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Step Right Up: Botany

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We are delighted to premiere the beautiful new music video ‘Ory (Joyous Toil)’ by Austin’s Botany, taken from last year’s sublime ambient album ‘Deepak Verbera’ (released on the prestigious Western Vinyl imprint).

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Interview with Spencer Stephenson (Botany).

Deepak occupied a singular creative mental space for me that felt wholly different from anything I’d done before…”

Spencer Stephenson

 

Deepak Verbera’, the third LP by Austin’s Spencer Stephenson aka Botany, bends the beat-driven path carved by the composer’s first two records into free-form cosmic terrain, juxtaposing free jazz poly-rhythms, rich ambient textures and hypnotic psych-inflected harmonies. Following on from the more hip-hop oriented production of Botany’s first two records, ‘Deepak Verbera’ shows a master sound sculptor who ceaselessly blurs boundaries and pushes the sonic envelope.

 

 

 ‘Deepak Verbera’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/BotanyMusic/

https://botany.bandcamp.com/music

 

Interview with Spencer Stephenson (Botany).

 

Please talk me through the construction (or de-construction) of the utterly beguiling ambient exploration ‘Ory (Joyous Toil)’. For the recording itself, what was the equipment at your disposal?

Spencer Stephenson: A friend and former housemate of mine had come back from tour a few years ago with some cassette recordings of a harpist he had played a show with. He had asked her to play in some various keys and scales and recorded it through a handheld cassette player for the purpose of sampling, so I often pull from it to create beds of harp textures on my tracks. ‘Ory‘ begins with a sample of this tape being played on the piano roll in my DAW, jotted out in midi notes, kind of casio SK-1 style.

Everything else is laid out around that motif. It’s a very sonically full track but I don’t think there are more than a few layers, and the core structure consists only of those repeating chords created from the harp sample. Even with my vocal melody, I layered the same line over itself as opposed to creating a harmony. This song sounds maximal but is fairly minimal in its construction. It was one of the final tracks added to the album, and it felt like a breakthrough when I completed it. If the album is a face then this track is like the smile, or the human glint in its eyes. It makes the rest of the album connect with the listener, I feel.

I have some droning electric guitar that creates textural urgency and brings the song out of its softness, because I wanted most of this record to feel aggressively benevolent. The final element added was upright acoustic piano which I just plinked around on to create more texture billows, with the exception of the intro and outro chords. Despite how loose it seems to be, this track was the result of some level of deliberate sculpting to make everything feel both distinct and holistic at once. That’s why it has “Toil” in the title. The “Ory” part of it refers to Incredible String Band’s song Eyes of Fate which contains the line “echoes wholly only lonely, long before-y, ory, ory.” I mimick the final two words of that line softly in the background as a mantra.

One of the great hallmarks of your latest ‘Deepak Verbera’ LP is how the music is steeped in this cosmic sound world where an intense ambient dimension surrounds each creation. Can you discuss the making of ‘Deepak Verbera’ and the musical (or otherwise) influences you feel found its way into the overall sound?

SS: So on my album before ‘Deepak‘ I was juxtaposing straight ahead hip-hop production with heavy texturally-focused ambient exploration, really exploring how those two types of music could be made through the exact same means: samplers and record digging, DAWs, tape-recording, single-mic recording setups, etc. I turned in ‘Dimming Awe‘ and had this itch to keep going with the drum-less, spacey tendencies of it, so I hit the ground running and started working on ‘Deepak‘ before ‘Dimming Awe‘ was even mastered. ‘Deepak‘ occupied a singular creative mental space for me that felt wholly different from anything I’d done before and as a result it’s still my favorite in my discography. It felt like I had finally gained the confidence and palette to be able to put out something so freeform and uncensored, and I had been slowly stepping further out on that limb in the years before making this record.

I continue to be fervent about the idea that drone-y or contemplative music is not apolitical, and ‘Deepak Verbera‘ is an expression of that. In the American consciousness a lot of spiritually-leaning music, and contemplative spirituality in general, seems to have an association of passivity, or calmness, or something relegated to yoga studios and massage parlors. That, to me, shows a disappointing lack of imagination. In an era of sensory overload and cultural loudness, there’s nothing more anti-authority than turning down and coaxing the listener into introspection. There’s plenty of self-centeredness to go around, but self-awareness is overlooked. And I think that cosmic or spiritual perspectives can sometimes feel brutalizing, humbling, and scathing, and transcendent at the same time. So with ‘Deepak‘ I wanted to make a record that was at once both peaceful and turbulent. Elevating and unseating at the same time.

Some of the spiritual jazz that arose after John Coltrane’s death seemed to imply a similar motive, so people like Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane are obvious touchstones. The recent Ariel Kalma retrospective that RVNG put out also had a direct effect. I came of age during a time when hippie-ness was kind of re-appropriated and folded into freak folk and the New Weird America movement, and underground music became this weird Bush-era version of the late 60’s and early 70’s. There seemed to be an unapologetic leap into rambling freeform and improv within that paradigm that has been stitched permanently into my musical quilt.

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I’d love to gain an insight into your approach to making the more hip-hop oriented sound of your previous works under the alias of Botany? Can you talk me through the process by which you splice different segments and elements together and how you feel you have learned and developed as a producer in this regard?

SS: That style of production is my first love, musically. It’s my default mode in a lot of ways. I started out writing full arrangements on guitar as a kid, and making a song out of samples feels no different to me, in fact its more fulfilling. I choose which elements of what I’m sampling fit best into a song, the same way I’d select chords or tones as a guitarist, and rhythms as a drummer. I rarely feel that I’m sampling something that’s outside of my own capability to play on any instrument with the exception of horns or strings. To me, sampling is about a wider curation process than traditional musicianship can provide. The timbrel, textural, and tonal array of sampling opens itself up far beyond what anything that a single instrumentalist can do on his or her own in a bedroom. Hip-hop is the most forward thinking genre in that regard, especially 90’s hip-hop when the MPC was the be-all-end-all.

So when I sit down to make a track I usually operate through those methods, even though I’m doing it outside of an MPC. It begins a lot of times by programming drums or rhythms and then building around that. I have a huge archive of loops and samples that I’ve created, but I usually sample from something outside of my archive when I’m working on new stuff. It all comes from various sources– vinyl, cassette, personal recordings, film, whatever.

I also begin a lot of projects around some interesting loop I’ve found, which is probably true for a lot of producers. Lately I’ve been into the vibe of manipulating one tiny sound, or a congruent stack of sounds, and taking it out of context, bending and pitching it around and having that process be the core of the track itself without need of structure or meter.

Please recount your memories of growing up in Texas and your musical upbringing. Your curiosity with many facets of sound and using sources and playing varied instruments must have stemmed from your adolescence I presume?

SS: Yeah, so I grew up in an area that was pretty lush and undeveloped, and I realize as I grow older that that was hugely influential. My father is also a musician, and my mother had good taste in music and was a careful listener, I remember showing her Four Tet’s album Rounds and hearing her later refer to him as a genius, so that says something about her ear. That combination of environment and musical enthusiasm made me into a musician. I have a deeply imprinted memory of being at home one rainy Friday afternoon in sixth grade. My dad and brother shared this bass guitar and amplifier in a room in the back of our house that had a big wall-wide window on one side. After noodling around on the bass I laid it down on the floor and ran one finger over the open strings for about an hour. Just “G, D, E, A” repeatedly for about an hour while I looked out the window at foliage dripping in the rain. I think that’s the moment when I realized that music doesn’t have to be in song form, that it can be an investigation into sound itself.

I grew up in a small town outside of Fort Worth, Texas so the pool of musicians was fairly small. There was a period where I was participating in other bands, mostly playing metal and whatever they were into, but the whole time I had this vision for a really exploratory, rhythm-heavy sound that had nothing to do with any of that. I got old enough to have interest in my parents’ vinyl collection so I started listening to folks of their generation like Nick Drake, Billy Cobham, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Sly Stone, and Jimi Hendrix who had always been a part of my life but who I’d started to fully appreciate around then.

