FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Tape

Mixtape: Just Like Anything

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justlikeanything_sleeve

Just Like Anything [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/just-like-anything-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. We Like We ‘I Began To Fall Apart’ [The Being Music]
02. Sufjan Stevens ‘No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross’ [Asthmatic Kitty]
03. William Ryan Fritch ‘_a renewed sense’ [Lost Tribe Sound]
04. Mute Forest ‘Volcanoes Flowing’ [Lost Tribe Sound]
05. Kenny Burrell ‘Chitlins Con Carne’ [Blue Note]
06. Bert Jansch ‘The Blacksmith’ [Charisma]
07. Ryley Walker ‘Primrose Garden’ [Dead Oceans]
08. Jackson C. Frank ‘Just Like Anything’ [Columbia/Castle Music]
09. Peter Broderick ‘Red Earth’ [Bella Union]
10. Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld ‘The sun roars into view’ [Constellation]
11. Colleen ‘Captain Of None’ [Thrill Jockey]
12. Sebastian Mullaert ‘Lat Björkarna Vissna’ [Mule Electronic]
13. Hauschka ‘Pripyat’ [City Slang/Temporary Residence]
14. Noel Ellis ‘Dance With Me’ [Summer/Light In The Attic]
15. Augustus Pablo ‘Dub Organizer’ [Kaya/Tropical]
16. Calexico ‘Cumbia De Donde’ [City Slang/Anti-]
17. Batha Gèbrè-Heywèt ‘Ewnet Yet Lagegnesh’ [Manteca]
18. Tape & Bill Wells ‘Fugue 3’ [Immune]
19. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat ‘We’re Still Here’ [Chemikal Underground]

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.

To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, or Twitter HERE.

 

Chosen One: Tape

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Interview with Johan and Andreas Berthling (Tape).

“All parts are equally important. It seems that’s what we’re always doing; straddling the fence between pop and more experimental music although we never think of it these days. The music just happens and we seem to know when it’s a music that’s us.”

—Johan Berthling

Words: Mark Carry, Design: Craig Carry
Video for “Repose”: Cedrick Eymenier

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This year marks the highly anticipated new record from Sweden’s finest, Tape, who also celebrate their 14th year of activity, having released a plethora of stunningly beautiful electro-acoustic explorations these past two decades. The trio’s sixth studio album is entitled ‘Casino’ which again reveals a band who defy categorization as the Berthling brothers (Johan and Andreas) and Tomas Hallonsten create utterly transcendent ambient infused folk pop odysseys of mesmerizing sounds with immaculate instrumentation of guitar, electronics, piano, percussion and field recordings. Each Tape record has become a reliable companion for the independent music collector as the band’s unique blend of experimental pop soundscapes ebb and flow gradually into the memories of the distant past and hopes and dreams of tomorrow.

Tape are unquestionably a musician’s band. A band who holds a special place in the heart of the independent music community. I recall talking with Germany’s Nils Frahm one autumn evening in 2012, and the Swedish trio soon loomed into the spotlight. After being asked “what music are you listening to most lately?” – and extensive rummaging through his beloved vinyl collection – the tone rose with the exclamation of ‘Fugue’ by Tape & Bill Wells. A precious work of art that features the piano of Wells interwoven with the intricate musical patterns of Tape. A vinyl I would order the moment our phone conversation came to its end. The same sense of special discovery awaits with each and every new Tape release and ‘Casino’ is no exception.

The album’s seven exquisite tracks contains beautifully constructed guitar-led melodies by Johan Berthling that are masterfully blended with Hallonsten’s scintillating piano patterns and Andreas Berthling’s distinctive modular synthesis and laptop wizardry. ‘Casino’s heart-warming sonic canvas awakens all your senses in one fleeting moment of rare beauty and graceful presence. The ambient flourishes of piano chords come to the foreground on ‘Alioth’ as textures of electronic glitches serve the ideal backdrop. ‘Repose’ is built on a returning motif of clean guitar tones that immediately feels familiar yet mysteriously unknown. Moments later, subtle touches of synthesizers swell beneath the gradual guitar cycles like ocean waves. An ethereal dimension is entered on the gentle ripples of ‘Goemen’ which builds continually throughout that feels a distant companion to 2011’s ‘Revelationes’. A brooding darkness envelops the surrounding space of drifting keys and synths. Added instrumentation of accordion is utilized on the album’s penultimate track, ‘Merak’ that conjures up the sound of a glowing moonlit sky on a summer’s night. The closing guitar-led melody of ‘Eagle Meows’ serves the fitting close to a stunningly beautiful work of true art.

