FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Sonic Pieces

Chosen One: Deaf Center

leave a comment »

“Low Distance can be seen more of an epitome of the years of playing live together, experimenting and finding our way to a meeting point.”

—Erik K. Skodvin

 Words: Mark Carry

deaf center main

As warm feedback tones drift beneath a seabed of mesmerising analogue soundscapes on the divine electro acoustic exploration ‘Gathering’, one feels the significance and enchantment of this eagerly-awaited return. The cherished Norwegian duo of Erik K Skodvin and Otto A Totland (under their trusted Deaf Center guise) have been responsible for some of the most captivating and vital ambient-infused-drone creations of the past fifteen years and last month‘s release of their third studio album ‘Low Distance’ – after an eight year hiatus – holds a significant presence in the atmosphere akin to the air molecules we breathe.

I feel the piece ‘Gathering’ embodies the sacred space that this gifted duo seem to innately inhabit – through the art of sound. A few minutes in, emotive piano tones meld effortlessly with the gentle hiss and warmth of analogue sounds: gradual music that ebbs and flows into the ether of some unknown dimension. In the final section, Totland’s piano instrumentation comes to the fore as a silence descends all around us: it is as though the minute details and sonic artifacts are embedded deep within the music’s tapestry.

The hypnotic bass groove (reminiscent of Colleen’s viola da gamba) serves the vital pulse of ‘Red Glow’ wherein sustained piano chords form the ideal counterpoint. Neo-classical splendor is etched across these two or so minutes. ‘Movements/The Ascent’ reveals the special fusion of modern-classical and electro acoustic realms as otherworldly, far-reaching moments-within-moments are captured in one fleeting swoop.

It is important to remember the many solo – and collaborative – works that the pair have released during the eight years of the last Deaf Center record. For example, the breath-taking solo piano albums of Otto A Totland can be found in the rich tapestry of ‘Low Distance’ – particularly on part B with the deeply affecting piano compositions ‘Far Between’ and ‘Yet to Come’ which closes this incredible musical journey. Also, Skodvin’s rich experimentation with sound on his Svarte Greiner project, in addition to score-work (last year’s poignant collaborative score ‘A Score For Darling‘ with Spanish artist Rauelsson) and several solo works; these many documents all filter into the sonic palette of 2019’s Deaf Center’s oeuvre.

The epic tour-de-force ‘Entity Voice’ is another triumph in minimalism and restraint – and with a maximum yield of raw emotion and cinematic atmosphere. The jazz noir piano tapestries swirl in the midnight air (echoing the spirit of legendary film composer David Shire’s 70’s works) alongside the utterly transcendent abstract canvas sculpted by Skodvin. The music becomes one sprawling, cohesive whole. The great hallmark of this special band – reflected on ‘Entity Voice’ – is the revelatory quality of the intricately layered sound collages that captures a singular beauty and unknowing mystery all at once.

‘Low Distance’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://deafcenter.bandcamp.com/

http://sonicpieces.com/

deaf center iii

Interview with Erik K. Skodvin & Otto Totland.

 

Congratulations on the utterly enchanting latest full length ‘Low Distance’, it’s a real pleasure to discuss this incredible new music with you both. The minimal and quite sparse nature to quite a portion of these recordings unfolds a quiet magic and mysterious beauty all at once. Firstly, please take me back to your recording sessions together – which must have been several years since the last Deaf Center recording session? Talk me through what music was released during these sessions and the nature of these tracks – for instance I presume some of these piano compositions were freshly composed (by Otto)? How much of these tracks were born simply from improvisation – music created during that moment when you were in the same room together?

Erik K Skodvin & Otto A Totland: Thank you, Mark. It´s indeed been a while since our last encounter. We released the EP ”Recount” in 2014, though this was 2 older live recorded pieces without any studio or planning involved. Other than that, our last meeting in a recording studio was back in 2010. This time we met in Berlin in the summer of 2017 as we got the chance to use Nils Frahm’s Funkhaus studio for 3 days while he was going away. Looking back at it, it feels strange to say that since the new studio is now so hyped and seen all over the place. A lot have changed in just those 2 years. We´re still glad to have recorded there though, as it is a beautiful, great sounding place.

A major part of the finished record was made there and then, in intimate in-the-moment improvised sessions. Gathering f.ex is one of those magic moments where we synced up really well and something special was created. A minimum of editing has been done to the final piece you hear on the record. This also goes for several of the other tracks.

