songs.

I fondly recall the Notwist ‘On/Off’ documentary (circa the making of the classic ‘Neon Golden’ LP) and I was struck by how you were writing some of these songs while in the studio. I wonder would this be the case for many of your sonic ventures, Markus? Spontaneity must be a key factor for you (and this may serve a constant factor in Spirit Fest and your other compelling musical projects)?

MA: As far as singing goes, sometimes, the pressure of having to compose or write something very fast can have very good results, as you write more subconsciously. But actually, I’m not good in it, and try to avoid it 😉 That’s different with playing instruments. I can find parts more easily.

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As you and Tenniscoats have such a wealth of music made thus far, these must also provide good reference points for you when it came to beginning Spirit Fest? I wonder what aims and concerns did you have (and conversations did you share) from the outset prior to making the album? I also get the impression that this project was always going to happen, it was just a matter of time. For instance, the art of collaboration is something integral to you and Tenniscoats (and continues to be) so it must have been such a natural and fun process to undertake Spirit Fest. Can you shed some light on the band name too, it’s a perfect title!

MA: Saya and Ueno made many wonderful collaboration-albums. Their collaborations with tape , and also the wonderful “two sunsets” with the Pastels, another favourite band. So when they suggested to make a collaboration, I couldn’t be happier. I thought, it would be important to capture the intimacy and intensity of them playing their songs, and that’s why I asked our good friend Tad klimp to record and produce it. I know, that he understands, what we do, and can capture every little detail. Mat and Cico, I asked, because they are very good friends, too, and very individual musicians, who have an experimental approach to making music, but also like songs and pop-music. In the end, that was a very good combination of people.

‘Spirit Fest’ was Saya’s english title for the song ‘Hitori Matsuri’, a song about a spirit / ghost wandering around at night. When she suggested it to be the band-name, we all liked it very much.

‘Take Me Home’ is such a gorgeous and bewitching pop lament. Again, the rich instrumentation and the vocal harmonies shared by you and Tenniscoats is one of the infinite sparks of the record. When it comes to the stages of beginning and ultimately completing a song, are there perhaps similar happenings or moments that occur during this process? For ‘Take Me Home’, how the song builds and the myriad of immaculate sounds (child-like sounds, piano notes, percussion, bass) and the celestial harmonies continually build, producing such a heartfelt and contemporary pop song. What is a perfect pop song for you (ingredients and so on)?

MA: ‘Take me home’ is an older song by the tenniscoats from their CD “We are everyone”, that I already had covered once. We thought, it could be good to play together. It’s mainly recorded, as we played it, with only a few small overdubs.

Everything is a good song, that you find yourself in and get lost…that tells a story, even when it’s an instrumental. Saya and Ueno have written so many incredible songs over the years. Even, when they are sung in Japanese, I understand them, although I don’t understand the words.

The second edition of the wonderful Alien Disko festival in Munich takes place this December. Can you discuss the lineup for this edition (such an inspired choice of incredible artists) and your vision for this special festival?

MA: The vision is to bring bands to Munich, that normally don’t come here. Many bands skip Munich on their international tours, that’s sad…although there is a really great scene of artists and bands here. We try to invite bands, that do something special, ignore genres or borders, and are somehow uncategorizable. This year, we invited the Congolese family-band Konono N.1, Shabazz Palaces, Amiina from Iceland, Colleen from France, Michaela Melian from Munich, Sam Amidon, Sauna Youth from London, MS John Soda with my brother Micha, Vanishing Twin, and many more.
Spirit Fest will also play again… a sort of release-show and return to the beginning of the record 😉

Lastly, what records do you feel were defining albums for you, Markus? In terms of pre-Notwist, growing up and the vital sounds that led you on the music path in the very beginning?

MA: Oh, there are so many actually… after many Hardcore-records, like Rites of Spring, Jerry’s Kids, Bad Brains, etc… Talk Talk “Laughing stock” was very important, This Heat, too. I took a lot of the guitar-playing from the Wipers, and Dinosaur Jr was a revelation for us, when “You’re living alover me” was released. Pitchfork, the Clean, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Yo la Tengo, Stereolab…they were and are very influential.
In recent years, I would say the Pastels, Broadcast and the tenniscoats are bands, I return to very often. Friends.

 

‘Spirit Fest’ is out now on Morr Music.

https://www.facebook.com/spiritfestmusic/
https://www.facebook.com/morrmusicberlin/

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December 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Step Right Up: Nadia Reid

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I find song-writing to be quite an unconscious thing at times.”

—Nadia Reid

Words: Mark Carry

Nadia Reid scribble Credit Meek Zuiderwyk

Preservation’ is the formidable sophomore full-length release – and follow-up to the dazzling song-writing debut ‘Listen To Formation Look For The Signs’ – from New Zealand singer-songwriter Nadia Reid. The album’s immaculate batch of songs offers a profound take on life and an overarching theme of self-acceptance as Reid describes the songs as “a confession to my future and past self.”

Armed (once again) with the production skills of Ben Edwards in Sitting Room studios and long-term guitarist Sam Taylor, the compelling torch-lit songs possess the same intensity of Sharon Van Etten’s songbook and the beautifully layered folk gems of This Is The Kit or local native Tiny Ruins. ‘Preservation’ marks one of this year’s most captivating voices where a hypnotic spell is cast at each and every turn.

