Posts Tagged ‘Ben Frost’
For March’s mixtape we are excited to share two exclusive tracks, by Reykjavík-based composer Valgeir Sigurðsson (Iceland/Bedroom Community) and Berlin-based percussionist and drummer Andrea Belfi (Italy/Float).
Valgeir Sigurðsson releases his hugely anticipated new solo work “Dissonance” (the follow-up to 2013’s mesmerising “Architecture Of Loss” LP) on April 21st via Icelandic independent label Bedroom Community (founded by Sigurðsson in 2006). Recorded and produced between September 2015 and November 2016 at his Reykjavík-based Greenhouse Studios, “Dissonance” confirms Sigurðsson as one of contemporary music’s most gifted and innovative composers in the modern classical realm. “Dissonance” features collaborators Liam Byrne and Reykjavík Sinfonia and features the monumental side-long title-track alongside two separate suites: “No Nights Dark Enough” (in five parts) and the three-part “1875”.
The Italian-born and Berlin-based artist Andrea Belfi releases his sublime full-length “Ore” – excitingly the first for Float – which comprises his finely-honed craft as a gifted drummer and percussionist, using his own trusted sound set-up (a Saari drum-kit from Finland and a Nord modular and sampler). In recent times, Belfi’s name has reached a wider audience while collaborating and touring with the Nils Frahm-led, Berlin-based three-piece Nonkeen (R&S Records). “Ore” will be released on 26 May 2017 via Float.
Numero Group – the ever-indispensable archival and reissue specialists – this month issued the definitive double-album retrospective on The Creation, the short-lived but hugely influential 1960’s mod-rock group. Entitled “Action Painting”, the double-album set features the complete Creation studio recordings as well as tracks from The Creation’s predecessors, The Mark Four (featuring future Kinks bassist John Dalton).
March’s mix also features new releases from: Colin Stetson; Feist; Nathan Fake; Forest Swords; The Shins; Spoon; Demen and Kelly Lee Owens.
Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S02E03 | March mix
To listen on La Blogothèque:
01. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – “Mars Theme” (Mars OST, Milan)
02. Andrea Belfi – “Lead” (Float)
03. Blanck Mass – “Rhesus Negative” (Sacred Bones)
04. Moiré – “Auteur (Outro)” (Ghostly International)
05. Lusine – “Witness” (feat. Benoît Pioulard) (Ghostly International)
06. Earthen Sea – “About That Time” (Kranky)
07. Demen – “Niorum” (Kranky)
08. Ben Frost – “Impossibilities” (Fortitude OST, SATV Publishing Limited/Sky, Mute)
09. Valgeir Sigurðsson – “No Nights Dark Enough II. infamy sings” (Bedroom Community)
10. Feist – “Pleasure” (Polydor)
11. The Creation – “Through My Eyes” (Numero Group)
12. Spoon – “Us” (Matador)
13. The Shins – “The Fear” (Columbia)
14. Ennio Morricone – “Un Uomo Da Rispettare” (Un Uomo Da Rispettare OST, Superior Viaduct)
15. High Plains – “Blood That Ran the Rapids” (Kranky)
16. Kelly Lee Owens – “Lucid” (Smalltown Supersound)
17. Forest Swords – “The Highest Flood” (Ninja Tune)
18. Nathan Fake – “HoursDaysMonthsSeasons” (Ninja Tune)
19. Colin Stetson – “In the clinches” (Constellation)
20. Actress – “X22RME” (Ninja Tune)
21. FKA Twigs – “Hide” (Young Turks)
22. Todd Terje – “Jungelknugen” (Four Tet Remix) (Olsen Norway)
23. Peaking Lights – “Little Flower” (Two Flowers)
24. Risco Connection – “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” (Soul Jazz)
25. Madlib – “Cue 4” (Stones Throw)
26. Little Simz – “No More Wonderland” (AGE 101)
27. Rusangano Family – “Eyedentity” (Self-Released)
Compiled by Fractured Air, March 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.
Welcome to our final mixtape for 2016.