The lengthy pieces such as ‘Entity Voice’ and ‘Gathering’ serve the vital pulse to the record’s first half. The warm, vivid textures of piano, strings, drone, ambient noise that are masterfully interwoven on ‘Gathering’ unfolds akin to a faded dream and a piece that epitomizes the sheer beauty and wonder that fills this record. Can you talk me through these particular experiments and indeed this deeply innate ‘call and response’ inner dialogue you have as a musical pairing?

ES & OT: Both as individuals and our approach to making music; we are very different. So much so that it’s strange that our cooperation works, and works so well. When we play together and inspire each other – when we enter that “zone” – we both feel that special fusion that can only arise when we play together. Then it happens so effortlessly and spontaneous. It surprises us too. Luckily we have managed to capture many of these moments – the track “Gathering” is an example of this. The album version sounds almost exactly the same as recorded, with only minor alterations and edits. The track ‘Entity Voice’ is a collection/fusion from many different parts of our recording session that started with the piano & feedback tones you can hear in the first 2 minutes. The remaining sounds and development is all layered in detailed fine-editing.

When we started getting requests for live performances after Neon City & Pale Ravine was released, we transitioned more and more towards analogue equipment and instruments over the years. Less and less digital electronics and samples. Now we have a fully analogue sound with a similar expression. We feel a relief from removing ourselves from everything digital, especially when performing live. Low Distance can be seen more of an epitome of the years of playing live together, experimenting and finding our way to a meeting point.

Please describe your studio in Norway and the precise set-up please? I get the impression that the formidable solo works of yours (the many vital records you released as solo artists in the interim between the last Deaf Center record) must have tapped into the musical tapestry of Deaf Center? How do you see this duo evolving, so to speak?

ES & OT: I live in Berlin and to be honest, my studio situation is not what most might expect. I never really had a proper ”studio”. I have a room with a lot of stuff in it, which is in my apartment. I used to have outside spaces to work, but not since 5 years now. I have no clue about gear really. I have a bunch of instruments of rather sketchy quality. My main ”gear” is my effect-pedals that is use for my live setup as well as some sound making devices. The bunch of pedals i have i use in my own way, but i couldn’t tell you much about them. Having said that, my most important instrument the last 4 years is this custom built analogue electronic device built by a friend of mine called Derek Holzer. It was a commissioned job and he constructed a benjolin as a guitar effects pedal for me. I’ve been fighting with that thing live the last years, and i´m still surprised what i can do with it. It´s of constant revelation, both good and bad. You can hear this all over the record.

Otto lives in Norway and has no studio. It’s hard to say anything about our evolution from here on. The ongoing development of Otto as a pianist and improviser as well as my own urge to explore sounds and instruments is for sure the tapestry of Deaf Center at this moment. Especially since when we meet we tend to both think a little differently than when we go solo. Since our beginning it´s been no plan to do more records or continue DC. So far the ones who kept us alive is the people who book us to play live, as that´s mainly where new Deaf Center material has come out through the last 10 years. We also have to give credit to Nils Frahm for our continued presence, as we recorded both Owl Splinters and Low Distance in his spaces. Both of Otto´s solo piano albums was also recorded with him. So wherever you are these days Nils, thanks for that.

I love the contrast between the deeply layered explorations and the sparse, minimal works – one of the great hallmarks of ‘Low Distance’. Can you discuss the mixing process and the art of layering these soundscapes together? Is it a case of revisiting musical ideas that were captured in the studio and continually navigating inside these and further sculpting the layers together? I wonder what are the fears and challenges you faced during this period of time?

ES & OT: Mixing is something we probably see quite differently from most producers. I personally have my own way of taking a standpoint in the source material and making pieces from them. Although Low Distance has several minimal tracks that has little to almost no post-editing, there are several that are heavily “mixed”. I´d call it editing or collaging rather than mixing though. It´s all about working in details & layers. A lot of pitch-shifting, copying, stretching, reverbs, delay. Otto and me both have a similar idea about certain way of mixing when it comes to Deaf Center. It´s more of an unspoken rule which intertwine our sound. Owl Splinters has a bit more of a Nils Frahm touch, as he was a big part of the production. This time it´s more back to our original sound, but with source material recorded in a professional studio instead of the lo-fi sample based sound of Pale Ravine.

As we both live different places, and this can be a time taking job, i was mixing it myself over a longer period while keeping a dialogue with Otto through we-transfer and email. An invitation for a week´s residency at Stockholms EMS studio was also a key part of how the record came to be. The first major part of the mixing was done there, where i could also record some warm Buchla Synthesizer sounds and noises that ended up as a core interwoven part of the record. From there it was then to sew it together into a world of it´s own. With a beginning, middle and end. To create somewhere we´d like to be that both comfort and challenge us. Something that grows on repeated listens and makes you forget your surroundings and make up new ones.

