Vito Camarretta

Apr 252018
 

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“You are my hiding place;/You will protect me from trouble/And surround me with songs of deliverance.” This psalm (32, 7) explains the title (“Deliverance”) of the last sonic delivery by Tel-Aviv born Yair Etziony, coming out on his own imprint False Industries. This album – the 6th in his discography – is the first one following Yair’s relocation to Berlin, and it was partially inspired by his new environment. Let’s try to discover how.

 

Yair Etzionyk

courtesy of Aviv Viktor

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Yair! How are you?

Yair Etziony: Thanks, I am fine, enjoying the “lovely” weather in Berlin. Slowly recovering from a very strong flu.

 

Chain D.L.K.: The last of your sonic entity I heard (before your new output) is relatively old…an album “3 Stigmata” on Lamour…I maybe missed one…before speaking about what happened in between these two outputs, can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Yair Etziony: Hello, I am Yair Etziony. I am a composer and a musician who makes weird dark and cinematic music. I was DJing for many years, started with Drum & Bass and then moved to Techno and house. I ran and curated (with other friends, of course) lines such “Micropeople,” “Exercise” and “Sunday Xenax,” and all of them had a special place in the development of music and nightlife culture in Tel Aviv. I started making music with my friend Rani Golan in 2002 under the name Faction, and our debut album was released on the British label Neo Ouija. Since then, I’ve made music under various names and monikers. I released solo albums in Japan (Spekk), Sweden (Lamour) and on many other labels.

I also played in two bands; one is Scorpio 70, where we recorded Giallo-inspired jams, and the “Farthest South,” which was more of a free improvisation thing.

About my musical output, in a way, you’re right; I did not release music for a long time, but I actually released an EP on Tim Martin’s label Handstitched. The EP is called “Metamorphosis,” the same as a book by Franz Kafka. “Metamorphosis” was released in November 2017, and it’s the first proper release I’ve finished since I moved.

3 Stigmata was the last album I wrote in my old studio that was based in Tel Aviv, back in 2015.

A little bit after that, I moved with my spouse Sivan to Germany. The change was at first drastic; the fact is I did not know how comfortable I was living in that city. When I moved, my priorities changed. I needed to create a base of operations for myself, and that took some time. We moved to many apartments in a short time, and I could not find a place which was comfortable. I felt it was time to make changes in some basic paradigms I had for writing and producing music.

I never stopped writing music, I just felt that I was testing and looking for something new. After some trial and error, in 2017, I felt I had something, and from there it was easy. I was booked to play in Superbooth 2017, and not so long after I recorded a lot of music.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Why did you give life to False Industries? Do you think something was missing in the music industry that False Industries could compensate for?

Yair Etziony: My idea for the label was to create a community, weird collaborations, where people who coming from different kinds of music and scenes can create something interesting together. There is a certain vibe that all of the artists share; for example, the remix Maps and Diagrams did to Matt Baldwin when a San Fransisco-based psychedelic guitar player meets a British electronic music artist. This is the kind of ideas that push the label forward.

Link to the tune: https://soundcloud.com/false-ind/matt-baldwin-borkian-dervish-thomas-de-hartmann-gi-gurdjieff-maps-and-diagrams-remix

 

Chain D.L.K.: The album I quoted (3 Stigmata) was inspired by the same-named novel by Philip K. Dick…a pretty dystopian piece of literature. How did you try to intercross your music and other forms of art (literature in particular)?

Yair Etziony: At the time when I was writing 3 Stigmata, I was ill with kidney stones and could not do much. I was reading the book, and a bit after I changed my old studio to a new setup; I had only CVGATE devices running with one clock. I used to play with this setup for an hour or so a day, for a week or two.
Then, when I heard the music I recorded, it was obvious that the music is very much derived from the book, and from there the decision to write a soundtrack made more sense.

With PKD, it’s even easier. I feel that his books can give the reader a very precise feeling of “what it is to be human,” and let’s not forget he wrote them in the 60s and 70s. We live in the future he was seeing, with the “Internet of things,” fast computer networks, digital newspapers, and global warming.
There is a certain narrative in the book, and I wanted that narrative to be felt with music.

 

Chain D.L.K.: What did it happen after 3 Stigmata?

Yair Etziony: Like I said, moving to a new country was not easy, but it also changed the way I feel about my own music. I was mainly testing new ideas and setups for the whole time, but most of that stuff did not feel like a coherent album for me. I decided to put more emphasis on modular synths, and all the releases that follow are based on that instrument, either solo or with other tools.

 

Deliverance - cover artwork

Deliverance – cover artwork

Chain D.L.K.: Your brand new album “Deliverance” is the first output after you left Tel Aviv and moved to Berlin… Would you say this event of your life or the new environment had an influence on your sound? If so, how?

Yair Etziony: Yes, I normally take a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, going for walks in the city. Tel Aviv is a sunny city with lovely beaches and very loud manners, while Berlin is cloudy, quiet and cold. I think you can hear it in the sound palette I chose for “Deliverance.” In Tel Aviv, you commute mainly by car or by foot, while in Berlin it’s mainly trains or bicycle. When we moved, I felt uncomfortable in public transportation, since it was not something I used so much. I think you can hear the slow movement of the trains in “Deliverance.”

 

Chain D.L.K.: Apropos of Berlin…some of your outputs seem to have clues of the so-called Berlin School, that branch of electronic music that was forged in the 70s and had a strong influence on the musical production that came years later…do you confirm my impression?

Yair Etziony: Yes, of course, I really love Conrad Schnitzler, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Manuel Gottsching, Ash Ra Tempel, and Gunter Schickert, to name few. I think for a short time, there was an explosion of innovation coming from young German musicians. I was actually supposed to do a thesis on this subject when I studied for my MA in Modern German history, but I could never finish it. I think that those artists with new instruments and their new ideas (they felt blues was British and American and wanted something new and German) were very much ahead of their time. I think some of us only started to understand how amazing this music was, only when we got a bit older.

 

Chain D.L.K.: An almost obvious question…why did you leave Tel Aviv?

Yair Etziony: Well, after living in Tel Aviv for more than 10 years, I and my spouse felt bored and, in perspective, one might say very comfortable there. Tel Aviv really changed in the last couple of years before we moved; many friends left the city, it became very expensive, we found less interest in events and clubs. I think for the younger people who arrived, the city seemed exciting, but for us, “it wasn’t the same again.”

We wanted a change, and we had a talk about the whole thing, and I just left my work and took some time off to rest (I had the kidney stone thing from question 2), and both of us agreed that we would move to another place. I wanted to move the desert, and she wanted to Berlin. I am happy we moved to here.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides the inspiration for your new environment, are there any other sources of inspiration for Deliverance?

Yair Etziony: For me, it can be many things; films, books, music, plastic art. I like reading old myths from anywhere around the world and find so much inspiration there. I love constructivist art and certain buildings as inspiring.

I take many pictures every day on my mobile device, and that inspires me too. I work a lot with computers and networks, and I think some of that inspires me deeply. I also love to do long walks. I think those are the most important moments of inspiration, at least for me.

 

Chain D.L.K.: ‘Am Aller Ecke’… German for ‘Behind the corner’, isn’t it? The title of a track (the second one of the list) that could be labeled as very anxious and obscure…how did you make it? Do you remember the moment or the images you matched to it?

Yair Etziony: I was drinking with friends in a bar called “Aller Eck,” which is at the corner of Aller Street in Neukölln, and when I went to the toilet I got the idea for the album, “Deliverance.” The funny thing is that I took a picture of the wall; I did not want to forget the moment and not the idea. The track was self-made on a modular system, and I added some overdubs from the Arturia plugin so I could get that Yamaha CS-80 vibe to it. It was the instrument Vangelis used when he wrote the soundtrack for “Blade Runner,” and I wanted something of that vibe there. A good friend of mine once told me, that when the infinite arrives, it’s a horrible feeling, since we are finite.
The idea is we can imagine the infinite, but can’t deal with it.

 

Am Aller Ecke

Aller Eck – courtesy of Yair Etziony

Chain D.L.K.: ‘Gesundbrunnen Ghosts’ sound closer to some morbid dark-industrial stuff that drew inspiration from soundtracks of horror movies of the 70s…how did you forge its sound?

Yair Etziony: This was the first tune I finished when I worked on this album. It was recorded in an older studio and is played 100% on a modular synth. Back then, I worked near the Gesundbrunnen S-Bahn station, and walking there at night felt like there were ghosts hidden. I adore 70s horror and sci-fi soundtracks, so yes, something from that for sure is everywhere in “Deliverance.” The tune was created with a complex analog oscillator, and low pass gates; the idea was to get a sound that was eerie and new, but has a sentiment of the vintage sound.

 

Chain D.L.K.: “Unheimlich” (German for ‘creepy’) is another descriptive title for the related track… Why did you explore this emotional set on “Deliverance”? Do you think that getting the listener closer to it is a way to initiate to a sometimes scary reality and liberate from the globalized brainwashing/brainfuck?

Yair Etziony: The idea to name the track “Unheimlich” came from the idea of the Uncanny in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. It’s less about creepy and more about not feeling at home, or feeling strange. It’s when objects in the world lose their meaning and we feel like strangers to ourselves; without being deeply into Heidegger’s philosophy, I would say that some moments of Uncanny can lead to moments of “Deliverance.” As I see it, our reality and use of technology are making us feel even more strange, even at home, and I think the music represents a side of me, a side that looks at our society and feels strange about it.

 

Chain D.L.K.: The title-track is maybe my fav…what are you going to deliver by means of its amazing sound?

Yair Etziony: “Deliverance” was one of the last tunes I finished. I like the idea that it ends the album in a kind of optimistic mode. Well, maybe not super optimistic, but there is at least an acceptance of a humanistic condition which means some piece of mind. As a good friend of mine once said: “Deliverance” can be taken in two ways; one is the religious idea that God will deliver you, and the second is that as a creator or a composer, which is me, delivering a work of art.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Many of our readers could be interested in the equipment you used to forge “Deliverance”…any words about it?

Yair Etziony: I recorded “Deliverance” with a modular eurorack system. I use analog VCAs and Low Pass Gate’s to give everything this 70s vintage synth sound that I love so much. In the same setup, I use many envelope generators and weird sequencers to randomize things a lot. I really love the modules from Verbose Electronics, Make Noise, Mutable Instruments, and Erica Synths.

I used some old Roland machines such as MC-202, SH-101, and TR-606. Everything was recorded to a UAD interface, and in the box, I used some Arturia plugins and Stylus for some beat making. For mixing, I used UAD and Fab filter plugins, which are good.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Yair Etziony: Of course. I just finished another album for Swedish label Lamour which is called “As Above So Below.” I am working on a nice collaboration with another Israeli ex-pat who lives in Berlin. Her name is Daniela Orvin, and I really like her music. It’s different than what I do, so it is interesting. I also started a more Drum & Bass inspired project which is called DEC. And I also play in a project with 2 friends and like-minded musicians Martin Maischen and Arik Hayut. We call our selves “Eshkolot.”

 

visit False Industries (Yair’ label) on the web at: false-ind.com

Apr 252018
 

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After grabbing sounds and field recordings all over the world, where she also traveled for anthropology research, Zoë McPherson started putting the first bricks for the transmedia project String Figures (an audiovisual project in 7 chapters plus a vinyl, recently released by SVS Records) together. In her own words, “I edit, add beats, synths, vox etc and then present some of the tracks to Falk, the percussionist with whom I work, who adds some grooves. He learned rhythms while living in Brazil and visiting Benin. We jam, and that’s great; I like being two rather than always alone. We jammed a lot on track ‘Deep.’ It’s our favorite track because we’re really together and absolutely free with the track’s dynamics.” The main connection with her anthropology research of the final result of this sonic output of String Figures is related to the interesting Inuit culture: “So that their culture shall never be lost. I’m referring to some cultures that have been spoiled, from the middle ages’ crusades to the oriental world to the story of Native Americans, indigenous people. But it’s also about how that culture evolves as it gets passed on and embraces modernity.” We had a quick chat about this project with Zoë…

 

String Figures - cover artwork

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Zoe! How are you?

Zoë McPherson: Hi! Good, and you?

 

Chain D.L.K.: String Figures seems to be your debut album. Before focusing on it, let’s trace your path towards/into music back. First of all, do you remember a particular moment when the interest in music making sparked?

Zoë McPherson: Hahaha. Well. always. I made an EP before, played drums before that and was listening to my mom singing before before before before that.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I read you’ve done some anthropology studies… Can you tell us more about that?

Zoë McPherson: Sure, I did some research, not studies. I researched about Inuït culture, Vodun culture, basically reading all I could find online, and all I could watch or listen to.

 

Chain D.L.K.: What are the “meeting points” of your musical and anthropology searching?

Zoë McPherson: It became my inspiration.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Let’s get deeper into String Figures… First of all, how did you meet Alessandra Leone? How did your collaboration begin?

Zoë McPherson: We met at a female:pressure meeting in Berlin two years back, when I was looking for a director to collab on my next album.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I really enjoyed the sound you squeezed on String Figures… How would you describe it?

Zoë McPherson: Thanks!
I don’t know how to describe it, that’s why I find it actually really interesting to read the reviews these weeks!
But people told me after our performance that it’s hypnotic and wild.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I hear some influences of tribal and techno as well… Besides Brazil and Benin, did another place starting by B, Berlin, have an imprint on the final sound of String Figures?

Zoë McPherson: Yes, everywhere I traveled to. But on this one, as stated, Norway, Indonesia and France, of course.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Did you use any traditional instruments as well?

Zoë McPherson: Yes, sure. The hardingfele is a traditional Norwegian instrument, and Falk plays traditional percussions from Brazil, as stated in the credits.
And I guess some animals do a pretty good job of being “traditional,” so to say.

 

Zoe McPherson - courtesy of Camille Cooken

courtesy of Camille Cooken

Chain D.L.K.: Why a title like “String Figures” for your project?

Zoë McPherson: Because of the obsession I had with Cats Cradle a few years ago, when studying Inuit culture.

It links people.

It’s passation, transmission from elders to youth
it’s beautiful
aesthetic
mathematical
meditative
relaxing
magic
spiritual in some cultures
it’s very human
cultures from all around the globe practiced this
even us as kids, at least myself as a child from the 1990’s
I think it’s amazing

Have a look here for more info: http://www.stringfigures.xyz/About

 

Chain D.L.K.: Could you help someone who doesn’t understand French to understand how you became a Shaman? 🙂

Zoë McPherson: Hahaaa, this will remain a secret until you learn French 🙂
This is a collected story from an Inuit Shaman, where I sing her story.
She describes her own very painful birth. It’s pretty disgusting, and fleshy.
This girl gets rejected by others as a child; when she gives a present, the present brings bad news to the receiver.
One day she decides to isolate herself in nature, and discovers a new way of seeing and hearing.
Soon after, she discovers her spiritual powers, and is able to help others.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I saw you released some clips…any word about them?

Zoë McPherson: Each track is a chapter, as we called it, as it is a video as well.
We imagined this audiovisual album together with Alessandra Leone, and commissioned pretty amazing visual artists, choreographers, costumes designers, etc.
We’re currently still working on forthcoming chapters!!
If there any questions about visual direction, I’ll gladly put you in touch with Alessandra.
And of course, live, we play an audiovisual show.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides video clips, I think String Figures could be perfect to be performed on stage (maybe through professional dancers)… I imagined something similar to what Juno Reactor made years ago…are you performing SF on live stages yet?

Zoë McPherson: Yes! that’s what we’re working on indeed. You can check it out here: http://www.stringfigures.xyz/Live-show

 

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Zoë McPherson: Always. I’m getting into Djing a little more at the moment, producing new tracks FOR SURE when the time is there. But I have many many ideas for more danceable and more experimental or more vocal directions I wanna go to. New instruments I wanna work with.

Also working with dancers in Antwerp, as well as this coming year with a dance company to create the sound universe of their new piece. Exciting!

Thanks for listening and for your curiosity!

 

visit String Figures on the web at: www.stringfigures.xyz

Apr 252018
 

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Here it is, a very interesting interview with Australian sound artist and electroacoustic producer Thembi Soddell, following the listening of her recent album “Love Songs” (coming out on Room40). Published alongside an extensive book outlining more literal readings of her ideas of sonic affect, contemporary relationships and the nature of becoming, Thembi explained its title as follows: “The title Love Songs is a little darkhumorr on my behalf. As the compositional process evolved the work became a meditation on the lived experience of insidious forms of abuse within supposedly loving relationships, in connection to certain forms of mental illness. These experiences are ones of extremes and emotional intensities; the tensions between horror, beauty, rage, desire, confusion, love and perceptual annihilation. Also, a good deal of the source material for the album is voice. I asked Alice Hui-Sheng Chang to vocalise perceptual collapse, which I sampled and manipulated into expressions of these themes. So, these are my love songs.” We tried to dig even deeper into this awesome release guided by its talented author.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Thembi! How are you?

Thembi Soddell: Grateful for your interest in chatting with me, and hoping I say something of interest!

 

Chain D.L.K.: Well…let’s start from the beginning…can you tell us something about your training in electronic music?

Thembi Soddell: I studied sound art, as well as photography, video, and animation, at RMIT’s Media Arts course in Melbourne back in the late 90s-early 2000s. The first sound-related class I took was with Philip Samartzis, who introduced me to field recording, tape manipulation, and digital editing. My practice is a direct result of this. You might also say that my education began long before then, though, from having a father obsessed with experimental music. He was always listening to all sorts of sounds from the fringes for as long as I can remember, and I’m sure it sank in. I remember once at RMIT being in class listening very stiffly and seriously to a Kraftwerk track, then being asked to critique it, and all I could picture was how I would dance around the lounge room with my sister to it at a very young age. It was a strange juxtaposition.

 

Thembi Soddell

Chain D.L.K.: There’s a strict relation between psychology and perception of sound, and this seems to be one of the keys to understanding your work…do you think that any thought, emotion or cultural meme could be translated into sound?

Thembi Soddell: That depends on what you mean by translation. If you mean in a literal sense – in the way that if you translate from say, Spanish to English, then readers who understand each language can have a shared understanding of the text, then no. I don’t think abstract sound can communicate clearly in that way. That said, as a composer, I do often work with sound as a metaphor, where ideas and experiences become connected to the sounds and compositional choices based on that. This is a type of translation, but not one that could be understood in a literal sense by anyone other than me. There are also certain ideas that lend themselves better to this process, ones that in some way share a connection to the invisibility and ambiguity of acousmatic sound. I also like using sound as a language because, unlike words, it can be interpreted in multiple ways in any one moment and through different senses. This is a bit more like how my brain works when its thinking, with layers upon layers forming connections between perhaps seemingly disparate ideas, not always with words, allowing contradictions to sit together with comfort. I also find it interesting because, like you say, perception is linked to psychology; I believe the way we perceive sound can reflect something of our own psychology, so I can learn a lot about myself or others through my relationship to sound. As Eliane Radigue has said, “sound always reflects something of the mind.”

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is there any composer or essayist that you recommend in order to understand the above-mentioned relation?

Thembi Soddell: Diana Deutsch’s work ‘Phantom Words’ and her writing around it illustrates this connection between perception and psychology in a very neat way. She’s a musicologist who studies the perception of sound and music, and she designed this track to make people perceive words that aren’t there. This illustrates the way our perception fills in gaps when the input is limited. Deutsch noted that when she performs this exercise on her students, she can tell things about their situation at the time, like those on a diet are more likely to hear the words “I’m hungry,” or at exam time, phrases such as “I’m tired” or “no brain” are more common. For an artist’s perspective, Camille Norment has some installations that explore psychology and perception that are well worth checking out.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I read that you’re involved in a practice-based search at RMIT University… Could you tell us something more about it? Did this research influence your music research?

Thembi Soddell: Making music is a major part of my PhD research, and most of my work from the past 8 years has been connected to this in some way, even the things that aren’t officially part of the research. The PhD is based on the idea of creating a first-person madness narrative using sound, which is any text written by a person with lived experience of what might be called mental illness (although I don’t think this illness model of understanding these experiences always fits), reflecting upon their experience and interaction with the mental health system. The idea behind the research was to attempt to use acousmatic sound to create a narrative (or non-narrative, as the case may be) of this sort, drawing on some of my own experiences of depression, anxiety and trauma and the problematic treatment I’d experienced through the mental health system. My new album Love Songs is a result of this research.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I like hyperactive people…and you seem to belong to this high part of mankind! Can you tell us something about your activity as a sound designer for theater and dance as well?

Thembi Soddell: I actually don’t like to spread myself too thin. I prefer depth, not breadth, and have limitations on how much work I can do due to chronic illness. This means I’m picky about what I do and don’t work on. In terms of dance, I have an ongoing collaboration with choreographer Tim Darbyshire. His most recent work, Tainted Title, is concerned with this idea of translation – translations between thoughts, movements, sounds, emotions, examining the spaces between what is said and felt, highlighting misinterpretations and the absurdity of experience. We’ve not had a chance to finish it off and make it public, but I can’t wait until we do because the last iteration brought me to tears, and I can’t even say why. It also made the audience laugh hard. The perfect combo! I’ve also done some sound design for theatre director Rebecca Russell for her work Triggered, which explores the state of dissociation that can happen as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Since my PhD, I’ve gotten pretty good at representing first-hand experiences of trauma in sound, so it made sense to work on this. I would love to do more sound design, as I love being brought into someone’s artistic process and to help them to realize what’s in their imagination, so long as the projects are a good fit.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on “Love Songs,” would you introduce your previous releases?

Thembi Soddell: My first solo album was a short one (about 25-minutes) called Intimacy, released back in 2004, which was based on field recordings I’d made during a hospital stay for a major depressive episode, sampled and transformed. It was my first attempt at trying to shape my external world into representations of my internal experiences. It’s somewhat of a precursor to Love Songs. My second was a full-length album called Instance, which was based on a series of intense dreams I was having at the time of composing. I also have two collaborative albums with cellist Anthea Caddy – Iland and Host. Our sounds blend well because they’re both full of tension, drama and anxiety.

 

Thembi SoddellChain D.L.K.: Many people could find a title like “Love Songs” as misleading as “A Lover’s Discourse Fragments” by Roland Barthes… How do you explain such a title to them?

Thembi Soddell: I am being a little facetious with the title, but I also think it’s quite fitting. When I was composing the album, I was also reading the book ‘All About Love’ by Bell Hooks. Some of the ideas in there influenced my thinking around compositional decisions and the collection of text fragments in the accompanying book – in particular, the idea that once somebody has experienced abuse in a loving relationship, it can become difficult to tell the difference between love and abuse in future relationships. When someone is hurting you, you think they are caring for you because that’s what you have known. Abuse can come to feel like love. When I listen to the work, I feel like there is a darkness to it, but also a beauty. It seems to hold this tension between love and abuse quite well. I also don’t believe this skewed picture of love comes from abusive relationships alone, but also from the way we are fed ideals about love and romance through love songs and other aspects of popular culture, which are in truth reflecting an unhealthy, flawed notion of what love is. The title is somewhat of a comment on that. On a different note, I also figure if people call my work music, then why not call these works songs? After all, they are constructed from a good deal of voice. There’s also something about the absurdity of the whole thing as a package. Thinking about some of the claims some people have made about loving me while simultaneously hurting me, well…it makes me laugh when I call these tracks love songs in a similar vein to the empty declarations of love that occur in the context of abuse. It’s a bit of an eye roll to the things people think they deserve and can get away with, when they say the words, “I love you.”

 

Chain D.L.K.: Many readers could be interested in knowing how you worked on the (amazing) sounds you packed in Love Songs… Any word about this aspect?

Thembi Soddell: I work with a sampler, which I find to be a magical instrument in the way it can reveal information in recorded sounds that may not be discernible in real-time. I try to highlight those aspects while working. I often use a sampling technique I’ve started to refer to as ‘temporal expansion,’ which involves selecting a portion of recorded sound that will loop in a way that doesn’t sound too much like a loop, creating multiple layers of varying pitches and then spreading them across the stereo-field to further mask the loop. This transforms a short fragment of sound into a monolithic texture that extends well beyond the time of the original sample (hence the term temporal expansion). Of course, with a sampler, I also need to have sounds to sample. I usually record sounds, either environmental sounds or played found objects, but for this album, I asked several peers if they’d contribute something. As well as objects played by me, there’s some flute from Jim Denley, electric bass from Cat Hope, field recordings from Martin Kay and voice from Emah Fox. But most of the sounds are derived from samples of Alice Hui-Sheng Chang’s voice. Even though they underwent significant transformation, meaning it’s hard to pick these sources, I still feel they retain something of their essence. There’s something about recorded real-world sounds when they are sampled that creates this interesting tension between a real and imagined space, which I love.

 

Chain D.L.K.: One of my favorite aspects of Love Songs is the impressive dynamics and physicality of the whole sound…really emotional! How do you decide that a track is ready to be deployed to listeners?

Thembi Soddell: I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but I do respond to the emotional content of the sound. If it’s making me feel things, I figure it will make others feel things too. Perhaps it’s as simple as that. I’m fussy though, too. I spend a long time working on things and have a clear sense of when it’s ready and when it’s not. I don’t want to waste a listener’s time, so I consider every aspect I put in there. I’m just not sure I have a conscious awareness of how I know when it’s reached this point. I will think about it!

 

Love Songs - cover artwork

Love Songs – cover artwork

Chain D.L.K.What did you say to brief Alice? How did you meet for the release of Love Songs?

Thembi Soddell: Alice and I have known each other a long time through the experimental music community in Melbourne. I like what Alice does, and we also share an interest in the way sound and the psyche connect, which is why I asked her if she’d be willing to contribute sounds. I gave her a short, written summary of my PhD research and asked her to create sounds with these ideas in mind. The summary focused on describing five categories of an experience I refer to as perceptual collapse, which is a term I took from a Ted X talk by a mental health advocate Mark Henick called ‘why we choose suicide.’ He refers to aspects of his experience of mental illness as times when his perception collapses. This rang true to my own experience, so as part of the research I observed this sensation and broke it into categories that formed connections between that experience and aspects of my compositional practice. I came up with five categories – temporal expansion, emotional weight, perceptual disorientation, experiential paradox and protective disrupture. I asked Alice if she could attempt to articulate some of these ideas using her voice. I sent this same brief to all the artists who contributed sounds to this album, and they each interpreted it in their own way.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Some words about the choice of the titles of each “song”…

Thembi Soddell: I often refer to my process of composing as one where I meditate on a range of ideas and felt experiences, where sounds become part of a metaphor-based thought process. The titles came from some of the ideas I was thinking about when composing this work, mainly connected to the history of psychoanalysis and experiences of insidious forms of abuse within relationships. Repetition Compulsion is my favorite title. It’s a term taken from Freud that he used to refer to an observed tendency in people to repeat the traumas and “unpleasures” of their past. Not a conscious attraction, but something operating on a subconscious level, with some people theorizing that it comes from a desire to master our failings from the past. Repetition is also fundamental to my formal processes – my samples repeat, and I often repeat the same gestures over and over again. I like that it could refer to the concept of trauma as well as dictate my approach to form.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Have you performed Love Songs on live stage yet? Any feedback?

Thembi Soddell: Yes, a few times. I’ve been excited by the positive responses. The most interesting have been about the shifts in perception – the feeling that people lose their sense of time and space or the ability to know what’s real or perceived. Sometimes people describe physical sensations, such as prickling of the skin, or feeling like the sound is almost physically touching them. Which it is, of course, but people aren’t always so aware of this. And this feedback seems more specific in terms of the shapes of the sound touching, or about to touch, them. There have been people who’ve said they feel like they’ve gone on a journey on a spaceship, with all the existential angst that accompanies it, while others are shifted to a darker space where past traumas re-emerge (apparently in a helpful way, thankfully), or they invent distressing narratives that go along with what they’ve heard. And some people have felt like it’s a peaceful, group meditation, or have drawn connections with the flow of the king tides. I love hearing people’s responses. They’re so unique, yet all seem to have an essential connection to some aspect of the ideas I was exploring when making the work. I think the most negative response was someone telling me they thought some sections went on for too long and got a bit unbearable, or that some gestures were repeated too much, but I kind of liked that too because I wanted to create that feeling of frustration when you wish something would end but it doesn’t – that feeling that you can’t escape. That’s trauma for you!

 

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Thembi Soddell: I’ve been working on a sister piece to this album called Held Down, Expanding for a few years. This is a 14.2 channel sound installation inside a large black box, designed for a single listener at a time. They are guided in, placed within a reclining chair that is then raised up and rolled backwards so the person’s head is in the exact right position for listening. The lights are then turned out so they listen in pitch black to an altered, spatialized version of the first track from Love Songs. I designed the speaker system so I could create the feeling of the sound expanding and contracting around you (almost like it’s coming in and out of your head), with the hope of disorienting perception of time and space. It premiered at MOFO 2018 in Tasmania, so it’s mostly done now, but I’m still experimenting with integrating text and the collection of audience members’ responses to create a context around the experience. I’m also very keen to continue making more work in this vein once I next get the chance. Asides from that, I’m writing my PhD dissertation, so that’s taking up all my time. I’m due to submit in December this year, so I may not have the time to do much else until after then. Please cross your fingers and toes for me that I can make this deadline! This is my eighth year…time to move on!

 

visit Thembi Soddell on the web at: www.thembisoddell.com

zK

 Posted by  Interviews
Apr 252018
 

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“Last Night” (out on the Swiss label Hallow Ground) is the first studio album in five years by zK, the bicephalous project by Mark Godwin and Gareth Ormerod. Entirely recorded in Bangkok, Godwin’s new hometown, and drawing on sampling and musique concrete techniques, “Last Night” manages to render the nervous energy of the Thai capital city after artificial lights and obscurity take over for the sun… We also talked about it with Mark.

Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! How are you?

zK: All good here, really busy with work and meeting musicians who travel this way.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Just curious about the name of your artistic entity, zK… a reference to Zos Kia?

zK: I’ve been asked this question a lot. Whilst I admire Austin Osman Spare’s work a great deal, zK was a cipher, mostly chosen for the way it looks, a marker point in space. Dealing with the oppositions embedded in the concept of Zos Kia might be too much for anyone 🙂

 

Last Night

Chain D.L.K.: Mark, you were behind the curtain of the last outputs by Coil… what did you learn (under the technical but also the “human” viewpoint) from that collaboration? How do you remember John?

zK: I learned a lot from working with such material; the most interesting things for me were acquiring the notion of decision making in general when approaching sound, and being patient and slow whilst developing a signature sound. Whilst I did not know Geff directly, we crossed paths via telephone and I vaguely remember some very odd conversations about bears and hugging. I got to know Peter as a friend during the time he was here in Bangkok. It appeared to me that he was a mix of Caligula and Buddha-like presentations in his appearance and outlook, which apparently was quite a different aspect to his persona in the UK; Peter was pragmatically very encouraging and supportive of my ramblings in sound. We had many hours of nerdy conversation about gear and its use. I realize that is a little scant, but the other conversations we had were so personal I think it would be unethical to share them. However, Peter thought it was highly amusing that I enjoy metal so much, as he found it difficult to reconcile 🙂 In short, Peter was an exceptionally supportive and thoughtful individual who, whilst I knew him, was striving to shake off the darkness of his previous experiences and managed that by connecting with passing people or the landscape he found himself in.

 

Chain D.L.K.: A question somewhat related to the previous one… A Thai edition by Coil’s “The Remote Viewer”…why a Minimax?!?!? 🙂

zK: Not sure about this one 🙂 production costs?

 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides the almost logical connection with Coil (even if I won’t say zK is a clone-like project), what’s your general perspective of industrial? Do you think it was a temporary fashion? Do you notice a lack of interest by general audiences or not? Any explanation, if so?

zK: That whole genre has a shifting definition. I’m not sure where it is now; Techno?? I don’t think that it is temporary, however, its focus on mechanization is anachronistic, as the industrial world is in decline. The general audience is of no interest to me, as I have no wish to pander to the average attention span, which is painfully short. If you make music like this and you expect mass interest, might I suggest you are deluded 🙂 The music does provoke interest, as I have received some interesting responses, typically projections of the listeners self, rather than my interpretation, which is to be expected. I think this type of music is more of a deliberate selection rather than using music as a backdrop to a mundane life.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on “today,” let’s have a look back to “yesterday”… zK was born in the rising British rave scene… How did the rave scene influence your sound and the desire of searching for something else?

zK: Well, to put it simply, Ecstasy 🙂 Those experiences led me back to my earliest experiences of music as a child, where singing felt like it was resonating my whole being and thereby a connection with a developing awareness of the noumenal world. Secondly, manipulating music through DJing and seeing the responses to it really fired me up to do my own stuff. The Skam lot were really encouraging and became great mates, so that helped a lot. So it’s a typical path from frustrations with the material played to producing it. The rave scene was incredibly liberating, as it connected a lot of people with the corporeal aspects of their mind, and socially it seemed to unglue the social strata for a short time.

 

Last Night

courtesy of Mat Thornton

Chain D.L.K.: Mark, can you tell us something about your recent collaboration with Martin Maischein?

zK: Yeah, we met via FB. One day I saw that Martin was in Bangkok., so atypically, I asked him if he wanted to meet for coffee, which we did, and then the track ensued. Martin is a fantastic producer and we worked at lightning speed.

Hopefully, he is coming back again for more collaboration later this year. I really appreciate the ear for detail.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Some reviewers describe you as ambient conceptualists (maybe they just listened to outputs like “Aethyr Jumpers”), while other ones as “restorers of old-fashioned industrial”…how would you perceive or label yourself and your style?

zK: I think that these descriptors are a little off, as I have no wish to be background washes 🙂 Yes, sometimes there is a concept, but usually they are internal recollections and episodic, but most of these will be out of sensory range to the listener. I’d like to think that zK expresses emotions and cognitions in an atypical way, i.e. not neurotypical. There is something of the autistic perceptual universe in there, as different elements are exaggerated, I think the Wire review picked this up well. This is a hard question to answer 🙂 Yes, there is noise in there, but it’s not all dystopian doom and gloom; there are explorations of being, more than comments on the world at large, so I guess it’s very personal in its way.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Most of your records include many interesting references to other disciplines of human (more or less unknown) knowledge, and many experimental works could be easily misunderstood… Is there any album by zK that was seriously misunderstood?

zK: I’m not sure. I haven’t had enough feedback from people I don’t know to have experienced that feeling. I guess that with such open sound, it is ripe for “misinterpretation.” The listeners’ perceptions are not necessarily mine, and as such, I’m not sure if you can misinterpret it.

 

Chain D.L.K.: “Last Night” was entirely recorded in Bangkok and tried to mirror the Thai capital’s nightlife…can you tell us more about the strategy you followed to catch and translate that energy/those energies into sound?

zK: We mapped out a whole evening across the capital, beginning at home as a storm brewed. We would capture sounds as we moved through the city and insert them into first thoughts and representations of sound.

However, for zK, this took a long time to complete. When recording, we improvised, recorded and then edited later. After completion, it became clear that we were noticing all the barriers to comprehension that we faced when dealing with Bangkok, and perhaps how desperate some parts of it were when compared against the strange beauty of the place.

zK by Mat Thornton

courtesy of Mat Thornton

Chain D.L.K.: Any field recordings? If so, what’s the weirdest one you grabbed?

zK: One that we didn’t use, as it was a copyrighted song delivered by a very tall ladyboy who wouldn’t leave 🙂

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is there a plot-like line you followed for the track order?

zK: yes: home/storm/family : outside: anxiety; self-deception; numbing the self to wake up, despair; acceptance, resolution of self and connection to the location.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is there something “new” in Last Night versus your previous albums, in your own words?

zK: More external sources and new equipment, but mostly the narrative arc and the daily production routing.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

zK: A lot; I’m always working. In the last three months, I just finished 6 or more full sequences. Due to location, lots of time to work.

 

check out zK’s “Last Night” on bandcamp

Jan 292018
 

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According to Human Ear Music‘s info on “Demonstration Disc” (2017,  CD/DL, HEM), the recent release by Jason Grier, “issues of labor theory, social practice, and sonic activism underly an abstract surface worked and re-worked toward a hallucinatory depth of field. Loud, decadent, irreverent, and cinematic, Demonstration Disc sounds like mashing down all the preset buttons on your sparkling-new, cosmic-avant-garde monster synth, with delectable aplomb.” Let’s get deeper into it, guided by the author himself.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Jason! How are you?

Jason Grier: Fine, thanks!

 

Chain D.L.K.: Can you introduce yourself to our readers in your own words?

Jason Grier: I’m Jason. I do sound, art, programming and other stuff. I run this label/collective thing called Human Ear Music, with artists like Ariel Pink, Julia Holter, and Michael Pisaro having been involved in it. Now it’s all about these different porous activities –not strictly music-related– that I do by myself and sometimes with others, like collaborations and mixing and production and mentorships and press campaigns that are pretty informal and more or less invisible, and artistic research and other ongoing projects like this Sound Library thing.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Demonstration Disc…first of all, what is it going to demonstrate?

Jason Grier: It’s packaged with my Sound Library, and if you download any collection of sounds that you want to use in your own music, then you should expect to have a demonstration of its capabilities; same deal here. And there are such things already, if I’m not mistaken, or more so in pre-internet times, this kind of “Stereo Test Disc.” I actually found a few of these in thrift stores and considered including rips of these test vinyls in the Library, and in the end, I did include one of them: a sampler vinyl of highlights of some nature sound library from the 1970’s. So there are layers of demonstration discs within demonstration discs, demonstrating libraries within libraries. Lastly, another difference is obviously that the Demonstration Disc also has abstract themes and concerns and a story arc. For example, it begins with this new year’s fireworks in Berlin and ends with anti-Trump demonstrations in NYC at the end of the same year; another sense of the word “demonstration.”

 

Jason Grier - courtesy of Tonje Thilesen

Jason Grier – courtesy of Tonje Thilesen

Chain D.L.K.: Can you explain the generative and aggregative process behind this disc?

Jason Grier: This Sound Library work was like a labor-performance in which my artistic labor was to collect and edit raw materials and avoid thinking about making an artwork in favor of meditating on aggregation and manual labor and labor-byproducts. And the generative aspect is first of all practical, because as the library got bigger, I could not keep mental track of all the sounds in it. I felt disoriented, like I didn’t know the library’s landscape anymore, and like there were some sounds which I knew were in there but never got the chance to hear for months. So I decided to build some kind of automated tool to help me skim through the library and find sounds. But this tool eventually became “Seurat,” and became more of an artistic collaborator. I’d let Seurat run all day, generating results from the library, and I would make small adjustments from time to time and choose various patterns that worked well together, and the “best” of those combinations became the album.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I saw that someone didn’t really understand the meaning of this record…and someone wrote that its main defect is that it lacks feeling…do you agree?

Jason Grier: Lol, what could be lacking in feeling in the gesture of offering a whole library of sounds to the people? Seriously, though, I did challenge myself to get the most cinematic and emotional feeling from this collection of sounds not intended specifically for me and from this robot (Seurat) that did not really share my thematic concerns. And I’ve played the Demonstration Disc for some people in private sessions and had some of them burst into tears ’cause they found it so emotional, and others kind of go, “Meh, this doesn’t make sense to me.” And the music even scared off a very very cute little dog one time, so I really can’t claim a decisive victory, more like a big range of responses that I learned a lot from. So, do I agree? Overall, no. I think it’s not that the Demonstration Disc lacks feeling, but that it lacks engagement, ’cause I put a lot of ideas forward in a short time, which is partly the product of it being a “Demonstration Disc,” and partly because I felt obligated to be able to press it on vinyl one day. In the future, I’d like to get rid of the obligation of this 40 minute time constraint and release additions to the library with just one or two sounds and an accompanying piece that goes deep into just a few sounds. And if you don’t understand the “meaning” of it, then that’s fine, you just don’t, but then that’s also on me to do more writing and teaching and interviews, I think, to get better at explaining what it is I’m doing.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Some experiments are not totally new, but I’d like to ask why you broke that R’n’B/soul song on track number 4?

Jason Grier: That’s my favorite 7-inch single of all time. A private-press gem from the 80’s sometime, a forgotten artifact which I had heard rips of on a blog a long time ago and sought after for a long time, and finally stumbled upon last year. I just needed to pay homage to it. And as the Seurat device was originally intended to make uniform textures out of drone-like sounds, I wanted to work in opposition to the drone and use recognizable source material as a basis, and see if I could still get a drone-like instance of this song by multiplying tiny bits of it.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Two minutes of fireworks in track number 2…why?

Jason Grier: Berlin’s new years are really intense and hard to describe to people who’ve never been through it before, so there’s a documentary aspect to this choice, and as a sound clip, it’s pretty useful I’d hope, in other people’s music. On a personal level, I’m attracted to it as a sonic photograph, and the flat sound for a short duration mimics the surface of a snapshot, in my mind. (In which case, it’s a double-exposure, because it’s Berlin’s New Year’s Eve in 2017 superimposed onto Berlin’s New Year’s Eve in 2016.) I should say… I’m not sure where I stand on field recording experiences and the idea of audio photographs and audio documentaries and such –that is something I’m trying to deal with in Sound Library 2, which I’m working on now– but there’s this Roland Barthes quote that gives me direction: “[A photograph] is a prophecy in reverse: like Cassandra, but eyes fixed on the past.” Anyways, I digress…

 

Demonstration Disc - cover artwork by Gerhard Richter

Demonstration Disc – cover artwork by Gerhard Richter

Chain D.L.K.: What’s the source of that vocal puzzle in number 5? …And why that epilogue?

Jason Grier: This is “sonic detritus,” which is just a collection of stuff that gets edited out when you make a sample library or an album. I saved these trimmed-off bits as separate audio files: People commenting on their performances, apologizing for mistakes, saying “ok go” or “fuck I messed up” or laughing at themselves and the situation, or whatever. Mixed in are sounds of the actual studio architecture in decay: A squeaking door, dirty switches and fraying cables, humming amps and a turntable with the ground wires torn out, and some crumbling insulation materials flapping in the wind. The epilogue is a hissing EMI-type compressor, which I asked to be recorded and amplified with no input.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I saw many amazing comments in the code you deployed in GitHub… if I remember well, one of them referred to vomiting pets…am I wrong? A source of inspiration for some part of your sound library?

Jason Grier: I think you were seeing my scribbles! Or? I decided at some point that it would be interesting to put all my embarrassing half-finished lyrics and bad poems and whatnot all into version control. At least then I could see how things change over time. But then I felt embarrassed and took them down. But now I feel happy that you found them! Maybe I’ll post them again. (By the way, actually, the library has moved off GitHub to http://hem.rocks, ’cause the storage fees were so high.)

 

Chain D.L.K.: Track number 6…a sort of tribute to Cage?

Jason Grier: Yes, I guess so, but Cage made various manipulations to make pianos sound this way, while this piano, I just found it in this state, while I was a guest at a lavish wedding and not thinking about music much at all at that moment. But maybe that’s still a Cagean situation, though I’d like to think that certain familial/cultural/political situations exceed and tuck themselves away from this perspective. Anyways, the piano sounded like it did because nobody had repaired it in decades. It was literally rotting inside, like not “prepared” inside, but all going to dust inside. So there’s, at once, a tribute to Cage in this recording, but also like a Marxist critique of Cage, kinda, ;). Like, nature was really taking its course on this piano, though it still could make a few sounds, and the fact that it made sounds at all was a contingency of materiality and human service labor and nature’s unhindered influences over history, rather than a contingency of perception and belief and effect, though these two contingencies are never properly separable.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Track number 7…a patchwork of…what?

Jason Grier: First, it’s me practicing overtone singing sweeps, which, when chopped, simply sound like enunciated vowels. Then there’s a Sound Library pack called “Record Endings” in which I recorded the needle bouncing against the center-label of a variety of records. There are some other random cameos of sounds that appear in other tracks, but maybe get lost in the density of the other tracks; for example, the sax player chanting some mantras into the instrument while also playing notes on it. Just cameo appearances from the whole album in a more sparse mix compared to the other tracks.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Any really odd source in any of the 10 tracks?

Jason Grier: There was a drunken street-fight during one of the recordings of fireworks. I can’t tell what he’s saying, but with the Seurat treatment, it comes out as “AH – ÜH, AH – ÜH”.

 

Jason Grier - courtesy of Tonje Thilesen

Jason Grier – courtesy of Tonje Thilesen

Chain D.L.K.: How do you relate Demonstration Disc to your past releases?

Jason Grier: The Sound Library and Demonstration Disc are basically doing what my previous album “Unbekannte” was trying to do, which is to be this undetermined (or under-determined) aggregation of sounds and documents of experimental situations, and to kind of shed the whole album-making protocol, or at least, to see the album as a fragment of a documentation of some experimental situation or research activity and not the main thing. This is not a revolution, historically speaking, I think but it was revolutionary to me and an artistic awakening for me. “Unbekannte” itself was like a break with the past, and there’s no relation to anything I did before in past releases, which were trying to be albums without the labor/economic/process-oriented frame. But there was, in Unbekannte, more harmony with many other things I’ve been into in the past, like art, research, engineering, economics, and critical theory, and in Demonstration Disc, this is really starting to come together a lot better for me.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is there any analogy of Demonstration Disc with the writings of some situationists? Any link to other fields of human knowledge beyond computer sciences?

Jason Grier: Situationists, no, at least I don’t think so, but maybe they left a mark on me. Beyond this open source and software culture aspect –which is mainly a feature of the deployment of the work– the overall motivation was to ask and to think about Artistic Labor and Artistic Research, two fields of knowledge that were getting attention, or at least that I was getting exposed to in the time when I was making the Sound Library and the Demonstration Disc. Harun Farocki (particularly the “Labor in a Single Shot” finale at HKW), Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s “Intellectual and Manual Labor” and Roland Barthes’ “Camera Lucida” were in my mind a lot.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Are there any ways of labeling contemporary music that you really reject for your own stuff?

Jason Grier: This question makes me think of Christian Wolff’s works called “Peace March,” and I ask myself why not just call this work “experimental sociology,” or “affective activism,” or something like that. One label which I find at least relatively/partially fitting to what I do at the moment is “Research,” because of the real effect that doing research has on the researcher and the reader in terms of heightened awareness and coming to terms with the context (sociopolitical, economic, etc.) of the activity of making the music. And my label for –though not disparagingly– a lot of work that identifies strongly as music is: “music as such.” Like work in which hearing and listening and somatic effect and the logistics of composing and producing these effects are pretty much what the work mainly does and is concerned with. And I think “music as such” is a part of what I’m doing, but not all of it. So, in general, I just reject the label “music.” At the same time, I don’t have anything against any particular labeling of my work on a practical level. I mean, even though labels like “experimental” and “avant-garde” are clumsy and potentially sociopolitically problematic, they do get you somewhere, at least, if you’re just initially trying to choose what work(s) of art to spend your time with.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to try to bring DDisc on a live stage? If yes, how?

Jason Grier: The Sound Library has already been a part of my live sets from like 2012 onwards. I prefer to play long, say 2 hours at least, or even 8 hours sometimes, and in this time I can really get warmed up and explore the Library more fully. Demonstration Disc in this form is more like installation art than theater. Unfortunately, this means I don’t find gigs so often where they let me play for that long, and the 20- 40-minute stage gigs are more difficult to do what I really want to do; to really dig into all these raw materials.

 

visit Human Ear Music on the web at: hem.rocks