FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Mixtape: A 130701 Mix by Olivier Alary

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This mix was created for the 15th anniversary of 130701, and is formed entirely from material in the 130701 catalogue. I decided to use the entire roster of the label, so that everyone would be represented but I’ve selected the tracks that resonated the most with me. I also focused on the similarities between each artist in order to fuse their music and different approaches together as a whole.”

 Olivier Alary

Words: Mark Carry

Olivier

Last year marked the 15th anniversary of prestigous Fat Cat imprint 130701, the label who brought the post-classical genre into full focus from luminaries Max Richter, Hauschka, Johann Johannsson, Dustin O’ Halloran et al. ‘A 130701 Mix’ compiled by one of the label’s latest additions, gifted Montreal-based, French composer Olivier Alary and is a gleaming treasure of contemporary, soul-stirring cinematic soundscapes from 130701’s vast discography (mixing the label’s newer signings: Polish cellist Resina, Russian pianist Dmitry Evgrafov, French composer Emilie Levienaise, multi-layered vocalist/composer Ian William Craig and Olivier’s own solo works together with alumni artists Set Fire to Flames (the label’s first release back in 13th July 2001, hence the label’s cryptic name) alongside Germany’s Hauschka, Max Richter, Johann Johannsson and Sylvain Chauveau.

The Montreal-based composer’s new solo full-length ‘Fiction/Non-Fiction’ is a stunningly beautiful electro-acoustic voyage that possesses a lyrical quality at every turn (throughout the album’s diverse seventeen sonic pieces) that shines forth its rich warm textures and immaculate instrumentation (piano, accordion, saxophone, slide guitar, marimba, guitar, electronics, choir, flute and clarinet) akin to pulses of radiant light casting deep inner reflections. The orchestrated moments (performed by Babelsberg Filmorchestra and The Wroclaw Score Orchestra) delves the listener deep into a realm of drone-filled modern-classical wonder, evoking the timeless spirit of A Winged Victory For The Sullen or Johann Johannsson (particularly on the album’s centrepiece ‘Autodrome’.

The wide range of colours and textures masterfully unveiled throughout ‘Fiction/NonFiction’ vast sonic palette is one of the record’s great hallmarks. Shimmering noise amidst harmonic patterns unfold on ‘Khaltoum’ that gorgeously fades into the soaring beauty of ‘Arrivee’ (the majestic piano tones and strings could be taken from Johannsson’s latest sonic masterpiece, ‘Orphee’). Shimmering clean electric guitar tones echo on ‘Nollywood’ as the track builds, electronic/noise elements coalesce effortlessly conjuring up the windswept beauty of Set Fire to Flames or Sylvain Chauveau in the process. The record is meticulously crafted: pristine woodwind and accordion motifs are weaved together on ‘Yu Shui’ with dream-like, fantastical strings and the joyous rejoice of Pulses (for winds) reveal fluid-like rhythmic pulses of flute and clarinet. The French composer’s solo work (following on from his towering explorations under the alias of Ensemble) navigates paths less-traveled as boundaries become blurred wherein traditional and experimental worlds exist beautifully together.

‘Fiction/Non-Fiction’ by Olivier Alary is out now on 130701.

http://www.olivieralary.com/

http://130701.com/

 

 

Olivier Alary – A 130701 Mix

Tracklist:

  1. Set Fire to Flames “Mouths trapped in static”
  2. Ian William Craig “Innermost”
  3. Sylvain Chauveau “N B”
  4. Max Richter “Ionosphere”
  5. Hauschka “Eltern.2”
  6. Set Fire to Flames “Holy Throat Hiss Tracts To The Sedative Hypnotic”
  7. Set Fire to Flames “Deja, Comme Des Trous De Vent, comme reproduit”
  8. Resina “Tatry I”
  9. Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch “Tulsi”
  10. Sylvain Chauveau “Noir”
  11. Max Richter “A Song For H / Far Away”
  12. Dmitry Edrgadov “Garage”
  13. Ian William Craig “A Single Hope” (Olivier Alary remix)
  14. Sylvain Chauveau “Au Nombre des Choses”
  15. Johann Johannsson “An Injury To One Is The Concern Of All”
  16. Dustin O’ Halloran “A Great Divide”
  17. Set Fire To Flames “Rites of Spring Reverb”
  18. Ian William Craig “An Ocean Only You Could See”
  19. Olivier Alary “Pulses (for wind)”
  20. Set Fire to Flames “I will be true”
  21. Resina “Afterimage”
  22. Emilie Levienaise “Farrouch – Cotidal Lines”
  23. Max Richter “Song / Flowers for Yulia”
  24. Set Fire to Flames “This Thing Between Us is a rickety bridge of impossible crossing”
  25. Ian William Craig “Set to lapse”

‘Fiction/Non-Fiction’ by Olivier Alary is out now on 130701.

http://www.olivieralary.com/

http://130701.com/

 

Chosen One: Moiré

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Interview with Moiré.

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

Moiré

Words: Mark Carry

Moire-Photo_1_686

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

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

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

‘No Future’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://www.facebook.com/MoireMusic

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

Moire_1-Credit_Netti_Hurley_6863

 

Interview with Moiré.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No Future’ is out now on Ghostly.

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May 4, 2017 at 8:01 pm

First Listen: ‘Cloisters’ by Charlie Coxedge

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The track is called Cloisters, and the video really suggests those different spaces, both hidden and open, obvious and subtle, that we ourselves, as well as our surroundings, create.”