Nadia Reid sit Credit Meek Zuiderwyk WEB

Interview with Nadia Reid.

Please take me back to the making of the latest sophomore album ‘Preservation’ and particularly the recording sessions themselves? I wonder did you have a slightly different perspective this time around, on the back of touring extensively and having your debut under your belt?

Nadia Reid: It was business as usual really. I started making it before really starting the big tours so it was pretty much the exact way we made the first record, there’s nothing too much too different; same band and same producer.

In terms of the lyrics and song-writing, I presume a considerable amount of the songs were written while you were travelling and on tour? And did you feel the songs gradually come to you over a period of time or was it more a case once you finally got to sit still after the commotion of touring?

NR: I find travelling and being on the road an inspiring time and it allows you to really examine your life. But I think in terms of where the writing comes, I think that comes when I get back to where I’m living and I have that calm that allows me the space to write.  But everything feeds into everything else; I wouldn’t have much to write about if I wasn’t doing crazy things around the world.

I can imagine you and the producer Ben Edwards have a close chemistry between one another, especially this whole studio space where you record and this whole dynamic must be interesting and a fertile source for making new music?

NR: Well, I have only ever worked with Ben so he’s all I really know. I think that environments and the sort of trust that exists between him and I is really important to me and also between the band and I; we all have a relationship or a connection which happens after years of playing together. Ben has been working with me from the very, very beginning – seven or so years ago now – and it’s hard to just buy that connection. You just never know how it’s going to go and I think with the producer and artist connection, you need to have that kind of trust and understanding and patience and so I am lucky.

Prior to the recording sessions, would you have detailed conversations with the producer and band in terms of what you want to achieve and map certain points out prior to the sessions themselves?

NR: Well a lot of it happened during the few days of recording. I mean the band was familiar with the songs and some of the songs Ben heard for the first time when we arrived at the studio. A lot of people would maybe take time with pre-production or whatever but we just had this thing where we went with it and what was recorded was what happened in the studio. I know not everyone works like that but it keeps things organic and not too rigid.

Being from New Zealand and the whole rich lineage of great bands, I wonder for you growing up ad things, you must have been surrounded by a lot of great bands from New Zealand?

NR: I have a lot of friends that make incredible music so I’m in such good company at home. Some of the bands tour overseas and some of them aren’t because it’s a hard thing to undertake because you must have the right level of support for it to really work. So there is so much that doesn’t leave New Zealand. The New Zealand band Tiny Ruins; she’s a good friend of mine and there’s so much great music being made in this country.

You have toured already quite extensively with ‘Preservation’, you probably have some new songs forming at this stage?

NR: We’re already starting to think about album #3 and I think by the time a record actually makes it out to the world, in a way you’re moving past it faster than the people who are listening to it. We’re all really excited about it and I’m just as excited – if not more excited – than the last one.

Would you notice the songs change or transform in a way as you’re playing live and especially after doing a lot of shows with the same core material?

NR: Absolutely and it’s really hard to put into words what that is. It’s really quite special and to be able to play them for years and years and to have these new meanings or have their meanings become apparent to me, I find song-writing to be quite an unconscious thing at times. I think you have to change it up to keep things interesting: things are changing all the time; life changes and we change and our feelings change.

What albums have you been enjoying a lot these past couple of months?

NR: I’m loving a band called Hiss Golden Messenger and a guy called Andy Shauf.

‘Preservation’ is out now on Basin Rock.

Nadia Reid plays the following Irish shows, beginning in Galway tonight:

10.08.17    Galway    IE    Roisin Dubh   (Tickets)
12.08.17    Bangor (Co. Down)    N. IE    Open House Festival   (Tickets)
13.08.17    Kilkenny    IE    AKA Fringe Festival   (Tix: via Rollercoaster Records)

For the full list of Nadia’s tour dates visit HERE.

https://www.nadiareid.com/

 

 

Written by admin

August 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

Step Right Up: Ekin Fil

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What I mean is music was a part of my growing up as a person and i want it to be that way always.”

—Ekin Fil

Words: Mark Carry

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PHOTOS BY ERİNÇ GÜZEL

 

Turkish solo artist Ekin Fil has been carving out some of the most breath-taking and beguiling drone pop explorations these past few years, inhabiting the deep, ethereal dimension of Grouper’s Liz Harris and navigating the deepest depths of the human condition in the process. On the latest opus ‘Ghosts Inside’ – released earlier this summer on Los Angeles imprint Helen Scarsdale Agency – an undeniable catharsis permeates deep within these recordings: fragile vocals shimmer gently amidst spare elements of piano notes or reverb laden guitar swells, creating utterly hypnotic drone pulses and far-reaching shoegaze deconstructions.

The opening ripples of bass piano notes of ‘Let Go’ hang in the air- an ocean of sadness and despair pours through like pockets of light. Heavenly harmonies loop forever on the achingly beautiful lament ‘Like A Child’, belonging somewhere between the sonic sphere of Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ and Sarah Davachi’s ambient gem ‘All My Circles Run’. The introspective sound unfolds heartache and helplessness. Gorgeous swells of echo and delay drift majestically beneath Ekin’s soft-like whisper on ‘Episodes’ before the sparse piano ballad ‘Simple Past’ depicts decay and isolation. The radiant light of hope forever lies at the aching core of these deeply moving explorations, reminiscent of New Zealand’s Birds of Passage or Sweden’s Demen, for example, where the beating human heart serves the undying blood-flow.

