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Chosen One: Echo Collective

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Interview with Neil Leiter (Echo Collective co-founder).

I love playing this music and feeling my heart slow down in the pulseless moments, and then the opposite, getting carried away by the wall of sound and transported to the next realm.”

Neil Leiter

Words: Mark Carry

Photograph: Jesse Overman

official echo photo

Echo Collective is a collective of classically trained and professionally active musicians based in Brussels Belgium. Past and ongoing collaborations include A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Stars of the Lid, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Laniakea, Adam Wiltzie, Dustin O’Halloran, and Christina Vantzou.

The live experience is one of those rare occurrences where a multitude of emotions can engulf your every thought, like a whirlpool of forgotten dreams that suddenly resurface to the pools of your mind. Of course, an experience such as this is impossible to quantify but the feelings and profound impact caused by these sonic transmissions is absolute and true.

When I think of some of these live experiences, the Echo Collective string quartet lies at the heart of several otherworldly live shows: Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson; A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s ‘Atomos’ tour (several years later) and Stars Of The Lid’s 2016 European tour. Undoubtedly, the gifted quartet have developed a common musical language with these awe-inspiring modern composers and the wall of intense sound unleashed by these live strings – blended with electronics, drone noise, ripples of piano notes or otherwise – navigates the depths of the human heart and (unknowingly) transported to another realm.

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. In a similar way to André de Ridder’s exceptional Stargaze modern classical ensemble – their reinvention of Boards Of Canada’s ‘HI Scores’ EP or the divine ‘Deerhoof Chamber Variations’ record are just two examples – Echo Collective are continually searching to redefine the boundaries of music (and in turn, these boundaries become beautifully blurred).

www.echocollective.be

https://www.facebook.com/collectiveecho/?ref=bookmarks

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. For details of the first edition of the BRDCST Festival and Echo Collective’s show (as a double-bill with Germany’s Hauschka), please visit HERE.

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Echo Collective performing with A Winged Victory For The Sullen at the BBC Proms, 5 Aug 2015, Royal Albert Hall, London.

 

Interview with Neil Leiter (Echo Collective co-founder).

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about your awe-inspiring musical project of Echo Collective. Firstly, can you please take me back to the founding of Echo Collective and the particular space and time in which this collective began on their music path? I’d love to gain an insight into your musical background and classical training. Also, please introduce to me the current personnel who comprise of Echo Collective.

Neil Leiter: First Mark, thank you for your interest in Echo Collective. It is a true honour to be part of your inspiring blog.

Echo Collective began five years ago. I was introduced to Adam Wiltzie by a childhood friend Caroline Shaw. She plays violin as part of ACME in New York and is a fantastic and renowned composer. As part of ACME, she had played with Adam as part of A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Stars of the Lid. Adam was looking for European based musicians to play with, and she put us in touch. I will be forever grateful for that introduction.

Margaret Hermant and I put a team together to collaborate with AWVFTS and Echo Collective grew out of that initial relationship. All of our musicians come from a classical background. For example I studied viola performance at Indiana University Bloomington, and had been an active professional in Brussels for ten years before Echo. Margaret our violinist and harpist, studied in Brussels and has also been an active professional for many years before Echo. The list goes on, but the background is the same. Classically trained musicians, searching to redefine the boundaries of music and what it means to be a classical musician.

Echo was and still is primarily a collaborative group. Though we have started to branch into our own projects, our roots remain collaborating with modern composers on their new projects, recordings, and tours. Though we tour mostly as a string group, normally between three and five musicians, our team in residence at the AB in Brussels this year, is seven strong: Margaret on violin and harp, myself on viola, Harm Garreyn on cello, Gary De Cart on piano, Hélène Elst on bassoon/contrabassoon,Yan Lecollaire on clarinet/bass clarinet/baritone sax, and Antoine Dandoy on orchestral percussion. The upcoming albums that we plan to release also are in this formation.

You have formed an integral part with many of the finest modern composers of today, including Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Christina Vantzou and more. Please discuss how the process of collaboration has developed between Echo Collective and these array of composers? It is clear that there is a dedication, trust and openness between you and these collaborating musicians. Each of these projects must take you on some deeply rewarding and fulfilling experiences. How have you developed as a string quartet in light of these wonderful projects and collaborations?

NL: You are completely right that collaborating with the aforementioned composers is deeply rewarding and fulfilling. Part of what makes it so special is that there is a real dialogue between us and the composers. Because we come from such different backgrounds, part of working with each of them is developing our own common language for musical communication. And as we develop this language together, there is a deep bond that develops. All of these people are like family now.  I think that these strong relationships come from learning how to communicate in our own special way, in an individualised way. In a way that only relates to their music.

I know that these composers appreciate that dedication. And all the people that take part in Echo have that innate ability to live the music live. In fact my wife jokes that I am probably the biggest Winged Victory fan. And I might be, I listen to their music and the music of all these amazing people all the time. And I truly do love it. All the people of Echo do. And that love is felt by our collaborators and hopefully the audience.

It is hard to say how we have developed over these years. I think that probably, we are faster in understanding what the composers want. Often times anticipating ideas before they are brought up. After playing so many concerts together, mostly it just takes a few words or a certain look between us to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.

The live experience of playing cities around the world with these incredible artists must be another truly inspiring avenue and path to be on. I was fortunate to witness Echo Collective onstage with Stars of the Lid last year and Jóhann Jóhannsson a few years previously. Can you shed some light on the preparation and rehearsals that are involved with these tours? I wonder what particular stage in the live context would be your favourite? The energy and depths of emotion that fill the atmosphere during these shows of yours create such a deeply profound impact on the listener. Can you somehow reflect on the live performance of music and the effect of strings (and the live string quartet) has on the live setting?

NL: For me personally, music is at its best live. I think that is where the greatest range of emotion is communicated by the performer and felt by the audience. And this is where the live strings really add the most. Because we are naturally acoustic, we can give the soft moments the transparency of un-amplified sound. And because we are amplified, as the music reaches those mind bending peaks in volume, we can help give it that extra oomph. In those forte moments, often times I feel that even in three we sound like one hundred.

We have worked over the years with Tom Lezaire (our long time sound engineer with AWVFTS and SOTL) as well as other sound engineers to keep the natural sound of the string instruments.  Even in the loud moments, the audience should feel the direction of the sound from the strings, the bow moving across the strings, the hiss of the contact point. Though the audience only sees the musicians on stage, the relationship that we have with Tom and the other sound engineers is imperative to a strong live performance.

As we play these great compositions, we try to feel the emotion that we want to convey. As a result, if we are doing our job correctly, the depth of emotion that we feel, should be the feeling that the audience gets swept away by. I love playing this music and feeling my heart slow down in the pulseless moments, and then the opposite, getting carried away by the wall of sound and transported to the next realm. That is by far my favorite part of the live context, being transported by the music.

As Margaret always says, and she is so right, having a stable team that is able to communicate and feel in these common ways is essential to being swept away and sharing that feeling with the audience. It is not by accident that we convey these feelings, it comes from years of playing together.

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Echo Collective plays ‘Amnesiac’ is an ongoing residency at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, which culminates in April 7ths Brdcst Festival performance. Firstly, please discuss your reasons for choosing Radiohead’s Amnesiac album and indeed your love and fascination with this band? This of course was a special time, when ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ were unleashed into the world at the turn of the millennium. What are your memories of first hearing ‘Amnesiac’ and the impressions it left on you?

NL: This might surprise you, but I had never listened to the Amnesiac album before Kurt from the AB proposed it as the focal point of our residency. I grew up singularly focused to a fault on classical music. In fact it is a kind of running inside joke how little popular culture I actually have.  That being said, other members of Echo are huge Radiohead fans.

Kurt Overbergh, the artistic director of the AB in Brussels, initially proposed a choice between Kid A and Amnesiac as the focal point of our residency. At that point, I asked for a week, and immersed myself in these great records. We decided to work on Amnesiac because it is more complex, more built on layers, in my opinion more based of classical construction and colours, and in many ways more of a challenge.

The live recordings of ‘Amnesiac’ from AB Brussels, are quite extraordinary and the intricate arrangements are a joy to savour. Can you talk me through the process of notating, arranging and fleshing out these songs, so to speak? What I love is how you add many colours, textures and new perspectives to the sound world of ‘Amnesiac’. What have been the most challenging aspects of this project?

NL: Gary, our pianist, and I have been working this year to arrange these songs. Of course the process involves notating all the parts from the original songs (Gary is a real pro at this) and then imagining how to apply it to our ensemble. In a lot of ways, reworking the songs without voice has been freeing. Where a traditional rock song has to leave lots of room for the vocal line, we have allowed the secondary lines to be more equal with the vocal melody. This results in more interaction between the lines, and as a result hopefully lots of colours and variation in sound and form.

The hardest part has been finding our voice within, while still remaining ‘true’ to the original.  We want the audience to feel like they are meeting an old friend for the first time. To feel comfort in hearing a song that they love, but to be challenged to listen and interact with it like it is the first time. That is a real fine line to balance.

After our initial arrangements, all the fleshing out and balancing happens collectively in rehearsal.  We try things, see if they work, play a concert, reimagine, and repeat. We are constantly searching to take the sound to the limit, to appropriate each line as our own. In this way, the pieces are not just interpretations but reinventions. Our residency at the AB has really allowed us the time to work through all these processes, and to assimilate the music for ourselves. It has been a fantastic opportunity that we are very thankful for, and I think that we are finding that illusive balance.

The opening ‘Pyramid Song’ is magnificently re-arranged. The woodwind instrumentation replaces Thom Yorke’s voice but retains that sombre, brooding, dense feeling and atmosphere. Can you talk me through the instrumental make-up of ‘Pyramid Song’ and what new layers were composed for some of these parts?

NL: Like almost all of the songs, there is very little composition added to these amazing pieces, the lines from the original are kept, but readapted in our colours and techniques. In Pyramid Song the intro and outro are wind like color effects that we added to help set the mood. We achieved this through extended techniques in the strings and winds. And the baritone sax replaces Thom Yorke’s voice, later doubled by the contrabassoon. We chose those instruments to try and capture the amazing timbre he is able to achieve. It was one of the first arrangements we did, and still one of our favorites.

‘Hunting Bears/Like Spinning Plates’ epitomises the dynamic range of your ‘Amnesiac’ performances and just how aesthetically rich these compositions are. One of the defining moments arrives with the gradual awakening of ‘Like Spinning Plates’, coming after the sparse ‘Hunting Bears’. So much colour is added to the latter, it’s a piece I’m sure you particularly enjoyed arranging and performing? The strings on top of the piano and percussion – arriving on the rise of the song – is one of the defining moments of this live set.

NL: Hunting Bears is originally a big guitar solo, but for us was very reminiscent of a recitative from opera. Very free and in a way spoken. Margaret plays both the harp part and then the violin part which replace the guitar, and we follow her seemingly free form improvisation like an orchestra would accompany a singer in a recitative. We chose to use it more as an introduction to Spinning Plates than as a standalone piece.

And our version of Spinning Plates is based on Radiohead’s live version of this song. Their live version spoke to us directly, almost like something that we would have composed ourselves. It is probably my favorite, and also the most classical of all the songs. Like in many of the arrangements the vibraphone and glockenspiel are integral in creating the resonate atmosphere.  Everything just fits together like a clock. The contrabassoon line, which is not really the melody in the original, is a great solo line in our version. Put all together it gives the sensation of flying.

‘I Might Be Wrong’ and ‘You and Who’s Army’ remain as vital and affecting on these live recordings. I feel listening to these arrangements of yours, it not only reminds us how incredible Radiohead’s works are but how you are able to channel new energy and perspectives into these songs. ‘You And Who’s Army’ was always one of my favourite songs from the original and to see how this instrumental version slowly bloom and continually build is certainly the record’s crescendo.

NL: Part of the work that went into these arrangements was imagining the dynamics in a classical way.  That means creating long crescendos, or dynamic contrasts that might not be evident in the original.  ‘You and Who’s Army‘ was in fact reimagined as one long crescendo. The soft color of the bassoon solo accompanied by harp and soft viola and cello, that transitions into a raucous jazz inspired baritone sax and violin solo. This version really shows our full dynamic range both in terms of volume and color. As the layers pile up, so does the emotion. This is an extremely classical construction, and is part of what helps us reclaim the song as our own.

What are the kinds of conversations you’ll be discussing about honing in on your sound as you’re working together for the next number of weeks before the Brdcst festival? It must also be quite liberating to be undergoing a project such as this where there is vast possibilities as to how to bring ‘Amnesiac’ to life with your artistic vision?

NL: At this point we are fine tuning. Everything is basically set, and we are working towards esoteric things like flow, how to connect the pieces, in which order, communication, balance etc.  This is the part of the work where it really becomes chamber music.

How ‘Dollars and Cents’ is transformed into a sweeping orchestral jazz work out is another important part of Echo Collective’s ‘Amnesiac’ and how it serves a wonderful prelude to ‘Knives Out’. What have you learned about this body of work by Radiohead and what new insights and feelings/impressions you may have now after being immersed deeply in this project for the past few months?

NL: As we have worked through this large undertaking, we have been confronted with many things that we are not often confronted with as classical musicians. For example, non-classical musicians often talk about the groove, whereas classical musicians talk about pulse. This immersive process has really helped us to find that alternative perspective and abandon many of our preprogrammed classical clichés. By working through these arrangements we have in many ways transformed into a band. And that is exciting. But I am continuously struck by how classical and jazz oriented Radiohead is. It is ironic, but as we move away from what we know best, we continuously come full circle and are confronted with our origins. I feel that these songs are as much classical as they are not. And that paradox also gives the energy to reimagine what is already a great piece of art.

What other plans for Echo Collective lie on the horizon? I hope there will be (physical) releases made available in the near future.

NL: Thankfully there are many things on the horizon for Echo Collective.

We plan on releasing three albums in the near future, though where is still a great mystery. Of course we want to release the Amnesiac rework which we will record in August. We also want to release a reworking of Burzum’s ‘Daodi Baldrs‘ that was commissioned by the AB two years ago, which is already recorded, and we continue to play live. And we would like to release an album of our own original material that we have been working on in parallel to the Radiohead as part of our residency.

And then of course we will continue to work with AWVFTS as well as other artists in collaboration.  For example, we are in the beginning of collaboration with Daniel O’Sullivan. And of course we are always looking for new collaborations with artists.

We are doing more and more film work these days. As well as teaching graphic scores in collaboration with Christina Vantzou. All in all we are very excited as our activities continue to diversify.

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www.echocollective.be

https://www.facebook.com/collectiveecho/?ref=bookmarks

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. For details of the first edition of the BRDCST Festival and Echo Collective’s show (as a double-bill with Germany’s Hauschka), please visit HERE.

 

Chosen One: Stars of the Lid

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Interview with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.

“…when it works, it’s a feeling not even of contentment, it’s a sort of cross between accomplishment, contentment, satisfaction and just where you can sit there for a moment and it feels as if the whole world is OK for a few minutes even though the rest of the time it feels as if it’s about to explode.”

—Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie

Words: Mark Carry

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Since releasing their debut record ‘Music For Nitrous Oxide’ in the mid-nineties, Stars of the Lid have been responsible for creating some of the most ground-breaking, singular and innovative ambient music to have graced the earth’s atmosphere. The innate ability of the gifted duo Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride to stretch out space that in turn, creates vast, limitless drones steeped in unimaginable beauty. Each Stars of the Lid record remains a vital musical document whose meaning and significance has only deepened with time.

Brian Eno once said “A studio is an absolute labyrinth of possibilities — this is why records take so long to make because there are millions of permutations of things you can do.” It is abundantly clear across the storied career of Wiltzie and McBride’s sacred works that a labyrinth of possibilities permeate the drone soundscapes and intricately arranged symphonic works of monumental works such as 2007’s ‘And Their Refinement of the Decline’ (the band’s last studio album); ‘The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid’ (using strings, horns and piano to captivating effect) and ‘The Ballasted Orchestra’s utterly compelling ambient explorations. These albums were painstakingly recorded, processed and assembled over long periods of time (for instance, the band’s last studio album was five years in the making). I feel this has become the essence of Stars of the Lid’s resolutely unique musical oeuvre: the listener feels the creator’s sheer devotion to their chosen art being poured through every divine note and aching pulse.

SOTL’s Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride will be embarking on an extensive tour to debut some new compositions, and some old classics with long time visual collaborator and projectionist Luke Savisky, and German lighting designer MFO.  On stage this tour will be featuring a new band. Two new members, Robert Donne from Kranky label mates Labradford, and Adam’s long time studio collaborator Francesco Donadello. Plus Brussels residents and A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s string ensemble, the Echo Collective and a vintage Moog 55 Modular Synthesizer.