My older brother was also making Drum & Bass and I really took to LTJ Bukem and Roni Size.  It was all of this stuff together at a very formative age. That stuff demonstrated how electronic music was made. But through the older music I started to make the connection that this is what hip-hop was sampling, this was what hip-hop came out of in a sense. I was really honing in on Jay Dee’s production on Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” of all things. That’s such a defining album for me because of its conceptual through-line and its interludes, hidden tracks, and jazz nods. It really played with and utilized the full-length format, weaving in and out of amazing singles with these really exploratory easter-eggs that rewarded patient listening.

A lot of my youth was spent being just that, a patient listener in an isolated headspace separated from the goings-on of my peers because of having a different musical vision than them. Almost no one else in my town really “got” the music I was interested in, so I ended up making it alone. I resented it at the time, but I appreciate my path now. I didn’t realize how much it forced me to follow my idea of what I thought music was supposed to be.

Lastly, please pick your most cherished psychedelic and jazz records from your collection. Would you have certain defining records that for you, you must always come back to?

SS: I definitely have some staples in my collection. The older I get the harder it is to fully cherish anything outside of those staples, there’s so much music being released, but I keep my ear open with some focused effort. On the psychedelic tip, which I consider to be very broad, I’ve been regularly listening to these records for years, most for about a decade:

Iasos – Inter-Dimensional Music

Colleen – Everyone Alive Wants Answers

NEU! – s/t

Broadcast & The Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age / HaHa Sound

JK & Company – Suddenly One Summer

Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter / The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion

Semya – Golden Days

Windy & Carl – Consciousness

Can – Tago Mago / Future Days

As far as jazz stuff goes, in no order or chronology:

Herbie Hancock – Mwandishi

Pharoah Sanders – Thembi

Don Cherry – Organic Music Society

Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil

David Axelrod – Song of Innocence (didn’t know whether to put this under psych or jazz)

Alice Coltrane – Huntington Ashram Monastery

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

Weather Report – s/t (1971)

Art Ensemble of Chicago – People in Sorrow

 ‘Deepak Verbera’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/BotanyMusic/

https://botany.bandcamp.com/music

 

 

Written by admin

March 7, 2017 at 6:14 pm

Step Right Up: Christopher Tignor

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Interview with Christopher Tignor.

“But there is another question to be asked for people who want to ask which is ‘What is in the music itself and what is it about how these notes go together that specifically creates this experience or feeling now that another piece of music changes or creates a different experience?

—Christopher Tignor.

Words: Mark Carry

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Christopher Tignor is a composer, violinist and software engineer. Last year saw the gifted musician’s utterly captivating full-length release ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ gracefully emerge into the earth’s atmosphere, released on the ever-dependable U.S. label Western Vinyl. In a similarly hypnotic spell as Canadian violinist Sarah Neufeld’s 2016 opus ‘The Ridge’, Tignor’s shape-shifting compositions gradually unfold a rare beauty that is forever embedded deep within the string-based liturgies of deep meaning and truth.

The ambitious scope of Tignor’s latest musical musings represents one of the great hallmarks of ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’. As Tignor has previously explained: “The music is first and foremost about what can be done together, live in a room, to both transcend and reclaim ourselves from the noise of public living.” On the deep catharsis of ‘Shapeshifting’ (featuring tuning forks employed as musical instruments) or the mesmeric ebb and flow of ‘Artefacts of Longing’s three enthralling movements, one feels an awakening or moreover, an epiphany – an insight into the essential meaning of something previously unknown or buried beneath uncertainty – illuminate like burning embers of an everlasting flame. The ten compositions captured on ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ inhabits a vast space that, in turn, enables the string-based odysseys to transcend the very space – and time – in which the sonic patterns ceaselessly orbit.

‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.wiresundertension.com/

http://westernvinyl.com/

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Interview with Christopher Tignor.

Firstly, I’d love for you to discuss the innovative software you have created for the new album ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’?

Christopher Tignor: I’m happy to talk about the software. For me, it’s an important thing to share with the world, just like the music. I give it away and I like other people to use it and it’s an important part of my creative output. So, the idea behind the software is that I need to always be playing instruments with my hands – including the drums and violin – I don’t have time to be touching the computer. The computer is on the floor, I never touch it during the performance during the songs at all and I need to able to control all the sounds and I want to be able to do everything gesturally so I don’t want any pre-recorded material. I want to be able to kick a drum or play the violin or do something physical and control the flow of time through the music by triggering other sounds by playing actual instruments.

So, that’s the underlying idea behind it and so there is several pieces of software that I use that all run inside Abelton, they’re devices that you can use for Abelton. And what they let you do is trigger other sounds, in my case I use a trigger on the kick drum and that allows me to play essentially other sounds when I’m playing the kick drum and I can also take my violin and the software lets me configure very specifically auto tune harmonizers that create harmonies that shift independently with my violin playing. So, it’s all made live out of my playing and the software lets you control very specifically how all your physical gestures translate into the rest of the music.

So, the kick drum acts as a cue for you to progress into the next stage of the music?

CT: That’s a good way to think of it. Essentially there is a score programmed in the computer so each time you kick the drum it’ll essentially play a sound which is taken from that score. So you can control the time and how fast you move and you can pause and wait and can be completely flexible with how you are moving through the score. It takes the ability to be able to create a score and to be able to score out your work to some extent.

I know you already touched on it but I love the extra instrumentation; those extra flourishes to the violin itself – those bells that feel like chimes for instance – are dotted beautifully around the album.

CT: Well those are very important for me because they are artefacts of this process that I think of as creating these different rituals. And the bell-like effects – and there’s lots of different bells that you’re hearing like triangles and metal percussion and a hi hat and a tambourine and I have a pastor bell – those really have a beautiful resonant quality which helps evoke this sort of ritual; it’s like the beginning of a ritual every time you sound them.

‘The Artefacts of Longing’ is a very important piece on the album and particularly love how there are three different parts. I wonder was this composition one long piece in your head first and then afterwards you realized it would be three distinct pieces?

CT: I think it was the former, I mean I had in my head that I wanted to do a long form multi-movement work as part of the album. I had started writing this body of music by creating the shorter works, the first work I wrote was ‘Arrow In The Dark’ and then I wrote ‘Shape Shifting’ for tuning fork and I knew I wanted to push myself making longer multi-movement work – something I’ve done on other albums in the past – but I’ve never tried to do anything like that solo and so I wanted to take on the challenge and to make a multi-movement work that was compelling across three parts but just one man playing it. I had some various ideas, bits of music I often shelve if they don’t fit into a piece that I’m working on – I’ll be writing a piece, some part or act of some melody or section will show up if it doesn’t work I will have to shelve it – and so I had some things on the shelf which I knew would work possibly well together.

And so the process for me began with looking at some of these parts like the very beginning of the third movement where I’m playing this counterpoint, essentially with no percussion that has a very Bachian or Baroque quality to it and I had already written this previously and I could never find a home for it, it’s truly one of my favourite things to play on the record and I knew I had to get it in somewhere. So, I had these departure points like that and then the question for me was how to navigate from one point to the other and that process was of course very challenging. The composition’s very much the art of can I get there from here. I knew I wanted to make a multi-movement work and I had these touchstones, I would say.

I feel there is a lovely parallel between your own work and Sarah Neufeld’s music and Colin Stetson too, there’s very much like a unique voice that speaks very strongly throughout.

CT: Well I mean they are some very strong and compelling artists and it’s nice to be in such great company in your mind, you know.

In a way, ‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ is very much a performance record like you mentioned already, there’s this need to play in real-time? I also loved the idea how you had the album available as a visual or film, which was a lovely idea and another perspective to see the music unfolding.

CT: I’m glad you enjoyed that. For us it became pretty clear early on when I was thinking even of how to make the music that it was going to have to be made all live, I wouldn’t be able to make overdubs for this music even if I wanted to because there is so much free time and space, it would be way too hard to try and catch it at the right time on the second time around, you know what I mean. It became clear even when recording the audio thing, it would have to be really a live performance and so we went as far as we could with that idea and said that if it was going to be more or less live, why not just record it on video and really show the process and really bring people in to that experience.

You have done so much in your own career being involved in so many different projects you’re involved in. In addition, you have a pHD in Composition, I’d be interested to learn what exactly this study involves?

CT: Technically my advisor hasn’t actually finished my dissertation so I actually don’t have my pHD in Composition yet but that’ll be happening very soon [laughs]. I can only speak for my experience at Princeton where I went but typically it involves really trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how music works and we all love to appreciate music and spend a lot of time listening to it and hopefully think deeply about how we feel and our own response to music. But there is another question to be asked for people who want to ask which is ‘What is in the music itself and what is it about how these notes go together that specifically creates this experience or feeling now that another piece of music changes or creates a different experience?’ So, really getting into the nuts and bolts of how music works is a fascinating thing for me, to really understand this and of course it’s valuable from a compositional perspective.

It’s also really fun and exciting to see that it’s not magic; they’re very nuanced and complicated and they’re very subtle and it’s a very beautiful combination of elements that create these feelings that we relish when we hear music. If you spend time looking at the scores of a lot of music and listening to a lot of music and playing to a lot of music and dissecting it like you would any scientific inquiry where you try to take a problem apart into smaller pieces and examine the components and how they work together, you can get a perspective on music which is very rewarding. I think the program as a whole is trying to give you that perspective; that’s a different perspective than the one you have when you just write music and play music. It’s a more analytical perspective, which is a different but beautiful and complimentary way to think about music.

You have done a considerable work with regard to live sound and I’m sure you must have very fond memories of doing live sound for so many great bands?

CT: For a lot of the same reasons that I love to play live and live performance has been so important to me in my work, doing live sound was always appealing to me from an early age. I was lucky enough to hustle my way into some really great situations in my early twenties and seeing really good rock bands and working with some really good sound engineers at CBGBs and places like that and literally understanding the art and craft of being a live sound engineer. The thing about the live sound engineer is there is no music until it passes through his hands, he’s the last one to touch it so it’s really a very useful and critical part of the live experience is this engineering part. I definitely try to remember that in my own work when I’m working with elements of mixing and in this modern world where electronic music is part almost of every music – it’s just another element in almost all forms of music now – I think those sorts of sensibilities are really, really important.

 In terms of the recording of the album, you had quite a simple set-up in the sense that there was quite a minimal framework you were working from?

CT: Yeah, it’s pretty old school. We just went into a room which we knew sounded really good, I played violin acoustically when we were checking it out and it sounded really good for the violin and it looked really good because we knew we wanted to film it. It was very old school, setting up mics in the room and putting them in the right spot and then getting three video cameras in there and letting that team do their thing. So, it was really fun because the recording studio process – the normal process – can be very antiseptic: close micing everything and doing one track at a time and collaging everything together and this was really like creating an installation and that process in my mind is much more rewarding than trying to go in and micro-manage all the individual little tracks. The thing about the live recording experience is that it really lives or dies in how prepared you are as a musician because you can’t be doing over-dubs or anything so you really have to do a lot of preparation in advance. I think that can come through the music though, the fact that you are so prepared that the music isn’t just pieced together from little parts, I think that can really come through the music if you let it.

Do you have plans for the live show and will you be trying out new approaches to some of these pieces?

CT: Well all the music came out of playing live, I played it live for quite some time before I went to the recording session in order to prepare for it. I worked on the pieces over a long time by playing them out and seeing what works and tweaking them in the studio and going back and forth. This music was certainly born live and existed live before we recorded for quite a while. I mean the live show sounds very close to the record, it sounds almost identical to what you would hear on the album. There are certainly times live when I make changes – relatively subtle changes – to the performance but they’re mostly in terms of the decay of the room, the reverb in the room, there’s a lot of times where I would play a phrase, like in ‘Arrow In The Dark’ where I would play a melody and let it decay in the room before I move on. Or even the first track ‘We Keep This Flame’, I’ll play this first phrase and I’ll let it linger in the room so the pacing and the flow of it is completely unique because it is live and I have that luxury to do that. But the compositions themselves as a whole are essentially finished as far as I am concerned and I’m really just pushing forward now with writing new music for this set so that may include other elements as well as I push into new compositional territory.

What have you been listening to lately?

CT: This is funny because it’s not too far from your part of the world but the thing I like to listen to often on weekends is Cork Sacred Harp Singers. So, there is a collection of shape-note singers from Cork called The Sacred Harp Singers and they have a youtube channel, which is absolutely brilliant and as far as I’m concerned, I could listen to this all-day long. I consider it as such an amazing way to make music not only is the music really moving and I think listening to a lot of that really seeped in to some of the more liturgical pieces on the record, some of the more choral pieces that I played. It’s just fantastic because it really is like a DIY and in my mind, a real punk way to make music because you’re not a trained singer; this is for people who aren’t trying to be professional virtuoso singers, it’s about music that is rooted in people’s lives and is a real active part of their life. Now I’m certainly not a religious person at all – I’m a staunch agnostic – I can completely identify and respect and relish the inclusion of music in people’s lives in a way where it’s really tied in with core values and you can see that in the way they make music if you look at the way the leader is conducting in tune with his hands, it’s really fantastic and the energy is palpable and it call comes from the unbelievably genuine communal place. It’s inspiring.

‘Along A Vanishing Plane’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.wiresundertension.com/

http://westernvinyl.com/

Written by admin

January 10, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Albums of the Year: 2016

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Presented here is a list of our favourite albums from 2016. As difficult a task as this proved, we decided ultimately to choose the albums that we found ourselves turning back to time and again over the last twelve months. The exercise also reminded me of memories when growing up of reading interviews featuring our favourite musicians, what used to strike me so much was the number of times they would describe their favourite albums as being like “friends” to them. These albums were anything but material possessions, these wax and cardboard sculptures were simply part of their lives: their very identity, even. The following is a selection of sixteen albums released during 2016 which we feel fortunate to now call friends of our own.

Artwork: Craig Carry
Words: Mark Carry

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(i). Oliver Coates – “Upstepping” (PRAH Recordings)

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 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”. From album opener ‘Innocent Love’, which immediately evokes the sound of Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ with its hypnotic female vocal line to the deep house groove of ‘Perfect Love’ (think Autechre, Aphex Twin), a world of shimmering cello-based sound-worlds are being channeled from the cosmos. Coates’s current activity of “distorted cello play over sequenced dance music” (Coates wrote for his exclusive Guest Mixtape) remains the most ground-breaking and original sounds to have surfaced in 2016.

“Upstepping” is out now on PRAH Recordings.

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

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(ii). Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “EARS” (Western Vinyl)

Last Spring during a conversation with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, she described her primary objective for her latest full-length ‘EARS’: “I wanted to create a sense that the listener was on a 3-D motion ride through a futuristic jungle and I had to create an arc from start to finish that took the listener on a journey”. These eight otherworldly compositions created by the L.A. based composer and producer were immediately noted for their extraordinary colours, textures and striking multi-dimensional forms. The rich instrumentation encompasses a myriad of organic and synthesized sounds as Smith’s utterly hypnotic voice melds with her trusted Buchla synthesizer and an intricate array of woodwind and brass arrangements. Cosmic bliss appears at each and every turn: the dazzling mantra of ‘Rare Things Grow’ is steeped in African music traditions; ‘Envelop’s meditative melodic pulses and the epic closing transcendence of ‘Existence In The Unfurling’. Later in 2016 came the equally exceptional ‘Sunergy’ LP – a collaboration between Smith and electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani – as part of the RVNG Intl label’s FRKWYS series.