The album’s centrepiece ‘Before A Full Moon’ echoes the timeless spirit of This Mortal Coil and the singular 4AD sound. ‘Ghosts Inside’ is a gripping journey through the pores of the human heart.

‘Ghosts Inside’ is out now on The Helen Scarsdale Agency.

https://www.facebook.com/Ekin-Fil

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Interview with Ekin Fil.

Congratulations on the stunningly beautiful new full-length ‘Ghosts Inside’, a deeply affecting batch of beguiling songs. Please discuss the making and recording of the latest record and the space and time in which these recordings bloomed from? I particularly love the addition of piano to the sonic canvas, which further heightens this ethereal, far-reaching dimension.

Ekin Fil: First of all I would love to thank you so much. Though I would have some predictions, I’m not a person that knows how the album will turn out before starting to work on it. That period was terribly monotonous and static and I think it shows on the short and repetitive melodies in the album.

There is an undeniable catharsis permeating deep within these new songs where ‘Ghosts Inside’ contains pockets of glimmering hope amidst the shimmering darkness of decay and isolation. An immersive quality is forever inherent in your music that emits a healing nature to the recordings. I’d love to gain an insight into your studio set-up and the instrumentation used?

EF: Ghosts Inside consists of keyboard based tracks mostly whereas my previous releases were dominated by guitar. The emotional affect caused by this difference apparently is more direct with the listeners or may be more sincere? The instruments were basically a keyboard and a guitar with reverb and delay pedals for my vocals.

I feel the duo of ‘Before A Full Moon’ and ‘Fin’ forms the vital pulse and gripping heart to the new record. The way in which your voice blends so magically with the drone soundscapes of guitar (former) and keys (latter) creates such a hypnotic, timeless voyage into the pores of the human heart. Can you discuss the writing and construction of these particular songs?

EF: I think the songs you mentioned are the songs that most resemble my previous album because the new album contains fewer guitar based songs. Nevertheless although they differ structurally, they may not sound very different within the whole atmosphere.

Making music feels like such a natural process for you. I would love for you to discuss the inspirational figures and musical voices (from growing up in Istanbul to present-day making music as Ekin Fil) and how soon did you realize the importance of music in your life?

EF: May sound a bit cliché but music has been a part of my life from very early on. But when I think about it now I see that I may have wanted things to be under my control with my relation to music. I want to play and sing as long as I want, whether i become a ‘musician’ or not. Maybe I could not find any other way that i’m comfortable with within certain conditions.

I did not grow up in İstanbul, it was more like an urban town in the borders. Somewhere you can call more conservative. It was really difficult to reach and find the music, the books, things we were curious about there. I think all of these difficulties kept me from romanticizing stuff and kept my ego from getting bigger. What I mean is music was a part of my growing up as a person and i want it to be that way always.

The addition of piano instrumentation on penultimate track ‘Final Cut’ or album opener ‘Let Go’ forges a striking immediacy and beguiling atmosphere to the sonic sphere, reminiscent of Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ LP for instance (a lovely parallel exists between both albums). Were the piano-based songs written (& recorded) at the same time frame as the more guitar-based songs?

EF: Keyboard has been a contributing element in my previous guitar based tracks too. This time I just switched the balances leaving the keys alone and sometimes just letting guitars company them in a subtle way. All the songs in the album belong to a same period in my life. Actually I can’t say I can play one certain instrument better than others, I just use the one I feel I need and be content with it.

You have quickly amassed quite a wonderful discography and have developed your own rich musical identity across the years. Where do you feel you will explore next and what plans and collaborations do you feel you’d like to visit next?

EF: I hope and plan to play at other European cities after my show at Le Guess Who festival in November. We also plan to release a tape if we can around those dates too. Then new tracks and records and may be a split album.

Lastly, what records are you heavily immersed in of late?

Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN”, Joanna  Brouk’s “The Space Between”, Abul Mogard’s “Works”, All Washington Phillips, Kate Carr’s “the Story Surrounds Us”  are the records I have been listening to a lot lately.

‘Ghosts Inside’ is out now on The Helen Scarsdale Agency.

https://www.facebook.com/Ekin-Fil

https://www.facebook.com/helenscarsdale/

Written by admin

August 9, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Step Right Up: Allred & Broderick

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Interview with David Allred & Peter Broderick.

 It feels good to simply play music with another person away from the cables.”

—David Allred

Words: Mark Carry

david allred

Earlier this year, the new duo collaborative project between American musicians Peter Broderick and David Allred (appropriately christened Allred & Broderick) was unveiled in the form of lead single ‘The Ways’: a beautiful acapella folk ballad about “the world in which we live” and how we as individuals will eventually find our way. The gorgeously constructed music video – with handmade signs created by Erased Tapes long time collaborator Peter Liversidge and directed by label founder Robert Raths – was (in many ways) a celebration of the prestigious Erased Tapes label’s 10th anniversary year. The exciting new debut project between these two special souls represents yet another milestone in the label’s far-reaching, genre-defying musical journey thus far.

