FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Julie Byrne

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For a very long time – and I struggle with this still – I was searching to feel a sense of belonging.”

—Julie Byrne

Words: Mark Carry

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Buffalo-born singer-songwriter Julie Byrne’s latest sophomore full-length ‘Not Even Happiness’ is a deeply moving and captivating voyage, whose sheer depth is unfathomable. The nine divine sonic creations captured here belong to a cosmic stratosphere; gliding majestically among the white doves and glittering stars. To coin Kafka, ‘Not Even Happiness’ is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self. The spiritual, far-reaching qualities of Byrne’s masterful song-craft brings you, as you are, into a world of aching beauty and sublime transcendence. An infinite source of solace.

Follow my voice, I am right here/Beyond this life and beyond all fear” Byrne sings on the opening heartfelt lament ‘Follow My Voice’. The song – and indeed the album as a whole – details the ongoing search to feel a sense of belonging in this world, “beyond all fear”. The letting go. A mystical dimension permeates the ethereal harmonies as Byrne’s delicate voice melds effortlessly with heavenly, atmospheric instrumentation. On a later verse, Byrne sings “I consciously died, I seen dew on a rose”. The immense ballad feels like a gateway to the rest of the album; a tower of song to unlock the burden of pain. The soul of all natural things.

The closing prayer-like lament ‘I Live Now As A Singer’ emits a kind of catharsis like no other, an indefinable force breathes from deep within. It’s the moment the sunlit horizon is finally reached and the synth arrangements that melt with Byrne’s achingly beautiful voice reduces me to tears. The American songwriter’s honesty and openness creates such a profound impact: “And yes I have broke down asking for forgiveness / When I was nowhere close to forgiving myself”. Byrne’s fragile voice “glides in the light of a red moon” that penetrates every pore and crevice, like a river finding its sea.

Travel and nature are etched across the sprawling sonic canvas of ‘Not Even Happiness’. From sense and observation, songs such as ‘Melting Grid’, ‘Natural Blue’ and ‘Sea As It Glides’ maps the myriad of empowering places and natural beauty that lies therein, (from the Pacific Northwest to the glorious skies in Colorado and the sun-bleached waves in Big Sur). But moreover, this batch of songs chronicles the New York singer’s new relationship with the spiritual life: poetic prose painted across otherworldly dimensions and celestial harmonies echo powerfully this truth. On ‘All The Land Glimmered’ Byrne sings “I’ve been searching God within” on the first verse beneath meditative bliss of gentle acoustic guitar.

One of the great hallmarks of ‘Not Even Happiness‘ is the clarity and visionary quality of the song cycles effortlessly captured by this exceptional talent, transcending space and time with each turn of phrase and sonic pulse. The ability to look inward, deep into one’s own mind and express this through the art of music is in many ways the essence of ‘Not Even Happiness’s infinite power and healing force. A crystalline image of serene beauty is depicted on ‘Natural Blue’ that somehow encapsulates the illuminating light and vast magical power of Byrne’s master-work: “Sun split ember, fields that span both ways forever.” ‘Not Even Happiness’ is an infinite treasure.

‘Not Even Happiness’ is out now on Basin Rock (order HERE).

For all upcoming Julie Byrne EU tour dates (including Whelan’s Dublin on 30th August) please click HERE.

http://juliemariebyrne.com/

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Interview with Julie Byrne.

Congratulations Julie on the latest album ‘Not Even Happiness’; it’s a really captivating and deeply moving album. Musically, there are added layers like string arrangements and ethereal soundscapes that work so well on top of your voice and guitar. I’d love for you to recount your memories of seeing these songs – which I presume began as bare demos – gradually bloom into what they finally became (on the final recordings)?

Julie Byrne: First of all, thank you so much for the kind words and I’m glad that you feel that way about the songs. My main collaborator Eric Littmann and I began recording songs like ‘Morning Dove’ and ‘Natural Blue’ in an apartment that we were living at, in Bushwick Brooklyn but ultimately it felt that this wasn’t the right environment and we ended up scrapping everything that we had done [laughs]. In the meantime we made this plan to move to Buffalo temporarily and return to the house of my childhood – the house I was brought up in after I was born – and we decided that this would be a better environment to move through that process of recording and building a record. So, the bare structure of all of the songs (except ‘I Live Now As A Singer’), it just came from me working independently and then once the songs were finished, they were given to Eric and he’s very much responsible for a lot of the flourishes and the atmospheric elements and also the style of production is all him.

You mentioned ‘I Live Now As A Singer’ and even just the song-title itself, there is a profound feeling emanating throughout and it feels like there is a resolution and a beautiful end to the album; lyrically but also musically with the atmospheric synthesizer and your voice?

JB: That melody came to me and I started singing it as I had it stuck in my head for a long time and Eric helped me put that to music and that was the beginning of that song. And Jake Falby, our friend who plays violin, he came in and helped us construct the bridge that he played on and that was really a mutual effort between the three of us. Then in terms of the lyrical content of that song, I think that how much of the album encapsulates a phase of my life that was very much about looking toward exterior change to resolve whatever heartache I was feeling and doing that chronically year after year after year and still finding no respite. So this song I think maybe marks a transition into a new way of thinking or a new way to address a lot of the pain that I’ve been carrying for so long which is where many of the other songs came from.

Another quality that translates to the listener is this inward feeling or inner peace and a song like ‘Sleepwalker’ depicts that quest to find inner peace; I love how there is so much honesty and it’s so bare, in the best way possible.

JB: For a very long time – and I struggle with this still – I was searching to feel a sense of belonging; everything else but my own experience like my own baseline and so this album has ended up being a process of coming to realize that in order to cultivate a stronger sense of security I needed to really start building that without imagining that it could be given to me through a change of place, a change of work, a change of relationship that it would take so much more than all of those things to actually feel a sense of belonging in my own skin, so that’s where we’re left at the end of the record.

One of my favourites is ‘Sea As It Glides’ there is a particularly healing quality that radiates throughout. The beautiful imagery and poetic lyrics you use – together with the music – feels just like that; sea as it glides and a cosmic feel (like from the early 70’s), there is a certain magic.

JB: That song was really enjoyable to work with because it wasn’t carrying any kind of really significant emotional message, that song is almost like a photograph, this was written on the west coast of the United States in Northern California so it was really trying to encapsulate the feeling of just being in the sun and being at the mercy of the sea; I love that feeling of swimming in the ocean and recognizing its power – it’s no longer abstracted – you’re standing in the crest of a wave, your feet are still on the sand and you’re being tossed around, so that’s where that comes from.

In other ways of looking at the album, it closely resembles a photobook essay where there’s obviously a journey and particularly with references to various place names and places you have traveled and the many beautiful images; the songs allow you to be transported in the same way as a photographic exhibition or photobook.

JB: I would hope it could be that way because I mean those usually end up maybe being my favourite kinds of stories; the ones that bring you, as you are, into their world so if you feel that it does that I take that as a high compliment.

There is a lot of elements of travel and the different places you have been to, I wonder did you find yourself writing the actual songs while you were on tour or moving a lot?

JB: Yes, actually a lot of the songs were written while on tour. ‘Natural Blue’, when I started writing that, I was sitting in the front seat of my friend’s car and we were on a very long drive from Denver to Arcosanti, Arizona. And yeah, you know I mean that’s like a ten-hour drive so a lot of time passed [laughs] and I actually had the space to stretch out and play my guitar while we were on our way there so that’s where that song began. ‘Morning Dove’ was the first time that I went on tour in the UK, I was playing the instrumental part of that constantly. But yeah, a lot of them were written in travel and it’s nice to be able to do that when the inspiration is there because it feels that the spirit of these places are actually being somehow expressed through the melody in a way that it seems it couldn’t happen after the fact. And so it’s a different experience writing while you’re immersed in this place that is inspiring the song itself rather than thinking about it in retrospect, after returning home. That was a really good question, I don’t think that I was asked that before.

I was interested to read that for one of your songs – I believe it’s ‘All The Land Glimmered Beneath’? – is inspired by Frank O’ Hara’s poetry?

JB: Yes, I’m a huge fan of Frank O’ Hara. I can’t remember but I don’t think it’s for the new album. On the first album, there’s a song called ‘Emeralds’; that’s based on a poem that he wrote called ‘Animals’, so basically putting ‘Animals’ to music but I don’t think ‘All The Land Glimmered Beneath’ but I do have a terrible memory, even when it comes to my own work [laughs] because I’ve actually forgotten how to play that song; it’s the only one on the album I don’t play live because I don’t remember how [laughs]. But I love Frank O’ Hara and actually sometimes if someone asks me to sign their record, I’ll write his epitaph on their record because I always thought it was so beautiful, it’s “Be free and live as variously as possible” and I think those are words to live by.

After revisiting the album quite a bit, it was also bringing me back to Walt Whitman and his ‘Leaves Of Grass’ book of poetry.

JB: Yes, yes. ‘Leaves Of Grass’ was fused to my experience of the tour that ‘Sea As It Glides’ came from and it’s my friend David’s favourite poem. So for that song, there are elements of that poem that are woven into ‘Sea As It Glides’ and that’s kind of an homage to Walt Whitman and also to my friend David who I spent four months touring with in 2014 and was the first person that I ever entered the Redwood forest with or ever saw Big Sur.

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On a more general note of touring, as you’re travelling now and touring the new album do you find yourself surprised and inspired by new places that you may encounter?

JB: Yes, I’m sure that it will happen. A lot has changed in my working relationship with music from the first album that I released to this album and so it feels like for the past six months that I’ve been touring on this album I’ve been clamouring to meet my new responsibilities that have gone along with working in a new capacity in music. It has required a lot of energy and a lot of mistakes and very valuable lessons and I’m hoping that I’ve gotten to a point where I’m familiar enough with this new way of working in music where I can become less burdened by that stress and just more immersed in the experiences that I’m able to have through touring so that’s my aspiration for this five-week tour that we’re heading out on; the return to that original spirit of mystery and magic and wonder instead of being concerned with accounting and tour managing [laughs] and all of these other things that take you out of that experience.

The opening song ‘Follow My Voice’ is like that perfect first chapter and even those first words that are sung; it really serves like a gateway into the rest of the album. Did this song serve like a door opening for you in terms of creating more songs because it has that feeling that it allowed other songs to start flowing in?

JB: That’s an interesting precedent to write a phrase is that you feel like it’s a point of entrance. I always felt a fondness for that song and then also ‘I Live Now As A Singer’, maybe it is because those two songs in particular, it feels that they have archived a new relationship with the spiritual life and a new curiosity after feeling dis-empowered and heartbroken by daily life for long enough that I’d gotten to a point where I was very interested in studying and pursuing knowledge about what else there was aside from all of these outward and external experiences. So I feel that those two songs in particular embody that sincere aspiration to change and to become more loving and more secure even though it’s a very gradual and difficult process and one which I claim no authority but I look at those two songs more as prayers than as music.

Nature and there’s obviously such beautiful imagery and lyrics to so much of the world and the universe, I wonder did you have a love for nature from a very young age?

JB: Yes, I mean I had the good fortune to grow up in a very green and simple and quiet place, my parents live in the country, maybe like forty minutes from Buffalo, New York, which is a post-industrial place. There is a creek running through my backyard and I’m a lonely child so I feel like a lot of what engaged my attention was my relationship to the natural world and observing wildlife and all of these things from a very young age and just cultivating an early fascination which I think just became comfort. There would be times when I was living in New York, I would be walking down the street and I would feel almost psychically assaulted and just so out-of-place and it took me a while to realize, oh that’s because there’s no trees on this street at all, there is no green space to be seen and just how jarring that feels. I mean I think it’s that relationship to the natural world, it is something that is in all of our biology but it was what I had grown up with and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much an effect it has on my well-being and mental health to be able to commune with nature in that way and how starved I feel without it.

I was interested to read that you were self-taught on the guitar and going back to the ‘Rooms with Walls and Windows’ album and feeling that you are there in the room as you are playing the guitar and singing. How early in your life would you have began writing your own songs and playing the guitar?

JB: Well I always loved to sing and it was never something that I did in any formal venue like I was never in choir or anything like that. I’ve never been formally trained in music theory either so I had a close friend who took acoustic guitar lessons – it was a new elective they were offering at our high school – and so it began with her, she taught me a couple of chords and then I was finally able to accompany myself singing and it went on from there. But pursuing finger style guitar is something that’s very much rooted in my father’s influence, which is his style of playing and because I was self-taught I had developed all of these strange bad habits like I only pick with three fingers which is a bit limiting but I’ve gone too far without learning to have to pick properly [laughs] that I’m on that path now. And the guitar that I play is the one that I inherited from my father so his influence actively lives through that instrument so it’s really such a joy to play that particular guitar and to be able to travel with it and it’s without a doubt my most prized possession.

When you’re so busy touring and everything else, has there been particular music or sources of inspiration that you’ve been inspired by in the last while?

JB: I played a festival in Arizona called Form Arcosanti and I was either introduced to or I had the opportunity to see musicians that I’d been following for a while and that was a very inspiring place with very prolific people. Someone that I had the opportunity to finally see was the composer and cellist – and based in New York City – named Kelsey Lu, her performance was just unbelievable and breathtaking. Other than that I think the things that have actually been the source of inspiration in terms of I guess just reviving because that’s the really important thing when you’re living such a rigorous lifestyle and travel and having moments that give that energy back that has been expended on getting from place to place and performing, so those moments of inspiration have really just been found in hiking: we’ve been integrating a lot of hikes into our tours and we’ve been making them much more of a priority than we ever did in the past. And that’s been a very meaningful change I think in our lifestyle on tour.

‘Not Even Happiness’ is out now on Basin Rock (order HERE).

For all upcoming Julie Byrne EU tour dates (including Whelan’s Dublin on 30th August) please click HERE.

http://juliemariebyrne.com/

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August 15, 2017 at 1:53 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/

 

 

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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/

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August 9, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Central And Remote: Clang Sayne

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“I like the idea that there’s always room for manoeuvre; that the music should be able to change with us as we change personally.”

–Laura Hyland

Words: Craig Carry

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Clang Sayne are the Irish-based four-piece led by Wexford-based artist and founding member Laura Hyland. Having formed in London in 2008, the group (comprising of Laura Hyland alongside Peter Marsh on double bass, James O Sullivan on electric guitar and Matthew Fisher on drums) released their debut album “Winterlands” the following year to wide acclaim. The album revealed the spellbinding poetic lyricism of Hyland’s songwriting, together with the group’s innate ability to channel their diverse influences (jazz, folk, sound art, traditional) into their own distinct sound. The band’s captivating sound and thrilling lyricism continue to expand and flourish on the band’s follow-up, “The Round Soul Of The World”. Released in March of this year, the group’s second album is a stunning achievement in distilling myriad themes (chiefly those of mortality, death and love) in such a quietly breathtaking and poignantly moving way. Clang Sayne’s latest incarnation – Judith Ring on voice and cello, Matthew Jacobson on drums and voice, and Carolyn Goodwin on bass clarinet and voice (some of Ireland’s most gifted contemporary musicians in their own right)– are also undoubtedly responsible for weaving their own unique and diverse musical backgrounds to the recordings here. There is a clear sense of trust and appreciation in one another’s playing and musicianship (something that can only result from years of playing alongside one another and trusting one another completely) which makes “The Round Soul Of The World” such an ambitiously complex and genuinely fascinating album, all at once, one which manages to simultaneously move the heart and mind.

“The Round Soul Of The World” is available now.

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

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Congratulations on “The Round Soul Of The World”, it is such a startlingly complex and beautifully poetic and endearing album. First of all, I’d love if you could trace back the beginnings of this album: When did you begin to write this set of songs?

Laura Hyland: Thanks for your very kind words, Craig, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed listening.

I wrote ‘Mocking Moon’ shortly before leaving London in 2010, but it was a while before anything else followed. Several months later I returned to Co. Wexford, Ireland (where I grew up), and moved into an old farmhouse on the coast with Jude (Ring) and my cousin, Ann. Every morning I’d play my guitar in the garden. I was so taken with the soundworld there (wind, sea, birds) after so many years of living in cities that I felt it was a real shame to play over it, and so eventually I just started playing with it.

There were no other songs at that point-only this guitar-based soundworld that felt very soft and spacious and other-worldly. That feeling corresponded to my return to a rural home. Suddenly I was surrounded by a lot of wide open space, and a lot of love from family and old friends. It was a very stark contrast to the anonymity of city life (which I also love). There’s a kind of paradox in connecting with that sense of space and that kind of connection with neighbours: it’s ancient and timeless and immediate all at once.

I didn’t have an album ‘theme’ in mind at that point – just this feeling of space and expansiveness, and it kept emerging in everything I was playing with at the time – from sounds to words. Lyrics materialised, and gradually got worked into these guitar soundworlds and songs began to emerge, but they were very ethereal and shape-shifty for a long time. Newborn, Ashes, and Requiem were the first. Then Round Soul, the music for which I wrote some time later.

I was also seeking that same feeling of space in the dynamic I felt with other musicians. It took three years to find the right people – Jude was there from the outset (we’ve been friends and sonic ‘playmates’ for many years), but Matthew and Carolyn came later (2012/13 respectively). I felt a great calm and trust when we all played altogether – space for everyone to be themselves and roam around comfortably within the music but at the same time, always circling each other. I feel very lucky to have found these brilliant people/musicians.

By November’13 I had a collection of songs that fitted together. Mocking Moon was a kind of London ‘swan song’ – an inner heralding to myself that a change was in order. Requiem, Ashes, Newborn & Round Soul  were all a kind of ‘landing’ into a new place, having made that change. Blackbird & This Love I added at the very end – late in 2015. (This Love was actually written in 2005 on the conception of my first niece, but I never played it very much after that). These last two songs seemed to balance it and brought a kind of simplicity or groundedness to the album that wasn’t present in the other songs, but that felt very much a part of the bigger picture of what the whole album was about. On searching for a suitable engineer/studio I eventually found Les Keye/Arad Studios in Dublin, who recorded and mixed the album. He was great to work with, and has since become a very dear friend.

Musically, it embodies the spirit of so many different types of music so effortlessly and organically – folk, sound art, jazz, traditional, modern classical – and I love how each band member brings so much of their own unique backgrounds and personalities (for example, Matthew Jackobson’s extensive traditional and jazz playing or Judith Ring’s highly expressive cello works) into the final album cut. 

I would love to gain an insight into how song arrangements as challenging and as organic as these come to fruition? Is it a case of rehearsing or is it more a case of being aware of each other’s playing so much that it’s ultimately a very natural and fluid process?

LH: It’s both: rehearsing, and exactly as you say, being aware of each other’s playing to the point where it becomes fluid and cohesive. It’s also a case of choosing to play with people whose playing I like, and who like the music I write and the way I play. That cuts out a lot of work really. Often there isn’t much need for discussion or arrangement as everyone just appreciates what everyone else does. That to me is the perfect scenario – sometimes just listening is the best arrangement! Within that there are conscious decisions made, but this mutual appreciation comes first, and is very fundamental as far as I’m concerned.

I usually know the kind of soundworld and atmosphere I want to hear for a given piece, and the shape or contour I want it to follow. I communicate that to the others and then we improvise around these ideas. I listen back to recordings to pick out what I think works, and we all discuss it together too while we’re playing it. Through this feedback loop of playing and recording and listening and discussing we settle on an arrangement, though usually it’s quite loose. I like the idea that there’s always room for maneuver; that the music should be able to change with us as we change personally.

As for embodying the spirit of different types of music, I think that comes from a deeper place. We all share a very deep love of sound and music, and we’ve all arrived at that point from different paths. Apart from playing, I really enjoy talking about music and listening to music with Carolyn and Jude and Matthew. It’s a very great source of joy and inspiration for all of us. I think we’re each at a stage where we’ve left our training or ‘genre-home’ behind, and now we each just want to play and have space to continue growing within our playing.

That said, invariably the different paths we’ve traveled leave their mark, but ultimately I think it’s personalities that comes through, rather than genres. I think if you spend years exploring any artform you develop a bigger sense of what that artform is all about. You start to recognise graceful self-expression – that’s something that runs far deeper and has far more impact than any given genre. I think it’s what all artists aspire to – I certainly do.

There is also a beautiful sense of intricacy to the lyrics on the album which reveals many layers of added meanings on repeat listenings. As well as your own poetic and moving lyricism there is a number of other sources drawn upon here (for instance texts by both Maureen Barry and Austin Clarke on “The Emptying Of The Ashes” and “Blackbird” respectively) which strikingly combine together to paint a picture of both the finite and infinite over the course of the album. I’d love if you could detail the themes you wished to express yourself with these songs?

LH: The Austin Clarke line from Blackbird is taken from his poem, The Blackbird of Derrycairn in which a blackbird appeals to St Patrick who is busy studying his scriptures and praying in his cell, to leave his studies and come out to join in the world.

We become obsessed with particular aspects of life (art, childrearing, career, money, religion, political causes – whatever), at times to the exclusion of all else.  It makes hermits of us. That can bring its own rewards, but it can also be lonely and very isolating. I believe a varied and diverse daily life brings with it a sense of connection to the world, and the sense of a spacious and rich life. That to me is happiness.

I wrote that song after I had been to visit Charlie – an elderly and ailing friend of my emigree sister’s (Sorcha, to whom the album is dedicated). Charlie was a tricky but colourful character who had alienated herself in many ways. She spent a lot of time alone; as do I, and as does my sister – all for our own individual reasons. That line from the poem “still no handbell has a glad sound” literally popped into the song as I was writing it. It summed up very succinctly what I needed to say (essentially “whatever “handbell” or sense of duty that is calling us to isolate ourselves for some supposed higher cause or ambition will not bring happiness or immortality. So let’s ignore it and join in the world”), so I left it there.

‘The Emptying of the Ashes’ is an excerpt from a column that a woman from my local area, Maureen Barry used to write for the farmer’s journal for many years. She was of a generation that put religion (catholicism) at the centre of absolutely everything. Obviously that brings its own problems, and I would never wish for a return to that outlook, but by the same token, I do believe very strongly in faith – not in a deity (for me personally), but in our being a small part of something bigger  – a lifeforce – that we cannot control, and cannot understand, certainly not in any ‘rational’, or supposedly ‘objective’ quantitative terms. We can’t control or understand that lifeforce, and yet we’re utterly dependent on it, and that makes us vulnerable. What is there to do but give in to that vulnerability??

She nails this idea in this piece of writing: she presents herself as something small – a tiny element going about the daily tasks necessary to keep her existence ticking over. In doing so she becomes one with the world around her, and through this she perceives a sense of majesty – a sense of something huge and powerful and incomprehensible, and she’s humble in the face of that – she accepts that life or ‘lifeforce’ is incomprehensible. To me that is real faith: it isn’t god or church – it’s simply being and loving and not knowing why.

I’d love if you could talk and expand upon the influence of Maureen Barry? I know from hearing your live show that she seems to be someone who has had an important role and influence on you as an artist?

LH: She was a very intelligent and forward-thinking woman whom I’d known all my life. She was a feminist at a time when feminism was considered morally reprehensible. She earned a scholarship to study mathematics at UCD, again at a time when women were not encouraged to pursue academic ambition. She married a farmer and reared a family, gave maths grinds to local kids (myself included) and wrote a weekly column for the Farmer’s Journal, amongst many other things. I wouldn’t say she in particular had an important influence on me as an artist, but definitely she typifies a kind of woman from that era (which I grew up with the tail-end of) for whom I have huge respect. These women basically kept the community together. They were omnipresent in rural life when I was a kid. They had huge faith and strength and drive. They get forgotten about because their lives were quiet and supposedly apoltical, but I think many of them were true harbingers of change in Irish thinking – they distinguished between faith and institutionalized religion, and between women’s social status and the importance of their work as homemakers and childrearers. And they acted upon these distinctions, passing on subtle but clear messages through their actions to the likes of myself and other kids at the time, but they had to do it quietly and cleverly because such ideas were not socially tolerated.

The use of vocals on the album is really special which is all the more apparent in a live context. Your own vocals – when accompanied even simply by guitar – is always so special (the range of vocals extend from spoken-word like delivery on “Blackbird” to the glorious “Curse You Mocking Moon”, can you recount your earliest memories of wishing to be a singer, Laura? Or was it a case of being a musician to begin with, where being a singer happened at a later stage?

LH: I don’t ever remember wanting to be a singer as such, but I’ve always sung as far back as I can remember, and the feeling I had singing as a child is much the same feeling I have when I sing now. It’s very physical and very empowering. There’s something very primordial about sounding out your breath. It feels like another great big call to union with the world. I played violin as a small child, and I swapped over to guitar at 11-12ish, because I found it awkward to sing with an instrument under my chin. So I guess singing led the way and instrumental accompaniment followed. I think everyone should sing. I hate to hear people say they can’t sing. Everyone can sing – it’s a birthright!

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When adding and weaving so many other vocals (where effectively the entire band – Judith Ring, Carolyn Goodwin, Matthew Jacobson – will accompany you) – elevates the effect to another level altogether (for instance, on the title-track) and opens up so many possibilities when considering song structures and arrangements. It’s clear you all treat the voice like another instrument and that’s really striking on the album. Are these vocal arrangements conceived during rehearsals or at the studio? It must also be a really interesting and powerful experience singing like this in live shows, as it’s really apparent as a listener just how close a bond you each have to one another?

LH: I more see them all as just sound sources. Every sound source or ‘instrument’ has its limitations, yes, but those limitations are largely determined by social convention and music tradition. In truth, the sound one can elicit from an object is simply a product the object’s physicality and the player’s imagination. Organising or playing with those sounds in a pleasing fashion is music. I think it really is that simple.

If I have to think of them in terms of conventional instruments I would more see it as treating instruments as voices rather than voices as instruments! Voice is infinitely flexible in the range of sounds it can produce: continuous or discrete, pitched or inharmonic, an infinite range of timbres, incredibly subtle dynamics, and above all, because we communicate primarily through voice as a species, as listeners we’re highly sensitive to its nuances. To me, there’s no other sound source – ‘natural’ or synthesised – on the planet that is as universal or sophisticated.  So it makes sense to me that other instruments aspire to voice in terms of sonic potential or flexibility. Rather than relying on a palette of sounds that an instrument traditionally produces, I prefer to think in terms of what sounds/soundworld I want to hear, and then I try to find ways of eliciting that sound from a given instrument. That’s what we do with our voices all the time – for example, when we want to convey the kind of sounds an aeroplane or an explosion make.

Yes, it is a very powerful experience all singing together. It’s my favourite part of playing in this group and I really hope we do more and more of it as the years go on. I had an interesting experience recently while on holidays: my friend and I visited these ancient caves. The acoustics were incredible inside and so we spent the afternoon singing in them. We were just singing long tones – no songs as such. Other tourists came by throughout the day and the same thing happened 3 times, whereby a passerby would stand in the entrance of the cave to see/hear what was going on, and then to my great surprise and delight they’d join in! And it wasn’t a particularly ‘hip’ place where lots of right-on artists were wandering around; each time it was a very different ‘demographic’ that joined in: one young man our own age, two elderly german couples, and a middle-aged man. It was a very special experience. Humans want to sing. It’s such a great shame that we don’t make more space for it socially.

The vocals on ‘The Round Soul’ are based on an arrangement that I made multi-tracking my own voice at home, and I gave a demo recording of it to the others. There are specific points in the song where I wanted to replicate what I’d done on the recording, but there are also sections where the recording was simply to give an impression of the soundworld I had in mind, for example, in that middle section where our vocal lines overlap each other, I wanted it to be very fluid and elastic, so that nobody is tied down to a specific melody or harmony, and we’re all free to respond to each other as we play, so that the music becomes a living organism. Composition and improvisation are much like gardening to me in this regard: there’s a balance between manicuring plant growth and letting it grow wildly out of control. I find sound has the same propensity for chaos and order and growth: you lay out a structure and then you let things grow together within it. Some bits are manicured and others are wild. Some sounds are more rampant than others and require either more control or more space; others need more nurturing and coaxing…

Jude and I spent a long time singing and playing with each other over the years, before ever Clang Sayne came about. We share a very strong unspoken sense of what sounds good and interesting. Carolyn obviously has the clarinet in her mouth a lot of the time so she can’t always sing, but she’s found out all the places where she can swap between the two. Sometimes it’s quite a feat of breathing! Of the four of us, Matthew has sung least in the past, but he was really up for it when I first suggested it, and he joins in more and more as time wares on. Every now and then when we play live I hear him come in somewhere new where I haven’t heard him sing before. That makes me very happy.

My current favourite piece is the title-track “The Round Soul Of The World”, it encapsulates the album so magically and embodies everything that’s so spellbinding about the album’s breathtaking musicianship. From the incredible clarinet-driven outro to the wondrous use of texture from the drums and percussion, it’s such a powerful and fitting closer to the album. I’d love if you could reflect on the making of this song? It must have been a particularly proud moment for you all, listening to the finished recording of this song back?

LH: I wrote this while living in the farmhouse I mentioned in Q1 above. That was such a special few months, and we lived very simply in a very beautiful place. The day pretty much consisted of eating, sleeping, swimming, playing music, gardening and spending time together  – very idyllic, and very much a privileged 1st world life, but paradoxically also incredibly frugal.

All three of us were working hard on different projects – Jude and I, on our respective musics, and our other flatmate, Ann on visual art and teaching. Life felt very complete and fulfilling, and above all, very ‘blessed’ for want of a less corny word. I had just returned to Ireland and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for where I had arrived – geographically, socially, artistically  – in every way. I also felt during that time all three of us had space and time to give the world our ‘best’ selves, and that’s a rare opportunity. So it’s a song of gratitude for that, and a song of conviction for living. If I could strike a deal with the world this would be it: “I give you my best self and you give me shelter in return”.

I set the text to music a couple of years later, after I’d met Carolyn, and I had the bass clarinet in mind. I wanted a big, low, spacious drone, and a very elemental and big sound. I set it so that the lowest note on the bass clarinet formed the drone, so that she’d have maximum instrumental range to let loose on it, and then her and Matthew could really go for it together. Jude had also just begun playing the cello during that time, so it was a good one for her too as she could focus on one open string and all the sonic possibilities she could elicit from that. I’m very chuffed that her cello debut is on this recording!

It was good fun recording it! The first time we all listened back to the whole album together was a special moment. I think we were all proud of it, not necessarily this song in particular, but the album as a whole. I do remember listening back through the various takes we’d recorded of that song, and being so blown away by Carolyn’s solo on this take in particular  – it’s so full of life and gusto and conviction. There’s this one harmonic that she pulls out at the very end and it’s like glass. Even now when I hear it I can’t understand where or how that sound came out, but it’s a little piece of magic.

The true spirit and unique sounds Clang Sayne generate are obviously due to the very unique and singular musicians in the band, who each of course are responsible for such a wealth of music courtesy of many other projects and bands here in Ireland. I love how each musician’s style and background shines through so naturally on the album, it brings to mind fellow Irish-based band This Is How We Fly and the true spirit of jazz.

I’d love if Matthew, Carolyn and Judith could talk about what it’s like for them to play with Clang Sayne? It must be a really exciting departure from your other projects and a beautiful way of pushing your own creative energies into many different directions in this context?

Matthew Jacobson: What struck me from the very first time I played with Laura was her complete openness and willingness to collaborate. Given that her music is so personal and emotive, it is unique that she is so prepared to give musicians carte blanche when performing it. I think this is what gives her songs such a sense of life, allowing them to breathe and remain fresh.

None of the musicians’ roles in the band are confined to the instruments that they play ie I don’t feel like a drummer in the band, rather as a facilitator and collaborator in Laura’s stories, poetry and music. Instead of playing a specific groove, I may at times aim for textures or soundscapes or I may play nothing at all! Playing in a group where the composer or songwriter places their full trust in you gives you the platform to be spontaneous, creative and free. This can bring the music to entirely new spaces, without losing the integrity of the original material. I really love being involved in projects in this capacity and this one is particularly special for me as it has allowed me to sing on an album for the first time!

Carolyn Goodwin: Because of the delicacy in Laura’s writing, her songs demand intense focus from the listener on every hearing. I feel that this is still the case for me and that even from my seat within the band, I am having an experience akin to that of a member of the audience. With each song you are confronted with something that is both powerful and fragile at once, and as musicians we are given the responsibility to be mindful of the craft that has gone into the writing, along with the freedom to make something new at every performance. Striking the illusive balance between these two elements is something I think we collectively strive for in every execution of the music, and what ultimately unites us as Clang Sayne.

Judith Ring: Clang Sayne is an incredible group to play in. It gives us all a chance to deeply explore various sonic ideas and really develop a cohesive sound that represents our individual talents as well as our capability to blend together into something unique. As a composer I typically work alone and hand my music over to other people to perform but as part of Clang Sayne I get to explore that world myself and certainly my own music often influences what I bring to the table. Working with Laura on her music is such a rich experience as the material at its core is so powerful and gives us so much to play off. The aspect of freedom within the work also allows us to grow with the music and vice versa. It’s an ever-evolving thing!

What albums have you been listening to lately?

LH: My favourite thing over the past year is definitely the music from William Kentridge’s exhibition, ‘The Refusal of Time’. It’s a series of texts and stories written and recited by Kentridge and set it to music by South African composer, Philip Miller. It’s mind-blowing, both in Kentridge’s reflections on time and in Miller’s arrangements.

Others this past year or so in no particular order include:

Matana Roberts: ‘Coin Coin Chapter Two: Missippi Moonchile’

Johnny Nash: ‘Eden’

Claudia Schwab: ‘Attic Mornings’ 

A compilation called ‘I’m in a Strange Town: Blues and Gospel 1927 – 1967’

Ancient Ocean (aka J.R Bohannon): ‘Blood Moon’

Ellen Fullman ‘Through Glass Panes’

Josephine Foster ‘I’m A Dreamer’

Matthew Jacobson & Sam Comeford: Insufficient Funs EP

Peadar O Riada’s 1987 album (untitled).

Marissa Nadler – various albums

Arvo Part – various choral works

Ivor Cutler: Jammy Smears

Laurie Anderson: various recordings

An album conceived by Mark Garry for The RHA’s Artists Curate Series in 2006, entitled ‘Plane’

Katie Kim: Salt

Bitchin Bajas & Bonny Prince Billy: ‘Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties’

Planxty’s entire back catalog

What are the next plans for Clang Sayne?

LH: I’ll start writing a new body of work in September, based on a set of poems I wrote several years ago. I’d hope to get that wrapped up before Christmas and then bring it to the others in Spring 2018 with a view to recording it maybe next summer. I’ve been ridiculously slow in the past getting albums over the line. This time I really want to try turn it around a bit faster.

Otherwise, some touring in Ireland in the Autumn, and hopefully further afield in 2018. Recently I just hooked up with booking agent, Emma Kelly from Merakindie. It’s the first time I’ve worked with someone else on the business end of things, and it feels good to get help with this part of the project as it’s not something I find easy, so I’m pretty focused on that for the summer – finding good people to help: that includes a manager and a PR person – anyone interested please get in touch!!

“The Round Soul Of The World” is available now.

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

Chosen One: Justin Walter

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The music itself comes to light more like finding sea shells on the ocean floor with your eyes closed.”

—Justin Walter

Words: Mark Carry

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Angelic piano tones reverberate softly into the ether on the album’s glorious title-track. Gradually, synth bass elements coalesce together: a diffusion of sumptuous layers before heavenly trumpet passages form ripples in the pools of your mind. The immense sonic journey of  ‘Unseen Forces’ is encapsulated in some otherworldly realm; lost to the constraints of time that ceaselessly grows in meaning and significance. Michigan trumpeter Justin Walter has forged another timeless sound world  with his sophomore full length ‘Unseen Forces’ – and follow-up to the sublime debut ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’ – released on the ever-dependable Chicago-based Kranky label.

Divine sonic tapestries are masterfully forged across the album’s nine exceptional tracks, with intricate layers of electronics and trumpet. Walter’s trusted EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) is a rare wind-controlled analog synthesizer from the 70’s that forms an integral foundation to the music’s visionary dimension. The opener ‘1001’ reveals the delicate beauty of these drifting synthesizer melodies that lies somewhere between Boards of Canada and the ECM’s rich discography. Bass notes are masterfully added two minutes in, creating a powerful, unequivocal force, reminiscent of Kranky alumni Tim Hecker or A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

Dark, menacing electronics are fused with radiant light of trumpet melodies on the utterly compelling ‘Sixty’, an exploration into the heart of darkness. The dichotomy of light and dark is forever inherent across Walter’s shape-shifting works where the radiant light of hope glows like stars dotted across night skies. An inner dialogue is created between the electronic and organic components, forming a deeply-affecting experience in the process. Take for example, ‘It’s Not What You Think’. The striking intensity unleashed by hypnotic swells of synthesizers is contrasted with ethereal ambient soundscapes of faded dreams. Music, like the brush strokes of a painter, is constructed by masterful use of texture and colour. As the track builds, the frenetic energy of Colin Stetson and Ben Frost is emitted amidst a dark, repeating pattern.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Soft Illness’ bears the sound of a producer more so than anything else: swirls of noise crafts a captivating electronic sphere of sound. The length of the individual tracks in part B are significantly shortened, further adding to the nearness of the approaching horizon. ‘Following’ is a soul-stirring lament that feels like a lost synth pop gem from another space and time. ‘Red Cabin’ encapsulates the rich textures of dreams, in one aching gradual pulse.

‘Unseen Forces’ is out now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net/

http://www.kranky.net/

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Interview with Justin Walter.

Congratulations Justin on the stunningly beautiful new sophomore release ‘Unseen Forces’, a collection of music that truly transports the listener to another realm. I’d love for you to discuss the making of the new record and particularly how your approach may have developed or changed from that of the remarkable 2013 debut ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’?

Justin Walter: Well first off, thank you. The biggest factor that changed was time. With ‘Lullabies & Nightmares‘ I just went full in and recorded the album in a few months. The process was a continuous push from start to finish that took about 9 months. It should also be noted that I didn’t really have any set voice or aesthetic that I was attached to at that time. Almost all of the work I had been doing with the EVI and trumpet sat as one offs or groupings of songs that happened within a short period of time, sort of like free form journal entries. When ‘Dream Weaving‘ was recorded, which was fairly early on, I decided to try and stick with material that felt along those lines, but it was all still very new to me. I think that ‘Mind Shapes‘ was the last piece I put together and in that there was a strong intent to make something that spoke to the rest of the material on the album. With ‘Unseen Forces‘ though, I spent a lot more time considering the overall meaning of the record. The process for coming up with the material was very much the same, but I wanted to find a cohesive musical language that would be the same throughout, and a more focused emotional message. So it took a lot longer to put together. Mostly because I don’t actually write any of the music.

Please discuss the art of improvisation and the mindset and methodologies you have developed over the years when it comes to creating these otherworldly ambient explorations?

JW: I suppose improvisation isn’t what most people think it is. It’s more like talking. So you have this musical language which you spend years learning and refining, and within itself there can be dialog, but the overall message is just emotional. It happens in real time, and so it’s a journey from one statement to the next and so on and by travelling along you can tell a story of sorts. But if you were to just pull out one piece from the middle it would probably lose all of its meaning. So the language that I have is mostly based in jazz, but over time I’ve also been developing this other language which is based on texture and sequencing. It’s about feel and spacing more than it is about notes and harmony.

Creating these recordings has mostly been the same process over and over. It involves improvisation, but more importantly it requires a strong sense of emotion. And not like crying emotion or anything like that, but just the feeling of yourself in a total way. So it’s always key to be in touch and have an intense sense of yourself when you spend time doing these things. After all, the idea here is to convey through music this story of yourself. So that’s a part of the methodology. The music itself comes to light more like finding sea shells on the ocean floor with your eyes closed. I’m just trying to feel for the good ones and after I collect a bunch I bring them up and see if I actually got anything worth saving. So the feeling and collecting process is very important and after a while you get a little bit better at it, but you still can’t see what you’re doing.

The sonic palette utilized on ‘Unseen Forces’ is your trusted EVI, wind-controlled analog synthesizer combined with electronics and trumpet tapestries that coalesce together forming sprawling soundscapes of utterly transcendent moments. As this new record is even more of a solo effort than its predecessor (with added percussion/drums in places), I’d love for you to discuss the starting points or genesis of these new solo works? Did you have certain reference points in mind? Also, it feels as if there’s this chain reaction of inner dialogue (of the deepest kind) as one listens to the unfolding of the seamless array of patterns inherent in these compositions. Would these tracks be first takes, so to speak? 

JW: One of the shifts I’ve made over the last few years is to see myself as more of a producer, if that’s the right term. I produce myself. Which is weird. So I set out to create and collect all of these sounds, and then I bring them to myself, and I say this one stays and these go. And so for that part of myself that is deciding how to place these things, there was a process of growth and refinement that is still taking place. When A Winged Victory for the Sullen came out with ATOMOS I remember listening to that every day and thinking to myself holly shit. And I realize I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to contemporary music, so I’m not really hip to all that is out there, but I love that record. And so I sat with it for a long time. It was sort of a pointer for me. I’m not sure what process Adam and Dustin use to write music, but it’s spot on and I wanted to bring as much of that language into myself as possible. So that was one starting point in terms of spacing, texture and colour.

Another starting point was Tim Hecker, who creates music that just pisses me off in the best way. These are guys I had never heard of before L&N and they, along with a few others, helped shape my decision making process when it came to the production side of things. In terms of inner dialogue, yes. I spent a lot of time sitting with these songs as they developed and it was very important to me that they told a continuous story. These are first takes and layered first takes. I didn’t re-record anything for this album, it’s all just live recordings. It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to make this record – most of what I do doesn’t work out.

The album’s title-track is one of the pinnacles of this enriching journey. It’s the space and dimension a track such as this permeates and orbits, for me is the towering essence of this beautiful music. Can you recount your memories of creating ‘Unseen Forces’ and indeed how the piece evolved and bloomed into its final entity? The sonic canvas and various components of your sound are wonderfully utilized and expressed here, it’s such a captivating experience. The title too embodies the music so perfectly, is there a story or background to choosing of this particular (song/album) title?

JW: I had gone to Chicago to my friend Erik Hall’s place. He’s helped in recording and mixing this, and almost all of my records. He had just inherited his families Steinway grand piano and we were both fairly excited to be in the presence of such an incredible instrument. It seems ridiculous, but the title track was recorded in three passes, basically back to back with no planning what so ever. I played some open chords, which is what you hear at the beginning of the song. Then sampled and sequenced those chords in a way that was extremely random. We recorded a pass of that sequence and I decided to add a synth bass part with the EVI. That ended up being mostly in 4/4 time because, well that’s what I do. So after that I did a pass with the trumpet. That was it in terms of recording. Now there was a lot of time spent mixing and I did record the sequenced piano track through a tape delay a few months later to have that in the mix as well. I also spent a bit of time adding parts to it and then taking them away, and finally just decided that the best thing to do would be to just leave it as it is. I think that in recording the way we did, there just wasn’t time to think about what to do, and so even though it was three separate passes, it still had the spontaneity of a live performance. There’s playfulness in that that you just can’t write out.

You are part of the immense Sorrow Ensemble, Colin Stetson’s latest project. As you tour on this record and play with these musicians, I can only imagine how inspiring and fulfilling this experience must be? Can you shed some light on the dynamics of this group and what you feel you are learning from Colin Stetson, someone obviously who has served as a long-term inspirational figure?

JW: Well, being a part of this group has been a dream come true. Throughout the span of this project it has always been extremely clear that Colin has had a vision and sense of purpose in choosing to recreate this amazing piece of music. He’s lead the group like general on the battlefield. All of the members are amazing musicians in their own right and there was always an openness to the way we formed and contributed to the orchestration as it developed, but it’s really been a pleasure to work with someone who sees clearly what the final outcome should be. In working with large groups like this it can be easy to sway in the wind a bit in terms of direction, everyone having their own ideas about what should be what, and Stetson has managed this in amazing form and with the best leadership imaginable. It also helps that everyone chosen to be a part of this group has a huge sense of selflessness and are just interested in making great music. So we work together and listen to each other and make it happen.

In the nature of improvisation and the “first thought add ons” (you previously described to me) inherent in your trumpet-based works, I presume quite a significant of happy accidents occur as the album is being made/recorded? I would love to know more about your studio set-up and indeed the challenges you face when it comes to capturing these takes onto the final recordings? Is mixing a part of the process that takes you longer to complete?

JW: Yep. Fail, fail, and fail again. But actually one of the things I’ve come to accept is that I can’t do this every day. You really do need to be in the right space to sit down and get an amazing first take, or be able to see that what you have is something you want to keep working on. Mixing is something I’ve spent a ton of time on. I went from knowing how to record in garage band in 2011 to feeling like there wasn’t that much left for me to discover in protools in 2016. So there was a huge amount of learning that happened over these past few years. I do have a “studio” at home which serves my needs just fine. I have a walk up attic that is very dead in terms of sound bouncing around and so I use that space to mix in. It gets me to about 95%, and the rest I can do in a real studio. Mixing and also sequencing of material is time consuming, you’re making decisions and putting things together that can sometimes feel like you’re playing 6 games of Tetris at the same time. How the side chain compression is working, how the tracks are duplicated and spit up for eq, and how all of the layers are interacting with each other. It’s is a fun game.

The spirit of Arthur Russell and Boards of Canada beautifully drift by on the sublime ‘It’s Not What You Think’, a piece that epitomizes the adventurous spirit of the album but also the sense of new ground and departures from the debut. Please also discuss the sequencing of the record, it works very well how there are several much shorter pieces – or crystallized gems – interspersed with the sprawling ambient cuts. 

JW: I wanted the opening to set the mood for the whole record, to let the listener know that this would be a slower journey. ‘It’s Not What You Think‘ formed over the summer of 2016. It was the final piece of music I put together for this record and yes, BoC. Love those guys. I do love Arthur Russell but honestly it’s been a long time for me. I think I was mostly focused on having this dark and repetitive line that was strong and forceful. Again, when the bass line comes in on ATOMOS it’s like, hell yes. Love that. And so for me this was my reflection of that. It’s less frills and more meat. I also wanted to speak to the vinyl record format, and so bookended each side with two halves of the same piece. “End of Six” and “Red Cabin” originally were one continuous recording that took place at the very end of a 45 improvisation, the Sixth one of that day. The sequencing of songs took a while. There’s room to breathe after the intense cuts, but not in a way that kills the forward momentum. The overall shape of the record is from low to high and back in a gradual way that hopefully lets you listen to the album on repeat without getting burnt out. That was one of my goals.

What do you feel has been the most invaluable lesson you have learned or that previous experiences have taught you? Can you recall your memories of first being given the trumpet and how you feel you have developed your own distinct musical language with the EVI instrumentation that is integral to your solo works?

JW: Definitely that taking time is totally OK. I’ve never really made a living as a musician, I mean there have been stretches were I’m making great money and then it’s all over. So I’ve grown to be OK with that and actually cherish the fact that I don’t have to do this. In no way is it covering the cost of time put in, it’s just about the art. So if it takes forever, it’s worth it. In the end it’s about trying to make something that you yourself find value in, and hopefully other people will find value in it as well. So it’s super important to take as much time as you need. Once it’s out, it’s done forever.

Louis Smith gave me my first trumpet. I was 10. It was actually a cornet. I’ve always been involved in the jazz community as a trumpeter. Currently I play a few nights a week with different groups here in Ann Arbor, it’s great. Everything from new music, free jazz, Joe Henderson, Coltrane, all the way back to Bix and Morton. We cover the whole lineage. With that, I think I’ve settled down into feeling more secure with who I am and were I sit within the community. The music itself is always new and its very nature is exploratory, so there’s always anticipation for me. As far as this project goes, the trumpet has drifted between being something more akin to a layer of sound, and at times a melodic voice. I really don’t think about it too much, it’s just what comes to mind. It wouldn’t make any sense to just start playing bebop lines, I mean, maybe? Not what I’m hearing though. The EVI is a totally different beast and its language and the way I use it to create soundscapes is one that mostly exists here in my house. It seems that over time I’ve become less interested in what the EVI can do and more interested in how I can use what it does to convey emotion. It’s always fun to sit down and play the instrument, but I’ve been spending less and less time just messing around with it in a random way.

‘Unseen Forces’ is out now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net/

http://www.kranky.net/

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August 3, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E07 | July mix

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July saw the highly-anticipated return of world-renowned French composer Colleen (aka Cécile Schott) with her achingly beautiful new single “Separating”, taken from the forthcoming “A flame my love, a frequency” out October 20th via Thrill Jockey. On her new album, Schott’s viola da gamba – used on her last two records “Captain of None” and “The Weighing Of The Heart” – is replaced by solely electronic instrumentation: Moog pedals and Critter and Guitari synthesizers. The result is yet another otherworldly, far-reaching sonic odyssey from this visionary solo artist.

Following on from last year’s exceptional debut mini-album “Shady & Light”, Hamburg-born and Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Martyn Heyne has unveiled his stunning new single “Carry”, taken from the forthcoming solo debut album (coming out later this year on the neo-classical imprint 7K!). The divine guitar-based compositions crafted by Heyne carves out a ceaselessly rich listening experience for the here-and-now.

Elsewhere on July’s mix we have new releases from Montreal composer Kara-Lis Coverdale (Boomkat Editions), Four Tet’s new single “Two Thousand And Seventeen” (Text), Daphni’s new fabric live set, Los Angeles composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s lead single “An Intention” (taken from the forthcoming Western Vinyl release “The Kid”), Jane Weaver’s krautrock-flavoured latest opus (Fire Records), Snake Eyes (the current house band in the new Twin Peaks) and UK psychedelia courtesy of Ulrika Spacek.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E07 | July mix

 

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-x-blogothèque-s02e07-july-mix/

 

01. Gil Scott-Heron“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (BGP)
02. Shabazz Palaces“Welcome to Quazarz” (Sub Pop)
03. Danger Doom“Mad Nice” (feat. Black Thought & Vinny Price) (Lex)
04. Robert Wyatt“Shipbuilding” (Rough Trade)
05. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland “2” (Hyperdub)
06. Patricia“I Know The Face, But Not The Name” (Spectral Sound)
07. Barbara Morgenstern + Werkstatt“Grow” (Monika Enterprise)
08. Four Tet“Two Thousand and Seventeen” (Text)
09. Daphni “Poly” (Fabric)
10. Om Alec Khaoli“Enjoy It” (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
11. Marijata – “I Walk Alone” (excerpt) (Mr Bongo)
12. Visible Cloaks“Terrazzo” (feat. Motion Graphics) (RVNG Intl)
13. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith“An Intention” (Western Vinyl)
14. Avey Tare“Season High” (Domino)
15. Deru“1979” (Friends Of Friends)
16. Brumes“Backward Hands” (Dauw)
17. Ulrika Spacek“Mimi Pretend” (Tough Love)
18. Jane Weaver“Did You See Butterflies?” (Fire)
19. Trouble“Snake Eyes” (Sacred Bones)
20. Donnie & Joe Emerson“Baby” (LateNightTales)
21. Balmorhea“Clear Language” (Western Vinyl)
22. Mary Ocher“To the Light” (Piano Version) (Klangbad)
23. Marcus Fjellström “Aunchron” (Miasmah)
24. The Durutti Column“Sketch For Dawn (I)” (Factory)
25. Martyn Heyne“Carry” (7K!)
26. Kara-Lis Coverdale“Grafts” (excerpt) (Boomkat Editions)
27. Colleen“Separating” (Thrill Jockey)

Compiled by Fractured Air, July 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/

Chosen One: Tindersticks

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Interview with Stuart A. Staples.

I often say to my kids that the most creative thing that I ever did was to have the bravery to leave Nottingham and go to London: just to take a step because from that step so many things were allowed to happen.”

—Stuart A. Staples

Words: Mark Carry

TINDERSTICKS, 2015

In the liner notes for the classic Tindersticks debut album (originally released in 1993), founding member David Boulter describes the richness of ideas coming from the group: “We had so much music running through us and so many ideas, we knew we had something bigger to make, and we needed somewhere bigger to make it.” The immense batch of songs – including ‘Marbles’, ‘Raindrops’, ‘Patchwork’, ‘City Sickness’, ‘Her’ and ‘The Not Knowing’ – were recorded in the Stone Room, a studio run by Ian Caple, who helped the band achieve the sound they wanted. Across twenty-one songs, every moment on the debut record felt special. Magic emanated from the rich instrumentation, intricate arrangements and poetic lyricism.  The same can be said for each and every Tindersticks record that followed. This original lineup of Stuart Staples, Neil Fraser, Dickon Hinchcliffe, David Boulter, Mark Colwill and Alasdair Macaulay possessed something utterly unique: a subconscious, deep conversation flows continuously between its members that is more than the sum of its parts. And this breathes deeply into the songs.

Two decades on, Tindersticks have a richness of ideas – echoing what Boulter writes in those liner notes albeit from an entirely different moment in time – that are fully realized on masterworks such as ‘The Something Rain’ and ‘The Waiting Room’ (marking the band’s last two studio albums, respectively). Every moment feels special. An infinite array of inspired moments fill these records that carves out a vast treasure of mesmerising beauty and sumptuous artistic detail. The current lineup – consisting of founding members Staples, Boulter and Fraser alongside more recent additions Earl Harvin (drums) and Dan McKinna (bass) – possess a deep telepathic connection that is not unlike that unique moment in time at the turn of the nineties.

The many projects that are interspersed between the band’s studio albums, from the monumental Claire Denis film scores – 2015’s ‘Les Salauds’ containing a beguiling electronic-oriented sound-world that signals yet another milestone – sound installations (from the Flanders museum in Belgium that is beautifully captured on ‘Ypres’) and this year’s spellbinding film and score ‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’. This singular sound of Tindersticks continues to evolve and develop, forever navigating uncharted territories of both the heart and mind alike, never knowing precisely where such explorations will lead us.

Minute Bodies’ is a deeply hypnotic and immersive film and dedication to the incredible work of naturalist, inventor and pioneering film-maker F. Percy Smith (whose work spanned the early years of the twentieth century). Smith developed various cinematic and micro-photographic techniques to capture nature’s secrets in action (take for example the ‘Fly Acrobat’ film). In the words of Staples (director of ‘Minute Bodies’): “His work transcends the constraints of its time, and how it teaches us about patience, commitment, ingenuity and determination.”

The forming of the edit and its musical score evolved over a three-year period. The recording sessions features French percussionist Thomas Belhom and Christine Ott (piano) with cameos from David Coulter (musical saw) and Julian Siegel (saxophone). The score effortlessly maps the hidden beauties of nature that Smith so masterfully portrays onscreen: a true match made in heaven. The ethereal ‘Percy’s Theme’ opens the score with a beautiful delicacy and immersive quality, which leads into ‘Gathering Moss’ and its luminous dreamscapes with gorgeous female harmonies ascending into the foreground. Eerie drone passages are fused with cinematic flourishes on the epic tour-de-force ‘Magic Myxies’ and the gradual piano pulses of ‘The Strangler’ could be a long distant companion to the band’s ‘Trouble Every Day’ score. The timeless cinematic jazz exploration ‘Scarlet Runner’ echoes the work of Mikael Tariverdiev before the star-lit skies of ‘Percy’s Dream’ (Reprise) drifts majestically into the ether.

‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’ is out now via City Slang.

https://tindersticks.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/tindersticksofficial/

 

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Interview with Stuart A. Staples.

Congratulations on the ‘Minute Bodies’ score and film; it’s very special. When did you first come across the work of F. Percy Smith and what led you to go about the project in the first place?

Stuart A. Staples: I wasn’t planning to; I just caught a glimpse of his work – well not necessarily his work but this microscopic world – and I wanted to find out more. From that I found out that there was a few things available on compilation DVDs, I got hold of that and just started making music; that was like three years ago so gradually I’d been able to get further and further into the archive and gradually pick up the support of the BFI. It’s been a long process, it was more like a hobby for a while and it finally got finished up like that after three years working on it – not solidly but sometimes it was an antidote to some of the other things I was working on.

As you say, it feels like a labour of love in many ways. ‘Minute Bodies’ in a similar way to the scorework of Tindersticks and many of your projects in the past, they act as a record in itself (in terms of the music). I wonder for the music of ‘Minute Bodies’ and to score the visuals, did you have the film edits in mind firstly or was it more naturally coming together at once?

S.A.S:  I think the first thing I thought was more about people: about musical characters that I knew and I thought that the first steps probably was to get together with Christine Ott who plays the Martenot and Thomas Belhom who is the French percussionist who we work with and David [Coulter] from the band and see what happened. We had a few days together very early on and we prepared some loops and some atmospheres and then I had chosen some parts of the film that I thought were exciting and so I brutally edited something and brutally prepared something. And then we started – we had a few days playing – it went so well that it just asked for more things to happen and I think that was the story of the project really; every time we took a step it asked for something else to happen and that’s what made it like a gradual thing. I think being for the first time in charge of the image as well as the music created this space where the pictures would inspire the musicians and the way the musicians reacted had an effect on the edit so it was always talking to each other that both elements were always having an effect on us.

It’s amazing listening and watching the finished piece, just how much of a dedication it is to F. Percy Smith’s life and work. Originally I presume there were voice-overs and over-dubs and nothing like it is now?

S.A.S: Obviously I think that when you look at the original educational films now, they feel incredibly dated for me but I felt this pure photography of Percy’s and this intimate moment between him and his subjects – whether that was developing frogs or whatever – there was this intimacy and solitude I felt with his photography. And I think taking that away from the educational films and the context and story and the educational element, the images felt free and wanted as well to deal with something today and something that our lives today are seen in a very different way and I think that was an exciting process.

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And with the music, I love how it feels like one cohesive whole where the pieces flow into one another. Certain pieces – like the lengthier tracks – like ‘Scarlet Runner’ and ‘Magic Myxies’ continually build and draw a lot of elements as they build.

S.A.S: I think to me I was more or less in the middle of so many great musicians that would be inspired by these great images and I just had to be the guy in the middle directing it: enjoying it but also keeping an eye always on where the direction it was heading in. I think that’s the enjoyable part about what I do really I suppose; I had maybe three days with someone like Julian Siegel, a couple of days with David Coulter as well as the band, there was a real richness of ideas of people taking Percy’s things and the way that inspired them and making something of their own out of it and contributing to the overall colours within the music, it was pretty exciting. And I think it was very different to what we’d done before but I think also as a process you can feel it changing as a band, as a group of musicians as well and playing the score live; it’s not like any kind of music we had to play live before. It’s actually having a great, subversive effect on us I think as a group of people.

It must be very exciting for you and the musicians to be playing the score live at these cine concerts. It’s something new but I suppose in recent years there’s been so many different mediums that you’re loosely involved with alongside music.

S.A.S: I think it’s important when you’ve been making albums and playing music for so long I think it has to find different ways of trying to keep being inspiring. And we have to be with each other and play music together, it would be impossible for us to play music together if we weren’t excited by everybody’s input. So I think it’s before we try and change shape, put yourself in a place where you’re not so comfortable and see where that takes you. And I think that’s been the key to I suppose the second part of our career. We had an original line-up and we came to an end, I think we ran out of conversation and I think a lot of that was to do with a semi-successful band; writing, recording, touring and with the cliché of that kind of turnover. I think with the last ten years it’s all been about not falling into that but actually having the confidence to follow your ideas and to where they take you but not feeling bound by these structures that exist and that has kept us alive and engaged.

It’s fascinating to think of the second chapter of Tindersticks – from ‘Hungry Saw’ onwards – it’s always exciting to discover each new release and the new ideas and directions for each of them. For example, ‘The Waiting Room’ – the last studio album – it naturally evolved on from ‘The Something Rain’ and the films made for each song was also very interesting.

S.A.S: It’s all been good and exciting. I think for this line-up – the second line-up of the band – it took us a couple of albums and we had a hard act to follow as well [laughs]. At the beginning our original band was a really fantastic, subconscious thing to be involved in and I never thought that I would end up in another great band in the way that they worked together. So, I think it took a couple of albums but when we got to ‘The Something Rain’ I think there was something going on between the five of us and again the music became more of the sum of its parts. That led into ‘The Waiting Room’ and working with Claire [Denis] and working for the museum in Belgium [‘Ypres’] there’s just a different kind of breadth to our work so it’s been a good time.

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I get the impression that each project and release must feed into the next like how you’re inspired by ‘Minute Bodies’ right now and how that must filter into the next Tindersticks album and so on?

S.A.S: That’s for sure. I think one of the reasons we’re still here and playing together is because of the work with Claire Denis and I think that she has always dragged us away from our thing and made us look into a different place and work in the more extreme parts of what we do. By the time we come back to working on our own music again we’re always changed. I think working on the soundtrack for ‘White Material’ really fed into ‘The Something Rain’ and working on ‘Les Salauds’ have had such an effect on our music; everything is always talking to each other. I’ve got no idea of what the band is going to make next but I’m looking forward to finding out.

The sound installation that is beautifully captured on ‘Ypres’ was another new venture for you and where it was and the history steeped inside it?

S.A.S: I suppose I believe – or maybe I’ve always believed it but just having the confidence to stand by it – if you have a strong feeling for something that you can find a way to make it happen and I think for ‘Ypres’ that was a real example of that for me. I stood in this place and I had this idea but I thought ‘how do I achieve that?’ but I think you have to find the right people to help you; the right people to put these ideas in place and you can actually figure out a way to get to where you need to go. I think ‘Ypres’ in a way was a real lesson that if you’ve got a strong feeling  – even if you don’t know how to make it exist – find a way to get help to do that, it’s a good thing.

It’s always beautiful seeing these long-term collaborations and Claire Denis and Tindersticks is one of those really wonderful stories that started so long ago and continuing with strength and strength. Looking back over the different films and scores, is there similarities or common elements in terms of creating music with Claire for the scores themselves?

S.A.S:  I suppose fundamentally every score has pushed us into different directions. We have this relationship and we have this conversation or narrative going on, I think what the actual ideas have; that’s where the real differences come and I think you can’t help but look at these ideas in different ways. I think for a film like ‘Trouble Every Day’ the ideas came from before Claire had even written it, she was talking about how she wanted to make a film about lovers and why lovers wanted to bite each other. It started off as a very romantic thing for us but I think by the time the film was made tough kind of erotic film really, the score is so romantic it created a very special relationship I think between the images and the music and that’s one example.

With ‘Les Salauds’ – the film before our last one – that was more about the idea of a sailor and when a sailor sees his life as simple and his work is ordered and he doesn’t have any worries but when he puts his feet on dry land that’s when all the complications start. And I think for the main character, the sailor is coming back to Paris to sort out a family problem. I think from that point of view we started thinking about the music electronically so even though it was set in Paris it was for me putting myself into this strange world that I wasn’t sure where I was for ages; I found myself surrounded by machines that I didn’t know how to use. I think that created a strange world within the film and there was a certain uncertainty about it. I think each one has asked for different things and even the last film it’s totally different again. I think it’s how something comes at you and affects you, how she feels about it, how she gets inspired and I think that she’s always open like that.

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The electronic elements in ‘Les Salauds’ worked so well, it was so compelling this journey it takes you on. And the ‘extreme’ sounds of the band you have already mentioned, you can really feel that particularly on the band’s last two albums: it may be only thirty or so minutes long but the range of ideas and sonic elements within each song; it’s fascinating just how much happens in that space of time.

S.A.S: I think the work on ‘The Waiting Room’, you just don’t want to deal with anything that you’ve dealt with before and I think that’s hard. I think say for Neil’s guitar on ‘The Something Rain’ we found this great space for Neil’s guitar and a great sound for it: it was very particular and it came out of so much experimentation, we found this one thing that runs through the whole of the album and Neil’s guitar on ‘The Something Rain’ is just so fantastic. But it need snipping off [laughs] because I think you start looking for new things and I think ‘The Waiting Room’ Neil is present as he ever is but it’s just in very different ways, he plays a lot of nylon string guitars; it’s just looking for different colours, different combinations within the songs, different rhythms: you just want to feel as though you didn’t get into this place before.

It’s something that started back in the early days but those spoken word songs like ‘My Sister’ and the sister song ‘Chocolate’ that opened ‘The Something Rain’ and the incredible ‘How He Entered’ are some of the finest of the band’s songs.

S.A.S:  Well they’re both songs by David [Coulter], ‘My Sister’ and ‘Chocolate’ so they’re very much him; his personality whereas I think ‘How He Entered’ to me is more akin to a song like ‘Marbles’ from the early days, I think it had that kind of connection. I think David’s songs and David’s ideas are always very, very particular to me and very, very special within what we do, so it’s like another different angle to come into the big mixture I suppose.

I’d love for you to discuss your studio and it’s obviously the space in which so much of the music has been made and recorded over the years and what makes it so inspiring to record in?

S.A.S: I think the space itself and feeling that you are in a space that is inviting and open to what can happen I think is really, really important. I think gradually along the way I’ve learned about recording and I’ve learned about the elements of recording that I like that I tend to stick to (which is probably a bad thing) to do with microphones because I’d like to make my job as easy as possible in a way because I spend so much time alone, I want to know what I’m going to get if I’ve got an idea and I want to capture it, I want it to be as straight forward as possible in the recording. Having a studio it’s not like having a recording studio to me, it’s a studio that’s there to go to whether you’re recording or not where different things can happen but the space itself is a very special space to me.

In what way do you feel leaving the UK and living in France has helped inspire your music?

S.A.S: I don’t think necessarily about being in France but I do think about leaving the place that you grew up in that becomes the thing that defines you, I think cutting something like that away brings a certain kind of freedom; it brought me a certain kind of freedom. Talking about my studio, I don’t think about it like “this is this place in the middle of France” I just think to me when I am in there I’m somewhere in Europe; I don’t think that I’m rooted into one place. It has that kind of relationship where it feels divorced from everywhere really, it’s just a place of its own. And I think I wouldn’t have been able to find that even if I could have or would have been able to have that in London, I don’t think I would have got to this point in the way I think about what I do .

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Going back to the original lineup at the turn of the 90’s, you must have strong memories of forming the band and this group of friends making music and particularly the demos for the debut Tindersticks record and how surprised you were when you heard what you were creating as it’s such a singular sound?

S.A.S: That record has a little story. We made a mini-album with Asphalt Ribbons about eighteen months before and we gave ourselves up to that kind of mentality of the music industry, somebody gave us a little bit of money and we gave it up to a studio and a producer to make this record and we walked away from it feeling deflated I suppose. And then we just moved to London and everything that that entails and we spent individually – especially for myself and David – we spent a long time – years and years – trying to getting people to engage with us in some way and not very successfully at all. I think what happened was after one disappointment after another it was like ‘let’s not try this anymore, let’s just do our own thing’.

I think from that moment and also I got a job at a Rough Trade shop and I was just surrounded by – in the early 90’s – all of this energy in London and lots of small independent labels. It was like let’s just make a single in our kitchen the way we want to make it and we made ‘Patchwork’ in our kitchen and we managed to sell 500 copies and then we thought about what would be next and we made ‘Marbles’ and we sold 1,500 copies and we made everything ourselves. And I think this was all leading towards making our first album and we demoed the first album in that situation (in that kitchen).

The demos, for me, are when the excitement really happens and when we went to make the album; the songs were there, the ideas were there but then working with an engineer like Ian Caple, it enabled us to bring the most out of sounds, the whole thing was elevated and making that record it was a surprise: there was a moment when we collectively looked at each other and there was a bit of a moment of ‘wow this is actually really happening’ [laughs]. You can’t really have those moments twice in your life but I remember it very distinctly.

It’s wonderful to think that the music spans from those early days and so much sparks were happening subconsciously between you all?

S.A.S: I think it was a real moment in time. I often say to my kids that the most creative thing that I ever did was to have the bravery to leave Nottingham and go to London: just to take a step because from that step so many things were allowed to happen but sometimes I think those steps are the hardest to take; you don’t get a direct reward from them but you can put yourself into a situation where things can change and things can happen and it is so important to keep a grasp of that as well.

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Another important period was after the band’s hiatus and your two solo albums – both quite different – with some of your finest recordings captured. This must have been a particularly important and creative time for you?

S.A.S: I think they’re both very different to me and I think for the first one [‘lucky dog recordings 03-04’] it’s probably up there as my favourite thing that I’ve ever made. There was a certain stripping everything back to an end of a starting point and that record to me hasn’t got such a connection with ‘The Something Rain’ or ‘The Waiting Room’, it hasn’t got the technique or the confidence but it has desire and it has the ideas; that was a point in time when I think our original line-up of the band got trapped into making music in a certain way and I think that maybe when characters are just together constantly for that amount of time, writing and making music together it maybe becomes impossible to not fit together in a certain kind of way and the more we fit together the more disappointing it was in a certain way.

And I think with making ‘Waiting For The Moon’ it was a very long process and it was very considered but it’s got some really great songs on there I think but at the time I just needed to make something raw and something willing to be ugly; that’s what the idea asked for. It was something that gradually grew in my garage and I think for ‘Leaving Songs’ it was a burst of songwriting, probably the only time that I had written songs of a certain way like that was probably for the second album because all of the songs on the second album were more or less written in a space of six months. Whether it’s ‘She’s Gone’, ‘Talk To Me’, ‘Travelling Light’, ‘A Night In’, all of those songs I can’t really imagine writing that many songs now in a certain period of time but ‘Leaving Songs’ was like that too, I just kept writing them. I just felt like I had to be true to them and maybe get rid of this Nashville thing that has been inside me since I could remember [laughs], it very much helped me to leave that behind so I’m pleased about that.

And there’s certain pieces on ‘Minute Bodies’, particularly the dreamy soundscapes like ‘Gathering Moss’ with the female harmonies, really transports you to that first solo album of yours.

S.A.S: Yeah I can see that. The thing for me about ‘Minute Bodies’ is if I think about that track it was one of the first tracks that we wrote. It was exciting to feel as though it was without a centre; that the centre of the music is the image and the music is kind of like a donut or something, it’s not something solid in the middle that holds it there. I think that’s whats really exciting about ‘Minute Bodies’ it all just holds in the air somehow and that’s pretty exciting.

Is there any records you’re obsessed with lately?

S.A.S: Three years ago I was introduced to Kendrick Lamar by one of my sons, he was playing ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ back to back and I’m surprised of how this guy has had such an effect on me, not going to make music like him but I’m talking about just feeling in tune with the way that he makes music. I think that he’s a very rare artist and that has rekindled a love of a certain kind of music that’s more direct and more about the song and his progression from then has been quite something. I’m glad that’s that’s been in my life the last few years.

‘Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’ is out now via City Slang.

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