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Chosen One: Echo Collective

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Interview with Neil Leiter (Echo Collective co-founder).

I love playing this music and feeling my heart slow down in the pulseless moments, and then the opposite, getting carried away by the wall of sound and transported to the next realm.”

Neil Leiter

Words: Mark Carry

Photograph: Jesse Overman

official echo photo

Echo Collective is a collective of classically trained and professionally active musicians based in Brussels Belgium. Past and ongoing collaborations include A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Stars of the Lid, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Laniakea, Adam Wiltzie, Dustin O’Halloran, and Christina Vantzou.

The live experience is one of those rare occurrences where a multitude of emotions can engulf your every thought, like a whirlpool of forgotten dreams that suddenly resurface to the pools of your mind. Of course, an experience such as this is impossible to quantify but the feelings and profound impact caused by these sonic transmissions is absolute and true.

When I think of some of these live experiences, the Echo Collective string quartet lies at the heart of several otherworldly live shows: Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson; A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s ‘Atomos’ tour (several years later) and Stars Of The Lid’s 2016 European tour. Undoubtedly, the gifted quartet have developed a common musical language with these awe-inspiring modern composers and the wall of intense sound unleashed by these live strings – blended with electronics, drone noise, ripples of piano notes or otherwise – navigates the depths of the human heart and (unknowingly) transported to another realm.

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. In a similar way to André de Ridder’s exceptional Stargaze modern classical ensemble – their reinvention of Boards Of Canada’s ‘HI Scores’ EP or the divine ‘Deerhoof Chamber Variations’ record are just two examples – Echo Collective are continually searching to redefine the boundaries of music (and in turn, these boundaries become beautifully blurred).

www.echocollective.be

https://www.facebook.com/collectiveecho/?ref=bookmarks

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. For details of the first edition of the BRDCST Festival and Echo Collective’s show (as a double-bill with Germany’s Hauschka), please visit HERE.

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Echo Collective performing with A Winged Victory For The Sullen at the BBC Proms, 5 Aug 2015, Royal Albert Hall, London.

 

Interview with Neil Leiter (Echo Collective co-founder).

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about your awe-inspiring musical project of Echo Collective. Firstly, can you please take me back to the founding of Echo Collective and the particular space and time in which this collective began on their music path? I’d love to gain an insight into your musical background and classical training. Also, please introduce to me the current personnel who comprise of Echo Collective.

Neil Leiter: First Mark, thank you for your interest in Echo Collective. It is a true honour to be part of your inspiring blog.

Echo Collective began five years ago. I was introduced to Adam Wiltzie by a childhood friend Caroline Shaw. She plays violin as part of ACME in New York and is a fantastic and renowned composer. As part of ACME, she had played with Adam as part of A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Stars of the Lid. Adam was looking for European based musicians to play with, and she put us in touch. I will be forever grateful for that introduction.

Margaret Hermant and I put a team together to collaborate with AWVFTS and Echo Collective grew out of that initial relationship. All of our musicians come from a classical background. For example I studied viola performance at Indiana University Bloomington, and had been an active professional in Brussels for ten years before Echo. Margaret our violinist and harpist, studied in Brussels and has also been an active professional for many years before Echo. The list goes on, but the background is the same. Classically trained musicians, searching to redefine the boundaries of music and what it means to be a classical musician.

Echo was and still is primarily a collaborative group. Though we have started to branch into our own projects, our roots remain collaborating with modern composers on their new projects, recordings, and tours. Though we tour mostly as a string group, normally between three and five musicians, our team in residence at the AB in Brussels this year, is seven strong: Margaret on violin and harp, myself on viola, Harm Garreyn on cello, Gary De Cart on piano, Hélène Elst on bassoon/contrabassoon,Yan Lecollaire on clarinet/bass clarinet/baritone sax, and Antoine Dandoy on orchestral percussion. The upcoming albums that we plan to release also are in this formation.

You have formed an integral part with many of the finest modern composers of today, including Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Christina Vantzou and more. Please discuss how the process of collaboration has developed between Echo Collective and these array of composers? It is clear that there is a dedication, trust and openness between you and these collaborating musicians. Each of these projects must take you on some deeply rewarding and fulfilling experiences. How have you developed as a string quartet in light of these wonderful projects and collaborations?

NL: You are completely right that collaborating with the aforementioned composers is deeply rewarding and fulfilling. Part of what makes it so special is that there is a real dialogue between us and the composers. Because we come from such different backgrounds, part of working with each of them is developing our own common language for musical communication. And as we develop this language together, there is a deep bond that develops. All of these people are like family now.  I think that these strong relationships come from learning how to communicate in our own special way, in an individualised way. In a way that only relates to their music.

I know that these composers appreciate that dedication. And all the people that take part in Echo have that innate ability to live the music live. In fact my wife jokes that I am probably the biggest Winged Victory fan. And I might be, I listen to their music and the music of all these amazing people all the time. And I truly do love it. All the people of Echo do. And that love is felt by our collaborators and hopefully the audience.

It is hard to say how we have developed over these years. I think that probably, we are faster in understanding what the composers want. Often times anticipating ideas before they are brought up. After playing so many concerts together, mostly it just takes a few words or a certain look between us to know where we are going and how we are going to get there.