The pair first collaborated together on Allred’s stunning solo full-length ‘Midstory’ (released on German imprint Oscarson). Full of layered voices and a wide range of pristine instrumentation, the masterful song cycles ranged from intimate acappella laments to compelling avant pop gems. Forward a few years and the collaborative project of Allred & Broderick have dropped their debut record ‘Find The Ways’. Recorded in Broderick’s home studio the Sparkle along the Oregon coast, the ten tracks emit a delicate beauty and honesty that orbits the sound world of folk traditions, jazz flourishes and the modern-classical sphere.

Armed with just their voices, violin (Peter) and upright bass (David), the gifted duo generate endless possibilities with the minimalist framework posed. Some of their finest songs can be found on part A with Broderick’s penned ‘The Wise One’ and Allred’s ‘Hey Stranger’ interspersed between the string duet ‘Two Otters’.  On ‘Finding The Ways’ the pair wanted (in the words of Broderick) “to make something raw which is an honest document of what we are capable of doing together at once, with just two acoustic instruments and our voice”. Allred & Broderick is a marvellous new chapter from two unique musical voices.

‘Find The Ways’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes/

peter b

Interview with David Allred & Peter Broderick.

 

Before we discuss the new record, I would love for you to recount your memories of first crossing paths with one another and how you feel your own musical paths cross over (and complement one another) so naturally?

David Allred: Peter and I had a few email exchanges before we met in person back in 2013. I initially emailed him with a sheet music transcription I made of his piano song called ‘Pulling The Rain’ and asked him if it looked accurate. Peter responded very well to my email which turned into more conversations. I always loved how well he responded to my questions, especially considering that I was a complete stranger to him at the time. There was another time I wrote him an email out of the blue (which was about a week before I was planning to move to Portland) and Peter ended his replied email by saying “best wishes from Portland” – I immediately wrote him back and told him that I was coincidentally about to move to Portland and wanted to know if he was living there or visiting (since he had been living in Berlin for years up to that time) and he replied confirming that he re-located to Portland and that we should meet up when I get there! We did in fact meet one day in 2013 and have been good friends/musical collaborators since.

Please take me back to the recording sessions in your home studio of The Sparkle. I am sure this was an extremely fun and liberating project to be involved in, particularly having just voices, violin and double bass? One of the great hallmarks of the record is just how much you achieve in terms of depth and emotion from a minimal framework. 

DA: Thank you! Yes, Peter and I set out to record this album live without any overdubs or edits aside from general mixing. It was a bit challenging to make a full length record with the limitations that we gave ourselves but in the end we were very happy with the results. It was very refreshing to make an album that was captured exactly the way play the music without needing to layer other instruments or effects. We also enjoy being able to re-create our album in our live performances.

I think that sense of adventure and spark of creativity is always present in both your own solo works and obviously this comes flooding into the recordings contained here on ‘Finding the Ways’. I wonder to what degree were these songs mapped out prior to the recording sessions? I can imagine some happy accidents and spontaneous moments found their way on the final tapes?

DA: I would say most of the record was planned out but there ended up being some spontaneous moments. Peter did the mixing and mastering on this release and we had a fair amount of funny moments when we were talking or reacting to the music and some of which ended up on the final version of the album.

‘The Wise One’ is one of the defining moments of part A. I would love to gain an insight into the background and inspiration behind this particular tour-de-force? (I presume this is Peter’s song?!) The way the double-bass arrives in later and how these intricate components coalesce so wonderfully makes for such a cinematic voyage.

Peter Broderick: Yep, this one is my song, and was the last song added to the collection for this record. In fact, to this day this remains the last song I’ve written with words! The lyrics are about diving within yourself in a meditative way, to consult yourself from deep within, with the objective of gaining guidance and/or insight. During the time that David and I were working on the music for this album, I was practicing this kind of meditation daily. I had such a powerful, profound experience, I felt the impulse to turn that experience into a song.

‘Hey Stranger’ is another deeply heartfelt and poignant moment (which I presume is a song by David?) I would love to gain an insight into the writing and formation of this particular song and your memories of seeing it come to full bloom? 

DA: ‘Hey Stranger’ was written about an old friend who mysteriously disappeared years ago. I have been referring to this individual in press as J, who was one of my closest friends from my childhood to early adulthood but I always felt that it was a bit difficult to connect with him as he was always confronting the intense topics of life that most people try to avoid in most social circumstances. I’ve always thought he was an incredibly good person deep down and perhaps that his ways of living and thinking were just either too far ahead of his time or just simply too much for others to digest. He has no online presence as far as I can tell or any clear indication that he is still out there in the world. I was recently getting the feeling like J might pop up on the street when I least expect it and I just couldn’t figure out why this was on my mind. I wrote this song in an attempt to make peace within myself since I felt the situation was too unresolved for me to move on from it.

As the record is completely performed live in single takes, please discuss the live set-up in the Sparkle and your conversations and concerns from the outset concerning the overall feel and sound you wanted to create? I presume the record ‘Midstory’ (David’s solo LP) provided a nice template and perspective when it came to returning together then as an official duo project (in this particular regard)?