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‘Casino’ by Tape is available now on Häpna.

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http://tape.se/
http://www.hapna.com/

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Exclusive premiere of the video for ‘Repose’ by Tape, directed by Cedrick Eymenier

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Interview with Johan and Andreas Berthling (Tape).

Tape are one of those rare treasures of independent music who have graced the stratosphere with a plethora of stunningly beautiful records, where each one possesses a unique charm and lo-fi warmth that permeates from the sonic layers. This all began in 2000 when you and your brother Andreas crossed paths with Tomas Hallonsten. Please take me back firstly, to your earliest musical memories with Andreas, and your family’s musical background that must have shaped you both growing up? 

Johan Berthling: There was music around a lot when we were small. Instruments were around at all times, which I think is a good thing to make children interested without forcing them to practice. On our fathers side there’s been a lot of musicians, our grandmother played organ in the church every Sunday and other relatives have played in orchestras etc. I started to study music fairly early on, Andreas took lessons too but wasn’t that keen at the time, his biggest interest was computers growing up. The first time we started playing together was when he moved to Stockholm and was in his early twenties. I have strong early memories listening to a lot of records on our parents hi-fi system. Swedish music as well as our mothers Beatles and Rolling Stones records.

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Was there a turning point when you both realized that making music was to be the path for you to explore? What were the instruments (I’m sure there was a wide array of musical instruments at home!) you learned to play first? Can you recount for me please first meeting Thomas, and indeed, the inception of Tape? It must have been a wonderful moment when the three of you formed this special trio. 

JB: I started to play the double bass at a quite young age, and always thought of having music as a career. I went to study at the Conservatory (but dropped out after two years), this was where I met Tomas. Andreas went to the Art Academy in Trondheim, Norway and had started making video art and computer music, when he left there and moved to Stockholm we got the idea to put together a band and we asked Tomas to join. We had a background in jazz, improvised music, electronic music and tried to fuse these influences together without knowing really how. We started out playing in 2000 and made some recording attempts we weren’t so happy with, but by 2002 we did the first recordings at our parents summer house and I think our sound came together there. We needed to get out of town and work in a more concentrated way. I think the surroundings there influenced us quite a bit, using field-recordings and found sound as part of the music.

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Like all great artists, the rich body of work lovingly bears your name. A divine blend of organic layers and digital warmth ceaselessly flows into the headspace that result in formidable mini-symphonies. I would love to learn about the creative process inherent in the construction of a Tape song?

JB: When recording we often have some basic idea from one of us and just play around with that to find out what the others can add to it. We’re interested in sound and recording so that becomes an important part of a composition. We like to keep the music feeling spontaneous and not too cluttered so the process are often taking away stuff and just keep the really necessary bits. When the three of us play together this is what comes out and we cannot change it that much even if we try.     

Andreas Berthling: When I started using computers for generating sounds I was aiming for something that wasn’t the traditional sequenced dance music that’s generally what people do with laptops, I was interested in coding and found SuperCollider to be the language I preferred and created patches that used granulation and other methods of acoustically treating sampled material in a way that I thought was binding the digital and acoustic worlds together.

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Congratulations on the new album ‘Casino’ which is the highly anticipated follow-up to ‘Revelationes’. It feels a natural step on from the previous material where the organic quality of the music (where guitars are prominently in the forefront of the mix) permeates throughout. Funnily enough, I see the music as one large piece of music and each track represents its own distinct movement within ‘Casino’s marvelous symphony of sound. Please take me back to recording ‘Casino’ and the choice of using the Atlantis studio in Stockholm? In what way do you feel the band’s two-year hiatus had on the resultant sound of the new record?

