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Chosen One: Örvar Smárason

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A lot of it depends on letting myself get into the situation where I can let things happen on their own, if that makes any sense.”

Örvar Smárason

Words: Mark Carry Birgisdóttir Ingibjörg

Light Is Liquid’ is the gorgeous debut solo album from one of the key musical figures in Iceland’s music community over the past two decades (with his bands múm, FM Belfast among others).

The lead single ‘Photoelectric’ begins with irresistible electronic pop hooks before guest vocalist Sillus further heightens the transcendental pop dimension. “Tell me a story” are the first words uttered; Örvar Smárason’s debut solo album feels like eight scintillating folk pop songs for the modern world. The myriad of warm textures and luminous beats evokes a dichotomy of worlds wherein radiant light and shimmering darkness become effortlessly fused across the record’s sublime sonic tapestry. Later, hypnotic vocoder processing ascends onto the infectious chorus (with the gorgeous refrain of “I’m not in love”) that conjures up the timeless ambient pop creations of French duo Air in all its glory.

Tiny Moon’ serves part A’s defining moments with elements of Italo, 80’s synth pop and minimal wave to masterful effect. The luminous ballad – and duet with JFDR – seeps into your veins and very being. The meditative chorus refrain of “light is liquid/ when you are young” serves the record’s fitting prologue, in many ways,as the listener is transported to astral planes of new horizons.

The duo of ‘The Duality Paradox’ and ‘Flesh & Dreams’ offers ‘Light Is Liquid’s pulsing heart. A hypnotic vocoder line flows throughout the electronic pop flow of enchanting soundscapes; belonging to some otherworldly, mysterious android music. ‘Flesh & Dreams’ (featuring Sillus) is an utterly bewitching, precious pop gem, reminiscent of Smárason’s FM Belfast project and the leading lights of the Icelandic community as a whole. An achingly beautiful soulful dimension lies in the foundations of the synth pop lattice. Joyously uplifting.

The epic closer ‘Cthulhu Regio’ chronicles the exploration through the depths of darkness to find the eternal light of hope. The deeply affecting chorus refrain of “There will be light in the end” – which drifts majestically amidst the shimmering darkness of synthesizer oscillations and computerized vocals – enables oneself to find your way once more in this world.

‘Light Is Liquid’ is out on 18th May 2018 via Morr Music ( available to pre-order HERE).

by Birgisdóttir Ingibjörg

Interview with Örvar Smárason.


If ever a title reflects the music captured on it, it is this one; this collection of beautiful electronic pop songs feel like shimmering rays of light: an array of particles that navigate the human heart and mind. Can you please take me back to the album’s inception and indeed the writing process of these songs? I wonder did you approach this record in a new light in the sense that it was to be your debut solo record?

Örvar Smárason: The title actually came before the album, I had been walking around with it for a while. I was originally going to use it for something else, but when I started gathering my ideas for this album I instantly felt that it fitted perfectly. I wrote and produced the album in a few intense bursts I guess, but I honestly can’t even remember anymore. I was working on a  lot of different projects at the same time, so I kind of had to keep this one on the sidelines for a bit.

In terms of the album production, these eight sonic creations float magnificently into your consciousness. The songs are at once timeless and almost belong to some future world, not quite yet arrived upon. I’d love to gain an insight into your processes and methodologies as a producer (and creating these contemporary pop spheres must almost be second nature to you at this point)?

OS: Like with the múm tracks, the process here isn’t very controlled or pre-planned. A lot of it depends on letting myself get into the situation where I can let things happen on their own, if that makes any sense. And after that it’s just about putting the work in.

Can you talk me through your studio set-up and the recording sessions themselves for ‘Light Is Liquid’? You have a stellar cast of close musical collaborators from the Iceland music community. Did you envision all these musical guests and voices would make such a vital part to these sound worlds? 

OS: I was actually in the middle of changing studios while I was making this record, but that’s actually fine with me because I think I work better when my set-up isn’t too rigid or nailed down. I use a a lot of smaller electronic instruments, samplers and synths on this record, so a lot of it was made by just playing around with them. And while making the record I didn’t really think about which singers I was going to collaborate with or if I was even going to have vocals on the album at all. And outside of the vocals and drums on one of the tracks, there aren’t really any collaborations on the album. It’s pretty much only electronic stuff I programmed myself. In fact, I think I have never worked on an album with so little collaboration with other musicians.

The magical centerpiece of the record I feel arrives with the formidable duo of ‘The Duality Paradox’ and ‘Flesh & Dreams’. The warped voice captured on ‘The Duality Paradox’ emits such a soulful, heartfelt and cathartic release; almost belonging to some Utopian world. Can you recount your memories of writing this and indeed how you must see a song such as this gradually form – with each carefully sculpted layer – before your eyes?

OS: The computerized vocals on these two tracks (as well as on ‘Photoelectric’), the ones that sound like a vocoder…. weren’t really planned. To begin with I was just trying to devise a way to write vocal melodies and lyrics in my songs without having to sing them in myself. I have a very difficult relationship with my voice and I have a difficulty listening to it too much, so I was just trying to find a way so I wouldn’t have to. But when I started hearing these songs again and again with these haunting computer vocals, I knew I couldn’t ever have these songs come out without them.

The dreamy female vocals of the irresistible pop gem ‘Flesh & Dreams’ is another defining moment. For the guest vocalists, how much of the songs were known to you prior to their arrival on the album? For instance, did you find that the guests brought their own ideas and helped shape the songs or did you have a certain vision for what you wanted to create?

OS: Sillus and JFDR kind of ended up on the album by chance, which is amazing. I had already pretty much finished all the tracks before we added any vocals on them, but they just added a whole new dimension to them. And then Sóley did some of the backing vocals and it’s amazing to have someone you can trust so well for something as delicate as singing. I’m not sure I would have trusted my own voice there without her backing vocals.

Sin Fang mixed the album. Can you describe in what way did the album change as a result of this mixing stage? Also, in terms of the various takes of songs (and studio sessions in general), do you find yourself continually revisiting songs where you end up with large library of tracks and moments to choose from, so to speak? 

OS: Me and Sindri have been friends and worked together for a long time, so it makes things very effortless and easy. And he really helped me through the difficult phases like the vocals. We were working on out Team Dreams project with Sóley at pretty much the same time so there was definitely a feeling of the projects spilling a bit into each other. But in the end there is not that much similar between the two albums. And mixing the album with him was great. Sindri is very methodical and focused on details in his work and hears stuff my mind doesn’t compute. So Light is Liquid would probably just be a bag of unfinished chaos if it wasn’t for him.

The album closer is another very powerful moment of ‘Light Is Liquid’, illustrating the more ambient and textured dimensions. I’d love for you to recount your memories of writing and composing ‘Cthulhu Regio’? Please shed some light on the song-title and lyrical content of the song. As a listener, it feels that hope and survival have been arrived upon at the end of this musical journey. How do you see the album’s gripping journey resolve itself?

OS: Cthulhu Regio is a dark area on the planet Pluto in a shape that looks something like a whale. It was first identified just a few years ago and having been very much into HP Lovecraft and his mythos as a teenager, the name really spoke to me. But since then they have actually changed the name to Cthulhu Macula. The song in itself is about working your way through some dark areas, but in a detached agnostic kind of a way. If that makes any sense.  It was an accumulation of a few different things I was going through.

As a writer and poet (alongside your musical creations), is there a particular technique to your writing that you feel is almost constant (or relatively similar) across your different bodies of written work? 

OS: Maybe. I think a lot of creative ideas come when I think I am completely switched off, either when I’m out running, cooking food or half-asleep. But actually sculpting something out of these ideas requires very conscious work. That might not be a technique, but it’s a way of living.

Lastly, looking back over the cherished discography of Múm, can you share with me some of your most cherished moments or memories that you feel very strongly?

OS: A few days ago I was thinking about the very first trip we went abroad playing as múm in ’97 or ´98 and we were playing in Cambridge of all places. There were only the two of us in the band back then and we didn’t really have a clue what we were doing. And neither did the promoters of the show, because when we came to the venue we saw they had written „drum & bass” under múm on all the flyers for the concert. We spent the next half hour crossing out all the d’s and b’s and thinking we were pretty funny.

‘Light Is Liquid’ is out on 18th May 2018 via Morr Music (available to pre-order HERE).

Written by admin

May 15, 2018 at 7:01 pm

Guest Mixtape: B. Fleischmann

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B. Fleischmann, the longest-tenured solo artist on Berlin-based label Morr Music, returns with indie-spirited, electronica-enhanced moments of bliss on his new album “Stop Making Fans”: Recorded with a little help from friends including vocalist Gloria Amesbauer, Markus Schneider (guitars), and Valentin Duit (drums), it’s a two-part reflection on artistic self-reliance vs. fame-seeking conformism, another deeply personal, utterly idiosyncratic album by the Indietronic trailblazer.

The infectious single ‘Here Comes The A Train’ is the perfect opener with its dazzling beats and emotive vocal delivery. On the hypnotic chorus refrain, the Vienna-based producer laments  “a hundred times I’ve been told my rhymes are too old”; the lead single is a deeply poignant indie gem. Warm indie fuzz is wonderfully fused with indie tronic beats on ‘We’ve Heard The Talking Heads Talking’, creating an irresistible indie pop gem with swirls of psychedelia. ‘Stop Making Fans’ represents another fresh and dynamic sound world of innovative beats and intricately woven pop hooks. Lo-fi electronic pop odysseys lie at every turn: the sun drenched pop bliss of ‘There Is A Head’ (with crystalline guitar passages) and the glorious duet with Gloria Amesbauer (who guests on several tracks) on the pristine indietronic sphere ‘It’s Not Enough’. The album closer reveals perhaps the pinnacle of Fleischmann’s latest solo work as the timeless spirit of Neu! is beautifully etched across the sprawling krautrock canvas of ‘Endless Stunner’ (a fitting title indeed).


We are delighted to present to you a special guest mix compiled by B. Fleischmann, entitled ‘Glances‘:


B. Fleischmann – “Glances” (Fractured Air Guest Mix)

01  William Basinski – “Melancholia I” (Temporary Residence)
02  The Necks – “Blue Mountain” (Idealogic Organ)
03  Neu! – “Hallogallo” (Gronland Records)
04  Delia Gonzales – “Hidden Song” (DFA)
05  Free The Robots – “Wandering Gypsy” (Alpha Pup Records)
06  Schlammpeitziger – “What’s Fruit” (Pingipung)
07  Driftmachine – “Call Mr. Moriba” (Umor-Rex)
08  Kammerflimmer Kollektief – “Jinx” (Staubgold)
09  Restless Leg Syndrome – “Here For Good” (Duzz Down San)
10  Julia Holter – “Silhouette” (Domino)
11  You + Your D. Metal Friend – “Sonnier 6” (Alien Transistor)

‘Stop Making Fans’ is out now on Morr Music.

Step Right Up: Spirit Fest

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Interview with Markus Acher.

It was one of the best personal and musical experiences for me.”

—Markus Acher

Words: Mark Carry


Warm percussion and soft strum of acoustic guitar opens the irresistible torch-lit folk pop gem ‘Deja Vu’. Welcome to the bewitching world of Spirit Fest: the newly formed supergroup built around acclaimed Japanese duo, Tenniscoats, and featuring members of Notwist, Jam Money and Joasihno. The intricately woven vocals – swapped between Notwist’s Markus Acher and Tenniscoats – reels you in deep, creating a haven of celestial sounds that swirl majestically in the ether.

The pair of Acher-penned tracks ‘Rain Rain’ and ‘River River’ are sublime avant pop gems that form the vital pulse of the debut album’s opening half. A journey unfolds as the immaculate guitar tones simmer beneath Acher’s achingly beautiful lyrics. The hypnotic quality is not unlike a ripple of raindrops falling onto the surface of water: the meditative refrain of “rain on me” rises beneath the ebb and flow of Tenniscoats’ ‘River River’ invites reflection, of the deepest kind as a healing force prevails throughout this gorgeous pop lament. The sumptuous layers of blissful tones offers solace and hope.

Spirit Fest is a vital musical document from some of independent music’s most treasured artists. This divine pop odyssey represents one of their most accomplished works thus far (in terms of Tenniscoats or Notwist studio albums and the many marvelous collaborations all of these musicians have undertaken). A journey to awaken and enlighten.

‘Spirit Fest’ is out now on Morr Music.


Interview with Markus Acher.

Congratulations on the irresistible pop opus of Spirit Fest, a collection of stunningly beautiful pop songs, for the here and now. Please recount your memories of first discovering the music of Tenniscoats and what paths led to the inception of this inspired new collaboration?

Markus Acher: Thank you very much! I’m very happy you like it.

When we visited Tokyo for the first time in 2005 with Lali Puna, I was looking for independent-underground-music from japan apart from the pop- and noise-bands, I knew. A friendly lady at tower-records recommended the CD “Songs for Nao” on chapter-music, a compilation with bands mainly centered around tenniscoats and their label majikick. This CD to this day is one of my favourite albums, as it opened up a whole new world to me. The music is intimate, folky, experimental, strange and familiar at the same time, and incredibly touching… wonderful songwriting and singing.

So, from that point, I tried to find tenniscoats-CDs, where-ever I could, which is difficult in Europe. They became one of my favourite, or maybe my favourite band.
As our friends from the Tokyo-based label afterhours are friends with Saya and Ueno, I had the chance to meet them, and we also talked about a collaboration. When we had the chance to invite bands for our festival Alien Disko in Munich last December, they were the first band, I invited.

It is a joy to witness these songs unfold and the rich musical language that is shared and communicated between its members. There is certainly a fluency and clarity to these avant pop gems. Can you please take me back to the recording sessions of Spirit Fest and your impressions of these particular days, making music together? I can imagine as Alien Disko festival was happening around the same time, this energy and atmosphere channeled into the music in some way?

MA: We recorded all together in the small apartment-studio of our friend Nico. It’s only two rooms, one of them his bedroom, and a small kitchen, with a beautiful view on a playground and the river Isar. It was very narrow and intimate, but that worked very well. It was a great time, between jetlag and sleepwalking, somehow. Also, I was the only person, who knew everybody… it was a gathering of fine people, who didn’t know each other: greek ( Tad klimp), english ( Mat Fowler ), japanese ( Saya + Ueno ) and german ( Cico + me ). We played each other songs, and recorded, without much trying. Mostly everything you hear was recorded live, with some overdubs, and editing afterwards.

In terms of the songs themselves, it’s clear that different members brought songs to the table; where some recordings are tonged with the signature Tenniscoats sound whilst others are more Acher/Notwist oriented creations. I get the impression that the starting point of these songs were perhaps just rough sketches and you must have seen many of these songs undergo a blossom and transformation as the various members put their touches on the recordings? Were there many happy accidents, so to speak that happened during the recording sessions?

MA: The songs were all composed as far as chords and melodies and most of the words go. We played them to each other and everybody found their part. We added new words and parts sometimes. It was so easy, as every one of them has such a clear voice and idea. It was one of the best personal and musical experiences for me personally.

The beating heart of the album (for me) arrives with the sister songs of ‘River River’ and ‘Rain Rain’, both achingly beautiful and meditative laments from the pores of the heart. I’d love for you to discuss the construction of these songs and I wonder were these songs written around the time of the album sessions or were they in your conscience for quite some time? The heavenly harmonies and intricate layers of sonic detail beneath the poetic prose flows like a majestic river, and those clean, warm guitar tones melt into the mix.

MA: These ( and ‘to the moon’ ) were two songs, I wrote with the tenniscoats and the possible collaboration in mind. As their lyrics so beautifully take pictures from nature to tell stories, I wrote about rain and rivers. Also, these songs were composed in not so good times for me, so they are just plain sad, to be honest… that wasn’t a time to be clever…they are just what they are. But what everybody added to the songs, was incredible… and Saya added these new vocal-melodies and arrangement, which made them whole new songs.

I fondly recall the Notwist ‘On/Off’ documentary (circa the making of the classic ‘Neon Golden’ LP) and I was struck by how you were writing some of these songs while in the studio. I wonder would this be the case for many of your sonic ventures, Markus? Spontaneity must be a key factor for you (and this may serve a constant factor in Spirit Fest and your other compelling musical projects)?

MA: As far as singing goes, sometimes, the pressure of having to compose or write something very fast can have very good results, as you write more subconsciously. But actually, I’m not good in it, and try to avoid it 😉 That’s different with playing instruments. I can find parts more easily.


As you and Tenniscoats have such a wealth of music made thus far, these must also provide good reference points for you when it came to beginning Spirit Fest? I wonder what aims and concerns did you have (and conversations did you share) from the outset prior to making the album? I also get the impression that this project was always going to happen, it was just a matter of time. For instance, the art of collaboration is something integral to you and Tenniscoats (and continues to be) so it must have been such a natural and fun process to undertake Spirit Fest. Can you shed some light on the band name too, it’s a perfect title!

MA: Saya and Ueno made many wonderful collaboration-albums. Their collaborations with tape , and also the wonderful “two sunsets” with the Pastels, another favourite band. So when they suggested to make a collaboration, I couldn’t be happier. I thought, it would be important to capture the intimacy and intensity of them playing their songs, and that’s why I asked our good friend Tad klimp to record and produce it. I know, that he understands, what we do, and can capture every little detail. Mat and Cico, I asked, because they are very good friends, too, and very individual musicians, who have an experimental approach to making music, but also like songs and pop-music. In the end, that was a very good combination of people.

‘Spirit Fest’ was Saya’s english title for the song ‘Hitori Matsuri’, a song about a spirit / ghost wandering around at night. When she suggested it to be the band-name, we all liked it very much.

‘Take Me Home’ is such a gorgeous and bewitching pop lament. Again, the rich instrumentation and the vocal harmonies shared by you and Tenniscoats is one of the infinite sparks of the record. When it comes to the stages of beginning and ultimately completing a song, are there perhaps similar happenings or moments that occur during this process? For ‘Take Me Home’, how the song builds and the myriad of immaculate sounds (child-like sounds, piano notes, percussion, bass) and the celestial harmonies continually build, producing such a heartfelt and contemporary pop song. What is a perfect pop song for you (ingredients and so on)?

MA: ‘Take me home’ is an older song by the tenniscoats from their CD “We are everyone”, that I already had covered once. We thought, it could be good to play together. It’s mainly recorded, as we played it, with only a few small overdubs.

Everything is a good song, that you find yourself in and get lost…that tells a story, even when it’s an instrumental. Saya and Ueno have written so many incredible songs over the years. Even, when they are sung in Japanese, I understand them, although I don’t understand the words.

The second edition of the wonderful Alien Disko festival in Munich takes place this December. Can you discuss the lineup for this edition (such an inspired choice of incredible artists) and your vision for this special festival?

MA: The vision is to bring bands to Munich, that normally don’t come here. Many bands skip Munich on their international tours, that’s sad…although there is a really great scene of artists and bands here. We try to invite bands, that do something special, ignore genres or borders, and are somehow uncategorizable. This year, we invited the Congolese family-band Konono N.1, Shabazz Palaces, Amiina from Iceland, Colleen from France, Michaela Melian from Munich, Sam Amidon, Sauna Youth from London, MS John Soda with my brother Micha, Vanishing Twin, and many more.
Spirit Fest will also play again… a sort of release-show and return to the beginning of the record 😉

Lastly, what records do you feel were defining albums for you, Markus? In terms of pre-Notwist, growing up and the vital sounds that led you on the music path in the very beginning?

MA: Oh, there are so many actually… after many Hardcore-records, like Rites of Spring, Jerry’s Kids, Bad Brains, etc… Talk Talk “Laughing stock” was very important, This Heat, too. I took a lot of the guitar-playing from the Wipers, and Dinosaur Jr was a revelation for us, when “You’re living alover me” was released. Pitchfork, the Clean, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Yo la Tengo, Stereolab…they were and are very influential.
In recent years, I would say the Pastels, Broadcast and the tenniscoats are bands, I return to very often. Friends.


‘Spirit Fest’ is out now on Morr Music.

Written by admin

December 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E3 | March mix

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Welcome to part three of our monthly mix series. Presented in this month’s mix is the first in our new series of exclusive tracks which will be submitted by guest musicians each month. For March, we include “In the fields”, an exclusive unreleased track by independent music stalwart Benoît Pioulard (Seattle-based musician Thomas Meluch). Since the release of his debut opus “Précis” (via world-renowned Chicago-based Kranky in 2006), Meluch has amassed an incredible body of work, comprising both solo and collaborative recordings. Most recently, Meluch released the debut self-titled album under his Perils guise – Meluch’s collaboration with Canadian composer Kyle Bobby Dunn – as well as “Sonnet”, his most recent solo full-length and the solo E.P. “Noyaux”. Meluch has released music on some of independent music’s finest and most esteemed labels including: Kranky, Morr Music, Desire Path Recordings and Type.

Opening this month’s mix is the fascinating Walt Whitman-inspired collaborative E.P. “Leaves Of Grass” – thanks to Berlin-based Morr Music – where Iggy Pop reads excerpts taken from Whitman’s legendary poetry collection of the same name, while German musicians Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) together with Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram (Tarwater) provide the intriguing musical accompaniment. Elsewhere, we have selections from: Munich-based producer Skee Mask’s “Junt” E.P.; Canadian violinist and composer Sarah Neufeld’s glorious new solo album “The Ridge”; peerless U.K. producer Chris Clark; A Pleasure’s essential debut L.P. “Minor Youth” for Other People; Kevin Morby (ex bassist to Woods)’s masterful symphonic Dead Oceans full-length “Singing Saw” and Irish/U.S. super-group The Gloaming make their triumphant return with “2” (via Real World Records). Meanwhile, even Dale Cooper, resident FBI Special Agent to Twin Peaks, makes a guest cameo somewhere before the dust settles.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E3 | March mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:



01. Iggy Pop / Tarwater / Alva Noto“As Adam Early In The Morning / I Am He That Aches With Love” (Morr Music)
02. Anna Homler & Steve Moshier“Yesh’ Te” (RVNG Intl)
03. Julien Neto“Questionable Things” (excerpt) (Type)
04. Benoît Pioulard“In The Fields” (Unreleased)
05. Perils“The Unbecoming” (Desire Path Recordings)
06. The Gentleman Losers“Silver Mountain” (Büro)
07. Vashti Bunyan“Here Before” (FatCat)
08. Max Richter“Path 5” (Clark Remix) (Deutsche Grammophon)
09. Clark“Hide on the Treads 3” (The Last Panthers OST, Warp)
10. Mikael Seifu“The Protectors” (RVNG Intl)
11. A Pleasure“Arthur Russel” (Other People)
12. Skee Mask“Junt” (Ilian Tape)
13. Prins Thomas“E” (Smalltown Supersound)
14. Odd Nosdam“Sisters” (Boards of Canada Remix) (Leaving)
15. Arthur Russell“Habit Of You” (Audika, Rough Trade)
16. Woo“A Complex Art” (Drag City)
17. Kevin Morby“I Have Been to the Mountain” (Dead Oceans)
18. Bullion“Dip Your Foot” (DEEK Recordings)
19. Rayon“Il Collo e la Collana 02” (Alien Transistor)
20. Mary Lattimore“The Quiet at Night” (Ghostly International)
21. The Gloaming“Fáinleog (Wanderer)” (Real World)
22. Sarah Neufeld“Where the Light Comes In” (Paper Bag)

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


Time Has Told Me: The Clean

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Interview with David Kilgour, The Clean.