—Charlie Coxedge

Words: Mark Carry

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The exclusive music video premiere of ‘Cloisters’ displays the sublime guitar-based, solo instrumental work of Money guitarist Charlie Coxedge. Directed by Dan Jacobs (who also directed the gorgeous Money single ‘Bluebell Fields’ depicts slowly fading background colours whose shadows and rich textures create a wholly meditative, far-reaching effect. The gradual bliss of pristine guitar tones gently shimmer, echo and seep into one’s heart and mind, akin to the ebb and flow of ocean waves. The stunningly beautiful new track ‘Cloisters’ is the title-track of Manchester-based Charlie Coxedge’s forthcoming debut solo EP, coming out on Bella Union (26th May 2017).

Previously, we were thrilled to premiere Coxedge’s solo guitar work Corrour’, a divine instrumental that continually builds – and evolves – beneath intricately layered guitar tapestries. The six-track ‘Cloisters’ EP contains ‘Corrour’ in addition to the deeply immersive piano lament ‘Holly’ (as the fitting finale), the sprawling, monumental guitar work ‘Be’, a duet for piano and guitar (the achingly beautiful ‘Pentreath’) and joyous rhythmic pulses of ‘Dust’. In similar fashion to Julianna Barwick’s looped harmonies or Peter Broderick’s songbook, Coxedge’s debut solo work achieves complete transcendence with its stunning beauty and captivating spell.

 

 

‘Cloisters’ by Charlie Coxedge

Video by Dan Jacobs

‘Cloisters’ EP is released via Bella Union on 26th May 2017

To Pre-order ‘Cloisters’ EP:

https://bellaunion.greedbag.com/buy/cloisters-0/

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https://www.facebook.com/moneybandofficial/

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Interview with Charlie Coxedge.

 

Congratulations on the utterly captivating solo guitar works of ‘Cloisters’. First of all, please talk me through the various layers – and counterpoints – to the glorious title-track? I just love how there is this close dialogue between all these intricate patterns of guitar melodies; like an ode to Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint’. Please shed some light on the album title too and the significance?

Charlie Coxedge: The title came after thinking about various structures and spaces. I think I just liked the idea of these hidden / covered spaces, usually around the edges of something else. They can be very reflective places, both in terms of sound and feeling, and I think that suited the music as various ideas can start quietly, then end up bouncing back and forth, and that movement within the space and structure can create more and more new ideas in turn.

The track Cloisters itself came from trying to slow down a bit, and not to over compensate for the lack of different instruments around. I had the title in my head and tried to imagine the various melodies reverberating around these cathedral-like spaces, so just having a clean tone to the music and uncomplicated phrases was important.

Can you discuss the making of the gorgeous music video of ‘Cloisters’ and the process involved? The meditative quality of the visuals matches perfectly the hypnotic guitar passages and the shades, textures and atmosphere created, in turn, heightens both mediums.

CC: All credit for the video must go to Dan Jacobs who did the the video for Money’s Bluebell Fields ( and aside from being a brilliant animator, he also makes music in various projects – glad hand, makeness, aeva). The only idea that he took from me was the slowly fading background colours, which I’m sure he would’ve done anyway! He definitely captured something great that really reflects the track – the way the different shapes and shadows, which seem fixed yet fluid at the same time, create more space, and more spaces in between. The track is called Cloisters, and the video really suggests those different spaces, both hidden and open, obvious and subtle, that we ourselves, as well as our surroundings, create.

Further on from the visuals, can you discuss the visual aspect of your guitar-based compositions and how your compositional approach has developed or evolved over the last few years? 

CC: The compositional approach, for me, is pretty much always about getting a certain feeling out. I suppose by not writing lyrics, the sound and atmosphere of what I’m playing has to evoke something almost immediately to make sure it’s an idea worth pursuing. The music definitely has a visual aspect, it’s hard to put into words exactly, but I suppose with the looped / cyclical nature of the tracks it’s easy to see patterns emerge and evolve.

I wonder have there been any happy accidents or beautiful imperfections so to speak that found its way on the ‘Cloister’ recordings? It feels like you are playing live in a room, is there much overdubs or manipulation done after these takes? Also, I get the sense from just how pristine the guitar sounds radiate throughout that the mixing stage may have been the most time consuming part (of the process)?

CC: There are definitely some happy accidents throughout the EP; creaks of the piano stool, certain sounds that we just found in the studio etc. At the beginning of the track Cloisters you can hear the creaky floor and my feet stepping on the pedals that start the loops going, which we thought would be nice to leave in as, like you said, it adds to the feeling of being in the room, and creating that intimate atmosphere is definitely something I’m always aware of when writing / recording.  The two shorter tracks that end each half of the record (Pentreath and Holly) could both be said to have been happy accidents. Pentreath was written and recorded almost immediately after coming home from my grandfather’s funeral, Pentreath was the name of my grandparents’ house in Cornwall. The track came together very quickly, the guitar was just one take – as you can probably hear it has a kind of improvisatory tone to it, but I really liked it because of that, and I think I managed to capture a feeling without labouring over the track or reworking it too much, which I’ve done in the past. The last track, Holly, was a complete accident really – I was playing the piano at my parents’ house and recording some ideas on my phone when our cat Holly came and sat on the stool with me and just started purring, which the recording picked up. Luckily what I was playing wasn’t terrible, and when heard on headphones is a really warm sound, so I thought it would make a nice last track.

The bulk of the music is all recorded live. The guitars are just me in a room with various loop pedals going to a few different amps, and a few different mics placed around the room, so that we can capture the various tones and blend them together to get the best balance, and make sure the separate layers of the loops can always be heard. The keys/piano are then recorded on top. I have a few go-to synth pads that I always use, but we did spend some time with different synths in the studio, as well as capturing the upright piano, to make sure that imitate, in-the-room feeling is always there. When it came to mixing, because we’d worked on capturing the right tones and sounds in the recording, the mixing was actually fairly straightforward.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Be’ is one of the towering achievements. I would love to gain an insight into the story behind this particular song and how long has the track been forming in your head? The way the piece evolves and forever navigates new dimensions is a joy to savour. 

