Posts Tagged ‘Crypt Gallery’
To mark the release of ‘ISAM‘, the much anticipated seventh album from electronic pioneer Amon Tobin, the vaults of the Crypt Gallery underneath St. Pancras Church have been transformed into a fantastical underworld made up of unnerving yet beautiful scenes of alien-like life forms. The installation, part of a collaboration between Tobin and the British artist Tessa Farmer, unites elements of the forthcoming album together with Farmer’s detailed sculptures made from dead insects, bones and other natural materials to create an immersive experience that questions our preconceived ideas on how familiar materials can be used. The concept speaks as a response to Tobin’s explorations in to the synthesis of field recordings, acoustic modelling and multi-sampling techniques.
Farmer’s delicate creatures hover mid-air suspended from the ceilings whilst tracks from ‘ISAM’ play out to create a bewildering atmosphere. Various rooms depict tracks from the album, such as ‘Kitty Cat’, a track in which Tobin’s voice has been radically distorted to resemble that of an elderly lady and where Farmer responds with her interpretation of a cat’s carcass that has been invaded by an army of creatures including tarantulas and sea urchins to form an arresting image.
BLEEP Q&A WITH AMON TOBIN:
Bleep: How did the collaboration with Tessa Farmer come about?
Amon Tobin: She came to me in a dream. Like Joan of Arc towering over me, her flaxen locks fluttering in the wind against a glowing backdrop of molten lava. she spoke to me in a voice like thunder and said “hey like we should totally get together and do a show or something”. I was all like “totally”.
Bleep: The organic element and ideas such as situationism are themes that arise in both yours and Farmer’s works, can you explain in more detail what relation her work has to your new sound explorations?
Amon Tobin: We both try and make impossible things from ordinary materials. there is a great deal more to Tessa’s work but this is something I think we have in common and is why it made sense to me to collaborate. Aside from that, I just find what she does to be very beautiful.
For my part I see a lot of potential in building something unfamiliar from familiar materials. It’s what first got me into sampling when I first started making music. this album takes things further out along those lines. The instruments and sounds are made up into things you can play. They are grounded in traditional models for instruments but they often do things real instruments can’t do. e.g. I took my own voice and modified it for the harmonies and vocals on the record to sound female.
Bleep: In ISAM you have moved on from sampling to focus more on the synthesis of field recordings. Can you tell us a little more about the production process behind the album?
Amon Tobin: It’s all still sampling to me really because sampling was never about the source material as much as it was about the new role a sound or a break played when put in an alien context. There is this conflict between where the sound wants to go and where you take it that produces a strange dynamic and this is what I’m really interested in.
ISAM is music first but also a combination of ideas on how to make new sounds. one process was based on spectral synthesis. An audio source is analysed into it’s spectral properties then assigned various morphing, pitch and timbre variables that react to cc events on a midi controller.
It’s not all about synthesising my own recordings though, I used a range of things. Sometimes I used multisamples instruments which preserve the tonal quality of sounds far better than when you synthesise them. Sometimes I used plain old synthesisers and plug ins too. I usually get the best results when I mix different approaches to anything together.
BLEEP Q&A WITH TESSA FARMER:
Bleep: Amon Tobin and yourself share much common ground, for instance in the way you both explore how familiar materials can be put to different uses aside from what we are accustomed too. In comparison with much of your past work what elements have you had to adapt in order to imagine this collaboration with Tobin?
Tessa Farmer: Myself to an extent- i am a bit of a control freak, very protective of the world i create and was nervous about letting other people in! I developed a narrative in response to the album, which is not something I’ve done before/ in advance – this normally happens and evolves as I make the work- i try not to plan too much ahead, as materials (mostly found, scavenged) so often influence what happens.
Bleep: Aside from the collaboration with Tobin what forms of music inspire you and your work?
Tessa Farmer: When i work i listen to Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Ella Fitzgerald, Queen and ABBA.
Bleep: The majority of your work is so minuscule that only a magnifier can show the viewer the depth of detail and craftsmanship that has been carried out. Can you talk us through a little about the process that brings your creatures to life?
Tessa Farmer: I actually don’t use magnifiers in the exhibitions any more- I like the viewer to work! I think close close inspection provides a deeper engagement, and i want the viewer to see beyond craftmanship, that’s not what the work is about – i want them to engage in the story, in the world of the fairies.
But on a practical level, I build the fairies out of plant roots, using tweezers, scissors and superglue- much like a 3D jigsaw- the skulls are made from bits of earth, soaked in glue, carved into a cranium shape with facial bones made from roots stuck on.
Bleep: Can your work be seen as a conscious comment on the relationship between nature and humans and therefore a statement on the neglect and destruction of nature or is it purely fantastical?
Tessa Farmer: For me it’s purely fantastical- the reality is the wonder of the natural world, not a comment on our destruction of it… nature is wonderfully, beautifully harsh and shocking at times- my work reflects this and the struggle for survival that it an alien concept for most humans – i am fascinated by how life has evolved to adapt to every niche on the planet… there is simply so much to learn it is mind boggling and truly engaging.
ISAM: Control Over Nature installation runs from 26th May – 5th June at The Crypt Gallery.
ISAM is available to buy now on Bleep.
Words / interview by Laura Humphries
Photos of exhibition by Laura Humphries / Margot Didsbury