FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Western Vinyl

Mixtape: Fractured Air – April 2019

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fracturedair_april19

April saw a host of essential new releases surface into the stratosphere. Fixity’s latest full-length ‘No Man Can Tell’ – and second for the ever-dependable Cork-based Penske Recordings imprint – is another stellar sonic journey showcasing deep musical telepathy at each and every turn from a cast of Irish and international musicians.

The eagerly awaited return of Leafcutter John’s new Border Community record ‘Yes! Come Parade With Us’, whose sumptuous sound worlds contains the UK composer’s trusted modular synth and a plethora of field recordings. In addition, guest drummers Tom Skinny (Sons Of Kemet) and John’s Polar Bear bandmate Seb Rochford.

Canadian cellist and composer Justin Wright’s debut album ‘Music for Staying Warm’ is an artistic creation of staggering beauty and wonder. Liquid Liquid luminary Dennis Young’s solo record ‘Primitive Substance’ is a vital document from the solo artist’s post-Liquid Liquid career.

 

 

Fractured Air – April 2019

01. Students of the Salonica Quaker Girl’s School“Dance of Jerissos (lerissos)” (Sublime Frequencies)
02. Ariwo“Ireme” (Manana Records)
03. The Comet Is Coming“Birth Of Creation” (Impulse!)
04. Kate Tempest“Tunnel Vision” (Lex Records)
05. Naive Ted“Blood & Guts” (Unscene Music)
06. Hype Williams“Hype Williams Meets Shangaan Electro” (Honest Jon’s)
07. Dean Blunt“And Ill Show U Heaven If U Let Me” (Hippos In Tanks)
08. The Rationals “Glowin’” (Night Time Stories Ltd)
09. Fixity“Woo” (Penske Recordings)
10. Crevice“In Heart” (Fort Evil Fruit)
11. Carla dal Forno“Fever Walk” (Kallista Records)
12. Josef K “It’s Kinda Funny” (LTM Recordings)
13. Leafcutter John“This Way Out” (Border Community)
14. MorMor“Outside” (Self-released)
15. This Mortal Coil“The Lacemaker” (4AD)
16. Tim Hecker“Step Away From Konoyo” (Kranky)
17. Heather Woods Broderick – “I Try” (Western Vinyl)
18. Justin Wright“Harmonic Loops – Playground Swings” (First Terrace Records)
19. Gigi Masin“The Word Love” (Music From Memory)
20. Anna Peaker“Helicidae” (Alter)
21. Maria Somerville“Dreaming” (Self-released)
22. Raymond Scott“Portofino 1” (Basta)
23. Ingus Bauskenieks“Lidojums Uz Sauli” (Stroom)
24. Prins Thomas“Feel The Love” (Smalltown Supersound)
25. Daedelus “It’s Madness” (Nosaj Thing Remix) (Magical Properties)
26. Four Tet“Teenage Birdsong” (Text Records)
27. Dennis Young“Forgiveness” (Athens Of The North)
28. Ishmael Ensemble“First Light” (Severn Songs)

Guest Mixtape: Machinefabriek (Western Vinyl)

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We’re thrilled to present a very special mix compiled by the Rotterdam-based independent music treasure Rutger Zuydervelt, who has been amassing a considerable body of work for many years via his Machinefabriek guise. This year saw the release of the Dutch composer’s latest full-length “With Voices” (released by Western Vinyl), an album made with the voices of such artists as fellow luminaries: Peter Broderick, Marissa Nadler, Richard Youngs and Chantal Acda. The initial spark of With Voices was kindled while Zuydervelt was in Taipei creating music for a dance company. In the final days of his trip, a dancer named Wei-Yun Chen caught Zuydervelt’s ear with an instagram video featuring a voice that turned out to be Wei-Yun’s own (she would end up on the album’s seventh movement). “With Voices” is available now on Western Vinyl. 