PB: Believe or not, David and I actually recorded this whole album twice! Our original idea was to have someone else record it, with only one microphone. We went to Type Foundry studio in Portland, Oregon and recorded all 10 songs in a day . . . but we quickly realized we weren’t happy with the sound . . . partially due to the fact that we didn’t bother to listen back to the recording at all whilst working on it, and afterwards discovered that we weren’t happy with the volume balance between the two of us. So we resolved to re-record the whole thing out at my studio on the Oregon coast (The Sparkle). This time we set up two microphones, one for David’s voice and bass, one for my voice and violin. Again we recorded all 10 songs in a day, and then the next day mixed and mastered all the songs, all at The Sparkle. When mixing the album, we tried to keep it as dry and unaffected as possible, although both David and I have a soft spot for the Roland Chorus Echo out at The Sparkle, and couldn’t help ourselves from using this machine to add some subtle color to the sound. It’s true that David and I had already worked together on his album Midstory, so we were both quite comfortable working together in my studio . . . although the processes for these two records were vastly different.

DA: I started playing electric bass in middle school which eventually led to double bass when I was in high school/college. I am self-taught on the double bass so I definitely lack some proper techniques with the instrument but I still love to play it. The Allred & Broderick project was the first time I ever dedicated a whole project using the double bass, and it was also the first project that Peter fully dedicated himself to the violin, and we both very much enjoyed taking this approach. Capturing this music live with our voices and chosen string instruments was exceptionally enjoyable and refreshing especially after we both have been heavily invested in the technological side of music. It feels good to simply play music with another person away from the cables.

PB: Well, the violin was my first instrument. I started taking lessons at age seven I believe. But aside from a few pieces here and there over the years, the violin has never really been the central instrument to the music I’ve created. I always thought it would be great to one day work on a project in which the violin is the only instrument I use . . . so I was really happy to be able to do that with this project, especially having the low end of David’s bass to balance out the sound . . . not to mention his incredible musicality!

‘Find The Ways’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes/

 

Written by admin

July 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Step Right Up: High Plains

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The thin air, frigid temperatures and overwhelming feeling of remoteness definitely affect your mindset.”

High Plains

Words: Mark Carry

highplains

High Plains is the gifted duo of Loscil’s Scott Morgan and cellist Mark Bridges. Their debut album ‘Cinderland’ represents another jewel in the crown of the peerless Chicago independent label Kranky, following on from the techno bliss of Earthen Sea; Justin Walter’s innovative trumpet-based works and the soon-to-be-released scintillating debut from Sweden’s Demen.

The sublime title-track – and gorgeous album opener – ‘Cinderland’ ascends into divine neo-classical splendour as gentle ripples of piano is melded with achingly beautiful cello tapestries. Soon, delicate electronic textures permeate the headspace; drifting into the ether of shimmering seas. A prevailing darkness prevails on the ‘Blood That Ran the Rapids’ that creates a dense, cinematic atmosphere. The intricate layers of percussion, cello and enveloping frequencies of synthesizer drift far into the atmosphere. Space is the place. ‘The Dusk Pines’ – representing the beating heart of part A – recalls the likes of Iceland’s Hildur Guðnadóttir and the scorework of Nick Cave & Warren Ellis whereby instrumental music so lyrical, powerful and stunningly beautiful navigates the human heart. An achingly beautiful lament where fragile drone pulses are masterfully interwoven with the gradual bliss of strings.

A striking narrative – for which ties the empowering journey of ‘Cinderland’ together – continues on the dazzling ‘A White Truck’ (reminiscent of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s ‘Iris’ score). The dynamic range and sheer intensity of this gripping odyssey brings forth a sense of wild desperation as white noise of synthesizers exudes the rawest of emotion. The rustic, pastoral tones of ‘Ten Sleep’ maps the vast, sprawling landscape of Wyoming – and beyond – with hypnotic rhythmic pulses and captivating piano patterns (fused together with Loscil’s distinctive drone flourishes). The rise on this piece could perhaps form the glorious epiphany of Cinderland’s resounding sonic exploration.

Sepia tinges of cello notes flicker onto the horizon of ‘Black Shimmer’ as the dusk light begins to fade upon us. The ethereal chime-like tones of Steinway piano on ‘Rushlight’ creates a dream-like voyage akin to vintage Boards of Canada. The closing ‘Song For A Last Night’ combines Loscil’s singular drone soundscapes together with Bridges’ deeply moving strings. Two musicians in deep dialogue with one another, who, in turn, create a vast sea of mesmeric soundscapes.

‘Cinderland’ is out now on Kranky.

https://www.facebook.com/highplainsss/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky

hplains

Interview with High Plains (Scott Morgan and Mark Bridges).

 

Firstly, please take me back to how you first crossed paths with one another and your first musical collaboration, which would have been as part of the ADRIFT series? It’s obvious listening to ‘Cinderland’, just how suited your own individual musical language is to one another, and truly heightens every aspect when fused together.

High Plains: Thank you. We met in Banff while on individual residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts. We were randomly assigned as roommates and became friends which lead to working together on the loscil Adrift project. We later agreed to fully collaborate on a new project and ended up co-applying to the Brush Creek residency in Wyoming where Cinderland was created.