CC: Be was definitely a track I laboured over and reworked a few times, and the end result is a combination of two or three separate ideas that found themselves working together. Working with loops, normally you record one thing and build on top of it, it’s hard to subtract anything once the loop is going. This track came from having that initial loop fade away underneath the new ideas being recorded, so there is this rolling, evolving feel to it. Eventually, then, it gives way to new ideas that fill the gaps in the older ideas, creating a kind of organised clutter of things bouncing off one another. The initial writing of it came after I saw a remarkable live performance of Music for 18 Musicians, the flow of the whole piece and the transitions between sections was incredible and massively inspiring.

Please discuss the composers and musicians you feel have been the most significant voices for you when it comes to your solo path?

CC: We’ve mentioned Steve Reich already, and his work has been hugely influential, as well as his contemporaries like Philip Glass, Terry Riley etc, to composers like Arvo Part and John Tavener. Film soundtracks are a big inspiration for me too, I loved Alex Somers’ work on Captain Fantastic and Johan Johansson’s soundtrack for Arrival was amazing.

More recently I’ve been listening to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Luke Howard, Bing & Ruth, (as well as some great music coming from Manchester lately) but I suppose there are artists that I always return to who have been hugely significant to me – Jonny Greenwood/Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Bjork, Brian Eno, Elliott Smith amongst others – and then other artists like Nils Frahm and Julianna Barwick have been really inspiring both in terms of the music they make and their approaches to recording, performing, collaborating etc etc.

‘Cloisters’ EP is released via Bella Union on 26th May 2017

To Pre-order ‘Cloisters’ EP:

https://bellaunion.greedbag.com/buy/cloisters-0/

https://www.facebook.com/bellaunionrecs/

https://www.facebook.com/moneybandofficial/

 

 

 

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May 3, 2017 at 11:30 am

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E04 | April mix

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fracturedair_april17April’s mixtape opens with “I Can’t Find Water”, album opener for Hauschka’s latest full-length “What If”, yet another monumental and sprawling opus courtesy of the Dusseldorf-based artist Volker Bertelmann. Recorded mainly in Berlin with Francesco Donadello, “What If” gloriously mirrors Hauschka’s own transcendental live performances, where worlds of both analogue and digital (a mixture of various synthesisers, grand pianos, player pianos and percussive instruments) effortlessly interweave in scintillating long-form compositions. “What If” is the sound of a producer as much as a pianist, confirming Hauschka as one of brightest burning jewels in independent music today.

Berlin-based and Stockholm-born songwriter Molly Nilsson releases her much-anticipated new full-length “Imaginations” this May, the follow-up to 2015’s stunning “Zenith” LP. Night School Records have also been busy re-issuing Nilsson’s back catalogue in recent times, most recently with the re-issue of her breakthrough second LP “Follow The Light”.

One of the year’s most staggering releases comes (once again) courtesy of James Leyland Kirkby’s The Caretaker project. “Everywhere at the end of time” is the epic six-album odyssey (April saw the release of “stage two”) which will take three years to conclude. The series draws upon the conceptual framework of dementia, and how the disease impacts the mind and memory. In the words of Kirkby: “The second stage is the self realisation and awareness that something is wrong with a refusal to accept that. More effort is made to remember so memories can be more long form with a little more deterioration in quality. The overall personal mood is generally lower than the first stage and at a point before confusion starts setting in.”
April’s mixtape also features a selection of new releases from: Clark’s “Death Peak” (Warp); Forest Swords’ “Compassion” (Ninja Tune); Nan Kolè’s “Malumz” EP (Black Acre); Mary Lattimore’s “Collected Pieces” (Ghostly International); Homeboy Sandman’s “Veins” (Stones Throw) and Mount Eerie’s “A Crow Looked At Me” (P.W. Elverum & Sun).

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E04 | April mix

 

To listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2017/04/27/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s02e04-april-mix/

 

01. Hauschka“I Can’t Find Water” (City Slang / Temporary Residence)
02. Forest Swords“Arms Out” (Ninja Tune)
03. John Hassell“Miracle Steps” (Optimo Music)
04. Clark“Catastrophe Anthem” (Warp)
05. The xx“A Violent Noise” (Four Tet Remix) (Young Turks)
06. Talaboman“Samsa” (R&S)
07. Nan Kolè“Bayefal” (Black Acre)
08. Vex Ruffin“Front” (Stones Throw)
09. Homeboy Sandman“Bamboo” (Stones Throw)
10. Chromatics“Circled Sun” (Italians Do It Better)
11. Bibio“Feeling” (Knx Remix) (Warp)
12. Dunkelziffer“Colours and Soul” (Emotional Rescue)
13. Lewis Furey“Lewis is Crazy” (Aquarius)
14. Scott Walker“Montague Terrace (In Blue)” (Philips)
15. Angelo Badalamenti“Love Theme” (Mulholland Drive OST, Milan)
16. Mount Eerie“Toothbrush / Trash” (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
17. Dinah Washington & Max Richter“This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight” (La French OST, Gaumont, Légende Films)
18. Vashti Bunyan“If I Were” (FatCat)
19. Mary Lattimore“We Just Found Out She Died” (Ghostly International)
20. Leandro Fresco and Rafael Anton Irisarri“Cuando El Misterio Es Demasiado Impresionante, Es Imposible Desobedecer” (A Strangely Isolated Place)
21. Orcas (with Martyn Heyne)“Into the Night” (Soundcloud)
22. Molly Nilsson“A Song They Won’t Be Playing On the Radio” (Dark Skies Association / Night School)
23. Helado Negro“Runaround” (Alternate Mix) (RVNG Intl)
24. Julia Holter“Lucette Stranded On the Island” (Live at RAK) (Domino)
25. The Caretaker“The way ahead feels lonely” (History Always Favours The Winners)

Compiled by Fractured Air, April 2017. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

Time Has Told Me: Syrinx

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Interview with John Mills-Cockell (Syrinx).