Of course it´s a challenging task since we already have quite some to live up too. And with a 8 year gap between albums it can be scary. Will people still care what we have to put out in the world? Will they remember us? A lot have changed since the last album came out. Both in the world and for us.

The cinematic quality and otherworldly dimension of the piano-based compositions is a joy to savor. ‘Faded Earth’ feels just that: something lost beneath our very foundations. The penultimate track ‘Far Between’ is such a gorgeous neon lit lament. It must continue to surprise you to see and discover what music you are able to create together? The warm textures beneath ‘Far Between’ makes for such a heavenly sound.

ES & OT: Thank you. We are both very conscious about the dynamic of a composition. To let each other “swell” then pull back and give each other room. We both enjoy the unpredictable. Like a build-up ending in a silent relief rather than a climax. Adding subtly small details that can only be noticed with focused listening. Keeping random coincidences like background noises, crackling and clicks, welcoming them as part of the piece. As long as every sound feels good to the ear. We prefer to avoid uncomfortable frequencies.

Over how many years do you feel the music captured on ‘Low Distance’ stems from? I get the feeling there is always some happy accidents, so to speak that find their way into the sonic tapestry. Can you shed some light on these particular moments?

ES & OT: The record is a culmination of musical development and changes in our own lives through the last years. It wasn’t composed or thought through beforehand. Experiences both good and bad gets soaked into the music, impulsively. Also during our studio meeting, a lot of “mistakes”, sounds and objects found it´s way into the sound. After listening back to it we really found these accidents and sonic “mistakes” to be complimenting the music in a good way. Something to grow on, to find new details that you might not like the first time around. One really great mistake, if you can call it that, Is when we played “Gathering” and when Otto came in on the piano after about 2 minutes we both got really surprised. We had not tuned the guitar and piano, and what came out was this surreal half-detuned lamenting sound. We both kept playing on even if we could hear something was off. When we finished and listened back to it a few times, we felt it was something special and unique. So we left it like it was.

Lastly, please discuss your own musical upbringing and how soon did you realize music would become your destined path?

ES & OT: Neither of us have had any musically education or upbringing. We both have a natural pull to explore, play and create music since childhood. It’s the creative process itself and what arises that we both share a fascination of. We never feel in control. Erik is much more comfortable with that than Otto.

‘Low Distance’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://deafcenter.bandcamp.com/

http://sonicpieces.com/

 

 

Written by admin

May 9, 2019 at 3:18 pm

Guest Mixtape: Rauelsson (Sonic Pieces)

leave a comment »

We are delighted to present to you a special guest mix compiled by revered Spanish producer Rauelsson, whose 2018 full length ‘Mirall’ – released on the ever dependable Berlin-based Sonic Pieces imprint – unfolded deeply affecting electro acoustic explorations interwoven with gorgeous electronic textures and neo-classical splendor. The collaboration between Raúl Pastor Medall (Rauelsson) and Erik K. Skodvin (Deaf Center) on the soul stirring score for the Danish film ‘Darling’ (2017) is another essential musical document (as is Rauelsson’s 2013 Sonic Pieces-debut ‘Vora’ ). Below are some words from Raúl describing this special mixtape he has assembled.

Rauelsson pic

‘Ghosts, Friends and Acquaintances’

Listening to music made by friends feels particularly satisfying to me. There is something special about listening to sounds and words that come from a place that you know; somehow, you feel part of a shared journey. I have been lucky enough to meet some talented musicians over the years that I can now call friends. Some of them are gifted, glowing souls that have been very important in my music world. As an expression of gratitude here I am compiling an all-over-the-place, all-over-the-map playlist featuring some songs that might only have one thing in common: I discovered them thanks to friends or have been written and played by friends, or friends of friends. And ghosts, there are some ghosts too, so there you go Ghosts, Friends and Acquaintances.