The recording sessions for ‘Cinderland’ feel as if they were soaked in inspiration: recording for two weeks in a remote spot in Wyoming. I’m sure the landscape and your physical surroundings during these 2 weeks must have found its way into the music? Can you recount your memories of these recording sessions? I wonder were these compositions mapped out in any way prior to the recording sessions?

HP: It was a very fluid and intuitive process. The physical place is quite sublime. It’s hard to not have it seep into your subconscious. The thin air, frigid temperatures and overwhelming feeling of remoteness definitely affect your mindset. The really rewarding thing about sinking yourself into a situation like this is there are very few distractions. Outside of exploring the natural landscape, there is very little to do. So working and creating became our focus. We didn’t map things out at all. We just started tinkering and sending ideas back and forth. We did some field recording, initial recordings of the cello and I slowly built up a palette of sounds. We fed each other harmonic ideas, built up some sound beds and then improvised a little to shape each piece.

It feels that so much ground is being covered – as these pieces unfold in such a bewitching way – that makes me feel (as a listener) that you were learning & discovering new perspectives and avenues when it came to the music-making process? For instance, the space that is created within the cello-based compositions by the ambient dimension the strings inhabit, creates this epic journey that is immediately striking and resonant.

HP: I think that’s quite accurate. There is definitely exploration taking place on Cinderland. In a certain sense, it’s a very experimental collection of music. Maybe not in the avant-garde sense, but in a personal way, trying to find our territory together, where our musical interests overlapped and where the boundaries were. I think once we found a boundary, we tried to push beyond it a bit and see where the music could go. Looking back, the points where things didn’t make a lot of sense actually became the most rewarding and expressive.

The title-track (and album opener) feels an integral part of the record. This neoclassical gem is such a deeply affecting and absorbing piece of music, with a cinematic quality shining throughout. I’d love for you to recount your memories of writing/recording this particular piece? Also, the beautiful piano part is magnificent. Was this a happy accident that you discovered a Steinway piano in the portable studio? 

HP: Cinderland was not the first piece we composed. If I remember correctly, The Dusk Pines was. In a way, The Dusk Pines better represents the genesis of the sound. Simple harmonic ideas that unfold very gently but contain a kind of shadowy edge to them. I think Cinderland probably was composed second or third after that and represents an attempt at improving the process a bit. The Steinway was indeed a happy accident. Such a beautiful piano and when it’s sitting there in the room it’s impossible to ignore. Neither of us are pianists per se but having access to a tuned concert piano in a schoolhouse in the middle of nowhere kind of calls out at you.

In terms of the portable studio set-up, I imagine this was quite a new situation you both found yourselves in? And in one way it may have felt you were in a residency there and seeing what music would be released when you were both staying there. In this way, did these tracks surprise you in any way? Also, please describe the landscape of Wyoming and how the landscape helped shape your sound? In this regard, I wonder how much of the album contains field recordings from the area?

Scott Morgan: The set up I brought is very close to my home studio set up. A computer, audio interface, monitors, microphones and MIDI controllers. It’s really all I’ve ever needed as loscil and I don’t have much of an extravagant set up to begin with. So I brought this and Mark brought some additional mic’s and his cello of course. He also brought an electric guitar and amp that we didn’t use on the recording. I brought my field recorder – just a little Sony hand-held. The most significant field recording that ended up on the record was the squeaking trees on Song for a Last Night. We were off on a walk in the woods on a rather blustery day and the tall trees (birch I think) were swaying in the wind and gently rubbing against each other creating this beautiful but creepy creaking sound. We mixed that into the final track.

‘Song For A Last Night’ is another divine composition and just love how one feels Loscil’s ambient bliss interwoven so delicately with Mark’s cello. One feels the stillness of night and the vast remote landscape of mountains (and love the water and field recordings embedded here…like a postcard to this town, if you will). Is there certain moments captured on the record you feel resonates most powerfully for you?

HP: When we approached the end of making this record, we would bounce the mixes down and put them on our phones and hike up to the nearby mountain peaks to listen. This was an unforgettable experience and listening to the album now transports us back to this moment. There was one particular day we were listening overlooking the valley below and a snowstorm broke out.  It was a striking moment.

I’m interested to learn how Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ served significant inspiration for ‘Cinderland’. Please discuss the importance of this work and how you feel it found its way into the High Plains sonic sphere?

HP: We didn’t reference anything directly in terms of harmony or style but we were mutually drawn to the overt expression and underlying tragedy of Winterreise. There’s the narrative aspect of the song cycle that is both so extreme it’s almost comical but also just so devastating and heavy and lonely. The symbolism is overt yet strangely alluring. We were also attracted to the structure of the piece as a whole. In a way, a song cycle like Winterreise is a precursor to the “album”… i.e. a collection of works that is presented as a whole and represents some kind of story or journey. This is something we were both interested in – a collection of works presented as a whole that contain a loosely interwoven narrative.

Lastly, please discuss your current listening/reading (etc!) and what records you’re enjoying the most lately? 

SM: I’ve been reading Karl Ove Knausgård – Death in the Family.  Really incredible accounts of the author’s seemingly mundane life but put under a kind of microscope of honesty, rawness and detail. Highly recommended. A few albums I’ve enjoyed of late include Claire M Singer’s Solas, Anjou’s Epithymía, Lawrence English’s Cruel Optimism, Western Skies Motel Settlers & Sarah Davachi’s Dominions. 