I’m reorchestrating, reinstrumentating for string quintet and symphonic percussion… it’s going to be Syrinx brought into the 21st Century.”

John Mills-Cockell

Words: Mark Carry

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A collection of experimental synth music culled from the early 70’s Toronto music scene is beautifully celebrated by the ever-indispensable Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl label on the shape-shifting, genre defying musical document, ‘Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)’.

 The band in question are the avant-garde three-piece Syrinx whose wholly unique hybrid of chamber pop and electronic experimentation crafts an utterly timeless journey into the limitless possibilities of music. The dreamy, lo-fi gem ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ remains as vital and fresh as the day it was recorded. The sprawling epic ‘December Angel’ dumbfounds the listener in its sheer beauty and compelling sound: a piece of music from some future age, unknown and mysterious all at once. Psychedelic flourishes are etched across the more electronic-oriented ‘Ibistix’; the amalgamation of distorted voices and cosmic strings creates a symphony of rapture and transcendence.

Syrinx consisted of composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle, and percussionist Alan Wells. Syrinx’s self-titled debut arrived in 1970, followed in 1971 by ‘Long Lost Relatives’, which is highlighted as the first album on Tumblers From The Vault

A treasure of relics and rarities are beautifully compiled on ‘Long Lost Relics’ featuring several alternative versions (gorgeous solo synthesizer version of ‘Melina’s Torch’ and sparse electric piano demo version of ‘December Angel’). Also featured is the band’s legendary live performance of ‘Stringspace’: a symphonic voyage of complete transcendence as waves of synthesizers, saxophone, congas and strings all meld together forming some of the most resolutely unique and truly enchanting music to have ever ascended into the earth’s atmosphere.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

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Interview with John Mills-Cockell (Syrinx).

 

First of all, it was such a magical discovery to hear Syrinx for the very first time last year from the exceptional RVNG Intl release ‘Tumblers From The Vault’.

John Mills-Cockell: Yes, everybody seems to be greeting it very well. I mean it’s amazing that given the music is forty-five years old, people are saying ‘Why didn’t we ever know this existed before?’

I’d love for you to take me back to Toronto in the early 70’s and the period when you were making the music? It sounded like it was very natural how you formed together as a trio in the sense that you started as a solo performer before coming cross the other two members?

JMC: I don’t know how much you know about the beginnings of Syrinx but I’d like to tell you about it. Where would I start? I’d been involved in doing electronic music, in fact I gave a class in electronic music at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and that’s going back to 1967 I guess when my Composition teacher said that he would like me to take care of his class. It was the first time that electronic music had ever been offered to people who weren’t academics, just people off the street as it were and it was a breakthrough moment for the Royal Conservatory of Music. So, that’s where I was coming from and 1967 going into 1968 I formed up with a group called Intersystems. If you look online you’ll see that Intersystems brought out a compilation recording on the Alga Marghen label exactly a year ago. It was an amazing job that the label did; a 135-page book, three 12” discs, it was more or less a record of what we did with Intersystems. I mean it tells a lot of the story of what we were doing at that time; we were like a mixed media group if you like, formed up with Michael Hayden (sculptor), Blake Parker (poet) and Dick Zander (architect) and myself (electronic music composer). During that time we did a number of concerts in the States and in Canada and that gathered us some sort of notoriety I would say because – for want of a better word [laughs] – it was experimental and I think Dadaistic tendency that we had. So Intersytems launched us into the public eye a little bit, we were somehow able to attract a fair amount of press for the things that we did.

And so when Intersystems broke up I was invited to join up with a fairly well-known rock band in Toronto and in Canada called Kensington Market that was being produced by Felix Pappalardi (he was producing Cream and later went on to be in Mountain) and so I formed an alliance with popularity while I was with Kensington Market. So, Kensington Market put out two records – I was on the second one which was produced by Felix – and unfortunately the band broke up shortly after that but it was enough time for me to tour with them and we saw a lot of audiences – mostly in Canada – so when the band broke up I was looking for something to do and that was when I went, as you put it, solo. Up until that point I was never really a solo performer except for when I was presenting little bits of electronic music concerts in and around Toronto. And I went to Ottawa; I worked at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to compose a score for a play there and hung around there for a couple of months doing that. Then I drove across the country in this Econoline van that I had with a woman and her daughter that I was connected with and we landed in Vancouver and no sooner that when we landed in Vancouver, I went up the coast – to very close to where I live now actually, I’m on Vancouver Island – to a place called Sechelt; I can almost see it from here across the water, it’s very close.

And now, this is where it starts to become the Syrinx story. Alan Wells was one of my students at the Electronic Music class I was telling you about at the Royal Conservatory of Music along with Michael Hayden (who became a member of Intersystems) and Blake Parker (who was a poet in Intersystems). So, Alan [Wells] – who was also in that class – was living in Sechelt living with a small commune of other artists and playing drums [laughs] with them like congas in the park style drumming. And so we worked together for a while and he came back to Vancouver with me after a few weeks of being up in the Eastern Sechelt and I joined up with a band in Vancouver called Hydro-Electric Streetcar and they put me in a rehearsal spot – which was a recording studio also – and Felix Pappalardi (when I was with him in New York), he said “I want you to make a record”.

So here we are, maybe nine months later and I was in a position where I actually could use that resource that Felix had offered to me and so I started recording. And so while I was playing with Hydro-Electric Streetcar we were touring around the province of British Columbia and that was really a lot of fun. I think you have to see to know what that means, it’s an amazing culture here and it’s quite different from the rest of Canada I think and it’s got its own flavour. So I began recording and Alan Wells came in to join me in the studio with his conga drums and as I was recording, he would play along with me and eventually it became like a part of the sound of what I was doing and we recorded all of the tracks for the first Syrinx album there. So this was before Doug Pringle was actually part of the band.

At that point I went back to Toronto – I took the train to Toronto which is a long trip [laughs] – when I arrived in Toronto somebody met me at the train and said “Look I’ve got a gig for you at the Meat and Potatoes Restaurant. Would you like to start playing there tonight?” So we went up to Meat and Potatoes restaurant which is on the fringes of University of Toronto campus and we set up. Bob put us in the front window of this lovely little restaurant that he had – kind of the gathering place for academics, graduate students; ordinary students couldn’t afford to go there – and so here I am wondering what am I ‘gonna do here? [laughs] because I never had any plans of doing any show, as it were. And Doug Pringle shows up – Doug is an old friend of mine from two years back we did a couple of concerts together before Intersystems formed and we went to the same high school and so forth – so there he was and he had his saxophone under his arm and I said “Sure, well why not” and so we did that. After the evening was over it was all pretty much improvised, I mean I had tunes in my head from the things that I did for the Syrinx album and Doug said “So you mind if I come back tomorrow night and sit in and do it again?”

I had the sense you know of what are we doing; I am one of these people who likes to be organized about what I am doing as an artist and we did and it continued like that. We played for a week and by the end of the week we were starting to make arrangements of a couple of the songs of which would become the first Syrinx record (‘Journey Tree’ and ‘AppaloosaPegasus’) and a lot of improvising and we got asked to stay in the restaurant a while longer – we ended up there for a couple of months – and by that time Doug had established a recording studio loft-come residence down on King Street; that became our sort of hangout where I’d set up my gear and we started rehearsing like a real band. In the meantime, I’d taken the recordings that I made in Vancouver and took them to Bernie Finkelstein (who is the manager of Kensington Market). And Bernie as it turned out – I had no idea – he had just started his record label called True North and he put out one record and in fact I don’t think that it was even out when we started, it was just about to be released, by Bruce Cockburn (and so that was True North #1) and he said ‘Let’s put out your recording’ – and we did – and it became True North #2.

In order to finish it, all I had was an eight multi-track one inch tape and said ‘we have to do a down mix’, ‘Ok so since I’m down mixing it and since we’re putting it out on your label Bernie, why don’t we say that we’re forming a band and we’ll get Doug to play with Alan and me? (who we recorded with already in Vancouver) and we’ll make it like a band effort’ and he said ‘It sounds great’. And we found a recording studio – a low-budget recording studio up in North Toronto – and we added Doug to some tracks, you know whatever we had the budget for like one session or whatever. Then I did the down mix and Bernie put it out as the first Syrinx record. The whole thing was done on almost no budget. Felix paid the studio in Vancouver and Bernie paid for Doug to go into the studio in Toronto. And the record came out and amazingly people really took to it, mostly artists at that point. The guy who was the big music retailer in Toronto – his name was Sam Schneiderman – he put it in the front window of his store because it has an amazing cover (if you have seen the cover of the original Syrinx album but it’s a painting of like these weird-looking animals) and it’s just a lovely piece of work from a friend of Intersystems actually called Gerald Zeldin and beautifully designed by Bart Schoales. And so he was proud to put it in the front window and it gave us a little bit of an edge in terms of people becoming familiar with the band. The Toronto artistic community just really took to it: dancers, painters, writers, film-makers; they realized this is something that no one has really ever done before and it gave us just enough of a leg up and we were given the encouragement again from Felix’s company in New York to record a second album.

At the same time we were being asked to do little commissions for the National Ballet we did a couple of pieces for them and this fledgling TV production company came to us who said “Listen we’re doing a public affairs TV series called ‘Here Come the Seventies’ and we’d really like it if you’d do the theme song for it” and so we did. It took a couple of tries; they knew what they wanted and we weren’t quite sure what we were doing [laughs] and so forth, so we went twice into the studio to get what they wanted. And there’s a whole story connected to that; we came back from the first recording – we thought we did pretty good – they said “Well instead of a minor key, maybe it should be something that’s happier and what would you think about doing it faster?” We were like “Oh do we have to?” so we went back into the studio and Doug brought a bottle of wine with him to make it go better because it’s nine o’ clock in the morning in the recording studio which wasn’t quite our style. I said Ok ,so we’re going to take the song; same song as we played before but this time we’ll make the chords all major chords and we’ll play as fast as we can” and that’s what we did. And so that was fine, they were much happier with that. Time went on, a month or two later in our rehearsal studio on King street we were right across the street from a taxi dispatch unit so there’s always cabs sitting outside our rehearsal studio – we are on the third floor, you look down and you see the cabs and you can hear the radios and street cars going by, it was really urban – one day, we hear this song playing [laughs] over the dispatches’ PA, we were like Wow, that’s our song; that’s the theme we recorded for the TV show. And Bernie had gone ahead and put it out as a single and it just got snatched up by radio programmers, they never heard anything like it before so that’s really what got us going. By the time we went in to record the second album we had a single that got behind us and it made things a lot easier. So that was really like the beginning of Syrinx and how we started out.

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The first track I heard of yours – sometime last year – was ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ and I just couldn’t believe when listening to the compilation how unique and singular the sound of Syrinx are; you really can’t put a time or place on the music.

