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Posts Tagged ‘Erased Tapes

Chosen One: Ben Lukas Boysen

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…so in many ways Mirage is about seeing these roots from a distance, seeing how both my younger and older self tackle the same ideas with all these years in between.”

—Ben Lukas Boysen

Ben Lukas Boysen - press photo 01 by Patricia Haas_landscape_WEB

The prestigious German composer and producer Ben Lukas Boysen’s latest sonic marvel, ‘Mirage’ – released last week on the ever dependable Erased Tapes label – continues his impressive path to create shape-shifting sound worlds that masterfully inhabit modern-classical, ambient and electronic orbits, all at once. His innate ability to blur the boundaries of organic and synthetic elements remains a vital cornerstone of the artist’s compelling sonic oeuvre. In truth, the source of the sonic details may prove impossible to determine but therein reveals the infinite radiance of music’s power. As a listener, we (subconsciously at the very least) analyze and dissect each moment-within-moment that is magnificently captured in the ceaseless flow of consciousness (translated into sound).

Album opener ‘Empyrean’ begins with gradual pulses of reflective saxophone tones before warm electronic textures seeps into the mix. This glorious piece almost feels as if it converges on the axis between (label-mates) Nils Frahm’s ‘All Melody’ and Daniel Thorne’s ‘Lines Of Sight’ such is its immaculate brilliance and hypnotic quality.

Contrasts and counterpoints are beautifully placed on the record. ‘Kenotaph’s fragile beauty of sparse piano notes provides an absorbing, introspective moment. Later, drums and synthesizers coalesce together, forming post-rock bliss conjuring the sound of ‘TNT’ era Tortoise. The lyrical quality of Boysen’s solo work is always a pure joy to savor.

The intensity is increased on the magnificent tour-de-force ‘Medela’ with soaring electronic beats and ripples that ascend deeply into the slipstream. This morphs beautifully into the ambient bliss of ‘Venia’ (with distinctive saxophone flourishes of Daniel Thorne) which effectively marries acoustic and electronic spheres into one otherworldly dimension.

The penultimate track ‘Clarion’ serves the climax to ‘Mirage’s luminous journey. Live drums and Anne Muller’s radiant cello lines combine with the angelic tones of felt piano keys. The closing ‘Love’ transmits euphoric swirls of synth-laden tapestries infused with vocals that convey the boundless nature of ‘Mirage’s colossal musical expedition.

‘Mirage’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Interview with Ben Lukas Boysen.

 

Congratulations on your latest solo full length ‘Mirage’. I feel the spirit of adventure and fascination with sound can be felt throughout every moment of this special record. Can you please take me back to your starting point, if you will, and how you set about creating ‘Mirage’? In terms of having a back catalogue of work behind you, I can imagine you found a specific narrative for this newest venture quite quickly?

Ben Lukas Boysen: Thanks so much! It was actually a rather long process at first. I collected a lot of ideas after wrapping up a series and a film in 2018 and early 2019 and was struggling a bit with bringing these ideas to life. I was looking for ways to get to the next logical step after Spells a bit too hard at that time and ended up going in circles. Remembering my musical roots, which are clearly in electronic music and mutated forms of it, really helped spark the songs that ended up on the album. 10-15 years after making the first album(s) you are a different person and approach these questions differently, so in many ways Mirage is about seeing these roots from a distance, seeing how both my younger and older self tackle the same ideas with all these years in between.

While writing my earlier records, I had the great benefit of not knowing a lot about music production and how opinionated and political it can be. While many of these opinions and politics were extremely welcome and helpful here and there, back then it allowed me to be very free and not being afraid of doing anything wrong. Not being afraid of technical or stylistic trends or wisdoms but actually trying to do what I feel like doing, which was very liberating and sounds like common sense but it can be surprisingly difficult sometimes. In other words: I’m not totally sure there is a narrative, other than it being an attempt in reconnecting with my former or younger self and building a connection between these two different timelines.

As you have said previously, ‘Mirage’ is almost like ‘Spells’ in reverse; with your aim of trying to hide the human. Like all great composers, the ability to blur the boundaries wherein the exact origin of certain sonic ideas or motifs are unknown (or at least indistinguishable from its original form). This is utterly fascinating for the listener. Can you shed some light on the music-making process and which stage in the process do you find the most relishing?

BLB: Hiding at least some of the human element is a natural side effect of writing electronic music to me. Making it distant, otherworldly and somewhat intangible can give it a wonderfully different dimension and makes it perceivable in a different way.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic and vintage feel of many current recordings, I had the feeling that I don’t have a lot to contribute to this particular direction – at least not enough to fill a whole album with – and the idea of focusing more on the digital and architectural nature of the album became very appealing.

While the construction of the instrumental and human feel played a huge part on Gravity and Spells, the synthetic sounds are the high ranking authority on Mirage. Wherever they lent themselves to be used more ostensibly, I would let them and also feature them but i never wanted the album to feel ‘live’ in the true sense of the word, but much more ‘alive’. The tracks should seem somewhat distant and constructed, engineered even while at the same time give of a romantic and emotional feel. As if a heartfelt message is conveyed by messengers who are trying to make sense of what they are saying. The most relishing part was when i felt this tension was happening as most songs started off as either noisey patterns/drones or simple melodies and needed more composition to be interesting.

‘Empyrean’ is an interesting example as it show’s this process and described the image quite well. All elements are in and out of order at the same time for the first half of the piece. They are rhythmically pretty unsynced, and the chord changes are the only thing that aligns them. Just when things start to groove in, the original melody does not develop further and only towards the end, when the grooves start to pass, a melodic development comes back, introducing a variation of the original theme. It’s not perfectly clear which instruments/elements are in this piece, neither what exactly it is they do and what seems like a recipe for chaos actually still turns out to be a rather harmonious and emotional few minutes.

Some label-mates further heighten the sound worlds across ‘Mirage’, most notably the distinctive voices of Daniel Thorne and Anne Müller. I am curious to know at which point in these tracks did you arrive at before these musicians added their unique musicianship?

BLB: This depends strongly on the track and also has to do with me thinking of a track as a highly organic, shapeshifting thing where influences from every side will change its character dramatically. That’s something I welcome strongly and try to let happen as much as possible.

‘Medela’ sounded very different in the beginning, at the point that i sent it to Dan.

I had written a saxophone line, which he recorded and sent back, but i felt that the actual recordings – as opposed to the midi files i sent him – changed the track for the better. I noticed that the track had turned into something much more interesting than what i had in mind originally so i overhauled most of the idea to end up what is now the final track.

A wonderful first collaboration and surely not the last!

Anne and I have been working on quite a few things before, from commercials to live concerts and albums. Her feeling on how and when to chime in on the state of a piece is incredibly sensitive and on point and i always feel the music gained is a very special and irreplaceable touch. Sometimes it’s subtle additions, where the Cello becomes more of a textural element (like on ‘Clarion’ or ‘Venia’), sometimes it’s very obvious sections (like in ‘Medela’ or ‘Love’) but all of them come from a point of giving over a big portion of control to the musician (in both Anne’s and Dan’s case) to see how they shape this organism that is a piece of music.

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The opener ‘Empyrean’ is such a gorgeous and fitting opener. Daniel Thorne’s mesmerizing saxophone lines permeate the clouds before electronic manipulation and treatments creates an even deeper experience. Can you recount your memories of witnessing ‘Empyrean’s development and mutation, so to speak?

BLB: I had to think about this a little as Dan is not in this song but it probably means that the goal to confuse people about who worked on this record worked. It is however another, very dear collaborator of mine, Lisa Morgenstern. She provided a few recordings while I was trying to figure out the tone of the album.

There was a day when I loaded one of these recordings into a granular synth and started playing some simple chords. The result of this is actually what you hear in the first seconds of the track.

The wonderful unsynchronized triggering of the vocals inspired me to treat all other elements on there in a similar way. Mildly detuned or unsynced but all having a point of unison eventually.

It was the starting point for the album and set the concept for Mirage. The fact that it’s now the first song on the album is incidental because the tracklist was created much later but it’s a nice side note. The sound of ‘Empyrean’ encouraged me to step away from what i thought this album could be and focus on where I’d actually like to venture off to.

The middle section of the epic pairing of ‘Medela’ and ‘Venia’ is the album’s gripping centrepiece. The hypnotic electronic pulses of ‘Medela’ fades into the soulful bliss of ‘Venia’. I can imagine the sequencing of these tracks is something that takes quite some time to get right? As a whole, I get the impression that you visualize the music (contained on the final edit of an album) as one large seamless track with an array of moments? I’d love to gain an insight into your approach to getting all these details right?

BLB: On my previous albums (as HECQ) that’s exactly how it was – I wrote the pieces chronologically most of the time and when it hit the 50 or 60 minute mark I knew I had an album ready. I did not spend a lot of time thinking about sequencing albums – only on the later ones did this start to matter to me.

A certain aspect of this thinking is still influencing current albums including Mirage. To me an album is always a story, a snapshot of the time period I wrote it in. So it is a self-contained story or project but while earlier albums had a timeline, on Ben Lukas Boysen albums I can jump from chapter to chapter, look at individual events of that time and respectively can also listen to pieces on the album in random order and out of context. That’s why the exact sequencing of the tracks is not overly important to me as long as all tracks ended up being part of that story.

I think ‘Clarion’ really embodies the sublime aesthetics and intricate layers captured on the record. The addition of percussion and drums adds many new textures and love the gradual building of the piece. Were some parts recorded live? This certainly feels more like an ensemble playing here.

BLB: Yes the drums are live indeed. Achim Färber, who plays drums on all my albums, has the wonderful habit of playing or sending me random recordings or just starts improvising when we’re in the studio and that’s frankly where most of the album takes are coming from. Similar to Anne Müller, his contributions are the next natural evolution for most pieces. There are live drums, cellos and flügelhorn in ‘Clarion’ but all were recorded separately because the pieces are often not finished in my mind and recording one instrument leads to spark the idea of recording another. Not being a great instrumentalist, let alone session musician, I really prefer producing and arranging the pieces and then do the recordings, so realistically there’s never really a session where all musicians come together. I work with them separately and often remotely to get the work done.