Machinefabriek_mixsleeve

 

Tracklist:

01. Gloria Coates“String Quartet No. 6: Evanescence” (Naxos)
[Taken from Gloria Coates: String Quartets Nos. 1, 5 & 6]
02. Matthew Revert/Vanessa Rossetto“Everyone Needs a Plan” (Erstwhile)
[Taken from Everyone Needs a Plan]
03. Eloïse Decazes & Eric Chenaux“Quand Je Menais Mes Chevaux Boire” (three:four records)
[Taken from La Bride]
04. Puce Mary“The Size of Our Desires” (PAN)
[Taken from The Drought]
05. Janek Schaefer“Corah II” (Temporary Residence)
[Taken from What Light There Is Tells Us Nothing]
06. Michael Pisaro, Håkon Stene & Kristine Tjøgersen“VI + VII” (Hubro)
[Taken from Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones]
07. Tashi Wada With Yoshi Wada And Friends“Litany” (RVNGIntl.)
[Taken from Nue]
08. Casey Anderson – “Possible Dust (Norrie)” (A Wave Press)
[Taken from Radios]
09. Tashi Wada With Yoshi Wada And Friends“Niagara” (RVNGIntl.)
[Taken from Nue]
10. Mariam Wallentin and Ben Frost“Tainted Love (Soft Cell)” (Mute)
[Taken from Music From Fortitude]
11. The Sealed Knot“And We Disappear” (Another Timbre)
[Taken from And We Disappear]
12. Burial“UK” (Hyperdub)
[Taken from Untrue]
13. Giant Claw“Soft Channel 003” (Orange Milk)
[Taken from Soft Channel]
14. Thom Yorke “A Choir of One” (XL)
[Taken from Suspiria]
15. Nico Muhly“Wonders Pt. 3: A Complaint Against Thomas Weelkes” (Bedroom Community)
[Taken from Mothertongue]
16. Peter Broderick – original voice recording used in ‘III’ by Machinefabriek (Western Vinyl)
[Taken from With Voices]
17. Sylvain Chauveau“Find What You Love and Let It Kill You” (feat. Chantal Acda) (Broccoli)
[Taken from Post-Everything]

‘With Voices’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.machinefabriek.nu/
http://westernvinyl.com/

Written by admin

March 14, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Posted in MIXTAPE

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Chosen One: Goldmund

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I want to find that midpoint between composition and experimental forms.”

—Keith Kenniff 

Words: Mark Carry

Goldmund-2018-1

This month saw the eagerly awaited new Goldmund opus, entitled ‘Occasus’ (released via the ever-dependable Western Vinyl imprint). Keith Kenniff’s sublime piano compositions continue to explore new sonic terrain as the sonic palette of ‘Occasus’ has expanded to contain synthesizer and analog bliss. Just like the Pennsylvanian native’s other musical projects (whether it’s under his Helios guise or as one half of Mint Julep), a timeless beauty is forever embedded inside the gifted composer’s sonic explorations.

The gorgeous album opener ‘Before’ begins with delicate piano tones, before an achingly beautiful swell of violin drones meld effortlessly, forming a captivating sound world. The resulting crescendo of these masterfully sculpted elements feels like a sea of age-old memories coming flooding to the surface. As the title suggests, the fragile piano lament belongs to some other time or place; perhaps adrift in the ether of faded dreams.

The hushed piano notes of ‘Above’ are a joy to savour. The stillness of night. Inner reflections. The repeating piano patterns gradually rise, as a swell of heavenly noise seeps into the slipstream. The lead single ‘Circle’ unfolds a divine modern classical oeuvre of enchanting sounds.

The slow, mournful piano lament ‘Radiant’ is another stunning and raw musical excursion. A hypnotic spell is unfolded before your very ears. The album’s centrepiece is the bewitching ‘Terrarium’ whose wall of analog bliss is interwoven with cinematic piano motifs, creating a striking catharsis with each intense ripple flow of sound. Similarly, the contrast of soaring drone soundscapes and sustained piano chords distilled in ‘Moderate’ unleashes a deeply affecting journey into lost horizons.

The works of Goldmund always captures something pure: it is as if all of life’s fleeting moments are committed to tape and effortlessly translated to sound. ‘Occasus’ is another vital chapter in Kenniff’s long storied career.

‘Occasus’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/goldmundmusic/

https://soundcloud.com/keithkenniff

Goldmund-2018-2

Interview with Keith Kenniff.

 

Congratulations on the latest divine Goldmund opus ‘Occasus’. Can you take me back to the recording sessions of this newest sonic exploration and your primary objectives and concerns with the musical trajectory you wanted to obtain? 

KK: Thank you! I purposely never have a specific thing in mind during recording an album, I feel as though if I think about it too hard I will over-intellectualize things and for me that produces stale output. I try to keep my mind clear of distraction, it’s like a meditation.

Thinking of some of the earlier Goldmund records like ‘Corduroy Road’ or ‘The Malady of Elegance’, your signature hand-print is forever forged in these sublime piano recordings but also feels like new sonic terrain is navigated here. For instance, the incorporation of synthesizers and analog treatments further heightens the listening experience. Can you talk me through these new elements and how you melded these worlds together?

KK: I feel like there are elements of that throughout most of the recordings, but specifically on ‘Sometimes’ (the previous album) and this one, it’s more about sonic texture and less about focusing on the piano itself. I just like things to sound beat-up, found. A lot of music I hear is super-polished these days, auto-tuned and mixed using the “best” gear finely tuned. There’s a place for that but I like when things are just left as-is or mangled sonically in a way that’s quick and intuitive, not planned out with presets and sample packs.

‘Moderate’ is one of the rapturous moments of ‘Occasus’, particularly the heavy drone washes beneath the achingly beautiful piano melody. Can you recount your memories of composing a piece such as this and indeed the layering of the various interwoven components?

KK: I record most of these pieces late at night, after everyone in the house is asleep, there’s this feeling of being exhausted but harnessing the last bit of yourself before bed that can be intriguing. For that one I just laid down a simple violin drone that I pitched down to sound more like a cello or viola, then put a bunch of distortion and hiss on it, and recording the piano chords over it, then putting various synths layered subtly over top. It sounds a bit like a sinking ship, wavering but thoughtful with the low piano chords giving it some harmonic foundation. At the end that ambience breaks through and takes over the piano and those textures are able to expand, but there’s no discernible build, or resolution, it just stops.

Looking back over your compelling Goldmund and Helios releases, how do you find your compositional approach has changed over the years (whether it’s between albums or between the different musical guises)? For instance, would these new fifteen Goldmund compositions have been circulating the ether for a considerable period of time (perhaps sketches or ideas from previous recordings) or would these have originated from new ideas of yours (from the last couple of years)? 

KK: These songs are all from the last couple of years. Typically I don’t let the Goldmund compositions sit too long, they either work or don’t work and if they don’t work I don’t come back to them or I like to take the first idea and just believe in it. Helios material is different, sometimes it takes a week, and sometimes I’ll work on a song for years to get it right. I think I purposely approach the projects differently, help to not get stuck in a rut and they feed each other.

I’d love for you to discuss your earliest musical memories, Keith. How soon did you realize the importance music would have on your own life? At what point did you begin to compose? 

KK: I started playing music at 9 (guitar and drums, I didn’t begin piano until I was about 19) and quickly realized it was not just a hobby but something I’d pursue as a life-goal. I trained as a percussionist, piano just sort of happened but I never studied formally. I started writing my own music when I was about 18. I actually started off as part of this website where people could submit unofficial Bjork remixes. This was pre-social media but it was kind of like a message board-based site where people could upload tracks, rate them, comment on them and share ideas. It was a really healthy atmosphere and I learned a lot about electronic music production that way.

Please describe for me your studio set up and how your piano is set up (and added analog equipment)? 

KK: My setup is simple, a midi keyboard, 3 guitars, upright piano and speakers. The only analog equipment I use is a small mini-cassette recorder I’ve been using on recordings since 2000-ish. I keep it simple so I don’t get distracted, I feel like having a variety of synths and knobs and buttons and “cool” gear would just take me out of creating, not inspire it to happen. I learned how to make music on a computer and it just feels right to keep most of what I do inside of one still.

I love the series of inner dialogue that is inherent in many of the pieces contained on ‘Occassus’; like the multi-layered tapestry that unfolds throughout ‘Bounded’ and ‘What Lasts’ carves out a richly poignant narrative. I get the impression there is a deeply intuitive nature to your exploratory compositions. 

KK: I try not to intellectualize this material too much, I do feel the compulsion to do it and I find the framework of the simplicity of this project compelling to my overall beliefs in aesthetic and outlook but it’s all done very quickly and once something is recorded I don’t go back and fine tune or give thought to what it means.

The gradual ambient bliss of ‘Terrarium’ epitomizes the far-reaching nature of ‘Occasus’s beguiling sound worlds. What do you feel is the precise narrative that ties these piano compositions together? I’d love to gain an insight into the album title and the central album theme that combines these sonic pieces together?

KK: I chose to name the album “Occasus”, which means “End, Ruin, Destruction” etc…as I feel like a lot of these pieces, when I listened to them as a whole, had a need to become unwound. Sounds would enter but then wouldn’t be treated carefully, I felt like they needed to fall apart or not to develop fully or not be polished or purposely recorded haphazardly. I want to find that midpoint between composition and experimental forms, where there’s no discernible beginning/middle/end but that it’s also not just an exercise or purely sonically-based, so I wanted to rail against my inclination toward one or the other and see if there was a new way to treat the piano in context of whatever that halfway point is.

Lastly, what albums have you been enjoying of late?

KK: Otto Totland’s “The Lost”, Novo Line’s “Movements”, Blouse’s self titled album, and “Scenes Surfaces and Threshold” by Cathaya & Grøn.

‘Occasus’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

https://www.facebook.com/goldmundmusic/

https://soundcloud.com/keithkenniff

Written by admin

April 26, 2018 at 6:49 pm

Chosen One: Balmorhea

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We make the music that comes to us based on the unique and pooled amalgam of memories, experiences, dreams, lands and people that surround us.”

—Michael Muller

Words: Mark Carry

balmorhea jpg

Last year’s gorgeous ‘Clear Language’ full length marked the eagerly awaited return of the beloved instrumental/post-classical Texas duo Balmorhea. As a follow-up to 2012’s ‘Stranger’, the gifted duo of Rob Lowe and Michael Muller have carved out a richly poignant set of stunningly beautiful compositions: spacious, exquisite and immaculate sonic explorations for the heart and mind.

As the title suggests, ‘Clear  Language’s musical landscape is built upon simplicity and returning to one’s roots (bringing it all back home, if you will). It is precisely the crystalline immediacy of these ten otherworldly odysseys that forever reveal more insights and unraveling truths from deep within. Co-produced and engineered by David Boyle in Austin’s Church House Studios, the instrumentation consists of analog synthesizers, piano, vibraphone, electric and bass guitar, violin, viola, field recordings and –for the first time – trumpet (played by Tedeschi Trucks’ Ephraim Owens).

The ethereal trumpet lines on ‘Slow  Stone’ creates a jazz infused neo-classical exploration (as the gradual piano ripples forges a Necks-esque dreamscape). The joyously uplifting Americana lament ‘Sky Could  Undress’ (later reworked by ambient luminaries Christina Vantzou and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma on this year’s ‘Clear Language: Reworked’) with the highly emotive strings serving one of the record’s pinnacles. The infectious guitar groove could have originated from a jam in Woodstock’s Big Pink house from another time and place.

If ever a piece embodies the soulful, immersive nature of the duo’s shape shifting works it is the glorious album-title – and opening track – with empowering piano lines and crescendo of soul-stirring strings, unfolding a pavilion of dreams.

‘Clear Language’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

For Balmorhea’s European and U.S. tour dates, visit HERE

https://balmorheamusic.com/

http://westernvinyl.com/

balmorhea-1

Interview with Michael Muller (Balmorhea).

 

Please take me back to Clear Language’s inception; what were the concerns and primary aims you both shared for this latest record? I just love how – at once – there is a warmth of familiarity and shimmering depths of the unknown also. I can imagine the process of creating this latest record must have felt like a liberating experience, and one you may have felt you were starting afresh (considering the gap from the previous LP)?

Michael Muller: The beginning processes of Clear Language started in the spring of 2016. We would meet everyday in our studio and experiment on a single idea, each day. Sometimes it was based on a loop, a sample or just a few loose chords. Over the span of a couple months we whittled down many ideas into about 12 “songs” that we recorded as demos. We didn’t have any touring during this process, nor in the forecast until after this album would eventually release, so we took our good time in the recording and mixing process. This happened in October and November of 2016 at Church House Studios in Austin, Texas with co-producer and engineer David Boyle. We didn’t rule out any idea or instrument choice until it was clearly not right for whatever track we were working on. We were assisted on all the string parts throughout the record by our amazing and long-time companion and collaborator Aisha Burns. Overall, our goal at this point in our sonic trajectory, was to take a step back, complexity-wise, and focus on space, breath and to lasso the best tones we could. Contrasting to our earlier releases, where a precise narrative was drawn from, between night sky, vast seas or the expansive nature of western America, Clear Language seemed to require a more solemn and inner peering; one that loosely harnessed perhaps the liquidity of a dream-like state or of vague memories half-forgotten. It was really enjoyable throughout the making of the record to not be shuffled along too hurriedly by the constraints of time. We are really please with how it all ended up.

I’d love to gain an insight into the studio set-up and this deep connection between you as a duo? This collaborative partnership must be built on such a powerful force of intuition and the resulting sound worlds captured on Clear Language emit such sublime beauty and timeless radiance. I get the impression that some of these compositions feel almost like happy accidents, so to speak?

MM: Happy accidents is a fitting way to phrase it. Several of the tracks on the record literally sort of appeared, really. Rob would sit at the Rhodes or I at a guitar and the tones and melody would slowly spill out. We usually realized something great was occurring so we were sure to always have the mics on and recording while we wrote and recorded the demos. The more fully-realized songs were usually stemmed from a specific loop or progression that was added to and then eventually subtracted from until the right balance presented itself. There were, though, certain instruments and techniques that we knew we were interested in trying, as well. The track ‘Ecco’, for instance, employs a Rhodes organ going through a series of fuzz pedals and a Space Echo tape delay. This recipe coupled nicely, we thought, with the more crystalline guitar tones and skeletal piano pieces bordering the rest of the album. In other pieces, like ‘All Flowers’, we experimented with recording guitar into a cassette deck and re-amping through a PA.

The title-track and gorgeous album opener feels like a gateway into the rest of the record. Can you talk me through the construction and layering of this uplifting piece? The title too conveys the clarity and directness of the music captured on this latest batch of songs.

MM: The title track, in our minds, was meant to serve as an intro, of sorts, to the record; a palette-cleanser, if you will. This track began with the opening piano line and was lightly built-upon from there. It’s restrained in a way, as it never fully gets too demonstrative or bombastic as it hints at grandiosity that may be forthcoming that never perhaps fully arrives. The track and record title, Clear Language, seemed the only logical choice. It’s instrumental music that is there to score whatever reality each listener applies it to.

The shimmering ambient odyssey ‘Slow Stone’ forms the vital core to the record’s first half. As ever, this sense of a journey unfolds before your very ears. The added trumpet instrumentation (which I believe is a first for Balmorhea, on record at least?) further heightens the textured sound world that breathes deeply throughout. For a piece like this, would the piano melody have provided you the starting point for all else to form?

MM: ‘Slow Stone’ was a track that in the writing process was truly developed out of nothing. The intro is a sample we recorded of the Australian avant-minimalist composer Lawrence English walking through tall grass in cowboy boots during a field recording workshop he gave in Austin. The tandem of the track is a pure collaboration between the guitars and undulating over a soft bed of Rhodes organ. After that initial bedrock was laid we knew another and a different voice needed to pull it all together. We agreed it couldn’t be a string part, which we didn’t want to overplay and we both liked the idea of brass. In the end, the thing we all wanted to hear was a muffled trumpet. We called Ephraim Owens, a local Austin jazz trumpeter and touring member of Tedeschi Trucks, to step in and add his magic. I think he only took three, short takes before nailing it after only hearing the song a few times in the control room. The track eventually flows out into a delta and ends with an interplay between the sparse piano and hazy waves of a fuzzed-out guitar. If you listen closely at the crescendo, you’ll hear a subtle sputtering under the surface. This is a blast beat from our friend and Belgian black metal drummer Wim Coppers.

Balmorhea’s pop sensibility is a trait that remains at the heart of the band’s special records. Needless to say, the lyrical quality of these instrumentals is quite staggering. For instance, ‘Behind The World’ orbits the avant pop sphere with the irresistible bass groove and crystallized guitar/piano patterns. What do you feel may be the defining records for you that you find inspirational for the musical path you find yourselves on? 

MM: During the creation of Clear Language it was a wild smattering of records from all over the musical map. Rob was listening to a lot of jazz, classical and world music whereas I was listening to a see-saw of minimal, avant and ambient music. One record that was on heavy rotation during the process was Daniel Lanois’ ‘Belladonna’ (2006, Anti). This record marries a strange blend of ambient americana throughout its reverberous pedal steel guitar next to deep synth and avant-jazz drumming. It really opens a total unique, sonic world unto itself. Highly recommended if you haven’t heard.

It must be a thrill to translate ‘Clear Language’ to the live setting when touring? As a larger ensemble onstage, do the songs further change or mutate as they are emitted into the atmosphere each night, in different places, different time zones, different moments?

MM: The songs of Clear Language were written and largely recored as a duo but the live iteration is a full, 6-piece ensemble. Every player has a role for each song, which rotates based on the arrangement. It was a fun but long process to comb through these songs and arrange them for the live stage. The songs are mostly compatible with the original instrumentation and played live, save the programmed beats on ‘Sky Could Undress’ and ‘Behind the World’, respectfully. It’s really enjoyable to play live and our current set has over 1/2 of the new album mixed throughout.

‘First Light’ is that perfect meditative closing gem. A haven of celestial sounds unfold. Can you recount your memories of writing, composing and arranging this song? The added vocals makes for such a vital moment. Do you find the arranging and blending of the various instrumentation a challenge? Or this sense of keeping restraint in the music and having the minimal framework as your guide? Is there a musical philosophy that you feel has guided you through your songbook thus far?

MM: ‘First Light’ was actually the first song we wrote in the demoing process. But in the end, it fit most squarely as the album’s closer. We titled it ‘First Light’ as a way to invoke or invite a return or a cycle, of sorts. The record as a whole (to us, anyway) seems to slide from one track to the next and can play in some way as a singular, weaving journey. There isn’t a specific doctrine or credo we are adhering to, really. And we’ve never set out to specifically not have lyrics. On some tracks we’ll sort of agree that a different voice is needed. Sometimes it ends up that a human voice being used as an instrument rather than communicating a direct language is the most apt choice. We make the music that comes to us based on the unique and pooled amalgam of memories, experiences, dreams, lands and people that surround us. We are so lucky to make music; to record it and to play it around the world. It means everything that people spend time listening to it and even more-so if they are moved in some way by it. It’s a dream come true.

‘Clear Language’ is out now on Western Vinyl.

For Balmorhea’s European and U.S. tour dates, visit HERE

https://balmorheamusic.com/

http://westernvinyl.com/

Written by admin

March 27, 2018 at 6:20 pm

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).

botany-1

 

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