JB: This time we tried what we’ve been talking about for quite a long time, to try out the material live before recording it instead of vice-versa. We did a tour in November 2013 and went into the studio in December. We wanted the record to be done in shorter time than usual, both Luminarium and Revelationes we worked on for almost a year (of course spread out time), we wanted to make the album feel as a whole as much as possible.

Both me and Tomas has worked a lot with Janne Hansson at his Atlantis studio with other groups and projects. It’s a fantastic place, an old cinema that’s been used a studio since the 60’s. The place has a fantastic atmosphere and Janne is just a fantastic engineer who really knows how to get the sounds right. All of the record is cut with all three of us playing at the same time, some overdubs made at Atlantis and some made at our own Summa studio which is a very small place. We made our two previous records there in full so it also felt very nice to get a change of scene.

I think the pause we took had not such a great effect on the music, but at least I felt a strong longing for the group and wanted to start recording again.  

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In terms of the instrumentation for ‘Casino’, was it usually the case that the guitar melody forms the song or does it vary? I love how there is this compelling experimentation with sound ongoing but at all times there is a gorgeous pop sensibility that shines forth.  

JB: Yes, the guitar playing often forms the basic structure for the songs but not always. All parts are equally important. It seems that’s what we’re always doing; straddling the fence between pop and more experimental music although we never think of it these days. The music just happens and we seem to know when it’s a music that’s us.

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My favourite song at the moment is the album’s penultimate track ‘Merak’. The added instrumentation of melodica brings new colours and textures to the divine sonic canvas. I also love the electronic wizardry that ebbs and flows beneath the guitar-led melody. What are your memories of writing and recording this particular piece of music? I wonder is the arrangement of songs the most labour-intensive part of the music-making process? When one listens to any Tape record, it feels like such an effortless process.

JB: Thank you. It’s actually an accordion played beautifully by Tomas. There is certainly a bit of work put in the editing and mixing stage of making a Tape record. Less these days I think as we nowadays know what we’re after more clearly already when recording. Taking some things out, adding certain small stuff. This time we worked with our good friend Andreas Werliin ( Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Time is a Mountain, Fire!) on the mixing and he did a really great job creating this big sounding picture but still keeping it quite sparse.

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You have recorded in various locations for the various Tape albums, from a small stone barn on the first two records (‘Opera’ and ‘Mileu’) to your own Summa studio in Stockholm. I would love to gain an insight into these particular recording spaces and the set-up of the studio itself? The choice of recording space to record must have a big effect on the resulting sound you, in turn, create?

 AB: During the first two albums (‘Opera’ and ‘Mileu’) we only had a limited amount of equipment to record with, a laptop with a soundcard, two AKG mic’s and some smaller microphones, so we simply filled a van with musical instruments and took it to the house for a week on two separate occasions and the result are those two albums.

The third album ‘Rideu’, was recorded in Cologne with Marcus Schmickler at his Piethopraxis studio and pretty soon after that we started to build Summa and filled it with all the gear and instruments we acquired over the years, it’s a mixture of old analog gear, a lot of tape-echos and a DAW system, we rarely use plug-ins (if ever) and spend quite a bit of time getting sounds right before hitting record. For me personally it was really great to record ‘Casino’ at Atlantis as I mostly end up turning and twisting all the knobs at Summa. There’s no computer generating any sounds on ‘Casino’ as I now only use a modular synthesizer, so I basically have a lot more knobs to twist now!

JB: The choice of recording environment influence the music a lot. As said earlier, the choice of recording at a bigger studio gave us a little more possibilities soundwise. We also got the feeling to keep the music more sparse than on the previous albums as soon as we started recording. We felt that the sounds could hold its own even more than before.

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A vinyl I hold dear is ‘Fugue’, the collaboration between Tape and Bill Wells. It’s a match made in heaven. How did this collaboration come to light? Were the pieces of music written prior to the recording process? I love how the four songs coalesce together, forming one sublime, cohesive whole. Bill Wells has collaborated with many interesting artists producing many great records but ‘Fugue’ for me is the most resonating. 

