FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Athens Of The North

Time Has Told Me: Dennis Young

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“…you become one with this sound and I think I’ve experienced that a few times and that’s really quite an amazing feeling when you have that.”

—Dennis Young

 Words: Mark Carry

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Dennis Young is best known as the marimba player and percussionist for the legendary New York group Liquid Liquid, a trend-setting, shape-shifting early 1980’s post-punk band whose timeless rhythmic, beat-driven (and incidentally guitar-less) explorations continue to inspire bands of today. In truth, Liquid Liquid never fit into the No Wave movement of the time across the New York underground or moreover the noise scene that followed a short time later. Utilizing immaculate instrumentation of marimba, percussion, bass and vocals, its group’s members would become one with the music, creating utterly timeless gems such as ‘Optimo’, ‘Cavern’ and ‘Scraper’ across a series of essential singles and ep’s – and over the years – some vital re-issues housed by Domino and Mo Wax (originally released on legendary imprint  99 Records).

During the mid-80’s, Young was busy, in between playing the legendary clubs of New York, the gifted musician undertook his own solo explorations from his home studio in Jersey. Young released a plethora of solo recordings from ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’ to ‘Reel To Real’ and ‘Synthesis’ encompassing electronic, jazz, krautrock, folk, African and a myriad of other influences etched across the sonic tapestry.

Earlier this year, the beloved Edinburgh independent label Athens Of The North lovingly assembled a new compilation of Young’s career spanning solo recordings, entitled ‘Primitive Substance’. This is a record that showcases the uncanny musical abilities of the multi-instrumentalist and composer, beginning from ’87 right up to 2004. The title-track is a stunning jazz odyssey with added textures of colourful trumpet and melodic bass guitar lines. ‘Berlin’s irresistible synthesizer groove feels as if it could loop forever such is its divine spell.

The endless nuances, textures and intricate patterns can be found deep in the music’s flow. The avant pop sphere of ‘Somerset Hills’ is filled with sumptuous pop hooks and celestial harmonies.One of the compilation’s highlights is the achingly beautiful lament ‘Forgiveness’: Young sings on the opening verse, “Hold me/Help me carry on”. A song to soothe the darkest depths of pain. The retrospective’s nine genre-bending explorations carves out a kaleidoscopic, visionary oeuvre of enchanting sounds.

‘Primitive Substance’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-substance

 

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Interview with Dennis Young.

Firstly, can you discuss the new compilation ‘Primitive Substance’ which came out recently on Athens Of The North?

Dennis Young: I got in touch with Athens Of The North and they were excited about this; it’s basically a compilation of more the songs I did over the years: starting from 1987 all the way up to 2004. So after Liquid Liquid disbanded I continued on recording music – all different types of music – and this is kind of like more the songs I did in world music, jazz, alternative dance beat type of music on this recording. So I compiled the best songs I had and then Athens Of The North put it out so I’m really excited about how it turned out.

It’s precisely all the styles you hear all across the compilation where you get the sense that there’s just so many ideas and elements that goes into each song.

DY: I never did the same record twice – I always try to do something different on each recording and a lot of those songs are out of print right now or there’s some unreleased music on there also. I always try to do something with each record different and there was a point in time when I had a lot of keyboards and sequencers and drum machines and so I was doing a lot of programming that way. There was no computer on any of those songs: there was a sequencer and recording.

Do you have memories of composing and performing ‘Primitive Substance’ – the piece itself – because it’s an amazing jazz track?

DY: That was done in a studio; I never recorded that live. Basically it was about a really amazing recording session: I was doing a record ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’, I was working on the record and the engineer said “I know a really good bass player and a really good trumpet player” and I said “Great, bring them down” because the song needed something added to what I had. So this bass player came down and he was Gerry Carboy, a really amazing jazz bass player and he also had a homemade bass that was made for him specifically as you can hear on the record and he had such a great sound. And then the trumpet player, Michael Gribbrook just came in and he did those parts on one take: he had a flugelhorn and he had a trumpet and it was just a magical session, it just happened really amazingly how it all came together.

My current highlight is the amazing ballad ‘Forgiveness’, the vocals and lyrics in particular are really quite something.

DY:  Yeah that’s one of my favourite songs on the whole compilation – that was a special song. That one came together also really well. David Axelrod –not the famous one but a local friend of mine who I’ve done music with on other types of projects – he came in and did this really amazing bassline on that also: I mean that really just put it over the top and it’s such an emotional bassline on there and really he tied the whole song in there together. Those mixes were done, at that time it was all done on analog tape so the mixes were really just we had to set it up on the board and after the mix was done, that was it: it was gone, you didn’t save it back then. And so who I worked with at the time in the studio really did a great job getting those mixes good.

Can you describe the Gabriel Farm Studios in Princeton which was run by your collaborator Andy Gomory (particularly on your earlier solo records)?

DY: Andy Gomory I found on a local ad in a music paper – I was looking to mix my first record: it was the electronic record that I did called ‘Concepts’ and by chance Andy had a studio and I called him up and said I wanted to do some mixing with this first record. And I went there and we blew because he played keyboards and he had this DMX drum machine and after we did mixing, we started playing together and we started jamming. Andy is a really amazing musician: he did some great programming on those drum machines and he was a really fine keyboardist.

You were a huge part of Liquid Liquid, I’m sure you must have strong memories of pursuing your solo path when the band disbanded?

DY: I was doing solo music at home when the band was still happening, I was exploring electronic music at home at that time, even when the band was happening. I had a reel-to-reel at that point – in fact there is a record out called ‘Reel To Real’ on Staubgold that’s all 2-track live reel-to-reel recordings I did basically when the band was going on at that point [’82-‘83]. So I was basically doing my own music still even when Liquid Liquid was happening, I mean we were playing a lot but I still had a lot of time for my own explorations of music.

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You must have particularly fond memories of New York and this whole vibrant music scene happening during that time?

DY: It was amazing, the clubs were really happening. At that time you didn’t have cell phones, you didn’t have everything online so people came out to hear music. And we would play at these really top clubs in the city, I mean we were on 99 Records – and we were very lucky to get on 99 – and we were playing some of the top clubs. And then when The White Lines and Cavern hit and we even played the huge disco place the Roxy, the Funhouse, Paradise Garage and we had that experience. So it was pretty amazing, we never thought we’d be involved with a lot of the big dance clubs because we were basically an alternative type of group: it was very rhythm oriented, we relied on the beat and rhythm and so it was an exciting time- we were at the right place at the right time.

I can imagine those jams with the band – you must have realized you were onto something very early on?

DY: Oh Yeah. I played with these guys before Liquid Liquid in The Idiot Orchestra. I met Richard McGuire in college and we had a jam back then that was really exciting and we gelled and there was a drummer involved. But then I played four shows with The Idiot Orchestra (which Richard was in as well as Scott Hartley from Liquid Liquid) so we even gelled then. So that was the foundation of this and when we started playing it was this amazing chemistry we all had and made it unique.

I presume you played drums from a very young age?

DY: That was my first instrument as a teenager was the drums. So I was playing in a lot of covers bands in high school and that kind of thing – I was really a drummer and I wanted to be a professional drummer when I was a teenager, that was my real goal. I never thought it would sidetrack to a marimba player and percussion and doing all this electronic music so it was a surprise to me because as a kid I really wanted to be a drummer – that was my real instrument that I loved as a kid.

I wonder in your teenage years were there certain bands or albums or live shows too in New York that really made you want to pursue music?

DY: I think back then we had a really great recordstore by us that got a lot of imports in – they were called Cut-outs at the time and I would get records like a lot of prog rock stuff like things from Can and Neu! and all types of stuff. And so I was getting exposed even at high school and early college on some of these really progressive type of music. I was very impressed by Bill Bruford and King Crimson was a big influence on me –  that type of music. So I was listening to a lot of that in highschool and into college but I had access to a recordstore there that would all this amazing cut-outs for two dollars: all this amazing from over in Europe and in Germany and England so that really opened my eyes to different ways the music can be influenced by.