2016 has already seen Brussels-based Wiltzie provide original scores for a number of feature films including Jalil Lespert’s ‘Iris’, ‘The Yellow Birds’ by Alexandre Moors and Mike Plunkett’s ‘Salero’ (the latter will be released on 11th November 2016 via Erased Tapes).

For full details of Stars of the Lid’s European tour, which kicks off this Saturday (1st October @ Paradiso, Amsterdam) and includes two Irish dates (Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre and Dublin’s National Concert Hall), see HERE.

https://www.facebook.com/starsofthelid

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Interview with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.

I’d love for you to discuss the forthcoming Stars of the Lid European tour itself? It must be very special for you and Brian to be re-united again after being involved with other projects in the interim?

Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie: So, technically it’s been ten years since we released a record. In the meantime, I’ve been really busy doing a lot more soundtrack work and working with A Winged Victory For The Sullen but at the same time, pretty much every year Brian and I have at least done a couple of shows here and there. So we were always there but I think initially it was intentional to step away from it for a while and try something different so I think more and more we’re kind of getting back into it and getting closer and hopefully we’re going to find a way to finally finish the record and so it’s connect a little bit to both, you know getting our feet wet again. And like I said, we haven’t been completely gone away from it, there’s also this thing connected with the Moog that brought us to do more than just a couple of shows. Having the ability to use this beautiful piece of analogue furniture was sort of the catalyst to make the tour go longer and go to places we haven’t been in a long time – like Ireland – and yeah it’s good to be back.

I’d love for you to discuss a bit more about the synthesizer itself because as you say that must be a real treat to have in your live set-up because normally that might not be possible?

AW: Yeah absolutely, it’s a hugely famous piece of old gear that’s obviously really expensive and fragile and it’s so huge that it’s not really so easy to normally take on tour. We’re really lucky to have this for a really short period of time. I had it in my studio some months ago to test it out and see how we could make it work. We’re going to be playing some new material plus we’re playing some old songs we’ve played throughout the years so it’s nice to breathe some new life into it with some new sounds and in a new way to approach it.

The Moog is a complicated instrument because this one in particular doesn’t have the ability to save pre-sets, so when you get a sound it’ll go away really quick so we’re kind of meeting it halfway. The Moog can very easily turn into some sound that doesn’t sound like anything that we do but there is some inherent beautiful simplicity within the instrument that really fits to what our sound is. It’s been a nice journey to find a way to make it fit inside our world so we’re looking forward to trying that out every night.

Another component too, Adam, is the wonderful string ensemble that audiences would already be familiar with those very special A Winged Victory For The Sullen shows?

AW: Absolutely. The same string players I have been using for a while now, mostly through A Winged Victory For The Sullen. They’ve started playing with Stars of the Lid a few years ago but they live with me, I’m here in Brussels and they’ve become really good friends and they have become a really big part of my live show no matter where I play so it’ll be a real treat to have them along with me as well.

It was cool to see last year Kranky re-issuing some of the Stars of the Lid albums on vinyl, and just a reminder of what special musical documents they very much are.

AW: Yeah, they went out of print. I don’t know if it was really conscious but it seemed a really good time to re-press them on vinyl. It’s been such a long time it’s funny; I figured out that sometimes the best promotion is to do nothing for as long as possible and for some reason we’ve grown in a strangely beautiful organic sense that I never really imagined. For whatever reason those records resonated with people and people care about them so in a weird way this is almost like we’re going back on tour to support those records we released almost twenty years ago [laughs]. It’s nice and as I always say, I’m pretty lucky that people like anything that I do, it’ll be a real pleasure.

I’m curious with the art of a duo – there’s of course you and Brian as Stars of the Lid and alongside Dustin as A Winged Victory – there’s obviously something very special with working or creating together as a two-piece?

AW: Well there’s something two people can do that one person could never do, that’s always the beautiful thing with collaboration. I guess I’ve always been a big believer and big fan of it. I’m lucky to have two guys that I click with in this world.

You already mentioned scores and different things – even more so in the last few years – it’s a wonderful time seeing all these composers with so many projects and varied releases coming out where you’re one prime example. It must be interesting to have all these different projects in your mind at the same time?

AW: I think it’s nice to do different things because you don’t get bored with it whether it’s the different projects or working on something individually like the score project. And obviously as an artist you want to keep busy and not become stagnant so it’s good to have all these different things you can work on.

In terms of the new Stars of the Lid material, can you shed some light on the new material or direction in which you’re going with it?

AW: I don’t really know. We have a lot of new material but I don’t think we have really sat down and decided on what’s actually going to be on the record. In that sense, it’s almost as if we’ve done nothing but we go out on tour sometimes to test out new songs and see what feels like you want to develop more. As far as telling anyone about our new record, there’s actually nothing to report. Everyone seems to think we’re going on tour because we have a new record but we don’t. And everyone also seems to think – it’s a strange thing – that we still live in Texas, I don’t know why that is but they always say the Texan duo, it seems that in the world of the press we will always be existing in Texas.

You already mentioned living in Brussels, you know the studio itself has it been a place that’s been developing over the last few years? I’d love to learn more about the space itself and your set-up?

AW: Yeah I mean I’ve been there for almost twenty years. So, it’s slowly developing – you get new gear and whatnot – it’s basically a really old apartment with really high ceilings and it’s very sympathetic for recording acoustic instruments. Although I do a lot of recording for bigger projects with an orchestra in a studio in Budapest and sometimes I record some strings at another studio in Brussels but I somehow have been able to make it sound like as if you can’t really tell so you can mix and match different things from different places and it feels connected. I’ve always – from the early days – all my earlier recordings were recorded at home because I didn’t have any money, so I’ve always loved recording at home, it’s something that I think I will always do.

The special thing is too with the range of the different material, you know it always has this sort of DIY aesthetic to it too, which is a big compliment too.

AW: Yeah absolutely, it’s all connected. I mean in the beginning, we were so anonymous and we didn’t have any money so we had to do it yourself. So I think it stems from that even though I have a manager now and people who work for me, it still feels strange if I don’t do most of it myself. I feel as if I’m cheating someone if I don’t. My mom told me the other day, she likes to tell me that I remind her of my father because he always had trouble sitting still and so maybe I have adopted a little bit of that from my father. It’s hard to let someone else do something because you just want to do it yourself.

Looking over the Stars of the Lid discography, there’s obviously a string of really amazing records. The length of time it took to make some of these double or even triple records, it must feel like a gradual process when you’re trying to build one piece with so much going on?

AW: I think in the past; songs would develop over a course of years. A two-hour record – you know like a triple album – could take years to make but as I’ve gotten older it seems things happen a lot quicker. I recorded a score this summer – and I’m going over the soundtrack right now to release it – it’s this French film Dustin and I have just composed and it’s over an hour-long and we did all this in about two months. So I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that it’s a little bit easier to let go and not be so precious about everything. I’m not necessarily saying that one is better than the other and I do still slave over things, there are some other music that I’m working on that will take longer and develop. I guess it really depends on the project, you know when you’re working by yourself – for example a soundtrack, it’s a commissioned piece – you have to please other people so you have to find a way to not be precious and let go quicker because there’s deadlines and people have agendas. When you’re working for yourself, you can take all the time in the world.

I always think about when you’re connected to the first [Stars of the Lid] record ‘Music For Nitrous Oxide’, which came out in the early nineties and you had your whole life building up to that one moment, which I was in my early twenties when that came out so it was essentially twenty-three years of my life to release the first record and after that it’s a series of a lot shorter times. So I can see both sides, I do have to say that since I’m professional and that I make a living out of making music, I am relieved in a sense that I can not spend too much time if I need to. I was talking to Jóhann Jóhannsson the other day and he feels as if it doesn’t matter what he has recorded, it never feels finished to him and that must be really stifling at times you know. I like to let go when I can, I think it’s good for you; they’re like these time capsules so you need to let go, otherwise you’ll never finish anything.

It reminds me of Arthur Russell too who always seemed to struggle in order to finish something.

AW: It’s hard to let go sometimes, which I totally understand. You’re making this piece of art and once something doesn’t feel finished it can be very stifling and suffocating, you know it’s better to put it aside and release something that you aren’t happy with because you don’t want to end up feeling like a prostitute or something. What’s the line from that movie, “a wise man once said there’s always a fine line between clever and stupid”, that’s important to remember.

I’ve been listening a lot to your ‘Salero’ soundtrack recently, it’s really amazing and the pieces are just so beautiful. It feels related to other things you have done but it exists in its own realm as well, there’s a separate identity as well.

AW: Yeah maybe, it’s a commissioned piece so I had to work a lot quicker on it but I mean I still think that it sounds like me even though it’s recorded with an orchestra but I’m biased so I don’t know. I don’t know how to feel about it, I’d like to get out of my body and look at myself but sometimes it’s hard to do that. But I’m pleased with it, I’m glad it’s going to come out. I think it’s a beautiful time capsule.

And composing to actual visuals is the process really but in terms of the film then, it feels like a perfect fit where you’re composing music to a vast salt flat?

AW: The first time I saw the images, they were absolutely overwhelming, they’re so beautiful and it’s also kind of strange to see a part of the world that you’ve never seen before. It could maybe look a bit familiar but just have no concept for it, especially the reflections from the sun it looks as if it’s not part of the earth sometimes. It was just so beautiful.

You already mentioned the string orchestra, you must go to that stage after having the compositions pretty much written I imagine but I wonder it must be nice to end up in the same space as the orchestra?

AW: For me, it’s my favourite part because this is the moment where you have this brain fart in your head and you get to let it come out. And just have these other people interpret, it’s going to pretty much sound like you wrote it down, I just absolutely love it. I found this great orchestra – I can’t say they connect with what I’m doing because they are just playing notes – it’s really my favourite part of the whole process because this is where all the happy accidents happen. It sounds like kind of what I was trying to do and you get these other things out of it that you never imagine in a thousand years, you know when you get thirty people in a room to play a drone, it’s absolutely beautiful.

That must be the same feeling for those Stars of the Lid albums where the sessions at the end, you hear all these strings and horns over those drones?

AW: Yeah, it’s different though because that record I mostly recorded in my home studio, not to say that wasn’t a satisfying recording experience but since I’ve been moving more into larger orchestras for the past number of years now, it’s a different thing. I mean there’s one track on the ‘Salero’ record – most of it is recorded with an orchestra except this one track called ‘Bring This Place To Life’ – it’s recorded in my studio with the people who I play with normally and it’s got a totally different sound so the feeling you get when you get people to play on something that you have written – it doesn’t matter if it’s large or small – when it works, it’s a feeling not even of contentment, it’s a sort of cross between accomplishment, contentment, satisfaction and just where you can sit there for a moment and it feels as if the whole world is OK for a few minutes even though the rest of the time it feels as if it’s about to explode. I guess if I meditated on a regular basis, it would be like this moment you come out of meditation and everything is calm. That’s the only way I can describe it, it’s just a feeling of slight contentment.

You have done so much and there’s been so many accomplishments that you should be very proud of, I wonder looking back – and forward too – has there been one philosophy or belief that you always hold onto when you work on the next album, like a musical philosophy so to speak?

AW: Oh my God I definitely do not have but I did read ‘The Oblique Strategies’ by Eno the other day and he has one called ‘Honour your mistakes as a hidden intention’ [laughs] and that one makes complete sense to me [laughs]. I think that’s about as close as I can get to having a theme song.

There’s been several odes to ‘Twin Peaks’ in some of the Stars of the Lid material in terms of song-titles and whatnot, you must have great memories of watching the various David Lynch films and the TV series?

AW:  The Lynch connection was more with ‘Twin Peaks’ because when Brian and I were starting out that was around the time when ‘Twin Peaks’ was on TV so we used to sit there and watch it every week on a Thursday night when it would come on TV. It was a great moment in television history for America. I don’t know if we were the biggest David Lynch fans but we absolutely loved that TV show so that’s why we dedicated that song to him.

Lastly, Adam, what’s been your favourite records that you’ve been enjoying lately?

AW: Well my favourite record that I’ve been listening to is Jóhann Jóhannsson’s new one called ‘Orphee’, it’s absolutely beautiful. He hasn’t released a record of his own work in a long time, it’s gorgeous and I would highly recommend checking it out.

For full details of Stars of the Lid’s European tour, which kicks off this Saturday (1st October @ Paradiso, Amsterdam) and includes two Irish dates (Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre and Dublin’s National Concert Hall), see HERE.

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