Some –random– notes about these songs:

If you drive to Barcelona airport from the south you might take highway C32, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean Sea coastline. The southern section of this highway is called Autopista Pau Casals, named in honor of the celebrated Catalan cellist. The first time I noticed that this highway was called Pau Casals I was on my way to catch a plane to go back to Portland, OR. The day after I arrived in Oregon I had breakfast with my good friend Adam Selzer and he showed me a NPR article about some recordings that Robert Johnson and Pau Casals did (separately) in the and 1930s (Adam loved the sound of those early recordings). A few weeks later I was on the road headed to Seattle to play a show, and the violinist I was traveling with at the time played a CD with some gorgeous cello pieces (JS Bach’s cello suites) interpreted by Casals; she was shocked and confused by the fact that I had never listened to this before. It felt as if the world was telling me that I had to pay attention to this man that was born in Catalonia, so close to where I grew up. I did pay attention, and some of his concert recordings gave me goosebumps. This playlist opens and closes with Casals playing a traditional Catalan song, El Cant dels Ocells, and Le Cygne by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Through friends and acquaintances I have discovered a lot of good music. Years ago, for instance, several unconnected friends got me interested in the life and work of the incomparable Louis Thomas Hardin, aka Moondog. On my first trip to Berlin, a friend gave me a copy of a Moondog compilation called The German Years 1977 -1999. On that same trip I learned that Moondog moved to Germany in 1974, the year I was born. His discography is truly vast and fascinating; it is hard to pick just one record or song. Here I included the intricate and amazing Marimba Mondo 2, a hypnotically beautiful work of melody and percussion.

Together with Otto A Totland, I was once helping stick download code stickers on some coupons at Sonic Pieces HQ. Erik (K Skodvin) was helping as well, and to make the job easier on us he was spinning some records. He played a lot of great new music but a record called Tooth, by Raime, really caught my attention. The entire record is fantastic; energetic and enigmatic. I particularly like the first track on the record, Coax. As many people know, Otto and Erik make incredible music together (as Deaf Center) and solo. Getting to know them personally has only increased my respect for their work. Here I included Time Spent by Deaf Center and Flames from Erik’s solo discography. Also in Berlin I once attended a Christmas dinner party that Monique Recknagel (Sonic Pieces) organized. I remember being in deep conversation with Greg Haines (Something Happened; what an amazing track!) about some concerts I was asked to organize in Spain; I was telling him that I was interested in getting in touch with a guy called Jefre Cantu Ledesma. Oddly enough, Greg told me that Jefre was sitting on the same table, having dinner with us. I was too shy to talk to him, which I regret. Jefre’s show in Spain never happened but my admiration for his work is still happening. I really like his record A Year With 13 Moons, among others. Pale Flower is part of that record.

Unexpected things can also happen with friends. A friend of mine that makes really great music once gave me a CD-r to listen to. I thought that it was his new record and I really liked it so I called to congratulate him, only to hear him laughing quite hard: it was not his new record what he gave me but 1979 by Deru, a great record that had just been released (on a label called Friends of Friends!). Another friend once gave me an original LP of Spanish guitar tunes composed by Francisco Tárrega (played by Narciso Yepes in 1983 and released by Deutsche Grammophon) without knowing that this Spanish composer and guitar player comes from the same province in Spain where I come from. I grew up having his name associated with streets and buildings before I got to know who he really was; a great guitar figure of the 19th century. I really like his ‘smaller’ compositions, like Lágrima and Adelita.

There is even music I got to know by unknown friends. Yard sales and random boxes with free stuff are commonly seen around Portland, particularly during the summer. Someone once left a box with free CDs on my doorsteps. The box had a label that read ‘ghost music from me, your friend’. The little collection of CDs was not that interesting, honestly, and it was obvious that this box was not meant to be there for me to find. However, there was one CD in this collection that looked different; a CD-r with a handmade drawing of something that looked like a ghost playing a flute and the words ‘this is a duduk’ on it. The CD-r had this gorgeous song that I later identified as Siretzi Yares Daran, by Armenian musician and duduk player Levon Minassian. Thank you ghost friend.

Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro is a cover song by Catalan composer and singer Silvia Pérez Cruz, originally written by Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio. This is a very powerful song written in the context of the repressive, long and dark times of fascist Spain. My mom was kind enough to give me her ticket so I could go see Silvia play with an amazing string quintet (the show was sold out!). The concert was fantastic. I have not seen a show that, playing Mediterranean and Latin-American repertoire, moved me that much. She was another great recommendation made by friends. Her record Vestida de Nit is a good introduction to the work she has done with this string ensemble.

This playlist also features a number of songs played by close friends. I truly admire and love Heather and Peter Broderick’s work. Their music really touches me. Here I included Turned, by Heather’s debut LP, and Sideline, from Peter’s stripped down (recorded in one day!) album How They Are. My dear friend Laurel Simmons also features on this list with her lovely track Linden Seeds, featuring Heather on harmonies. The recently released Tekoäly, by the wonderful and skilled Tatu Rönkkö is included here too; such a powerful song!

rauelsson portrait

 

Tracklist:

01. Pau Casals – “El Cant dels Ocells”(Columbia)
02. Tatu Rönkkö (feat. Islaja) – “Tekoäly”(Sonic Pieces)
03. Moondog – “Marimba Mondo 2” (Roof)
04. Levon Minassian – “Siretzi Yares Daran” (Wagram)
05. Raime – “Coax” (Blackest Ever Black)
06. Deaf Center – “Time Spent” (Miasmah)
07. Francisco Tárrega – “Lágrima” (Deutsche Grammophon)
08. Jefre Cantu Ledesma – “Pale Flower” (Mexican Summer)
09. Heather Woods Broderick – “Turned” (Preservation)
10. Deru – “1979″ (Friends of Friends)
11. MayMay – “Linden Seed” (Oscarson)
12. Francisco Tárrega – “Adelita” (Deutsche Grammophon)
13. Silvia Pérez Cruz – “Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro” (Universal)
14. Erik K. Skodvin – “Flames” (Sonic Pieces)
15. Greg Haines – “Something Happened” (Denovali)
16. Peter Broderick – “Sideline” (Bella Union / Hush)
17. Pau Casals “Le Cygne” (Victrola / HMV)

‘Mirall’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://rauelsson.bandcamp.com/

http://www.sonicpieces.com/index.html

Written by admin

February 8, 2019 at 4:55 pm

Posted in MIXTAPE

Tagged with ,

Fractured Air 46: Moon Ate the Dark ‘Moon Over Blood Mountain’

with one comment

Moon Ate the Dark is the neoclassical-infused drone collaborative project between Welsh pianist Anna Rose Carter and Canadian producer Christopher Brett Bailey. The London-based artists’ two full-length releases – 2012’s self-titled debut and this year’s highly-anticipated follow-up (‘Moon Ate The Dark II’), both released on the prestigious Berlin-based imprint Sonic Pieces – forges a deeply affecting experience for the heart and mind: the rich, dense textures of Bailey’s production is masterfully interwoven with Carter’s stunningly beautiful piano-based compositions.

moonatethedark_sleeve

Fractured Air 46: Moon Ate the Dark “Moon Over Blood Mountain”

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-46-moon-ate-the-dark-moon-over-blood-mountain/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Emily Hall ‘Scream’ [Bedroom Community]
02. Laurie Spiegel ‘Drums’ [Philo, Unseen Worlds]
03. Jenny Hval ‘Blood Fight’ [Rune Grammofon]
04. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind ‘Rocky Mountains’ [Warner Bros.]
05. Ikue Mori ‘Musashi Plain Moon’ [Tzadik]
06. Joanna Newsom ‘The Book of Right On’ [Drag City]
07. Eliane Radigue ‘Kyema’ (excerpt) [Experimental Intermedia Foundation]
08. Billie Holiday ‘Solitude’ [Columbia]
09. Jarboe & Helen Money ‘My Enemy My Friend’ [Aurora Borealis]
10. Grouper ‘Clearing’ [Kranky]
11. OOIOO ‘UMO’ [Thrill Jockey]

Compiled by Anna Rose Carter and Christopher Brett Bailey. 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.

 


 

sonicpieces014022cdh

‘Moon Ate the Dark II’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

Written by admin

November 19, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Step Right Up: Moon Ate the Dark

with one comment

Interview with Moon Ate the Dark.

“..there is always a surprise and it keeps the music alive, which is what I think we both strive for whilst playing together.”

— Anna Rose Carter

Words: Mark Carry

m8tdrk_small

Moon Ate the Dark is the neo-classical-infused-drone collaborative project between Welsh pianist Anna Rose Carter and Canadian producer Christopher Brett Bailey. The London-based transplants’ two full-length releases – 2012’s self-titled debut and this year’s highly-anticipated follow-up, both released on the prestigious Berlin-based imprint Sonic Pieces – forges a deeply affecting experience for the heart and mind: the rich, dense textures of Bailey’s production is masterfully inter-woven with Carter’s stunningly beautiful piano-based compositions.

Delicate and hushed tones of Anna Carter’s piano serve the opening notes to Moon Ate the Dark’s latest sonic journey –the mesmerising sophomore record, ‘Moon Ate the Dark II’ – whose fragile beauty radiates like the first rays of sunlight amidst the gradual dawn of day. ‘If Vanishing’ contains an entire spectrum of colours and textures as the piano transitions between playful, joyous melodic patterns to burning embers of hushed, resonant tones that drifts in the ether whilst the electronic treatment of gorgeous reverb (supplied by Bailey) evokes an ethereal sound world. The pop ambient gem ‘Little Girl Liquid’ is reminiscent of Germany’s Hauschka with its dream-like ambient flourishes and gorgeous flickers of hope and optimism.

Ventricles’ is an ambient tour-de-force. A myriad of sonic layers and subtle elements are masterfully woven together, creating in turn, a piece of music so utterly timeless and now. Gorgeous synthesizers and electronic treatments fuse with Carter’s heart-warming piano-led melodies. The dynamic is changed yet again on the following ‘Verse Porous Verse’ with euphoric piano-based melodic patterns that reaches new summits and sunlit horizons. The immediacy of Carter’s piano playing is indeed a joy to savor whose deft touch of hand graces each and every piano note. ‘Sleepy Viper’s gradual ebb and flow of strings and swirling electronics across the heavenly seven transcendent minutes conjures up the sprawling cinematic works of Deaf Center such is its epic scope and divine beauty. The closing soul-stirring piano melodies of  ‘Lo’ and closing section of sublime drone soundscapes completes the highly remarkable achievement of Moon Ate the Dark’s latest master-work.

‘Moon Ate the Dark II’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://www.facebook.com/MoonAteTheDark
https://www.facebook.com/sonicpieces

Interview with Moon Ate the Dark (Anna Rose Carter & Christopher Brett Bailey).

 

Please discuss the making of the new self-titled record. I am very curious to learn more about this wonderful musical telepathy that exists between you both that shapes the intuitive quality to your stunning music. What were your primary concerns and aims for the new album that you felt was most important to find its way on the final recordings?

Anna Carter: The first record we released was completely improvised and we didn’t have any set ideas at all before we started recording, so we wanted to try working in a completely different way. For this one we had planned structures and sections and we incorporated new sounds and instruments we hadn’t used before. Some of the tracks on the record are quite a few years old and ideas we had built on from various practices and improv sessions, we would mostly just sit and play together and if something interesting came out we would work on it. It’s often a very rewarding way to play as neither of us can tell what sounds are going to come out whilst trying something new and no matter how much we plan we can never recreate something exactly as before. Even if the general structure and notes are the same there will always be a new sound or even a whole section that is different. We may not always like it but there is always a surprise and it keeps the music alive, which is what I think we both strive for whilst playing together.

One of the great hallmarks of Moon Ate the Dark is the innate ability to create mood and atmosphere through the art of sound. For example, the rich, dense textures of Chris’s production is masterfully inter-woven with Anna’s stunningly beautiful piano-based compositions. Please shed some light into this dichotomy of worlds for me? Also, please discuss the various production techniques utilized or sound treatments & manipulations?

Christopher Bailey: Well, thanks very much! I rarely feel like a master, that’s for sure! I view my work in this project as the framing of what Anna does. Her distinctive voice as a piano player is the focal point of most of our music and my job is to extend and support, providing counterpoint where necessary. As with the first record, I am taking a live feed from the piano mics and manipulating them – echo, eq, reverb, pitch correction etc. – to create drones and soundscapes that support the piano and are built from the same source texture. The hope here is that the two things will fuse together, creating the illusion of an extended piano, rather than supporting the piano with a purely electronic palate that sounds inorganic by comparison. All of the technology I am using is cheapo guitar stuff you might see on the pedalboard of a shoegaze band…cause that’s sorta my background. I am not sure this combo is at all superior to the kind of processing that a macbook would afford, but that limitation helps to ground our music in a different sound world and lends it a rougher, more handmade feel… I guess. It also means that we are a nightmare live band and are constantly driving the mics into feedback by accident! Haha.

On the first record we were very strict about not multi-tracking. At that time we were a 100% improvising band and we needed to capture an accurate live performance, because it was only intended to be a demo tape. This time around we’ve entered into the pandora’s box of multi-tracking, which of course turned out to be a blessing and a shackle. This allowed us to be pickier about which takes to use and to decorate some songs – the synthesisers and organs added to certain tracks lend a fuzzy goo to the low end that’s pretty addictive and it was neat to be able to lace the tracks with violin and vocal noises so low in the mix few people will ever hear them! But it also ended up eating loads of time, and causing a few delays! Now that the record could have whatever extra bells and whistles we wanted, we had to sort of learn discipline on the fly…

‘Ventricles’ is one of the album’s defining moments where a sense of oblivion awakens the listener. Layers of gorgeous sounds gradually fade into the foreground. Also, the aesthetic quality and rich dynamics is a joy to savor. Can you please talk me through the construction of ‘Ventricles’ and your memories of writing and recording?

CB: Well I am sure glad you dig it! It’s the one Monique (sonic pieces) chose for the “lead track” and a lot of people are liking that one… but to be honest with you? It was a minor nightmare! Maybe we were spoiled on our first record – that the whole thing was an easy 2 day process – but this one song took longer than all our other tracks combined! We burned through multiple arrangements, edits and mix drafts. The basic piano sketch had been captured late in the day on the last day of recording (when inspiration often seems to strike!) and the rest of it was assembled at the mix stage one small chunk at a time. It was the longest, most arduous assembly job of any of our tracks and we we’re arguing about it even after the album had gone for mastering. As I say, this album was our first attempt at multi-track recording and I think that change is most noticeable on this track – the electronics and piano parts are quite evidently separate, and many of the layers in the sound were added months after the initial recording. We strongly felt it needed greater structure and feared the composition was missing a section, but without any more money to hire studio time we had to rely on production tricks to give it a more definite shape. The middle section is carved out by pulling back to the room mics before introducing the bass synth and an ending was found by manufacturing an artificial reverb swell before gluing the outro refrain on. To a lot of musicians this kind of frankenstein surgery is par for the course – maybe even the preferred method! But for two technophobes like us, it’s better to get a clean cut of the track start to finish if we can!

matd_press1a

 

What was the studio set-up for the recording sessions? I wonder how long were these particular recording sessions and were any new processes or techniques utilized this time around? I am curious whether improvisations served the foundation to any of the album’s tracks?

AC: We had three days altogether in a studio in Bristol with our friend Joe Garcia as our engineer. We had a piano, a mini brute synth, a violin, Chris’ pedals, we had a Cellist come in and play some parts we had written and we also used my voice. The use of the mini brute wasn’t planned but Joe brought it in for us and we loved the sound so much we had to use it, so although no improvisations appear on this album a couple of the tracks were actually written in the studio as we felt inspired by the new sound palette. The first record was recorded in an old warehouse with a really simple setup, no desk or fancy live room, so this time we did feel slightly out of our depth. However it was exciting to be able to multi-track and hear our ideas come to life whilst each new layer was being added.

I would love to gain an insight into your fascination with sound and its origins? What are your earliest musical memories and how soon did you realize that the duo (aptly named Moon Ate the Dark) would be born?

AC: I remember as a child watching The Secret Garden video tape over and over just to hear the music by Zbigniew Preisner, after a while it became really warped and started to sound more like a horror movie score! I also remember asking my Dad for a Backstreet Boys CD when I was ten but he accidentally got me a Beastie Boys CD which I loved and listened to all the time. I’m thinking now that he probably did it on purpose! But it was only when I got an old upright piano for my 13th birthday that I felt inspired to play and write.

CB: My earliest memory of music was riding shotgun in my Dad’s car, 1992 or 93. The song ‘Foxy Lady’ by a very obscure and credible underground band you probably aren’t aware of called Jimi Hendrix came on the radio and it seemed to crawl out of the speakers. I wasn’t as much taken with the song, as I was the burst of feedback before the song begins… Based on that sole fascination alone I pestered my parents for a plywood Les Paul copy and a Peavey starter amp (with both distortion AND reverb!). As a teenager I amassed a small collection of pedals and noise boxes as a shortcut to sounding good without technique and would record hours of white noise and found sounds – anything from bacon frying to the family cat – on a Tascam cassette recorder around the house… and the Tascam cassette recorder is still the most complicated mixing console I am confident using!

AC: (how we met and started playing?)

Chris and I met at a music college in East London in 2008/09. I was playing the piano one day and Chris came in to the room, shut the door and started fiddling around with cables, mics and amps around me. I didn’t really know who he was at this point so I just carried on playing. Then after a few minutes this sound started filling the room that was magical, soothing and terrifying all at the same time, and that was the birth of Moon Ate the Dark.

‘Sleepy Vipers’ is such a tour-de-force in the divine neo-classical and ambient realm. The sequencing of the record works so well and the final section – ‘Sleepy Viper’s gradual ebb and flow of strings across the heavenly seven transcendent minutes and the closing deeply poignant piano melodies of ‘Lo’ – represents the album’s most compelling and affecting moments. Discuss please the flow to the record and particularly a composition such as ‘lo’ which feels the perfect (and fitting) close?

CB: Back in 2012 Anna and I would alternate whose house we rehearsed at. With us both being the type to turn up 40 minutes late with no good excuse and the journey across London being at least an hour each way, this seemed only fair. The trouble was that my house doesn’t have a piano, so we embraced the challenge and starting building loops and soundscapes with a £20 violin as the source. Our favourite of those experiments provided most of the collage that begins “Sleepy Vipers”, but feeling it wasn’t enough on it’s own Anna worked with her friend Carys to create the awesome cello progression that provides the second half of the track. I’m very pleased with how this piece came out and along with “Verse Porous Verse” it’s my favourite of any music we’ve made yet.

Lo” dates back to about the time of our first record and was our first composition, as opposed to improv piece. It was also our live opener at most gigs 2012 – 13, because the drone at the beginning could be faded in real slow to bulk out our set time if needed, and because it was a good way of introducing our 2 instruments as separate elements. Because of this I had always imagined it as the opening track on the record. But compared with a lot of the other material we ended up recording it seemed a claustrophobic listen. It also seems closer to the emotional register of the first album, for me. So by placing it last I kind of hope it’d bring the listener full circle, back to world of album number one. Having said that… when I got the test pressing through the post from Germany I put the needle down on the wrong side and ended up listening to side 2 first. And I have to admit… I think that track sequence works at least as good as the one we went for! Seriously, try listening to side B and then side A and see if you don’t agree?

Please discuss your love of film music and your particular favourites? Which films served significant inspiration for you both?

CB: Okay… so… at this point we have a little admission to make. Although on our press releases it has said since the beginning that we were “drawn together by an interest in film music” it isn’t really true. Or rather it isn’t literally true. Neither one of us has ever had a particular interest in film scores, above any other kind of music. Before we had the support of Sonic Pieces we would sometimes struggle to explain to people what our music was like and saying “a bit like something in a film” seemed an economic (albeit lazy) way of saying “instrumental, not jazz, classical but not Classical, emotional but not overly melodic, focused on mood” etc. etc. etc. Since that time a number of artists doing music in neighbouring styles have had some crossover success, so it’s now a lot easier to explain! And perhaps as a parallel the genre of film music seems less homogenous than it once did… or maybe I am seeing different kinds of movies.

Anyhow, so as not to duck the question entirely… here are some of our favourite soundtracks and film related records…

Kronos Quartet – Dracula
Goblin – Suspiria
Sonic Youth – Simon Werner A Disparu
Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind – The Shining
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – The Assisination of Jesse James
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Copenhagen Dreams

This might also be a fortuitous chance to plug our pal Joe’s new record. He is the engineer who worked hard with us on both albums, and a great musician in his own right, albeit in a completely different sound world. Last time I visited him he was telling me about how his band ANTA were working with composer Anton Maiof to produce a soundtrack album to the infamous DUNE adaptation that Jodorowsky never finished. He didn’t spill the release details but some googling should do it!

 


 

sonicpieces014022CDH

‘Moon Ate the Dark II’ is out now on Sonic Pieces.

https://www.facebook.com/MoonAteTheDark
https://www.facebook.com/sonicpieces

Written by markcarry

August 18, 2015 at 11:59 am

Mixtape: This Uneven Thing [A Fractured Air Mix]

leave a comment »

thisuneventhing_sleeve

This Uneven Thing [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/this-uneven-thing-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Antonio Sanchez ‘Get Ready’ [‘Birdman’ OST/Warner Jazz]
02. A Winged Victory For The Sullen ‘ATOMOS I’ [Erased Tapes/Kranky]
03. Ariel Kalma ‘Almora Sunrise’ [RVNG Intl]
04. Alasdair Roberts ‘This Uneven Thing’ [Drag City]
05. Teho Teardo ‘The Outside Force’ [‘Ballyturk’ OST/Specula]
06. Erik K Skodvin ‘Shining, Burning’ [Sonic Pieces]
07. Black to Comm ‘Hands’ [Type]
08. A New Line (Related) ‘The Slow Sound of Your Life’ [Home Assembly Music]
09. Kiasmos ‘Bent’ [Erased Tapes]
10. Thom Yorke ‘Guess Again!’ [Self-Released]
11. Antonio Sanchez ‘Doors and Distance’ [‘Birdman’ OST/Warner Jazz]
12. Charles Mingus ‘Slop’ [Columbia]
13. Mogwai ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ (Nils Frahm Remix) [Rock Action]
14. Peter Broderick ‘Colours of the Night (Satellite)’ (Greg Haines Dub Mix) [Bella Union]
15. Noel Ellis ‘Memories’ [Summer/Light In The Attic]

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

Fractured Air. The universe is making music all the time.

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter