Archive for July, 2010
Entering the Bleep store over the past week have been two stunning albums from musicians who value collaboration as a means of broadening their spectrum of sounds. On have crafted a record that is highly unique in its approach and whilst it may not be an easy listen, if you take the time to let it form in your ears it will reveal itself as a hypnotic and quite magical album of intricate detail. Tiger Flower Circle Sun is the latest solo record from audio-visual composer and guitarist Christopher Willits. Having worked with Taylor Deupree, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Matmos in the past he draws together a vast array of styles for this record that owes as much to Aphex Twin, as to the psychedelic collage music of Broadcast, Reich’s minimalism and even the Beach Boys.
Lurking behind the band name ‘On’ is a very original idea. Formed by pianist and guitar player Sylvain Chauveau and percussionist Steven Hess, they record improvisations that are handed to a rotating third member to be manipulated and formed into a record. For their third release, On is completed by collaborator Christian Fennesz, who treats the source material with a lightness of touch, creating an emotive album of dronescapes that evoke industrial beauty.
Something That Has Form And Something That Does Notis a collection of long and expansive pieces consisting of seemingly static washes of sound, loops and drones. It is within these linear elements that the music in fact reveals itself in a constant state of flux, teeming with life and energy. Opener The Inconsolable Polymath sounds like an ensemble of rotating helicopter blades, muted alarm bell and pure electronic tones. The title track begins with what could be a duet for morse code accompanied by quiet hum and overlapping loops and builds to include soft synthetic chords, the crackling of a flame and the hiss of escaping air. Hess’s metronomic drumming dominates the foreground and consists of a satisfyingly strange collection of resonant cymbal crashes, drum hits that could be prepared piano and a dry hi-hat.
Much like closing track The Lonesome Poetry of Mark Rothko from On’s previous release, The Sound Of White appears to reference minimalist visual art and emptiness. Similar to the soundscapes that On create, a canvas that appears to be merely a wash of single colour is on closer inspection full of texture and imperfections. The Sound of White depicts the noisy reality of silence, and calls on sensory associations we make with sound. At times there is a sense of being submerged underwater, or in the recording studio hearing the musicians shuffle in their seats. The realism of musique concrete is combined with what feels like the amplified internal bodily sounds we experience as we breathe, suffer tinnitus or hear the liquid beating of our hearts. A beautiful mixture of real and treated sound, this track epitomises the originality of On’s collaborative approach.
With track names such as Sunlight Is You, Green Faces and New Life there is clearly an underlying theme of renewal and light in Christopher Willits’ latest album Tiger Flower Circle Sun. He creates immersive, bleary soundscapes of layered guitar and intricate glitchy textures, collaging sampled fragments to create patterns of interlocking rhythm and texture. His pallet of colours embraces sounds as diverse as electric guitar, horns, synths, glitches, choral vocals and even cow bell to create his ‘holistic universe’ as he describes it, ‘in which all elements are interconnected’.
The album begins with Portal and we are transported to Willits’ world; warm fuzz envelops a series of sustained guitar chords that struggle to be heard beneath waves of distortion and white noise. Sun Body opens with a symphony of clipped guitar glitches before Willits’ vocals melt into minimalist hooks and layers of complex rhythmic patterns. This wonky song feels stuck together like a jigsaw puzzle, yet never disjointed and is a track of hidden complexity. The Hands Connect To The Heart builds as guitar loops and clicks are layered upon a repeated ascending melodic pattern. Gradually a wash of soft fuzz and whirling tone crescendos into the foreground and the song builds to an ecstatic climax- perhaps a party track for robots of the future! Triptych of songs Light Into Branches- Branches Into Flowers- Flowers Into Stardust, embody Willits’ sonic universe of contradictions as an acoustic guitar led folk ditty becomes distorted noise and then celestial ambience. Tiger Flower Circle Sun takes us on an abstract voyage from the sun to the stars and despite its eclectic elements never loses coherence as a whole. Willits has created a truly genre-defying album that is complex and experimental, yet warm, uplifting and full of fun.
Words by Nicole Robson.
On the release of their new album, we decided to catch up with On – the group consisting of Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess…
NR: I love the concept behind On, to form a group that consists of improvising, experimental musicians and a producer or mixer who takes the material and shapes it into the final record. Yet the two are inseparable both as an entity under the On moniker, and musically, they integrate so well. How did you meet each other and how did On come about?
Steven: I first heard Sylvain’s music back in 2002 though a mutual friend of ours here in Chicago, and after the first listen I was blown away with what I heard and a few days later I decided that I had to get in touch with him to introduce myself and discuss the possibility of some sort of collaboration in the future. At that point I had no idea what sort of collaboration we would do, I just new I had to reach out and make a connection with this guy
Sylvain: After a few email exchanges that went very well, much to my surprise, Sylvain suggested that he come to Chicago so we could have the opportunity to record together. Which, as you know by now, we did. That material became the 1st On record “Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night”, and the remaining material was used for “Second Souffle”. Then we lived happily ever after.
NR: As “third member” of On for this album did you give Christian Fennesz free reign over the final sound?
Steven: Yes, of course. As with the other artist we have asked to mix the On records – and those we’d like to ask to mix future records/tracks – they have total control and are free to do what they choose with the material (with-in reason).
Sylvain: Steve and I chosen carefully each person we wanted to ask to be the mixer or producer. What we look for is a musician whose work we really like, mostly in the range of electronic music, and who is open enough to take our improvised material and make a record out of it. So the mixer is free to reshape completely the tracks, to add or remove some sounds, or to leave it as it is and just mix the intruments altogether.
NR: Since the music is generated through improvisation, and then handed over to a third party to evolve into something different again, I imagine this to be a process in which the final result is unpredictable. The music is unmistakeably by On and yet it somehow seems to have evolved out of itself. Did you have a starting point?
Sylvain: Yes, the result is a bit unpredictable and that’s something we appreciate. I’ve noticed this: when you spend a long time making music for a record, you make it evolve until you reach a point of satisfaction and then you end up the mix. It’s done, and usually when you listen to it a long time after you start to think this is not that good, that you would change this or that if you had to do it today. But with On, it’s the opposite. We receive the result and it contains the touch of someone else. It takes a little while to get used to it, to understand what the mixer has created, and the more time goes the more I get into it. Those albums have a better evolution with me than the ones where I control everything.
NR: The album is called Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not and I hear this as an idea in the music, for example a loop that ‘has form’ underpins a wash of much freer, undulating sound and noise. How did the title come about?
Steven: Great observation, and very true. But… the title of the record came much later and really just kind of fell into my lap. I was wanting to use Form, or some synonym of, in the title somehow, and thinking some of this material really did have form, but then again… some of it is very open and doesn’t – even after Fennesz reworked it. So while sitting on my porch drinking coffee and having a cigarette one morning the phrase Something That Has Form and Something That Does Not came into my head. Voilà! Boring story really, I wish it was something more detailed or dramatic. Sorry folks!
Sylvain: I like the story. I didn’t know you had the idea on your porch with your coffee and cigarette, man. I think the titles are very important in music. Especially in instrumental music. That’s a way to tell a story. Or to let listeners imagine the story. Like we did with a title such as “Your naked ghost comes back at night and flies around my bed” (the first track of our first album), for example. One can immediately know what it’s about and picture a story.
NR: Tracks such as The Sound of White recall to me textures composed by Morton Feldman- a bed of sound that nonetheless is constantly changing, focusing the listener in to tiny events. It is large-scale, expansive music, yet the magic is in the detail. Do you agree? and musically, who are your influences?
Sylvain: I didn’t think you could hear some feldmanesque mood on this album, that’s funny. But on the other hand, talking about influences, the music we enjoy as listeners has definitely an influence on what we play – the opposite is also true: the music we play influences ous tastes as listeners. Feldman, yes, one of the most important composers of the 20th Century, to my opinion. Maybe my favourite one, since ten years now. But from our side, On is a lot about improvisation, immediacy, playing without thinking. The body, the heart, they know what you want to hear. Just let them go. I always have the temptation to make theories about everything I do. So it’s good to let go. Just play.
NR: With track titles such as Blank Space, The Sound of White, and [from Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night] The Lonesome Poetry of Mark Rothko clearly visual art, the idea of physical space and colour (or the lack of) has been an inspiration. How do you see the relationship between art and music?
Steven: Visual art has a huge influence on me as a musician, so yes, I think it has, and always has had, and influence on the music/sounds created by Sylvain and myself. I recall talking about specific artists/film makers/authors in the early email exchanges even before we even started recording together. We quickly realized that we have a lot of common interests and influences and I think this helped us mold the basic beginnings of the project. Now ‘how’ we are individually influenced by visual art is a completely different story, and actually something I’d prefer not to try to explain in one sitting… or at all. I think a majority of the time when someone tries to explain how they get their influences, it usually comes off sounding very cliché, or for a lack of a better word “idealistic”. You never know how or when you’ll be influenced, but when it happens you definitely know and it sticks with you until you can translate it to your own medium. Done.
Sylvain: The titles you mention are clearly linked to minimal art and to abstract expressionism. It’s true that Steve and I have this interest in common. We both have been able in the past to be blown away by a white monochrome painting. The first (and only?) press photo we did together was before an Ellsworth Kelly painting at the Art institute of Chicago. But saying how one can translate this in music, I don’t know either.
NR: It seems to me we live in an age of ever blurring boundaries, to talk about genre is barely relevant and cross-pollination between the arts seems ever more prevalent. Does taking something visual as a stimulus change the way you think about making music?
Sylvain: Certainly. And as we said, visual arts (mostly abstract painting) still is a important stimulus for people like Steve and I. but there are others too, and you can find them pretty much everywhere. Cinema offers visual and audio stimuli, and it can be very deep. Poetry or novels can work a lot too. Or photos – I remember trying to compose string pieces directly inspired by what I was feeling in front of Michael Kenna black and white shots several years ago. But I also believe that arts are not equivalent. You can’t make the same thing with music as with painting. Cage’s 4′33″ in 1952 is not the exact equivalent to Rauschenberg’s white monochomes in 1951. Debussy’s impressionistic music was not the exact equivalent to Claude Monet’s paintings.
NR: Do you have any plans to perform the record live?
Steven: Yes, I would like the opportunity to perform these songs live, or at least some sort of interpretation of these songs. Ideally I’d like to try to get Christian involved as well, if schedules allow that. I’d be thrilled to perform with Sylvain this year or the following. It’s been quite a while since we have performed (or toured) together and I think it’s about time we did that again.
Interview by Nicole Robson.
With Four Tet, Loefah, Cooly G, Space Dimension Controller, SBTRKT, and Sampha all on the bill, it looks to be a killer night!!
To win a pair of tickets, simplay e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us the name of Four Tet’s last album.
We decided to get a few words from the DJ, Producer, and Rinse Founder – Geeneus….
BLEEP: Tell us how Rinse started?
GEENEUS: Me, Slimzee, Target, Wiley and A Plus and some others set it up in a friends kitchen after we got kicked off another station. We put the transmittor under the mixer and pointed an aerial towards Hackney. We would switch the station on Friday nights and then switch it off on Sunday nights.
B: How did you get your FM license?
G: It was a very long campaign that took nearly 3 years and involved us consistently proving that we deserved an FM license. Although it was a lot of hard work we were committed to the cause as we believe strongly in what we are doing.
B: What’s the upcoming plans for Rinse now that this has happened?
G: Our plans are to carry on broadcasting in the same pirate style that our listeners know and love.
This is an exclusive trailer presented to Bleep from Sheffield based photographer, Shaun Bloodworth.
This year’s Field Day Festival has an incredible line-up featuring Phoenix, The Fall, Andy Weatherall, Caribou, Silver Apples, Ramadanman, Four Tet, Hudson Mohawke, Walls, Toro Y Moi, Gold Panda, Dam Funk, Joker and L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok.
To win a pair of tickets to this one-day festival on the 31st July, Victoria Park, London – simply e-mail email@example.com and simply state your favourite field activities and why…
The 12k label has been a vanguard of abstract and minimal-electronics that shift between the musical realms of gentle, pastoral ambience, dissonant noise collage and micro-techno. We are very happy to have this exclusive digital sampler curated by label-head Taylor Deupree. We also wanted the opportunity to speak to the man himself…
Bleep: Tell us about your formative musical years in the late 80’s, apparent sonic-worlds that are seemingly far removed from your output these days?
Taylor Deupree: The 80s were huge for me, and still are. bands like New Order, Cabaret Voltaire, Early OMD… electronic and then industrial music of all kinds. Music completely ruled my life since I was about 14 and there was so much exciting music and developments at that time. Factory Records and 4AD Records were big influences on my understanding of the presentation of music and, ultimately, on 12k.
B: We read that you are heavily involved with graphic design. Does this spread towards the aesthetic of 12k and which graphic artists/designers to you admire past, present, future?
TD: I’ve been working as a freelance designer in New York for the better part of 20 years and have done all of the design for 12k. With 12k, and my design in general, I’m very much into anti-design, as I call it. Design that is so simple that it doesn’t draw attention to itself. Trying for the most minimal of flourishes or accents. Pure and simple. The designers I discovered in the 80s are still my design heroes. I don’t know much about designers or the professional world of designers, I don’t pay attention. Peter Saville, Neville Brody are pretty much the only names that meant anything to me. Edward Tufte, though not strictly a designer, is a big influence as well.
TAYLOR DEUPREE PHOTOGRAPHY | (untitled, NYC) from the Holga Architecture Series
B: You are one of the most prolific, constantly changing artists on the experimental landscape, how do you mange to cram it (collaborations, solo-work, label duties) all in?
Passion, really. I mean, I love doing what I do. I live it and breathe it, I’m completely dedicated and I’m a workaholic. Somehow I manage to write and release the music, run 12k, have a family and house. As the saying goes… if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life…. and that pretty much is what I live by. I don’t know how I manage it all, but I do, and I do it all with equal passion.
B: Do you see your music as part of the minimalist canon in music, what’s your personal relationship with this form?
Minimalism sort of guides my whole lifestyle. I’m always conscious of it on the day-to-day… whether it’s with music, or my house, or cooking,.. anything. I have no problem being categorized as a minimalist musician although I think what’s considered minimal now doesn’t necessarily relate to the classic Reich/Glass minimalism. To me minimalism is about shaving away the excess and the drama and the decoration. I think music that is densely layered can still be minimalist, it’s not just about space or silence.
B: Your latest record, Shoals, features a selection of Javanese and Balinese gamelan instruments -albeit heavily processed- how did this come about?
I was asked to do an artist residency program at the University of York by Mark Fell and the Music Research Head Tony Myatt. I love these opportunities to go places and really concentrate on working, free from everyday distractions so I quickly accepted. The idea, however, was for me to find something to do there that I couldn’t do at home. I needed to make the experience unique.
Because I’ve been working acoustic instruments so much lately, the discovery of the University’s Gamelan collection was the perfect basis for the project for me. It’s quite an impressive collection and nothing I have access to here at home. The idea then was to develop a simple software simple (I used Kyma in this case) to record and manipulate the instruments. After some experimentation I settled on long, very repetitive looping structures and spent a week creating these long passages. I recorded many hours of material and then took it home and edited down into what became Shoals. That part was very difficult as I had a lot of material to go through. I could probably make another album with the remaining material. I probably will some day.
B: How do you divide composition between computer technologies, ‘real’ instruments and field recordings?
My practices are always changing and wandering… but lately I tend to do most of the *recording* in the analog domain. Acoustic instruments, hardware looping pedals, tape, pre-amps, all that fun stuff. My music is really about beds of sound that I like to humourously describe as “going nowhere”… a vertical approach to sound is more interesting to me than a horizontal or linear one. I want to try to take time out of the equation and concentrate on the moment. You can avoid time with music, but I try. When I’ve created sounds or loops these get put into the comptuer for editing, layering and mixing.
B: Does Brooklyn, New York City inspire your approach to making music?
I lived in Brooklyn for over 15 years and I think it definitely made me want to write quiet music… as a way to escape the over-stimulation of the city. Now that I’ve lived in the country for 5 years I find I’m equally as inspired to write quiet music but it’s taken a much more acoustic and organic turn. As has my photography as well. New York City has a strange electronic music scene. I’ve never really felt part of it, or accepted there. There are a lot of micro-scenes and not a lot of inter-scene support it seems. I think New York has so much going on and people from so many places that it no longer functions as a contained ecosystem.
B: How do you see the current state of electronic music on a worldwide macro-level?
I try not to think about these things really. The music is always changing, new genres splintering off, more and more people making music. ITunes and Beatport have changed things so much, illegal file-sharing, net labels, MP3s…it’s the Wild West.
If that wasn’t enough, our mates over at Numbers are having even more parties to celebrate their 7th birthday… There will be one on the 2nd July at Sub Club, Glasgow, and one on the 9th July at Fabric, London.
We have a pair of tickets for both shows to give away… Just simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and state your lucky number and why. Please also tell us which show you would like to go to (Glasgow or London).
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