JMC: Especially with ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’, I can’t tell you like how many people have taken to that song. If you heard the original recordings before we had come out with the first compilation the sound on the first album was not very good and it was pretty lo-fi. We didn’t have any master tapes to work with or anything like that and Matt [Werth], my guy at RVNG Intl in Brooklyn and I worked really hard and also my producer in Toronto whose name is William Blakeney; he did the original restoration of the recordings, particularly for the first Syrinx record, which was really a challenge. We went back and did it probably about eight times and we sent it off. At one point for example, we sent the masters off to a company in the UK to have him work on it and so forth. Gradually it all started sounding clean and you could hear what was actually on the grooves. I mean the wonderful things that you can do with technology that’s been developed for cleaning up sound and just making it sound better.

It was a year ago last October, I visited Matt in New York, we thought we were all ready to release the record – he thought we were ready and I thought we were ready – and it went off to a mastering engineer in Chicago, Bob Weston who is just a magician himself and it came back. So we had a release date like a year earlier than it actually came out and we thought we were ready to go. Nick Storring, the guy who wrote our liner notes for us, phoned Matt and said “You know there’s something that doesn’t sound right about the Long Lost Relatives album” (in other words what is the first album in the compilation) and Matt said “No, no it sounds great!” and Nick said “Just listen to it some more”. And we sent it back to Weston; I thought Nick is crazy [laughs] and Bob Weston goes “Yeah I think he’s right”. And it was like that so Bob did it again and he did a masterful mastering job that’s all I can say and we’re really happy with the sound that we got, particularly for the Long Lost Relics album like the one that has ‘Tillicum’ and ‘Stringspace’ and what have you on it, it’s amazing what they did, really. But it took us another year of working on it to get it all ready after that, a lot of work went into it. I was really impressed I have to say with the way the great care that Matt Werth at RVNG put into it and the same for the art design, which is just like meticulous with what he wanted to put out for people.

As you say, it’s a beautiful document and everything about it is pristine, from the layout and the lovely dicut vinyl package; it has such a special feel to it.

JMC: There is a lot of care that everybody put into it but particularly Matt, the people at the label are fabulous to work with. We were all thrilled with it and I think that there’s someone like you and other people who have heard the record; the response has just been amazing so it’s really been worth it I think.

I’m curious about the second album, which was made very quickly it seems after the first album?

JMC: It’s interesting about that. Time is very elastic [laughs]. You’re reminding me of what happened when we were telling the story of Intersystems (the Alga Marghen release). Hayden and I worked very closely with Emanuele Carcano who is the guy who runs the show there and at one point Emanuele said to me – while we’re halfway through the process – “How on earth did you manage to get so much done in the time that you guys were together?” and it is a mystery to me. And we’ve gone over and over the dates and we thought maybe there is another year in there that we haven’t taken into account in the story and it’s incredible and that’s the elasticity of time.

And so the story with the second Syrinx record… So the first Syrinx record comes out and it’s basically solo synthesizer with some conga drums and a little bit of sax that added a nice dimension if you will, particularly the drumming at that point. We went out, we were rehearsing, we were playing gigs, we played across Canada at that point, the single had come out so it did very well – actually in Western Canada it was number one in the various hit charts in Calgary and Edmonton – we did a tour through the East coast and we started recording the second album; all of this was happening at once. The thing that is amazing I think in the story was so I get a phone call one morning and this would be late 1971 and the person says “John, the recording studio where you’ve been working in had a fire.” We were working in this little recording studio in downtown Toronto called Magic Tracks and everything was destroyed, all our equipment was destroyed in the fire; the master tapes were destroyed [laughs] and it was like “Oh man what are we going to do?” It was just like a disaster. But I don’t know it got us down. The musicians in Toronto got together and put together a benefit for the band and all the bands and all the solo acts got together that were part of the scene and we did a concert down along the waterfront. And this concert went on for like twelve hours or something; everybody played at it and we raised some money, we got enough money that when I got back to my manager (Felix’s partner in New York) and we had $5,000 dollars from the benefit. He said “Don’t worry about it John, we’ll get you new equipment, come down to New York and I’ll set you up.”

I went down to the big record store at the time there, it’s called Manny’s Music and we bought the hot new synthesizer that just came out, the Arp 2500 (what seemed fabulously expensive then to us) and a couple of other keyboards, saxophones, drums and all the things that make up the instrumentation for our band. I had at that time been commissioned by this guy Milton Barnes who is a composer and conductor in Toronto, he said “I want you to write a piece for Syrinx and my orchestra (the Toronto Repertory Ensemble)” which is essentially a string orchestra with percussion that you hear on ‘Stringspace’ on the ‘Long Lost Relatives’ album. And so I was working on that when I went to New York to get new equipment for the band. My father went with me, I think it was the only trip we ever made in our time together; he wanted to come down to see New York and show me around and stuff like that because he did work there sometimes. So he was with me when we got our equipment and he said “So why don’t we just go down to North Carolina and take in some of the weather there?” (because this was March, it was still winter in Toronto) and I said “Well OK, as long as I can work on my score for Milton for Stringspace”, I had all the stuff with me, I had all my manuscripts  and everything I needed and we did. We went down there and we set up [laughs] in a holiday inn on the beach and that’s where I wrote most of the score. We were there for a week and I was just like scribbling like mad. I mean it was only twenty-eight pages of score – it’snot humungus right – and a lot of the music for Stringspace is improvised. Have you seen the video that goes with it with the CBC tape? It’s just a live performance of Stringspace and it’s quite wonderful and that’s what it is, you can tell. The reason I bring it up is that you can tell a lot of the music is improvised. It’s similar to say a Duke Ellington arrangement where parts of it are written and then the soloists will play their bit. You can actually see Milton conducting it and waiting for us to finish [laughs] and he brings the string players back in and we play the next bit, so you understand what I’m trying to say. It was pretty loose.

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And just to jump to the present, we’re going down to play this Moogfest in May. I’m totally delighted, Syrinx has not performed since 1972 and so obviously this is kind of a recreation and I’ve got all different instruments now and I’ve done a lot of different things before coming back to this; different kinds of music and what have you. Again, Matt has set this up for us to play the Moogfest and the other two members of the band; Doug is still living in Toronto – he’s quite successful as a producer of events involving video and music – and Alan passed away seven or eight years ago; I would have loved to have him play with us again. Doug has said that he doesn’t feel physically he can do it as he’s got health issues and so forth. So, basically I want to do this Syrinx material because people have responded so well  to it.

Matt and I have actually been talking about it for almost two years now and Matt was saying “I would like to get an ensemble of musicians together to do ‘Stringspace’. What do you think you can do?” And I said “We’ll do something for the orchestra but it’s going to cost a lot of money, right?” so I can do it for a string quintet plus the percussion so that as we speak is what I’m doing now; I’m reorchestrating , reinstrumentating for string quintet and symphonic percussion. I have a drummer from Montreal who is going to work with us (who is a specialist in hand drums) and somebody to do Doug’s sax work, he’s from Waterloo Ontario and we’re going to meet in Hamilton (which is part of the greater Toronto area) and a recording studio there that I’ve been working in called Grand Avenue Studio so we’re going to rehearse in there and go down to Moogfest with these people.  Doug Pringle’s sound is highly individual – it’s just amazing what he did with the band – so I’ve got all different instruments now and we’ve got different members in Syrinx and we’re going to do Syrinx material and particularly I think with the sax – with me too I’m going to have different instruments – it’s going to be Syrinx brought into the 21st Century.

I’m just so keen to know what it is that we actually come up with because the sax player that we have now, Willem (a Dutch name) and Matt from Montreal (on the drums); we’re not trying to recreate what we did with the Syrinx recordings. I think that would be a mistake and I as a composer and musician now, I’m a different person, you know I’ve gone on forty-five years of musical evolution so I can’t just go back and do what we were doing then and the drummer feels the same way, he’s got a vast vocabulary in terms of the instruments and the styles that he plays. And Willem is a classical player who plays classical style saxophone and he contacted me at one point – even before I knew I was doing this – and said “I’d love to play with you sometime” and so when I knew we were doing Moogfest I just called him up and I said “I’d like to work with you too Willem, I mean we’re not doing classical saxophone, right?” And he said “Well I can do anything, I’ve always been improvising”. So I said if I was to take my primary influence as Albert Ayler; to me his music still sounds like totally contemporary today and the incredible amount of emotion and feeling in Ayler’s music is just a model for me. And so I can’t say to him ‘I want you to copy what Albert Ayler was doing’, it’s like impossible as it’s so highly personal just like how Doug’s playing was highly personal. So it’s going to be a lot of fun and we’re getting a lot of support from both the people at Moogfest and the record label and off we go [laughs]. But I think that the fact we’re doing the same compositions is important. I’m not going to re-arrange everything and we’ll have the string quintet with us as well. I think it’s inevitable because it’s with different individuals now. I can’t improve on some of the things that we did before. There is an essence to that; that all we can do is to respect that and not try to do anything that’s so different that it is not in the spirit of Syrinx.

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On the second Syrinx album, I absolutely love the string arrangements and how they come in and how each musician has their own musical language embedded within it, it all comes together so effortlessly.

JMC: It’s interesting, I mean at that time I’d only done a certain amount of arranging for that kind of instrumentation, it was pretty new to me too. If I were doing it now I know that I would do it differently but I agree with you I think it works really well. If you’re interested, if you compare the two versions of Stringspace that are on the album package, the one that is taken from the TV taping (on the third disc) is I think quite a better performance merely because it is the same musicians but they already played it. So they had done a couple of rehearsals, recorded with us in the studio to do the version that went out on the album and then we went into the CBC studio and did it again. By that time everybody knew the music and had a more complete understanding and feeling for it and there’s amazing things in the performance of that.

You can hear strings sometimes better and sometimes not better, sometimes the keyboard and synthesizer parts get kind of lost – the engineer didn’t know what was coming at him [laughs] – the audio guy (who was recording us) had a score with him but he couldn’t tell which instruments he was hearing sometimes because Doug was all wired up with devices playing and his sax with phasing and wah-wah and I was using slightly different instruments than I was using before. So particularly some of the synth parts got lost and I have to say recording engineers love drums and so Alan did very well – I’m glad – because I had a tendency to  under mix the drums and Alan was just like on fire for the CBC performance and so it worked really well.

So the music of Syrinx was not entirely based on improvization?

JMC: It’s interesting, I mean when we started  and after we did Meat and Potatoes and we got accustomed to each other like how he comes from free jazz and I come from rock and the Conservatory. It’s a pretty rare combination in those days, you couldn’t get rock ‘n’ roll musicians who were conservatory trained very much. And so it gave me a particular kind of feeling for what we were doing. So by the time we were together as Syrinx all of the compositions for the first album were composed. ‘Melina’s Torch’ was actually composed for that theatre piece I mentioned that I did at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. ‘Journey Tree’ was composed as I was travelling across the country to BC in my Econoline van and so forth. ‘Field Hymn’ was composed while I was in Ottawa as well, in fact ‘Field Hymn’ – that simple little tune – really cemented the relationship between Felix Pappalardi and myself because I was in his apartment over in New York City (he lived just over Central Park) and he said “So show me something”, he had a piano in his apartment there and I played ‘Field Hymn’ for him. It’s just simple major chords and he said “That is amazing. Let’s make a record” and so that’s really where it started, I mean Felix was with me all the way on that. And he helped set up and make the arrangements for the second album because of that, he’s like the guy behind the scenes as it were that really gave me confidence that we were doing something.

And so to go back to the compositions, you’ll notice on the set that there are two versions of ‘Melina’s Torch’: there’s one for the first album and then there is another version that is a solo synthesizer version that I recorded just after the break-up of Syrinx. I moved to London at that point to do some TV and film work there and while I was there my manager – my road manager and equipment guy, Jim Bungard who is now living in the States – one day he just said “Why don’t you play ‘Melina’s Torch’?” and he recorded it and it was just like that. But there is a real clarity, you can tell if you listen to those two songs, they’re both the same composition but the jam in the middle of it is different but it’s clearly the same melody.

When we got working as Syrinx by the time that Doug came into the studio with me in Toronto to get the first album completed, I said to him “OK Doug, you can hear that these are specific melodies that you’re working with here and I want you to learn them” and he said “That’s not what I do!” and I said “Well for this you have to do that” and he did and I have to say what he did I think is phenomenal. I can’t say that he is not a school trained musician, he did his journeyman work learning the basics of music and so forth and he learned a lot in the street just as I did. But he settled down, he said this is the tune for ‘Melina’s Torch’ and this is what I have to play for it and we did all the way through to the second record. When he plays on ‘Aurora Spinray’ (which is the last song on the ‘Long Lost Relatives’ album), his sounds are just phenomenal and his playing has become so precise and at the same time his improvisation, for example in ‘Stringspace’ his solo in ‘Ibistix’ I listen to it today in wonder. And so now I am supposed to be playing this again for Moogfest and I say to Willem, “You better come up with something that has that kind of fire and energy to it” so it’s very interesting what we are doing now.

The second piece on the second album ‘December Angel’ could be my favourite, it’s just amazing how the song develops and it really feels as if it could go on forever.

JMC: Sometimes it did go on forever [laughs]. There is another version of ‘December Angel’ on the 3-record set as well that is just basically electric piano and a little bit of sax and a little bit of drums and it’s really slow and it seems it is going on forever [laughs]. We wanted to put it on the album to show that it really is – just to address your question – a specific composition, you can clearly tell it’s the same piece; it’s in 9/8 time, it has that ostinato in the lower keyboard and that very simple tonal melody on top that holds it all together.But it doesn’t have those eerie kind of loon sound – which is a Canadian bird with a distinctive noise – so Doug and I are trying to imitate the sound of a loon with our instruments [laughs] and I don’t think that is on the demo version that is on the 3 record set. The one song that is closest to being almost made up on the spot is ‘Tillicum’, the theme for ‘Here Come the Seventies’ and I actually wrote something, I had a chord sequence and I gave it to Doug and he just really had fun with it, I mean we barely had a chance to play it like two or three times. We did one rehearsal in the recording studio and then we went back to the recording studio because they said we wanted it faster and then we had to start playing it at concerts, like ‘Oh my God well what did we do?’ [laughs] But I think ‘Ibistix’ is a good example where you couldn’t play that song were it not composed and particularly the string arrangements, I mean they’re very specific, also for ‘December Angel’ and they’re clearly not improvised. With ‘Ibistix’ you go this really simple modal melody and raga-like and we were all really fascinated with south Asian music at that time as well as African music and Alan and Doug were studying Haitian drumming and so forth. So ‘Ibistix’ is clearly in this south Asian raga-like tonality and that is what I was working with. I mean you get into this interesting place for example with understanding music , when is it composed and when is it traditional and when is it improvised? And if you just get musicians who are just jamming – what do they end up doing? – they end up playing 12-bar blues or if they’re jazz musicians, there’s a canon of not that many songs, the same with blues. So you must have specific compositions that you’re working with in order to give it some kind of identity.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

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April 26, 2017 at 7:02 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

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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.

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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.

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April 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm

First Listen: Stefan Wesolowski “Rite of the End”

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We are delighted to premiere Polish composer and violinist Stefan Wesolowksi’s new solo work ‘Rite of the End’ – the album’s glorious title-track – which is released on 28th April via Mind Travel Series (sub-label of prestigious French label Ici d’ailleurs). 

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Following his recent score to the BAFTA-nominated and Oscar-shortlisted Marlon Brando docu-film ‘Listen To Me Marlon’, Polish composer and violinist Stefan Wesolowski will release his rapturous new album ‘Rite of the End’, on 28th April. This is his second long-player for Mind Travels Series – the sub-label on French indie Ici d’ailleurs – following 2015’s ‘Kompleta’.

“I was born in Cold War era Poland in 1985, as the son of a pious and uncompromising man. At the age of seven I wanted to be a priest and study the history of the Saints, while other children of my age were still collecting Lion King cards,” recalls Wesolowski.

Whilst studying classical music, very early on he had a revelation, thanks to a companion who was a Dominican monk. “We were teenagers,” recounts Stefan “and this friend asked me to write him liturgical songs. That’s how it all started”.

As Wesolowski grew up, he lost his religious faith but transposed it into a growing belief in what he calls “a musical vibration, which permits transcendence, contemplation and wonderment.”

The brooding violin piece begins with sprawling drone passages reminiscent of  Stars of the Lid, exuding raw emotion and a gripping intensity. The symphonic tour-de-force evolves into noise-unfurled ambient soundscapes as pulsating waves of textures ascend into the forefront of the mix, belonging to the stratosphere of Iceland’s Valgeir Sigurðsson and Ben Frost in the process. Later, the composition beautifully incorporates electronic elements where sprawling strings roar like the swell of ocean waves.  

 

‘Rite of the End’ is released on 28th April via Mind Travels Series.

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April 19, 2017 at 8:35 pm