JB: We knew Bill from some of his recordings on Geographic, I think we met personally the first time through our friend Stephen Pastel from the group the Pastels, who’s also running the great record store Monorail in Glasgow. Bill invited us to play the Triptych Festival in Scotland, 3 gigs in different cities with him. We did a session in Glasgow, but the tracks on the album were recorded during a couple of days in our studio in Stockholm.

To me his way of playing really simple but strong stuff really influenced the music. We had some sketches beforehand but most of it just came together there and then, based on that we played shows together both in Scotland and Sweden. I think what came out was really a something third, something not sounding exactly as Tape nor Bills music.

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You also co-run the prestigious Häpna label. The likes of Hans Appelqvist, Musette, Tape, Sagor & Swing among many others have been responsible for such illuminating works of art. It must be a real privilege to champion such unique artists. How did running a label come about for you? Looking into the future, what releases can we expect for 2014/2015? 

JB: We (co-runner Klas Augustsson and me) has been going since 1999 and a lot has changed during those years. Lack of time might be the biggest change, and also of course the whole music scene has changed (even for a miniature label as Häpna). It’s harder and we also see quite a lack of interest from press to cover what we release, but what has kept us going is that we are lucky working with some great artists as the ones you mention. We’ve chosen to work more closely with just a few rather than releasing as much as we did in the earlier years. Me and Klas has been friends since age 15 or so and we had a band together. The label came out of late-night listening sessions, around that time it felt like starting a record label wasn’t impossible. We got influenced by the many small foreign labels releasing experimental music around that time. The labels output has followed the expansion of our musical tastes, starting out with field-recordings and improvised music and then onward. We chose from the start just to release stuff we really liked and at the time there were few labels covering what we did in Sweden, so it felt that there was a gap to fill. We also started doing a couple of festivals and also curating small live events in Stockholm, something that we still do from time to time.      

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Lastly, I would love to know what records you have been listening to the most this past year?

JB: I listen to a lot of Brazilian music; Evinha, Marcos Valle, Arthur Verocai,  Ethiopian; Getachew Mekuria, Tsege Mariam Gebru  and so at home. Lots of Free Jazz of course; Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman. Also some artists that I come back to all the time like Talk Talk, Microstoria, Morton Feldman.

AB: There’s a lot of Brazilian music for me too, currently spinning Orlandivo and Chico Buarque but also a lot of Kraut like Harmonia, Cluster, Michael Rother and La Düsseldorf.

 


 

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‘Casino’ by Tape is available now on Häpna.

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http://tape.se/
http://www.hapna.com/

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Tape are on tour across Europe this November. Tour dates are as follows:

Nov 14
Den Haag, The Netherlands
@ Volkspaleis Zuiderstrandtheater
http://www.volkspaleis.org/

Nov 17
Praha, Czech Republic
@ Cross Club
http://www.crossclub.cz

Nov 19
Maribor, Slovenia
@ Narodni Dom Maribor
http://www.nd-mb.si/

Nov 21
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Le Guess Who? Festival
http://www.leguesswho.com

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Written by markcarry

October 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Mixtape: Some Velvet Morning [A Fractured Air Mix]

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Some Velvet Morning [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/some-velvet-morning-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Goat ‘To Travel The Path Unknown’ [Sub Pop]
02. Miles Davis ‘John McLaughlin’ [CBS, Columbia]
03. Pharoah Sanders ‘Greeting To Saud’ [Impulse!]
04. Boom Bip Feat. Nina Nastasia ‘The Matter (Of Our Discussion)’ [Lex]
05. Kate Ellis ‘Why Do You Smile?’ [Diatribe]
06. Spoon ‘Inside Out’ [Anti-]
07. St. Vincent ‘Severed Crossed Fingers’ [Loma Vista, Republic]
08. Rival Consoles ‘3 Chords’ [Erased Tapes]
09. Nils Frahm ‘Peter’ (Clark Remix) [Warp]
10. Caribou ‘Our Love’ [City Slang / Merge]
11. Daphni & Owen Pallett ‘Julia’ [Jiaolong]
12. Cora Venus Lunny ‘The Unknown (Dissolution)’ [Diatribe]
13. Tape ‘Merak’ [Häpna]
14. The Raincoats ‘The Void’ [Rough Trade]
15. Adrian Crowley ‘Trouble’ [Chemikal Underground]
16. Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra ‘Some Velvet Morning’ [Reprise]

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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.