“EARS” is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

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(iii). Jóhann Jóhannsson – “Orphée” (Deutsche Grammophon)

This year saw the eagerly awaited new studio album – and first in six years – from the renowned Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Incorporating music for solo cello, organ, string quartet, string orchestra and unaccompanied voices, ‘Orphée’ represents Jóhannsson’s finest hour, whose fifteen divine compositions captured here feels like a distillation of the master composer’s life’s work. The utterly captivating ‘A Song For Europa’ belongs in the same stratosphere as Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood’ such is its cinematic brilliance: a spoken word sample becomes embedded deep in the music, speaking so profoundly. ‘A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder’ is steeped in unwavering beauty as rejoice and hope flicker onto the horizon amidst a soaring string section (performed by Air Lyndhurst String Orchestra). A lost companion to George Delerue’s ‘Camille’.

In the words of Jóhannsson: “Orphée is for me about changes: about moving to a new city, leaving behind an old life in Copenhagen and building a new one in Berlin – about the death of old relationships and the birth of new ones”. As ever, the Icelandic master composer has crafted a challenging, utterly breathtaking and shape-shifting experience. A piece such as ‘Good Night, Day’ (featuring Jóhannsson’s close musical collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir) paints life’s fleeting, transient nature onto a vast canvas of enchanting sound, before ‘Theatre of Voices’ (conducted by Paul Hillier) brings ‘Orphée’ to an astounding climax.

“Orphée” is out now on Deutsche Grammophon.

http://www.johannjohannsson.com/
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/

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(iv). Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree” (Bad Seed Ltd.)

On lead single – and album opener – ‘Jesus Alone’, a devastating apocalyptic world descends upon us amidst sparse arrangements of piano and brooding synthesizer drones: “You fell from the sky/Crash landed in a field/Near the river Adur.” On Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio album, a captivating, harrowing and deeply moving experience is forged as Cave’s songs navigates the heart of darkness.

The achingly beautiful gospel lament ‘Rings of Saturn’ exudes a healing power, which could belong on ‘The Boatman’s Call’ alongside ‘Brompton Oratory’. Scenes from John Hillocat’s ‘The Road’ (one of the many breathtaking scores Cave & Ellis have penned) is etched across the heartbreaking, tear-stained canvas of ‘Girl In Amber’. On a later verse, Cave mourns: “I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world/In a slumber til your crumble were absorbed into the earth.” A brooding darkness seeps into your bones on ‘Magneto’ – the album’s most gripping and intense moments – where buzzes of electric guitar drifts beneath Cave’s whisper-like pleas. The hypnotic mantra of “In love, in love, I love, you love” shares the cosmic spirit of Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ ventures in the slipstream. A catharsis permeates the “heaven bound sea” of ‘Anthrocene’ with surreal, near-mythical dimensions somehow attained, which could depict Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, The Wrath of God’s haunting, doomed expedition. The sublime ecstasy of ‘I Need You’ is wrapped in impossible beauty; an empowering ballad that could belong to the ‘Lyre Of Orpheus’ sessions.

Skeleton Tree’ is a lament from the depths of darkness and despair: “With my voice, I am calling you.”

“Skeleton Tree” is out now on Bad Seed Ltd.

http://www.nickcave.com/

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(v). Jessy Lanza – “Oh No” (Hyperdub)

The Canadian songwriter and producer’s sublime sophomore full-length ‘Oh No’ (Hyperdub) showcases an artist at the peak of her powers, crafting some of the most beguiling synth pop creations of 2016 (and beyond). Made in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, with production partner Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys, the seductive pop hooks and R&B gems crafts a joyously uplifting haven of euphoric sounds. As Lanza says “I want to make people feel good and I want to make myself feel good”. Infectious energy permeates ‘VV Violence’ and ‘Never Enough’ (reminiscent of classic Junior Boys and Caribou) whilst elsewhere the stunning ballads ‘I Talk BB’ (Lanza’s voice ascends to the forefront of the mix) and ethereal haze of closing cut ‘Could B U’. The infectious groove and affecting vocal delivery of ‘It Means I Love You’ crafts one of the record’s defining moments, soaked in reverb and compelling drum machines. Most recently, ‘Oh No No No’ remix EP has surfaced, with gorgeous reworks by DVA (‘Going Somewhere’), DJ Taye x DJ Spinn’s remix of ‘Could B U’ and Morgan Geist’s rework of ‘I Talk BB’.

“Oh No” is out now on Hyperdub.

http://jessylanza.com/
http://www.hyperdub.net/

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(vi). Peter Broderick – “Partners” (Erased Tapes)

The gifted American composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has crafted his most captivating, emotive and transporting works to date on his latest masterwork ‘Partners’. This collection of solo piano music not only sees the beloved sound sculptor come full-circle in many ways but also delving deeper and further into music’s boundless orbit and life’s great mystery than ever before. In essence, the artist has effectively removed himself from the activities of the sounds he makes, in turn, creating piano music so pure, mysterious and far-reaching, evoking the timeless sounds of older generation masters such as John Cage and Lubomyr Melnyk. Hugely inspired by John Cage’s chance techniques and visionary spirit, Cage’s own composition ‘In A Landscape’ serves the vital pulse to ‘Partners’s aching canvas (having fallen in love with the piano once again during the process of transcribing this seminal piece, note-by-painstaking-note). Compositions such as the utterly transcendent ‘Carried’ unleashes a haven of heart-wrenching emotion as celestial harmonies meld effortlessly with mesmeric piano patterns, and ‘Up Niek Mountain’s drifting cosmic reverb-laden piano tapestries become interwoven deep inside the listener’s thoughts and dreams. The closing ‘Sometimes’ is a cover version of Brigid Mae Power’s divine ballad, the record for which is dedicated to Brigid. A freedom abounds on ‘Partners’ as the sacred piano notes become transcribed from the very composer’s subconscious mind.

“Partners” is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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(vii). Xylouris White – “Black Peak” (Bella Union)

Xylouris White is the inspired collaboration between Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian, Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White. Both composers are legends in their own right, the former through his Cretan lute-led sounds of the Xylouris Ensemble, the latter through his membership of mythical Australian trio Dirty Three and myriad of collaborations over the years. The sheer expanses covered on the band’s sophomore full-length ‘Black Peak’ is staggering. The opening rock opus ‘Black Peak’ and ‘Forging’s momentous rock’n’roll rhythms are followed by the poignant parable of ‘Hey, Musicians!’ and divine epic love song, ‘Erotokritos’. Ancient traditions are interwoven with contemporary, avant-garde musical structures, forever embedded deep inside a mysterious, enchanting and cosmic space. ‘Black Peak’ invites the listener to inhabit the far-reaching plains of life’s mysterious and kaleidoscopic landscape. As depicted on the striking narrative of ‘Hey, Musicians!’, music indeed never ends.

“Black Peak” is out now on Bella Union.

http://www.xylouriswhite.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

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(viii). Loscil – “Monument Builders” (Kranky)

The Canadian ambient artist Scott Morgan’s latest masterwork unleashes a cathartic, hypnotic spell throughout; belonging to a dichotomy of worlds where an engulfing cloud of prevailing darkness prevails in tandem with the radiant light of hope and survival. Delicately beautiful ambient soundscapes drift majestically in the ether alongside the more intense, pulsating sound worlds. Take for example, how the fragile pulses of ‘Deceiver’ flows effortlessly into the glorious crescendo of ‘Straw Dogs’ or how the stunningly beautiful album opener ‘Drained Lake’ is gradually followed with the techno-infused ‘Red Tide’. A wall of intense moods, colour and textures flood these sonic creations, creating one of Morgan’s most accomplished and concise records to date. The addition of horn arrangements (recalling Philip Glass) immediately casts an ethereal quality; harmonies meld beautifully with a collection of old synths, warm textures of drone soundscapes.

“Monument Builders” is out now on Kranky.

http://www.loscil.ca/
http://www.kranky.net/

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(ix). The Avalanches – “Wildflower” (XL)

2016 saw the return of The Avalanches after sixteen years with their long-awaited second album. The pertinent question for the duo was how could a band follow-up a seminal classic like ‘Since I Left You’ but the duo have managed to create a kaleidoscope of rejuvenated, cosmic sounds. An endless array of samples, hip-hop rhymes, lucid beats, celestial harmonies and pop-laden hooks fill ‘Wildflower’s exhilarating voyage where cameo appearances from Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis, Father John Misty and Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick all stop by. ‘Wildflower’ is one of those perfect summer records: the Laurel Canyon-era sunshine pop of ‘If I Was a Folkstar’ and ‘Because I’m Me’s funky soulful strut and seductive Ariel Pink-esque ‘Subways’ are just some highlights. The heart-stopping ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’s dreamy haze and poignant epicentre serves the perfect closer to ‘Wildflower’s glorious psychedelic pop oeuvre.

“Wildflower” is out now on XL Recordings.

http://www.theavalanches.com/
http://xlrecordings.com/

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(x). Amiina – “Fantômas” (Mengi)

Icelandic outfit Amiina’s latest adventure, ‘Fantômas’, was originally composed as a live score to a silent masterpiece from 1913 (‘Fantômas’ was a French silent crime film serial directed by Louis Feuillade, based on the novel of the same name). Importantly the music stands on its own, independent of the visual narrative that, in turn, marks a brave new chapter in Amiina’s cherished songbook. The band’s Fantômas score is menacing, dark and brooding as it is steeped in delicate beauty and vivid hope. The cinematic opening title-track begins with a slow rhythmic pulse before haunting strings cast an eerie disquiet. The main theme’s melodic motif is masterfully revisited on the sublime ‘Lady Beltham’ before vivid dappling of light ascend on ‘Crocodile’. The closing electronic-oriented ‘L’Homme Du Noir’ explores adventurous new horizons. As ever, immaculate instrumentation of violin, cello, drums, percussion, metallophone, table harp, ukulele, and electronics graces the listener akin to the gradual fading light at dusk or a bird’s majestic flight across vast skies.

The score Fantômas premiered in Paris in 2013 at the prestigious, Théâtre du Châtelet, where Amiina, together with musicians James Blackshaw, Tim Hecker, Loney Dear, and Yann Tiersen, took part in a special Halloween event (curated by Tiersen), celebrating the centenary of the Fantômas series, directed by the French film director Louis Feuillade in 1913-1914.

“Fantômas” is out now on Mengi.

http://www.amiina.com/
http://www.mengi.net/

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(xi). Carla dal Forno – “You Know What It’s Like” (Blackest Ever Black)

The Australian singer-songwriter’s masterful debut solo album ‘You Know What It’s Like’ marked undoubtedly the year’s most dazzling and exciting debuts. Released on the prestigious Blackest Ever Black imprint, lead singles ‘Fast Moving Cars’ and ‘What You Gonna Do Now?’ revealed adventurous avant pop song structures to get beautifully lost in. Forno asks “Did you want this to last a long time?” over a gorgeous haze of meditative bassline grooves and drumbeat on the luminous ‘Fast Moving Cars’. Forno’s voice – a truly formidable instrument – melts and dissolves in the other-worldly pop spheres, conjuring up the timeless sound of ‘Tragedy’-era Julia Holter and Brian Eno’s visionary early 70’s pop gems. A striking emotional depth resides throughout, reflecting on failed relationships, love, loss and the impermanence of it all. Loneliness is etched across the canvas of the album’s title-track, sharing the colours and shades of Miles Davis’s ‘Kind Of Blue’ and Nico’s celestial voice with its yearning, searching feel: “What you gonna do now that the night’s come and it’s around you?” Elements of dub, post-punk, psychedelic folk and avant pop sounds shimmer majestically throughout: from the late 60’s psych folk of ‘Drying In The Rain’ to the dub-infused odyssey ‘DB Rip’s wave of synthesizers. The stripped-back closer ‘The Same Reply’ serves the record’s most breath-taking moments; distilled in lost love.

“You Know What It’s Like” is out now on Blackest Ever Black.

https://www.facebook.com/carladalfornoyes/
http://blackesteverblack.com/

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(xii). Andy Stott – “Too Many Voices” (Modern Love)

The renowned UK producer Andy Stott delivered his highly anticipated follow-up to 2014 classic ‘Faith In Strangers’ in the form of ‘Too Many Voices’ last Spring via the peerless Manchester-based imprint Modern Love. The gifted producer continued to explore new sonic terrain and tap into new emotional depths with gorgeous dub step, electronic, grime and 80’s synth pop flourishes. On Stott’s fourth studio album, breathtaking synth washes of ‘New Romantic’ (with nods to This Mortal Coil) and soulful seduction of ‘Butterflies’ (the record’s lead single) are interwoven with utterly compelling dubstep techno for the dancefloor (‘First Night’) and crystalline ambient chill-wave bliss (‘On My Mind’). The title-track and album closer perhaps serves the record’s glorious climax with masterfully arranged choral harmonies (supplied by longtime vocal contributor Alison Skidmore who appears on half of the record) and euphoric production (think Holly Herndon crossed with the Yellow Magic Orchestra), providing one of the tracks of 2016 in the process.

“Too Many Voices” is out now on Modern Love.

http://modern-love.co.uk/

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(xiii). Katie Kim – “Salt” (Art For Blind)

‘Salt’ sees the revered Irish musician explore deeper into the ethereal dimension, for which she has long ago established. The hypnotic guitar drone of ‘Day Is Coming’ envelops the deepest of fears and anguish, culminating in a swirling symphonic haze of heavenly harmonies and brooding strings. ‘Someday’ is a delicately beautiful piano lament and searching prayer for hope. The striking intimacy and hypnotic spell cast by the gifted songwriter throughout ‘Salt’ unleashes the most deeply affecting batch of songs to have been unearthed for quite some time. Sonically, the latest record is a partnership between O’ Sullivan and producer John Murphy, whose expansive, guttural soundscapes of album opener ‘Ghosts’ and centerpiece ‘I Make Sparks’ are masterfully contrasted with the closing fragile piano ballads ‘Thieves’ and ‘Wide Hand’. One of the album’s defining moments arrives with the pulsating ‘Life Or Living’; a euphoric exploration into the depths of darkness. An image depicted on the second verse becomes the engulfing embodiment of ‘Salt’s realm of raw emotion and blissful transcendence: “Holding my hand now the tides incoming/Make us a shield so the light won’t get in.”

“Salt” is out now on Art For Blind.

https://katiekim.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DANCEKATIEKIMDANCE/

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(xiv). Marissa Nadler – “Strangers” (Bella Union, Sacred Bones)

“Strangers” finds Marissa Nadler’s sonic palette expanding (synths and drumbeats are at times added to Nadler’s voice and guitar). But despite the added instrumentation and more intricate arrangements, a purity forever remains in the treasured songbook of Nadler’s forever timeless oeuvre. Beautiful subtleties exist within the sonic tapestries while striking imagery such as disintegrating cliffs, towering skyscrapers, darkening woods and deep rivers are offset with characters often feeling at odds with the world they find themselves in (or more accurately find themselves suspended into, all of a sudden). There’s a tangible sense of contrasting dichotomies lying at the heart of “Strangers” (between the familiar and the unfamiliar; safety and danger; darkness and light; life and death) which makes the journey Nadler takes us on all the more real. Tangible. Life-affirming. And like a silent witness we can quietly navigate that darkness with her. For we are not strangers after all.

“Strangers” is out now on Bella Union (UK) / Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/
https://marissanadler.bandcamp.com/

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(xv). Brigid Mae Power – “S/T” (Tompkins Square)

Brigid Mae Power’s stunningly beautiful latest solo full-length – and Tompkins Square debut – is an album drenched in reverb-soaked emotion and lament. Enchantingly performed and produced, the record showcases a songwriter of immense talent in a soundscape that naturally merges itself to Brigid Power’s engulfing sound. The magic lies in the songwriter’s expression of raw emotion, in all its delicate beauty. Themes include transformation, change, motherhood, acceptance, strength, courage and trust. In the words of Power, the album is about “trusting if you lose yourself or your way — you can come back.”

Such is the album’s timeless brilliance, the nearest parallels that can be drawn to Power’s quietly unassuming, divine artistry are those blessed folk spirits of bygone times such as Sibylle Baier, Tia Blake or Margaret Barry. As reflected in the lyrics of closing heartfelt lament of ‘How You Feel’, this deeply personal and intimate set of songs become a place of hope and solace where the path laid out in front you is filled with the light of day and sea of love.

“Brigid Mae Power” is out now on Tompkins Square.

http://brigidmaepower.com/
http://www.tompkinssquare.com/

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(xvi). Syrinx – “Tumblers from the Vault (1970–1972)” (RVNG Intl)

A collection of experimental synth music culled from the early 70’s Toronto music scene is beautifully celebrated by the ever-indispensable Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl label on the shape-shifting, genre defying musical document, ‘Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)’. The band in question are the avant-garde three-piece Syrinx whose wholly unique hybrid of chamber pop and electronic experimentation crafts an utterly timeless journey into the limitless possibilities of music. The dreamy, lo-fi gem ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ remains as vital and fresh as the day it was recorded. The sprawling epic ‘December Angel’ dumbfounds the listener in its sheer beauty and compelling sound: a piece of music from some future age, unknown and mysterious all at once. Psychedelic flourishes are etched across the more electronic-oriented ‘Ibistix’; the amalgamation of distorted voices and cosmic strings creates a symphony of rapture and transcendence.

Syrinx consisted of composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle, and percussionist Alan Wells. Syrinx’s self-titled debut arrived in 1970, followed in 1971 by ‘Long Lost Relatives’, which is highlighted as the first album on Tumblers From The Vault. Re-issue of the year, hands down.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

Designs for the first ten albums are by Craig Carry, a limited edition series of screen prints (each edition is limited to 25 copies) have been created to coincide with Fractured Air’s favourite albums of 2016. Prints will be available to purchase online from January 2017. 

With very special thanks to each and every one of our readers. Wishing you all a peaceful and happy new year.

https://fracturedair.com/

Step Right Up: Heather Woods Broderick

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Interview with Heather Woods Broderick.

“Many times I see things, whether it’s a passing scene out of a window, or a combination of colours on a wall, that conjure up memories for me. So sometimes I use these images to help depict or frame a feeling.”

— Heather Woods Broderick

Words: Mark Carry

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Glider’ is the highly anticipated sophomore full-length –and follow-up to the formidable 2009 solo debut ‘From The Ground’ – from gifted multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Heather Woods Broderick. The Brooklyn-based and Portland-raised musician has long been synonymous with some of the most breath-taking musical explorations of recent times, having closely collaborated with Portand’s Horse Feathers, Danish group Efterklang and is currently an integral member in U.S singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten’s band.

The nine immaculate sonic creations captured on ‘Glider’ unfolds a fragile beauty and striking emotional depth that inhabits an ethereal dimension from the opening dream-like atmosphere of ‘Up In The Pine’ to the closing country gem ‘All For A Love’. ‘Glider’s bewitching sonic canvas possesses a transient quality with each song cycle capturing a myriad of fleeting moments. The gorgeous vocal harmonies, pristine production and rich instrumentation serves the fitting backdrop for Broderick’s deeply affecting songs to flourish. For example, ‘Mama Shelter’ evolves into an infectious dub-infused groove which is masterfully inter-woven with Broderick’s richly soulful vocal delivery. The piano-based ballads of ‘Fall Hard’ (which could be taken from Marissa Nadler’s latest record ‘July’), ‘The Sentiments’ and the album’s title-rack ‘Glider’ serve the album’s most poignant and soul-stirring moments as the rich tapestry of vocal harmonies and piano notes drift majestically in the ether.

A Call For Distance’ epitomises the evocative production masterfully dotted across ‘Glider’ as timeless dreamwave sounds of This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins comes to the fore. The joyous sounds of ‘All For A Love’ with its jazz leanings (thanks in part to David Allred’s trumpet part) contains gorgeous clean guitar tones, upbeat harmonies and warm percussion akin to a marvelous sunset on a summer’s night. “There is a lot to live for” is a lyric that resonates powerfully and marks the album’s over-arching theme of perseverance through life’s difficulties and therein the strength to find one’s inner voice.

‘Glider’ is available now on Western Vinyl.

http://heatherwoodsbroderick.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

Interview with Heather Woods Broderick.

Congratulations on your sublime new record ‘Glider’. The album is nothing short of staggering where the nine sonic creations unfold a fragile beauty and striking emotional depth that leaves the listener utterly dumbfounded. Rather than a record being a snapshot in a moment of time, ‘Glider’ possesses a transient quality with each song cycle capturing a myriad of fleeting moments culled from a long period of time. Can you please talk me through the songs of ‘Glider’ and discuss the themes to ‘Glider’ and your aims from the outset?

Heather Woods Broderick: Thank you very much; I’m really happy to hear you’re enjoying the record. Most of the songs on ‘Glider’ are reflections of experiences I’ve had, or close friends or family have had. The songs were written over about a two-year period, but reference events spanning a substantial period of time in my life. The title track is the only song I wrote prior to moving to Brooklyn in the fall of 2011. Many years had passed since I released ‘From the Ground’ when I really began writing the material for ‘Glider’. I think I’d grown as a musician after playing with so many different projects, and also as a person after so much travel around the world. ‘From the Ground’ was my first attempt to write any songs with words, so there were a lot of things I wanted to do differently when writing ‘Glider’. I like to create an atmospheric landscape for songs to live in. For ‘Glider’, I still wanted this to play an important role in the sound of the record, but I spent more time fully forming songs and writing lyrics. I think all of the songs on the record are pretty self-explanatory in a lyrical sense since they are all based on real events and emotions, but I do like to utilize a bit of metaphor in songwriting to help paint a picture an allow for more imagination. Many times I see things, whether it’s a passing scene out of a window, or a combination of colours on a wall, that conjure up memories for me. So sometimes I use these images to help depict or frame a feeling.

The range of sounds masterfully sculpted across the record is something that sets ‘Glider’ apart from your formidable debut full-length ‘From The Ground’ where this time around all songs are vocal-based, reflecting a song-writing masterclass in full bloom. Please take me back to the recording sessions and the wonderful cast of musicians you were joined by, not least your brother Peter and the wonderful David Allred among several others.

HWB: Every song on the record started out as a poorly self-recorded demo. I knew that I wanted to go into the studio having all of the material prepared, so I spent a lot of time with the demos – working with the structure and arrangements of the songs. I had all the vocal ideas worked out on demos, and knew the guitar sounds I wanted to go for, etc. When it finally came time to go into the studio I asked a few friends to be a part of the process. I spent five days at Type Foundry studio, working with engineer Adam Selzer, in Portland, OR where I recorded all of my basic tracks and vocals, and also tracked 2 of the songs (Wyoming + All for a Love) live as a three-piece. During these sessions Dave Depper played bass, Peter Broderick played Drums, Birger Olsen came in to lay down the guitar solo on ‘All for a Love’, and Eric Early played some hammond on ‘Desert’. All phenomenal musicians; I was lucky to have them join me on the songs. After the five days at Type Foundry, Peter and I took all those tracks out to a home studio he has on the Oregon Coast called The Sparkle. We spent a couple of weeks out there doing the rest of the overdubs. David Allred also came out and added some upright bass and trumpet during this time. We worked with the songs a lot during this phase, filling out the arrangements more, doing all of the post production, and then mixing the record here as well.

Aesthetically, ‘Glider’ is such a triumph and revelation. The piano-based ballads such as the heartwrenching title-track, ‘Fall Hard’ and ‘The Sentiments’ are beautifully inter-woven with ethereal dreamwave creations like ‘A Call For Distance’ and stunning folk gems like ‘Desert’ and ‘All For A Love’. I wonder was it ever difficult to decide on a certain style or version of a particular song, Heather? Did any of these songs undergo a dramatic transformation (or mutation!) from your original sketch of a song to its final recorded entity? For example, I can imagine a song such as ‘A Call For Distance’ is such a thrill to perform and record with your band?

HWB: I find it almost impossible to go back and drastically change the structure or lyrics of a song once I’ve written it. So for the most part, the songs are really similar to the demos. I wasn’t really going for any particular style or anything when I was writing. ‘A Call for Distance’ was sort of my labour of love on the record. I used a lot of delays through the process of writing these songs, and I think this one in particular was really inspired by what I was hearing as I went. I had an electric guitar with a delay pedal, a vocal mic, and a basic logic setup, so I could play and listen back while writing. I wouldn’t even know how to replicate some of the sounds from the demos on this song, so we ended up flying in some of the demo tracks. I have yet to perform this one live with a band, but I really look forward to doing that, and figuring out some version of it that works in a band setting. Some fun developments did happen during the recording process though. For example, Dave Depper’s bass playing on ‘Mama Shelter’ ended up being a huge influence to the path of that song took. He came up with this dub/reggae bass part in the chorus’ that we loved, so we sort of played on that theme while adding the other instrumentation. It fit in really well with the chorus echo and space echo machines that we were using with all the other tracks as well.

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The art of collaboration has been a trusted constant in your musical path, from Horse Feathers to Efterklang and Sharon Van Etten. I would love for you to share your feelings on music as being the great collaborative art. I can imagine the sum of these experiences and journeys with all these special souls makes for such an inspiring and rewarding journey. What are the memories you most cherish from these particular collaborations?

HWB: I have been very lucky to play with so many talented musicians, and collaborating with other artists is something that I’ll always have an interest in doing, musically and beyond. I love learning other peoples’ songs as well as writing parts to accompany others’ music. I find a lot of pleasure in practice and repetition. It’s a very different experience playing with different people. Everyone approaches music in their own way, and I find that really interesting. I go through phases of wanting to work on music that’s much more structured or technical, and wanting to throw out all the rules and just play loud rock music. It’s all rewarding in different ways. I loved being able to play cello in Horse Feathers – something I haven’t done with any of the other bands I’ve played in since, at least in a live setting. I have particularly fond memories of traveling with Efterklang to places I’d never been, and haven’t been since. They were really special people to make music with. I was late in the game in hearing Sharon’s music, but I’m so glad I did. I still remember the first time we sat in my living room and sang together – a moment I’ll never forget.

Coming from a musical family – both your parents are musicians and you began piano lessons at the young age of eight – music has always been in your life. I would love if you could reflect on pivotal moments that occurred during your musical upbringing that you feel helped you in a significant way? I can only imagine you and your brother at home must have been playing music together, almost on a constant basis?

HWB: There was definitely a lot of music going on in my house growing up. My parents both played guitar and always spun records after dinner. My older brother Noah played saxophone and also electric in a grunge rock band. I took piano lessons for years, and then quit for about a year when I was 15 or 16. Probably typical of that age and not wanting to be told what to do. I came back around to it though. I found some classical pieces that I really fell in love with and contemporary bands that I heard classical crossover with (everything from Rachels to various math rock bands), and it made me excited to keep practicing, and to be able to apply what I’d learned to making music with people. My brother Peter started taking suzuki violin lessons when he was really young, but we never really played together until I was 18 or 19. We started playing in a band together then, and also went to the same school for a brief period and would write and perform pieces together for composition classes and recitals. My parents were always really supportive of whatever I wanted to do with music, and I’m sure their support encouraged me to go down my own musical path.

The tender lament ‘Desert’ is one of the album’s (many) defining moments. I love this sense of a travelogue that flickers in and out during many of your songs. The imagery and poetic prose
conjured up on ‘Desert’ resonates powerfully. Please talk me through this song and your memories of writing ‘Desert’.

HWB: ‘Desert’ was one of the later songs I wrote for the record. I was on a break from touring and trying to spend some quiet time at home with my guitar in Brooklyn. I wrote the song in one afternoon in my living room there. I had recently been playing a lot of music with my dear friend and fellow musician Alela Diane in support of her record ‘About Farewell’. I was playing second guitar along with her and had been messing around with some of those finger picking patterns. The core of the lyrics are based around a conversation that I’d recently had with a former boyfriend that had left me feeling unresolved. It was also late winter in New York, and the imagery is embedded in observations of the season.

I feel the empowering piano ballads contained on ‘Glider’ serve the vital pulse to this remarkable album, reminiscent of Marissa Nadler, Grouper’s ‘Ruins’ LP and indeed, Sharon Van Etten. It feels as if these songs represent some of the earliest written songs that helped shape the rest of the record. I love the ethereal dimension the piano-based works inhabit, creating in turn, utterly transcendent moments.

HWB: Those are all lovely ladies to mention, thank you. ‘Glider‘ was the earliest track written for the record, and was written while I was still living in Berlin before moving to Brooklyn. ‘The Sentiments’ was written somewhere in the middle of that two year writing period, and ‘Fall Hard’ was actually the last song I wrote for the record. Maybe it’s appropriate that they are scattered like they are throughout the record in a sense; I hadn’t thought about that.

What records do you find yourself coming back to, time and time again? Please discuss any books/gigs/music/films you have been most impressed with lately?

HWB: My musical tastes really vary. On the classic side, I always go back to records by Kate Wolf, Neil Young, and Springsteen. These are all records I grew up listening to. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Dawn Upshaw performing Henryk Górecki’s Symphony no. 3, Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto no. 2, or any Chet Baker record. I also love a lot of new indie bands, jazz, ambient – the list could really go on forever. I think the most memorable performances I’ve seen in the last few years was Antony and the Johnson’s performing Swanlights at Radio City Music Hall. I love seeing dance performances. ‘Drift’ by Cindy Van Acker, and a piece titled ‘Leading Light’ by Suniti Dernovsek are two of my favorites I’ve seen in the last year. I recently read ‘Light Years’ by James Salter and ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion – both beautiful books. I’d highly recommend both.

 


 

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‘Glider’ is available now on Western Vinyl.

http://heatherwoodsbroderick.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

Mixtape: A Call For Distance

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A Call For Distance [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/a-call-for-distance-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. Steve Reich ‘It’s Gonna Rain, Part I’ (excerpt) [Nonesuch]
02. Colin Stetson And Sarah Neufeld ‘Won’t be a thing to become’ [Constellation]
03. So Percussion ‘Music for Wood and Strings: Section 1’ [Brassland]
04. Nils Frahm ‘Wall’ [Erased Tapes]
05. Dawn of Midi ‘Nix’ [Erased Tapes]
06. Craig Leon ‘She Wears A Hemispherical Skullcap’ [RVNG Intl]
07. Holly Herndon ‘Morning Sun’ [4AD]
08. Severed Heads ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ [Dark Entries]
09. Lower Dens ‘Your Heart Still Beating’ [Ribbon Music]
10. Heather Woods Broderick ‘A Call For Distance’ [Western Vinyl]
11. Chris Isaac ‘Wicked Game’ [Reprise]
12. Julia Holter ‘My Love My Love’ [Tompkins Square]
13. John Bence ‘Disquiet, Pt. 1’ [Other People]
14. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis ‘Far from Men 2’ [Goliath Entertainment]
15. Edan ‘Beauty’ [Lewis Recordings]
16. Richard Strauss ‘Vier letzte Lieder: IV. Im Abendrot’ (excerpt) [CBS]
17. Tom Waits ‘You Can Never Hold Back Spring’ [Anti-]
18. The Beach Boys ‘Look (Stereo Mix Of Take 20)’ [Capitol]
19. The Books ‘“Ah…, I See”’ [Temporary Residence Limited]
20. Glen Campbell ‘Guess I’m Dumb’ [Ace]

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.

 

 

Step Right Up: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

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Interview with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

“I try and always have in my mind, ” I wonder what will happen if I try this…” For me, if curiosity is the driving force when I make music, it’s always a good time.”

—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

Words: Mark Carry

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The Italian American music pioneer Suzanne Ciani has described Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s music as “sheer poetry…showing mastery of her medium”. The Bay Area composer’s debut full-length, ‘Euclid’ – released back in January on the ever-dependable Western Vinyl imprint – reveals a plethora of scintillating soundscapes that forges an utterly captivating voyage into new horizons of possibilities. Primarily written on a Buchla Music Easel Synthesizer, ‘Euclid’ contains seamless layers of immaculate sounds, from the album’s vital pulse of Smith’s synthesizer instrument to wordless vocals and electronic wizardry. The musician’s timeless creation draws a lovely parallel to musical luminaries such as Laurie Spiegel, Suzanne Ciani and Terry Riley that further pushes the sonic envelope and music’s endless possibilities.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s formative years were spent communing with nature on Orcas Island in the northwest region of Washington state. Undoubtedly, the sum of these experiences with the natural world is transplanted into the medium of music, masterfully sculpted by Smith (and etched across ‘Euclid’s sprawling canvas of otherworldly sound). Later, Smith left the island to attend Berklee College of Music, where she studied composition and sound engineering. During this time, Smith was one of the core members of indie folk band Ever Isles but it was a chance encounter with a Buchla 100 Synthesizer that changed the course of Smith’s music path.

Part A of ‘Euclid’ were initially structured using Euclidean geometry, an idea which Smith explored while attending a class at the San Francisco Conservatory. The stunning album opener ‘Careen’ and the utterly transcendent ‘Stunts’ offers just a glimpse into the disparate sounds on display throughout the debut record. In contrast, part B comprises twelve short pieces, (appropriately) entitled ‘Labyrinth’- originally composed as new soundtracks to old silent films – that brings to mind the serenity and natural beauty of Orcas Island through its kaleidoscope of visionary tones and textures.  ‘Euclid’ is a towering achievement where evocative experiences are rendered into vital being.

‘Euclid’ is out now on Western  Vinyl.

http://www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

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Interview with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

Congratulations Kaitlyn on the stunning debut solo record, ‘Euclid’; it’s an utterly captivating and mesmerising sonic voyage into new horizons of possibilities. Firstly, can you please discuss the Buchla Music Easel synthesizer from which ‘Euclid’ was primarily centred on. What are the possibilities you see in this particular instrument and please also discuss the different techniques utilized (or the central process you have developed with this instrument) that forms the basis of this exceptional debut full-length offering?

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Thank you for your kind words. The Buchla Music Easel is a Modular Synthesizer made by Don Buchla in the 70’s. It was designed to be a complete performance instrument in the size of carry-on luggage. It is difficult to discuss the possibilities of this instrument because as I feel with all modular synthesizers, there are endless possibilities. I am always experiencing novelty when I interact with one.

I was very interested to read how part A of ‘Euclid.’ was initially structured using euclidean geometry, an area you explored at the San Francisco Conservatory. Listening to these six multi-layered compositions, one striking aspect is indeed the three-dimensional shape and sphere of musical imagination exhibited throughout. Can you please talk me through part A of ‘Euclid’’s journey and the relationship between euclidean geometry and sound exploration?

KAS: Sure, ‘Careen’ (the first track on ‘Euclid’) was creating with the shape of a Vellela in mind. Not sure if you have ever seen one, but where I live they cover the beach at certain times of the year. So my first process was to count how many aspects made up that shape. In that particular case, I counted 78. So that was how many tracks / parts I was going to create for that song. Next I assigned each arc and straight line a different note value and rhythm value. Then I would see where they intersect and what harmony that would create and use it as a guide to writing my parts. This process would change for each shape / song. 

In terms of the recording of ‘Euclid’ what were the recording sessions like? There are so many layers of immaculate sounds with such varied sounds from wordless vocals to electronic loops and synthesizers, did it prove challenging to find the right balance to these songs? It’s clear there is a beautiful sense of equilibrium where moments of transcendence are dotted like stars across a night sky. I would love to know what precise equipment and tools you had at your disposal in the studio?

KAS: I had a ribbon mic, laptop, motu interface, buchla music easel, my voice, and the sounds of objects around me. The recording sessions were A LOT of fun. They always are. I try and always have in my mind, ” I wonder what will happen if I try this…” For me, if curiosity is the driving force when I make music, it’s always a good time. And allowing days or weeks between listening sessions when I mix is key.

My current favourite must be ‘Stunts’. I particularly love the harmonies and celestial pop sounds that are masterfully woven together. It feels meditative and a piece of music belonging to a space in time we have not yet arrived upon. Can you reminisce please writing and recording this track and the layers of sounds that comprise ‘Stunts’. I wonder is the Buchla instrument always the starting point for each of the musical compositions and a case of adding more elements at a later stage? 

KAS: That song in particular has a lot of sounds I love in my house. I have a homemade water carbonator that I used a lot in that song. I also wanted to use a classic pop chord progression for that one

Part B is a collection of twelve short pieces; bringing in turn, new dimensions and aesthetics to the album as a whole. The ‘Labyrinth’ pieces were originally composed as new soundtracks to old silent films. I’m immediately intrigued by the beauty of this creative project (even in writing before ever hearing a musical note!) I would love to know what these particular silent films were and if there were certain scenes that resonated powerfully for you? An ethereal feel radiates throughout and feels like one cohesive whole or one large mood piece (rather than many short pieces).

KAS: I actually just recently added the videos that used to my website www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com

They can be found on the Euclid page. My personal favourite is one of hang gliding.

Please discuss the sources of inspiration behind your singular works, Kaitlyn?  

KAS: Always nature and curiosity.

What new avenues do you want to explore next? In terms of the Buchla potential, are there certain aspects of this instrument you want to further explore and experiment with on forthcoming projects?

KAS: I am excited about blending my work with orchestral instruments and synthesizers together. I look forward to collaborating with other composers, synthesists, film makers, and dancers.


 

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‘Euclid’ is out now on Western  Vinyl.

http://www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

 

Written by markcarry

April 14, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Mixtape: Illusions and Dreams

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Illusions and Dreams [A Fractured Air Mix]

To listen on Mixcloud:

https://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/illusions-and-dreams-a-fractured-air-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. K. Leimer ‘Allegory’ [Palace Of Lights]
02. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith ‘Careen’ [Western Vinyl]
03. Circuit Des Yeux ‘Lithonia’ [Ba Da Bing!, L&L]
04. Hildur Guðnadóttir ‘Birting’ [Touch]
05. The Gloaming ‘The Girl Who Broke My Heart’ [Real World]
06. Planxty ‘Time Will Cure Me’ [Polydor/Shanachie]
07. Arthur ‘Sunshine Soldier’ [Light In The Attic]
08. Cem Karaca ‘Bir Of Çeksem’ [Pharaway Sounds]
09. Calexico ‘Woven Birds’ (Cinematic Orchestra Remixico) [City Slang]
10. The Notwist ‘Scoop’ [City Slang]
11. Aphex Twin ‘xmas_EVET10 [120] [thanaton3 mix]’ (excerpt) [Warp]
12. Theo Parrish ‘Tympanic Warfare’ (excerpt) [Sound Signature]
13. Wildbirds & Peacedrums ‘Soft Wind, Soft Death’ [Leaf Label]
14. Disappears ‘OUD’ [Kranky]
15. Mount Eerie ‘This’ [P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.]
16. Dirty Three ‘I Really Should’ve Gone Out Last Night’ [Bella Union/Anchor & Hope]
17. Jonny Greenwood ‘Spooks’ [‘Inherent Vice’ OST/Nonesuch]
18. Richmond Fontaine ‘Valediction’ [El Cortez]

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.
http://fracturedair.com