‘Cinderland’ is out now on Kranky.

https://www.facebook.com/highplainsss/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky

Written by admin

April 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Step Right Up: Botany

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We are delighted to premiere the beautiful new music video ‘Ory (Joyous Toil)’ by Austin’s Botany, taken from last year’s sublime ambient album ‘Deepak Verbera’ (released on the prestigious Western Vinyl imprint).

botany-1

 

Interview with Spencer Stephenson (Botany).

Deepak occupied a singular creative mental space for me that felt wholly different from anything I’d done before…”

Spencer Stephenson

 

Deepak Verbera’, the third LP by Austin’s Spencer Stephenson aka Botany, bends the beat-driven path carved by the composer’s first two records into free-form cosmic terrain, juxtaposing free jazz poly-rhythms, rich ambient textures and hypnotic psych-inflected harmonies. Following on from the more hip-hop oriented production of Botany’s first two records, ‘Deepak Verbera’ shows a master sound sculptor who ceaselessly blurs boundaries and pushes the sonic envelope.

 

 

 ‘Deepak Verbera’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/BotanyMusic/

https://botany.bandcamp.com/music

 

Interview with Spencer Stephenson (Botany).

 

Please talk me through the construction (or de-construction) of the utterly beguiling ambient exploration ‘Ory (Joyous Toil)’. For the recording itself, what was the equipment at your disposal?

Spencer Stephenson: A friend and former housemate of mine had come back from tour a few years ago with some cassette recordings of a harpist he had played a show with. He had asked her to play in some various keys and scales and recorded it through a handheld cassette player for the purpose of sampling, so I often pull from it to create beds of harp textures on my tracks. ‘Ory‘ begins with a sample of this tape being played on the piano roll in my DAW, jotted out in midi notes, kind of casio SK-1 style.

Everything else is laid out around that motif. It’s a very sonically full track but I don’t think there are more than a few layers, and the core structure consists only of those repeating chords created from the harp sample. Even with my vocal melody, I layered the same line over itself as opposed to creating a harmony. This song sounds maximal but is fairly minimal in its construction. It was one of the final tracks added to the album, and it felt like a breakthrough when I completed it. If the album is a face then this track is like the smile, or the human glint in its eyes. It makes the rest of the album connect with the listener, I feel.

I have some droning electric guitar that creates textural urgency and brings the song out of its softness, because I wanted most of this record to feel aggressively benevolent. The final element added was upright acoustic piano which I just plinked around on to create more texture billows, with the exception of the intro and outro chords. Despite how loose it seems to be, this track was the result of some level of deliberate sculpting to make everything feel both distinct and holistic at once. That’s why it has “Toil” in the title. The “Ory” part of it refers to Incredible String Band’s song Eyes of Fate which contains the line “echoes wholly only lonely, long before-y, ory, ory.” I mimick the final two words of that line softly in the background as a mantra.

One of the great hallmarks of your latest ‘Deepak Verbera’ LP is how the music is steeped in this cosmic sound world where an intense ambient dimension surrounds each creation. Can you discuss the making of ‘Deepak Verbera’ and the musical (or otherwise) influences you feel found its way into the overall sound?

SS: So on my album before ‘Deepak‘ I was juxtaposing straight ahead hip-hop production with heavy texturally-focused ambient exploration, really exploring how those two types of music could be made through the exact same means: samplers and record digging, DAWs, tape-recording, single-mic recording setups, etc. I turned in ‘Dimming Awe‘ and had this itch to keep going with the drum-less, spacey tendencies of it, so I hit the ground running and started working on ‘Deepak‘ before ‘Dimming Awe‘ was even mastered. ‘Deepak‘ occupied a singular creative mental space for me that felt wholly different from anything I’d done before and as a result it’s still my favorite in my discography. It felt like I had finally gained the confidence and palette to be able to put out something so freeform and uncensored, and I had been slowly stepping further out on that limb in the years before making this record.

I continue to be fervent about the idea that drone-y or contemplative music is not apolitical, and ‘Deepak Verbera‘ is an expression of that. In the American consciousness a lot of spiritually-leaning music, and contemplative spirituality in general, seems to have an association of passivity, or calmness, or something relegated to yoga studios and massage parlors. That, to me, shows a disappointing lack of imagination. In an era of sensory overload and cultural loudness, there’s nothing more anti-authority than turning down and coaxing the listener into introspection. There’s plenty of self-centeredness to go around, but self-awareness is overlooked. And I think that cosmic or spiritual perspectives can sometimes feel brutalizing, humbling, and scathing, and transcendent at the same time. So with ‘Deepak‘ I wanted to make a record that was at once both peaceful and turbulent. Elevating and unseating at the same time.

Some of the spiritual jazz that arose after John Coltrane’s death seemed to imply a similar motive, so people like Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane are obvious touchstones. The recent Ariel Kalma retrospective that RVNG put out also had a direct effect. I came of age during a time when hippie-ness was kind of re-appropriated and folded into freak folk and the New Weird America movement, and underground music became this weird Bush-era version of the late 60’s and early 70’s. There seemed to be an unapologetic leap into rambling freeform and improv within that paradigm that has been stitched permanently into my musical quilt.

