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Posts Tagged ‘Ghostly

Chosen One: Mary Lattimore

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I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records.”

—Mary Lattimore

 Words: Mark Carry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rsz_mary_lattimore-press_4-photo_credit-rachael_pony_cassells

Interview with Mary Lattimore.

 

Congratulations Mary on the stunningly beautiful latest solo full length ‘Hundreds Of Days’. Firstly, please take me back to the record’s inception and particularly this redwood barn overlooking San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This must have been such an inspiring setting in which the compositions of ‘Hundreds Of Days’ emanated from? Please recount your memories of these colourful, creative days?

Mary Lattimore: I was awarded this artist’s residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in a national park outside of San Francisco. I stayed there for almost two months, absorbing the rugged, romantic landscape and meeting other artists who were painters, poets, activists, dancers from all over the world. We shared dinner together and lived in these Victorian military houses surrounded by eucalyptus trees. During the day, we were each alone in our own zones, writing or hiking, with barely any cell phone service or internet. My studio was this large barn where I’d set out all of my instruments, some I didn’t know how to play. Walking back to my house late at night was very star-lit and felt a little dangerous, in a safe way. Mountain lions had been spotted there.The ocean was grey-blue and the beach was rocky. We were surrounded by redwood trees, lots of fog, coastal sage and tsunami warning signs. We each had total freedom and met up at the end of the day to eat delicious food cooked by a gourmet chef. It was a very blissful couple of months of total creative freedom, where no one could hear me experimenting with things I didn’t know how to use or trying out vocals, embarrassingly. That kind of space and freedom within a time constraint of a two month, once-in-a-lifetime residency is very intense and very special. I’m really grateful for it.

As a listener I’m always struck by how expansive your harp-based creations truly are, and how the rich tapestries of sumptuous sounds drift in the ether of unknown dimensions. Looking back over these six pieces, I wonder were some of these borne from the act of improvisation? Also, I’d love to gain an insight into your mindset when you perform your trusted harp instrument? It feels as if there is some liminal state forever orbited when your music ascends into the atmosphere.

ML: Wow, that’s a beautiful way to put it. In general, all of the pieces are borne from improvisation, where I’ll press record and start to make something, then if I like where it goes, I’ll add the extra layers and morph where those layers go by adding layers on top of that. So it’s just kind of stacks of improvised tracks. Part of that method might be because I don’t really know how to edit, technology-wise, so I just add until it sounds cool and sounds the way I want it to. I guess it’s the same way when I play live. There are always happy accidents and loops that I have to figure my way out of, so it remains thrilling because there’s so much improvisation woven in there around the themes.

One of the new directions here is the added instrumentation of keyboards, guitar and grand piano, intricately woven with the harp tapestries. Truly, these new layers further heightens the otherworldly and timeless quality of your musical works. I’d love for you to talk me through the gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ (a title which perfectly encapsulates the entire record)? Did the various layering provide any challenges? How long was this particular melody simmering in the pools of your mind, Mary? It feels such an effortless process, it’s almost as if a piece of music just comes to you, like a raindrop falling from the sky….

ML: I mean, I have to say, it’s not effortless, but it did just come to me, where I was just messing around, came up with that little figure that starts the song, and then I hit record and that’s what came out. It’s not effortless but I’m basically just playing with a kernel of an idea and then just seeing where it goes if I add other things. As I’m bad at editing, I scrap the whole take if I don’t like it and then just make something else. But usually, I can get myself out of trouble if I just add more things or take away big chunks rather than going in there and dissecting the tiny bits. It Feels Like Floating came from a place in which I had a little heartbreak and was trying to digest that. The title is a quote from the conversation I had with the dude, and I thought it was a pretty thing to say. Making up songs is how I navigate myself out of those things, in a way, too, I guess. But I also love to swim and that feeling of floating is one of the best feelings in the world.

The artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts must have served a significant source of inspiration for you, and particularly spending time with an entire community of creative souls. It reminds me of the Loft in New York or the Big Pink house in Woodstock from different moments in time. I would love to read a diary entry (if you will) from this time you spent along the Northern Pacific Coast and the characters that filled these days? 

ML: I should’ve kept a diary! Instead, I wrote lots of letters to other people. I was really psyched to get so much mail and to generate so much mail while I was there. I read 14 books in 2 months, which is a lot for me. A lot of my favorite days were those spent not talking with anyone, just making a little breakfast, drinking coffee, walking to the studio, playing some, then taking a hike down to the beach or up to one of the abandoned military structures high on a hill, then coming back down for dinner, then walking up to the studio, playing a little more, drinking a little wine, walking back home under the stars, reading and going to bed. I think the simplicity, the simple options of what to do during the day, the lack of mental chatter/worry and general stability where you didn’t have to fret about driving anywhere or the news or anything outside of the little bubble was super unique and luxurious. I’ll remember it forever.

Can you discuss your set-up for the recording of ‘Hundreds Of Days’? I wonder did you try out and experiment with new processes and techniques on this latest record? 

ML: I want to keep moving forward and trying out new things. I had this beautiful Moog Mother 32 and the Theremini and some pedals and some cheap thrift store keyboards, electric guitar, there was a grand piano in the main building, I just wanted to make the palette as full of colors as I could, so that was the main difference in this record, expanded palette. I didn’t really try out new techniques but I also think that the hourglass of two months being turned over, the limited time, inspired me to get lots of work done.

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‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ is such an achingly beautiful lament with the graceful harp notes unfolding a quiet magic instantaneously. As the title suggests, this piece of music is an ode to mother nature. I’d love for you to discuss the narrative of this particular piece and your memories of writing ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’? Were you steeped in nature from your upbringing back home in Philadelphia?

ML: I’m actually from North Carolina, so I did grow up amidst a lot of nature, in the mountains in the western part of the state. I figured out pretty early on that I love cities, the culture and the anonymity and the possibilities that come with living in a big city. I moved to Rochester, NY when I was 17, which is a larger city than the town where I grew up. My life in Philly didn’t have that much nature except for a park overlooking the river at the end of my block. I think being at the Headlands was the closest to immersion in nature that I’d felt for a while and it really lined up with my need to make something that encompassed heartache and a general sadness about leaving Philadelphia, where I’d lived for thirteen years. The record and this song are both a love letter to the wildness and jewel box beauty of the California coast and a postcard back to Philadelphia from my new location. I see this song as a postcard. It’s a little musical transmission from my new planet.

The act of travelling and road-trips across America has provided you with many stories, I’m sure which get captured beautifully into your deeply affecting music. As a musician and artist, I’d love to gain an insight into the ways by which your creative mind becomes unlocked (and the flood gates open, so to speak) when you’re in motion and witnessing different places along a continent spanning trip? For example, the seeds were for sewn for the predecessor ‘At The Dam’ LP from a U.S. road trip?

ML: Yeah, it’s true. I think making music is just my way of capturing moments that otherwise might be fleeting. They’re little time capsules, the songs and the records. My memory is pretty shot and it’s my way of recording the places and the feelings and it’s my way of communicating with other people, albeit wordlessly. Being on the road or being in a strange new place really flips a switch on in your brain, where you’re more aware and alert and awake, more present in your own body. I watch a lot of tv and I drink a lot of cocktails and mess around on my phone a lot and just hang out kind of duuuuhhhhhh, so being in motion really makes me right again, where I have to revive things that have fallen asleep, if that makes sense. So residencies and road trips feel important to the music because that’s when my ears and hands and brain and way of looking at the world and assessing situations are most alert. I want to go to Copenhagen in the summer to make a new record and to get to know that place, so that’s the next escape route.

Please describe for me your trusted 47-string Lyon and Healy harp. When did you first play this instrument and in what way do you feel you have developed this special relationship with the harp instrument? After first discovering your music in the form of ‘The Withdrawing Room’, it feels as if you are continually evolving with each new release. The possibilities are endless, perhaps the essence of your harp-based creations.

ML: Thanks so much! Yes, I want to keep evolving and seeing what the instrument has to offer, sound and personality-wise. I started playing the harp when I was 11 but didn’t really have such a personal relationship with it until I went to college (music conservatory) and had to spend solitary hours and hours in a practice room focusing on one piece at a time. I got close to my harp in a love/hate kind of way that felt like an important war we went through together. Now, it’s only love, though, because I have to protect it so much, taking it with me places. It’s like a sister to me.

Lastly, can you shed some light on your compositional approach when it comes to your harp playing, Mary? For instance, the myriad of sublime moments dotted across pieces such as ‘Never Saw Him Again’ and ‘Baltic Birch’ could never have been as a result of solely improvising? I love how transporting these pieces are, and these masterfully sculpted sonic creations feel like a sprawling abstract canvas of deep, resonating meaning.

ML: Baltic Birch was one where I had the main melody line in my mind beforehand in a singular melodic voice, so I thought of how I could build it. I thought I couldn’t loop that melody line because it was too long, so I looped the accompaniment, but then I realized that the melody actually could also be looped if it became kind of a round. Never Saw Him Again was definitely all improvisation and experimenting and I definitely thought it sounded kinda cheesy when I first made it. I also don’t really like my voice, so I put it through some Garage Band filter reverb stuff and had Jeff, who mixed it, kinda tweak the pitchiness of it when he was mixing just to make it not horrendous. I definitely just use vocals as texture and don’t claim to be a singer at all. Haha. I was just going with it. Everything comes with just messing around. I’ve never made a (solo) song in a real studio, only on my own with flexibility and an empty room and Garage Band on a laptop, so maybe it’s time to see what would happen if there was a little more pressure, with somebody a little more experienced controlling the actual recording and actual songs that are thought about more in advance. Who knows. Gotta keep trying things out! Thanks so much for the thoughtful questions! I always love to read your take on things!

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

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

Written by admin

January 9, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Albums of the year: 2018

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

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

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

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

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

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

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

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

Mary-Lattimore-Hundreds-of-Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

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

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

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

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

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

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

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

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

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

djrum portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

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

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

aviary

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

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

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

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

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

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

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

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

nilsfrahm-allmelody

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

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

Chosen One: Moiré

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Interview with Moiré.

or maybe it’s going to be something totally different because it’s meant to be about the new music; that for me is what techno has always meant.”

Moiré

Words: Mark Carry

Moire-Photo_1_686

London-based producer Moiré continues his remarkable output on his latest full-length ‘No Future’, recently released on the prestigious Ghostly label. The gifted producer has continually evolved with a string of captivating blissed-out techno and synth odysseys (beginning with 2013 debut EP ‘Never Sleep’ via Actress’s Werkdiscs label) and ‘No Future’ sees Moiré exploring further and deeper into realms of deeply engaging and compelling techno explorations.

Of course, ceaseless lines are beautifully blurred amidst Moiré’s masterful songcraft from the utterly transcendent ambient bliss of album closer ‘Auteur (Outro)’ (whose heavenly cosmic synth patterns feel could loop forever) to the hypnotic acid house of ‘Jupiter’ and deeply-affecting soulful hip-hop (DRS is the trusted MC for two sublime cuts ‘No Future’ and ‘Bootleg’). Elements of dubstep and grime are dotted across the James Messiah guested opus ‘Facade’. ‘No Future’ is a reflection on humanity wherein a dystopian vision burns through the embers of fear, pain and doubt. The mantra of “fallen angel” echoes powerfully across the thumpy bass and gauzing synths of ‘Bootleg’.

“Techno music has always been about new music” reiterates Moiré. In many ways, revisiting ‘No Future’ serves a fitting parallel alongside  the enigmatic UK artist Actress, who similarly crafts singular, shape-shifting works. The trippy ‘Opium’ and Afrobeat rhythms of ‘Magma Dream’ supply yet more neon-filled rapturous dance music. The perfect come-down arrives on the final two cuts: the introspective and multi-layered hazy ambient tour-de-force ‘System 100’ and the forever evolving musical patterns of ‘Auteur’ waltzes, mutates and dazzles.

‘No Future’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://www.facebook.com/MoireMusic

https://www.facebook.com/ghostly/

Moire_1-Credit_Netti_Hurley_6863

 

Interview with Moiré.

 

Congratulations on the new album ‘No Future’, which is really quite incredible. Please discuss the making of the new record? I mean you’re very prolific with an array of wonderful releases under  your belt, I wonder when did you begin working on ‘No Future’ and the ideas you had for this latest set?

Moiré: Making music is probably the starting point when I did my first album on my first record because I think once you start you want to continue. ‘No Future’ for me is just a continuation of something I wanted to do from the start. And when I finished my first album and then I did some gigs and I toured and then I did maybe another single or two and then there was time to do another album because suddenly there was so much material to work with that I decided it’s time to make another record (in a technical way). I don’t just go and make music like ‘Today I’m going to make an album’, it didn’t happen that way it’s a more organic and natural process of making something like that. So it was inspired by everything that was happening in my personal life during that time and then it coincided with what was happening in the country in the UK and the announcement of all sorts of political changes that will be happening and then of course the changes that were starting to happen in America. That combined with my life situation and my family situation and some other things created in my head the need to have to finish the record; now is the time because I have the reason to make it, I have the reason to express myself in that way. And so that’s how it started and that’s where it started.

And then I mean the process is I’m sure as you know it’s quite a lengthy procedure. I like to take my time to make sure the tracks or whatever that is I release are the ones that I want. I mean there’s millions of versions of each track probably and you’re getting to the point where you’re doing two hundred versions of the same track and then you’re like ‘OK, actually I think the first version was the best’ and so the process is very long sometimes. But sometimes the tracks just happen, you know there’s certain ideas, certain sketches, certain experimentations, certain emotional expression, or sometimes I feel bad and I’ll go to the studio and make a track or sometimes I actually create a composition where there’s little planning and sometimes there’s a lot of planning into the making of music, I mean it really depends. As I say, I see this as an art form rather than like a session musician going in and doing a job. So, millions of hours in the studio; loads of nights and loads of days. My studio doesn’t have any windows, it’s quite a secluded environment and quite isolated in that sense so I was just on my own for a year with music basically and that’s the effect of it.

As you describe perfectly that’s exactly as a listener you feel as you hear the tracks, there’s just that outpour of everything that you put into the work because it’s fascinating the multitude of layers and moments within each song.

Moiré: That’s always been my thing. I mean I understand what journalists and the industry are always trying to put certain sounds to a certain box so they can tick the box and this is that or this is this. And for me, the music which of course has elements of techno and house in it and ambient and all sorts of things but that’s the thing it has everything because I think of just making music so I’m not going to limit myself to one particular sound or one particular concept. And also that was always for me the main idea behind techno – or any techno-related ideas – was that this was meant to be about new music, not the genre thing that established itself as this one particular type of dance music but actually for me that was never the point; the point was that it was maybe going to be dance or maybe it won’t be, maybe it would be experimental music or maybe it’s going to be something totally different because it’s meant to be about the new music; that for me is what techno has always meant. Or any kind of electronic music for that matter was always like ‘So what I’m going to make the next record and the next record’ is meant to be some sort of evolution; I should be trying new things. That in a way is my obligation as an artist that is engaging with music and trying music and being allowed to make music, to actually give music something back in terms of giving music some justice and some time of the day that actually I feel very lucky that I am able to do and release records.

In a way I don’t like it easy but also I feel like it’s so important, maybe not now but in ten or twenty years someone is going to find this record will be like ‘Oh this is a really interesting record’ and that’s how I discovered a lot of stuff that I’ve been inspired by that just now are getting the recognition after decades of being hidden. And I think that’s my attitude; it’s just basically art. I know it’s  a club music that maybe people are going to dance to it but I never think about it that much. Of course there are these elements that are driving the tracks forward and that there is this constant step and I am always trying to see what’s underneath the classic conventions that we have or industry trends.

Someone earlier today asked me would I be willing to have tracks with no beats or something like that and I thought about it and basically it’s like maybe why not but that shouldn’t really be a conversation, that should be left to the artist to decide I feel like there is an industry push towards certain things to be like ‘OK this season we’re going to do ambient and next season we’re going to do noise and next season we’re going to do new wave’ and it’s pretty much all the same but we’re just going in loops in terms of what’s trendy or what should be done. So, I’m just trying to look in music and tracks and give them as much passion and artistic approach as I can and I guess that’s what you’re talking about and I hope this somehow comes out when you listen to it.

I love the flow to ‘No Future’ as well and the sequencing. For example the closing track ‘Auteur (Outro)’ and its construction and the different sub-sections within it brings everything to a fitting close.

Moiré: Thanks. Yeah, I think it’s interesting how the sequence works on people differently. I don’t know how many people are aware but it’s really like the biggest headache; one thing is to make the track and the other thing is to sequence the tracks if you have several of them, so it makes sense. It’s always the biggest problem like which track will be first and especially with this  kind of abstract concept of vocals on techno beats and the trouble of course for everyone is who is Moire and what is the music and what are the beats and I think it’s like unfortunately because the way things are it’s really difficult sometimes to get it to people because you’re going to be classified as experimental or leftfield dance or whatever.

But I remember when I was growing up in the 90’s and when drum & bass happened in the UK and then in Europe, nobody knew how to dance to it; people leaving the floors, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know how to classify this at all. And then fast forward ten years later and it’s like the biggest export from the UK after punk or actually the UK ever had. It’s weird how long it takes for things to break but not in a pop sense but more in terms of having people react to the sounds and compositions and new ideas. It doesn’t have to always be dance and it doesn’t have to be always dancing, just being together in a space and listening to music to be the whole thing. But that’s how the album happened and that’s what my approach was to it.

And of course when I was finishing it everything that I thought would happen in terms of the political changes happened and it was funny because when I spoke with the guys from Ghostly about the current president in America, nobody really thought it would happen. I’m quite socially aware, I come from a standard working class family – even in some standards I would say lower than working class – and I think I understand the basic person and what drives them to make certain decisions and also looking on the politics, I’m quite into it because if affects my life and it affects everyone else’s lif e so I decided that maybe I should engage with it a little bit more and try to understand what’s happening. So this was weird because I called the album ‘No Future’ before any of these things were obvious and then it happened and it was like I didn’t really mean it to be negative or pessimistic in any way. And that’s why the music is not really dark or really depressing because that was never the reason for it to be depressing, it was more about being different and the hinting of something.

The guests who are on the album works so wonderfully and even in terms of where they come in on the album too, the two tracks by DRS are outstanding.

Moiré: Yeah, he did an excellent job and also James Messiah was a totally different thing (in terms of the style) but again he fit perfectly with his message. I  just gave him hints – and with DRS as well – I didn’t have to do any like crazy description of telling them what to do. These collaborations I am very happy about them, they just happened so naturally and it was a really good time just to work with them even over email it was just like ‘click’, they got the vibe and I think that’s when you appreciate how professional people are. How some people basically have that amazing quality of being able to jump on any track and deliver something interesting, I’m really into that.

I’m very curious to know about your equipment and the musical set-up that you’re using?

Moiré: Well the studio I had for this – and I’m still renting – is not my studio but it’s someone else’s who put a lot of work into it. It’s a really amazing room with double walls and it’s kind of a floating box, no windows and it sounds really good. So any imperfections or perfections can be heard and you could be really close to the sound. The room is great and the acoustic treatments is basically excellent and then the speakers actually came with the studio. I used to work in Adams before and on this record these are the speakers that I used. One thing is producing and I go quite often and listen in many different places so at home I have Adams and Dynaudio monitors and then in another place I have a bigger Adams system that I would go and ask my friends if I could use and listen to stuff and then in the studio the speakers that are there I think are Focal CMS65 and they were great. On the back of the room –it’s really clever – other speakers like really bad ones like Mackies, you just listen on the really bad ones as well. So it’s all very compact but perfect. For the vocals of course I made the beats and all the sketches and the MCs would do their thing on them, for example DRS did everything from the internet, I just sent him the beat and he sent me the vocals; it was as simple as that. DRS is based in Manchester so obviously there was a distance issue so email was the best thing. James Messiah is based in south London so he just came on his bike and he just recorded it live over the ‘Facade’ track and that was it. I think we actually did also vocal on ‘Jupiter’ as well but I never finished that, so basically they did their thing.

A lot of the tracks themselves are made live with samplers, a bunch of synths (Moog Nord and JD 800 and Octatrack sampler) and loads of other little synths and boxes that are placked together and I just jam on it until I’m happy with the stuff and then it’s all getting recorded live to old Logic, I still like the old one and so for some reason I’m still using that. And then for production I use Universal Audio, I think their tools are really excellent. It’s all very simple, I don’t have any expensive gear in terms of like crazy compressers that you can see some famous people with and stuff like that, I cannot afford it, I do not have stuff like that [laughs]. I just learned to work with what I have, I mean that was always my concept because as much there is talk about analog versus digital and so on, everyone who makes music knows that even if they’re going to use all the analog gear they’re going to end up having a digital file delivered for mastering and a mastering engineer quite often will use a PC to master it. You can record stuff to tape but it will always go through digital, I mean you will need to have the tape machine and record the tape and then deliver the tape if that’s the sound you’re after. And that fact that we’re dealing with the digital file in my head was always meaning that you can sculpt it the way you want.

The ways you record it are important for me and that’s why having Universal Audio and analog plugins is quite cool and I wish I had some of the hardware but I think for me that’s fine, I like the way it sounds and I like the quality of digital plugins as much as anything else. I may be quite unusual in terms of the way I use this, which is difficult to explain because my whole concept of making music is like obviously pretty much everyone has the same tools and studios are very similar because by default it’s a pair of monitors and some gear but it’s about how you wire stuff and how you plug things and what triggers what and how you play it and this is something that you cannot explain and that’s something that takes time to develop and I think that for everyone is going to be a different process and some people care about certain things and some people don’t like everything is super-tight whereas other people will leave a but of space for loose swing and maybe not accurately cut beats because that’s the idea. Some people record everything live and I do a lot of stuff live, a lot of the tracks happened just as live jams and I would have parts played from a sampler and then parts played from live synth and other synths sequenced together and then everything going through some distortion box and then everything recorded. So that’s pretty much the technical side of how this happened but I think the room is very important for me, the way it sounds for this particular one was important but who knows maybe on the next one I will do just on headphones.

For the live show – and live jams – there must always be new workings and new versions of the various tracks being formed?

Moiré: Yeah, this is true that is happening. I mean for the live aspect of course it allows you to be constantly doing versions and edits and all sorts of things and experiments. My live stage set-up which I’m building right now – but I’ve already played like this for a while – is that I’m trying to bring as much studio gear to the stage as possible. So I’m trying to do what I’m doing in the studio live basically to an extent because you cannot do everything. And there’s certain things you cannot do because it won’t work but that’s the concept and I always loved that; bringing some machines, some toys to the stage and doing edits of the tracks tha have been released. And obviously when you play for the crowd you can also try new stuff and it’s great to do that so you’re not just stuck to doing DJ, you can actually do something else and every show can be different as well.

I was very interested to read on the Ghostly page that Philip K. Dick and his sci-fi stories and the inspiration this had on ‘No Future’?

Moiré: I like this books and I like his dystopian visions. The phenomenal thing about Philip K. Dick is that if you read his books; they’re portraying us moving to mars and all sorts of other things like ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and even if you look on the cover of this book and the American flag and the way it’s portrayed and everything. And the ideas he had; he was predicting a lot of the things that are happening right now and potentially he was predicting a lot of the things that will happen in the future. I mean the ‘Martian Time-Slip’ is this little novel describing our life on mars but some of his books were crazy bonkers like really proper sc-fi but this stuff you read it now and you think we are not so far from it and it’s possible that we are going to do that and there’s actually nothing that futuristic about it anymore. It’s quite funny, us setting up a place in mars, I think we are quite near to doing that and it’s very political as well, they had NATO on mars and all sorts of other things and you’re like, yeah NATO can be on mars, why not? All these kinds of things and issues and problems that actually he was at time writing it he was reflecting the current world problems in his books partly as well like whatever wars were happening on the planet and transforming this to another planet and the same happening, to be more interesting rather than just describing the reality. He’s definitely incredible and I love his work.

As a producer and someone who has so much music in your life, I wonder growing up at what point did you realize you would go down the path of making music yourself?

Moiré: That’s a difficult question. I don’t know, I mean I can only remember when I was growing up when I was a kid I wanted to be in a band and I forced my parents to buy me a guitar and then after a while I was like well maybe the guitar isn’t for me so I think I destroyed that guitar or I did something to it but whilst I was doing it I had a cassette tape deck and I was just recording all the noises of that guitar destruction and I was basically sampling myself doing all this banging as a kid on that tape and not because I had any concept of sampling – I don’t know if sampling was something that was happening – but I was just doing it because I wanted to listen to it myself [laughs]. I was curious about how it’s going to sound if I was going to do this or if I’m going to do that and obviously recording on the tape allowed you to listen to it back and I didn’t loop or anything, I didn’t understand any of these concepts, I was just always into making noise and making something with sound.

And I wanted to be in a band and I was in a band with my friends and we played some punk stuff and all sorts of things. I was always into music like I mean just as a fan buying all sorts of stuff and I was into all sorts of things and also feeling that I always wanted to be a performer because I started doing nights as a promoter with my friends during university and all this kind of stuff and booking bigger DJs to come and play at our parties and then I started opening and being a DJ as well a little bit at the beginning and then my other friends asked me to collaborate with them on some projects. It evolved in that way so in a way to answer your question I was always into it, I was always in it unconsciously, I was following the path and in my case some things happened that pushed me further in that direction and I still do not understand to be honest how some things happen that you do not have control over like OK I’m going to do this now.

There were some other opportunities or I had to do some other work or other directions in my life and suddenly something happened and they disappeared and it’s like OK I think I should be doing music or I should be working with these people. In my case a few things happened like that in life that were really dramatic that in a way I was like OK this is what I am doing or more like I have to do this in a way that I wanted to do it but also life puzzled itself that way. And it’s always been complicated but I guess that’s why my music has a certain attitude and certain abstract concept behind it because it reflects some of the things I go through. So that’s how it all evolved from my early days, it was not always that obvious and it’s still maybe not that obvious even today, I mean I guess anyone can sit there and ask themselves a question ‘Should I be making music?’ I know that people today are growing up thinking like ‘Fuck it, I’m going to be a DJ and I’m going to buy a bunch of techno tracks from Detroit and I’m going to be a DJ’ and a lot of people do that – or electro or whatever that is in a shop – and some of them probably have bigger careers than many other people who are making music. But it’s crazy because if you look at what happened with the digital social medium and how it changed everything.

Someone asked me ‘Is it difficult for people today in the music industry to go forward?’ and if I look on my profile – like some shitty Instagram account or something – every second person that follows me has got a soundcloud account, that says it all; that means that millions of people are doing the same thing and obviously it’s just going to be affecting everyone else and everyone’s going to be affecting each other basically. But that’s the thing it’s always been the path that has been in front of me, I was not planning or I did not have a business plan like I’m going to make millions of dollars making lots of crazy records or something. The thing for me was always like I am expressing myself and I’m going to try to do my best and be the best in the area that I want to be; that’s my goal and I’m still on my way.

Have there been certain records that you’ve been listening to lately?

Moiré: It’s always the most difficult question. There is just loads. Recently I really like these guys Worried About Satan, they’re quite cool. Pye Corner Audio makes some interesting tracks; I heard some of those from a documentary which was cool. I mean there is so much stuff, I’m always going to be listening to any type of jazz stuff; any Coltrane…anything. I always love Moondog, Flying Lotus. The major inspiration was when Actress released his first record – that was great – and that showed that there is a possibility with the music in that kind of fashion. I just listen daily to so many things, loads of old hip-hop as well like Casual, Hieroglyphics, Wu Tang and Mobb Deep and sometimes I come back to these records because I think they’re just so incredible; they had some magic in them like the fire of the new act where there was really no compromise but just really, really well done. And this kind of interesting movements or moments, there isn’t much of it unfortunately at the moment, it’s really difficult to find these kind of acts where they are interesting musically but there is also some movement behind it and I think everything is watered down based on hype, not much of content really. But there are loads of great records out there.

‘No Future’ is out now on Ghostly.

https://www.facebook.com/MoireMusic

https://www.facebook.com/ghostly/

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May 4, 2017 at 8:01 pm

Chosen One: Loscil

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Interview with Scott Morgan.

A blurred line between beauty and horror, anxiety and calm.”

—Scott Morgan

Words: Mark Carry

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Loscil’s Scott Morgan has been responsible for some of the most captivating and stunningly beautiful ambient creations over the past fifteen years. Across a compelling body of work (beginning with the 2001 classic ‘Triple Point’) – the majority of which has been released on the immense Chicago-based imprint Kranky – Vancouver-based Morgan has developed his own unique style of textural rhythms that ceaselessly blur the lines of ambient, techno, drone and modern-classical. The recently released ‘Monument Builders’ marks the latest chapter in Loscil’s explorations through sound that lies at the intersect between nature and humanity.

The Canadian ambient artist’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.

A lyrical quality forever lies at the heart of Loscil’s recording output, and ‘Monument Builders’ is of course no exception. A striking narrative permeates throughout, where loss, identity and the relationship between humankind and the environment seeps through the musical framework of Morgan’s masterfully crafted sonic palette. The addition of horn arrangements immediately casts an ethereal quality; harmonies meld beautifully with a collection of old synths, warm textures of drone soundscapes and intricate patterns of divine sonic passages. ‘Monument Builders’ is a hugely fulfilling audio-visual experience, whose effect is utterly profound.

‘Monument Builders’ is out now on Kranky.

 http://www.loscil.ca/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kranky/

Scott Morgan

 

Interview with Scott Morgan.

Congratulations Scott on the sublime new record ‘Monument Builders’: a true tour-de-force, which unleashes such a cathartic, hypnotic spell throughout. Firstly, please talk me through the writing process and recording of ‘Monument Builders’ and your memories of constructing these particular tracks? 

Scott Morgan: The first step for me with most records is building a sound palette. I sampled and built a small collection of playable sample instruments out of resonant sounds like boiling kettles and steam whistles. I find the noisy aspects of these sounds make for interesting textures and include a natural pitch instability which lends them a kind of fragility. I also drew heavily on an old micro-cassette recorder to generate noise and further texture.

Once I had these sounds, I began building some basic harmonic passages and structures. I wanted to try something a little different with the bass and arpeggiated sounds so I spent an evening at my friend Josh Stevenson’s who has a great collection of older synths. We used his EMS Synthi and his Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 to generate some bass stuff. The last addition was the French Horn which was pretty Philip Glass inspired. I wanted something to root the harmonies in and the tone of the horn fit so well with everything adding this strange broken epic feel.

‘Monument Builders’ expresses such deeply-affecting emotion through the seamless layers of embedded ambient soundscapes and gorgeously crafted drone textures. Having seen your live set at London’s Possibly Colliding festival earlier in the year, I just loved how each sonic pulse matched the accompanying visuals (note-per-note) creating a myriad of utterly captivating moments. I feel this is translated here on record where a largely cinematic feel (and gripping tension) permeates throughout. Can you discuss the visual nature of the music you create Scott, and indeed the visuals that is created to accompany your music?  

SM: I’ve long been interested in the concept of visual music. I’ve experimented with visuals for a long time but only in the last few years have I began to treat it seriously again. I’m really interested in a non-narrative but also non-abstract form of visual treatment. Something that is evocative without being too referential to storytelling. Live visuals are extremely challenging for me. Loads of work. But I think I like this aspect of the medium. It’s not easy and the language is not really proven. Experimental moving images go back over a hundred years. It’s actually a really interesting history which arguably starts with painters or visual artists first experimenting with film. Despite the history and its longevity, it doesn’t get treated the same as music or even cinema. The current title of VJ really pushes it towards lighting and visual effects which definitely has its place but is not what I want to do with the medium. I feel like there is room for a truly synergistic experience that is not dominated by eye or ear.

I was very interested to learn that a VHS copy of “Koyaanisqatsi” and Philip Glass’s epic score in many ways proved the genesis of the new record. I’d love for you to recount your memories of first discovering this seminal work (and hearing the Glass score) and what makes this score (& film) so unique and important for you? 

SM: I first saw “Koyaanisqatsi” in a theatre in Vancouver in the early 90’s. I remember being quite moved by it. It was a spectacle and it was the first time I really felt struck in such a raw way by what you might call a non-narrative film. Most of that feeling was driven by the music. I don’t think that film would have a fraction of the impact without the score. Recently, when I viewed a rather beaten copy of the film, I was struck by not only the original, impactful and epic content, but how it appeared as a tarnished piece of history. When you think of where we are now with everything that’s going on, viewing this film more than 20 years later feels very strange. Seeing something that was once so epic, all warbled and torn yet speaking through time with this dire warning. It’s poignant and humbling in its own strange way.

One of the great aspects of ‘Monument Builders’ is the rich organic feel and dense quality to the seven musical odysseys, whilst there always seems to be a sense of a gradual building of atmosphere that forever intensifies as the rich narrative unfolds. I wonder were there challenges posed during the music-making process and more specifically, to ensure the interwoven pieces undergo seamless transitions? In this regard, just like your previous output, I like to visualize the record(s) as one long single piece with several movements or sections carefully embedded within.

SM: I like to work on albums as whole gestures but sometimes the compositional process is much more haphazard and the resulting record is more of an edited construction than a designed one. But I think this is true of any creative process. Truthfully, Monument Builders is the shortest full length I’ve ever composed. I really wanted to confine myself to a 40-minute LP – to see if I could be more precise with the expression and perhaps force myself to cut some pieces that didn’t quite fit. This was actually extremely challenging but also very liberating. Some things had to go or be shortened. I think what you end up with is a much more focused experience.

Themes of the environment (and its destruction) and decay infuses deep beneath the musical trajectory. Can you discuss the inspiration you drew from the anti-humanist writings of photographer John Gray (reflected in the song title of ‘Straw Dogs’) and the aerial photographs of Edward Burtyaskis? 

SM: I’ve struggled before with summing up what it is about Straw Dogs that resonates with me so much. But I think I am drawn to art and ideas that walk a line between positive and negative forces. There is a certain kind of nihilism with John Gray…  a sense of defeat. Humans are over-consuming creatures that, like any other animal – will grow in population and consume until their environment is decimated. But he doesn’t just leave it there. There is still room in his analysis for morality. It’s like knowing about our own individual mortality should not preclude giving up on living. Anyway, like I said, I struggle to sum it up but enjoy his writing a great deal.

Burtynsky occupies a similar space. His works show an ironic beauty largely from an aerial perspective of the earth as affected by humans. It’s ugly when you think about the scale and the context but it is visually stunning. I’m drawn to this sort of dichotomy and think I really was after something like this with Monument Builders. A blurred line between beauty and horror, anxiety and calm.

The dynamic range and series of counterpoints that is contained on ‘Monument Builders’ creates such a timeless, otherworldly sound and dimension to the record. For example, the gradual ambient bliss of ‘Deceiver’ comes in the wake of the pulsating rhythms of ‘Straw Dogs’ (the album’s centrepiece and towering crescendo) with scintillating horn arrangements; whilst the delicately beautiful ‘Drained Lake’ (the glorious opening theme) is followed by the more techno, beat-infused ‘Red Tide’. I wonder did a certain track (or specific section) inform the rest of ‘Monument Builders’? Also, did some of these musical layers existence pre-date the album’s genesis, so in a way older artefacts of songs blended in with new ideas and works? Did any happy accidents occur in the studio that surprised you?

SM: When I got into the studio to commence work on Monument Builders, I started building a new set of sounds and, as per usual, there were a handful of discarded pieces before anything stuck. I believe Deceiver came out first. This isn’t remarkably new territory for me…  though it’s much more harmonic than drone-based. I’m not sure any one piece informs the others, but I do try to take a body of sounds in a few different directions and push them away from anything overly comfortable. I think it’s important to force yourself away from the sound that makes you comfortable even if it’s gravitational pull is strong. I’m very comfortable with my sound, but also enjoy bending it and twisting it a little now and then to see what breaks and what sticks.

I’d love for you to shed some light on the library of sounds in which become the building blocks of this wholly unique (Loscil) sound and the mind-set and creative approach utilised when it comes to joining all these many layers into a record? From a compositional point of view, what musical voices do you feel serve a major influence on you, Scott?

SM: I think I already alluded to this, but I’m very interested in generally noisy spectra. Sounds that derive their fundamental pitch from moving air, whistles, flutes, beer growlers, anything where the fundamental pitch is obscured by the noise of moving air, creates an interesting texture. This approach, applied in different ways, has always been a part of my core working process. I’ve always struggled with synthesis. Although I’ve used it in some form, for bass sounds in particular, synth pads whether they are analog or digital have never really worked for me. I just enjoy the inherent unpredictability of real world samples when they get layered up. Adding to this, I really love the dynamic combination of electronic and acoustic. There is something about adding a live instrument to the palette that adds a new dimension to the sound. It also helps further blur genre lines which I’ve never been content with.

Lastly, the album closer ‘Weeds’ points to new horizons with divine textures of voices ascending into the forefront of the mix. This for me perhaps represents one of the most spellbinding moments of ‘Monument Builders’, particularly when the electronic pulses begin to converge. Can you talk me through the construction of these particular layers and indeed the sources of these sounds?

SM: Weeds started as an improvised part of my Sea Island set. I still perform it this way, as a series of performed phrases that get built up gradually. It really is all about dynamics and I think I really wanted to push away from the floating feel of a lot of my music. Weeds is intended as a slow motion opening up of sound, driven predominantly by the vocal samples. It is probably a little more cathartic a piece that the others. Less of a spot for quiet contemplation than a kind of intense, emotional explosion.

‘Monument Builders’ is out now on Kranky.

 http://www.loscil.ca/

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Written by admin

December 7, 2016 at 7:16 pm