The live experience of playing cities around the world with these incredible artists must be another truly inspiring avenue and path to be on. I was fortunate to witness Echo Collective onstage with Stars of the Lid last year and Jóhann Jóhannsson a few years previously. Can you shed some light on the preparation and rehearsals that are involved with these tours? I wonder what particular stage in the live context would be your favourite? The energy and depths of emotion that fill the atmosphere during these shows of yours create such a deeply profound impact on the listener. Can you somehow reflect on the live performance of music and the effect of strings (and the live string quartet) has on the live setting?

NL: For me personally, music is at its best live. I think that is where the greatest range of emotion is communicated by the performer and felt by the audience. And this is where the live strings really add the most. Because we are naturally acoustic, we can give the soft moments the transparency of un-amplified sound. And because we are amplified, as the music reaches those mind bending peaks in volume, we can help give it that extra oomph. In those forte moments, often times I feel that even in three we sound like one hundred.

We have worked over the years with Tom Lezaire (our long time sound engineer with AWVFTS and SOTL) as well as other sound engineers to keep the natural sound of the string instruments.  Even in the loud moments, the audience should feel the direction of the sound from the strings, the bow moving across the strings, the hiss of the contact point. Though the audience only sees the musicians on stage, the relationship that we have with Tom and the other sound engineers is imperative to a strong live performance.

As we play these great compositions, we try to feel the emotion that we want to convey. As a result, if we are doing our job correctly, the depth of emotion that we feel, should be the feeling that the audience gets swept away by. I love playing this music and feeling my heart slow down in the pulseless moments, and then the opposite, getting carried away by the wall of sound and transported to the next realm. That is by far my favorite part of the live context, being transported by the music.

As Margaret always says, and she is so right, having a stable team that is able to communicate and feel in these common ways is essential to being swept away and sharing that feeling with the audience. It is not by accident that we convey these feelings, it comes from years of playing together.

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Echo Collective plays ‘Amnesiac’ is an ongoing residency at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, which culminates in April 7ths Brdcst Festival performance. Firstly, please discuss your reasons for choosing Radiohead’s Amnesiac album and indeed your love and fascination with this band? This of course was a special time, when ‘Kid A’ and ‘Amnesiac’ were unleashed into the world at the turn of the millennium. What are your memories of first hearing ‘Amnesiac’ and the impressions it left on you?

NL: This might surprise you, but I had never listened to the Amnesiac album before Kurt from the AB proposed it as the focal point of our residency. I grew up singularly focused to a fault on classical music. In fact it is a kind of running inside joke how little popular culture I actually have.  That being said, other members of Echo are huge Radiohead fans.

Kurt Overbergh, the artistic director of the AB in Brussels, initially proposed a choice between Kid A and Amnesiac as the focal point of our residency. At that point, I asked for a week, and immersed myself in these great records. We decided to work on Amnesiac because it is more complex, more built on layers, in my opinion more based of classical construction and colours, and in many ways more of a challenge.

The live recordings of ‘Amnesiac’ from AB Brussels, are quite extraordinary and the intricate arrangements are a joy to savour. Can you talk me through the process of notating, arranging and fleshing out these songs, so to speak? What I love is how you add many colours, textures and new perspectives to the sound world of ‘Amnesiac’. What have been the most challenging aspects of this project?

NL: Gary, our pianist, and I have been working this year to arrange these songs. Of course the process involves notating all the parts from the original songs (Gary is a real pro at this) and then imagining how to apply it to our ensemble. In a lot of ways, reworking the songs without voice has been freeing. Where a traditional rock song has to leave lots of room for the vocal line, we have allowed the secondary lines to be more equal with the vocal melody. This results in more interaction between the lines, and as a result hopefully lots of colours and variation in sound and form.

The hardest part has been finding our voice within, while still remaining ‘true’ to the original.  We want the audience to feel like they are meeting an old friend for the first time. To feel comfort in hearing a song that they love, but to be challenged to listen and interact with it like it is the first time. That is a real fine line to balance.

After our initial arrangements, all the fleshing out and balancing happens collectively in rehearsal.  We try things, see if they work, play a concert, reimagine, and repeat. We are constantly searching to take the sound to the limit, to appropriate each line as our own. In this way, the pieces are not just interpretations but reinventions. Our residency at the AB has really allowed us the time to work through all these processes, and to assimilate the music for ourselves. It has been a fantastic opportunity that we are very thankful for, and I think that we are finding that illusive balance.

The opening ‘Pyramid Song’ is magnificently re-arranged. The woodwind instrumentation replaces Thom Yorke’s voice but retains that sombre, brooding, dense feeling and atmosphere. Can you talk me through the instrumental make-up of ‘Pyramid Song’ and what new layers were composed for some of these parts?

NL: Like almost all of the songs, there is very little composition added to these amazing pieces, the lines from the original are kept, but readapted in our colours and techniques. In Pyramid Song the intro and outro are wind like color effects that we added to help set the mood. We achieved this through extended techniques in the strings and winds. And the baritone sax replaces Thom Yorke’s voice, later doubled by the contrabassoon. We chose those instruments to try and capture the amazing timbre he is able to achieve. It was one of the first arrangements we did, and still one of our favorites.

‘Hunting Bears/Like Spinning Plates’ epitomises the dynamic range of your ‘Amnesiac’ performances and just how aesthetically rich these compositions are. One of the defining moments arrives with the gradual awakening of ‘Like Spinning Plates’, coming after the sparse ‘Hunting Bears’. So much colour is added to the latter, it’s a piece I’m sure you particularly enjoyed arranging and performing? The strings on top of the piano and percussion – arriving on the rise of the song – is one of the defining moments of this live set.

NL: Hunting Bears is originally a big guitar solo, but for us was very reminiscent of a recitative from opera. Very free and in a way spoken. Margaret plays both the harp part and then the violin part which replace the guitar, and we follow her seemingly free form improvisation like an orchestra would accompany a singer in a recitative. We chose to use it more as an introduction to Spinning Plates than as a standalone piece.

And our version of Spinning Plates is based on Radiohead’s live version of this song. Their live version spoke to us directly, almost like something that we would have composed ourselves. It is probably my favorite, and also the most classical of all the songs. Like in many of the arrangements the vibraphone and glockenspiel are integral in creating the resonate atmosphere.  Everything just fits together like a clock. The contrabassoon line, which is not really the melody in the original, is a great solo line in our version. Put all together it gives the sensation of flying.

‘I Might Be Wrong’ and ‘You and Who’s Army’ remain as vital and affecting on these live recordings. I feel listening to these arrangements of yours, it not only reminds us how incredible Radiohead’s works are but how you are able to channel new energy and perspectives into these songs. ‘You And Who’s Army’ was always one of my favourite songs from the original and to see how this instrumental version slowly bloom and continually build is certainly the record’s crescendo.

NL: Part of the work that went into these arrangements was imagining the dynamics in a classical way.  That means creating long crescendos, or dynamic contrasts that might not be evident in the original.  ‘You and Who’s Army‘ was in fact reimagined as one long crescendo. The soft color of the bassoon solo accompanied by harp and soft viola and cello, that transitions into a raucous jazz inspired baritone sax and violin solo. This version really shows our full dynamic range both in terms of volume and color. As the layers pile up, so does the emotion. This is an extremely classical construction, and is part of what helps us reclaim the song as our own.

What are the kinds of conversations you’ll be discussing about honing in on your sound as you’re working together for the next number of weeks before the Brdcst festival? It must also be quite liberating to be undergoing a project such as this where there is vast possibilities as to how to bring ‘Amnesiac’ to life with your artistic vision?

NL: At this point we are fine tuning. Everything is basically set, and we are working towards esoteric things like flow, how to connect the pieces, in which order, communication, balance etc.  This is the part of the work where it really becomes chamber music.

How ‘Dollars and Cents’ is transformed into a sweeping orchestral jazz work out is another important part of Echo Collective’s ‘Amnesiac’ and how it serves a wonderful prelude to ‘Knives Out’. What have you learned about this body of work by Radiohead and what new insights and feelings/impressions you may have now after being immersed deeply in this project for the past few months?

NL: As we have worked through this large undertaking, we have been confronted with many things that we are not often confronted with as classical musicians. For example, non-classical musicians often talk about the groove, whereas classical musicians talk about pulse. This immersive process has really helped us to find that alternative perspective and abandon many of our preprogrammed classical clichés. By working through these arrangements we have in many ways transformed into a band. And that is exciting. But I am continuously struck by how classical and jazz oriented Radiohead is. It is ironic, but as we move away from what we know best, we continuously come full circle and are confronted with our origins. I feel that these songs are as much classical as they are not. And that paradox also gives the energy to reimagine what is already a great piece of art.

What other plans for Echo Collective lie on the horizon? I hope there will be (physical) releases made available in the near future.

NL: Thankfully there are many things on the horizon for Echo Collective.

We plan on releasing three albums in the near future, though where is still a great mystery. Of course we want to release the Amnesiac rework which we will record in August. We also want to release a reworking of Burzum’s ‘Daodi Baldrs‘ that was commissioned by the AB two years ago, which is already recorded, and we continue to play live. And we would like to release an album of our own original material that we have been working on in parallel to the Radiohead as part of our residency.

And then of course we will continue to work with AWVFTS as well as other artists in collaboration.  For example, we are in the beginning of collaboration with Daniel O’Sullivan. And of course we are always looking for new collaborations with artists.

We are doing more and more film work these days. As well as teaching graphic scores in collaboration with Christina Vantzou. All in all we are very excited as our activities continue to diversify.

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www.echocollective.be

https://www.facebook.com/collectiveecho/?ref=bookmarks

As part of the Echo Collective’s concert residency at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels during the 2016-2017 season, the Echo Collective will re-adapt and reinterpret Radiohead’s Amnesiac album. For details of the first edition of the BRDCST Festival and Echo Collective’s show (as a double-bill with Germany’s Hauschka), please visit HERE.

 

Guest Mixtape: Oliver Coates

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Several ground-breaking records from 2016 can be attributed to the gifted talents of British cellist and composer Oliver Coates. The London-based composer’s sophomore full-length release ‘Upstepping’ is undoubtedly one of the year’s most accomplished, innovative and compelling musical journeys with its meticulously crafted and sumptuously layered cello-based compositions that carves out techno-fueled waves of pure bliss and transcendence. ‘Upstepping’ is indeed (in the words of Coates) “pumped-up body music”. In addition to ‘Upstepping’, Coates performed on Radiohead’s latest ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ LP and most recently, a collaborative work with UK’s Mica Levi (Micachu & The Shapes) in the form of ‘Remain Calm’, another crowning jewel of 2016.

The British composer, producer and arranger is best known for his collaborative work with the London Contemporary Orchestra, Jonny Greenwood (‘The Master’ score) and Mica Levi (score for ‘Under The Skin’). On Coates’ latest solo masterwork ‘Upstepping’, A scintillating record of disparate influences is crafted where vital sounds of electronic and techno collide with neo-classical elements, which somehow feels closely adjacent to the works of Aphex Twin, Four Tet and Boards of Canada as it does to the modern-classical realm of today.

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We are delighted to present to you a special guest mix compiled by Oliver Coates. Below is Oliver’s description about this inspired selection of music:

Here is a panorama: the integration of human voice, real or concocted, as formant synthesis which binds instrumental haze beyond slamming rhythms and does wonders for the physiology. There are versions upon versions – distorted cello play over sequenced dance music is my current activity – where the cello intercedes as human element, using the bow as a Cirklon Sequencer. All the different attacks. Wahs and pointillisms, bulges, swells, sighs. Airs, ahs and pointed teeth. Polyphony like a baby’s mobile, Alexander Calder, hot and cold, monophonic bassline attitude underneath large and diffuse chords.”

—Oliver Coates

Oliver Coates – Fractured Air Mix – December 2016

01. Gecko Afterlife HD“Earth Jump” (YouTube)
02. AFX“simple slamming b 2” (Warp)
03. Levantis“Undr” (Technicolour)
04. Elysia Crampton“Dummy Track” (Break World)
05. Micachu feat. KEVIN“Clothes Wear Me” (adult swim)‎
06. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland“9” (Hyperdub)
07. Boards of Canada“Dayvan Cowboy” (Warp)
08. My Bloody Valentine“To Here Knows When” (Creation)
09. Cocteau Twins“Pitch The Baby” (4AD)
10. DMX Krew“You Can’t Hide Your Love” (Hidden Love Mix) (Warp)
11. D’Breez – “Crazy for Love” (Autechre remix) (Skam)

‘Upstepping’ is out now on PRAH Recordings & ‘Remain Calm’ by Mica Levi & Oliver Coates is out now on Slip Discs.

Compiled by Oliver Coates, 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.

http://www.olivercoates.com/
https://www.facebook.com/olivercoatesmusician/

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December 20, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E7 | July mix

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fracturedairmix_july16

July 2016 opened with world-renowned German composer Nils Frahm’s magnificent “Possibly Colliding” weekend of music at the Barbican Centre, London. Curated by Frahm, the special lineup featured live performance, conversation and film screenings where the headline act was Frahm’s monumental sold-out Barbican show, comprising his “most ambitious concert to date.”

Possibly Colliding felt not only like a celebration of the visionary artist’s cherished songbook (thus far) but rather a distillation of the most ground-breaking moments of today’s contemporary music scene. The angelic, hushed solo piano pieces were interwoven with the sprawling and sublime synthesizer-led pieces and many live collaborations – cellist Anne Müller, Nonkeen (with the addition of gifted drummer Andrea Belfi), London-based vocal ensemble Shards, and the André de Ridder-led stargaze ensemble – rendered new versions of Frahm’s towering body of work and offered new insights into the gifted composer’s sonic sphere.

During July we were delighted to be invited to participate in Irish actor Cillian Murphy’s curated IMMA Summer Party happening at the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Murphy’s music lineup featured performances by celebrated German composer and pianist Hauschka, gifted Irish fiddle player and composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Irish-based indie band Meltybrains? Some selections from our DJ set appear in this month’s mixtape.

Limerick-born and London-based composer Áine O’Dwyer has long been one of our most cherished and favourite contemporary musicians. O’Dwyer has released records on such independent labels as: Mie Music, Second language and Fort Evil Fruit, while her versatile talents are evident in her rich and varied recorded output to date, which have featured: live recordings for pipe organ, music for harp and voice and music for solo piano.

This year’s Le Guess Who? festival features special guest curators – including the inimitable L.A. songwriter Julia Holter – who has invited Áine O’Dwyer to this year’s lineup in Utrecht which takes place on 10–13 November 2016.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E7 | July mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2016/07/27/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e07-july-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Woodkid & Nils Frahm“Winter Morning II” (with Robert De Niro) (excerpt) (Ellis OST, Erased Tapes)
02. Peter Broderick“Carried” (Erased Tapes)
03. Nonkeen“Diving Platform” (R&S)
04. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler“A Road” (Thrill Jockey)
05. Áine O’Dwyer “Falcon” (Second Language)
06. Jherek Bischoff“Headless” (The Leaf Label)
07. Agnes Obel“Familiar” (Play It Again Sam)
08. Jonny Greenwood (Copenhagen Phil, André de Ridder)“Future Markets” (There Will Be Blood OST, Deutsche Grammophon)
09. Radiohead“Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” (XL Recordings)
10. Kedr Livanskiy“Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle)” (2MR)
11. Lil Silva “Jimi” (Good Years)
12. DJ Shadow“The Sideshow” (feat. Ernie Fresh) (Mass Appeal)
13. Underworld“I Exhale” (Universal Music Group)
14. Floorplan“Music” (M-Plant)
15. Róisín Murphy“Simulation” (Permanent Vacation)
16. Hot Chip“Night and Day” (Daphni Mix) (Domino)
17. Junior Boys“Big Black Coat” (Robert Hood Remix) (Jiaolong / City Slang)
18. Peder Mannerfelt“Perspectives” (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)
19. Aphex Twin“CHEETAHT2 [Ld spectrum]” (Warp)
20. Ólafur Arnalds“RGB” (LateNightTales)
21. Julianna Barwick“Someway” (Dead Oceans)
22. Julia Holter“Finale” (Leaving / Domino)

Compiled by Fractured Air, July 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.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E6 | June mix

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fracturedairmix_june16

We’re delighted to present two exclusive tracks by the world-renowned Berlin-based contemporary classical music collective stargaze. Founded by German conductor André de Ridder, stargaze comprise a network of classically trained European musicians who have performed and collaborated extensively in a wide variety of contexts to date.

The German-based collective have worked with some of the most acclaimed and forward-thinking contemporary music-makers, including: Julia Holter, Nils Frahm, Bryce Dessner, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Shara Worden, Owen Pallett, These New Puritans and many more; and have appeared at prestigious festivals and venues including: the Holland Festival, Barbican Centre London, Acht-Brücken-Festival at Cologne Philharmonie, Crossing Borders Festival, Wonderfeel Festival, Kaltern Pop Festival, Berlin Pop-Kultur, Rewire Festival (NL).

Another vital element of the stargaze repertoire in recent years has been amassing their considerable collection of instrumental works. These have included: Deerhof Chamber Variations by Greg Saunier; string quartets by Sufjan Stevens and Bryce Dessner as well as David Lang’s composition Death Speaks; Mica Levi’s Under The Skin and Richard Reed Parry’s Music for Heart and Breath.

Presented exclusively for June’s mixtape are stargaze’s analogue arrangements of Boards of Canada’s EP “Hi Scores”, performed live at Motel Mozaïque in Rotterdam during April 2016. Arrangements are by Aart Strootman.

Staying in Berlin, also included in June’s mixtape is the highly acclaimed Hamburg-born and Berlin-based guitarist and composer Martyn Heyne who released his gorgeous debut solo E.P. “Shady & Light” this year (available as a free download from http://martynheyne.com). Heyne has long been associated with countless musicians in the independent music scene as they have recorded at Lichte, Heyne’s Berlin-based home studio (Sarah Neufeld, Nils Frahm, Lubomyr Melnyk, Peter Broderick). Heyne was also a touring member with Danish group Efterklang during their 2013 “Piramida” tour.

Finally, June also saw the release of Irish songwriter Brigid Mae Power’s masterful self-titled album (her first for U.S. independent Tompkins Square). The album was recorded in 2015 with Peter Broderick at The Sparkle, his hometown studio in Portland, Oregon.

 

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E6 | June mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2016/06/27/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e06-june-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Brigid Mae Power“Watching The Horses” (Tompkins Square)
02. Sarah Neufeld“Chase the Bright and Burning” (Paper Bag)
03. The Flaming Lips “The Observer” (Warner Bros.)
04. s t a r g a z e“Everything You Do Is A Balloon” (live at Motel Mozaïque, Rotterdam, 09/04/16)
05. Arthur Russell“Instrumentals – 1974 Volume 1” (Rough Trade, Audika)
06. Oliver Coates“Innocent Love” (PRAH Recordings)
07. Jessy Lanza“It Means I Love You” (Hyperdub)
08. Moderat “Finder” (Monkeytown)
09. Jamie xx & Four Tet“SeeSaw” (feat. Rome) [Club Version] (Young Turks)
10. Kiasmos “Swayed” (Erased Tapes)
11. Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm“23:52” (Erased Tapes)
12. Boards Of Canada“Sunshine Recorder” (Warp)
13. Radiohead“Full Stop” (XL Recordings)
14. Explosions In The Sky“The Ecstatics” (Bella Union)
15. MJ Guider“Lit Negative” (Kranky)
16. Julee Cruise“Mysteries Of Love” (Warner Bros.)
17. Angel Olsen“Intern” (Jagjaguwar)
18. Martyn Heyne“Brandung” (http://martynheyne.com)
19. Roslyn Steer“Of A Sunday” (Kantcope)
20. Bob Dylan“Final Theme” (Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid OST, Columbia)
21. s t a r g a z e“Nlogax / Turquoise Hexagon Sun” (live at Motel Mozaïque, Rotterdam, 09/04/16)
22. Bill Fay“The Sun Is Bored” (Deram, Decca)
23. Amiina“Kola” (Lighthouse Version) (Sound Of A Handshake)

Compiled by Fractured Air, June 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.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

Chosen One: Pick A Piper

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Interview with Brad Weber, Pick A Piper.

“I’m really interested in blurring the lines and leaving the sound source up to the interpretation of the listener. I like that people have no idea which beats I played and which ones I programmed and if a sound is a flute or a moog patch.”

Brad Weber, Pick A Piper

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Pick A Piper is a collaborative project by Caribou drummer Brad Weber. The Toronto band comprises of friends Clint Scrivener, Angus Fraser, Dan Roberts and others. Pick A Piper began as a side-project back in 2009 where songs were penned by Weber in between Caribou’s shape shifting tours-crossing continents and blurring boundaries of sound. Similar to Dan Snaith’s Caribou, Weber combines organic and synthetic elements forming a unique blend of organic dance music. A spectrum of sound is effortlessly created, where psych, dream pop, electronica, afrobeat, and dance are joyously fused together. Pick A Piper’s debut album represents an eclectic, vibrant sound collage, which serves as Weber’s own personal creative outlet as he soaks up the inspiration that surrounds him.

Pick A Piper combines dance music structures, poly rhythmic percussion, atmospheric sound design, loopy melodies and a focus on electronics and production technique to create a sound poised between the organic and the synthetic. My first taste of Pick A Piper came upon last year’s arrival of the infectious single ‘Lucid In Fjords’. The song is a swirling psych pop odyssey and features Ryan McPhun, of Ruby Suns fame, on lead vocals. This track is the opener to Pick A Piper’s debut self-titled record, and what a stunning opener it is. An irresistible dream pop feel flows throughout: the electric guitars echo Link Wray, the beats and samples is a distillation of an indispensable record collection, pop hooks that are utterly infectious and a bassline groove straight from Studio One. ‘Lucid In Fjords’ invites you to “dream out loud”. To coin a Beach Boys song, ‘Feel Flows’ as the sonic canvas envelopes you in.

Next up is current single, ‘All Her Colours’. Yet again, the organic and synthetic are fused together. A seamless array of intricate arrangements are masterfully crafted. The rise on this song is sunshine pop circa ‘Odyssey And Oracle’ by The Zombies, before beats and menacing synths return on the verse. In fact, the song reminds me of The Postal Service where Tamberello’s electronic wizardry combines with Gibbard’s uncanny pop sensibilities. ‘All Her Colours’ effectively blurs the lines and leaves the listener wondering, how and just what is that sound? ‘Cinders And Dust’ contains a slow, deep groove that floats in the air’s atmosphere. Glorious harmonies, electronic glitches, are interwoven between the track’s delicate pop structure. ‘Cinders And Dust’ is somewhere between Dan Snaith’s Caribou and Junior Boys.

‘Once Were Leaves’ is one of the album’s centerpieces. A hidden dimension is tapped into here with the ethereal vocals by Raphaelle Standell-Preston (Braids). This song is reworked here and it is the utterly transcendent vocals by Preston that stops you immediately in your tracks. A whirlwind of percussion, synths, brass and a myriad of other sounds, form the sound clouds for the Cocteau Twins-esque dreamy pop creation. A new path is ventured on with ‘South To Polynesia’ – a drum and bass tour de force infused indie-pop anthem. The song has got rhythm aplenty as a free-jazz world of Sun Ra is conjured up. Flutes and woodwind, percussion, beats, bass, harmonies and brass are just some of the elements present in the mix of genre bending sound. The best arrives four and a half minutes in, as the song evolves into a trance-dance opus where a ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ odyssey is created before your very ears.

‘Zenaida’ is an indietronic-pop gem. Think Lali Puna, Clue To Kalo or Broadcast. The production is immaculate. Album closer ‘Dinghy In A Quiet Cove’ is my new favourite and brings this stunning debut to a fitting close. The dreamy electronic loops and compelling beats transports you to new horizons. I am reminded of UK’s Bibio upon listening to this breathtaking space-age ballad. The intro is reminiscent of Schenider TM’s mythical Smiths rework, ‘Light 3000’. A ballad steeped in a cinematic atmosphere that immerses you in, deep and far. The opening lyrics beautifully encapsulates the warmth of nostalgia and charming innocence, bringing the album to a gorgeous close:

“As I walked home tonight
My foot slipped through the melting ice
I never knew it wasn’t summer
But I fell into a rivulet
It took me for a long ride
I said goodbye to Toronto”

Pick A Piper’s stunning self-titled debut is an album that reveals more and more upon every listen while endlessly revealing music’s limitless possibilities.

The self-titled debut album by Pick A Piper will be available 2 April 2013 on Mint Records.

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Brad Weber Interview.

Congratulations first of all, on the incredible debut album from Pick A Piper. You must feel very proud. The sound you create is effortlessly placed somewhere between the synthetic and organic, with an array of found sound samples, synths, electronic percussion, reverb, and atmospheric soundscapes. Please discuss this blend of organic dance music Pick A Piper tap into so well.

Thanks so much! Pick a Piper was originally formed to channel my impression of dance music using organic instrumentation. We had loads of drums & percussion, acoustic guitar, glock, turkish saz, flutes and a ton of other sounds and samples to create something funky and dancey with. The structures and feel were very much alike with dance music, but the sounds weren’t. As I’ve continue to listen to a lot of contemporary electronic music and DJ mixes, our sound has slowly evolved into something more electronic while still maintaining a lot of the organic roots. I’m really interested blurring the lines and leaving the sound source up to the interpretation of the listener. I like that people have no idea which beats I played and which ones I programmed and if a sound is a flute or a moog patch.

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As the drummer in Caribou’s live incarnation, you are immersed in one of the most compelling bands making music today. Please explain how this part of your life in working with Dan Snaith, feeds into your own musical entity of Pick A Piper, and how it developed from a side-project into a fully bloomed sonic venture?

Dan Snaith has certainly been my biggest musical influence of the last 6 years. He’s an encyclopedia for all the music that I’ve always wanted to hear but never known of its existence. These mind-blowing, game-changing records have forever changed the way I write, perform and work. All the same, it’s always been a natural extension of where I was already heading. Pick a Piper has been around since 2009, but it’s always been a project I worked on in off periods of Caribou touring. I wouldn’t even call it a side project as much as it’s my personal creative outlet to periodically pour ideas into that I’ve been pondering for an entire tour or whatever.

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I would love to gain an insight please into the recording of the self titled debut, and what vision you had for the sound you wanted to create?

I wanted to blur the lines between organic and electronic and bring my current sense/excitement of electronic music production to create something that sat in the middle. A lot of the songs on this record started out as little loops that I created in the back of the tour van or on a cramped airplane. Then when I had time off, I’d come home and flesh these ideas out into complete songs. The overall process I would describe as “sampling my friends”. I recruited lots of pals whose musicianship I trust to come in and record various ideas/loops/bits along to tracks that I had already started. Often two or more people would record along to the same base tracks without hearing the other person’s ideas. I did this with both my main bandmates (Angus Fraser & Dan Roberts) as well as a bunch of other good pals. I choose what I liked and then cut up and manipulated what they had given me and made full tracks of it. In the end I had a few good folks re-record our vocal ideas with their voice, or in some cases (like “All Her Colours” for instance) give me entirely new vocal ideas (that ended up being amazing!) I believe a lot in collaboration – you’ll find a lot of that on this record while tricking the listener into thinking it’s the ideas of just one or two people.

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My first introduction to Pick A Piper was last year’s single, ‘Lucid In Fjords’. I love the title! The song is a psych pop odyssey-electric guitars a la Link Wray, a hypnotic bassline, divine synths and a plethora of organic/synthetic sounds. Discuss the importance of this song please and talk me through please the construction of ‘Lucid In Fjords’.

This one had lots of different input and was a lot of fun to write. I started it with a bassline, beat & simple synth arpeggio and just couldn’t get it to work. The track was super boring with an uninspired structure, so I threw it away. It wasn’t until half a year later that I came back to it and completely re-structured the track (no idea why I bothered trying again) that everything came into place. Angus’ original vocal melody suddenly made so much more sense and the track went from a total clunker to one of my favourites. My flatmate Jared added some guitar and I recruited my good pal Ryan McPhun from The Ruby Suns to re-record Angus’ vocals with his voice. Ryan did just that, but also gave me another melody that was absolutely incredible, so I used both!

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What are the defining records for you, firstly in terms of production, and secondly, in terms of songwriting?

For production, I love Can records, My Bloody Valentine: “Loveless”, newer stuff like Clams Casino, Chancha Via Circuito, Junior Boys.
Songwriting, Zombies: “Odyssey and Oracle”, Smashing Pumpkins: “Siamese Dream”, A.C. Newman “The Slow Wonder”, Beach Boys: “Pet Sounds”.
I dunno, I’m terrible at these types of questions. These are just a few that popped into my head.

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Pick A Piper is a collaboration between you and your friends, Clint Scrivener, Angus Fraser and Dan Roberts. I would love to know how you guys met and the origin of Pick A Piper?

Pick a Piper was formed in 2009 after I did my first stint for a couple years with Caribou. I needed a new outlet to get my own ideas out of my system. I recruited two very dear childhood friends (Dan and Angus) and Clint (who I had met in college) and was amazed how the project came to life. I guess the best way to describe it is “collaboration with central guidance (sorry, that sounds like something from a board room meeting!). I’m basically guiding/producing/arranging the whole process myself, but I certainly couldn’t do it on my own. Angus, Dan and Clint brought a ton of incredible ideas to the table and were key to making my visions come to life! Our live shows used to be insane double or triple (sometimes quadriple!) drum jams with a bit of singing and other instrumentation thrown in (or at least that’s how I felt). The band went on hiatus for a year or two while I was touring “Swim” and we’ve come back as a 3-piece with a tighter sound and a better balance between drum freakouts and sparse bits with careful vocal nuances. We’re still solid pals with Clint, but he left to become a daddy and is focusing on family now.

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Discuss the music scene in Toronto? What are your favourite bands at the moment?

Here are 3 of come off the top of my head. There’s so much more incredible music happening though.

Fresh Snow

https://soundcloud.com/fresh-snow

Psych/noise/kraut group with one of my best pals Andy Lloyd on bass. Their live shows are insane. Sometimes they play inside of a pod with projections on all sides, sometimes they have a 4-piece horn/string section. I actually have no idea what to expect, ever, so I love them.

Invisible City DJs

https://soundcloud.com/invisible-city

Invisible City Sound System is a collective of DJs that explore the history of dance music from around the world. They seem to focus on disco, boogie, early house, techno, and obscure funk. I’ve never once recognized a track and I’ve loved every single one I’ve ever heard. They recently even went to Trinidad and hand picked a pile of records from some vault there and made an incredible mix with it.

Lemon Bucket Orchestra

http://www.lemonbucket.com

I know a lot of bands are trying their hands at the gypsy/klezmer thing these days, but these guys just do it better than almost anyone. They are probably one of the hardest working bands I’ve ever seen and their shows generally spill out into the streets and parade around town. They even organized a flash mob that in one night took over 2 intersections, a subway car and the main hall of Union Station. They also entertained people on board an Air Canada flight to Romania when the flight was delayed on the runway. But it’s less about antics and more that they just put on a killer performance.

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My favourite song on the album is ‘Once Were Leaves’. It has this irresistibly seductive slow-tempo groove. The female vocals are gorgeous. Again, with all of Pick A Piper songs, there is a kaleidoscope of sounds that form into one cohesive whole. There are so many beautiful moments on this song that are utterly transcendent-the female vocals (who is singing there?), the looping harmonies, the brass, drums/percussion, dreamy synths. Sublime! Please talk me through the creation of this song?

This one is by far the oldest of the bunch! Look online for a song called “Yellowknife” from our self-released EP in 2009 (green cover with tambourines). We still loved this song so much and decided it was worth completely re-envisioning it for the record. We went up to a snowy cottage in the middle of winter last year and fleshed out the new version in a single weekend. We made it much more spacious and atmospheric than the original, which was full of chugging acoustic guitars and overpowering horns. I fell in love with Raphaelle’s voice a couple years ago and had met her a few times at various shows. I thought she’d be perfect for the track and got in touch to see if she would be interested in singing on this track. I gave her the original vocal part and said “you can can sing this if you want, or whatever else you’d like”. She proceeded to take our original melody and flip it on it’s head, chopped and diced and completely re-imagined it to a place I never would have thought of. I got an ableton session back from her with probably over 100 little edits and splices and tons of interesting effects. Her part completely blew me away and was exactly where I was hoping the track would go, but didn’t know it! I love collaboration for that reason.

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Your record collection must be vast and diverse. When listening to Pick A Piper, worlds of psychedelia, dance, pop, electronica, ambient, jazz, dub and more, penetrates the head-space. On this album, when writing a song, do the words form the song or could it be a single sound that triggers a song’s creation?

Usually it starts with a beat! That is what so often determines the overall feel of the song. It’s my first instrument and kinda always what I fall back on.

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‘South To Polynesia’ is incredible. I love the vocals. A compelling free-jazz intro before layers of woodwind, drums, bass and harmonies enter the mix. The moment, perhaps four minutes in, when the song evolves into a beautiful frenzy of trance-dance is utterly transcendent. The brass enters shortly, and a vibe of ‘Dark Side Of the Moon’ is formed. Discuss please the sequencing and production to ‘South To Polynesia’?

South To Polynesia was originally two separate tracks. The first loop that starts the song and the chord progression at the end. Clint wrote the ending progression and gave me a big ableton session with a song that included it. I cut the rest out and tried so hard to find a song that his bit would fit into. It just wasn’t happening for the longest time though. It was that same snowy cottage weekend where we re-recorded Once Were Leaves that I finally married it to a new-ish loop of mine that would go on to start the track and become the backbone for most of the song. Dan filled in the gaps with loads of automated drones and my friend Colin Fisher eventually laid down a ridiculous sax part! I love having such talented friends!

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Take me back please to the Caribou/Radiohead tour last year where you toured big stadiums across the world. Listening to Pick A Piper I hear the influence of live performance, as the songs have this fluid feel, the sonic layers in constant motion.

It was an incredible experience for sure. I think probably the most inspiring aspect of the whole tour was how real they were as people. Everyone, both band and crew, were really warm, down to earth and incredibly welcoming. It’s nice that musicians at that level can be such sincere and genuinely grounded people.
With Pick a Piper I hope to continue to spread this type warmth and compassion to all the people we meet along the way.
Musically our live show has always been really important to us. We have 3 drum setups of various sizes on stage as well as a slew of midi controllers and samplers to re-create our sonic world live. Dan and Angus are constantly triggering hits, loops and effecting and manipulating them on the fly. Same goes with their vocals. I’m really proud of our live show and have certainly been influenced by Caribou and Radiohead along the way!

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Do you plan to tour Europe? I hope I can help bring Pick A Piper to Cork, Ireland–my hometown:)

I’d love to. We’ll see how it goes at home first! I’ve played Cork a couple times in the past and the crowds were manic. Such a fun city!

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The self-titled debut album by Pick A Piper will be available 2 April 2013 on Mint Records.

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http://www.mintrecs.com

https://soundcloud.com/pickapiper

http://pickapiper.bandcamp.com