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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