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

Mixcloud / Facebook / Twitter

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Mixtape: Long After The Music Is Gone [A Fractured Air Mix]

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Long After The Music Is Gone [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/long-after-the-music-is-gone-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Áine O’Dwyer – ‘For The Souls Of Our Fleas’ (Fort Evil Fruit)
02. Anna Von Hausswolff – ‘Epitaph of Theodor’ (City Slang)
03. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – ‘Rains Thru The Roof At The Grande Ballroom’ (Constellation)
04. Calexico – ‘Entrenandos A Los Tigres’ (Our Soil, Our Strength)
05. Eric Dolphy – ‘Gazzelloni’ (Blue Note)
06. Colin Stetson – ‘This Bed Of Shattered Bone’ (Constellation)
07. Seán Mac Erlaine – ‘Long After The Music Is Gone’ (Ergodos)
08. Nils Frahm – ‘For’ (Erased Tapes)
09. Peter Broderick – ‘Floating/Sinking’ (Erased Tapes)
10. Amiina – ‘Kola’ (Amínamúsík ehf.)
11. Colleen – ‘Your Heart Is So Loud’ (Leaf Label)
12. Murcof – ‘Louis XIV’s Demons’ (Leaf Label)
13. Borngräber & Strüver – ‘Berlin Tribal Music’ (m=minimal)
14. Tindersticks – ‘Put Your Love In Me (Fade)’ (Lucky Dog)
15. Katie Kim – ‘Charlie’ (Flaming June)
16. Tape – ‘Byhalia’ (Häpna)
17. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – ‘Gun Thing’ (Mute)
18. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh – ‘Braes of Balquidder’ (State Of Chassis)
19. Julia Kent – ‘Nina and Oscar’ (Leaf Label)

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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.

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

Mixcloud  /  Soundcloud

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Mixtape: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A Fractured Air Mix]

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ihadtoomuchtodream_front

I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/i-had-too-much-to-dream-last-night-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Tape – ‘Dust and Light’ (Häpna)
02. Peter Broderick – ‘Walking/Thinking’ (Type)
03. The Notwist – ‘Lineri’ (City Slang)
04. Barker & Baumecker – ‘Spur (Clark Remix)’ (Warp)
05. patten – ‘Here Always’ (Warp)
06. Bibio – ‘Dye the Water Green’ (Warp)
07. The Gentleman Losers – ‘Mansion on the Dunes’ (Büro)
08. Vincent Gallo – ‘I Wrote This Song For The Girl Paris Hilton’ (Warp)
09. Julia Holter – ‘Try To Make Yourself a Work of Art’ (Leaving Records / Domino)
10. Hydras Dream – ‘Grandma’s Appearance’ (Denovali)
11. Illum Sphere – ‘Liquesce’ (Ninjatune)
12. The Space Lady – ‘I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)’ (Nightschool)
13. The Blue Rondos – ‘Little Baby’ (Pye)
14. Cate Le Bon feat. Perfume Genius – ‘I Think I Knew’ (Turnstile / Wichita)
15. Angelo Badalamenti – ‘Twin Peaks Theme (Instrumental)’ (Warner Bros.)
16. Lucrecia Dalt – ‘Batholith’ (Human Ear Music)
17. Jonny Greenwood – ‘Open Spaces: Suite from “There Will Be Blood” Performed by the Copenhagen Phil, conducted by Andre de Ridder (Deutsche Grammophon)
18. Birds of Passage – ‘Lonesome Tame’ (Denovali)
19. Christina Vantzou – ‘Sister’ (Kranky)

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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.

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

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air

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Chosen One: Mountains

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Interview with Koen Holtkamp, Mountains.

“I see collecting instruments somewhat in the same regard as collecting sounds for a piece. I started out experimenting with radios, computers, electronics etc and was just particularly taken with the richness and intimacy of acoustic instruments so initially I came at it from a sonic perspective.”