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A collection like this with ‘Primitive Substance’ you’re someone who has made so much music across different sounds and styles, is it almost a challenge to pick out bits and pieces from a large library of so many different sounds?

DY: It is a challenge. It was a challenge with each record to find a new synthesizer to buy, a new sound to find especially ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’which is an accumulation of everything because it has so much on it: so many instruments, so many unique players: that record really is the last one I did which has ‘Primitive Substance’ and ‘Forgiveness’ and a couple of other really good tracks. I still have copies but like I said these are getting harder and harder to get because they’re limited runs that I did. But thanks to Athens Of The North and Bureau B and these other labels that I’ve been working with, people are able to hear this music for the first time mostly because a lot of people haven’t heard a lot of this stuff.

With the whole technological advances of today and things are changing quite quickly with music and so on, what is your perspective on the music path now as opposed to back in the mid-80’s?

DY: Back then everything was recorded on tape: I went through a number of different tape formats, you had the reel-to-reel, the porto studio, the DAT. I think now it’s too easy to get music perfectly these days with a computer. I use a computer to edit but I don’t use any sounds off of a computer as much but it makes it too easy make things sound really good. Back then it was a challenge to get the music right and it was all done with sequencers and actual playing. I think now, it’s still a challenge but it makes it more easier to make music and there’s so much out there now, there’s just a flood of stuff, you can’t keep up with so many bands and names, it’s just hard to keep up.

I love how you have an array of guests that just do their thing and add certain textures to your songs. I get the impression that must always be an exciting thing for you to invite certain people over and things like that?

DY: Oh absolutely. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the ‘Shadow’ record that I did: it was a singer-songwriter record that I did after ‘Old Dog: New Tricks’. I was able to get a classical violinist to come down to the studio and record some amazing parts so these people really add to the puzzle of a song. So the finished song has somebody else’s playing on it and I let the musician play what they feel, I don’t dictate usually what they do on these songs so I’ve been very lucky to get really good musicians to play on the songs and to add really great parts.

I’d be curious to know about your set-up in the studio. Do you find that you have a certain routine or way of laying things out or does it change with the different records?

DY: I think with a lot of the records especially electronic I would have to get a sound that to me feels like it could go somewhere – either it’s the beat or the texture of the sound, especially with a lot of electronic music. And the same with the later stages where a lot of it started on a keyboard or a drum machine together, it was just the feel that I had that I felt would work. And then from there it would build up, I would add the additional instruments, the singing, the vocals – the vocals always came after the music on all the songs that you hear, especially on ‘Primitive Substance’, that was always the last thing that I added. Nothing ever developed with just the lyrics first, that was always after the music but it was like a feel that I had from the instruments and so I thought, well maybe this might turn into a song.

Would you have an earliest memory of playing the drums and the special reaction you had?

DY: I don’t know about the drumset as much but maybe with the Liquid Liquid band, our first few shows where we really excited an audience and everything gelled, it’s quite a feeling when the band reaches this level where you’re more than the individual parts, you become one with this sound and I think I’ve experienced that a few times and that’s really quite an amazing feeling when you have that. I might have experienced that as a drummer but I think more with the band I felt that.

‘Primitive Substance’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-substance

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July 2, 2019 at 11:17 am

Mixtape: Fractured Air – April 2019

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April saw a host of essential new releases surface into the stratosphere. Fixity’s latest full-length ‘No Man Can Tell’ – and second for the ever-dependable Cork-based Penske Recordings imprint – is another stellar sonic journey showcasing deep musical telepathy at each and every turn from a cast of Irish and international musicians.

The eagerly awaited return of Leafcutter John’s new Border Community record ‘Yes! Come Parade With Us’, whose sumptuous sound worlds contains the UK composer’s trusted modular synth and a plethora of field recordings. In addition, guest drummers Tom Skinny (Sons Of Kemet) and John’s Polar Bear bandmate Seb Rochford.

Canadian cellist and composer Justin Wright’s debut album ‘Music for Staying Warm’ is an artistic creation of staggering beauty and wonder. Liquid Liquid luminary Dennis Young’s solo record ‘Primitive Substance’ is a vital document from the solo artist’s post-Liquid Liquid career.

 

 

Fractured Air – April 2019

01. Students of the Salonica Quaker Girl’s School“Dance of Jerissos (lerissos)” (Sublime Frequencies)
02. Ariwo“Ireme” (Manana Records)
03. The Comet Is Coming“Birth Of Creation” (Impulse!)
04. Kate Tempest“Tunnel Vision” (Lex Records)
05. Naive Ted“Blood & Guts” (Unscene Music)
06. Hype Williams“Hype Williams Meets Shangaan Electro” (Honest Jon’s)
07. Dean Blunt“And Ill Show U Heaven If U Let Me” (Hippos In Tanks)
08. The Rationals “Glowin’” (Night Time Stories Ltd)
09. Fixity“Woo” (Penske Recordings)
10. Crevice“In Heart” (Fort Evil Fruit)
11. Carla dal Forno“Fever Walk” (Kallista Records)
12. Josef K “It’s Kinda Funny” (LTM Recordings)
13. Leafcutter John“This Way Out” (Border Community)
14. MorMor“Outside” (Self-released)
15. This Mortal Coil“The Lacemaker” (4AD)
16. Tim Hecker“Step Away From Konoyo” (Kranky)
17. Heather Woods Broderick – “I Try” (Western Vinyl)
18. Justin Wright“Harmonic Loops – Playground Swings” (First Terrace Records)
19. Gigi Masin“The Word Love” (Music From Memory)
20. Anna Peaker“Helicidae” (Alter)
21. Maria Somerville“Dreaming” (Self-released)
22. Raymond Scott“Portofino 1” (Basta)
23. Ingus Bauskenieks“Lidojums Uz Sauli” (Stroom)
24. Prins Thomas“Feel The Love” (Smalltown Supersound)
25. Daedelus “It’s Madness” (Nosaj Thing Remix) (Magical Properties)
26. Four Tet“Teenage Birdsong” (Text Records)
27. Dennis Young“Forgiveness” (Athens Of The North)
28. Ishmael Ensemble“First Light” (Severn Songs)

Chosen One: Andrew Wasylyk

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Performing, writing and listening to music’s a deep, rewarding privilege. An ongoing revelation, really.

—Andrew Mitchell

 Words: Mark Carry

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My introduction to Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Mitchell (under the guise of Andrew Wasylyk) was the captivating instrumental ‘Journey to Inchcape’, played on Oliver Coates’s essential monthly NTS show.The piece begins with a gradual drum machine beat before immaculate instrumentation of harpsichord and a divine blend of strings and woodwind gently coalesce together, akin to the ebb and flow of the ocean waves. The arrangements are stunning: the carefully sculpted sonic elements feel somehow out of time as the hypnotic swirls of tape delays overlap with the pastoral splendor of flute passages. Music to truly savor.

This formidable composition serves a poignant moment to the Scottish musician’s enchanting third solo studio album ‘The Paralian’ – placed between the harp-based celestial pop lament ‘Greendrive #2’ and the gorgeously introspective neo-classical gem ‘Welter in the Haar’. ‘The Paralian’ is a collection of immersive soundscapes that feel at once steeped in tradition and buried in the past: a timelessness abounds at every pulse and endearing moment.

The broad palette of instrumentation dotted across Mitchell’s meticulously crafted song cycles is another hallmark of this great record. Jazz inflections of double bass slowly fade into the reflective ‘Dreamt The Breakers Spill’, combined with shimmering bliss of brass and percussion. Cosmic energy permeates throughout the utterly seductive groove of ‘Flight of the Cormorant’, emitting a catharsis of infinite depth.

The record opens with the soft rumblings of footsteps and birdsong – an array of field recordings that perfectly embodies ‘The Paralian’s empowering journey. The listener is taken on a voyage, and in the process becomes one of self-exploration in the deepest sense. The echo and reverb of euphonium resonates as the opening piece swells into the ether. The addition of vocals on ‘Adrift Below a Constellation’ creates a soul-stirring moment of the record’s heartfelt penultimate track. Images of a mariner lost at sea. Adrift and yearning to be found.

‘The Paralian’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://andrewwasylyk.bandcamp.com/

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/

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Interview with Andrew Mitchell.

Congratulations on the utterly sublime latest full length album, ‘The Paralian’, a divine sonic journey across modern-classical and folk realms. Firstly, please take me back to the artist residency you were invited to in a historic house in Hospitalfield, Scotland. Can you trace the starting point or origins of what would become the inception of ‘The Paralian’? 

Andrew Mitchell: When I arrived for the extended residency in Arbroath it quickly became apparent that there would be no shortage of inspiration. The history of Hospitalfield House, its Scots Baronial architecture and Arts & Crafts interior all fed in to the approach. Encouraged by the surroundings, I slowly began to recognize my relationship with the east coast and the north sea, and the bones of the album were laid.

The inspiration you sought from your surroundings must have really tapped into the music. For instance, the looming North Sea horizon from your vantage point and the specific project to create new music for the restored 19th Century Erard Grecian harp. Would I be right to say these compositions all began with composing music for this harp instrument and for the remaining instrumentation to be added and interwoven later? Looking back on the residency, how do you feel the creative process developed (or evolved if want for a better word)? 

AM: Partially, some of the harp pieces I wrote with minimal intentions that could weave in and out of piano progressions. The aim was delicate and ornate, to echo the building’s interior. The coastal environment infiltrated that process; at times fueling temptation to let areas evolve using drums, bass, brass, strings and synthesizers. “Greendrive #2” is an example of that initial intimacy that broadens on the journey. Other routes would start with a field recording or perhaps a title. For me, it’s important to have different doors in to a song. “Adrift Below A Constellation” arrived before a note had been played.

The immaculate instrumentation – such a gorgeous range of sounds – is what one of the hallmarks of this great record. Please introduce to me your trusted ensemble and recount your memories of having these musicians together in a room (which I presume was the case?) and witnessing these pieces fully bloom into life?

AM: As a keen procrastinator, I’ll often chisel away at an idea until it gives way and trundles into life. The majority of the tracking was actually just myself in the studio on drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, piano, synthesizer, guitars and glockenspiel. However, I was lucky to work with a lot of talented, patient folk. The brilliant Sharron Griffiths played Concert and Grecian harp, Seth Bennett provided double bass, Rachel Simpson, Iain Robertson and Tony Sellars were the brass section, Paul Wright droned his tanpura, Carol O’Rourke was on oboe and Brighton’s Thomas White drummed on “Mariner’s Hymn”.

As I pulled the recordings together a few areas still felt a little light to me, in terms of depth and character. The wonderful arranger and cellist Pete Harvey kindly excepted an invite to write string arrangements for “Westway Nocturne”, “Mariner’s Hymn”, “Adrift Below A Constellation” and “Welter In The Haar”. I’m grateful he did, they may be my favourite tracks of the album. Violin, viola and cello were in the able hands of Simon Graham, Emma Connell-Smith and Harriet Davidson.

‘Journey to Inchcape’ is a stunning cinematic voyage; and how the intricate layers meld together so effortlessly is quite something to behold. Can you talk me through the various layers and the moments-within-moments that seem to just happen throughout this piece?

AM: That was developed after a boat trip out to Bellrock Lighthouse, eleven miles east of the Firth Of Tay. We arrived during a serene low tide to cormorants basking, and seals singing in crisp morning sunlight. There was some sort of brooding elegance I was reaching for, hence the brass and the pastoral-tinged Mellotron flute on the choruses. How well I achieved that is another matter. I was initially wary of the number counter melodies, to be honest. There’s a temptation to impose on an idea when there’s no vocal to curtail that fourth cascading harpsichord line, or that whim of triple-tracking the feedback delay. I’m often adding and subtracting in the effort to find the path.

‘Adrift Below a Constellation’ is the only vocal track, which fades in towards the album’s final section – the looming horizon, in a way. The addition of the vocal/lyrics further heightens the experience, evoking the timeless spirit of Robert Wyatt or Talk Talk….can you discuss the reasoning for having the one vocal track (I wonder did you have more to choose from?) and the song-writing process itself?

AM: Being very fond of Robert Wyatt and Mark Hollis, that’s humbling to hear. Thank you. This was initially meant to be a brass arrangement for just euphonium, trombone, trumpet and flugel. I had this recurring image of a mariner dreaming of dry land, alone at sea with no one to share the sunset with. It seemed only fair to try and give him or her a voice.

I absolutely love the psych/cosmic groove unleashed in the hypnotic ‘Flight of the Cormorant’, again revealing the endless and boundless nature of these sound worlds. This piece feels almost like a jam in the studio – was this the case? In this regard, I wonder were there many happy accidents, so to speak that happened during the making of ‘The Paralian’?

AM: There wasn’t the luxury, or time, for working a group up in the studio. While there were certainly things that fell in to place last-minute, this song was fairly established beforehand. I was striving for something hypnotic with its linear drone nature. If that alludes to spontaneity, then I suppose you might call that a ‘happy accident’.

‘Through The Field Beyond The Trees Lies The Ocean’ opens the album, but was one of the last things committed to tape. I was playing back some of the field recordings made during a study trip out to Seaton Cliffs and stumbled upon the motif while improvising on piano. It stuck, and struck me as an invite to ‘The Paralian’.

The meaning of ‘The Paralian’ is a dweller by the sea, and this resonates powerfully throughout the record: there is a solitude or quiet bliss deep within the space of these recordings. At what point did you come up with the album title itself and the particular narrative that unfolded? Please discuss the inspiration of your homeplace – and the Scottish countryside and nature – that clearly seeps into your consciousness?

AM: It came to me about a quarter of the way in to the project. At that stage, I held it as more of a working title, a temporary focal point to see me through. There were others in contention, however, when my friend Matthew Marra heard the album he told me “The Paralian” was the one. Rarely is Matthew wrong about that kind of thing.

Scotland has many magical landscapes and shorelines. I’m very fortunate to live on the east coast by such gateway to the North Sea. It’s offered me a number of things; a great deal to consider and plenty to write about. It can soothe and provoke you in equal measures. It’s a curious thing, and I’m not sure where I’d be without its presence.

Take me back to your earliest musical memories? Were there certain moments in time that were these eureka moments that you just knew that the musical path is destined to be the chosen one?

AM: When I was sixteen my uncle gave me an eighties Stratocaster. A kind gesture that would prove fairly pivotal in opening doors to the exotic world of music, books, film and art. I still use the guitar today. I don’t know if I’d subscribe to the idea of a single eureka moment. Performing, writing and listening to music’s a deep, rewarding privilege. An ongoing revelation, really. Naturally, there’s frustrations and disheartenment, but the decent days can be sublime. Providing it’ll have me, I’d like to traipse this path for longer and continue learning.

Lastly, what books, music, films have you enjoyed recently? What’s next for you?

AM: I was just gifted “Devotions”, the selected poems of Mary Oliver and have been listening to the eagerly awaited vinyl reissue of Paddy McAloon’s “I Trawl The Megahertz” a lot, along with Josephine Foster’s “Faithfull Fairy Harmony”. The last film I saw was Aleksei German’s deliriously brilliant “Khrustalyov, My Car!” a couple of weeks ago at Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre.

There’s various plans afoot. I’ve some writing to finish and other ideas that need started upon. I’m hoping to play some more shows this year, experimenting with the live set up and, if I can, go further afield than the UK. A duo I’m involved with, called Art Of The Memory Palace, are releasing a new record, “Dusk At Trellick Tower”, later this month too.

‘The Paralian’ is out now on Athens Of The North.

https://andrewwasylyk.bandcamp.com/

https://aotns.bandcamp.com/

Written by admin

March 20, 2019 at 2:58 pm