Independent of its sound and intention, all my albums are ensemble projects though – every part, no matter if instrumental recordings by Achim (Drums), Stefan (Trumpet), Anne (Cell), Dan (saxophone) Maria (Harp) or on this special occasion also the great Neil Cowley, or the post mixing, done by Martyn Heyne at Lichtestudio or the mastering by Zino Mikorey, becomes part of the music. I do prefer to write and produce alone but it’s these people that breathe in that extra specialty and aspects that I could simply not bring to the table.

What particular albums and artists have you been heavily immersed in of late?

 BLB: All time faves i frequently rediscover:

– Nav Katze: Never Mind The Distortion

– Various Artists: 8, 8.5, 9 Remixes

– Olan Mill: Orient

– Billie Holiday: Lady In Satin

 

Current favorites:

– Daniel Ögren: Fastingen -92

– Christopher Bissonnette: The Wine Dark Sea

– Kit Sebastian: Mantra Moderne

– Bobby Krlic: Midsommar OST

‘Mirage’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://benlukasboysen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

Written by admin

May 5, 2020 at 2:06 pm

Chosen One: Daniel Thorne

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I’m fascinated by the way that certain ratios and sequences occur in nature, like fibonacci spirals and the golden ratio, and the idea of these things speaking to a kind of higher logic that, even if we’re not explicitly aware of, we recognize and feel on some level of our perception.”

—Daniel Thorne

 Words: Mark Carry

daniel thorne

Released last spring on the awe-inspiring Erased Tapes label, Liverpool-based composer and Immix Ensemble founder, Daniel Thorne’s exceptional debut solo album ‘Lines Of Sight’ is one of those rare jewels in the realm of contemporary music, which confounds, inspires and delights such is its remarkable sonic oeuvre. The album title perfectly embodies the music- the intricate layers of saxophones (and bass synth in places) unfold endless new pathways that beautifully meld, intersect, overlap and yields magic at every turn.

Let’s begin at the end. The album’s final piece, ‘Fear of Floating’ is built upon mesmerizing, pastoral saxophone tapestries, whose gentle patterns forge a staggering beauty like the endless ripples cast upon a stone on water. An intimacy is immediately created.  Some time later, warm textures of bass synth is masterfully added, in perfect unison with the vivid colours of the lead saxophone instrumentation – it’s like a synergy is thus created that brings forth the joyous, heart-rending climax of ‘Lines Of Sight’s deeply empowering musical exploration.

A synergy perhaps pinpoints the process itself – or more specifically, the reaction the listener feels in midst of these otherworldly compositions – where the close interaction of Thorne’s sonic components produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their parts. A joy to witness unfold (and subsequently) transform.

The record amasses one giant cohesive whole, of breath-taking magnitude and raw  emotion, wherein endless contrasts of dense, polyrhythmic, frenetic free jazz waves are masterfully juxtaposed with the intimate, sparse and dappled light of orchestral colours. The rawness and energy that emanates from the utterly transcendent opus ‘From Inside, Looking Out’ (recalling the kindred spirit of Colin Stetson) serves the fitting opening to Thorne’s scintillating solo music path. This cathartic flow leads into the unwavering beauty of the sparse lament ‘From the Other Side of the World’ (reminiscent of English composer Michael Nyman’s timeless works), a piece of music you feel you have known all your life. A closeness and delicate beauty permeates each and every heart pore.

Similarly, the hypnotic,pulsating and blissful ‘From the Heavens’ is laden with heavy synthesizer instrumentation before the introspective stillness of ‘Pyriscence’ beautifully fades in, akin to a labyrinth of faded dreams.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is a very special and transformative solo work from a visionary composer.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.danielthorne.net/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

daniel thorne 2

Interview with Daniel Thorne.

 

Congratulations on the sublime debut solo album ‘Lines Of Sight’. The album title perfectly embodies the music- the intricate layers of saxophones (and bass synth in places) unfold endless new pathways that beautifully meld, intersect, overlap and yields magic at every turn. Please take me back to the making of your debut solo album and the challenges/opportunities this writing/recording process offered up (in contrast to your role in Immix Ensemble)?

Daniel Thorne: Thank you for the kind words! This has been a very different project to what I’m used to – in the past most my writing projects have been geared towards live performance, usually with a fairly frantic rush towards a rehearsal, then a premiere, and then often that’s it and I move on to the next thing. Dealing with studio-based composition is definitely a different kettle of fish. I’d been dabbling with it for a little while but had never managed to create anything that I felt was meaningful. I found that the infinite possibilities afforded by that way of working were quite intimidating, and I lost a lot of time trying to decide what instruments to write for, how many tracks to use, etc, etc. I ended up getting around that by basically creating an ‘ensemble’ of four saxophone parts and four synth parts, which was the limitation that I needed in order to get over that.

The other road block for me was being so used to writing music with live performance and performers in mind, which kept colliding with this desire to use the studio to do things that were essentially impossible to perform should I go out and gig the music. In the end I decided to take any ideas of a live realization of the music out of the equation and focus on creating something that was intended to be experienced in recorded form, which was really liberating. The irony is that now I’m trying to work out how to put together a live set that relates to this music, but that’s a whole other thing…

The glorious and mind-blowing opening track ‘From Inside, Looking Out’ serves the perfect opening to this sonic journey. I’m very curious to learn to what extent is a piece such as this born from improvisation (or particularly solo live performance)? The sheer intensity and raw energy unleashed is quite something indeed. Also, the distinct movements that are contained within this composition showcases the masterful arrangements of this record.

DT: I definitely wanted it to have the energy and rawness that you’re talking about, however this piece actually started out as a fairly simple chord progression played on the piano. The majority of the overall structure of the piece was written at the piano, and it was only later, after I’d made those decisions I mentioned before about which instruments I was going to use, that I started to shape and sculpt things in a more focused way. I knew I wanted to start with a bang, and I was very much thinking of the masses of sound created by large free jazz ensembles rather than something more polished and orchestral.

As the titles of the first half of ‘Lines Of Sight’ suggest, there is very much a bird’s eye view of the world – it’s almost as if the creator is above the clouds, inhabiting some otherworldly realm. Can you discuss the themes and central narrative to ‘Lines Of Sight’ please? Was coming up with the album-title a certain gateway into the music, so to speak?

DT: Aerial images and the idea of a bird’s eye view were very much in my mind when composing these pieces. In particular I was interested in exploring the idea of perspective and how that is altered by distance – how something like a river or an ocean that can be incredibly complex and detailed when viewed up close is reduced to a simple line or shape when viewed from high above, how the natural and man-made start to become indistinguishable from one another – and playing with those dualities and contradictions. The first half of the album actually started out as a stand-alone suite in three movements which was titled Lines of Sight, but when I decided to do a full album I wanted to keep those ideas at the core of the additional tracks. I felt that it was a phrase that encapsulated the concepts really well, and that it made sense as the title for the whole album rather than just the first half of it.

‘From the Other Side of the World’ is such a breathtakingly beautiful and heartfelt lament that irresistibly floats in the ether. Can you take me back to composing and writing this particular piece? How long were these pieces simmering in your mind I wonder?

DT: This piece evolved in a very organic way, in contrast to some of the other tracks which came out of more rigid processes. It was literally just a case of improvising at the piano, and stumbling onto a chord progression that seemed to unlock everything else relatively quickly – I think I fleshed out the entire thing in about two days, which is fast for me. At the time I was feeling quite homesick and missing family and friends in Australia, so the piece began to take on this feeling of being a soundtrack to saying goodbye at the airport, taking off and arriving back in the UK.

In general, do you find these tracks were captured to tape after very few takes? The intimacy and immediacy of the music suggests they could be live takes in fact? Please describe your studio set-up and if you experimented with new processes on your solo outing?

DT: The way that I’d written things made it pretty difficult to do a full song in one take – dealing with multiple saxophone and synth parts that all had to be precisely synchronized meant that almost everything was fully scored out and had to be multi-tracked following a click track. The one exception to that was ‘Fear of Floating’, where I did one take of the main saxophone part (without a click) and then added everything else around it. I did generally try to limit myself to only doing a couple of takes for each part, mostly because otherwise I would have would up with a lot of material to sift through, but also because I wanted to embrace a certain amount of rawness and imperfection. I didn’t do any major editing other than a bit of comping here and there.

In terms of my studio setup, it’s pretty basic and low budget, just a laptop with a nice preamp and a microphone in the spare room at home, plus a synth and few effects pedals. The fact that I was multi-tracking everything and recording in a space that was fine but not particularly special in terms of its acoustics meant that the saxophone recordings were mic’d pretty close, which I think again helped to highlight smaller details and imperfections in each part, rather than creating a more homogenous, orchestral vibe.

The dichotomy of worlds and series of counterpoints and contrasting textures is something that occurs throughout ‘Lines Of Sight’. I love the more electronic/techno bliss of ‘From the Heavens’ and how this flows into the more fragile and organic sound world of ‘Pyriscence’. Was the sequencing of the record a significant challenge, to create that endless flow, as it were?

DT: That’s very flattering, but I actually think I just got lucky as in my mind there really only seemed to be one logical order for everything – as I mentioned, the first side was originally conceived as a suite and I didn’t want to break it up, while ‘Fear of Floating’ had always felt like an ending to me. Because the album began with quite a loud dramatic statement, I didn’t want to repeat that gesture to start the second half, which pretty much meant it had to be ‘Pyriscence’ – I really didn’t feel like there was any other way that made sense. I also really liked that that this meant that the two sides were sort of opposites of one another in terms of the balance between more- and less-dense pieces.

I would love to gain an insight into your compositional approach and the highly calculated nature of some aspects to your music-making process?

DT: Several of the pieces were developed out processes like isorhythm, long-range polyrhythm, and ratios. I’m fascinated by the way that certain ratios and sequences occur in nature, like fibonacci spirals and the golden ratio, and the idea of these things speaking to a kind of higher logic that, even if we’re not explicitly aware of, we recognize and feel on some level of our perception. I wanted to see how using similar kinds of devices and logics to inform the form and proportion of the pieces, without making them overly explicit, would influence the way the music was perceived by the listener. Probably the most strictly calculated in that regard is “Threnody for a Burning Building”, where all of the harmonic material comes from a very simple chord sequence moving at three different speeds simultaneously, while all the changes in the rhythmic texture are dictated by a series of polyrhythms and their interaction with one another. Having said that, that piece is definitely the most rigorous example, there are other tracks that grew in a much more organic way, while others contain a balance of both.

What’s next for you? Have you been enjoying any particular records of late?

DT: I’m doing my best to figure out my solo live set, and trying to find a way of creating a similar sonic environment to the album while also focusing on the kinds of things that I enjoy about live performance such as improvising, stretching material, etc. I’m also going to be working with Forest Swords to compose a piece for Immix that will be performed as part of the PRS New Music Biennial in London and Hull later this year. In terms of records, I love the new Szun Waves album, ‘New Hymn to Freedom” and I’m completely obsessed with David Lang’s ‘Mystery Sonatas’.

‘Lines Of Sight’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.danielthorne.net/

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

Written by admin

July 10, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Albums of the year: 2018

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Presented here is a list of our favourite (ten) albums from 2018. As difficult a task as this proved, we decided ultimately to choose the albums that we found ourselves turning back to time and again over the last twelve months. 

 

10. Earl Sweatshirt – “Some Rap Songs” (Columbia Records)

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Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, otherwise known as Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper, producer and DJ whose third studio album ‘Some Rap Songs’ was released last month to universal acclaim. The sublime hip hop voyage deals – in part – with the loss of his father, poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile.

“Me and my dad had a relationship that’s not uncommon for people to have with their fathers, which is a non-perfect one,” Earl wrote. “Talking to him is symbolic and non-symbolic, but it’s literally closure for my childhood. Not getting to have that moment left me to figure out a lot with my damn self.”

On the opening verse of the seductive dub groove ‘Shattered Dreams’, Sweatshirt asks “Why ain’t nobody tell  me I was bleedin’?” Masterful production and sun-blissed harmonies serve the rich ebb and flow of the cut’s gradual flow. The rapper pleads “Please, nobody pinch me out this dream” beneath the dreamy, hypnotic beats on the following line.

Memories of his father permeates throughout the lucid ‘Red Water’: “Papa called me chief/Gotta keep it brief” beneath stunning soulful  pop hooks. On the R&B inflected rhymes of ‘Nowhere2go’, the Los Angeles rapper explains the need to “redefine himself” and ultimately ‘Some Rap Songs’ finds Kgositile do exactly that.

The poignant ‘December 24’ is a menacing, slow brooding gem that places Earl’s poetic prose beneath cinematic piano tapestries. ‘On The Way!’ contains a sumptuous soul/funk groove. The tempo is slowed on the transcendent single ‘The Mint’ (featuring Navy Blue), another slice of pristine hip hop that serves a parallel alongside the likes of Madvillain and J Dilla such is its divine spell.

This compelling fifteen-track album reflects a hip hop artist that has further evolved and continually develops his unique and immense talents.

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

http://earlsweatshirt.com/
https://www.facebook.com/EarlSweatshirtMusic/

9. Marissa Nadler – “For My Crimes” (Bella Union/Sacred Bones)

for my crimes correct

Marissa Nadler, one of the most cherished songwriters of our time, returned with her captivating eighth studio album ‘For My Crimes’ last Autumn. The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter has carved out eleven deeply affecting and soul-stirring sparse laments whose immediacy and emotional depth resonates powerfully throughout.

It feels as if the essence of the song is captured magnificently to tape wherein each beautiful folk noir exploration navigates the depth of the human heart with naturalness and ease. In contrast to the more polished and layered records that came previously (the magnificent ‘Strangers’ and ‘July’ LPs), Nadler’s intimate song cycles contain quite minimal instrumentation that crafts a hypnotic spell and striking intimacy (intersecting the sound worlds of Townes Van Zandt and Stina Nordenstam).

Nadler co-produced For My Crimes with Lawrence Rothman and Justin Raisen at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux. A stellar cast of incredible female musicians joined the recording sessions,  including vocals from Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Kristin Kontrol, Patty Schemel (Hole, Juliette and the Licks) on drums, Mary Lattimore on harp, and the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin on strings.

Some of the finest, most empowering songs of Nadler’s career is dotted across ‘For My Crime’s intense narrative. Emotive strings and meditative acoustic guitar drift beneath Nadler’s majestic vocal delivery on the windswept beauty of the album’s glorious title-track (and fitting opener). Nadler asks “Please don’t remember me/For my crimes” on the deeply moving, dusk-lit chorus.

The swell of electric guitar and drums create a post-rock grandeur on the sublime ‘Blue Vapour’: a raw energy is unleashed with each and every pulse. The hard-hitting impact of Nadler’s supreme songwriting gifts is distilled on the heartfelt lament ‘Dream Dream Big In The Sky’ which feels as if the words and music are somehow encapsulated in the faded dreams of the clouds above.

‘For My Crimes’ is out now on Bella Union/Sacred Bones.

https://www.marissanadler.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MarissaNadlerMusic/

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

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The year’s finest debut album undeniably comes from London-based songstress and producer Tirzah. The immense talents of this young artist can be felt throughout the album’s utterly contemporary and unique eleven songs. Steeped in R&B, soul and pop spheres, Tirzah’s fresh and alluring compositions very much belong to the here and now whose beguiling song structures forever push the sonic envelope. ‘Devotion’ is written and produced with composer and childhood friend Micachu with gorgeous pop sensibility and minimal production at the heart of the album’s gripping heart and soul.

The striking immediacy – and directness – of these songs makes a profound impact. The deeply affecting downbeat-soul of ‘Gladly’ is a delightful, heart-warming love song with hypnotic vocals and gradual beat. “All I want is you/I love you/Gladly, gladly, gladly” sings Tirzah on the breathtaking chorus. There is simplicity in the song (so it seems) but a complexity in the emotional connection. A gospel, R&B lament. ‘Holding On’ contains a quiet confidence and strength as the 80’s synth pop feel radiates throughout. Again, the minimal nature of these songs forges such deep emotions and colour.

The album’s towering title-track features guest vocalist Coby Sey with his soulful falsetto serving the perfect counterpoint to Tirzah’s understated voice and pristine beats. “So listen to me” is repeated like a mantra; reminiscent of James Blake’s downtempo creations. Tirzah sings “I want your arms” on a later verse, sung with such emotion and sincerity. This duet forms the vital heart of the album’s second half.

The guitar funk groove of the following cut ‘Go Now’ packs significant weight: “Don’t raise your voice to me” is sung in a delicate, near-hushed falsetto on the opening verse. Vulnerability is inherent in this breath-taking soulful lament. Acoustic piano patterns serve the sonic backdrop to the sparse ‘Say When’, brimming with melancholic shades of loss, “I felt you gone and now I am lost”.

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://tirzah.net/
https://www.facebook.com/TirzahMusic

7. Mary Lattimore – “Hundreds Of Days” (Ghostly)

Mary-Lattimore-Hundreds-of-Days

Having first discovered Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore’s 2013 debut ‘The Withdrawing Room’ (released on Desire Path Recordings), each new release has been a hugely exciting discovery. On this year’s ‘Hundreds Of Days’ – and third release for the prestigious Ghostly label – Lattimore’s ethereal, dream-wave bliss of her harp-based compositions casts a spacious, luminescent and captivating sound world of unknown dimensions.

The gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ feels just like that: the sacred harp tapestries drift in the ether of faded dreams amidst swathes of celestial harmonies. Utterly timeless. Jonsi’s Healing Fields remix is a fascinating re-interpretation that conveys the inspirational quality of Lattimore’s hugely unique and shape shifting compositions.

Guitar, keyboard and percussion is added on the poignant folk gem ‘Never Saw Him Again’: forging a dreamy pop opus from a past we have not yet quite arrived upon. The soundscapes and intricate layers continually build, as if reawakening some once-vivid memories of a loved one. The sparse ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ maps the human heart and Lattimore’s love of the natural world. The lyrical quality of this piece is quite something to behold.

Baltic Birch’ blossomed from Lattimore’s trip to Latvia where she was struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic Sea.  A desolate landscape is etched across the ambient soundscapes with the electric guitar haze recalling Lattimore’s collaborations with Jeff Ziegler.

The LA-based harpist – in much the same way as fellow contemporaries Julianna Barwick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and so on – possesses the ability to transport you to an entirely new realm wherein the music becomes beautifully buried in the pools of one’s mind. ‘Hundreds Of Days’ is yet another gleaming treasure in the composer’s storied career.

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

6. Actress & London Contemporary OrchestraLAGEOS” (Ninja Tune)

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‘LAGEOS’ is the utterly compelling, shape shifting debut full length release from renowned electronic producer Darren Cunningham (aka Actress) and the London Contemporary Orchestra. At the heart of this captivating record is both artists’ ceaseless fascination with sound wherein new pathways of discovery are forever attained.

The first traces – committed to tape at least – was last year’s beguiling ‘Audio Track 5’ EP. The divine title-track (which is also found halfway through the record’s second half) comprises of beautifully drifting strings that float amidst crunching percussive rhythms and piano patterns. The splicing of the various components creates a shimmering odyssey of rapturous, luminous soundscapes, where the abstract techno sphere is masterfully blended with modern classical elements. Importantly, lines become blurred throughout ‘LAGEOS’, one cannot pinpoint to any one musical landscape, for it is a far-reaching kaleidoscope of timbres, textures and tones.

LCO’s Hugh Brunt has described the collaboration as being “about exploring an ambiguity of sound that sits between electronic and acoustic spaces.”

It is a joy to discover new contexts and insights into the cherished Actress discography as classics such as ‘Hubble’, ‘N.E.W’ and ‘Voodoo PosseChronic Illusion’ become a deep stream of consciousness and energy flow. The meditative bliss of ‘N.E.W’ with an endless array of enchanting instrumentation, supplied by the LCO, flows deep into your veins. The irresistible cosmic groove of ‘Voodoo Posse’ serves the record’s fitting penultimate track before the joyously empowering ‘Hubble’s techno fueled odyssey maps one’s innermost fears and dreams.

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

https://www.ninjatune.net/artist/actress
https://www.lcorchestra.co.uk/

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

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The much beloved Minnesota trio sculpted one of their finest, most empowering works to date with ‘Double Negative’, released earlier this year on the Seattle label Sub Pop. In similar fashion to 2015’s ‘Ones and Sixes’, the band enlisted B.J. Burton (James Blake, The Tallest Man on Earth) for production duties but here, the dazzling experiments are developed much further, forging deeply moving collages of cinematic, charged rock odysseys that seep into one’s very own consciousness. Abrasive beats and dazzling electronic components melt alongside Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s heavenly – soul searching – harmonies and Neil Young-esque guitar echo and reverb.

A dark undercurrent permeates throughout the record, reflecting these dark, uncertain times we find ourselves in. The brooding and hypnotic ‘Trying To Work It Out’ is classic Low with the slowcore bliss of Sparhawk’s highly emotive vocal delivery: “I saw you at the grocery store/I know I should have walked over and say hello/It seemed like you were in a hurry/I didn’t want to slow you down/So I figured out I should let you go.” Dissonance abounds. In many ways, the record serves a parallel with Nick Cave’s latest ‘Skeleton Tree’ – both records are borne out of a sea of darkness and despair but both records ultimately possess an incalculable empowering capability.

The delicate beauty of the meditative ‘Always Up’ is a precious ballad that depicts the frustration dispelled by the world today. The chorus refrain of Mimi Parker’s angelic vocal delivery “I believe I believe I believe I believe/Can’t you see Can’t you see Can’t you see?” emits a cathartic energy flow that is steeped in an unfathomable beauty. Rawest of emotions flood out of these recordings, feeling both vital and colossal in equal measure.

How the songs fade into one another is another marvel of ‘Double Negative’: the multi-layered textures and static that envelopes the space; creating something considerably larger than the sum of its parts. ‘Fly’ is one of the album’s most stunning moments with its Mimi Parker-led soulful dimension “Leave my weary bones and fly” is the deeply affecting chorus that reduces you to tears upon each visit. How the infectious bass groove melds with Parker’s falsetto leaves you dumbfounded such is its unwavering beauty. Uncertainty breathes heavily throughout. But there is hope buried deep in its gorgeous soulful strut.

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

https://www.chairkickers.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lowmusic/

4. Djrum – “Portrait with Firewood” (R&S Records)

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UK producer Felix Manuel (AKA Djrum) is responsible for one of the most poignant, soul-stirring electronic records of the year with his R&S debut full-length ‘Portrait with Firewood’. The wide range of sounds – everything from modern classical and ambient soundscapes to gripping techno and dubstep flourishes – is one of the hallmarks of this remarkable tour-de-force. The emotional depth of Manuel’s electronic works is perhaps the most alluring trademark of Djrum’s scintillating sonic voyage. For example, the intoxicating electronic-infused classical opus ‘Blue Violet’ (one of the most mind-bending tracks of 2018) unleashes a timelessness that is all too rare in today’s dance music. Analog synths and strings are masterfully woven together amidst beautifully cinematic spoken word segments. “Do you remember how you told me about lightning striking? All of those things you told me to wait for?” is softly uttered by a female voice, beneath meditative piano notes. ‘Blue Violet’ details love, passion, obsession and all points of the human condition – the spirit of Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins radiates throughout this towering composition.

Waters Rising’ sees Manuel collaborate with vocalist Lola Empire, crafting a beguiling soulful R&B techno gem. Several of Djrum’s piano improvisations serve the initial sketches of these compelling explorations. Techno bliss is etched across the album’s central tracks ‘Creature Pt 2’ and ‘Sex’; the latter fusing introspective piano and violin motifs and intoxicating techno/jungle beats (further highlighting the boundless nature of Djrum’s enveloping sound).

Describe by Djrum as a “confessional record”; the melancholic shades come to the fore on the record’s final third. The highly immersive ‘Sparrow’ is one of the record’s defining moments wherein a spoken word segment floats majestically beneath intricate layers of jazz inflections: “I’ll show you my scars/You show me the stars”. A rich poignancy is inherent in each of ‘Portrait with Firewood’s luminous musical works.

‘Portrait with Firewood’ is out now on R&S Records.

https://djrum.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DjrumMusic/

3. Penelope Trappes – “Penelope Two” (Houndstooth)

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London-based artist Penelope Trappes’ sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ – and follow-up to her essential debut ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music – casts a hypnotic, luminous spell through its stunningly beautiful song cycles: drenched in reverb that somehow drift into the ether of our innermost fears. The stark intimacy of the Australian-born composer’s compositions is what strikes you immediately; evoking the timeless spirit of early 4AD artists (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins) and kindred spirits of Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tropic Of Cancer.

On the album’s gripping centrepiece ‘Maeve’, the chorus refrain of “let go” is repeated beneath delicate piano chords and lucid guitar haze. I feel ‘Penelope Two’ becomes a process of letting go: to allow the waves of anguish and pain wash over you and, in  turn, to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The raw emotion distilled in Trappes’ soaring vocals casts infinite rays of solace and hope as light flickers from within the depths of darkness.

The way in which the drone infused ambient instrumentals (‘Silence’; ‘Kismet’; ‘Exodus’) are masterfully interwoven with the vocal-based song structures (‘Connector’; ‘Burn On’; ‘Maeve’) creates one cohesive whole of staggering beauty and emotional depth. The ethereal dream pop gem of ‘Connector’ possesses endurance to overcome the darkness. The immaculate production and divine soundscapes immerses the listener inside a wholly other realm. The chorus refrain “I am the connector” epitomizes the magical, far-reaching qualities of Trappes’ immense songwriting prowess.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

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The peerless Los Angeles songwriter and composer Julia Holter has long been carving out the most ground breaking and breath-taking avant pop masterworks and this year’s ‘Aviary’ reveals an artist at the peak of her powers. The album’s enthralling fifteen compositions explore further into bewitching experimental terrain as an abstract canvas of vivid textures, colour and timbres ascend into the forefront of one’s heart and mind.

The immaculate instrumentation and mesmerizing arrangements – a constant throughout Holter’s cherished songbook – lies at the heart of these stunning song cycles. The epic ‘Chaitius’ opens with gorgeous orchestration of strings, brass and choral lines that conveys the kaleidoscopic vision of the American composer’s newest musical venture. These sprawling, vast pieces feel as if the soundscapes could glide forever into infinity (and beyond). Holter sings “Open my wings with joy” on the opening verse; conveying the artist’s search for love and solace “amidst all the internal and external babble we experience daily”. The way the composition evolves and develops is akin to a process of self-discovery or acceptance. The vocoder/spoken word segments emits such rich imagery that reflects “the melting world” of today’s chaotic world we find ourselves in. Euphoria and an awakening sensation abounds on the glorious crescendo of Holter’s trusted ensemble (double bass as ever adding seductive rhythmic pulses to the sacred sound worlds effortlessly created). The continual striving for direction never feels far away: “Who will tell me what to do? Don’t say to feel so alove.”

It is clear with ‘Aviary’ that Holter effortlessly delves deeper into experimentation with sound; perhaps the first cue for the song’s inception was a sonic idea during the music-making process. The hypnotic, meditative lament ‘Voce Simul’ begins with a cosmic jazz bassline groove beneath Holter’s hushed vocal delivery and ethereal trumpet lines. The spoken word passages are masterfully blended with this cinematic backdrop: “I was just about to go outside” utters Holter on a later verse – inviting the listener on a wholly unique journey. As ever, the past and future become masterfully placed together – at once akin to “a distant mirror” of “a hundred minds” as Holter asks “How did I forget I’m part of the dust?”

The lead single ‘I Shall Love 2’ combined with its sister song – and symphonic rejoice – ‘I Shall Love 1’ form integral components of each half of ‘Aviary’s striking narrative. The former is yet another pristine pop oeuvre with gorgeous melodic flourishes and an awakening of the senses. The song’s deeply empowering rise “That is all that is all/There is nothing else” is a joy to savour; I visualize the moving scenes of the guiding angels in Wim Wender’s ‘Wings of Desire’ who listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants. In a similar fashion, ‘I Shall Love’ (both movements) offers comfort and warmth.

The soaring beauty of ‘Words I Heard’ is steeped in 60s pop grandeur and Laurel Canyon pop perfection. How Holter’s achingly beautiful voice blends with the strings evokes a dream within a dream; a labyrinth of ancient and modern times – transposed to one sprawling, poignant canvas. The creative process is beautifully articulated on the fitting album closer ‘Why Sad Song’: “Oh ideas, Idea – oh why the words are made of?” But it is the dazzling, contemporary pop tour-de-force ‘Les Jeux To You’ that illustrates just how far ‘Aviary’s journey takes you on. The playful use – and richness – of words combined with the futuristic pop backdrop carves out something wholly unique and otherworldly. The deeply moving quality of Holter’s sacred artistic works is forever etched in the song’s gripping foundations: “I can hope for it today/I wonder though, if my heart tells me everything I need.”

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://juliaholter.com/
https://www.facebook.com/juliashammasholter/

1. Nils Frahm – “All Melody” (Erased Tapes)

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Our most cherished record of the year undoubtedly comes from world-renowned, Berlin-based composer Nils Frahm’s latest masterpiece ‘All Melody’.

The immense beauty – and immensity – of the far-reaching soundscapes dotted across “All Melody’s musical landscape is a joy to savour. A myriad of sacred tones are effortlessly spliced together like that of the double helix pattern of each DNA molecule found inside our cells. It is as if a towering composition like “Sunson” unfolds, mutates, and transforms before your very eyes: the soaring juno synthesizer is melded gorgeously with the otherworldly sounds of the handmade pipe organ. The seamless array of colours and textures creates an empowering ripple flow of emotions. Choral odysseys dissolve into this vast sea of forgotten dreams. As the piece continually builds, the interlinked rhythms are forever over-lapping; magical moments within moments are captured at each and every pulse.

Modern-classical, dub and avant pop spheres are masterfully blended together on ‘A Place’. The inner dialogue between the components (choir, strings, percussion, synthesizer, and rhodes) creates a deeply bewitching symphony of celestial sounds. How the female voice is mixed with the luminescent juno synthesizer provides a significant milestone in “All Melody’s mind-bending oeuvre. Gripping dub beats awash with soul-stirring strings. The sonic terrain has expanded, almost exponentially. It feels as if a deep symbiosis exists between all of its vital elements; each one inter-dependent of one another, reacting, breathing and growing as the loop drifts forever into the ether of unknown dimensions.

The possibilities are endless. “#2” fades in – almost subliminally – as the embers of “All Melody” gradually dissolve. Techno bliss is masterfully etched across the sprawling canvas of synthesizer arrangements, creating, in turn, psychedelic dreams orbiting the furthest reaches of one’s inner consciousness.

The album’s penultimate track “Kaleidoscope” conveys the visionary nature of Frahm’s music: the pattern of the interwoven elements (choir, organ and synthesizer) is constantly changing; forever in motion and altering in sequence (in turn, generating endless possibilities). The immaculate exploration feels at once ancient and utterly contemporary; a joyously uplifting creation with its dazzling ebb and flow akin to a river finding its sea.

All Melody” is a defining record for the ages. This is a journey into sound.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

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

Chosen One: Nils Frahm

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“It is something of a knowing that I should not ask more from the universe than this, it’s a little bit of a humbleness to see when something was really good and you shouldn’t ask for more.”

—Nils Frahm 

Words: Mark Carry

NILS_FRAHM_All_Melody_credit_Alexander_Schneider

The first day in July 2016 marked a significant moment in Nils Frahm’s storied career. Accurately billed as “a most ambitious concert”, the peerless German composer performed an enthralling three-hour set in London’s Barbican (as part of Frahm’s curated festival “Possibly Colliding”). Not only was this a celebration of the Berlin-based musician’s cherished songbook – and the boundless, magical force of music as a whole – but a beautiful glimpse into the slipstream of music that would soon surface. Forward eighteen months to the eagerly awaited seventh studio album “All Melody”, which undoubtedly marks Frahm’s most ambitious and captivating work to date. A further evolution of “Spaces” (its predecessor) whose twelve sublime compositions – meticulously crafted by this singular sound sculptor – unfolds a musical experience of remarkable depth and magnitude.

The immense beauty – and immensity – of the far-reaching soundscapes dotted across “All Melody”s musical landscape is a joy to savour. A myriad of sacred tones are effortlessly spliced together like that of the double helix pattern of each DNA molecule found inside our cells. It is as if a towering composition like “Sunson” unfolds, mutates, and transforms before your very eyes: the soaring juno synthesizer is melded gorgeously with the otherworldly sounds of the handmade pipe organ. The seamless array of colours and textures creates an empowering ripple flow of emotions. Choral odysseys dissolve into this vast sea of forgotten dreams. As the piece continually builds, the interlinked rhythms are forever over-lapping; magical moments within moments are captured at each and every pulse.

Modern-classical, dub and avant pop spheres are masterfully blended together on “A Place”. The inner dialogue between the components (choir, strings, percussion, synthesizer, and rhodes) creates a deeply bewitching symphony of celestial sounds. How the female voice is mixed with the luminescent juno synthesizer provides a significant milestone in “All Melody’s mind-bending oeuvre. Gripping dub beats awash with soul-stirring strings. The sonic terrain has expanded, almost exponentially. It feels as if a deep symbiosis exists between all of its vital elements; each one inter-dependent of one another, reacting, breathing and growing as the loop drifts forever into the ether of unknown dimensions.

More breathtaking synthesizer loops fills the human space of “All Melody”, not least the album’s glorious title-track. Thinking back to “Spaces” and the timeless voyage of “Says” felt a vital – almost ground-breaking – moment in Frahm’s ever searching mind. In similar fashion to “Says”, the synthesizer loop of “All Melody” feels as if it could go on forever: letting it live and breathe as long as it needs to. A windswept beauty and total radiance is somehow enclosed within the series of oscillations and hypnotic pulses. The concept of infinity becomes embedded deep within the composition’s framework as the bass marimba and piano swirls into the stratosphere.

The possibilities are endless. “#2” fades in – almost subliminally – as the embers of “All Melody” gradually dissolve. Techno bliss is masterfully etched across the sprawling canvas of synthesizer arrangements, creating, in turn, psychedelic dreams orbiting the furthest reaches of one’s inner consciousness. The seductive techno pattern serves the rhythmic pulse – or vital heart beat – supplying the flow of ambient-embedded rapture to the precious energy flow.

The album’s penultimate track “Kaleidoscope” conveys the visionary nature of Frahm’s music: the pattern of the interwoven elements (choir, organ and synthesizer) is constantly changing; forever in motion and altering in sequence (in turn, generating endless possibilities). The immaculate exploration feels at once ancient and utterly contemporary; a joyously uplifting creation with its dazzling ebb and flow akin to a river finding its sea.

Fundamental Values” shares the rich musical timbre of Frahm’s stunning “Victoria” soundtrack, mapping Victoria’s next steps, as she walks down the Berlin streets to freedom. The pristine instrumentation of cello and trumpet melts alongside Frahm’s angelic piano tones. How the introspective moments of “Human Range” continually blossoms – with ethereal jazz inflections – and continually evolves demonstrates once again the transformative power of the German musician’s divine soundscapes.

All Melody” is a defining record for the ages. This is a journey into sound.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

For Nils Frahm’s upcoming shows visit HERE.

http://www.nilsfrahm.com/
https://www.erasedtapes.com/

nils pic

Interview with Nils Frahm.

Congratulations Nils on the latest album ‘All Melody’, which is an utter masterpiece. One of my first thoughts of the album was how it reflects that special “Possibly Colliding” festival in London last year and the album almost epitomizes that entire night with the endless magical moments captured during that particular live performance. And just how the live energy and performances captured in these new recordings too, so it feels like an evolution of ‘Spaces’?

Nils Frahm: Basically yeah, it is a little bit of a more controlled version of the live take and the idea was to just make the music together in a live setting and not just record everything one after the other. In my other studio at home, I was recording more like piano (and next thing, next thing) so it was like all the other records that I’ve done: they were pretty limited in the possibilities of doing it at once. And now with the Funkhaus I had the space to set everything up and just do it (like you’ve seen tonight) and basically just record that and do it every day and just try out things and that was the process: hands on, all the equipment ready basically and then just go with whatever is fun. That was important to me because I knew I would not only like get material for an album out of this but I knew I would also already know my workstation for the shows, which would come later. So, I was basically spending two years within the two U-shaped keyboard towers, practicing; that was the aim behind it.

As a listener, it’s fascinating to think of the sum of the hours and the vast sea of ideas that must have been circulating in your mind over these years. The fact that you’re continually almost going back and refining your ideas where you very much had time on your side, was it a sense that you felt you were re-discovering elements of ideas and then gradually over time it’s almost like a metamorphosis in the sense it’s still ongoing in your head, almost like an infinite process?

NF: Well, the songs I don’t play live: they are done but the songs that I play live will keep on developing and the songs I decide to not play live they are left alone; they’re like what they are. When I bring my studio on tour, I’m doing it on purpose; I have to make it happen every night again as if it was the recording session for the album. So you have the chance to re-do it, re-think it and change it every day and so it does happen: this metamorphosis, it’s mutating basically over every single gig, it’s fun. And after one or two years, the song turns into something finished yet again. This happened with the ‘Spaces’ versions of the songs I had on old albums and they turned into other versions and so on. So, I think I’m not really a composer, I’m more like a musical landscaper and it’s a little bit like a gardener: you just set up a garden and then after one year it looks completely different and then you can just do something else with it. it’s not really the point to finish a song; the point is to show that the song needs the heart and the soul and that it usually the same for the person playing and I think this is what I want to transport in a song, is exactly that essence, it needs a host – every song needs a host, otherwise it’s not a human transmission.

I love the idea that you suddenly have all these new colours you’re working with, it’s immediately apparent – even on the first listen of the album – it’s almost like you have found your voice in one way. For example, the addition of the voices and choral element in particular but in general, it’s more the extremes of the album: the intensity and noise and electronics and like a deafening pitch in contrast to the really quiet, sparse and beautiful piano; you’ve got this spectrum fully there on this record.

NF: Everything I was trying in the last ten years I could do in a much easier and better way in that new building and that new environment and obviously I was basically waiting for that moment to do it just right. I knew that before I didn’t have the possibilities to do that record so I never tried it but I was not able to hide from it any longer because I was at the position where I could afford a studio, where I could afford all these things and so basically it felt like I had no excuse to sit in my bedroom anymore – I’m not playing in front of thirty people, I’m having a thing going here – and now when I don’t go into the studio and make it like really, really good (as good as you can) then I’m hiding from the challenge so I felt like I have to do it, I have to go into the perfect studio and do the perfect sounding album somehow; that’s what I felt like, I have to do it now. That’s the only way I thought about it was just to get all the dynamics in there, get all the ideas recorded in the right way so the sounds and timbres really come out and all of the things I really feel like it’s important for the music also to appear in the music and so that was the idea behind it.

A piece that epitomizes just that is ‘Sunson’. It is these elements of the female voice, electronics, pipe organ and the woodwind and just how such a hypnotic spell is created but it’s more a feeling that the piece could go on forever; it might be eight or nine minutes long but you want it to go on and on as there is so much detail embedded deep within the piece itself.

NF: Thank you, I like that piece a lot because there is so many rhythms inter-linking and depending on each other that all sound weird and funny if they don’t come together and that makes it so interesting. The interplay between the funny sounding little objects flying around just in its combination; they form a whole, they find ground and the chaos forms into a steady flow. I think that it’s not boring to listen to because there’s always something that’s changing because the pieces are like my live shows, I use the filters so there is no loops and there is no chopped parts of anything: everything is a performance. The repetitions don’t feel like staggering repetitions but it feels like an ongoing flow. The first thing that I look out for is like: Is it boring after thirty minutes? Is it boring after one hour? Or can I just go on and on and on? And I’m looking for the things which never go out of juice, like ‘All Melody’ and ‘Says’, these are all basically loops which feel like they could just be there forever and then so not every loop can do that, certain loops don’t have that potential. So, I’m a little bit like a detective for these repetitions which don’t really feel like it’s repeating in a bad way.

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That’s exactly as a listener you feel listening to ‘All Melody’ it’s like everything rests on your deft hands and everything is happening in real-time or in the moment. So, you’re waiting for all these moments to come in but I love just how all these many elements dissolve or melt together. And in your head, I can imagine it’s like a symphony and that you’re almost like the conductor in the sense that you have all these different sounds and elements but you have to know when to add, when to leave out, and so on. For instance, the electronics and when some of those low bass registers come in – during a piece – it’s that feeling when it suddenly comes in. In a way, it’s more like the work of an electronic producer that it’s the art of sound is like the bottom line of everything really?

NF: Basically for me I feel like that’s what drives my boat, it’s just to make my speakers in the studio dense with whatever I’m trying there to just get a beautiful sound. I mean I don’t like too pretty and too sweet things, it just needs to have the right balance so I just feel like it’s something that makes you feel addicted. I think music for me has a very animalistic and almost like a tribal spell on me. When I’m deeply in the concert and in the music, I am turning into something that is not exactly civilized; I’m not that polite, well-risen gent who is just like behaving or anything, I’m just going for my tribal instincts basically. I think this is where my ideas come from: it’s from a very non-intellectual route, something which is very ancient which I like to get in touch with. And then afterwards, I think intellectually about what I’m doing and out of the process of reflecting upon it, I also get ideas but what is really important for me is to get into the trance of making music and it happens when I play piano, it happens when I play synthesizers. It’s all the same thing for me because it creates the same family of emotions but obviously it’s a different essential experience for me to play a quiet piano piece and then banging with toilet brushes on the piano, it’s exactly the spectrum between the two which makes it tactile.

I just want to experience physics in all its ways, like from the very tiny wave to the very big wave and everything in between. I think exposing yourself to that for me is where all my next ideas for the next note is coming from. I have to resonate with my instruments, I must have a certain quality of sound, I need a certain tone to get inspired; otherwise I cannot fall into the music. When I’m making music I’m just finding the jump of point from the sound to start my real ideas. It’s a little bit like I cannot work when there is not a certain set of tools is there and then I’m just like no, this is not for me. When a certain thing works (like an instrument is nicely tuned or prepared or sounds really nice) then I get all these ideas but I cannot start with a digital piano and somebody tells me “now compose” then nothing inspires me. So everything that inspires me is purely tone and they almost numb my intellect and activate the animal in me almost.

A beautiful story within this narrative of ‘All Melody’ is how you discovered this little Danish piano. Like you say, I’m sure it must have spoken to you so strongly that you suddenly found inspiration from this instrument, almost like a gateway or a doorway that it suddenly launches all of these ideas and sounds?

NF: It is very important for me to have it with me, to play the sounds exactly on the same instrument I played it for the record. I tried it on other pianos which were a little bit easier to travel with and more stable (and this is a little complicated to tune or they are really hard to tune). But in the end we went for the Danish one because the sounds didn’t sound right on any other instrument, it didn’t feel like I should play these songs on another instrument – on another instrument I should play other songs; songs I write for that instrument. So I think this is the complicated side of my work is that I really dedicate my ideas to a physical set of things (which can be an instrument), I try to understand it, I try to build a relationship and I try to have so much empathy with it (which not always works) but when it works I just get under the skin of the instrument and get inside it and tickle it in a way, which is the only way and I strongly think like that and then I just make that piece and then I decide this is it. Of course there’s many other things I could have done but for me, then playing the piece on another instrument is not always working because I fine-tuned my interaction with it almost to a fair balance that the instrument does a lot of things by itself – I just activate it and I try to open the instrument basically.

And that usually is a different approach to other composers; they basically think of a melody, they write the melody down and somebody has to play the melody. It would be really difficult for me to write a melody and then somebody just plays it in their way because how you play the melody and exactly how is the only thing I care about. It needs to fit the melody, otherwise I don’t care about the melody itself; it just needs to harmonize with how the melody is played and it’s all about how it is played. And so composing for other musicians is a little bit of a bad process for me because I will always try to explain to other musicians how they should play it and I will always feel like, if I could only do it myself. And so you are right, I am a little bit like a conductor and I try to work with sounds I get into and once I feel like I activated the sounds, I am inside the instrument basically; this is the moment where I hit record. And with the other musicians in the session it was interesting because a lot of the things they played was not what I felt I wanted to hear but they played much, much more than I used. So I let them play, I let them play, I let them play and then out of sixty minutes these thirty seconds are just pure magic. I feel like it was still my process to decide for that thing and use it and then to put it there and then so I still had the feeling to get into the skin even of what the other people play. For me it is very important to have control over the sounds otherwise I’m lost basically.

All these elements that are contributed by your friends and this idea that it’s this thirty seconds of magic, I just love this minimal aspect to the music and how it’s almost spliced together. But the subtle detail  inside it all; it’s never like A, B, C but it’s more after repeated listening, there are gorgeous shades of all these different colours (like the bass marimba for example) it feels like a ripple.

NF: The sequencing was very important and I feel only if that is flawless. I’ll give you an image: only if all the ripples on top of the lake disappear you can see the surface of the lake and even if the tiniest ripples are there you can see only the surface of the water. And so for me it needed to come to a point of perfection, otherwise these compositions would not work, they would fall apart: they are only tied together by the marriage of vision of tone, timbre, how it’s played and everything in a wishful way which I cannot explain. But I can only intuitively get there and then I can say, oh this is it, this is what I wanted to do; I had no idea before – I never know what I want to do next – but I get naturally attracted just by accident, by the framework of my tools I set around me basically. Everything which is annoying me like synthesizers which make sounds that are horrible for me, I never use them. I only use instruments which always sound charming no matter what you do with them, anything which can sound like a pain in the ass flies out. And so I have some very funny rules to set up the framework for myself so I know what to do next because I never think of it.

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Ancient is a word that epitomizes the song ‘Kaleidoscope’. Again, the sequencing and how it’s there as the penultimate track. It’s the multitude of feelings and this sense of a journey that the listener goes on. The harmony aspect of ‘Kaleidoscope’ creates that hypnotic spell again, there’s almost a symbiosis between all your instruments and the rest of the instrumentation. You feel like there is an energy reacting off all these different layers of sounds and elements.

NF: I know what you mean, I just feel like it is all of these lucky moments and I’m just pretty relaxed when it comes to choosing the right moments. I’m messy basically because I record everything: I record every single show, I have terabytes of music flying around and listening through all of that again and just keeping your head clear and deciding out of forty takes, which take is the right one is the real challenge to be honest. So I basically keep recording and the most of the stuff that I am doing is not right and then all of a sudden – maybe by chance – something really works out well and then just being awake and seeing it happening and like ‘oh this is what I want’. I was trying eight hours and then in twelve minutes; I can use all these twelve minutes, that’s the core of my composition. I could have never planned it but I feel like this is the nice thing you can rely on having the feeling for the right moment in that sense and so I can delete everything else and you will never hear it again, this is it. And this was for ‘Spaces’ already, with Nonkeen and all these projects I had to go through hours and hours of music and deciding to delete all the rest takes a little bit of courage so to say. And I know a lot of musicians who really have a hard time deciding and they just rather keep three, four, five versions and until the end they go back and forth. And for me it’s very easy to know OK, this was a moment, it will be impossible for me to make a better version now that I have this version.

It is something of a knowing that I should not ask more from the universe than this, it’s a little bit of a humbleness to see when something was really good and you shouldn’t ask for more. This is where I have to say that I am not a perfectionist because a perfectionism is only about creating the framework. But when I see like by accident that something just magically worked out and then I try to be humble and be like OK don’t fight with the gods up there and try to do it better because when too perfect lieber Gott böse or the god is angry. So, this is my philosophy. ‘Kaleidoscope’ is a jam – completely a jam – and I felt like ‘Ahh what if I do it again?’ but I knew I could never create that energy or that sound again so I mixed just that improvisation basically. I never tried to recreate the patch because it was a complete, complicated, one-in-a-lifetime situation where all the things were doing something crazy. And then you should not waste your time by trying to do it again, it would just be an unpleasant experience. I feel like I know how to keep my workflow joyful that way, I just don’t go down these roads where there’s like sweat and fight and fight and fight. I try to keep myself in a happy place because this is only where I can worship the gods when I am happy with myself or when I am at peace with myself or I make an acceptance at least, I make the better work as if I’m trying to be better, you know that is not a good emotion.

It is that intuitive quality to the music that’s so apparent. I just love how there is this flow of energy within the songs, like the first notes of choir and the silence and sound of people almost coming together. And how ‘All Melody’ and ‘#2’ is like the beginning of the second half, it’s almost like the ultimate DJ mix in some ways.

NF: It’s like this legendary mixtape that somebody put together and found all these moments somewhere and blended them in this magical way and it’s like this tape that somebody has made and you’re just wondering ‘how cool is that?’ And I feel like I have a lot of these tapes at home, made by friends which became legendary mixtapes which I distributed and got an mp3 and all of my friends know them. It’s like these random cassettes, some of them were in my father’s car; just weird mixes, blend of jazz tunes and I just like that idea of hearing many different things interconnecting basically. Or seeing that everything is context when you just put a track after that track, the tracks change basically their identity only because they are next to each other. And when you think that further and think about the playlists on spotify and all the algorithms that are creating music, I mean exactly what is happening there is changing the identity and the core of each track which is inside that playlist. And I think all these things are so important to me and I want to have more control over music. This is why I am just saying this is the album and everyone talks about the album now and I love this because no one talks about one track; it is the album experience and we can look into a pretty deep landscape of music and just get all these ideas from.

This is exactly my point to do something which is in a broader sense inspiring and this is ‘All Melody’ for me, trying to encourage whatever is out there to be original or make the impossible blend. And to showcase that only because it’s different it doesn’t need to hurt your ears; that is also important, it can sound tactile and interesting and delightful even if the music is pretty abstract somehow. And I feel like this is also a challenge for me to make that work, just to make it so attractive even if what I’m making musically there is thinking around the corner a little bit rather than just make it attractive enough so you always want to know it more or something. This is what I associate with my favourite albums of all time: Radiohead, Portishead, Massive Attack; when these albums came out they didn’t only sound like weird, abstract hard to get stuff, it was different, completely new and in some way what they did there was – and also Air – it was different and like ‘I know it somehow but I don’t know it’, it was familiar in a weird way but totally new and it sounds great. These are the records that I will never forget and there are loads of other great and interesting music and charming music – and I’m like a geek like you of course – not only because a record is recorded bad I dismiss it, that’s totally bullshit, when a performance is great you just deal with whatever recording and so on. When you choose whatever you want to do I felt like let’s try to just get everything a little better on this record, let everything be a tiny bit better, that was my dream.

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Another special moment on the album is ‘Human Range’. Again as a listener, it’s full of that surprise element in the best possible way, this idea that you never know exactly what is coming at you (and that’s what defines all these great records). Suddenly there is a jazz and ethereal dimension like an ECM catalogue, but it all makes complete sense. How this track rises and is always building throughout.

NF: That was not a complicated composition because that was a track where I started basically with a piano and I had these chords [mimicking the piano line] and I liked the two chords. And on the piano I didn’t feel like I could make that piece, it felt like it was not necessarily a piano piece. So I thought I would programme a bass – and I programmed it very low and short  [mimicing bassline] – and I liked that, I was sitting in my room and I could hear the reverb of these short bass notes and I felt like, oh this is much more interesting. So basically I sequenced a little bit with the organ and the bass and I only recorded the little percussive sounds of the bass and kept it like that. And then whenever another musician came, I said ‘Let’s improvise something on that’ and so when the choir came, I just composed these chords (like start really quiet and then go loud and so I kept that) and the percussion player and the cello came and the trumpet player came and so on. We talked about the progression each time again and then the last forty seconds I just let them play improvised basically and it all creates this funny little ending.

And every musician played at least twenty/thirty takes before I felt like ‘now I feel it’ because they all played too much, I left these little drops and then somebody leaves a drop here and there but no one should really be in the forefront. So in the end it is all evenly dropping and so everybody felt they should finish the song with their part and they were trying to finish it off. And the last overdub that I have done was trumpet player and I told the trumpet player, ‘Look, you have to finish it off’ it was like we left this carpet, this fluffy nice little sound carpet for you and now tie this red thread in there. And he went into the recording room and played the first take of the day – I may have cut out twenty/thirty percent and moved one or two bits but that was it – and I was so impressed because I had no idea how I should have made that melody with my instruments, I didn’t hear it but he, with his trumpet, could find that spot where he was really leading the whole ensemble and all of a sudden it was like yeah, this is what I was waiting for. So it was one of those happy-go-lucky things that you can’t plan.

The challenge of inter-connecting each piece on the album and piecing together the many sections within a piece, was it a case that a lot was unlocked by improvisation?

NF: I think that’s the more composing part is to leave out what you don’t want to use and what comes before is just some way of improvising or meditating over an idea. It’s a little bit like fishing for the right moment, my philosophy is that a lot of things could come together in a positive way and that is they’re interlinked and then I see it as like these clay with four leaves and you see a lot with three leaves and there’s one with four. And basically I try to realize that in my music is that I just feel like it was the right sound, it was the right moment, the right touch, the right whatever and then maybe there was even a creak in the right moment. Sometimes you have these moments where you feel like ‘Aah! This is it’ and then I can feel like it’s a little bit like a false belief obviously but I feel like these birds are with me, I got a message, I like this and then I feel like I am having a relationship with that idea and with that moment. And then I treasure it and it’s like what I said before, I’m pretty stubborn believing like this is the moment, this is my big fortune just to have that decisiveness. It means that I have to numb myself and to blind myself over other possibilities but on the other hand the essence of why I am so progressive – like always doing, doing, doing – because if I would be hesitant and indecisive about if I should use this or not then I think nothing would get ready and nothing would ever come out. It is fortunately not leaving me and it didn’t leave me on this record like the intuition that I have that material and I’ve worked a long time on it and now it’s time to just go with the best you’ve done. And not thinking like ‘No, I wanted something else, throw everything away’ I think that would have done the material injustice.

Of course, I can say now that the record is completely something else than I expected and on the other hand what did I expect? I expected to hear some tracks that I couldn’t have planned, I expected to hear some tracks that I wanted to record (‘All Melody’ and ‘#2’) and I expected to hear some choir on there because I planned to record choir and so on. So basically it is the record I wanted to make and now in many ways when I play the tracks live, I play them all the time, they become a little bit of a closed body, all of a sudden you really make memories with that song and then the song develops an even broader identity because you feel like you are on the road with it and it’s always there and it’s always a little different (like everybody) and the song becomes a person and even the listeners – after a couple of years when you play the song a lot of times – you play a song and then they clap; it became something, the song has character and so what I really like is just to see how ‘All Melody’ out of this, I really enjoy like knowing when it’s released, it’s there now and then seeing OK it’s two hours ago, by now people have heard it once, let’s see what they say. And already people after thirty minutes are like posting things saying it’s great and I feel like I have listened to it for one and a half years basically and I’m pretty tired of it to be honest and now people hear it for the first time and it’s interesting to see people’s opinions after hearing it one time and how the opinion in maybe five, six, seven, fifteen or twenty years might be completely different. It’s basically like modelling a wine and putting it somewhere and seeing what happens to it. On that level I have a very good feeling with the record because I feel it is absolutely my identity; I can find myself in there. It’s almost like no other record that I have put out, I’m pretty strongly behind this one because I also think that it has humour and it is in a way also sad and melancholic. And in other ways it is exactly these little moments where people walk in and somebody is late and then the choir starts, like all these things I love.

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‘A Place’ has a playful and inventive quality to it where there’s a real bright pop element shining throughout and especially how the female voice is blended so masterfully with the electronic elements. Even if you isolated just that…

NF: I love this. This is what I was hoping for, I wanted to mix natural vocalists with juno sounds basically for that record and this was my moment where I felt like I can only hear synthesizer and them and it was just a beautiful and joyful experience. It feels like the synthesizer changes the voice and the voices changes the synthesizer to a strange degree where it becomes this phenomenon almost. And that was the core of the song and the rest was woven around numberless overdubs and compositional ideas. I had the kick drum in there, I had this going on, I had that going on. That was the song that always got re-shaped and in the end it magically fell into place in its most complex form as it is in the record now because as a composition and as a second song, it has a weird ending and this and that happening and exotic moments with exotic instruments playing exotic things. But I felt like this is something that has to be exactly like that and then it works.

And I tried to play it for the live show but it doesn’t work, it just easily falls apart. It’s not a stable song. Certain musical experiences can be pretty stable and they even sound good from a little radio in a distance and other musical experiences are more unstable and just need to be experienced in a certain way and it plays with something which has to be experienced in the right way then it only reveals something, which I like a lot. If it’s not exactly experienced like it is on the record then it falls easily apart. It’s an unstable, exotic piece which I feel like would stay exactly like that because any other version wouldn’t work. And then there’s other pieces of mine where I feel like yeah this is a good version but I think I could even play a better one someday but I don’t know why and then I keep on playing it. So I basically have two sets of ideas: certain things are basically more constructed and then they are just conserved in this one documented version and that is the piece and other ideas are transformative ideas which I basically meditate over and I feel like I grow on them when I keep playing them.

That must be the joy of playing the live shows when you suddenly have these new songs but also how you incorporate the older songs with the new ones. It must give you a new perspective even on the older songs you play?

NF: You heard ‘Familiar’ tonight, I changed ‘Familiar’ a bit; it was a different sound, I can’t even play it like on ‘Spaces’. I also don’t try, I always feel like I should play it in that moment and don’t try to play it as I remember as I played it.

‘Fundamental Values’ feels like it blossoms gradually as you listen to it. The piano melody feels like it’s a continuation from the ‘Victoria’ soundtrack, almost mapping her next footsteps as she walks outside the hotel and starting her new life. It definitely feels like this piece is related in some way?

NF: It was funny because it was basically this one solo piano recording I had from the ‘Victoria’ soundtrack and I kept it as an idea because we didn’t use it for the film and I kept it as an idea for the album process. And so I tried to replay it and I felt like no I can’t get that thing in there so I’d rather play a different piano on top and I played all the other instruments on top. The core of it is exactly the recording session of the ‘Victoria’ soundtrack and so very well heard.

Something that struck me from the liner notes of ‘All Melody’ was regarding the mixing of the album and how you described the need to preserve the essence of the music. I can imagine when you have spent all this time and with the knowledge you have all these magical moments captured, is there almost like a fear that you’re almost going to lose it in the sense that you grasped it one moment and will it be there again?

NF: Exactly. Certain pieces fall apart over time. Certain pieces feel great that night and the next day they already don’t feel that great anymore and you wonder like what did I do yesterday that it sounded different and so on. Other pieces stay only stable over a couple of weeks and then they start to annoy you in a certain way. So, giving me like a long time process was giving me enough time to listen to my own ideas and when I make an album I only listen to that (for that time) and not get confused. I don’t want to enjoy good music (which is other music) because I feel like I only deserve to enjoy when I do great music myself, just to fast basically. And when you lose the sketch or whatever you are working on there is also time to make it better, to mix it or to finish it or to change it and then sometimes you rescue it, you drag it back into a better direction and you make a better take and then you basically wrestle it or you just make it worse with whatever you try to change and you realize when you try it again and when you make it worse again then you know the song wins basically, it destroys you. And sometimes you just get the song in the right direction again and at some point it stabilizes again in a very good situation. When I listen to the album now I feel like I’m happy with everything. It changes for me you know, I’m still having more ideas and that I would like to change things but I know that everything is OK. And this is not always the case when I release an album. Sometimes, only two, three, four weeks later I regret certain things but now I’m really happy.

‘Harm Hymn’ is the perfect closing line for the album. Again, I love how there are these very sparse, introspective moments dotted across ‘All Melody’. Did you envision this harmonium piece to always close the album?

NF: I feel that it is a typical “Nils Frahm song” and I would have missed it if it wasn’t on the album. And if you can put it anywhere then it’s after ‘Kaleidoscope’ because it washes that high tension away and it connects with the last notes of ‘Kaleidoscope’, it has the same pace and breath and then it falls into that in a very good way. This is why I kept the piece, I have other good harmonium pieces I have recorded but it didn’t connect like that and so often when I have so many different songs I’ve done for an album, I still choose the ones that strengthen the neighbouring song, in a way which ends up then being more symphonic or a planned album listening experience. For me it’s very important to see an album as a continuous thing and it is OK to listen to certain songs just by themselves but if you listen to the whole thing it needs to make sense.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

For Nils Frahm’s upcoming shows visit HERE.

http://www.nilsfrahm.com/
https://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

March 7, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Step Right Up: Allred & Broderick

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Interview with David Allred & Peter Broderick.

 It feels good to simply play music with another person away from the cables.”

—David Allred

Words: Mark Carry

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Earlier this year, the new duo collaborative project between American musicians Peter Broderick and David Allred (appropriately christened Allred & Broderick) was unveiled in the form of lead single ‘The Ways’: a beautiful acapella folk ballad about “the world in which we live” and how we as individuals will eventually find our way. The gorgeously constructed music video – with handmade signs created by Erased Tapes long time collaborator Peter Liversidge and directed by label founder Robert Raths – was (in many ways) a celebration of the prestigious Erased Tapes label’s 10th anniversary year. The exciting new debut project between these two special souls represents yet another milestone in the label’s far-reaching, genre-defying musical journey thus far.

The pair first collaborated together on Allred’s stunning solo full-length ‘Midstory’ (released on German imprint Oscarson). Full of layered voices and a wide range of pristine instrumentation, the masterful song cycles ranged from intimate acappella laments to compelling avant pop gems. Forward a few years and the collaborative project of Allred & Broderick have dropped their debut record ‘Find The Ways’. Recorded in Broderick’s home studio the Sparkle along the Oregon coast, the ten tracks emit a delicate beauty and honesty that orbits the sound world of folk traditions, jazz flourishes and the modern-classical sphere.

Armed with just their voices, violin (Peter) and upright bass (David), the gifted duo generate endless possibilities with the minimalist framework posed. Some of their finest songs can be found on part A with Broderick’s penned ‘The Wise One’ and Allred’s ‘Hey Stranger’ interspersed between the string duet ‘Two Otters’.  On ‘Finding The Ways’ the pair wanted (in the words of Broderick) “to make something raw which is an honest document of what we are capable of doing together at once, with just two acoustic instruments and our voice”. Allred & Broderick is a marvellous new chapter from two unique musical voices.

‘Find The Ways’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes/

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Interview with David Allred & Peter Broderick.

 

Before we discuss the new record, I would love for you to recount your memories of first crossing paths with one another and how you feel your own musical paths cross over (and complement one another) so naturally?

David Allred: Peter and I had a few email exchanges before we met in person back in 2013. I initially emailed him with a sheet music transcription I made of his piano song called ‘Pulling The Rain’ and asked him if it looked accurate. Peter responded very well to my email which turned into more conversations. I always loved how well he responded to my questions, especially considering that I was a complete stranger to him at the time. There was another time I wrote him an email out of the blue (which was about a week before I was planning to move to Portland) and Peter ended his replied email by saying “best wishes from Portland” – I immediately wrote him back and told him that I was coincidentally about to move to Portland and wanted to know if he was living there or visiting (since he had been living in Berlin for years up to that time) and he replied confirming that he re-located to Portland and that we should meet up when I get there! We did in fact meet one day in 2013 and have been good friends/musical collaborators since.

Please take me back to the recording sessions in your home studio of The Sparkle. I am sure this was an extremely fun and liberating project to be involved in, particularly having just voices, violin and double bass? One of the great hallmarks of the record is just how much you achieve in terms of depth and emotion from a minimal framework. 

DA: Thank you! Yes, Peter and I set out to record this album live without any overdubs or edits aside from general mixing. It was a bit challenging to make a full length record with the limitations that we gave ourselves but in the end we were very happy with the results. It was very refreshing to make an album that was captured exactly the way play the music without needing to layer other instruments or effects. We also enjoy being able to re-create our album in our live performances.

I think that sense of adventure and spark of creativity is always present in both your own solo works and obviously this comes flooding into the recordings contained here on ‘Finding the Ways’. I wonder to what degree were these songs mapped out prior to the recording sessions? I can imagine some happy accidents and spontaneous moments found their way on the final tapes?

DA: I would say most of the record was planned out but there ended up being some spontaneous moments. Peter did the mixing and mastering on this release and we had a fair amount of funny moments when we were talking or reacting to the music and some of which ended up on the final version of the album.

‘The Wise One’ is one of the defining moments of part A. I would love to gain an insight into the background and inspiration behind this particular tour-de-force? (I presume this is Peter’s song?!) The way the double-bass arrives in later and how these intricate components coalesce so wonderfully makes for such a cinematic voyage.

Peter Broderick: Yep, this one is my song, and was the last song added to the collection for this record. In fact, to this day this remains the last song I’ve written with words! The lyrics are about diving within yourself in a meditative way, to consult yourself from deep within, with the objective of gaining guidance and/or insight. During the time that David and I were working on the music for this album, I was practicing this kind of meditation daily. I had such a powerful, profound experience, I felt the impulse to turn that experience into a song.

‘Hey Stranger’ is another deeply heartfelt and poignant moment (which I presume is a song by David?) I would love to gain an insight into the writing and formation of this particular song and your memories of seeing it come to full bloom? 

DA: ‘Hey Stranger’ was written about an old friend who mysteriously disappeared years ago. I have been referring to this individual in press as J, who was one of my closest friends from my childhood to early adulthood but I always felt that it was a bit difficult to connect with him as he was always confronting the intense topics of life that most people try to avoid in most social circumstances. I’ve always thought he was an incredibly good person deep down and perhaps that his ways of living and thinking were just either too far ahead of his time or just simply too much for others to digest. He has no online presence as far as I can tell or any clear indication that he is still out there in the world. I was recently getting the feeling like J might pop up on the street when I least expect it and I just couldn’t figure out why this was on my mind. I wrote this song in an attempt to make peace within myself since I felt the situation was too unresolved for me to move on from it.

As the record is completely performed live in single takes, please discuss the live set-up in the Sparkle and your conversations and concerns from the outset concerning the overall feel and sound you wanted to create? I presume the record ‘Midstory’ (David’s solo LP) provided a nice template and perspective when it came to returning together then as an official duo project (in this particular regard)?

PB: Believe or not, David and I actually recorded this whole album twice! Our original idea was to have someone else record it, with only one microphone. We went to Type Foundry studio in Portland, Oregon and recorded all 10 songs in a day . . . but we quickly realized we weren’t happy with the sound . . . partially due to the fact that we didn’t bother to listen back to the recording at all whilst working on it, and afterwards discovered that we weren’t happy with the volume balance between the two of us. So we resolved to re-record the whole thing out at my studio on the Oregon coast (The Sparkle). This time we set up two microphones, one for David’s voice and bass, one for my voice and violin. Again we recorded all 10 songs in a day, and then the next day mixed and mastered all the songs, all at The Sparkle. When mixing the album, we tried to keep it as dry and unaffected as possible, although both David and I have a soft spot for the Roland Chorus Echo out at The Sparkle, and couldn’t help ourselves from using this machine to add some subtle color to the sound. It’s true that David and I had already worked together on his album Midstory, so we were both quite comfortable working together in my studio . . . although the processes for these two records were vastly different.

DA: I started playing electric bass in middle school which eventually led to double bass when I was in high school/college. I am self-taught on the double bass so I definitely lack some proper techniques with the instrument but I still love to play it. The Allred & Broderick project was the first time I ever dedicated a whole project using the double bass, and it was also the first project that Peter fully dedicated himself to the violin, and we both very much enjoyed taking this approach. Capturing this music live with our voices and chosen string instruments was exceptionally enjoyable and refreshing especially after we both have been heavily invested in the technological side of music. It feels good to simply play music with another person away from the cables.

PB: Well, the violin was my first instrument. I started taking lessons at age seven I believe. But aside from a few pieces here and there over the years, the violin has never really been the central instrument to the music I’ve created. I always thought it would be great to one day work on a project in which the violin is the only instrument I use . . . so I was really happy to be able to do that with this project, especially having the low end of David’s bass to balance out the sound . . . not to mention his incredible musicality!

‘Find The Ways’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.erasedtapes.com/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes/

 

Written by admin

July 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm