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Chosen One: Justin Walter

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The music itself comes to light more like finding sea shells on the ocean floor with your eyes closed.”

—Justin Walter

Words: Mark Carry

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Angelic piano tones reverberate softly into the ether on the album’s glorious title-track. Gradually, synth bass elements coalesce together: a diffusion of sumptuous layers before heavenly trumpet passages form ripples in the pools of your mind. The immense sonic journey of  ‘Unseen Forces’ is encapsulated in some otherworldly realm; lost to the constraints of time that ceaselessly grows in meaning and significance. Michigan trumpeter Justin Walter has forged another timeless sound world  with his sophomore full length ‘Unseen Forces’ – and follow-up to the sublime debut ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’ – released on the ever-dependable Chicago-based Kranky label.

Divine sonic tapestries are masterfully forged across the album’s nine exceptional tracks, with intricate layers of electronics and trumpet. Walter’s trusted EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) is a rare wind-controlled analog synthesizer from the 70’s that forms an integral foundation to the music’s visionary dimension. The opener ‘1001’ reveals the delicate beauty of these drifting synthesizer melodies that lies somewhere between Boards of Canada and the ECM’s rich discography. Bass notes are masterfully added two minutes in, creating a powerful, unequivocal force, reminiscent of Kranky alumni Tim Hecker or A Winged Victory For The Sullen.

Dark, menacing electronics are fused with radiant light of trumpet melodies on the utterly compelling ‘Sixty’, an exploration into the heart of darkness. The dichotomy of light and dark is forever inherent across Walter’s shape-shifting works where the radiant light of hope glows like stars dotted across night skies. An inner dialogue is created between the electronic and organic components, forming a deeply-affecting experience in the process. Take for example, ‘It’s Not What You Think’. The striking intensity unleashed by hypnotic swells of synthesizers is contrasted with ethereal ambient soundscapes of faded dreams. Music, like the brush strokes of a painter, is constructed by masterful use of texture and colour. As the track builds, the frenetic energy of Colin Stetson and Ben Frost is emitted amidst a dark, repeating pattern.

The album’s penultimate track ‘Soft Illness’ bears the sound of a producer more so than anything else: swirls of noise crafts a captivating electronic sphere of sound. The length of the individual tracks in part B are significantly shortened, further adding to the nearness of the approaching horizon. ‘Following’ is a soul-stirring lament that feels like a lost synth pop gem from another space and time. ‘Red Cabin’ encapsulates the rich textures of dreams, in one aching gradual pulse.

‘Unseen Forces’ is out now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net/

http://www.kranky.net/

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Interview with Justin Walter.

Congratulations Justin on the stunningly beautiful new sophomore release ‘Unseen Forces’, a collection of music that truly transports the listener to another realm. I’d love for you to discuss the making of the new record and particularly how your approach may have developed or changed from that of the remarkable 2013 debut ‘Lullabies & Nightmares’?

Justin Walter: Well first off, thank you. The biggest factor that changed was time. With ‘Lullabies & Nightmares‘ I just went full in and recorded the album in a few months. The process was a continuous push from start to finish that took about 9 months. It should also be noted that I didn’t really have any set voice or aesthetic that I was attached to at that time. Almost all of the work I had been doing with the EVI and trumpet sat as one offs or groupings of songs that happened within a short period of time, sort of like free form journal entries. When ‘Dream Weaving‘ was recorded, which was fairly early on, I decided to try and stick with material that felt along those lines, but it was all still very new to me. I think that ‘Mind Shapes‘ was the last piece I put together and in that there was a strong intent to make something that spoke to the rest of the material on the album. With ‘Unseen Forces‘ though, I spent a lot more time considering the overall meaning of the record. The process for coming up with the material was very much the same, but I wanted to find a cohesive musical language that would be the same throughout, and a more focused emotional message. So it took a lot longer to put together. Mostly because I don’t actually write any of the music.

Please discuss the art of improvisation and the mindset and methodologies you have developed over the years when it comes to creating these otherworldly ambient explorations?

JW: I suppose improvisation isn’t what most people think it is. It’s more like talking. So you have this musical language which you spend years learning and refining, and within itself there can be dialog, but the overall message is just emotional. It happens in real time, and so it’s a journey from one statement to the next and so on and by travelling along you can tell a story of sorts. But if you were to just pull out one piece from the middle it would probably lose all of its meaning. So the language that I have is mostly based in jazz, but over time I’ve also been developing this other language which is based on texture and sequencing. It’s about feel and spacing more than it is about notes and harmony.

Creating these recordings has mostly been the same process over and over. It involves improvisation, but more importantly it requires a strong sense of emotion. And not like crying emotion or anything like that, but just the feeling of yourself in a total way. So it’s always key to be in touch and have an intense sense of yourself when you spend time doing these things. After all, the idea here is to convey through music this story of yourself. So that’s a part of the methodology. The music itself comes to light more like finding sea shells on the ocean floor with your eyes closed. I’m just trying to feel for the good ones and after I collect a bunch I bring them up and see if I actually got anything worth saving. So the feeling and collecting process is very important and after a while you get a little bit better at it, but you still can’t see what you’re doing.

The sonic palette utilized on ‘Unseen Forces’ is your trusted EVI, wind-controlled analog synthesizer combined with electronics and trumpet tapestries that coalesce together forming sprawling soundscapes of utterly transcendent moments. As this new record is even more of a solo effort than its predecessor (with added percussion/drums in places), I’d love for you to discuss the starting points or genesis of these new solo works? Did you have certain reference points in mind? Also, it feels as if there’s this chain reaction of inner dialogue (of the deepest kind) as one listens to the unfolding of the seamless array of patterns inherent in these compositions. Would these tracks be first takes, so to speak? 

JW: One of the shifts I’ve made over the last few years is to see myself as more of a producer, if that’s the right term. I produce myself. Which is weird. So I set out to create and collect all of these sounds, and then I bring them to myself, and I say this one stays and these go. And so for that part of myself that is deciding how to place these things, there was a process of growth and refinement that is still taking place. When A Winged Victory for the Sullen came out with ATOMOS I remember listening to that every day and thinking to myself holly shit. And I realize I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to contemporary music, so I’m not really hip to all that is out there, but I love that record. And so I sat with it for a long time. It was sort of a pointer for me. I’m not sure what process Adam and Dustin use to write music, but it’s spot on and I wanted to bring as much of that language into myself as possible. So that was one starting point in terms of spacing, texture and colour.

Another starting point was Tim Hecker, who creates music that just pisses me off in the best way. These are guys I had never heard of before L&N and they, along with a few others, helped shape my decision making process when it came to the production side of things. In terms of inner dialogue, yes. I spent a lot of time sitting with these songs as they developed and it was very important to me that they told a continuous story. These are first takes and layered first takes. I didn’t re-record anything for this album, it’s all just live recordings. It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to make this record – most of what I do doesn’t work out.

The album’s title-track is one of the pinnacles of this enriching journey. It’s the space and dimension a track such as this permeates and orbits, for me is the towering essence of this beautiful music. Can you recount your memories of creating ‘Unseen Forces’ and indeed how the piece evolved and bloomed into its final entity? The sonic canvas and various components of your sound are wonderfully utilized and expressed here, it’s such a captivating experience. The title too embodies the music so perfectly, is there a story or background to choosing of this particular (song/album) title?

JW: I had gone to Chicago to my friend Erik Hall’s place. He’s helped in recording and mixing this, and almost all of my records. He had just inherited his families Steinway grand piano and we were both fairly excited to be in the presence of such an incredible instrument. It seems ridiculous, but the title track was recorded in three passes, basically back to back with no planning what so ever. I played some open chords, which is what you hear at the beginning of the song. Then sampled and sequenced those chords in a way that was extremely random. We recorded a pass of that sequence and I decided to add a synth bass part with the EVI. That ended up being mostly in 4/4 time because, well that’s what I do. So after that I did a pass with the trumpet. That was it in terms of recording. Now there was a lot of time spent mixing and I did record the sequenced piano track through a tape delay a few months later to have that in the mix as well. I also spent a bit of time adding parts to it and then taking them away, and finally just decided that the best thing to do would be to just leave it as it is. I think that in recording the way we did, there just wasn’t time to think about what to do, and so even though it was three separate passes, it still had the spontaneity of a live performance. There’s playfulness in that that you just can’t write out.

You are part of the immense Sorrow Ensemble, Colin Stetson’s latest project. As you tour on this record and play with these musicians, I can only imagine how inspiring and fulfilling this experience must be? Can you shed some light on the dynamics of this group and what you feel you are learning from Colin Stetson, someone obviously who has served as a long-term inspirational figure?

JW: Well, being a part of this group has been a dream come true. Throughout the span of this project it has always been extremely clear that Colin has had a vision and sense of purpose in choosing to recreate this amazing piece of music. He’s lead the group like general on the battlefield. All of the members are amazing musicians in their own right and there was always an openness to the way we formed and contributed to the orchestration as it developed, but it’s really been a pleasure to work with someone who sees clearly what the final outcome should be. In working with large groups like this it can be easy to sway in the wind a bit in terms of direction, everyone having their own ideas about what should be what, and Stetson has managed this in amazing form and with the best leadership imaginable. It also helps that everyone chosen to be a part of this group has a huge sense of selflessness and are just interested in making great music. So we work together and listen to each other and make it happen.

In the nature of improvisation and the “first thought add ons” (you previously described to me) inherent in your trumpet-based works, I presume quite a significant of happy accidents occur as the album is being made/recorded? I would love to know more about your studio set-up and indeed the challenges you face when it comes to capturing these takes onto the final recordings? Is mixing a part of the process that takes you longer to complete?

JW: Yep. Fail, fail, and fail again. But actually one of the things I’ve come to accept is that I can’t do this every day. You really do need to be in the right space to sit down and get an amazing first take, or be able to see that what you have is something you want to keep working on. Mixing is something I’ve spent a ton of time on. I went from knowing how to record in garage band in 2011 to feeling like there wasn’t that much left for me to discover in protools in 2016. So there was a huge amount of learning that happened over these past few years. I do have a “studio” at home which serves my needs just fine. I have a walk up attic that is very dead in terms of sound bouncing around and so I use that space to mix in. It gets me to about 95%, and the rest I can do in a real studio. Mixing and also sequencing of material is time consuming, you’re making decisions and putting things together that can sometimes feel like you’re playing 6 games of Tetris at the same time. How the side chain compression is working, how the tracks are duplicated and spit up for eq, and how all of the layers are interacting with each other. It’s is a fun game.

The spirit of Arthur Russell and Boards of Canada beautifully drift by on the sublime ‘It’s Not What You Think’, a piece that epitomizes the adventurous spirit of the album but also the sense of new ground and departures from the debut. Please also discuss the sequencing of the record, it works very well how there are several much shorter pieces – or crystallized gems – interspersed with the sprawling ambient cuts. 

JW: I wanted the opening to set the mood for the whole record, to let the listener know that this would be a slower journey. ‘It’s Not What You Think‘ formed over the summer of 2016. It was the final piece of music I put together for this record and yes, BoC. Love those guys. I do love Arthur Russell but honestly it’s been a long time for me. I think I was mostly focused on having this dark and repetitive line that was strong and forceful. Again, when the bass line comes in on ATOMOS it’s like, hell yes. Love that. And so for me this was my reflection of that. It’s less frills and more meat. I also wanted to speak to the vinyl record format, and so bookended each side with two halves of the same piece. “End of Six” and “Red Cabin” originally were one continuous recording that took place at the very end of a 45 improvisation, the Sixth one of that day. The sequencing of songs took a while. There’s room to breathe after the intense cuts, but not in a way that kills the forward momentum. The overall shape of the record is from low to high and back in a gradual way that hopefully lets you listen to the album on repeat without getting burnt out. That was one of my goals.

What do you feel has been the most invaluable lesson you have learned or that previous experiences have taught you? Can you recall your memories of first being given the trumpet and how you feel you have developed your own distinct musical language with the EVI instrumentation that is integral to your solo works?

JW: Definitely that taking time is totally OK. I’ve never really made a living as a musician, I mean there have been stretches were I’m making great money and then it’s all over. So I’ve grown to be OK with that and actually cherish the fact that I don’t have to do this. In no way is it covering the cost of time put in, it’s just about the art. So if it takes forever, it’s worth it. In the end it’s about trying to make something that you yourself find value in, and hopefully other people will find value in it as well. So it’s super important to take as much time as you need. Once it’s out, it’s done forever.

Louis Smith gave me my first trumpet. I was 10. It was actually a cornet. I’ve always been involved in the jazz community as a trumpeter. Currently I play a few nights a week with different groups here in Ann Arbor, it’s great. Everything from new music, free jazz, Joe Henderson, Coltrane, all the way back to Bix and Morton. We cover the whole lineage. With that, I think I’ve settled down into feeling more secure with who I am and were I sit within the community. The music itself is always new and its very nature is exploratory, so there’s always anticipation for me. As far as this project goes, the trumpet has drifted between being something more akin to a layer of sound, and at times a melodic voice. I really don’t think about it too much, it’s just what comes to mind. It wouldn’t make any sense to just start playing bebop lines, I mean, maybe? Not what I’m hearing though. The EVI is a totally different beast and its language and the way I use it to create soundscapes is one that mostly exists here in my house. It seems that over time I’ve become less interested in what the EVI can do and more interested in how I can use what it does to convey emotion. It’s always fun to sit down and play the instrument, but I’ve been spending less and less time just messing around with it in a random way.

‘Unseen Forces’ is out now on Kranky.

http://www.justinwalter.net/

http://www.kranky.net/

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August 3, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Chosen One: Earthen Sea

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Interview with Jacob Long (Earthen Sea).

 Often I find with many aspects of my music that is the most important thing to do….to step back sometimes and let things happen or just to take a broader perspective on what things are rather than trying to force them to be something they aren’t.”

 Jacob Long

Words: Mark Carry

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Chicago independent label Kranky continues to deliver some of the most dazzling and innovative releases with Earthen Sea’s sublime dub techno soundscapes. The New York producer, Jacob Long has crafted an immense sound world of transcendent ambient bliss and techno explorations on his Kranky debut full-length ‘An Act Of Love’, following on from the essential singles ‘An Act Of Love’ and ‘A Serious Thing’ back in February and 2015 debut full-length ‘Ink’ (released via Lovers Rock imprint).

A multitude of synths and looped sonic passages are beautifully spliced together on ‘About That Time’, forming the gripping heart to ‘An Act Of Love’s intense beginnings. A soulful dimension and deeply emotive core immediately strikes you as the gorgeous pulsating waves of ambient bliss traverses the human space. Texture and motion are two further qualities that permeate throughout the record’s far-reaching voyage. For instance, ‘Exuberant Burning’ yields a highly immersive experience amidst dark techno ripples of neon-lit skies. The addition of drums and further organic components forms a lovely parallel with labelmate Loscil’s sonic sphere of rhythmic, gradual dub techno waves. An empty nocturnal metropolis (as previously described by the New York producer) is etched across the sprawling sonic canvas.

The penultimate cut ‘The Flats 1975’ is a divine slice of psychedelic trip hop flourishes wherein dense swells of techno embellishes drift majestically across vast skylines. Beautiful ambient pulses continually build on the formidable closer ‘Also An Act Of Love’ as a delicate lament gradually fades into the ether.

‘An Act Of Love’ is out now on Kranky.

https://earthensea.bandcamp.com/

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

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Interview with Jacob Long (Earthen Sea).

 

In many ways, I feel this record feels like one sprawling sound collage as the deeply engulfing sound world of utterly transcendent ambient bliss and immersive dub techno crafts such raw emotion and intensity. Please take me back to the making of ‘An Act Of Love’, the themes you wanted to explore and your primary objectives for this latest musical venture?

Jacob Long: I would say for the most part, at least the beginning of the process of putting the record together, it was just an extension of the work I’d been doing previously. A handful of the songs on the record were things I had been working on/or made in the year or so leading up to actually “working” on the album. That said once I had those pieces selected for the record I went back and reworked and created new pieces out of other things I had in various states of completion that I felt complemented the overall feel/flow of the record. In terms of sonic exploration I would say that the process I used to make the song “Also An Act Of Love” (which grew out of what was originally a remix of one of my older songs) has led to my current working method which is to take pieces of audio from parts I’ve played and recorded and use them as the raw sonic material to be manipulated and turned into something else.

I would love to gain an insight into your compositional approach and the precise equipment set-up and instrumentation utilzed for these recording sessions? The gorgeous dub techno swells form a lovely parallel with Loscil’s Scott Morgan’s works and a prevailing darkness of a myriad of forlorn sounds brings to mind the likes of fellow luminaries like Tim Hecker. I wonder would you have a considerable library of sounds collected (so to speak) and you carefully splice different elements and motifs together?

JL: Thank you for the great compliment of comparing my work to the 2 of them as I admire both of Loscil and Tim Hecker’s music a lot. My setup is pretty simple….these days my main setup is really just my laptop with Ableton and a few MIDI controllers. I mostly create my own sounds by playing synth parts and recording them either onto my 4-track or into my computer and then chopping those parts up into sounds/loops/samples. I then use those in Ableton, manipulating them into what become my tracks. I also have a variety of different drum sounds that I’ve built into a drum library (though I kind of end up using a lot of the same ones a lot of the time). Lately I’ve been working with some field recordings in the same way and blending them in with other sounds so most likely my new work with have some of them in the mix as well.

The wide range of sonic timbres and elements that are effortlessly crafted on ‘An Act Of Love’ is one of the great hallmarks of this latest release. For example, the more techno-infused explorations such as ‘Exuberant Burning’ – the album’s centrepiece – ‘The Flats 1975’ and part A’s ‘About That Time’ form vital pulses to ‘An Act Of Love’s striking narrative. Can you talk me through these techno tracks and the construction/deconstruction of the techno sound worlds you capture so well?

JL: Thanks for the kind words and I feel similar about ‘About That Time’ being the emotional centre for me as well of the record. I would say the process of making the beat/techno oriented tracks on the record is pretty similar in many ways to making the other tracks. Obviously the big difference is programming drum parts. But I tend to approach it in much the same way where I sketch out some ideas and then “jam” on them or play around with them until I get the feel I’m looking for and then once I have that either to expand on the idea (or more often than not) edit down to the essence of what I feel is needed for the piece and then go from there. I guess the other main difference is feeling out the structure and what is needed to hold interest in a piece is different (for me at least) when there are rhythmic elements involved and sometimes that means that more needs to happen in a piece but often it means that less is needed as everything needs a little more space to breathe.

As a bassist in the punk trio Mi Ami, your musical background must tap into your solo project of Eaethen Sea quite naturally. I’d love for you to discuss your musical upbringing and the various paths that you have ventured thus far, and what the pre-cursors were, so to speak that led to the formation of Earthen Sea? 

JL: Well I’ve played music since I was 5 when I started playing violin. I’ve picked up various instruments over the years since then but I can’t remember ever not playing and/or listening to music. And since I was a teenager I’ve been very interested in a wide range of music. I mean even in high school I was playing in a kinda grunge-y band and also making weird soundscapey things on my own on a cassette 4 track…and over the years things kind of just continued like that. I sort of off and on worked on my own music when I had time outside of bands/etc. Anyway Earthen Sea started as a project when I moved to California from DC in 2004 and for a number of years was kind of off and on as well until a couple of years ago when I decided I really wanted to be doing more of it than I had been and since then it’s been pretty full on for me…

I absolutely love the fragile, bare and stunningly beautiful compositions such as album closer (and title-track of sorts) ‘Also An Act Of Love’ and ‘Delicately In The Sunlight’ and how these tracks drift majestically across the ether. Again, it’s how these eight tracks are seamlessly forged together creates such a timeless quality. Can you discuss the sequencing of the record and also the series of counterpoints – and counter balances – that is so masterfully embedded in ‘Act Of Love’s sonic tapestry? 

JL: Well I’m glad it works as I was looking to create a flow that had a consistent or complimentary feel between the disparate pieces that make up the record. I would say that the sequencing and reworking of a few pieces was some of the harder work that I put into the record but it felt important to have the whole be somewhat a composition in and of itself rather than just being a collection of songs. I definitely went through a number of drafts of the record before I came to the final form for it but in the end it kind of revealed itself to me more than me making it fit or something. Often I find with many aspects of my music that is the most important thing to do….to step back sometimes and let things happen or just to take a broader perspective on what things are rather than trying to force them to be something they aren’t.

I wonder were there any happy accidents, so to speak during the music-making process? Also, I get the impression that many of the layers are almost like musical artefacts that have been unearthed from another time and space? In this regard, is the layering or construction of a particular track quite an intensive or challenging process? I love how there is that minimal nature to your music yet how vast the musical possibilities that are generated.

JL: Ha well much of my process is much looser than that suggests to me. I mean a lot of it is happy accidents to be honest. Not to say that I don’t spend time setting up pieces or running sounds against each other/etc but my main process is just to start loading sounds into my template in Ableton and just let them go and start working on them from there (both in terms of the individual sounds and the combination of sounds and the structure/etc). I pretty much never have an idea of where something is going when I start. Once I start and hear what may be working or coming out of something I’ll then kind of hone in on that vibe/sound and see how to go from there. The minimal vs. maximal is sometimes a challenge as it can be easy especially when working to have everything going at once to create MORE sound but usually a lot of my compositional process is sculpting those sounds down into what is needed and to build a structure from there. Also I have spent some time thinking about how to use FX to create those kind of artefact layers of sound and though I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything crazy in terms of their use that is definitely something I’ve developed into part of my “sound”.

Lastly, are there particular records that you have been heavily immersed in of late?

JL: For sure…I’ve been digging a bunch of older Jan Jelinek records as well as his newest album with Masayoshi Fujita (Schaum), a lot of Vladislav Delay, Georgia (especially their newest LP “All Kind Music”, the new Visible Cloaks LP,  both of the Anjou LPs,  Klara Lewis was a new find for me this past year and I’ve been really enjoying her music, Josh Abrams/Natural Information Society is one of my favorite bands of the last few years and I’m stoked they have a new album out, I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of stuff but that’s what I can think of off the top of my head.

‘An Act Of Love’ is out now on Kranky.

https://earthensea.bandcamp.com/

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

 

 

Written by admin

May 17, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Step Right Up: High Plains

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The thin air, frigid temperatures and overwhelming feeling of remoteness definitely affect your mindset.”

High Plains

Words: Mark Carry

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High Plains is the gifted duo of Loscil’s Scott Morgan and cellist Mark Bridges. Their debut album ‘Cinderland’ represents another jewel in the crown of the peerless Chicago independent label Kranky, following on from the techno bliss of Earthen Sea; Justin Walter’s innovative trumpet-based works and the soon-to-be-released scintillating debut from Sweden’s Demen.

The sublime title-track – and gorgeous album opener – ‘Cinderland’ ascends into divine neo-classical splendour as gentle ripples of piano is melded with achingly beautiful cello tapestries. Soon, delicate electronic textures permeate the headspace; drifting into the ether of shimmering seas. A prevailing darkness prevails on the ‘Blood That Ran the Rapids’ that creates a dense, cinematic atmosphere. The intricate layers of percussion, cello and enveloping frequencies of synthesizer drift far into the atmosphere. Space is the place. ‘The Dusk Pines’ – representing the beating heart of part A – recalls the likes of Iceland’s Hildur Guðnadóttir and the scorework of Nick Cave & Warren Ellis whereby instrumental music so lyrical, powerful and stunningly beautiful navigates the human heart. An achingly beautiful lament where fragile drone pulses are masterfully interwoven with the gradual bliss of strings.

A striking narrative – for which ties the empowering journey of ‘Cinderland’ together – continues on the dazzling ‘A White Truck’ (reminiscent of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s ‘Iris’ score). The dynamic range and sheer intensity of this gripping odyssey brings forth a sense of wild desperation as white noise of synthesizers exudes the rawest of emotion. The rustic, pastoral tones of ‘Ten Sleep’ maps the vast, sprawling landscape of Wyoming – and beyond – with hypnotic rhythmic pulses and captivating piano patterns (fused together with Loscil’s distinctive drone flourishes). The rise on this piece could perhaps form the glorious epiphany of Cinderland’s resounding sonic exploration.

Sepia tinges of cello notes flicker onto the horizon of ‘Black Shimmer’ as the dusk light begins to fade upon us. The ethereal chime-like tones of Steinway piano on ‘Rushlight’ creates a dream-like voyage akin to vintage Boards of Canada. The closing ‘Song For A Last Night’ combines Loscil’s singular drone soundscapes together with Bridges’ deeply moving strings. Two musicians in deep dialogue with one another, who, in turn, create a vast sea of mesmeric soundscapes.

‘Cinderland’ is out now on Kranky.

https://www.facebook.com/highplainsss/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky

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Interview with High Plains (Scott Morgan and Mark Bridges).

 

Firstly, please take me back to how you first crossed paths with one another and your first musical collaboration, which would have been as part of the ADRIFT series? It’s obvious listening to ‘Cinderland’, just how suited your own individual musical language is to one another, and truly heightens every aspect when fused together.

High Plains: Thank you. We met in Banff while on individual residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts. We were randomly assigned as roommates and became friends which lead to working together on the loscil Adrift project. We later agreed to fully collaborate on a new project and ended up co-applying to the Brush Creek residency in Wyoming where Cinderland was created.

The recording sessions for ‘Cinderland’ feel as if they were soaked in inspiration: recording for two weeks in a remote spot in Wyoming. I’m sure the landscape and your physical surroundings during these 2 weeks must have found its way into the music? Can you recount your memories of these recording sessions? I wonder were these compositions mapped out in any way prior to the recording sessions?

HP: It was a very fluid and intuitive process. The physical place is quite sublime. It’s hard to not have it seep into your subconscious. The thin air, frigid temperatures and overwhelming feeling of remoteness definitely affect your mindset. The really rewarding thing about sinking yourself into a situation like this is there are very few distractions. Outside of exploring the natural landscape, there is very little to do. So working and creating became our focus. We didn’t map things out at all. We just started tinkering and sending ideas back and forth. We did some field recording, initial recordings of the cello and I slowly built up a palette of sounds. We fed each other harmonic ideas, built up some sound beds and then improvised a little to shape each piece.

It feels that so much ground is being covered – as these pieces unfold in such a bewitching way – that makes me feel (as a listener) that you were learning & discovering new perspectives and avenues when it came to the music-making process? For instance, the space that is created within the cello-based compositions by the ambient dimension the strings inhabit, creates this epic journey that is immediately striking and resonant.

HP: I think that’s quite accurate. There is definitely exploration taking place on Cinderland. In a certain sense, it’s a very experimental collection of music. Maybe not in the avant-garde sense, but in a personal way, trying to find our territory together, where our musical interests overlapped and where the boundaries were. I think once we found a boundary, we tried to push beyond it a bit and see where the music could go. Looking back, the points where things didn’t make a lot of sense actually became the most rewarding and expressive.

The title-track (and album opener) feels an integral part of the record. This neoclassical gem is such a deeply affecting and absorbing piece of music, with a cinematic quality shining throughout. I’d love for you to recount your memories of writing/recording this particular piece? Also, the beautiful piano part is magnificent. Was this a happy accident that you discovered a Steinway piano in the portable studio? 

HP: Cinderland was not the first piece we composed. If I remember correctly, The Dusk Pines was. In a way, The Dusk Pines better represents the genesis of the sound. Simple harmonic ideas that unfold very gently but contain a kind of shadowy edge to them. I think Cinderland probably was composed second or third after that and represents an attempt at improving the process a bit. The Steinway was indeed a happy accident. Such a beautiful piano and when it’s sitting there in the room it’s impossible to ignore. Neither of us are pianists per se but having access to a tuned concert piano in a schoolhouse in the middle of nowhere kind of calls out at you.

In terms of the portable studio set-up, I imagine this was quite a new situation you both found yourselves in? And in one way it may have felt you were in a residency there and seeing what music would be released when you were both staying there. In this way, did these tracks surprise you in any way? Also, please describe the landscape of Wyoming and how the landscape helped shape your sound? In this regard, I wonder how much of the album contains field recordings from the area?

Scott Morgan: The set up I brought is very close to my home studio set up. A computer, audio interface, monitors, microphones and MIDI controllers. It’s really all I’ve ever needed as loscil and I don’t have much of an extravagant set up to begin with. So I brought this and Mark brought some additional mic’s and his cello of course. He also brought an electric guitar and amp that we didn’t use on the recording. I brought my field recorder – just a little Sony hand-held. The most significant field recording that ended up on the record was the squeaking trees on Song for a Last Night. We were off on a walk in the woods on a rather blustery day and the tall trees (birch I think) were swaying in the wind and gently rubbing against each other creating this beautiful but creepy creaking sound. We mixed that into the final track.

‘Song For A Last Night’ is another divine composition and just love how one feels Loscil’s ambient bliss interwoven so delicately with Mark’s cello. One feels the stillness of night and the vast remote landscape of mountains (and love the water and field recordings embedded here…like a postcard to this town, if you will). Is there certain moments captured on the record you feel resonates most powerfully for you?

HP: When we approached the end of making this record, we would bounce the mixes down and put them on our phones and hike up to the nearby mountain peaks to listen. This was an unforgettable experience and listening to the album now transports us back to this moment. There was one particular day we were listening overlooking the valley below and a snowstorm broke out.  It was a striking moment.

I’m interested to learn how Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’ served significant inspiration for ‘Cinderland’. Please discuss the importance of this work and how you feel it found its way into the High Plains sonic sphere?

HP: We didn’t reference anything directly in terms of harmony or style but we were mutually drawn to the overt expression and underlying tragedy of Winterreise. There’s the narrative aspect of the song cycle that is both so extreme it’s almost comical but also just so devastating and heavy and lonely. The symbolism is overt yet strangely alluring. We were also attracted to the structure of the piece as a whole. In a way, a song cycle like Winterreise is a precursor to the “album”… i.e. a collection of works that is presented as a whole and represents some kind of story or journey. This is something we were both interested in – a collection of works presented as a whole that contain a loosely interwoven narrative.

Lastly, please discuss your current listening/reading (etc!) and what records you’re enjoying the most lately? 

SM: I’ve been reading Karl Ove Knausgård – Death in the Family.  Really incredible accounts of the author’s seemingly mundane life but put under a kind of microscope of honesty, rawness and detail. Highly recommended. A few albums I’ve enjoyed of late include Claire M Singer’s Solas, Anjou’s Epithymía, Lawrence English’s Cruel Optimism, Western Skies Motel Settlers & Sarah Davachi’s Dominions. 

‘Cinderland’ is out now on Kranky.

https://www.facebook.com/highplainsss/

https://www.facebook.com/Kranky

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April 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Benoît Pioulard Opening Music – Sat. 4 March 2017, Cork, Ireland

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benoit_openingmusic

Benoît Pioulard Opening Music – Sat. 4 March 2017, Cork, Ireland | w/ Wry Myrrh

We were thrilled to have invited our dear friend Thomas Meluch (aka the Seattle, Washington-based composer Benoît Pioulard) over to Cork for his first shows on Irish shores. One of our favourite aspects of promoting shows is making the all-important opening music for the evening. The concert took place at Gulpd Cafe, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, with support from the wonderful Wry Myrrh. Benoît Pioulard’s EU tour continues into March (accompanied by special hand-made tour-only CDs), for the full list of tour dates please see HERE.

 

Tracklisting:

01. Loscil – “Drained Lake” (Kranky)
02. High Plains – “Cinderland” (Kranky)
03. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – “Le Retour en Foret” (Iris OST, Erased Tapes)
04. Christina Vantzou – “Laurie Spiegel” (Loscil remix) (Self-Released)
05. MJ Guider – “Lit Negative” (Kranky)
06. Earthen Sea – “Exuberant Burning” (Kranky)
07. Dawn of Midi – “Dysnomia” (Erased Tapes)
08. Brian Eno – “Golden Hours” (Island)
09. Colin Stetson – “Spindrift” (Constellation)
10. Sarah Neufeld – “We’ve Got a Lot” (Paper Bag)
11. Saltland – “I Only Wish This For You” (Constellation)
12. Belong – “Common Era” (Kranky)
13. Grouper – “Headache” (Yellow Electric)
14. Mica Levi – “Love” (Under The Skin OST, Milan)
15. Eluvium – “Strangeworks” (Temporary Residence)
16. Colleen – “Ursa Major Find” (Thrill Jockey)
17. Sibylle Baier – “Tonight” (Orange Twin)

“The Benoît Pioulard Listening Matter” is out on Kranky now. Full EU Benoît Pioulard Tour dates HERE.

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

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March 6, 2017 at 12:06 am

First Listen: ‘Rook’ by Benoît Pioulard

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We are delighted to premiere an exclusive new track from Seattle-based ambient artist Benoît Pioulard. The ethereal ambient bliss of ‘Rook’ is taken from a brand new, handmade, tour-only album of recent works, limited to 100 copies, which will be for sale during Thomas Meluch’s upcoming European tour (see dates below).

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The towering instrumental work ‘Rook’ permeates a vast, otherworldly realm of total transcendence, evoking the timeless sound of fellow luminaries – and Kranky labelmates – Stars of the Lid, Loscil, Grouper and Meluch’s own cherished songbook and storied career. The angelic tones and radiant pulses somehow maps all of life’s fleeting moments in one gorgeous, captivating ripple flow.

The first Benoît Pioulard European tour in three years will take in the following cities:

04 Mar: Cork, Ireland @ Triskel Arts Centre
05 Mar: Dublin, Ireland @ Bello Bar
07 Mar: Reykjavik, Iceland @ Mengi
09 Mar: Paris, France @ Supersonic
10 Mar: Ghent, Belgium @ Dauw HQ
11 Mar: Brussels, Belgium @ Huis 23
12 Mar: Girmont, France @ Une Figue dans le Poirier
14 Mar: Geneva, Switzerland @ L’Usine
15 Mar: Zurich, Switzerland @ Zukunft
16 Mar: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland @ L’Entre Deux
18 Mar: Trieste, Italy @ Tetris

 

At all shows, a brand new, handmade, tour-only album of recent works, limited to 100 copies will be available at the Merch table.

We are extremely pleased to be hosting Benoit Pioulard’s Cork concert:

 benoit_cork_a3_web

Fractured Air & Plugd Records present:

Benoît Pioulard (Kranky) + Wry Myrrh @ Gupld, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork SAT 4th March 2017

Tickets: €12.50 (excluding booking fee)

Purchase tickets HERE

https://www.facebook.com/pioulard/

https://pioulard.bandcamp.com/

 

Written by admin

February 23, 2017 at 8:18 pm

Chosen One: A Winged Victory For The Sullen

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Interview with Dustin O’ Halloran.

I mean it was important that it would be a standalone experience.”

Dustin O’ Halloran

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The highly anticipated arrival of A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s third full-length, ‘Iris’ marked the commencement of the New Year. The awe-inspiring duo of Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie and Dustin O’ Halloran have carved out some of the most vital and captivating modern-classical-infused-ambient explorations, in the shape of the band’s eponymous debut record and sophomore full-length ‘Atomos’: each record represents a beautiful time capsule, steeped in divine beauty.

On the ‘Iris’ film score, the band masterfully expand their sonic palette with use of analogue equipment. The results are nothing short of staggering as the otherworldly sound world of Mica Levi’s ‘Under The Skin’ is navigated amidst a beguiling atmosphere and forever-building wall of intense emotion. The opening ‘Prologue Iris’ is built on an achingly beautiful piano melody (similar to Wiltzie’s gorgeous ‘Salero’ debut solo score). A vast sea of symphonic sounds is combined with pulsating synthesizers on ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’. One of the album’s defining moments arrives on the scintillating ‘Gare Du Nord, Part 1’ where organic and synthetic worlds fuse together.

The recording sessions began with their long time sound collaborator Francesco Donadello in the form of some modular synth sessions in Berlin. The final sessions to what is now the score of Iris were recorded with a 40-piece string orchestra at Magyar Radio in Budapest. ‘Iris’ also features the duo’s trusted string quartet, Echo Collective.

‘Iris’ OST is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://awvfts.com/

http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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Interview with Dustin O’ Halloran.

Congratulations Dustin on the new Winged Victory record; the ‘Iris’ score is really amazing. I’d love for you to discuss the making of this record? One aspect I love is – in contrast to the previous two records – the addition of all the beautiful synthesizer elements and seamless mix of analog with the strings in these new pieces.

DO’H: That was a bit of a collaboration. When Jalil Lespert – the director – he heard ‘Atomos’ and he really thought that was the sound for his film and he wanted us to explore a more electronic side for his film. At the same time, Adam [Wiltzie] and I have been getting into working with modular synth, working with our long-time collaborator Francesco Donadello. It was something we wanted to explore as well so we ended up doing some sessions with modular synth and we liked the idea of this very organic electronic element. The thing we love with the modular synth is that you can’t ever repeat it: it’s a real instrument and there’s no settings to save so you have to capture performances. It was an element that we were just exploring but we were really pleased with how it works with our sound. And it was a nice, new element to bring in and explore.

As you mentioned those sessions with Francesco, would that have been in isolation or before you ever got to writing for the string parts and so on?

DO’H: When we started work on the film – around the time he gave us the script and he hadn’t shot anything yet – so there was a lot of time to just do some experiments. So, the first experiments happened just with modular and some of the pieces are really built from those first sessions. The film has a thriller element to it so we needed also to create tension. We were bringing in this idea of pulses and things to give us movement that would move us along but still have a tonal identity and a sound identity. So, some of the pieces were really built from those first sessions.

The beauty of ‘Iris’ – and indeed all the many scores you have created – is how it’s very much a new studio album as it is an actual score for a movie as it works so well on its own.

DO’H: Yeah, you never know what you’re going to have at the end of a commission or collaboration like this. I think we’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to start in the way we make our own records and we had a lot of time. Then we took the pieces and what we released is more our vision for a stand-alone record so we’re able to go back into the tracks and rework them a bit and make more of a studio record out of it. We were happy with what we got, I think it feels connected to our sound but it’s an evolution as well.

And as you say, the atmosphere, there’s a collection of the more electronic pieces work so powerfully, such as ‘Retour au Champs de Mars’ and ‘Gare du Nord Pt. 1’, there’s something quite breath-taking when the synths come in: there’s the space for it and you’re waiting for them to appear.

DO’H: We’re happy with how the modular and the orchestra work well together. We tended to use the modular for the lower end sounds and working with space and rhythm and then having the orchestra. It’s like light and dark is a big subject of the film; it’s a love story but there’s also a lot of deceit and treachery and so the film is always like light and dark fighting against each other in this way. The modular has this more aggressive, synthetic, cold feeling and the strings are definitely this warmer love story that ultimately both elements are in the story.

I wonder for those final sessions in Budapest – for you and Adam as the composers of the music – it must be quite something when you’re all in this room and you hear this big ensemble perform the music at the final end of it all?

DO’H: Oh yeah, I mean it’s definitely a satisfying moment when it all comes alive. I love recording with real instruments and it’s always something very important to me. I think with Winged Victory too, we’re always trying to put as much care sonically into everything that we do and record it in the best way. I’m a big fan of records that are great sounding records and those are the records that usually stay in my collection so it’s something we try to put a lot of care into.

For those final sessions, is there still room for accidents to happen or surprising things happen in the sense of the music altering in any way?

DO’H: Yeah, I mean up until the point of doing the strings everything is always flexible and changing and we’re exploring different things and obviously, we hear different things. And when you’re recording the modular stuff, it’s a lot of experimenting and sometimes you find something and you’re not even too sure how you got there. By the time we got to the strings everything had to be pretty much worked out but there’s a lot of extended techniques used in the strings – a lot of harmonics and glissando effects – that we did that were really fun to do in the studio. And to get the orchestra make a lot of noise [laughs] and do less traditional sounds and that was fun so we got to explore that a little bit in the studio and then that was the last phase before we mixed.

I was interested to read how it was edited down – well everything is edited for a final mix of the album – was it difficult to see it as both a film score as well as a studio album in the sense that you needed to remove parts to reduce it down?

DO’H: There was always like a push and pull of what we were leaving in and we were pulling back. For some of the studio record we took out some elements that we needed for the film to help push the picture a bit and then there’s other elements that we decided to bring back in that didn’t work so well with the picture. We definitely approached the record because we wanted it to work on its own. I mean it was important that it would be a standalone experience.

It’s fascinating to see how you have the three studio albums (with Winged Victory) in terms of the speed in which they’re coming out, it feels that there’s a sort of flow between you and Adam where you must always be learning from this partnership?

DO’H: Well I think we’ve been lucky to work on some really great projects and each time we’re definitely learning more about our own process. I think that maybe we’re getting better at working a little bit quicker although there’s a beauty to taking your time and that’s something we just haven’t had the luxury of for a while. So, when we start working on another record, we’re hoping that we will give ourselves a little bit of time and let things percolate, you know that’s something that’s also important to me. With these projects, you have a finite amount of time to work on it but hopefully we’ll be able to take our time again soon but it’s good to know that we can do it and we can be happy with the results.

I must congratulate you also on the amazing ‘Lion’ score and collaboration with Hauschka. It’s wonderful seeing all these musicians and composers and realizing it’s this small community that you’re all releasing amazing albums in your own right whilst collaborating so much with others too. I wonder when did you begin working on this particular project?

DO’H: Yeah, as I was finishing ‘Lion’, Adam and I were starting ‘Iris’ so it was kind of a cross-fade [laughs] But it’s been great, I feel super lucky to be working with people that I love to work with and there’s been so much care. Robert [Raths] has put a lot of love into the releases and we’re grateful to work on some good projects. I mean it’s busy times, the hard part about it is the amount of music you have to produce when there’s a lot of requests, it’s the most demanding aspect but those are good problems to have, you just have to be more diligent and have more time in the studio [laughs].

For ‘Lion’, were you and Volker in the same room together for these sessions?

DO’H: With Volker, we started in our own studios for about a month working on the film and then he came to Los Angeles to work in my studio here and we finished everything here and we worked for about another month. We didn’t have as much time and we came in after the film was already edited so we were in pretty deep pretty quickly.

The same thing happened with you and Adam in the way you spend quite a bit of time in your own respective studios?

DO’H: We try to get together as much as possible (Adam and I) because part of the Winged Victory sound is really both him and I working on stuff together, there’s just something that happens when we’re doing it together, it feels different than when we’re just sending files back and forth because I think we both let go a little bit more when we’re together and we’re able to follow instinctual things quicker and we write quicker as well so it’s always good when we get together.

A very important part of A Winged Victory is the Echo Collective string quartet. I just remember witnessing your live show – and also with Stars of The Lid – and feel the hypnotic effect of the strings, it’s something out of this world when you’re at the live show in one big space.

DO’H: I mean without us finding them, it would be so hard for us to perform live and to translate what we want. We’ve been really lucky. We went through a lot of different string players and we had a lot of bad shows and a lot of shows that didn’t really work out. We’ve been really fortunate to find a bunch of string players that have been so dedicated to helping us find what we need. Our music is very slow-moving and it takes a lot of patience and a lot of string players can look at the sheet music and be really dismissive; it’s actually much harder to get a good sound than it appears on paper. We’ve been really, really lucky, they’re great players, they’re so dedicated to us and I think a lot of other people are starting to work with them because of that dedication that they have. But we definitely couldn’t do it without them, they’re a huge part of our sound.

I loved your solo EP ‘3 Movements’ that came out towards the end of the year.

DO’H: It’s the first time I haven’t collaborated in a while. I’ve been slowly working on different pieces and I’m working on my own solo record but it’s definitely nice to finally get some solo work out [laughs].

And lastly, have there been any live shows that you’ve seen in the last few months that struck a chord with you and have been blown away by?

DO’H: There was a festival that happened in Berlin that the Michelberger Hotel put on, it was at the Funkhaus. There was a twenty-piece choir who performed with Bon Iver who did this acapella piece and it was really beautiful. It was in the old East German recording studios and I forgot how beautiful just the sound of voices is, you know I’ve been listening to so much amplified music and to hear just a choir of voices, it just gave me goosebumps, that was my last moment.

‘Iris’ OST is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://awvfts.com/

http://www.erasedtapes.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by admin

February 13, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Announcement: Benoît Pioulard (Kranky) + Wry Myrrh @ Gupld, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork SAT 4th March 2017

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We are very pleased to announce the following concert:

Fractured Air & Plugd Records present:

Benoît Pioulard (Kranky) + Wry Myrrh @ Gupld, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork SAT 4th March 2017

Tickets: €12.50 (excluding booking fee)

Purchase tickets HERE

 

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Benoît Pioulard (USA/Kranky)

Listening Matter’ is the sixth Kranky album by Thomas Meluch under his musical alias Benoît Pioulard, following the 2006 debut full-length ‘Précis’, ‘Temper’ (2008), ‘Lasted’ (2010), 2013’s ‘Hymnal’ and ‘Sonnet’ (2015). The American sound sculptor – in a similar fashion to his label-mates Loscil, Grouper and Pan American – has amassed a rich body of empowering work, seamlessly creating some of the most affecting and captivating ambient-based compositions of the past decade.

In addition to Meluch’s universally praised solo work, collaborative projects include Perils-duo with Kyle Bobby Dunn (whose debut LP was issued by Desire Path Recordings) and Orcas- alongside The Sight Below’s Rafael Anton Irisarri released on Morr Music.

The Seattle-based composer and songwriter has continually forged utterly captivating folk-infused-ambient song cycles that are rooted in the examination of the self, of questioning of the universe and reconciling the two.

Praise for ‘The Benoit Pioulard Listening Matter’:

“Utterly perfect warmhearted lo-fi pop.”

Norman Records

“8/10 — A baker’s dozen of future-past pop songs etched onto water-warped tape… Euphoric.”
PopMatters

“Imbued with a sense of how fleeting life can be… Meluch’s words are sharp as ever,
evoking worlds of meaning in quick turns of phrase.”
VICE

Benoit Pioulard ‘Layette’:

 

 

Benoit Pioulard ‘The Sun Is Going To Explode But Whatever It’s Ok’:

 

Interviews:

 

https://fracturedair.com/2016/11/01/chosen-one-benoit-pioulard-3/

 

https://thump.vice.com/en_us/article/benoit-pioulard-the-benoit-pioulard-listening-matter-interview-stream

 

https://www.facebook.com/pioulard/

https://pioulard.bandcamp.com/

 

WRY MYRRH (IRE)

WRY MYRRH is a recently formed duo comprising composer/GASH Collective organiser Ellen King [ELLLL], and composer/ Crevice member Irene Buckley, WRY MYRRH offers a sparse take on improv electronics, with sinister, brooding drone and noise inflections. As exploratory as it is unsettling, WRY MYRRH’s minimalist improv proves a wholly unique listening experience, heightened to wondrous effect when immersed in a live situation.

https://www.facebook.com/WRYMYRRH/

https://soundcloud.com/wry-myrrh

Fractured Air & Plugd Records present:

Benoît Pioulard (Kranky) + Wry Myrrh @ Gupld, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork SAT 4th March 2017

Tickets: €12.50 (excluding booking fee)

Purchase tickets HERE

 

 

Written by admin

February 7, 2017 at 4:54 pm