—Koen Holtkamp, Mountains

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Mountains comprise of the duo Koen Holtkamp and Brendon Anderegg. Based in Brooklyn, the pair have been responsible for some of independent music’s most treasured music over the last decade or so. This year marks the release of ‘Centralia’ (on the Chicago-based Thrill Jockey label), the band’s fifth album and follow-up to 2011’s ‘Air Museum.’

As we’ve come to expect from Mountains, the music on ‘Centralia’ is spellbinding; wonderfully crafted sonic textures effortlessly fuse together to create an otherworldly sound. ‘Centralia’ itself is named from the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania, which was the site of a tragic mine fire in 1962, which lead to the town’s abandonment. Ghosts of Centralia can be heard throughout the LP, where ambient drone passages and nuanced textural details (such as a softly strummed acoustic guitar, an uplifting cello, or a melodica) create a magical atmosphere – sometimes haunting, other times truly uplifting – but always utterly compelling and imaginative.

‘Sand’ opens the album and sets the tone for what’s to come perfectly. This gorgeous piece begins with a drone intro where gradual layers of manipulated sounds overlay together to create an expansive, vast soundscape. The piece echoes Stars of the Lid, where it feels as if no mere mortal could create such beauty. There is also a wonderful balance of contrast on the piece, there is always sufficient amounts of light and dark present in a Mountains composition. One of my personal highlights of any Mountains album comes in the passage beginning at the eight minute mark of ‘Sand’. Here we are immersed in a drone passage, gradually getting denser in texture while achieving quite an ominous and foreboding mood. Then, as if a ray of light has shone forth on proceedings, a magical cello line drifts in, beautifully shifting the composition to its glorious conclusion at the ten-minute mark.

Of course, instrumentation is also a key part of the Mountains oeuvre, the pair never rely solely on what technology can bring to proceedings. The range of instruments used by Holtkamp and Anderegg serves to add a myriad of tones and textures to their palette. It’s clear that the pair soak up influences from everywhere, not simply in the drone/ambient sphere but also in classical realms and folk music traditions. Like Mountains’s classic “Choral” (Thrill Jockey, 2009) the pair have the exquisite ability and musical understanding to know exactly what arrangements to call for and when exactly to adopt a particular instrument. Take, for example, the second piece ‘Identical Ship’ a beautiful folk-inspired acoustic guitar-led composition where piano notes are added to the arrangement to mesmerizing effect. It recalls, for me, the “magic” of seeing Warren Ellis play piano live last year with The Dirty Three, his piano notes rising from the depths of Turner and White’s blissful noise.

Mountains are not only real artists (their artistry is apparent across any of their records) but also master craftsmen. Holtkamp and Anderegg recorded Centralia (mostly at Telescope Recording in Brooklyn) as well as completing editing and mixing duties. No stone is left unturned. In a similar painstaking fashion to the recorded output of Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized, we can immediately ‘hear’ the sheer work and attention to detail at all times in the finished compositions. A true labour of love from start to finish.

‘Circular C’ demonstrates wonderfully how Mountains can combine both organic and synthetic sounds so seamlessly. Yet the effect that’s created is wholly natural: It feels like we’re atop wide open, boundless plains, savouring everything nature can show us. The ten minutes therein is simply life-affirming. The six-minute acoustic guitar-led ‘Tilt’ is sequenced halfway and is – like everything else – perfectly sequenced. The song is more sparse than other pieces, and the guitar work recalls such luminaries as William Tyler (particularly his ‘Behold The Spirit’ album). Subtlety is also paramount. The field recordings, piano and the digitally altered sounds all add to the piece greatly, yet never threaten to override the flow of the piece or detract from the divine acoustic guitar playing. An ebbing tide recording comprises the outro of ‘Tilt’, the ebb and flow majestically reinforcing the true beauty inherent in the music of Mountains.

Post ‘Tilt’ feels as if we’re onto side two of ‘Centralia’, as more abstract and ambient-minded compositions take hold of the senses from now on. ‘Propeller’ takes its cue from more classical/ambient spheres. The piece is as breathtaking as Steve Reich’s ‘Phases’, as the track seems to create a life of its own; It’s twenty-minute mastery is worth the price of the album on its own. Both ‘Liana’ and ‘Living Lens’ are equally compelling (the keys on the former creates a surreal dream-like passage; the latter echoes the film score works of Cave & Ellis) and confirms (as if anyone needed confirmation in the first place) Mountains as independent music’s most beloved and cherished of acts making music today.

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‘Centralia’ is out now on Thrill Jockey. 

Mountains play The Black Mariah, Triskel, Cork on 8 May, tickets €12/10 are available from Plugd Records and Triskel, Cork.  (Facebook Event page here)

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Interview with Koen Holtkamp, Mountains.

The title for ‘Centralia’ is a reference to Centralia, Pennsylvania, the site of a mine fire in 1962, which lead to the town’s abandonment. Can you please discuss the inspiration that the town of Centralia had on your ‘Centralia’ record?

It’s actually not meant to be a direct reference to the town in Pennsylvania though we were aware that some people would probably make that connection. There are quite a few towns in the US with the name Centralia one of which we came across while on tour on the West Coast and the name kind of stuck with us. As we were working on the record we started to think of it as somewhat of a culmination of everything we’d done in the past so Centralia as a central location or middle ground made sense. On one level there’s this more literal connection but we also thought of it worked nicely as an imaginary location for the music to come from.

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From the gorgeous opener ‘Sand’ onwards, ‘Centralia’ really seems a culmination of all previous Mountains records. I didn’t think it would ever be possible to better “Choral” but you’ve done it already with “Centralia”, a truly life-affirming record. What kind of a record were you both hoping to create with ‘Centralia?’ For you both, how is this record a departure?

Thanks! With this album we were really trying to make something dynamic that was a combination of all the different approaches that we’d used in the past while still trying to move forward and develop some new ideas and approaches at the same time. I think this approach was able to develop fairly naturally because we decided to take our time with the record allowing for more experimentation in the studio and letting things find their place versus having a preconceived notion of what we wanted to do beforehand.

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I am always struck by the sheer range of instruments Mountains will use in their arrangements – creating such a magnificent spectrum of sounds – acoustic guitars, melodica, accordion, bells, cello, field recordings and so much more. When did you begin “collecting” musical instruments? What are your most-prized possessions? Anything on your wish list you are yet to find?

I see collecting instruments somewhat in the same regard as collecting sounds for a piece. I started out experimenting with radios, computers, electronics etc and was just particularly taken with the richness and intimacy of acoustic instruments so initially I came at it from a sonic perspective rather than as a ‘guitarist’ for example. This was about thirteen years or so ago so I guess we’ve been putting together a small collection of sound making devices for quite awhile. As far as favorites go at the moment I would probably have to say my harmonium as it’s the instrument I can most easily get lost in and my modular synthesizer as I’ve spent the last few years researching and slowly amassing a very personalized group of modules that I put a lot of thought and time into so it’s very much specifically tailored to my own approach.

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In terms of organic and synthetic sounds, Mountains seem to really wholeheartedly embrace both worlds of sounds. Yet the Mountains “sound” is always so organic and real. What are your thoughts on music and technology, its impact and advancements it has had on you both?

While we use some modern technology we’re predominantly interested in it for it’s sound making possibilities rather than any sort of overtly technological concept or approach. We are naturally drawn to the richness of acoustic instrumentation but also utilize electronics both as a compliment and extension of what an acoustic instrument can do. Processing instruments allows for a greater range of sounds and can also blur the lines between whats coming from a resonating object (instrument) for example and what’s coming from a machine (electronics). We’ve been fascinated by this combination since the beginning and it continues to be a theme.

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Regarding the decision-making process for what constitutes the final cut of a Mountains record; Is there a specific plan you both will agree on from the outset (do you discuss the particular themes, arrangements or avenues beforehand, prior to the recording of material), or is it very much a case of sitting down and letting the music do the talking and taking it from there?

It’s a little of both. We often have preconceived ideas of an approach or melody but these things can mutate and change quite a bit during the process. We also record most of our practices and quite a few improvisations so we generally have a good number of recordings to work with prior to the point when we decide to start formulating the material into tracks for an album. Usually things become clearer with the individual pieces when we start to put them next to each other and think about the larger relationships of how they relate to one another in the context of an album and this is generally where we start to really get into the specifics.

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It’s interesting because on hearing about the inspiration from the Centralia mine fire in Pennsylvania, I immediately thought of Bill Morrison’s ‘The Miner Hymns’ film and its accompanying score by Jóhann Jóhannsson where the music matches the poetic beauty inherent in the film footage. Apologies if this question may be a little “lazy”, but I would love to hear whether there are filmmakers you both would love to collaborate with? Or, indeed which filmmakers and films that you admire? (As a Mountains fan, there seems to be a magical kinship in your patient, intricate and heavenly music with that of Terrence Malick for instance).

A Terrence Malick film would certainly be amazing. An obvious choice perhaps, but getting to work on a Werner Herzog project would be a dream. In terms of younger director/filmmakers I really enjoyed the pacing and acting in Jeff Nichols first two films and Paul Clipson’s Super 8 work is exceptionally beautiful. Working on something that was on the more narrative side could be an interesting challenge being that what we do is somewhat abstract.

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It must be very enriching and proud being responsible for such a significant body of work you have both created over the last decade, creating such divine music which really impacts on the lives of your listeners and fans. It must also be enriching considering the other artists you have a kinship with (Stars of the lid, a winged victory for the sullen, Tape on the Hapna label, Gentleman Losers, to name a few). Are there bands you’d love to collaborate with? Which bands/artists do you admire making music today?

We’ve toured with Tape a few times, they’re wonderful people and I have a lot of respect for their music. As far as collaborations go generally I prefer to work with friends or people I have some connection to outside of just the fact that we both make somewhat similar music. I’m looking forward to making another duo record with Philadelphia based guitarist Chris Forsyth when we get back from tour and have a few other collaborative things in the works. We’ve talked about doing an album with ‘guests’ but we’re so particular I think Mountains will predominantly just be us.

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Often, on listening to your music, I feel there must be a world of influences you guys must soak up all the time. Everything from ambient and electronic music to classical and folk and all points in between. There must be an unbelievable record collection at Mountains HQ! What bands would you both consider the most influential and inspirational for you both? I would love if you could give a list of albums that you both hold close to your hearts and you find yourselves coming back to again and again?

Perhaps it’s easier to list a few artists/genres vs albums. In no particular order Charlemagne Palestine, Microstoria, Terry Riley, John Fahey, Don Cherry, Henry Flynt, Early Music, Franco Battiato, Heldon, Popul Vuh, Gastr Del Sol, Roberto Capagglia, Richard Youngs, Indian classical music, North African music, Gavin Bryars, Giancarlo Scelsi, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Stephan Mathieu, David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, Canned Heat, Pandit Pran Nath, Luc Ferrari, Keith Hudson, Steve Lacy, Alvin Curran, Howlin Wolf, Luciano Cilio, Oren Ambarchi, Suni Mcgrath, Nuno Caravaro, Ornette Coleman, Neil Young, Mighty Baby, Jimi Hendrix, Bernard Parmegiani, Roscoe Holcomb, Mantronix, Hamza El Din, Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, Roy Harper, Francis Bebey, Bill Fay, Laurie Spiegel etc etc etc

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The wonderful photographer Alec Soth has often talked about how an artist – no matter how diverse or innovative their work – is often “condensed” to one sentence which is ultimately what they will be remembered for (“the shorthand summation everyone uses to describe a particular person.”) Sorry for the difficult task but I would be curious to hear how you would describe the music of Mountains; what would this “sentence” be? What thread binds the music of Mountains?

I don’t really feel right in summarizing what we do in a one liner but I’ll try in two words. Gradual music. While we certainly don’t adhere to every aspect of it’s concept I appreciate Steve Reich’s approach in his essay ‘Music as a Gradual Process’.

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What’s been on your reading list lately for you both?

I tend to read a few things at once. Currently Herzog’s ‘Conquest of The Useless’ Neil Young’s ‘Waging Heavy Peace’ and Dub : Soundscapes and Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Also just picked up Raymond Chandlers ‘The Long Goodbye’ for the upcoming tour.

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Mountains play The Black Mariah, Triskel, Cork on 8 May, tickets €12/10 are available from Plugd Records and Triskel, Cork.  (Facebook Event page here)

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April 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm