FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Helios

Chosen One: Goldmund

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I want to find that midpoint between composition and experimental forms.”

—Keith Kenniff 

Words: Mark Carry

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This month saw the eagerly awaited new Goldmund opus, entitled ‘Occasus’ (released via the ever-dependable Western Vinyl imprint). Keith Kenniff’s sublime piano compositions continue to explore new sonic terrain as the sonic palette of ‘Occasus’ has expanded to contain synthesizer and analog bliss. Just like the Pennsylvanian native’s other musical projects (whether it’s under his Helios guise or as one half of Mint Julep), a timeless beauty is forever embedded inside the gifted composer’s sonic explorations.

The gorgeous album opener ‘Before’ begins with delicate piano tones, before an achingly beautiful swell of violin drones meld effortlessly, forming a captivating sound world. The resulting crescendo of these masterfully sculpted elements feels like a sea of age-old memories coming flooding to the surface. As the title suggests, the fragile piano lament belongs to some other time or place; perhaps adrift in the ether of faded dreams.

The hushed piano notes of ‘Above’ are a joy to savour. The stillness of night. Inner reflections. The repeating piano patterns gradually rise, as a swell of heavenly noise seeps into the slipstream. The lead single ‘Circle’ unfolds a divine modern classical oeuvre of enchanting sounds.

The slow, mournful piano lament ‘Radiant’ is another stunning and raw musical excursion. A hypnotic spell is unfolded before your very ears. The album’s centrepiece is the bewitching ‘Terrarium’ whose wall of analog bliss is interwoven with cinematic piano motifs, creating a striking catharsis with each intense ripple flow of sound. Similarly, the contrast of soaring drone soundscapes and sustained piano chords distilled in ‘Moderate’ unleashes a deeply affecting journey into lost horizons.

The works of Goldmund always captures something pure: it is as if all of life’s fleeting moments are committed to tape and effortlessly translated to sound. ‘Occasus’ is another vital chapter in Kenniff’s long storied career.

‘Occasus’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/goldmundmusic/

https://soundcloud.com/keithkenniff

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Interview with Keith Kenniff.

 

Congratulations on the latest divine Goldmund opus ‘Occasus’. Can you take me back to the recording sessions of this newest sonic exploration and your primary objectives and concerns with the musical trajectory you wanted to obtain? 

KK: Thank you! I purposely never have a specific thing in mind during recording an album, I feel as though if I think about it too hard I will over-intellectualize things and for me that produces stale output. I try to keep my mind clear of distraction, it’s like a meditation.

Thinking of some of the earlier Goldmund records like ‘Corduroy Road’ or ‘The Malady of Elegance’, your signature hand-print is forever forged in these sublime piano recordings but also feels like new sonic terrain is navigated here. For instance, the incorporation of synthesizers and analog treatments further heightens the listening experience. Can you talk me through these new elements and how you melded these worlds together?

KK: I feel like there are elements of that throughout most of the recordings, but specifically on ‘Sometimes’ (the previous album) and this one, it’s more about sonic texture and less about focusing on the piano itself. I just like things to sound beat-up, found. A lot of music I hear is super-polished these days, auto-tuned and mixed using the “best” gear finely tuned. There’s a place for that but I like when things are just left as-is or mangled sonically in a way that’s quick and intuitive, not planned out with presets and sample packs.

‘Moderate’ is one of the rapturous moments of ‘Occasus’, particularly the heavy drone washes beneath the achingly beautiful piano melody. Can you recount your memories of composing a piece such as this and indeed the layering of the various interwoven components?

KK: I record most of these pieces late at night, after everyone in the house is asleep, there’s this feeling of being exhausted but harnessing the last bit of yourself before bed that can be intriguing. For that one I just laid down a simple violin drone that I pitched down to sound more like a cello or viola, then put a bunch of distortion and hiss on it, and recording the piano chords over it, then putting various synths layered subtly over top. It sounds a bit like a sinking ship, wavering but thoughtful with the low piano chords giving it some harmonic foundation. At the end that ambience breaks through and takes over the piano and those textures are able to expand, but there’s no discernible build, or resolution, it just stops.

Looking back over your compelling Goldmund and Helios releases, how do you find your compositional approach has changed over the years (whether it’s between albums or between the different musical guises)? For instance, would these new fifteen Goldmund compositions have been circulating the ether for a considerable period of time (perhaps sketches or ideas from previous recordings) or would these have originated from new ideas of yours (from the last couple of years)? 

KK: These songs are all from the last couple of years. Typically I don’t let the Goldmund compositions sit too long, they either work or don’t work and if they don’t work I don’t come back to them or I like to take the first idea and just believe in it. Helios material is different, sometimes it takes a week, and sometimes I’ll work on a song for years to get it right. I think I purposely approach the projects differently, help to not get stuck in a rut and they feed each other.

I’d love for you to discuss your earliest musical memories, Keith. How soon did you realize the importance music would have on your own life? At what point did you begin to compose? 

KK: I started playing music at 9 (guitar and drums, I didn’t begin piano until I was about 19) and quickly realized it was not just a hobby but something I’d pursue as a life-goal. I trained as a percussionist, piano just sort of happened but I never studied formally. I started writing my own music when I was about 18. I actually started off as part of this website where people could submit unofficial Bjork remixes. This was pre-social media but it was kind of like a message board-based site where people could upload tracks, rate them, comment on them and share ideas. It was a really healthy atmosphere and I learned a lot about electronic music production that way.

Please describe for me your studio set up and how your piano is set up (and added analog equipment)? 

KK: My setup is simple, a midi keyboard, 3 guitars, upright piano and speakers. The only analog equipment I use is a small mini-cassette recorder I’ve been using on recordings since 2000-ish. I keep it simple so I don’t get distracted, I feel like having a variety of synths and knobs and buttons and “cool” gear would just take me out of creating, not inspire it to happen. I learned how to make music on a computer and it just feels right to keep most of what I do inside of one still.

I love the series of inner dialogue that is inherent in many of the pieces contained on ‘Occassus’; like the multi-layered tapestry that unfolds throughout ‘Bounded’ and ‘What Lasts’ carves out a richly poignant narrative. I get the impression there is a deeply intuitive nature to your exploratory compositions. 

KK: I try not to intellectualize this material too much, I do feel the compulsion to do it and I find the framework of the simplicity of this project compelling to my overall beliefs in aesthetic and outlook but it’s all done very quickly and once something is recorded I don’t go back and fine tune or give thought to what it means.

The gradual ambient bliss of ‘Terrarium’ epitomizes the far-reaching nature of ‘Occasus’s beguiling sound worlds. What do you feel is the precise narrative that ties these piano compositions together? I’d love to gain an insight into the album title and the central album theme that combines these sonic pieces together?

KK: I chose to name the album “Occasus”, which means “End, Ruin, Destruction” etc…as I feel like a lot of these pieces, when I listened to them as a whole, had a need to become unwound. Sounds would enter but then wouldn’t be treated carefully, I felt like they needed to fall apart or not to develop fully or not be polished or purposely recorded haphazardly. I want to find that midpoint between composition and experimental forms, where there’s no discernible beginning/middle/end but that it’s also not just an exercise or purely sonically-based, so I wanted to rail against my inclination toward one or the other and see if there was a new way to treat the piano in context of whatever that halfway point is.

Lastly, what albums have you been enjoying of late?

KK: Otto Totland’s “The Lost”, Novo Line’s “Movements”, Blouse’s self titled album, and “Scenes Surfaces and Threshold” by Cathaya & Grøn.

‘Occasus’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/goldmundmusic/

https://soundcloud.com/keithkenniff

Written by admin

April 26, 2018 at 6:49 pm

Ten Mile Stereo

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