“Then there are other times people have come up to me and said “your music stopped me from killing myself”….“your music got me thru a very bad time in my life”.. I had that a few times……now that’s special, job done huh?”

—David Kilgour

Words: Mark Carry


Formed in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1978, The Clean’s unique blend of home-made garage rock, hook-laden melodies and swirling psychedelic gems has proved a trusted constant in a storied career that continues today. The Clean’s distinctive lo-fi indie-pop sound influenced an array of bands, particularly in the U.S. (Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices, Pavement, Sonic Youth to name but a few).

The Kilgour brothers of Hamish and David formed The Clean in ’78. Hamish played drums, and David played guitar. After some rotating line-ups of those early years, Robert Scott (who would later form The Bats) joined on bass. The core trio of Hamish, David and Bob all wrote songs and absorbing the music that surrounded them – Richman’s rock ‘n’ roll, punk and dreams of bigger things – the band’s debut single ‘Tally Ho!’ was released by the renowned New Zealand independent label Flying Nun in ’81 (in fact, a fan of The Clean formed the label to release their first single). Second single ‘Getting Older’ followed a short time later. During the early 80’s, the band released two EP’s and two singles. ‘Tally Ho!’, ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle’ and ‘Great Sounds’ all charted in the New Zealand top 20.

Spanning from The Clean, David Kilgour has amassed a reputable solo catalog; Robert Scott later formed The Bats (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), and Hamish Kilgour would become an enduring fixture in New York playing with assorted combos (forming The Mad Scene in the early 90’s). As part of the U.S. independent label, Merge’s 25th Anniversary, The Clean’s ‘Anthology’ (originally released in 2003) was released in splendid quadruple vinyl earlier this year.



Interview with David Kilgour, The Clean.

It’s a real honour to ask you some questions about The Clean – a band cherished by many the world over – who have released a plethora of indie pop treasures these past few decades. Firstly, please take me back to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1978 where The Clean were formed. What was the music scene like in New Zealand during this time? Leading up to the formation of The Clean, I can imagine the Kilgour brothers were always making music and swapping ideas with one another? Who came up with the name of The Clean?

David Kilgour: Hamish came up with The Clean title. Pinched it from an old surf movie (‘Free Ride’?) that has a character called Mr Clean, a shaven headed biker. Punk kind’ve “hit” here a year or two after it started really. Leading up to the formation of The Clean, the music scene was all over the place really: Disco, kind’ve post glam/70s soft rock and a touch of prog. Not a lot of independent labels. Yeh, Hamish and I started toying with the idea of music in our bedroom in the mid – late 70s.


As the trio of Hamish (drums), David (guitar) and Robert (bass), you all wrote songs so there was this creative spirit inherent in the group from the very beginning. Can you reminisce for me please when you made your first recordings for the Flying Nun label in 1981?

DK: We wanted to write our own music from the very beginning with Peter Gutteridge. As we couldn’t play anyone else’s music, it was much easier! After our experience recording  we decided to go back to self-recording (we had been recording ourselves on a Revox 2 track previous to making ‘Tally Ho!’) with the Teac and Chris Knox and Doug Hood. We realised after making ‘Tally Ho!’ that we could’ve made a better recording with our 2 track!


It’s amazing to think the band’s debut single, ‘Tally Ho!’ was recorded for a total sum of $60. Can you remember recording this song to tape? The organ and jangle-sound guitars makes such an utterly perfect pop sound. Was this song recorded in a single take?

DK: I think it was one take, with a vocal overdub and a keyboard overdub recorded in a studio which was a heavy metallers living room! Really disappointed with the pressing when it came out, not realising it was probably the recording! I think the studio had an 8 track tape machine. I rang the guy who recorded it a few years ago to see if he still had the master to ‘Tally Ho!’ (yeh it was a longshot) and he said “oh no, we would’ve wiped over that the next week we were so poor and needed tape!”. I didn’t bother pointing out to him that we owned the master!


The early EP’s ‘Boodle Boodle Boodle’ and ‘Great Sounds’ have undoubtedly stood the test of time. Can you please discuss the writing and recording process for these songs? I imagine were the songs recorded onto a 4-track? There is such a special, raw and dynamic sound captured on these recordings.

DK: Both EPs were recorded on a Teac 4 track. Usually straight to tape without too much EQing etc. ‘Point That Thing’ dated back to ‘78, as did ‘Anything Could Happen’. We jammed and wrote together but we also brought in songs and ideas. In the early 80’s we would try and get together 3 times a week to play and write.



During this time, the band’s singles charted in the New Zealand top 20 charts. Did you tour extensively circa the early 80’s?

DK: Yes we toured NZ a lot in this period but no overseas tours.


I wonder did you play outside of New Zealand at all during those early years? What other bands were you impressed by during those early days?

DK: Punk, post punk, and the history of music in general. Hamish and I had a big hunger for checking it ALL out. We were vinyl junkies before we picked up instruments. All the obvious likes at the time: Ramones, Pistols, Buzzcocks, Wire, New York Dolls, Richman, etc etc


One of my all-time favourite Clean songs is ‘Slug Song’ with its dreamy feel and deeply affecting chorus refrain of “Don’t ever change your mind”. Who is responsible for writing this gem?

DK: Bob came up with the music/organ riffs I filled in with lyrics and melody. It’s a song directed to the love of my life, Genevieve.


Can you reminisce for me please recording this particular song and the space and time in which the song was given its wings?

DK: Jammed on the riff in our practice space in Christchurch, where we lived for a while. It all came together straight away from what I can remember. We didn’t bring the keyboards into the line-up (apart from the ‘Tally Ho!’ recording) till just after Boodle I think….the keyboards certainly helped paved our way and inspired a lot of writing.


One of the greatest possible compliments (and a fitting testament to the legacy of The Clean) must be just how hugely influential the band’s unique indie pop sound have been on a seamless array of bands in later decades. For example, I recall first coming across The Clean in the early 00’s in the form of a Rough Trade compilation in which The Hidden Cameras covered one of your songs. Looking over the band’s career, what were your most cherished memories? It must be a nice feeling to know many bands out there have drawn so much inspiration from your work?

DK: It continues to blow my mind that the interest is still there around the world albeit in that underground way. Cherished memories?….mmmmm, that’s a hard one, there were some magical moments recording, like wow we are quite good and we have caught something magic e.g. ‘Point That Thing’, ‘Getting Older’ etc. Someone asked my partner Genivieve about how great it must’ve been during those early 80s and she kind’ve nailed it by saying the really magic years was when it was all coming together, late 70’s period when we were all trying to get it together and seeing the “scene” grow outta that. Yeh it was a special time.

Then there are other times people have come up to me and said “your music stopped me from killing myself”….“your music got me thru a very bad time in my life”.. I had that a few times……now that’s special, job done huh? The music has given me a life outside of the norm, thank goodness, I’ve also made so many good friends all over the world really thanks to the music. The travel has been fantastic too though most of it has been in the USA, I know the USA pretty well! To write some music 30 years that still seems to resonate round the globe is also mind-blowing for the country kid from the bottom of the world!


After a brief hiatus, you recorded ‘Vehicle’, the band’s debut album in 1989. A collection of psych pop odysseys and enlightening garage rock gems are dotted all over this special debut record. How was the album received back in New Zealand when ‘Vehicle’ was released originally? The album was amazingly made in three days. What are your memories of these three days? I wonder did you all have the songs fleshed out before arriving to the studio?

DK: The LP was well received here, there was some scepticism about us reforming and recording but the tour we did to promote was really successful and people dug the LP.

I remember running between control room and studio…there’s a good explanation of the recording in the liner notes! I recently discovered it was actually four days recorded and mixed. Geoff and Alan later remixed 2 tracks. Yeh we wrote all the songs before we toured, we realised straight away that we could only reform if we had new material to play. We wrote most of the LP in Dunedin over a week or two.


In 2009, The Clean’s immaculate pop record, ‘Mister Pop’ was released on Morr Music. Two years previously, your toured New Zealand and celebrating a 50th birthday while playing a show in Auckland. It must have been a very special feeling to come back and make new music together again? Did the creative process change or alter in any way for the making of ‘Mister Pop’ in comparison to the previous LP’s? I love the tight sound that the band has on ‘Mister Pop’ and also the glorious production.

DK: Well we have been regularly getting together to tour over the years and making LPs so it wasn’t super new. But yeh it’s always refreshing to have breaks. We mainly jammed the songs up. Bob and I brought one or two songs in. No big change in the process.


One of the great hallmarks of The Clean is the wide range of sounds you effortlessly unleashed, lovingly reflected on The Clean’s ‘Anthology’ collection. The piano ballad ‘Franz Kafka At The Zoo’ is incredible. ‘Linger Longer’ is a classic. There are so many new discoveries and rarities present on this career-spanning collection. You must have enjoyed compiling these songs together? I must ask too who is responsible for the band’s beautiful artwork? If you had to pick (just!) one, what song are you most proud of writing? What’s next for The Clean?

DK: The art work on Anthology is Hamsih’s. I think ‘Getting Older’ is one fave. Also ‘Point That Thing’. We actually put the track listing together when making the CD many years ago. I think we sat in Flying Nun’s office and made it up in about 30 minutes!



Written by markcarry

November 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Chosen One: Orcas

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Interview with Orcas.

“I usually boil it down by saying, “I write the words and the beginnings of chord structures, and Rafael makes the rest what it is.” He has such a great intuition and is a very good director when I’ve got something in mind; he knows very well how to make a given vocal line or guitar line or piano sketch fit into whatever we’re working on.”

—Thomas Meluch

Words: Mark Carry, Design: Craig Carry


Orcas is the collaborative project of Thomas Meluch (Benoît Pioulard) and Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) whose latest full-length release, entitled ‘Yearling’ — the follow-up to their sublime self-titled debut — recently saw the light of day by German independent label, Morr Music. Both artists — Benoît Pioulard’s shape-shifting hazy ambient explorations, and The Sight Below’s similarly mesmerising drone-infused electronic explorations — have been a cornerstone to all trusted independent music collections this past decade, and Orcas offers new, illuminating pathways for the pair to venture down (and audiences to gladly immerse themselves in).

On ‘Yearling’, the core duo of Meluch and Irisarri are joined by Martyn Heyne (Efterklang) on guitar and piano, and Michael Lerner (Telekinesis) on drums to build upon the shimmering ambient soundscapes of their self-titled debut, adding new layers of analog warmth to the band’s unique blend of ethereal pop creations. In contrast to the guitar improvisations and impromptu vocal sessions of the debut record, most of ‘Yearling’ was constructed from short pieces Pioulard wrote and developed while staying in Germany during the summer of 2012. Furthermore, the nuances and hidden details of Benoît Pioulard’s utterly beguiling songbook can be found interwoven in the rich tapestry of Orcas’s sonic trajectory. The album’s recording sessions took place in Heyne’s Lichte Studio in Berlin, and Irisarri’s own Black Knoll Studio back in Seattle.

Album opener ‘Petrichor’ begins with building synth passages blended with gorgeous analogue warmth, forming a beautiful ambient canvas of sound that gradually finds its way into the endearing pop gem of ‘Infinite Stillness’ (if ever a song-title embodies the music of its creator, it is this). A deeply affecting hazy pop gem radiates from the analogue foundations, as rays of light are emitted into the surrounding vast skies ahead. The pristine production and intricate arrangements of Lerner’s drums, the infectious guitar lines and Meluch’s distinctive voice forms an organic, cohesive whole of stunning beauty. Vocal duties are crossed over on ‘Half Light’, another heartfelt pop gem, packed with a seamless array of lush sonic wizardry. ‘Selah’ is a towering ambient pop instrumental cut which develops over beautifully restrained, clean guitar tones, recalling the crystalline electronic output of City Centre Offices, Morr Music and beyond.

The second half of ‘Yearling’ contain more majestic master-works, not least the hazy torch-lit ballad ‘Capillaries’ with drifting piano notes, warm guitar tones mixed with Meluch’s heartfelt lyrics, drenched in reverb and analog loveliness. An immediacy prevails on the following track, ‘An Absolute’, where glistening electric guitar passages and brooding harmonies are placed in the forefront of the mix. The album’s penultimate track, the meditative ‘Filament’ fades in slowly, constructed from an ethereal harmony sung by Meluch (reminiscent of Benoît Pioulard and indeed Kranky label-mate, Grouper). Album closer ‘Tell’ completes ‘Yearling’s illuminating journey of sublime ambient soundscapes, which effortlessly breathes vital life and meaning into the hearts of each and every fortunate recipient. The essence of Orcas is indeed, infinite stillness, sculpted by the gifted minds of its ever-evolving members.


‘Yearling’ by Orcas is available now on Morr Music.


Interview with Rafael Anton Irisarri (Orcas/The Sight Below) and Thomas Meluch (Orcas/Benoît Pioulard).

Congratulations on the latest Orcas album ‘Yearling’, a gorgeous and beguiling collection of dream-pop creations. Please take me back to the summer of 2012, during your stay in Germany where the seeds of the new record were sewn. I was very interested to read much of the album was constructed from short pieces Thomas Meluch had written. I would love to gain an insight into the collaborative process that developed those pieces into the fully formed hazy pop gems that comprises ‘Yearling’?

Rafael Anton Irisarri: Yep, that’s correct lots of it was written while staying in Berlin. Tom (Benoît Pioulard) moved away to England in December 2011, where he stayed for a year with his wife; while geographically separated we exchanged files and sketches throughout 2012. During summer 2012, we rented out a flat in Prenzlauer Berg, quite close to the Morr Music office actually. We toured for a bit around Europe that summer, and during the downtime, we’d always come back to Berlin. It was sort of our homebase. While in Germany, we started to work with Martyn Heyne (live member of Efterklang). He joined ORCAS playing piano and guitar live, and rehearsed with him at his Lichte Studio in Neuköln quite frequently. We clicked almost instantly, he is such an amazing person and talented musician, so as we wrapped up the touring, we stayed in touch and kept working together. Martyn recorded all his parts at his studio and would send me his files online, then I would add to the mix, send back, and so on. Over the course of the year we built on and revised those tracks into what you hear on the final record.

Thomas Meluch: Berlin was our home base, so to speak, through a period of five weeks during which we had only 7 or 8 shows booked in various cities… So there was a lot of downtime and I found myself returning to some lyric ideas and messing around on the guitar when I would have otherwise been idle or passively watching football championships. “An Absolute” appeared in a completely different version on a limited lathe-cut thing I made in 2010 or 2011, and I’d always liked the melody of that one, so I added a couple of verses and let it sit for a while. Most of the others were little kernels of ideas that didn’t really have lives at all until I returned to the states in early 2013 after spending the previous year in the UK – but having moved back to Seattle rather than Portland I’m now about a 30 minute walk from Rafael’s place and it’s much easier to work together on short notice when we both have time and energy for Orcas stuff. Once we really began the recording process in earnest, there was a good balance of pre-existing ideas and some amount of improvisation; for example “Selah” (which, I admit, is my favourite song on the album) was 90% finished after one day of work… Rafael had been experimenting with a new analog synth patch while I was on the other side of the room with a guitar, and it all fell together quite naturally by my recollection.


The duo of yourself and Tom emits such a captivating sound, embedded in analog warmth and ethereal ambient pop soundscapes. As a listener, you really feel the aspects of each of your highly accomplished projects — Benoît Pioulard and The Sight Below — effortlessly flow into Orcas’ interwoven tapestry, but something entirely new and unknown is equally formed. Please discuss the creative process between you and Tom? I would love to learn how you first crossed paths with one another.

RAI: Back in 2009, I was co-curating a music festival here in Seattle. I invited Tom to play as Benoît Pioulard and shortly after we became friends. Tom started to come up to Seattle (he used to live in Portland) quite regularly and stayed in my house, where we would just improvise in my studio and play with different instruments and sounds. This is how the first ORCAS album came about, out of studio improvisation. As we developed our sound further, meaning by this, we originally had no concrete plans (it was more like two kindred spirits making some drone music), we started to incorporate more pop elements and shape those improvisations into songs. After working together for some time, we now know each others’ virtues and limitations, so we tend to be more focused and work more effectively. On this new album we explored some textural and drone elements – I think those are always going to be part of our sound, but at the same time, we played around and made pop music, albeit quirky pop – unconventional songs structures, disparate elements and sounds converging.

TM: I usually boil it down by saying, “I write the words and the beginnings of chord structures, and Rafael makes the rest what it is.” He has such a great intuition and is a very good director when I’ve got something in mind; he knows very well how to make a given vocal line or guitar line or piano sketch fit into whatever we’re working on, and we both respect each other so I don’t get offended when he tells me I’m fucking up or that something just isn’t going to work. There were also five or six versions of certain songs on the album – for example, “Half Light” was originally a borderline dance-pop song – so each piece is a sort of journey without an endpoint, until one appears to us.


This time around, you are joined by Martyn Heyne (of Efterklang) on guitar and piano, and Michael Lerner (Telekinesis) on drums further heightening to the expansive and sprawling sound. I would love to gain an insight into working as a quartet this time around, was it a case of all four members being present for the duration of the recording sessions? I can imagine Martyn’s Lichte Studio must have been a wonderful place to capture the spark of these special songs? How long did the recording sessions take?

RAI: No, unfortunately we were never on the same room at the same time. In fact, it’s quite amazing Michael and Martyn have never met. Somehow, through music, they got to “know” each other and communicate in a way that feels as if they’ve been friends forever. I find this quite beautiful – music truly transcends time and place. We did things quite backwards out of necessity – we tracked Michael’s drums on top of Martyn’s parts, as opposed to the traditional way of laying down drum tracks first and then everyone play on top.
That said, both of their studios (Martyn’s & Michael’s) are absolutely amazing, awe-inspiring places. Overall I had a great time making this record and working with both. I can only hope we get to play these songs live as a quartet, as I love those guys and will be so lovely to spend some time traveling with them.

TM: Michael and Martyn are both totally humbling in their level of skill – they’re technically trained (which I’m not) but also incredibly intuitive players… Rafael likes to joke about the fact that we sometimes make Martyn play a 3- or 4-note piano part when we know he could rattle off some Bach or Beethoven flawlessly off the top of his head. Neither of them worked with us in the studio, but Raf did go out to West Seattle to record drums in Michael’s home studio, in-person. Martyn’s parts were recorded remotely in Berlin and shuttled around on Dropbox, as you do these days.


‘An Absolute’ is my current favourite. I love how Tom’s alluring voice breathes such emotion into the song’s trajectory. The layers of piano, guitar and drums blend together so effortlessly that forms the perfect backdrop to such a beautiful lament. Can you talk me through the construction of this song please?

RAI: Thank you. I like this one very much too. This song was one Tom wrote back in Berlin. When he returned to Seattle, I did the initial arrangement in my studio and demo it. I sent the demo to Martyn and he learned the acoustic guitar parts, plus added piano to it. The most amazing part for me is the vocals – the one you hear is the original takes from the demo. I thought it was a great take, so I never re-tracked it. Same with the bass parts – Tom actually tracked that at like 8 am in the morning in my studio, almost half-awake. The “morricone” guitar riff is my favorite element. I recorded Tom playing it on my precious Guild Starfire III — it’s got a huge bigsby vibrato tailpiece. As he was playing it, I kept pressing it at certain parts, thus making the arrangement extra spaghetti-westernish. There’s also a hidden layer of guitar I played thru my tape echo – a melodic Telecaster line that only comes up on certain parts – you can hear me hitting the space echo hard though. The “organ” I constructed in Max For Live from a micro-cassette sample Tom brought in. I used those “chord hit” of 80’s Mexican soap-operas as an inspiration for it, and built a very tense layer. Afterwards, we’ve affectionately refer to this instrument as “mexican soap.” I always come up with very silly names for all my patches and instruments – it’s easier to remember for me.

TM: Like I said before, I wrote a 90-second version of that song with acoustic guitar and voice a few years ago, and felt a different version would be something to pursue for this project… In beginning the second version I slowed the tempo, switched from strumming to fingerpicking and added a few more lines to the vocal part. After that, Raf and I sketched it out, recorded the basic elements and Martyn filled in all the gaps – it was one of the easier songs on the album, in terms of arrangement and execution, though I know Raf agonized over the mix for months, as he’s prone to doing.


Were there certain avenues you all wanted to explore on ‘Yearling’ from the outset, Rafael? It’s a lovely progression on from the equally majestic self-titled debut full-length as you continue to explore new sonic terrain.

RAI: Yeah, I’m a sucker for great pop music (Talk Talk, Kate Bush, Tears For Fears), and this album became my creative outlet for those sensibilities to come out. Having access to Tom’s unique voice is a blessing. I can’t sing to save my own life, so it’s nice to work with someone who can and also is such an amazing songwriter when it comes to lyrics. Working with people like Martyn & Michael really inspired me a lot too. It really challenged me to be a better producer and be at their musical level. I finally got to use every piece of equipment in my studio, something I haven’t really done on my own solo releases, as the production tends to very focused on one particular sound. If anything, I learned a lot making this record, something in the end I appreciate the most: learning and growing.

TM: Not really; one of the loveliest things about this project for me is that I never know what to expect, and as I mentioned we have a good amount of mutual respect that makes working together pretty harmonious most of the time. Some days we’ll go into the studio with a defined idea of what needs to be done, and others will find us improvising around the littlest ghost of inspiration. “Tell”, for example, is an extensively manipulated tape recording of a guitar loop piece I made in June or July of last year, which Raf turned into something much greater than I could have done on my own.


Will there be a European tour for Orcas planned for 2014?

TM: We’re not sure yet; we’ve talked about it but can’t say with any certainty… I’d definitely love to make it happen but Raf is much more perfectionistic about live stuff than I am and a lot of details would have to be set in order for it to happen, not to mention the logistics of rehearsal with a third member who’s halfway around the world.


Since the last time we spoke, your incredible (and latest Benoît Pioulard full-length) ‘Hymnal’ album was released in a special new edition with many fascinating remixes of the original songs. Can you talk me through those remixes please and what it must feel to listen to other people’s interpretations of your own songs? It must have been a special project to be part of, particularly when new perspectives are given to your artistic works. 

TM: That was totally the idea of my friend and colleague Ryan at Lost Tribe Sound… He’s been wanting to work together for a long while and when he conceived of the remix album idea it was pretty perfect timing, and as well he knows a lot of musicians that I admire and was able to curry enough favour with them to make it happen. The Remote Viewer, for example, has been one of my favorite groups for 10 or so years, so getting a remix from them was truly a thrill… As for the rest, I am totally amazed at the directions that people took with the source material, and as someone who’s never been a huge fan of remix albums, I’m surprised and pleased at how well this one hangs together.


Any current reading/listening/film recommendations, Tom? 

TM: My favourite film of last year was the documentary “Leviathan”, which I’ve now watched at least three times. So beautiful and so profoundly simple. Music-wise, I remain totally obsessed with my friend Kyle Bobby Dunn, whose new triple LP is his best yet – and I feel that’s saying something. I am happy to say that he & I also just finished an album together after 18 months of file exchanges; I can’t say much more than that about it at the moment, though.


‘Yearling’ by Orcas is available now on Morr Music.


Written by admin

July 1, 2014 at 10:47 am