For our last mix we are really excited to share an exclusive first listen of the forthcoming album by Finland’s The Gentleman Losers. Based in Helsinki, The Gentleman Losers comprise the brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka. The duo have released their music on such independent labels as Büro, City Centre Offices, Warp, Nothings66 and Standard Form. Their two full-length releases – 2006’s self-titled debut album and 2009’s sophomore “Dustland” – have been universally acclaimed, winning the hearts of many esteemed music-lovers worldwide, while also being championed by such independent music stalwarts as Germany’s Nils Frahm and UK’s Bibio. The forthcoming third record – the brothers’ latest venture into blissful instrumental music of unknown pleasures – is set to be released during 2017.
December’s mix also features our favourite album of the year: “Upstepping” by UK cellist and composer Oliver Coates. As well as releasing his second solo album earlier this year (via PRAH Recordings) Coates has also released the sublime collaborative work “Remain Calm” (with Mica Levi of Micachu & The Shapes) via the UK label Slip Discs. In addition to a busy schedule of extensive touring and live performances during the year, Coates also performed strings on the current Radiohead album “A Moon Shaped Pool” (XL Recordings).
Other 2016 favourites are featured here, including: Brigid Mae Power (self-titled LP via Tompkins Square), Carla dal Forno (“You Know What It’s Like” via Blackest Ever Black), Kevin Morby (“Singing Saw” via Dead Oceans), Jessy Lanza’s “Oh No” (Hyperdub), Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s “EARS” (Western Vinyl), Amiina’s “Fantômas” (Mengi) and Eluvium’s “False Readings On” (Temporary Residence).
In a year that has all too often thrown up troubling and distressing news and events, it places an even brighter spotlight on the vital role – in expressing emotions, articulating thoughts, distilling messages, blurring boundaries and lighting the way – that music brings to all our lives. In our tiny capacity, we’d like to thank all the musicians, labels and listeners for helping to keep that eternal light flickering.
Wishing our readers and listeners a very happy Christmas and peaceful new year.
Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S01E12 | December mix
To listen on La Blogothèque:
01. Uncle Charlie – “…today is the thing” (Shadow Of A Doubt)
02. The Caretaker – “It’s just a burning memory” (History Always Favours the Winners)
03. Julianna Barwick – “Heading Home” (excerpt) (Dead Oceans)
04. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – “Closed Circuit” (excerpt) (RVNG Intl)
05. Jessy Lanza – “Going Somewhere” (DVA HI:EMOTIONS Remix) (Hyperdub)
06. Tim Hecker – “Violet Monumental II” (4AD)
07. Arthur Russell – “You And Me Both” (Rough Trade)
08. Oliver Coates – “PERFECT LOVE” (PRAH Recordings)
09. Demdike Stare – “Animal Style” (Modern Love)
10. Grouper – “Headache” (Yellow Electric)
11. The Gentleman Losers – “There Will Come Soft Rains” (Exclusive)
12. Carla dal Forno – “You Know What It’s Like” (Blackest Ever Black)
13. Amiina – “Lady Beltham” (Mengi)
14. Kevin Morby – “Cut Me Down” (Dead Oceans)
15. Dungen – “Trollkarlen Och Fågeldräkten” (Smalltown Supersound / Mexican Summer)
16. Exploded View – “Stand Your Ground” (Sacred Bones)
17. Brigid Mae Power – “I Left Myself For A While” (Tompkins Square)
18. Ben Frost – “Stormfront” (Bedroom Community)
19. Sarah Neufeld – “They All Came Down” (Paper Bag)
20. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – “Gare du Nord Part One” (Iris OST, Erased Tapes)
21. Philip Glass – “Heroes” (Aphex Twin Remix) (Warp)
22. Eluvium – “Washer Logistics” (Temporary Residence)
23. Leonard Cohen – “The Partisan” (Columbia)
24. Naïm Amor & John Convertino – “Before We Go” (LM Dupli-cation)
25. Calexico – “Gift X-Change” (Our Soil, Our Strength)
Compiled by Fractured Air, December 2016. 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.
Interview with Lawrence English.
“…my father would say: “close your eyes, listen, locate the general space where the bird is and then open your eyes”. I didn’t necessarily think about it at the time, but this was really the first moment I understood how sound functions, how it creates space and dimension.”
Words: Mark Carry
This August marks the eagerly-awaited release of Australian composer/producer Lawrence English’s new full-length album, entitled ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ on the ever-impressive Room40 imprint (which English runs). Two years in the making, ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ marks the iconic producer’s first album since the enthralling ‘The Peregrine’ released in 2011, which was Brisbane-native’s ode to J.A Baker’s novel (of the same name).
Drawing its roots from T.S Eliot’s poem Gerontion, ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ finds English continue his exploration with electronic music, and particularly, extreme dynamics and densities. Similar to his previous works (on revered labels such as Touch, 12K and Winds Measure), an emotional depth and gripping intensity permeates deeply from the shape-shifting electronic compositions.
‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ is available now on Room40.
Interview with Lawrence English.
Congratulations Lawrence on the wonderful new record, ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’. I love the contrasts that are super-imposed on the sonic canvas, where distortion and menacing tones are interwoven with beautiful ambient pulses and visceral noise. Please discuss the making of the album and what techniques and processes you feel were integral to ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ unique world?
Lawrence English: Thanks so kindly, always a pleasure to know it’s resonating out there! ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ is probably the first record I’ve made that very directly responds to my frustrations with what I see happening around me, here in Australia and also overseas. The record is born out of a kind of seething disappointment and moreover disapproval of what I see as a wholesale assault on the core values that I feel make humanity a worthwhile proposition. Here in this country, the past few years have seen what can only be described as a race to the bottom. Politicians fuelled by self-interest and cloaked in hollow ideology have played their constituents for fools.
In recent weeks our government has been accused of piracy, of undertaking refoulement and by doing so breaking the UNHCR treaty to which it’s a signatory. Then last week we had the government essentially endorse the notion that anthropomorphic climate change is a falsity through the repeal of a carbon pricing system. It amazes me in this day and age, with so much access to information that we can fail to have leaders who can enact that information, through considered thought and analysis, and devise some level of wisdom. ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’, the sound and textures of the record, are my small voice mustering all it can to express an outright refusal to accept such mediocre, callus, inhumane and ill-conceived rhetoric from those who would seek to represent us.
It was rather timely that I happened upon this notion of wilderness of mirrors when I did. I’d heard of it before, but it was quite by chance I came across it again at the end of making ‘The Peregrine’. The phrase seemed to capture both a metaphor for how I wanted a record to sound and feel, but also seemed to summarise what I was starting to see happening around me, those issues I mentioned for example.
Please talk me through the album-title please? I feel it embodies the music perfectly, in much the same way as the predecessor ‘The Peregrine’ which was your dedication to J.A Baker’s novel. Also, what themes do you feel are central to this record?
LE: ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ is a phrase that draws it’s history from T.S Eliot’s poem ‘Gerontion’. It is a profound and haunting piece of text that resonates well beyond the moment of its creation. When I first read it, upon thinking about the record, I was really struck by the way it opened out this sense of space in time. It reads with this deep sense of interiority, the words sink inside you and somehow recur in your mind almost subconsciously days and weeks after you’ve read it.
The phrase was also used to describe misinformation campaigns conducted by the CIA and KGB during the cold war. I thought this was also somehow a fitting metaphor not just for how I wanted the record to evolve, but also reflecting the more political concerns I had making the record. We see the ideas of misinformation exploited in new forms via social media and the 24 hour news cycle. All to often we see particular narratives spun and reinforced over and over through a variety of channels, narratives that may not actually reflect the situations occurring. Foucault was right, discourses to systemically form the objects of which they speak!
For me, the themes are very personal, reflecting, as I mentioned before, these concerns and frustrations I have, and I feel others have also, about the direction of issues relating to the conditions of modern humanity. The record is in some way a soundtrack to an awakening about what it means to be a thinking and conscious human. I sense a lot of people out there are slumbering, lulled by the ever-growing range of distractions that occupy time and potentially may end up eroding the opportunity for a whole manner of experiences that require something more than a passing glance or a momentary acknowledgement. This record is me yelling, with whatever I have inside me, and I hope some people choose to join in the chorus of discontent.
I was very interested to read that three separate live performances – from Earth, Swans and My Bloody Valentine – had a big effect on you and channeled the new music into a certain direction. I would love for you to recount these concerts and the inspiration you drew (and continually to draw) from these like-minded artists?
LE: I have to say there were a couple weeks last February where I really was so fortunate to get to hear two bands I have respected for a great many years. Both SWANS and MBV were in Australia for an ATP related event, thought I caught each of them at sideshows. The thing about these two groups, and also Earth whom I caught at another time during the making of the record, is they have come to understand the possible force of sound off the stage and how that can be used to create a physiological transformation in an audience.
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the body as ear, sound is such a seductive force, it penetrates our flesh and vibrates us, it makes us feel it and it’s easy to forget this when we’re spending more and more time with headphones on. The pleasure of music isn’t just for the mind, it’s for the body too. So specifically the live concerts I experienced reconciled this as something I wanted to try and invest into this record and certainly into the way the music transcend the record into a live setting. There’s just something so unsettling and evocative about intense sound pressure and low frequency saturation – that sense you almost need to gasp for air, that the words you might choose to speak are choked the moment they try to escape you mouth, this I love.
My current favourite is the sublime tour-de-force ‘Another Body’, a piece of music that is filled with human emotion. Can you discuss the construction/layering of this track, Lawrence? Also, it’s the aesthetic quality of the record that comes into sharp focus here. What process of the music-making process proves to be the most challenging or time-consuming?
LE: It’s interesting as ‘Another Body’ was actually one of the very last pieces to come into focus for the record. The first section of the track, that kind of oceanic tidal wave of distortion was something I happened upon almost as the album was done, it was from a very, very early session for ‘Wilderness’ that I just happened to revisit as I had no memory of what those recordings were let alone sounded like. After discovering that section, the album was really in its final stages of taking shape. ‘Another Body’ is kind of two co-existing pieces, one spilling out of the other. There are several pieces on the record that, during the process of making the album, basically became entangled and in some cases one consumed the other entirely.
For me, almost all of the music I make is process driven and more often than not context driven. Albums like ‘Kiri No Oto’, ‘The Peregrine’ and this one are very much drawing directly on the contextual ideas directly and the music takes much of its aesthetic qualities from that. This record particularly, given the sense of feedback, iteration, erasure and reflection, really does bare the marks of process. What may have started as melodic is lost in iteration, resulting in a shimmering distant harmonic shadow of what was originally recorded.
You have produced records for a wide array of awe-inspiring artists, ranging from the psych-folk ensemble, Tenniscoats to Iceland’s Ben Frost. I would love to gain an insight into the role of producer and how you set about producing an artist’s work? For example, does the process differ significantly depending on the artist and type of music that is being made?
LE: I love collaboration, in all its varied and murky forms. I count myself fortunate to have had the chance to work with a bunch of musicians who I feel create work that is utterly their own. People like Tenniscoats for example, they are truly wonders to me. You can give them anything and they can make it musical. I’ve watched them pull melody out of the metal grill of a heater, actually that melody is on ‘Temporacha’, which was one of the projects we worked on together. They have such a natural way with music, whatever they come in contact with becomes a tool for beauty and song. This astounds me, as is not really an affinity I share, though I wish I might.
As for folks like Ben Frost, I’ve always been a huge supporter and fan of what he does. He is one of those people who is hell bent on making an impact with music and is tireless at making that happen, I respect that determination so much. I’ve had the pleasure of being a catalytic collaborator on his records, contributing parts or something like with AURORA more addressing some structural and arrangement/timbral questions. We had a great time together last year when he visited working on that record and in fact Ben offered some invaluable commentary for ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ on the final morning he was here. There are a number of musicians who I would call dear friends and certainly Ben is amongst those.
Take me back to your earliest musical memory? How soon did you realize the importance of music in your life?
LE: I’m not sure there is a moment, an early one that is, where I suddenly realized music was going to be a big part of my day to day. I do however clearly recall the first times I thought about sound in a serious way. When I was a little kid I’d go bird watching with my dad at this derelict section of our old port. It was a large stretch of abandoned grasslands and swamp. In these swamps was a bird called a Reed Warbler, seriously this bird has a call that sounds like a Synthi AKS, it’s just mind blowing when it gets going. Anyway, they generally hide deep in the reeds and are camouflaged, so what my father would say is “close your eyes, listen, locate the general space where the bird is and then open your eyes”. I didn’t necessarily think about it at the time, but this was really the first moment I understood how sound functions, how it creates space and dimension.
Music was more of an incremental incursion into my life. As a kid I listened to a lot of classical music, as that’s what my parents listened to on the radio. As I got a little older I started listened to the Beach Boys and a lot of music from the 60s, which I guess reflected the age of other people in my family. It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I started to get really deeply into music. Around that time I started trading tapes, then I started a fanzine when I was 15 and then my first label when I was 17. My first release was a compilation tape of lots of bands that no one had heard of, outside of underground niche zines. It was in the days where making a CD was still crazy expensive here in Australia. That feels like a long time ago now.
Discuss the improvisational aspect to your music. The range of collaborations is quite staggering, from the likes of Terry Riley, Keith Whitman to Damo Suzuki among many others. How does the act of collaborating feed into your own solo work?
LE: As I mentioned I consider myself very fortunate to have a chance to perform with a great many people over the past decade or so. Some of those artists were in fact central to me developing Room40 and my own practice, their support was very crucial as back when I started Australia was still a long way away from the rest of the world. At least that’s how it felt.
People like David Toop, Scanner, David Shea and DJ Olive were very generous to me and offered me some amazing opportunities to flex some of my sonic curiosity. During the early 2000s actually I was also really focused on improvisation stemming from what was happening in Tokyo’s epic minimal approach to sound structure and space. I had the chance to perform at Offsite in Tokyo and formed bonds with a great many musicians there who I deeply respect.
The people you mention, Keith and Terry, actually that was during the same performance. Terry, Keith and I made an improvised work together. It was really a pleasure to be able to perform with them both. I respect both of them greatly, each have really contributed some amazing sound over the years and continue to inspire!
I think what collaboration offers, at its best, is the opportunity to reconsider your processes, your ears even. None of us hear the same way and working with other musicians opens you to a new perspective, a new vista if you’re willing to perceive it. There’s been so many wonderful collaborations over the years, Slow Walkers with Liz Harris was a pleasure and right now I am working on a new project with my dear friend Jamie Stewart. This one is really great brutal fun!
What’s next for the Room40 label, Lawrence? What releases can we look forward to?
LE: The rest of the year is looking pretty full for both Room40 and A Guide To Saints, our tape label. On Room40 there’s new editions from Chris Herbert, Steve Roden & Stephen Vitiello, Ueno who plays guitar for Tenniscoats and also Eugene Carchesio’s archival series continues. With A Guide there’s some new editions from Daniel Rejmer, Tom Smith/Marcus Whale and also from Ross Manning, who is a genius from here in Brisbane. Should be fun! In 2015 it’s our 15th anniversary, so we’re going to have a pretty big year I think.
‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ by Lawrence English is available now on Room40.
Interview with Daníel Bjarnason.
“A painting is not about experience. It is an experience.”
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
The Autumn of 2013 heralded the highly anticipated return of Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason’s newest work, entitled ‘Over Light Earth’, released on the prestigious Iceland–based independent label, Bedroom Community. ‘Over Light Earth’ represents yet another groundbreaking work in contemporary neoclassical music from the multi-award winning composer. The latest record is Bjarnason’s third release for Bedroom Community, having released the stunning ‘Solaris’ collaboration with label–mate Ben Frost last year and the similarly universally-acclaimed debut album, 2010’s ‘Processions’. The latter was described by Time Out NY as “coming eerily close to defining classical music’s undefinable brave new world.” On ‘Over Light Earth’ an equally exhilarating new world is created by the masterful composer that encompasses a seamless array of stunningly beautiful arrangements, intricately woven melodious patterns and enriching textures.
‘Over Light Earth’ comprises three major works. The title–work is Bjarnason’s nod to the abstract expressionism school of painters – such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock – where a sprawling sonic canvas is wonderfully drawn from. ‘Light Over Earth’ was commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The second piece is aptly titled ‘Emergence’, where a plethora of strings (performed by the newly formed Reykjavík Sinfonia) conjures up a vast ocean of mood as dramatic tension gradually unfolds as the emergence of Bjarnason’s orchestral voice comes into full-focus, in all its power and glory. ‘Solitudes’ comprises the third and final piece that in fact is Bjarnason’s first piano concerto, reworked with electronics by Valgeir Sigurðsson and Ben Frost. The magical spirit of John Cage permeates the piece’s hypnotic piano motifs and rhythmic pulses of strings. The results are nothing short of staggering.
Bjarnason’s string arrangements can be heard on the last two records by Icelandic ensemble Sigur Rós – most ‘Kveikur’, released in June of 2013 – and not to mention the plethora of collaborations with label-mates Valgeir Sigurðsson, Nadia Sirota and Nico Muhly in the not-too-distant past. As ever, a rich symbiosis exists between the Bedroom Community collective of gifted composers and musicians that effortlessly percolates into the solo artist’s respective work of true art. In 2012, Bjarnason contributed the score to the feature film ‘The Deep’. His composition was awarded Best Film Score at the Icelandic Film and Television Awards in 2013 and nominated Best Original Score at the Harpa Nordic Film Composers Awards 2013. His 2012 compositions, ‘The Isle Is Full Of Noises’ and ‘Light Over Earth’ won him the prize for Best Composer at the 2013 Icelandic Music Awards.
Interview with Daníel Bjarnason.
Congratulations on your new record ‘Over Light Earth’. I’ve loved your first solo record, ‘Processions’ and the new music is equally stunning. I love the sequencing – and the beautiful flow – to the album and how it’s separated into three distinct movements. Can you please discuss for me these three wonderfully realized worlds you so effortlessly have created; ‘Over Light Earth’, ‘Emergence’ and ‘Solitudes’ and how this deeply affecting intensity of emotion is captured so well in these recordings?
DB: Well…thank for your kind words! Actually the 3 pieces on the album all have a very different genesis and they are all written for different occasions. The last piece on the album is actually the oldest one, 10 years old! But it was the first thing we recorded when I joined Bedroom Community 4 years ago. Emergence is this huge orchestral thing I wrote for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra around the time I was becoming a father. It is a bit of a crossroads piece in that I am looking back at things from my past but also moving forward and trying things I hadn’t done before. The most recent piece is Over Light Earth which was written on commission from the LA Phil and premiered last year. It says the most about where I am right now even though I have already moved on from certain things in that piece (at least I think I have, but it’s sometimes hard to tell). So actually the pieces are not at all thought of in a unified way and what I guess really brings them together on this album is the way they are approached from a recording and producing point of view.
I was intrigued to read how the works of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock formed such an inspiration for ‘Over Light Earth’, and indeed Canvases No 9 and Number 1, 1949 inspired the two movements of ‘Over Light Earth’. I would love to gain an insight into your fascination with these particular paintings? The music shares similar qualities of abstract beauty and a plethora of meanings are obtained, just as the works of Pollock and Rothko share.
DB: Obviously there are a lot of shared space between (abstract) art and instrumental music. I feel very close to this period in art called abstract expressionism and the way both Rothko and Pollock approached their art as well as other artists from that period. Sometimes it is also a question of coincidence. While I was thinking a lot about what I wanted to do for this piece I happened to be in LA and walk in on an exhibition where I saw this Pollock that knocked me off my feet. Rothko is obviously more subtle but had a deep aftereffect somehow. Even though I had seen works by both these painters in museums before I felt like I was really seeing them for the first time. Sometimes things just happen like that. But in the end the piece is not really about that or an illustration of a certain piece of art. It’s more that you put yourself in a certain headspace and meditate on certain things while you’re creating. I don’t want people to think too much about Rothko and Pollock when they listen to the piece. It becomes its own thing. This is why I am often afraid of telling people about the connections one is making while creating a piece of music. There are a lot of invisible threads in creation and sometimes it’s better if they remain invisible. However there is a big demand on artists to speak about their work and tell how and why and what. I’m a bit torn on this subject.
I would love to learn about your creative process involved in these life-affirming compositions? I read your recording technique involves meticulous close-miking and multi-tracking. I would love for you to talk a bit about this please?
DB: For this album we really approached the recording process in a non-classical way. It was recorded in sections with the strings, brass, wind, percussion, harp and piano all recorded separately. We recorded the wind, brass and strings in groups as much as possible but even so there was a lot of overdubbing. This became a bit of a scrolling nightmare in ProTools because we had well over a hundred tracks running most of the time. But in return we had a lot of control.
This special record sees your own music performed by the newly formed Reykjavík Sinfonia, creating in turn, a monumental symphonic recording. As a conductor, how did the music evolve – from the music you first of all wrote and seeing it take on new significances horizons later on – and how you felt as a composer, when you heard the resulting works performed by the orchestra?
DB: I’m used to following my music all the way from perception to performance and I sometimes feel like I don’t really know a piece of mine until I have conducted or performed it myself. But performing your work and recording it for the first time is always special. Because of the way this album was recorded in layers it was sometimes hard to keep track of the big picture but I’m happy with how it all came together in the end.
I love all the music you have collaborated on, from the likes of Sigur Rós and Efterklang – some of the most innovative bands making music today – and the amazing ‘Solaris’ record, in which you collaborated with Ben Frost. As an artist and composer, these magical projects must provide you with great inspiration and tap into the music of your own solo works. Can you discuss for me the collaborative aspect of your music, and how you feel you have developed as a composer, on the back of these amazing records?
DB: I feel it is important to collaborate and I enjoy it very much, especially when I have had the good fortune to work with the people you mention. When you are arranging music it’s a delicate balancing act of bringing something of yours to the music but not making it become about you. When collaborating on a new piece you need to work differently than when you are composing your own music; you relinquish some control but you’re also involved in a dialogue which you sometimes miss when working alone. Working with Ben was great and I think we’ll continue to work together on various projects.
Can you trace back to your earliest musical memory? I can only imagine you must have come from a very musical family and background. Were there particular records or events that triggered for you your love of music and fascination with sound?
DB: Well, I didn’t come from your typical musicians family and neither of my parents are musicians. I did get a pretty good music upbringing though and when my family lived in Madison, Wisconsin I went to a great pre school called Pre-school of the Arts. I think my first musical love was Mozart actually. When I was about 3 or 4 I had this cassette that told the story of his life and played his music and I used to listen to that a lot. I was also crazy about Michael Jackson.
‘Over Light Earth’ is available now on Bedroom Community.
“The lighthouse stands alone off the beaten path, transmitting a message out across the ocean. Sometimes, musicians seem to play a similar role: a message is being projected out into the environment, without any guarantee that it will reach its destination. It is impossible to say who will receive it, or to which uses it will be put.
Still, the only option is to keep on transmitting the message.”
— taken from the sleevenotes to amiina’s “The Lighthouse Project”.
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
‘The Lighthouse Project’ is the latest chapter in amiina’s much celebrated and cherished songbook of contemporary music. Ever since their debut EP ‘AnimaminA’ was released in 2004, a plethora of transmissions have graced the earth’s atmosphere, direct from their homeland base of Reykjavík, Iceland. The magic of music-making and live performance is inherent in all of amiina’s body of work, and ‘The Lighthouse Project’ is certainly no exception. In fact, in many ways the latest six-track EP showcases the band at the peak of their powers, projecting divine music to the world outside.
The inception of ‘The Lighthouse Project’ came to light in the Summer of 2009, when the band set out on a journey across Iceland, to perform music they had written especially for performances in small places, and in great proximity to the audience. Three years later, these very songs were recorded that would become ‘The Lighthouse Project’. The stunningly beautiful compositions convey the intimacy of ammina’s highly regarded live performance, and takes me back to their many memorable concerts that I’ve fortunately witnessed.
‘Hilli’ is re-worked here, having first been released on the critically acclaimed debut album,’Kurr’ (2007). Lee Hazelwood’s ‘Leather and Lace’ is wonderfully re-interpreted by the Icelandic outfit. The country folk gem from ’71 is transformed into a beguiling piece of music, complete with musical saws, music boxes and stringed instruments. Lee Hazelwood’s baritone is replaced by a meandering musical saw, and guest vocalist Nina Lizell (from the recording I’m familiar with), is exchanged for a mesmerising violin-led melody. The result is nothing short of spectacular. The recording is evocative of The Balanescu Quartet’s re-interpretation of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Robots’. The spark of creativity is dotted across the EP’s six transcendent compositions.
Before his passing, Lee Hazelwood made one final recording, in collaboration with amiina. I think this in itself goes beyond words and is ultimately, a fitting testament to the special group of Icelandic musicians. Interestingly, Hazelwood’s part is a spoken word piece by Wyndham Wallace and was made available (‘Hilli’ 7″) as part of International record store day back in April.
Opener ‘Perth’ is sublime. The slow, drifting melody moves gently like ripples in a river, that contemplates all of life that surrounds you. The music is deeply immersive, where I feel the bliss of solitude wash over me. The sheer love of playing music is clear to witness. Opening moments of fragile guitar notes is soon accompanied by beguiling instrumentation of musical saw. The held sounds of this particular instrument is nothing short of breathtaking. Third track ‘Bíólagið’ is my personal favourite. Like all the pieces of music on ‘The Lighthouse Project’, something magical is captured in the moment – a fleeting moment – that forever remains, recorded to tape.
The aesthetic of live performance lies at the heart of amiina’s sound. The accordion, musical saw, kalimbas and musical boxes blend effortlessly, creating a wholly evocative landscape of delicate sound. Allow your heart to be taken by amiina’s captivating blend of electro-acoustic, neo-classical recordings.
At present the band comprises six members – Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir, Hildur Ársælsdóttir, Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir, Magnús Trygvason Eliassen and Guðmundur Vignir Karlsson (aka Kippi Kaninus). The bands origins go back to the late 1990s when four girls studying string instruments at the Reykjavík College of Music formed a string quartet, playing classical music, but increasingly moving on to playing all sorts of music with various bands in Reykjavík.
In 1999 the quartet joined Icelandic band Sigur Rós on stage. The collaboration has continued ever since with amiina contributing strings to Sigur Rós music on tours and in the recording studio on the albums ( ) , Takk and Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust. I first crossed paths with ammina’s unique blend of music at Sigur Rós concert in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, in support of their album ( ). I gladly recall the power unleashed by their intimate performance, and just how quiet a space can become. Several years later, the band have returned numerous times to this island of ours, and particularly my hometown of Cork.
As part of this year’s Midsummer Festival, amiina return to Cork Opera House, in what looks set to be a truly special occasion. The event is entitled Gamiina that takes place next Monday, 24th June. Gamiina is a collaborative project produced by Cork Opera House that sees the venue working with 6th class students from Cork Educate Together, the UCC School of Music Gamelan Orchestra and amiina.
The students from Cork Educate Together will be taken through the principles of the Gamelan Orchestra with the object of the project being the interpretation of amiina’s music through the Gamelan – hence the title of the event, as chosen by the students themselves – Gamiina. The project for me, has shades of the near-mythical Langley Schools Music Project – recorded between ’76 and ’77 – where a choir of children’s voices re constructed classic pop songs. Undoubtedly, Gamiina will be the celebration of art and music in all its glorious shapes and forms.
Gamiina – a collaboration between 6th Class Cork Educate Together students, UCC Gamelan Orchestra and amiina – takes place at the Cork Opera House on 24 June at 8pm as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival. Tickets are €26.
For further information and tickets please click here.
A special website for Gamiina has been set up for the event, to visit please click here.
“The Lighthouse Project” is out now on Sound Of A Handshake.