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I’d love to gain an insight into your approach to making the more hip-hop oriented sound of your previous works under the alias of Botany? Can you talk me through the process by which you splice different segments and elements together and how you feel you have learned and developed as a producer in this regard?

SS: That style of production is my first love, musically. It’s my default mode in a lot of ways. I started out writing full arrangements on guitar as a kid, and making a song out of samples feels no different to me, in fact its more fulfilling. I choose which elements of what I’m sampling fit best into a song, the same way I’d select chords or tones as a guitarist, and rhythms as a drummer. I rarely feel that I’m sampling something that’s outside of my own capability to play on any instrument with the exception of horns or strings. To me, sampling is about a wider curation process than traditional musicianship can provide. The timbrel, textural, and tonal array of sampling opens itself up far beyond what anything that a single instrumentalist can do on his or her own in a bedroom. Hip-hop is the most forward thinking genre in that regard, especially 90’s hip-hop when the MPC was the be-all-end-all.

So when I sit down to make a track I usually operate through those methods, even though I’m doing it outside of an MPC. It begins a lot of times by programming drums or rhythms and then building around that. I have a huge archive of loops and samples that I’ve created, but I usually sample from something outside of my archive when I’m working on new stuff. It all comes from various sources– vinyl, cassette, personal recordings, film, whatever.

I also begin a lot of projects around some interesting loop I’ve found, which is probably true for a lot of producers. Lately I’ve been into the vibe of manipulating one tiny sound, or a congruent stack of sounds, and taking it out of context, bending and pitching it around and having that process be the core of the track itself without need of structure or meter.

Please recount your memories of growing up in Texas and your musical upbringing. Your curiosity with many facets of sound and using sources and playing varied instruments must have stemmed from your adolescence I presume?

SS: Yeah, so I grew up in an area that was pretty lush and undeveloped, and I realize as I grow older that that was hugely influential. My father is also a musician, and my mother had good taste in music and was a careful listener, I remember showing her Four Tet’s album Rounds and hearing her later refer to him as a genius, so that says something about her ear. That combination of environment and musical enthusiasm made me into a musician. I have a deeply imprinted memory of being at home one rainy Friday afternoon in sixth grade. My dad and brother shared this bass guitar and amplifier in a room in the back of our house that had a big wall-wide window on one side. After noodling around on the bass I laid it down on the floor and ran one finger over the open strings for about an hour. Just “G, D, E, A” repeatedly for about an hour while I looked out the window at foliage dripping in the rain. I think that’s the moment when I realized that music doesn’t have to be in song form, that it can be an investigation into sound itself.

I grew up in a small town outside of Fort Worth, Texas so the pool of musicians was fairly small. There was a period where I was participating in other bands, mostly playing metal and whatever they were into, but the whole time I had this vision for a really exploratory, rhythm-heavy sound that had nothing to do with any of that. I got old enough to have interest in my parents’ vinyl collection so I started listening to folks of their generation like Nick Drake, Billy Cobham, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Sly Stone, and Jimi Hendrix who had always been a part of my life but who I’d started to fully appreciate around then.

My older brother was also making Drum & Bass and I really took to LTJ Bukem and Roni Size.  It was all of this stuff together at a very formative age. That stuff demonstrated how electronic music was made. But through the older music I started to make the connection that this is what hip-hop was sampling, this was what hip-hop came out of in a sense. I was really honing in on Jay Dee’s production on Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” of all things. That’s such a defining album for me because of its conceptual through-line and its interludes, hidden tracks, and jazz nods. It really played with and utilized the full-length format, weaving in and out of amazing singles with these really exploratory easter-eggs that rewarded patient listening.

A lot of my youth was spent being just that, a patient listener in an isolated headspace separated from the goings-on of my peers because of having a different musical vision than them. Almost no one else in my town really “got” the music I was interested in, so I ended up making it alone. I resented it at the time, but I appreciate my path now. I didn’t realize how much it forced me to follow my idea of what I thought music was supposed to be.

Lastly, please pick your most cherished psychedelic and jazz records from your collection. Would you have certain defining records that for you, you must always come back to?

SS: I definitely have some staples in my collection. The older I get the harder it is to fully cherish anything outside of those staples, there’s so much music being released, but I keep my ear open with some focused effort. On the psychedelic tip, which I consider to be very broad, I’ve been regularly listening to these records for years, most for about a decade:

Iasos – Inter-Dimensional Music

Colleen – Everyone Alive Wants Answers

NEU! – s/t

Broadcast & The Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age / HaHa Sound

JK & Company – Suddenly One Summer

Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter / The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion

Semya – Golden Days

Windy & Carl – Consciousness

Can – Tago Mago / Future Days

As far as jazz stuff goes, in no order or chronology:

Herbie Hancock – Mwandishi

Pharoah Sanders – Thembi

Don Cherry – Organic Music Society

Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil

David Axelrod – Song of Innocence (didn’t know whether to put this under psych or jazz)

Alice Coltrane – Huntington Ashram Monastery

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

Weather Report – s/t (1971)

Art Ensemble of Chicago – People in Sorrow

 ‘Deepak Verbera’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

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https://botany.bandcamp.com/music

 

 

Written by admin

March 7, 2017 at 6:14 pm