FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Erased Tapes

Albums of the Year: 2016

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Presented here is a list of our favourite albums from 2016. 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. The exercise also reminded me of memories when growing up of reading interviews featuring our favourite musicians, what used to strike me so much was the number of times they would describe their favourite albums as being like “friends” to them. These albums were anything but material possessions, these wax and cardboard sculptures were simply part of their lives: their very identity, even. The following is a selection of sixteen albums released during 2016 which we feel fortunate to now call friends of our own.

Artwork: Craig Carry
Words: Mark Carry

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(i). Oliver Coates – “Upstepping” (PRAH Recordings)

Several ground-breaking records from 2016 can be attributed to the gifted talents of British cellist and composer Oliver Coates. The London-based composer’s sophomore full-length release ‘Upstepping’ is undoubtedly the year’s most accomplished, innovative and compelling musical journeys with its meticulously crafted and sumptuously layered cello-based compositions that carves out techno-fueled waves of pure bliss and transcendence. ‘Upstepping’ is indeed (in the words of Coates) “pumped-up body music”. From album opener ‘Innocent Love’, which immediately evokes the sound of Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ with its hypnotic female vocal line to the deep house groove of ‘Perfect Love’ (think Autechre, Aphex Twin), a world of shimmering cello-based sound-worlds are being channeled from the cosmos. Coates’s current activity of “distorted cello play over sequenced dance music” (Coates wrote for his exclusive Guest Mixtape) remains the most ground-breaking and original sounds to have surfaced in 2016.

“Upstepping” is out now on PRAH Recordings.

http://www.olivercoates.com/
https://www.facebook.com/olivercoatesmusician/

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(ii). Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “EARS” (Western Vinyl)

Last Spring during a conversation with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, she described her primary objective for her latest full-length ‘EARS’: “I wanted to create a sense that the listener was on a 3-D motion ride through a futuristic jungle and I had to create an arc from start to finish that took the listener on a journey”. These eight otherworldly compositions created by the L.A. based composer and producer were immediately noted for their extraordinary colours, textures and striking multi-dimensional forms. The rich instrumentation encompasses a myriad of organic and synthesized sounds as Smith’s utterly hypnotic voice melds with her trusted Buchla synthesizer and an intricate array of woodwind and brass arrangements. Cosmic bliss appears at each and every turn: the dazzling mantra of ‘Rare Things Grow’ is steeped in African music traditions; ‘Envelop’s meditative melodic pulses and the epic closing transcendence of ‘Existence In The Unfurling’. Later in 2016 came the equally exceptional ‘Sunergy’ LP – a collaboration between Smith and electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani – as part of the RVNG Intl label’s FRKWYS series.

“EARS” is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

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(iii). Jóhann Jóhannsson – “Orphée” (Deutsche Grammophon)

This year saw the eagerly awaited new studio album – and first in six years – from the renowned Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Incorporating music for solo cello, organ, string quartet, string orchestra and unaccompanied voices, ‘Orphée’ represents Jóhannsson’s finest hour, whose fifteen divine compositions captured here feels like a distillation of the master composer’s life’s work. The utterly captivating ‘A Song For Europa’ belongs in the same stratosphere as Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood’ such is its cinematic brilliance: a spoken word sample becomes embedded deep in the music, speaking so profoundly. ‘A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder’ is steeped in unwavering beauty as rejoice and hope flicker onto the horizon amidst a soaring string section (performed by Air Lyndhurst String Orchestra). A lost companion to George Delerue’s ‘Camille’.

In the words of Jóhannsson: “Orphée is for me about changes: about moving to a new city, leaving behind an old life in Copenhagen and building a new one in Berlin – about the death of old relationships and the birth of new ones”. As ever, the Icelandic master composer has crafted a challenging, utterly breathtaking and shape-shifting experience. A piece such as ‘Good Night, Day’ (featuring Jóhannsson’s close musical collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir) paints life’s fleeting, transient nature onto a vast canvas of enchanting sound, before ‘Theatre of Voices’ (conducted by Paul Hillier) brings ‘Orphée’ to an astounding climax.

“Orphée” is out now on Deutsche Grammophon.

http://www.johannjohannsson.com/
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/

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(iv). Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree” (Bad Seed Ltd.)

On lead single – and album opener – ‘Jesus Alone’, a devastating apocalyptic world descends upon us amidst sparse arrangements of piano and brooding synthesizer drones: “You fell from the sky/Crash landed in a field/Near the river Adur.” On Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio album, a captivating, harrowing and deeply moving experience is forged as Cave’s songs navigates the heart of darkness.

The achingly beautiful gospel lament ‘Rings of Saturn’ exudes a healing power, which could belong on ‘The Boatman’s Call’ alongside ‘Brompton Oratory’. Scenes from John Hillocat’s ‘The Road’ (one of the many breathtaking scores Cave & Ellis have penned) is etched across the heartbreaking, tear-stained canvas of ‘Girl In Amber’. On a later verse, Cave mourns: “I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world/In a slumber til your crumble were absorbed into the earth.” A brooding darkness seeps into your bones on ‘Magneto’ – the album’s most gripping and intense moments – where buzzes of electric guitar drifts beneath Cave’s whisper-like pleas. The hypnotic mantra of “In love, in love, I love, you love” shares the cosmic spirit of Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ ventures in the slipstream. A catharsis permeates the “heaven bound sea” of ‘Anthrocene’ with surreal, near-mythical dimensions somehow attained, which could depict Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, The Wrath of God’s haunting, doomed expedition. The sublime ecstasy of ‘I Need You’ is wrapped in impossible beauty; an empowering ballad that could belong to the ‘Lyre Of Orpheus’ sessions.

Skeleton Tree’ is a lament from the depths of darkness and despair: “With my voice, I am calling you.”

“Skeleton Tree” is out now on Bad Seed Ltd.

http://www.nickcave.com/

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(v). Jessy Lanza – “Oh No” (Hyperdub)

The Canadian songwriter and producer’s sublime sophomore full-length ‘Oh No’ (Hyperdub) showcases an artist at the peak of her powers, crafting some of the most beguiling synth pop creations of 2016 (and beyond). Made in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, with production partner Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys, the seductive pop hooks and R&B gems crafts a joyously uplifting haven of euphoric sounds. As Lanza says “I want to make people feel good and I want to make myself feel good”. Infectious energy permeates ‘VV Violence’ and ‘Never Enough’ (reminiscent of classic Junior Boys and Caribou) whilst elsewhere the stunning ballads ‘I Talk BB’ (Lanza’s voice ascends to the forefront of the mix) and ethereal haze of closing cut ‘Could B U’. The infectious groove and affecting vocal delivery of ‘It Means I Love You’ crafts one of the record’s defining moments, soaked in reverb and compelling drum machines. Most recently, ‘Oh No No No’ remix EP has surfaced, with gorgeous reworks by DVA (‘Going Somewhere’), DJ Taye x DJ Spinn’s remix of ‘Could B U’ and Morgan Geist’s rework of ‘I Talk BB’.

“Oh No” is out now on Hyperdub.

http://jessylanza.com/
http://www.hyperdub.net/

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(vi). Peter Broderick – “Partners” (Erased Tapes)

The gifted American composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has crafted his most captivating, emotive and transporting works to date on his latest masterwork ‘Partners’. This collection of solo piano music not only sees the beloved sound sculptor come full-circle in many ways but also delving deeper and further into music’s boundless orbit and life’s great mystery than ever before. In essence, the artist has effectively removed himself from the activities of the sounds he makes, in turn, creating piano music so pure, mysterious and far-reaching, evoking the timeless sounds of older generation masters such as John Cage and Lubomyr Melnyk. Hugely inspired by John Cage’s chance techniques and visionary spirit, Cage’s own composition ‘In A Landscape’ serves the vital pulse to ‘Partners’s aching canvas (having fallen in love with the piano once again during the process of transcribing this seminal piece, note-by-painstaking-note). Compositions such as the utterly transcendent ‘Carried’ unleashes a haven of heart-wrenching emotion as celestial harmonies meld effortlessly with mesmeric piano patterns, and ‘Up Niek Mountain’s drifting cosmic reverb-laden piano tapestries become interwoven deep inside the listener’s thoughts and dreams. The closing ‘Sometimes’ is a cover version of Brigid Mae Power’s divine ballad, the record for which is dedicated to Brigid. A freedom abounds on ‘Partners’ as the sacred piano notes become transcribed from the very composer’s subconscious mind.

“Partners” is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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(vii). Xylouris White – “Black Peak” (Bella Union)

Xylouris White is the inspired collaboration between Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian, Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White. Both composers are legends in their own right, the former through his Cretan lute-led sounds of the Xylouris Ensemble, the latter through his membership of mythical Australian trio Dirty Three and myriad of collaborations over the years. The sheer expanses covered on the band’s sophomore full-length ‘Black Peak’ is staggering. The opening rock opus ‘Black Peak’ and ‘Forging’s momentous rock’n’roll rhythms are followed by the poignant parable of ‘Hey, Musicians!’ and divine epic love song, ‘Erotokritos’. Ancient traditions are interwoven with contemporary, avant-garde musical structures, forever embedded deep inside a mysterious, enchanting and cosmic space. ‘Black Peak’ invites the listener to inhabit the far-reaching plains of life’s mysterious and kaleidoscopic landscape. As depicted on the striking narrative of ‘Hey, Musicians!’, music indeed never ends.

“Black Peak” is out now on Bella Union.

http://www.xylouriswhite.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

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(viii). Loscil – “Monument Builders” (Kranky)

The Canadian ambient artist Scott Morgan’s latest masterwork unleashes a cathartic, hypnotic spell throughout; belonging to a dichotomy of worlds where an engulfing cloud of prevailing darkness prevails in tandem with the radiant light of hope and survival. Delicately beautiful ambient soundscapes drift majestically in the ether alongside the more intense, pulsating sound worlds. Take for example, how the fragile pulses of ‘Deceiver’ flows effortlessly into the glorious crescendo of ‘Straw Dogs’ or how the stunningly beautiful album opener ‘Drained Lake’ is gradually followed with the techno-infused ‘Red Tide’. A wall of intense moods, colour and textures flood these sonic creations, creating one of Morgan’s most accomplished and concise records to date. The addition of horn arrangements (recalling Philip Glass) immediately casts an ethereal quality; harmonies meld beautifully with a collection of old synths, warm textures of drone soundscapes.

“Monument Builders” is out now on Kranky.

http://www.loscil.ca/
http://www.kranky.net/

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(ix). The Avalanches – “Wildflower” (XL)

2016 saw the return of The Avalanches after sixteen years with their long-awaited second album. The pertinent question for the duo was how could a band follow-up a seminal classic like ‘Since I Left You’ but the duo have managed to create a kaleidoscope of rejuvenated, cosmic sounds. An endless array of samples, hip-hop rhymes, lucid beats, celestial harmonies and pop-laden hooks fill ‘Wildflower’s exhilarating voyage where cameo appearances from Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis, Father John Misty and Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick all stop by. ‘Wildflower’ is one of those perfect summer records: the Laurel Canyon-era sunshine pop of ‘If I Was a Folkstar’ and ‘Because I’m Me’s funky soulful strut and seductive Ariel Pink-esque ‘Subways’ are just some highlights. The heart-stopping ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’s dreamy haze and poignant epicentre serves the perfect closer to ‘Wildflower’s glorious psychedelic pop oeuvre.

“Wildflower” is out now on XL Recordings.

http://www.theavalanches.com/
http://xlrecordings.com/

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(x). Amiina – “Fantômas” (Mengi)

Icelandic outfit Amiina’s latest adventure, ‘Fantômas’, was originally composed as a live score to a silent masterpiece from 1913 (‘Fantômas’ was a French silent crime film serial directed by Louis Feuillade, based on the novel of the same name). Importantly the music stands on its own, independent of the visual narrative that, in turn, marks a brave new chapter in Amiina’s cherished songbook. The band’s Fantômas score is menacing, dark and brooding as it is steeped in delicate beauty and vivid hope. The cinematic opening title-track begins with a slow rhythmic pulse before haunting strings cast an eerie disquiet. The main theme’s melodic motif is masterfully revisited on the sublime ‘Lady Beltham’ before vivid dappling of light ascend on ‘Crocodile’. The closing electronic-oriented ‘L’Homme Du Noir’ explores adventurous new horizons. As ever, immaculate instrumentation of violin, cello, drums, percussion, metallophone, table harp, ukulele, and electronics graces the listener akin to the gradual fading light at dusk or a bird’s majestic flight across vast skies.

The score Fantômas premiered in Paris in 2013 at the prestigious, Théâtre du Châtelet, where Amiina, together with musicians James Blackshaw, Tim Hecker, Loney Dear, and Yann Tiersen, took part in a special Halloween event (curated by Tiersen), celebrating the centenary of the Fantômas series, directed by the French film director Louis Feuillade in 1913-1914.

“Fantômas” is out now on Mengi.

http://www.amiina.com/
http://www.mengi.net/

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(xi). Carla dal Forno – “You Know What It’s Like” (Blackest Ever Black)

The Australian singer-songwriter’s masterful debut solo album ‘You Know What It’s Like’ marked undoubtedly the year’s most dazzling and exciting debuts. Released on the prestigious Blackest Ever Black imprint, lead singles ‘Fast Moving Cars’ and ‘What You Gonna Do Now?’ revealed adventurous avant pop song structures to get beautifully lost in. Forno asks “Did you want this to last a long time?” over a gorgeous haze of meditative bassline grooves and drumbeat on the luminous ‘Fast Moving Cars’. Forno’s voice – a truly formidable instrument – melts and dissolves in the other-worldly pop spheres, conjuring up the timeless sound of ‘Tragedy’-era Julia Holter and Brian Eno’s visionary early 70’s pop gems. A striking emotional depth resides throughout, reflecting on failed relationships, love, loss and the impermanence of it all. Loneliness is etched across the canvas of the album’s title-track, sharing the colours and shades of Miles Davis’s ‘Kind Of Blue’ and Nico’s celestial voice with its yearning, searching feel: “What you gonna do now that the night’s come and it’s around you?” Elements of dub, post-punk, psychedelic folk and avant pop sounds shimmer majestically throughout: from the late 60’s psych folk of ‘Drying In The Rain’ to the dub-infused odyssey ‘DB Rip’s wave of synthesizers. The stripped-back closer ‘The Same Reply’ serves the record’s most breath-taking moments; distilled in lost love.

“You Know What It’s Like” is out now on Blackest Ever Black.

https://www.facebook.com/carladalfornoyes/
http://blackesteverblack.com/

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(xii). Andy Stott – “Too Many Voices” (Modern Love)

The renowned UK producer Andy Stott delivered his highly anticipated follow-up to 2014 classic ‘Faith In Strangers’ in the form of ‘Too Many Voices’ last Spring via the peerless Manchester-based imprint Modern Love. The gifted producer continued to explore new sonic terrain and tap into new emotional depths with gorgeous dub step, electronic, grime and 80’s synth pop flourishes. On Stott’s fourth studio album, breathtaking synth washes of ‘New Romantic’ (with nods to This Mortal Coil) and soulful seduction of ‘Butterflies’ (the record’s lead single) are interwoven with utterly compelling dubstep techno for the dancefloor (‘First Night’) and crystalline ambient chill-wave bliss (‘On My Mind’). The title-track and album closer perhaps serves the record’s glorious climax with masterfully arranged choral harmonies (supplied by longtime vocal contributor Alison Skidmore who appears on half of the record) and euphoric production (think Holly Herndon crossed with the Yellow Magic Orchestra), providing one of the tracks of 2016 in the process.

“Too Many Voices” is out now on Modern Love.

http://modern-love.co.uk/

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(xiii). Katie Kim – “Salt” (Art For Blind)

‘Salt’ sees the revered Irish musician explore deeper into the ethereal dimension, for which she has long ago established. The hypnotic guitar drone of ‘Day Is Coming’ envelops the deepest of fears and anguish, culminating in a swirling symphonic haze of heavenly harmonies and brooding strings. ‘Someday’ is a delicately beautiful piano lament and searching prayer for hope. The striking intimacy and hypnotic spell cast by the gifted songwriter throughout ‘Salt’ unleashes the most deeply affecting batch of songs to have been unearthed for quite some time. Sonically, the latest record is a partnership between O’ Sullivan and producer John Murphy, whose expansive, guttural soundscapes of album opener ‘Ghosts’ and centerpiece ‘I Make Sparks’ are masterfully contrasted with the closing fragile piano ballads ‘Thieves’ and ‘Wide Hand’. One of the album’s defining moments arrives with the pulsating ‘Life Or Living’; a euphoric exploration into the depths of darkness. An image depicted on the second verse becomes the engulfing embodiment of ‘Salt’s realm of raw emotion and blissful transcendence: “Holding my hand now the tides incoming/Make us a shield so the light won’t get in.”

“Salt” is out now on Art For Blind.

https://katiekim.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DANCEKATIEKIMDANCE/

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(xiv). Marissa Nadler – “Strangers” (Bella Union, Sacred Bones)

“Strangers” finds Marissa Nadler’s sonic palette expanding (synths and drumbeats are at times added to Nadler’s voice and guitar). But despite the added instrumentation and more intricate arrangements, a purity forever remains in the treasured songbook of Nadler’s forever timeless oeuvre. Beautiful subtleties exist within the sonic tapestries while striking imagery such as disintegrating cliffs, towering skyscrapers, darkening woods and deep rivers are offset with characters often feeling at odds with the world they find themselves in (or more accurately find themselves suspended into, all of a sudden). There’s a tangible sense of contrasting dichotomies lying at the heart of “Strangers” (between the familiar and the unfamiliar; safety and danger; darkness and light; life and death) which makes the journey Nadler takes us on all the more real. Tangible. Life-affirming. And like a silent witness we can quietly navigate that darkness with her. For we are not strangers after all.

“Strangers” is out now on Bella Union (UK) / Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/
https://marissanadler.bandcamp.com/

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(xv). Brigid Mae Power – “S/T” (Tompkins Square)

Brigid Mae Power’s stunningly beautiful latest solo full-length – and Tompkins Square debut – is an album drenched in reverb-soaked emotion and lament. Enchantingly performed and produced, the record showcases a songwriter of immense talent in a soundscape that naturally merges itself to Brigid Power’s engulfing sound. The magic lies in the songwriter’s expression of raw emotion, in all its delicate beauty. Themes include transformation, change, motherhood, acceptance, strength, courage and trust. In the words of Power, the album is about “trusting if you lose yourself or your way — you can come back.”

Such is the album’s timeless brilliance, the nearest parallels that can be drawn to Power’s quietly unassuming, divine artistry are those blessed folk spirits of bygone times such as Sibylle Baier, Tia Blake or Margaret Barry. As reflected in the lyrics of closing heartfelt lament of ‘How You Feel’, this deeply personal and intimate set of songs become a place of hope and solace where the path laid out in front you is filled with the light of day and sea of love.

“Brigid Mae Power” is out now on Tompkins Square.

http://brigidmaepower.com/
http://www.tompkinssquare.com/

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(xvi). Syrinx – “Tumblers from the Vault (1970–1972)” (RVNG Intl)

A collection of experimental synth music culled from the early 70’s Toronto music scene is beautifully celebrated by the ever-indispensable Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl label on the shape-shifting, genre defying musical document, ‘Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)’. The band in question are the avant-garde three-piece Syrinx whose wholly unique hybrid of chamber pop and electronic experimentation crafts an utterly timeless journey into the limitless possibilities of music. The dreamy, lo-fi gem ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ remains as vital and fresh as the day it was recorded. The sprawling epic ‘December Angel’ dumbfounds the listener in its sheer beauty and compelling sound: a piece of music from some future age, unknown and mysterious all at once. Psychedelic flourishes are etched across the more electronic-oriented ‘Ibistix’; the amalgamation of distorted voices and cosmic strings creates a symphony of rapture and transcendence.

Syrinx consisted of composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle, and percussionist Alan Wells. Syrinx’s self-titled debut arrived in 1970, followed in 1971 by ‘Long Lost Relatives’, which is highlighted as the first album on Tumblers From The Vault. Re-issue of the year, hands down.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

Designs for the first ten albums are by Craig Carry, a limited edition series of screen prints (each edition is limited to 25 copies) have been created to coincide with Fractured Air’s favourite albums of 2016. Prints will be available to purchase online from January 2017. 

With very special thanks to each and every one of our readers. Wishing you all a peaceful and happy new year.

https://fracturedair.com/

Chosen One: Stars of the Lid

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Interview with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.

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

—Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie

Words: Mark Carry

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/starsofthelid

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Interview with Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Step Right Up: Ben Lukas Boysen

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How can I make a programmed piano – or basically a piano that I never really touched, that I never saw or that I never recorded myself – how can I make that feel human and interesting?”

—Ben Lukas Boysen

Words: Mark Carry, Photography: Claudia Gödke

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The Berlin-based composer, producer and sound designer Ben Lukas Boysen represents the prestigious Erased Tapes label’s newest signing with the scintillating sophomore full-length release of ‘Spells’. The German studio composer masterfully crafts a deeply moving sound world of ambient, electronic and modern-classical textures as programmed piano pieces are fused with live instruments (drums, cello, harp and an intricate array of echoes, delays and compressors), merging sound design and music to become one beguiling stratosphere of mesmerizing sound.

On the sleeve notes of Laurie Spiegel’s seminal work ‘The Expanding Universe’, the American composer discusses the great advantage of computers: “Music consists of patterns of sound. One of the computer’s greatest strengths is the opportunity it presents to integrate direct interaction with an instrument and its sound with the ability to compose musical experiences much more complex and well designed than can be done than can be done live in one take.” Journeying through the infinite beauty and meticulously crafted sound collages captured on ‘Spells’, Boysen has composed complex musical experiences that combines the controllable digital world and the often unpredictable aspects of live improvisation. The remarkable achievement of ‘Spells’ is the hugely humanised sound – and rawest of human emotions – that is emitted from these programmed piano pieces that floats in the ether between the blurred lines of electronic and organic spheres. Undoubtedly, the source or origin of the German composer’s work is secondary to the sprawling emotion and deeply affecting nature of ‘Spells’’ highly innovative and compelling body of work.

One of the record’s most formidable moments arrives during ‘Golden Times 1’ – the album’s longest cut and perhaps centrepiece – which is built upon a delicate piano-led melody that echoes the solo piano works of Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick among others. Later, heart-wrenching strings are melded together before a euphoric cascade of energy and emotion is transmitted amidst electronic walls of sound that forms the towering counterpoint to the aching bliss of ambient pulses (think ‘Looped’ by Kiasmos inter-woven with Nils Frahm’s ‘Says’).

In the same way as two distinct movements are composed for ‘Golden Times’ (‘Golden Times 2’ is a slowed-down neo-classical-infused-electronic tour-de-force recalling the likes of Scottish duo Boards of Canada), ‘Nocturne 3’ and ‘Nocturne 4’ finds the rich narrative of Boysen’s previous LP, ‘Gravity’ developed further. The brooding strings of ‘Keep Watch’ shares gorgeous remnants of A Winged Victory For The Sullen such is the unfathomable beauty that permeates the ebb and flow of neon-lit skylines and the gradual motion of the sea waves encapsulated within the soaring music. Indeed, ‘Spells’ is laden with a beating heart that awaits your every lost thought and faded dream.

‘Spells’ is out this Friday, 10th June on Erased Tapes Records.

 

Interview with Ben Lukas Boysen.

 Congratulations on the sublime new record ‘Spells’. I’m sure it has taken considerable effort and time to program all the piano parts in particular?

Ben Lukas Boysen: Yes, a little, it actually doesn’t take as long as it would take me to play it [laughs], it takes a while but I can’t really play that well. So I needed to find a way to make that work otherwise and the programming is a very comfortable way of doing that. But it’s mostly the other musicians involved – they were a lot faster with everything because they are all very good instrumentalists. Most of the things were done pretty fast – it only took two years to get the piano stuff together and then the rest was faster.

Would the piano parts always come first and then the instrumentation of drums, harp and so on come after?

BLB: It depends actually. The way I record drums, I go into the studio with the drummer and I just hand him an idea and he starts jamming – I mean just like a track idea and he starts improvising. Most of the time (80% of the time), I remove my track afterwards and write something new for the drums and that’s how most of the tracks – with drums at least – come together. There was a certain idea at the beginning and it was all removed and something completely new was written underneath it. Hearing other musicians work normally inspires me a lot and gives me new ideas of what I want to do with it. So most of the time there is nothing really pre-written; it’s very subject to change there.

I must say ‘Golden Times 1’ – and I love also how there are two different movements with the second towards the end -it’s amazing how it morphs into the more electronic and as the piece extends, the piece builds continually. It really is wonderful how it develops.

BLB: Thank you so much. Right now as we speak I’m at a point where it’s very, very hard for me to judge the album. It’s very flattering and nice to hear that it seems to work because right now it’s this hunk of work that’s passed me. Musicians will tell you they need to get a distance from their work before they can actually enjoy it again.

Like ‘Golden Times’, I love how there are also two different movements of ‘Nocturne’ and it’s wonderful to see – and hear – the different variations between those pieces?

BLB: Indeed, that is a fun concept actually. It’s normally only heavy drums and a sad piano theme, like that’s the only restriction and everything else is fine. There’s the first two pieces [‘Nocturne 1’ and ‘Nocturne 2’] from my previous album ‘Gravity’ and it just developed, there was never really a plan. I liked how this worked so I do three more. There will probably be two more on the next one to close the trilogy or something [laughs].

You set up your own studio in Berlin around ten years ago. That sounds fascinating too because you’re obviously involved with so much projects from sound design where your own two studio albums are one part to the overall picture really.

BLB: That is true, the albums are personally at least, the most important one. The sound design and commission work is what pays the bills and what puts the food on the table. For the albums, you could never take that much time with a commercial project than you can with an album. You just sit down and take time and don’t do anything but that for a while. And in that time that it takes to make an album – the way I wanted it to be – I would be completely broke and on the street by the time it finished. I am very happy that I’m allowed to work in a craft that where music pays my bills; I feel incredibly privileged. The sound design was always part of it but I always try to make sound design musical and music more sound design: to find something within there. It’s hard to explain but they should become one eventually and this is very hard to hear on ‘Spells’ at least. But on the previous stuff – all the releases I did under HECQ – this approach is much more obvious there because it’s very electronic. But for my solo stuff it’s the same, ultimately I want to merge sound design and music into one.

I’d love for you to discuss your early memories of growing up with music? I presume you began playing the piano at a young age and progressed from there?

BLB: That is true although I was never really an instrumentalist in that way. I come from a musical family – my mother was an opera singer and vocal coach later on in her life and my father was an actor – so music was always very present and always a very important topic, and always being quite eclectic about it, my parents were and still are.

I started playing guitar and piano but I noticed this is not where I will be good at. It is more the abstract and programming part – the meta level of music – for example like ‘Spells’ and ‘Gravity’ are good examples: how can I make a programmed piano – or basically a piano that I never really touched, that I never saw or that I never recorded myself – how can I make that feel human and interesting? And how well that worked I guess is still to be seen when the album is out [laughs].

Well quite a few people – pianists actually – asked me how did I record the piano and I explained that I did not at all, it all comes from a machine. And their reactions were very interesting from amazed to almost disappointed and every reaction was in there; it was very funny really. There is a certain value system behind it like some people might value the result even less once they know that it’s not recorded as in no live piano. I thought that’s very interesting how you get this value system behind it or why is it that your perception tells you this is better because this is live or not live. That’s what I meant with meta level like it’s not only listening to a record, it’s also as a producer or as a musician questioning what is actually important for you during the production process and also when you listen to an album and why it might be more or less worth to you when it is done.

For example, I never sat down with the musicians in one studio at a time; they are all scattered either in Berlin or elsewhere in the world, and always recorded on their own almost. I mean I was in the studio with the drummer [Achim Farber] but the cellist [Anton Peisakhov] did his own thing and the harpist Lara [Somogyi] she is in LA so we were just bouncing off ideas really and then I merged them together here on my own. That’s also very interesting because there is a lot less life about this album than people might think [laughs] or at least how it sounds and that is done on purpose. It is probably without the listener knowing, a little challenge to question your perception.

As a listener listening to ‘Spells’ for example, overall there is a hugely humanised sound where you feel it’s very much an organic world that you wouldn’t think for a second was manipulated in any way.

BLB: Yeah that’s very interesting because that is how it should sound. It’s not an active act of deception or anything. I mean to make it sound human and very much alive was a goal but especially because everybody who starts to make computer music will have heard the phrase ‘oh so it’s not actual music’ when you work with a computer quite often and I’ve heard that many, many times. I mean computer musicians and electronic composers are absolutely established and are artists and a group of composers in their own right but still most of the people who are not actively involved in it they still have this preconception of this is not actual music and for some reason that I wanted to contribute a bit to that discussion saying that you can combine these things wonderfully. It’s quite tricky to sync a VST piano or any synths that are not improvised or played live to an actually live-played instrument because the moment you put a human being behind an instrument it will have its own very human factor and it will be quite faraway from any quantised digital world. This is very thrilling, I could do that for at least three more albums, it’s really fun.

There is a lot of chance and accidents in the sense that it is not set out too finely that goes inside the process too?

BLB: Indeed, it’s like recording mistakes, I would normally leave them in. I really like that, it’s not only to enhance the live feeling but I just normally really like what live mistakes and outtakes do to a piece of music like don’t over-polish it, that was my motto.

There is a lovely parallel between you and the other Erased Tapes artists like Nils Frahm and Kiasmos particularly where you’re certainly on a similar wavelength.

BLB: I hope so; I mean this is a big comparison so thanks a lot for thinking that way [laughs]. The mastering and mixing was Nils and he obviously added a lot of his input. It was very important for me that he is very free to do his thing and to work these little details and the extra twenty percent that this album would need – I mean twenty percent to say the least. When we were done after the two days, I really re-discovered the album and noticed things that I didn’t notice before and that’s why these sessions are always very helpful. He did that already on ‘Gravity’ and mostly because ‘Gravity’ didn’t sound like I wanted it to sound at all when I went into the mastering session and he really did something amazing there. ‘Spells’ was much closer to what I wanted it to be and he also adapted that fantastically so it’s an amazing job that he did. I mean he is adding a certain feel to it as well that makes it fit in with the rest of the bunch as well.

I wonder for the live performance it must be very exciting too because I presume the live set-up will transform the songs again even further?

BLB: Indeed, but that’s the trickiest part so far [laughs]. I’m really trying to figure out how to do that; well basically set up a band and come up with a concept. I actually never anticipated playing ‘Spells’ live. I mean I’m a studio composer and producer – not even a musician – so I have not much experience playing live other than a couple of DJ gigs back in the day and I’m working on something but it will take a while. It’s going to be a bit tricky – for me at least – I’m very critical with what I present to the outside world and so the live show needs to be very impressive, it needs to be something else. It’s not enough to go there and play on a stage with a laptop, there needs to be a concept behind it otherwise it’s not going to be the experience I want it to be. That’s why it might take a bit of time but you are absolutely right; listening to the layers of the tracks gives me a lot of ideas on how to solve that and how to go about the live idea – it’s very inspiring but it’s also very challenging, especially if you don’t really have a lot of experience in that area. It’s exciting times and I will spend a good portion of this year on figuring out how to do this.

I love how ‘Keep Watch’ is more rooted in the modern classical world but I love how the little layers of percussion are added throughout, especially during the later stages.

BLB: The cellist had to accompany himself. It’s a piece written for three cellos actually and he had to play all the three layers himself, the poor boy and he did an amazing job I think. He told me – and I wasn’t aware of – it’s very hard for a cellist to accompany himself and not in real-time; like you record one layer, then you record the second layer and then you record the third layer. And apparently it’s very hard to accompany yourself because of the re-intonation stuff like musician stuff that I wasn’t aware of [laughs]. He did an amazing job and for the live show it would have to be at least three cellos and this is one of the challenges.

Most of the live stuff is a logistic challenge because it’s easier for me to resolve that in a studio setting, you can basically come up with an entire string ensemble with just one musician in a studio but in a live scenario it has to be actually three musicians at least and so far, for only one track. So I would to need to write a bit more of that so it would make more sense to have three designated musicians there. I really enjoyed ‘Keep Watch’ because it is so focused on the strings and it’s quite a challenge to actually compose that way, it’s interesting.

You have a previous version of ‘Sleepers Beat Theme’ done already am I right to say?

BLB: Absolutely, it was the score for a short movie for at least half of it, the other half was done by Jon Hopkins. He heard the demo version of this track when the movie was done a couple of years ago almost and asked if he could use that for his Late Night Tales album, which was obviously a gigantic honour. It was a demo version because at that time I didn’t have all the tracks recorded and so it’s an alternative version but the album one is maybe my preferred version because it fits in better with the sound of the album. But the Late Night Tales version or the short movie version – I don’t want to say demo version –  I just like that on ‘Spells’ it blends in much better with the sound of the album. So that was done two years ago and it really never left me. I don’t remember exactly where the name comes from; it had something to do with the movie but since it’s a completely beat-less track, I’m not exactly sure where the name comes from anymore [laughs].

Would there be very important or defining albums for you, Ben?

BLB: There were a huge amount of wonderful albums absolutely that inspired me drastically through my youth and especially all the techno stuff and all the Boards of Canada stuff. I’m not sure who today in this kind of music did not listen to that or was not inspired by it, it’s really interesting. Over the last seven or eight years, I have noticed that if something has really inspired me it’s ancient: it could be Bach or a lot of blues and jazz records and also a lot of choral works; very basic, almost primitive choral works (it could be from Germany or from Bulgaria).

Here are five albums (in no specific order) I think are utterly important for me (and everyone ;))

01 Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Seven Days Of Falling

02 The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

03 Max Loderbauer – Transparenz

04 Thomas Köner – Teimo

05 Deaf Center – Vintage Well 7″

‘Spells’ is out this Friday, 10th June on Erased Tapes Records.

 

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June 7, 2016 at 10:58 am

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E4 | April mix

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fracturedairmix_april16

 

We’re delighted to present an exclusive unreleased track by U.S. composer and songwriter Peter Broderick (Bella Union, Erased Tapes) in April’s mixtape. For well over a decade now, the world-renowned Portland Oregon-born artist has been to the forefront of the thriving independent music scene, amassing a considerable body of work across a multitude of labels and platforms in the process. While originally a member of both Efterklang and Horse Feathers, Broderick’s reputation as a gifted solo composer would be heralded by the release of both folk-based “Home” (Bella Union) and the piano-based “Float” (Type) in 2008. Since then, Broderick has released a plethora of records for labels such as Erased Tapes and Bella Union, highlights including: 2009’s “Music For Falling From Trees”, 2011’s “Music For Confluence”, 2012’s “These Walls Of Mine” and 2015’s “Colours Of The Night” albums. Collaboration has also been of vital importance to Broderick’s artistic output to date. Duos have been formed with U.K.’S Greg Haines (Greg Gives Peter Space) and France’s Félicia Atkinson (La Nuit) while other collaborations have featured: Nils Frahm, Machinefabriek, Gabriel Solomon, Heather Woods Broderick and The Beacon Sound Choir. In recent years, Broderick has produced, recorded, and guested on many musicians’ works from his home-based studio, “The Sparkle” (Corrina Repp, Brumes, David Allred).
Here is how Peter describes his track, “Boom”:

“It’s a thing I call Boom, and it’s basically just some effected casio loops with live drums over the top… I’ve enjoyed listening to it several times and don’t really have any plans to do anything with it.”

Also appearing on April’s mixtape is Irish composer and pianist Conor Walsh. Born in County Mayo, Conor Walsh released his debut E.P. (“The Front”, via Ensemble Music) last year to widespread critical acclaim. Despite it being Walsh’s debut recorded release, Walsh was a firmly established artist who had toured regularly across Ireland and additionally composed for both film and television to date. It was with such great sadness to learn of Conor’s sudden and untimely death in March. We’d both like to take this opportunity to dedicate this month’s mixtape to the memory of Conor Walsh, such an inspiring and beautiful composer and person who has touched many people’s lives with his music.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E4 | April mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://en.blogotheque.net/2016/04/26/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e04-april-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Days Of Heaven“You’d give him a flower…” (Paramount Pictures)
02. HKE“Awake” (Olde English Spelling Bee)
03. Nico Muhly/Sam Amidon“The Only Tune: I. the Two Sisters” (Bedroom Community)
04. Nonkeen“The Invention Mother” (R&S)
05. Peter Broderick“Boom” (Unreleased)
06. Micachu & The Shapes“Oh Baby” (Rough Trade)
07. Babyfather“God Hour” (feat. Micachu) (Hyperdub)
08. Samiyam“Animals Have Feelings” (Stones Throw)
09. Mo Kolours“A Soul’s Journey” (One-Handed Music)
10. John Forbes, Teach, Earth, Roots & Water“Awakening” (Summer)
11. Van Dyke Parks“Occapella” (Warner Bros.)
12. Tindersticks“How He Entered” (City Slang/Lucky Dog)
13. Ravel“Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte” (Decca)
14. Pantha du Prince“The Winter Hymn” (feat. Queens) (Rough Trade)
15. Solar Bears“Wild Flowers” (Sunday Best Recordings)
16. The Field“Pink Sun” (Kompakt)
17. DJ Koze“Marilyn Whirlwind” (Victoria OST, Erased Tapes)
18. Grizzly Bear“A Simple Answer” (Liars Remix) (Warp)
19. Lindstrøm“Closing Shot” (Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound)
20. Tropic of Cancer “Stop Suffering” (Blackest Ever Black)
21. Linda Buckley“Haunt” (The Wake OST, Soundcloud)
22. Bonnie “Prince” Billy“When Thy Song Flows Through Me” (Drag City/Domino)
23. Colin Stetson, Megan Stetson & The Sorrow Ensemble“Sorrow – A Reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony: II” (extract) (52Hz)
24. Conor Walsh“K Theory” (Ensemble Music)
25. Hauschka“Stromness” (Eluvium Remix) (City Slang)
26. Peter Broderick “And Its Alright” (Nils Frahm RMX) (LateNightTales)
27. Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto“The Revenant Theme” (Alva Noto Remodel) (The Revenant OST, Milan)
28. Nils Frahm“Our Own Roof” (Victoria OST, Erased Tapes)

Compiled by Fractured Air, April 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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Chosen One: Rival Consoles

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Interview with Ryan Lee West.

“I guess as I get older I’m becoming more aware of what I want from sounds, what I want sounds to achieve and that helps over any plugins/ pro equipment that you could ever buy.”

— Ryan Lee West

Words: Mark Carry

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The London-based producer Ryan Lee West, better known under his Rival Consoles moniker has carved out a string of indispensable electronica-infused ambient creations across several EP’s and most recently, this year’s stunning full-length release, ‘Howl’. Released on the ever-inspiring Erased Tapes imprint (in fact, West was the label’s first signing), ‘Howl’ sees the master producer further develop his otherworldly synthesizer-based compositions, fusing organic and electronic sound worlds as live instrumentation of drums, guitar, voice and cello can be found dotted across the record’s divine odyssey of illuminating sounds, warm textures and rhythmic structures. In many ways, ‘Howl’ showcases West’s Rival Consoles project to be that of a sound sculptor more than as a mere producer as a myriad of utterly transcendent moments are magically captured on each of the album’s towering nine creations.

The title-track and album opener, ‘Howl’ is a glorious electronic gem that shares a parallel with Clark’s similarly captivating blend of electronic soundscapes for the Warp label. The track builds on a synthesizer line that continually mutates and transforms through various manipulations and treatments of guitar pedals, creating in turn a wholly meditative and hypnotic experience. The following ‘Ghosting’ contains a gorgeous ebb and flow of spectral beats and electronic wizardry that traces the moonlight across the skies of illuminating tones.

The sublime ‘Afterglow’ evokes the timeless sound of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s enchanting debut ‘Euclid’ (released at the beginning of the year on the Western Vinyl imprint) as a myriad of details is effortlessly distilled into the sprawling sonic canvas. The dark, menacing beats of ‘Walls’ comes crashing in with waves of exhilarating pulses before the live aesthetic of ‘Low’ brings forth a beautifully rendered humanised sound. The slowly drifting synths and live drums fuse together to create a deeply affecting ballad steeped in a fragile beauty reminiscent of British band Seefeel. The closing cut of ‘Looming’ contains remnants of West’s previous ‘Sonne’ EP as a wave of illuminating synthesizers gradually emerge onto the sun-lit horizon.

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‘Howl’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.facebook.com/rivalconsoles/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes

Interview with Ryan Lee West.

Congratulations Ryan on the stunning new record, ‘Howl’. It’s easily your strongest and most formidable work to date, having obsessed over your previous recording output to date. This whole idea of a ‘less is more’ approach is obviously still very much apparent on ‘Howl’ but I love the new dimensions, added organic textures, and largely the sound of an album of recordings (effortlessly capturing those magical moments of beauty and transcendence). Please talk me through the new record and dissect for me the elements and sonic tapestry you found yourself drawn to this time around?

Ryan Lee West: I was recording in things constantly, lots of feedback performances, with delay pedals, chord progressions that explored atmosphere, clicky rhythms, live drums, fans on guitar strings brushes scraping wood etc.

It was really about improvising around ideas, which I felt were strong. I start by experimenting usually, until I have a body of work that has some strong points to it, then I improvise around the stronger points and all the time carefully listening to what is happening. Listening makes up most of my work actually. Listening in different spaces and contexts, is a smart way to negotiate through problems.

In terms of the equipment at your disposal, namely Moog/Prophet/tape delay and guitar, have the approaches or techniques to utilizing these instruments changed or altered in any way on ‘Howl’? For example, one aspect I absolutely love is the huge focus towards percussion, rhythm and from live sounds such as drums/percussion etc. A track such as ‘Low’ epitomises this and its organic warmth is a joy to savour. Again, how you are able to incorporate elements such as the synthesizer into the piece and everything falls so naturally into place.

RLW: I think synths and live instruments are very difficult to put together. It’s taken me many years to do the things I want to with the two worlds.

It’s partly just knowing when to do it at all, and also the notes and the timbre of the synth. I tend to obsess over synth sounds that are subdued, slightly mournful etc, So I think the emotive qualities give space for acoustic instruments, to play around.

Low’ actually started with just a ride – 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & …. at a speed that made me instantly think of a long descending melody. This repeats over and over again, because I wanted it to express the feeling of being low without much hope, but a little hope is in there! As for the treatment of sounds, it’s just the prophet through the pedals, all captured performances, the chords, the feedbacks, the drones etc. I guess as I get older I’m becoming more aware of what I want from sounds, what I want sounds to achieve and that helps over any plugins/ pro equipment that you could ever buy.

More so than perhaps on previous EP’s, it feels as if ‘Howl’ is a live performance with a significant emotional depth radiating throughout. In terms of the recording, what studios would become your bases?

RLW: I have recorded odd moments whilst travelling on tour, but in general I make everything in my home studio, I just prefer things this way, I don’t need a big pro studio to express myself, and I think it would get in the way.

My favourite part of the record comes towards the final close, particularly the duo of ‘3 Laments’ and ‘Morning Vox’. The myriad of ideas and sonic wizardry captured on ‘Morning Vox’ crafts a stunning penultimate track and gateway to the record’s shimmering horizon. Please talk me through this particular track and indeed if there were any challenges in the sequencing of the record?

RLW: ‘Morning Vox’ was actually very difficult to finish. I had the first half done with an effortless joy, but the second half was constantly being reworked, trying energetic transformations, lo-fi ambient endings and all manner of structures. But I always want things to feel genuine. In the end I opted for a very simple Organ like chord progression, which ends the piece with an understated resolve.

I also did about 50 versions to the end of ‘Recovery’ and ‘Voyager’! (from previous releases)

The glorious title-track is the perfect opener and captures the intensity and enveloping darkness that looms throughout. Can you please tell me the significance of the album-title? I wonder was ‘Howl’ one of the first recordings you made that would in turn, shape the rest of the record? The various manipulations and use of distortion etc creates a super-charged atmosphere that really signals formidable new horizons. I can imagine having an idea and then morphing and altering this into various forms is something you really cherish and obsess over?

RLW: ‘Howl’ wasn’t the first piece I made for the album, but it was a turning point, because I was amazed how bold it sounded, I like things that have their own momentum, so it was great to work with something that sounded like it had its own story. At the heart of ‘Howl’ is a driving rhythm, which is made up of disruptive rhythms, as a result there is constant tension throughout the piece. On top of this there is lots of dissonance and resolve in the harmony. It took a few months to understand how to structure it, without it overloading itself. And yes I definitely enjoyed recording in feedbacks, haunting tones and clicky textures.

With your forthcoming tour Ryan, what will your set-up consist of? To be touring a record like ‘Howl’ and translating these tracks to a live setting with an audience must be very exciting. Do you envision re-workings or new variations of some of these recordings as you set out on the road?  

RLW: I have several pieces which I rework live, ‘Recovery’ from the last EP is massively extended live, in an almost shoegaze/post rock way. ‘Walls’ is extended with live layering of alternative ideas. I like to experiment with what a piece can do, but also have to be careful not to do things for the sake of it.

What records have you been enjoying the most during 2015?

RLW: Battles ‘La Di Da Di’/Joanna Newsom – ‘Divers’/Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – ‘Never Were The Way She Was’

 


 

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‘Howl’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

https://www.facebook.com/rivalconsoles/

https://www.facebook.com/erasedtapes

 

 

Written by markcarry

November 4, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Chosen One: Masayoshi Fujita

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Interview with Masayoshi Fujita.

“…the sound and the image interacts with each other. I always try to make songs which have its own world in it or story behind it.”

— Masayoshi Fujita

Words: Mark Carry

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Inside that darkness, I saw rain falling on the sea. Rain softly falling on a vast sea, with no one there to see it. The rain strikes the surface of the sea, yet even the fish don’t know it is raining. Until someone came and rested a hand lightly on my shoulder, my thoughts were of the sea.”

South of the Border, West of the Sun’ by Haruki Murakami

 

Moonlight: the radiance of light that shimmers across clear skies at night. A constellation of stars & their celestial beauty. The gradual dawning of a new day as the flickers of morning light dance its majestic dance. The reflections of a vast blue sea. A towering mountain peak. A forest of impeccable trees. Memories and dreams. Somehow the music of Japanese vibraphonist and composer Masayoshi Fujita encapsulates all of these things: nature and an entire world that surrounds your each and every living breath.

The Berlin-based composer’s new solo full-length – and Erased Tapes debut – ‘Apologues’ is a work of staggering beauty containing Fujita’s resolutely unique vibraphone-based compositions. The gentle, tranquil force of these vibraphone compositions forges a deeply contemplative experience where memory and music become intrinsically intertwined. Marking a departure for Masayoshi’s previous solo work, an intricate arrangement of strings and woodwind (violin, cello, flute, clarinet, french horn, accordion, piano, snare drum) further expands ‘Apologues’s sprawling canvas of achingly beautiful sound.

A lyrical quality is forever inherent in the gifted Japanese composer’s work; ranging from collaborative projects with German electronic musician Jan Jelinek to his own electronic solo project of El Fog. I’d like to think of ‘Apologues’ as a series of fairy tales or parables that describe the magic and wonder of dreams as a transcendent quality looms onto the horizon of each sonic creation masterfully crafted. The meditative vibraphone phrases on album opener ‘Tears of Unicorn’ casts a sadness of a river of tears. Moments later as layers of gorgeous strings coalesce effortlessly together, infinite rays of solace ripple across the vast sea of ‘Apologues’s divine sound world.

Gorgeous jazz inflections and neo-classical soundscapes embellishes the shimmering ‘Moonlight’ where joyous woodwind flourishes abound one the following cut, ‘Swallow Flies High in the May Sky’ where the growth of Spring; birds in full-flight and blossoming flowers swarm the stratosphere. Introspective moments are also dotted across ‘Apologues’: the solo vibraphone passages of ‘Beautiful Shimmer’ floats amidst an ambient odyssey of forgotten dreams. A crescendo of strings and percussion forms majestic rhythmic pulses on the opening of Side B (‘Flag’). The heart-warming lament of ‘Knight and Spirit of Lake’ unleashes a hypnotic spell; gradually rising from the embers of a painful loss. Euphoric pop sounds radiate from the dream-like tapestry of ‘Puppet’s Strange Dream’ before the utterly beguiling ‘Requiem’ whose fragile pulses echoes the waves of a vast sea: “the sound of the horn echoed through the mountains and disappeared in the wind.”

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‘Apologues’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://masayoshifujita.com/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Interview with Masayoshi Fujita.

It’s very exciting to talk to you about the new album, ‘Apologues’. It’s a really beautiful record and I love how it’s a departure in one way in the sense that there are added strings and woodwind to the vibraphone instrumentation. If you could take me back to the making of the album and the different approaches that you used for this one?

Masayoshi Fujita: Yeah I mean to add the other instruments – the strings and woodwind instruments – those ideas I already had when I finished the last album, I even put the violin and cello for two songs on my last album, ‘Stories’. It was a trial and test for me to work with other instruments and I like the procedure and I had a lot of fun arranging the other instruments and ensemble. So this time I made it a little bit larger. I had that idea before I started this album.

In terms of the pieces of music themselves, I love the fact they are so lyrical where a story is unfolding as you listen to the album. It feels very much there is this beautiful narrative running throughout.

MF: I always have some kind of story or more like a picture in my mind when I make music. I would say when I make music I just start playing vibraphone, just playing around on the instrument and then I hear a good phrase or a harmony and maybe those harmonies or sounds has already some certain images or atmosphere. I pick those notes and chords and then I start playing it over and over and then it grows a little bit and in that way I develop the song. During this procedure, I develop the songs from sound but also from the image I get from the sound. In that way sometimes I come up with the next scene of that story and they develop the sound also. In that way, the sound and the image interacts with each other. I always try to make songs which have its own world in it or story behind it or such things.

The inspiration of nature; the mountains, stars, the trees, you obviously take huge inspiration from the world that surrounds us?

MF: Once I wondered where those images came from. I didn’t really know but when I went back to Japan – my home country after I moved to Berlin – I saw everything there: there were mountains and also birds soaring high in the sky and sometimes foggy, rainy mountains. My home town is not that much inside the countryside but there is a lot of nature around my hometown. So maybe some scenes and images which I have seen in my childhood – those small memories assimilated in me – and somehow it comes up when I play music. I like to have those feelings or atmosphere when I listen and make music.

I love the wood prints that you make. The process itself must be very much related to your music, the layering and different approaches?

MF: Yeah maybe because I’m not trained to make wood prints, I just started it by myself. Actually the reason I started the wood prints properly was to look for my picture for my first album as in El Fog. I looked for pictures and images but I couldn’t find the right one and I came up with the idea to make one by myself. And then I started printing; somewhere I saw wood prints and I liked the texture very much. I used the motif of a bird. The texture of wood prints itself have a similar look to the fog and also the atmospheric scene so I combine those images so I print several times on the same paper which makes a deeper texture on the paper and I quite like it. I mean it’s quite a similar procedure to my El Fog stuff you know, I put more layers on the one song and the atmosphere and the world I am trying to express with the wood print and also with the music has something in common I would say.

You played the drums first before ever playing the vibraphone? I wonder how did you decide to pick the vibraphone instrument?

MF: I played drums since I was a child. I liked American hard rock very much even when I was a kid and I played in a band. And then when I was in my early twenties, I was more interested in making my own music rather than just playing in a band. I also tried to make music on my own but with only drums is quite difficult. So I was trying to find some other instrument like a piano or guitar. I knew the sound of the vibraphone from my father’s records because my father is a big fan of jazz music and he played records all the time at home. I liked that sound of the vibraphone, it has this special vibration in it so I was always looking for a vibraphone instrument to play with but nobody played the vibraphone and one day I was helping this jazz drummer to move his stuff and things and one day he played with the vibraphone and that day I saw the real vibraphone for the first time and the vibraphone player said he was giving some private lessons so I thought well why not. I played the instrument for the first time and I felt, wow this is a great sounding instrument, it is beautiful. From the very beginning, I already bought this big vibraphone for myself and also at the same time, I felt I didn’t have great talent on the drums so everything came together and I decided to change the instrument. So that’s how it started.

It reminds me of the prepared piano with other musicians out there in the approaches you use in the way you prepare the instrument with different pieces of material?

MF: I prepare the vibraphone with strings of beads like plastic small balls, I put those on the bar and they make nice sizzling sounds. Also I put a hand towel to mute the bars a little bit and also aluminium foil that makes distorted sounds. I also sometimes play with a bow for string instruments like for the violin or the cello. I started to prepare the vibraphone from the influence of the people I played with in a band. I played in a more experimental like contemporary electro-acoustic improvised music people and those kind of bands. Those musicians played in a very experimental way. One drummer put many objects on the drums and he also put the aluminium foil on the drums and played a cymbal with balls and stuff. He told me that I should also try some different way to play and I played many, many different ways even with the electronic stuff and after a while I picked some techniques and then I decided to use it in a more musical way in my music; not just making strange or new sounds but making a beautiful and more interesting sound and also more affective in a musical way.

Especially with El Fog, I love how you incorporate the different worlds of acoustic and more electronic sounds. I wonder is that a slow and gradual process?

MF: In a song like the gradual layering or developments, I was maybe influenced more by minimal electronic music. I quite like minimal dub electronic stuff around that time and I really like those minimalistic structures or developments in the songs. Also, when I just started playing vibraphone, I could only play one chord at one time and another chord another time, I was using the vibraphone more like a sound sample at the beginning. And maybe that’s also a cause of why it’s so simple and no so much playing.

Exactly. There is that space in the music too.

MF: Yeah, I like sparse music especially back then I liked ambient stuff. Somehow I feel that when I lived in Tokyo, I lived a more hectic life there and I feel that I needed more ambient music back then and then I moved to Berlin where the life is more relaxed and slow compared to Japan and then I found I do not need so much ambient music anymore here. I needed slow, soft music there [in Japan], that’s my impression.

I wonder what were your Dad’s jazz records, which must have opened a whole new world for you?

MF: He was listening to records all of the time, even maybe when I was a baby I guess. So it was not like some day I heard like some special sound but more like it was part of my life. I didn’t really notice it. I mean afterwards I realized I liked some of the sounds and some of the atmosphere is sometimes connected images also. I remember when I listen to jazz, I always come up with this image where I am sitting in the car, looking at the rain dropping onto the car window and the wiper moves back and forth and back and forth. Maybe when my Dad was listening to his jazz music in the car and I was looking at the window and somehow in that way, memory and music are connected, it’s a funny thing.

Do you have other plans or ideas for what comes next, Masa?

MF: Now I am working on a collaboration with Jan Jelinek and also other musicians. I’m also trying to make new solo stuff, the next one of the acoustics. I have just started composing songs so I don’t know which way it will go but maybe it will be an expansion or the next step of ‘Apologues’. I mean ‘Apologues’ was the next step on from ‘Stories’ (my first album) and the third album would be maybe the next development of this style for acoustic vibraphone plus the other instruments and orchestration. Maybe I will use some other instruments but now I am trying out many different ideas and basically starting by playing the vibraphone for an hour or half an hour; picking up new phrases which have some moods and atmosphere and see how it goes.

I love the sound of the orchestra and those orchestrated arrangements, especially too when there are also the solo vibraphone passages, all the elements work so well together and naturally ebb and flow.

MF: I find also that orchestration or arrangements are really fun to do. The vibraphone is quite limited. Normally it has three octaves and compared to a piano it is very limited. The bars are big and you only have – well, for me –like four mallets at the same time. There is so many limitations and I find this limitation is making the vibraphone a bit more characteristic and I take this limitation in a more positive way. I think there is many possibilities with the vibraphone and with other instruments too. But I always concentrate on the vibraphone and I will always make music with vibraphone and not like sometimes using piano or orchestra but I’d like to concentrate on the vibraphone.

Have you been enjoying particular records in the last while?

MF: Recently I am quite interested in Christian chants from the 15th and 16th century, some really old chants with like four piece choirs. I’m pretty much amazed by this music and I like the atmosphere. And also of course some new musicians like from the same label, Erased Tapes like Nils Frahm and Lubomyr Melnyk and more electronic stuff too.

 


 

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‘Apologues’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://masayoshifujita.com/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

 

 

 

Written by markcarry

October 22, 2015 at 11:08 am

Chosen One: Dawn of Midi

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Interview with Dawn of Midi.

“Dysnomia is a piece of music in which all three of us are essentially playing drums.”

— Aakaash Israni

Words: Mark Carry

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In a previous conversation with Nils Frahm circa the release of the stellar 2013 live document, ‘Spaces’, the German composer explained: “I find my way easily through sound.” In many ways a musician’s innate ability to navigate the heart and mind is perhaps the essence of music’s infinite spell and magnificent hold upon its listener. This simple truth echoes powerfully for Frahm’s labelmates Dawn of Midi whose Erased Tapes debut full-length ‘Dysnomia’ forges a visionary sonic tapestry of revelatory tones, pulsating rhythms and far-reaching emotions.

Dawn of Midi is the Brooklyn-based trio of Qasim Naqvi (drums, Pakistan), Aakaash Israni (bass, India) and Amino Belyamani (piano, Morocco). The group formed in 2007 having met the year previously at California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. The 2010 debut record of fully improvised material, ‘First’ was quickly followed up by the band’s ‘Live EP’ – a collection of live recordings from around the world – encompassing space, sound, texture, feel and effect on the state of mind through the act of improvisation. The deep telepathic connection between Israni, Naqvi and Belyamani serves the vital pulse to Dawn of Midi’s resolutely unique sound world, and this year’s ‘Dysnomia’ further reveals their sonic wizardry and masterful musicianship.

Remarkably, ‘Dysnomia’ is a live performance sculpted solely from organic sound; piano, bass and drums. The captivating record is effectively one sprawling, pulsating piece of music whereby each of the nine sonic creations are seamlessly woven together with supreme transitions (not only track-by-track morphs but endless moments of sophisticated rhythmic patterns are effortlessly distilled within a single piece). The meditative bassline of album opener ‘Lo’ leads gradually to gentle hypnotic swirls of piano notes and rhythmic pulses, which evolves into a gorgeous rise (four minutes and thirty seconds in) as the piano, drums and bass becomes one glorious and cohesive whole.

The following ‘Sinope’ explores deeper into unknown dimensions as a cathartic feel permeates from the spiritual wall of mesmerizing sound. Like a puzzle, new avenues are ceaselessly attained where one majestic river ends another begins. The tempo slows on the closing section of ‘Sinope’ as repeating single-note piano mutates into ‘Atlas’. West African folk traditions are rooted in the cosmic sphere of sound unleashed here, and after four minutes a crescendo of enlightenment ascends into the mix.

One of ‘Dysnomia’s defining moments arrives in the sequencing of ‘Atlas’ into the trance-inducing groove of ‘Nix’, akin to a DJ set and electronic luminaries from musical institutions such as Warp and Kompakt fade into clear focus. An evolution of sound is occurring as the inherent flow of musical consciousness unfolds. The tender, heart-warming ‘Moon’ forms the perfect counterpoint to ‘Nix’s euphoric haze. I feel the timeless spirit of Mingus, Sanders, Coltrane et al drift in the ether as ‘Dysnomia’s other-worldly journey takes you further and deeper into realms previously thought unimaginable. The closing duo of ‘Algol’ and title-track of ‘Dysnomia’ is the beginning of the end (of the beginning) as the journey comes full circle and sun-lit horizon fades into the distance. Traces of a musical history – elements of jazz, electronica, dance, krautrock, African and classical – are dotted across the momentous utopia of ‘Dysnomia’s compelling journey: an entire world has been navigated upon.

‘Dysnomia’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://dawnofmidi.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DawnofMidi

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Interview with Dawn of Midi (Qasim Naqvi, Aakaash Israni & Amino Belyamani).

Congratulations on the stunning new record, ‘Dysnomia’. It’s such a unique and shape-shifting body of work. The record itself feels just like one live set and very much one large piece.

Aakaash Israni: Thank you, it is one piece, the track markers were put in during mastering; it was recorded live but since it was recorded to tape we had to find a splice point where we could perform it in two big chunks (2 inch tape holds only 30 minutes).

I love how all the pieces flow into one another, and for example how the bassline of ‘Atlas’ goes into ‘Nix’ on part A of the album so seamlessly.

Amino Belyamani: We were really interested in how when DJs perform their set live; the quality of a DJ is that they can master a transition between two different songs and keep the same tempo and all of a sudden it morphs into something else. We wanted to do that live with our instruments with the sections that we were writing and so that’s the example you are talking about, ‘Atlas’ to ‘Nix’ is a specific DJ cross-fade morph that we really wanted to do and we practiced it and we managed to do it.

In terms of the album itself, I’m interested in the writing of the pieces as well. Is it a case that the piano or bass form the piece and the rest naturally follows?

AB: The overall writing process was completely out of order. A lot of the sections like the middle of the piece are those we started with and then the beginning came later. It was all out of order and it wasn’t until the end that we had all the content- our bass, piano and drums – that we started thinking about how it would flow from beginning to end and then we started making the transitions between the sections but it was all out of order during the writing process.

I wonder is your live show pretty much the tracklist of ‘Dysnomia’?  

AI: We play the whole album from start to finish note per note every concert.

When you began as a band you were more based on improvisation, I wonder how do you see how you’ve developed since you started making music together?

AI: Well, we made a few records; we made our first studio album and a live EP completely improvised and we used to tour and just make up the show every night from scratch onstage. And I think it was wanting to just keep trying new things and maybe not make a third album of just improvised music, we tried something different you know.

AB: And also the risk of playing something good every night when you improvise is very high. It’s thrilling but at some point it’s better to take the time and write something that we all like and perform it and every night people would be pleased [laughs].

There’s a nice similarity with the Australian band The Necks in the sense of what you are able to generate with those three elements of piano, bass and drums.

AI: I think with those guys, the principal difference is that they are managing to do what they do while still staying in a very improvised context which is a pretty amazing thing and also leads to quite a different kind of music. I think they are really masters of their sound world but beyond the instrumentation I don’t think it has a lot in common with a through composed piece like Dysnomia. Improvising can lead to some really interesting textures, even rhythmic ones, but for it all to lock up like gears in some ethereal machine would be very difficult to accomplish improvising, especially if you want to transition smoothly from one idea to the next.

I would love if you could discuss how the three of you first met?

Qasim Naqvi: We were all students at Cal Arts. I think we met in 2006 and we weren’t actually playing music at all for about a year, we were just hanging out and engaging on the level of friendship and then one day on a whim we just decided to go into a dark room and just improvise and it resulted in the birth of the band I guess.

For your individual musical tastes, I’m sure there was a significant overlap between the three of you?

AI: Yeah I think there was a lot of overlap as well as some differences especially as it’s been seven or eight years since we first met. But when we first met I think there was some overlap, you know listening to some improvised music but also all of us have a background with classical music but maybe we were doing less of that during Cal Arts than before Cal Arts. Qasim and I were in grad school there and Amino was an undergrad so he got to spend four years there whereas Qasim was there for only two years and myself for just one year. I think there was a similar aesthetic though. We liked similar classical composers (Ligeti, Messiaen…), we liked similar electronic artists (Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada) and we also probably had enough things that we didn’t agree on for that to be interesting as well.

What were you studying exactly at Cal Arts?

AB: Everything from jazz to classical to very experimental music to integrated media, I also studied heavily in world music and west African drumming and Arabic music. It was a very amazing faculty and you could really learn a lot there.

I love the last two tracks of the album and how it resolves itself where there is a beautiful climax as ‘Dysnomia’ comes to a close.

AI: We knew we wanted to end up where we started and Amino wrote a very sophisticated transition where each of the parts incrementally reduce to get us back to the beginning, it is one of my favorite transitions as well. What a lot of people don’t know about our pianist is that he is an incredible drummer, and I think it’s one of the reasons he was able to write so well in this context since Dysnomia is a piece of music in which all three of us are essentially playing drums.

 

 


 

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‘Dysnomia’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://dawnofmidi.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DawnofMidi

 

Written by markcarry

August 13, 2015 at 3:06 pm