Jun 022019
 

The name, or I should say his name-in-art of Timothy Lewis, better known as Thighpaulsandra, is commonly matched to that of Coil; when he joined the band after meeting John Balance, he managed to enliven the creative fire of the band and to persuade the formerly hermetic group to get out of the darkness and perform on live stages. Tim also kept on honoring his partners in art in Coil after they passed away by compiling and editing the first photographic art book of Coil co-founder Peter Christopherson as well as a book of John Balance’s little known sketches and drawings, titled ‘Bright Lights and Cats With No Mouth’ (published by Timeless in 2014). His solo project to spread his own music was strongly encouraged by both Christopherson and Balance, and thanks to their support and to that piece of advice, we can appreciate absolutely amazing outputs by Thighpaulsandra today. After I was delighted by the tracks on his last one “Practical Electronics with Thighpaulsandra” (released in March 2019 by Editions Mego), I managed to deliver some questions to the author. Check out his interesting answers down below.

‘Practical Electronics with…’ cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hi, Tim! How are you?

Thighpaulsandra: Very well, thank you.

Chain DLK: You don’t really need introductions in my opinion, particularly to all those who more or less deeply know Coil. Some of your former Coil mates persuaded you to spread some stuff as a solo artist, didn’t they? Your debut as Thighpaulsandra came out on Eskaton (why not on Threshold House?) as well… Did any particular member of Coil interfere in your creative process?

Thighpaulsandra: John Balance and Sleazy were both very supportive of my solo material. I would not say that they interfered in any way but were keen to help if they could, and both of them chose to contribute to my solo albums by both performing and contributing to the album artwork. The first three releases were on Eskaton because I don’t think Threshold House existed at that point.

Chain DLK: Your first appearance on a Coil album was on the occasion of “Musick To Play In The Dark”… How do you remember the work on that wonderful output?

Thighpaulsandra: No, my first appearance on a Coil record was the Prescription Records original vinyl release of Astral Disaster, which was recorded in 1998 but released in 1999. “Musick To Play In The Dark” was my second appearance later the same year. It was the beginning of an exceptionally creative period which I enjoyed immensely. I remember spending many weeks working on the album with John and Sleazy at their studio in Weston Super Mare. It was close to the sea, so the quality of the light was a great inspiration. We drank lots of tea and ate cakes. Although we hadn’t known each other very long at this point, we all felt a very strong bond immediately and the thrill of mutual musical discovery was very potent.

Chain DLK: Is there any Coil album where your musical veins and ideas influenced the sound more than other ones, in your opinion?

Thighpaulsandra: “Music To Play In The Dark 1&2,” “Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil” (which is probably my favorite) and “Queens Of The Circulating Library.”

Chain DLK: Both some lyrics of your recent outputs (in particular, the ones of Brown Pillows) and your biography surmised a pretty well-known Coil song to me, “The Last Amethyst Deceiver”… Do you pay respect to vultures?

Thighpaulsandra: Vultures are a constant problem, and we seem to be surrounded by them. If your question is really about whether or not Coil influenced my work, then the answer is undoubtedly yes. It was impossible to work with such wonderful people and not be influenced by them.

Chain DLK: You recorded your previous album The Golden Communion in a secluded place in Western Wales (Golliwog Farm in Pontypridd, right?), didn’t you? Which location did you choose for Practical Electronics With…? Is the cover a clue of the location?

Thighpaulsandra: The Golden Communion was recorded partly at Golliwog Farm but also at my current studio Aeriel in West Wales. “Practical Electronics” was recorded entirely at Aeriel Studios. The cover photograph was taken in my secret laboratory where I perform electronic experiments on young men.

Chain DLK: A question on some of your old entries… That awesome trance-inducing ambient suite turned into a bizarre psycho-abstract hybridization of electronic whirls, progressive kraut a la Can and industrial noises titled Michel Publicity Window… Do you remember the source of inspiration?

Thighpaulsandra: No, I don’t remember exactly, but at that time I had been listening to Faust IV and other Krautrock albums a lot so I suspect they had some influence. The drone sections were probably inspired by Tony Conrad and La Monte Young.

Chain DLK: “He is a wonderful bright Pagan STAR in his own rite and I are very happy he accepted my invitation. Now we are 5 sided.” These were the words by which John Balance talked about you and your joining to Coil… How do you feel when you read his introduction today?

Thighpaulsandra:I feel very sad that John is not still here and we are not still making wonderful music with Sleazy. I miss them both very much. They were both great teachers on many levels and a source of inspiration to me. I will be eternally grateful to them for letting me be part of their world.

Chain DLK: Besides its bizarre cover (can you tell us something about that as well?), your Chamber Music orbits around stuff that someone might label as New Music / Free Improv today. What would you label as really new in contemporary music?

Thighpaulsandra:I don’t really listen to other people’s music very much these days, so that question would be difficult to answer. I don’t deliberately try to mould my music to any genre, I just do what comes naturally.

Chain DLK: One of your recent projects I really appreciate is Uruk, the one with Zu’s bass player Massimo Pupillo… Any forthcoming issue after Mysterium Coniunctionis?

Thighpaulsandra: Yes, we have a new live album, “The Descent Of Innana” recorded at Cave 12, Geneva available from www.thighpaulsandra.co.uk. We have started work on a new Uruk album which will probably be released next year.

Chain DLK: Can you introduce “Practical Electronics with…” in your own words?

Thighpaulsandra: Practical Electronics grew from the requirement to play shows without my group. Many promoters do not want to invest in a four-piece group playing challenging material of minority interest. It occurred to me that I should write some music that I could perform solo, and so that is how those songs came about. There will probably be more songs in this style, but I’m still writing and recording group and instrumental based material too.

Chain DLK: The title evokes the ones used for DIY or IT handbooks…Any “didactic” intent behind it?

Thighpaulsandra: Certainly not. The title and cover art is a parody of the popular UK DIY electronics magazines of the 1960s and 70s. The covers often featured serious-looking amateurs prodding around with a soldering iron. I thought I would combine this idea with one of my usual homoerotic covers in rather a tongue-in-cheek style. My humor was obviously lost on the editor of The Quietus, as he found the cover offensive and refused to review it.

Chain DLK: In Brown Pillows, I noticed a certain relation between the words of the lyrics and sounds that seem to translate them… What can you say about this relation between word and sound in “Practical Electronics with…?”

Thighpaulsandra: I always try to complement my lyrics with appropriate tonal colors. The sounds and the lyrics often seed each other in unexpected ways which, of course, I revel in. Incongruity is often the key.

Chain DLK:Any work in progress?

Thighpaulsandra: Yes, I’m constantly writing and working on new things. I spend almost every day in the studio, sometimes writing, sometimes experimenting, but always recording. I also have a few new collaborations planned although, for now, they must remain secret. I have also been mixing a series of Coil live recordings from tours around 2002. The first of these was released last month on my Retractor label.

Jun 022019
 

Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and performance artist Stephanie Pan described herself as a lover of chaos, mess and human imperfection. Both her list of loved entities and her skills are mirrored in “Have Robot Dog, Will Travel” (recently released by Arteksounds), described as “a song cycle for the technological age and an ode to abstraction, to ambiguity, to words unsaid.” We focused on it with Stephanie. Check out her words below (as well as her sounds)!

Stephanie Pan “Have Robot Dog, Will Travel”
cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hi, Stephanie! How are you?

Stephanie Pan: Hello! I’m very well, thanks, currently traveling around the world after a very cool collaborative project in Brisbane, Australia!

Chain DLK: Before focusing on your interesting debut album, can you tell us something about your first steps on the path that brought to your current art?

Stephanie Pan: Formally, I grew up in classical music (piano, violin and choirs), and began to get serious about singing when I started studying at UC Berkeley, where I received a BA in Applied Mathematics and Music. I moved to The Hague, the Netherlands in 2001 to study Baroque singing and later bel canto at The Royal Conservatory in The Hague, but ultimately focused on contemporary classical music. By the time I finished the Conservatory in The Hague, my specialties were live improvisation and extended vocal techniques. Furthermore, I really grew up as a performer, in more recent years having worked a lot in physical and political theater and performance art. In my personal life, I really came of age listening to electronic music (particularly new wave, dancehall, drum n bass, and tekno) and alternative music. So I guess I’ve always had a pretty broad spectrum of influences. I’ve spent quite some time negotiating this pretty fractured identity, first and foremost for myself.

Chain DLK: The oldest entry on your path in your website is the nicely titled Our Lady of Late, a solo for voice and wineglass, inspired by the same-named piece by Meredith Monk… I knew the remake of the same release by Nick Hallett, a vocal performer you maybe know… Do you remember how you ideally related to Monk’s album for that project?

Stephanie Pan: Yes, absolutely. This piece has been really important to me and has been with me for more than a decade! Meredith Monk has certainly been a huge influence, and this project began before I started writing my own music. As a singer, I wanted to learn Monk’s Our Lady of Late. I couldn’t find a published score for it and started transcribing the pieces for myself, developing my own notation for what she was doing and how I understood each of the pieces, so the very first iterations of this were my interpretations of Meredith Monk’s piece. Over time, as I revisited the work and opened up my understanding of how I interpreted it, I started to replace her movements with my own improvisations or songs and slowly, over time, it became my own version of pieces for voice and wineglass.

Chain DLK:Wineglasses are also part of Implied Manifesto, together with other tools that maybe you keep on using… Someone could ask the reason for such an almost constant presence!

Stephanie Pan: Yes, it’s true, sometimes I have to laugh at myself for being the wineglass lady! I just love the way the female voice and wineglass interact; it’s such a delicate but rich environment for making sound. I also love the absurdity of a highly cultivated sound with crappy toy synths, and cheap keyboards and effects, which are definitely also recurring in my work. In a way, I don’t find it at all odd. If you think about bands with their fixed instrumentation, or electronic musicians with computers, my setup just happens to contain a rather odd (and growing) collection of toys and instruments which I continue to work with and develop ideas with.

Chain DLK: How did you work on your voice and its performative possibilities over the years? Did such work imply a technical effort only, or is it somehow related to spirituality?

Stephanie Pan: I would definitely qualify my vocal work as a search for communication, from a very primal perspective. My work in theatre and performance art has certainly also influenced the way I think about the voice as an instrument/device and how I approach creating work. I did have to work very hard to develop my technique as a singer, as I was not naturally a good technical singer, but I definitely always had something to say. My work as a vocalist in this respect has really been about refining my technique in order to be able to express or share my thoughts or ideas more effectively. Whether or not I would call that spiritual, I don’t know; it’s such a loaded word. I definitely have a need in any case to connect with my public, to share a kind of universal loneliness and need for each other.

Chain DLK: One of the initiatives you organized with was Modern Body Festival…can you tell us something about that? I read on your websites of two editions. No other editions after those, or is it an ongoing project?

Stephanie Pan: Oh, no! Then my website is out of date! There have been 3 biennial editions, in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Modern Body Festival is an initiative I founded with my partner, Stelios Manousakis, in 2014. We call it an ‘intermedia’ festival and platform which operates in the nebulous zone between disciplines/genres/media, and consider it an extension of our own practice. It really started with one of our projects, Center no Distractor, a duo for taiko and live electronics (in a way our take on hardcore tekno), when we had the opportunity to organize a performance for the project. To us, the duo is equal parts music, dance and performance, and we were fantasizing about other artists/projects we thought would help create the right context for the project. 3 hours later, we had an entire festival program on our hands and we thought, oh my god, we have to do this!

The festival always has a particular theme around the notion of the ‘modern’ body, and we re-imagine the format every edition. As it’s an extension of our own practices, it’s never made sense to find some formula and stick to it; it’s a fun (but definitely stressful) challenge to keep reinventing the platform. At the moment, we’re planning to continue the laboratory series we started in 2017 under the same Modern Body moniker and further concentrate on the idea that as a foundation, we’re becoming our own production house. That means moving away from the biennial format for the time being, but definitely continuing to grow and develop, and continuing to balance our own creative work and our work as producers/curators/facilitators/initiators.

Chain DLK: Let’s try to extensively talk about your impressive debut album… There are many true facts related to the stage of civilization (to call it so) living (and maybe dead also) human beings experience through the lyrics… How do you feel about this?

Stephanie Pan: I feel the core of the human condition is eternal and our fear of loneliness, isolation, loss of love are omnipresent, ultimately connecting us all. At the heart of my work is a kind of nagging loneliness which is something I feel we all deeply understand and can therefore be moved by, and which I feel we need to embrace and accept instead of running away from it. It’s the thing that makes us cling to things for safety. Something I’m really interested in is the ambiguity of life, of how much in between there is if you try to embrace this loneliness. What I’m really interested in talking about in my songs is a kind of amorphous zone, this kind of grey area of nothingness. The big emotions – rapture, desperation, misery, euphoria – are less interesting to me to talk about; they don’t have enough space in a way, as they’re so full of themselves. In those moments, I don’t make good work. These weird, ambiguous and everyday moments that take up a huge part of our lives are so revealing and rich. To me, they’re full of a certain melancholy, freedom, space, self-reflection, longing, etc., all of these sensations that are somehow so in balance with each other they sort of cancel each other out and we’re left with a kind of nothing, and this fullness and simultaneous emptiness is really at the heart of this album.

I’m really proud of how the album developed and became what it is now. It is my ode to ambiguity. I wanted to balance all these many influences in my work, to create something that is enjoyable and approachable but keeps you off balance; something appealingly ambiguous. I’m really thankful to the producer, Henry Vega, for inviting me to make an album for ARTEkSounds, and how he really encouraged me to reset my mindset and allow the album to become a work of its own (being a performer at heart, I had always conceived of work with the ‘live’ perspective in mind). He really helped me pick it apart and fill in the gaps while giving me the space I needed to develop each piece.

Chain DLK: Some moments made me think of writings by Philip K. Dick… Are some lyrics inspired by sci-fi or other branches of literature?

Stephanie Pan: I’m definitely interested in an abstract language and searching for a way to talk about things without being too concrete but not becoming so obtuse that it’s all meaningless. And I suppose talking about intimate thoughts from a sort of philosophical approach lends itself to a kind of detachment in the language. The lyrics for ‘Beast’ are definitely a kind of contemporary sci-fi, as they were made, together with artist Tivon Rice, with a Machine-Learning (aka Artificial Intelligence) software trained on the complete writings of Italo Calvino. All the texts were generated by the software which Tivon trained; the software produced ‘hallucinations’ based on images I had chosen which were meant to ‘represent’ each of the texts from all the other songs on the album. We ran a couple of versions for each song, and finally I cherry-picked the phrases or sections which I felt captured some sense of the other works on the album, and edited them together to create a kind of whole. I think of it as an epic meta-meta interpretation about nothingness…!

Chain DLK:Why did you put a pretty “difficult” track like “On Handstands” as a preface/beginning (supposing the one I have is the definitive track list)?

Stephanie Pan: In my understanding of true communication, it is an exchange, one that requires input from both sides. As a performer, I have always felt this as an essential element of my work. I am not interested in ‘entertaining’ people; I’m definitely searching for accessibility on my own terms. I will work very hard for you, and I will give you everything I have to give, but I think it requires investment from the audience or the listener. In this respect, I suppose I see it as a challenge – are you coming with me? Because frankly, if ‘On Handstands’ is too ‘difficult’ for someone, I don’t suppose they will enjoy the rest of the album much more.

Chain DLK: I maybe recognized the stroking of a wineglass’s borders on the beginning of Song For Being Alone #1… Is my ear working well? Jokes aside, that’s a lovely song. Do you remember the moment when you wrote it?

Stephanie Pan: Actually, this time it is not! It’s a Tibetan singing bowl, which can make a crunchier set of sounds next to its beautiful penetrating drone. It’s present more or less the entire piece, a relentless, slightly de-tuned underbelly of sound that refuses to let the song totally relax into itself. I believe I was on my way to Spain to perform under the moniker Pills to Purge Melancholy, in one of those ambiguous melancholy moods and mucking about with my Omnichord (which is the arpeggiating instrument in the song, another of my recurring instruments). At that point, I’d had in my head for some time to write an entire series of songs for being alone, and I guess this was the first one. It’s had in any case multiple versions with various instruments, some more lonely than others. There’s a beautiful version on YouTube with Rosa Ensemble, a group I’ve worked with for many years, with trombone, double bass, percussion, a Moog synth and my toys. It’s been my anthem in a way, the one song that really shares melancholy in a really open and emotional way.

Chain DLK: Another great piece of vocal art is the following Songs For Word Unsaid… Any word missing in the wise babbling you performed on it? Why did you insert that hypnotic music box as a background for this song?

Stephanie Pan: Ha! The music box is…Wait for it… My wineglass bells! After years of collecting wineglasses in an array of pitches, one day I finally brought them all together, and using some piano hammers Stelios had brought to me from a dissected piano, made a kind of hammered wineglass instrument. Song for Words Unsaid is about those wonderfully ambiguous relationships with certain people where there’s an unspoken understanding of space left unexplored. It’s delicate and fragile; it never wants to be named but is always present, always swirling and circling, just like the background sound.

Chain DLK: After I listened to its entrancing lyrics (I admit I said wow on some of your piercing high tones) and sound set, I wondered what the source for inspiration of Beast could be…

Stephanie Pan: Ah, so I’ve talked about this above already, definitely steals a page (actually, technically speaking, all the pages!) from Italo Calvino, one of my favorite writers. The musical structure sort of shadows one of his short stories, Implosion, with one of his favorite characters qwfwq, but uses a text ‘hallucinated’ by a computer software in the ghost voice of Calvino. As input for the hallucinations, I provided images that in my eye vaguely represented the thoughts or themes of each of the other songs on my own album, a kind of meta-compilation medley. What I really enjoyed about this piece was creating a kind of epic, explosive journey, where you feel like you’ve traveled through something enormous but, looking back, it remains just out of reach, filled in by our own imagination. I really like these kinds of juxtapositions, of feeling off balance.

Chain DLK:Any words about the title track?

Stephanie Pan: I’ve come to think of it as my version of the beginning of the universe. It’s like standing on a knife edge of a mountaintop surrounded by chaos, waiting to fall down one side or the other.

Actually, the title has very little to do with the content on this one, unlike the rest of the album. This song has gone through a couple different manifestations, and the framework for it was created during the first phase of a performance I was developing, which literally involves 20 little radio receiving toy robot dogs. The vocal line was more an improvisation with a crappy radio transmitter, receiver and feedback back then, and worked as it was in certain contexts. I decided to revisit the work for the album and really wanted to develop the vocal part in a more concrete way. This knife-edge mountaintop of feelings was something I felt worked really well with the sort of wall-of-sound foundation of this track.

Chain DLK: Your voice even orbits around almost (deceitfully?) seducing tones on Bitter Dust… What do you say about this song?

Stephanie Pan: Actually, both the title track and Bitter Dust are about an internal battle between extremes; about something that draws you in completely but simultaneously totally repulses you, about a glassy veneer that encases an explosion of anger. I suppose in Bitter Dust, on the surface, it’s this very controlled little song with a kind of heaviness and power in the bass which presents the outside perspective, the glassy veneer with its underbelly of lava.

Chain DLK: Those regular signs on the skin of your face look like pillow creases…as if to say you woke up in a world whose scary order can change your skin?

Stephanie Pan: In fact, they are imprints of a 3D wire-frame of my head! I really love the cover art of the album, which was an idea from artist Chaja Hertog, who created the images. Using sections of a 3D wire-frame bust that Tivon had created of me, Chaja laser-cut rubber sheets that we used to press into my skin to create out-prints on my skin. Shooting the cover was loads of fun. Together with Chaja and her duo partner Nir Nadler, we had to press each rubber cutout as hard as possible against my skin. I’d be sitting on the ground with my head on a chair, pressing the cutout to my face with one of them sitting on my head to add pressure. Or lying on my back with one of them laying on my chest. We’d do that for as long as I could stand, and then we’d remove the cutout, and they had about 2 minutes to fix the light, adjust the camera and shoot the image before the out-print would fade. Then we’d try it again somewhere else on my body. We’re very close friends, so we had a good laugh! So it was very physical and real, this changing of my skin.

This process really echoes my sound in a way, which I often refer to as analog digital; it’s about a certain mirroring of digital aesthetics and integrating them in an organic environment. I love the wonkiness of relentless drones or loops that aren’t quite perfect, that evolve unpredictably, that move out of sync with each other, as if each layer is a little animal going along its own separate path. It is fascinating to me how much our aesthetics have changed with the digital age, and how it liberated the way I compose music. I think the cover art is a really beautiful visual manifestation of these ideas.

Chain DLK:Any work in progress following or related to Have Robot Dog, Will Travel?

Stephanie Pan: I hope so! I would love to get around to finally making the performance of the same title with my little toy dogs, but at the moment, from a more purely musical perspective I’m currently fascinated with the idea of epic storytelling in a contemporary context. I’m in the last leg of an amazing round-the-world trip, and visiting museums and seeing and learning about the folk traditions of different cultures all around the world is both alienating and inspiring. There is so much context needed around any such tradition, and the notion of storytelling as an essential function in art is something that I’d like to attempt to rediscover for myself in our contemporary technological age.

Visit Stephanie Pan’s website on www.stephaniepan.com

May 142019
 

Shohei Amimori started his career as a composer and arranger of both classical and contemporary music when he was still a student. His orchestral graduation work was so appreciated that Tokyo University of Arts decided to purchase it and preserve it permanently at the university’s art museum. After his initial stylistic fields, his interest gradually moved to different forms of sound art and pop music, and he also began to produce music for commercials and television programs. His output on Noble Records (released at the end of November 2018) partially mirrors this path, but also embraced the bizarre concept of pataphysics that French writer Alfred Jarry defined as “the science of that which is super induced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics.” It’s a sort of parody (quoted by many musicians in the past including the Beatles, Soft Machine and the awesome Japanese band Acid Mothers Temple) that Shohei tried to apply to his music generation according to a derivative process and the bold hypothesis that “music does not yet exist ≈ imaginary music ≈ PATA MUSIC.” We had a quick chat with Shohei about this concept that we invite you to explore by checking out his nice album.

Shohei Amimori “PATA Music” cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hi, Shoei! How are you?

Shoei Amimori: I’m good.

Chain DLK: What is PataMusic in your own explanatory words?

Shoei Amimori: For me, ”PataMusic” is an issue for the existence of music by using pop music.

Chain DLK: Any conceptual connection with the notorious Jarry’s Pataphysics? Do you feel like a Dr. Faustroll for music? 🙂

Shoei Amimori: Of course I was inspired by the Pataphysics that Jari advocated. However, rather than using it as a concept, the issue I was thinking about at the beginning was Pataphysics.

Chain DLK: How many possible approaches do you take into consideration to inject abstractness into music? What’s your favourite one?

Shoei Amimori: Today, I think that with the way of listening to music, the power of the album package has been disabled. So, I did something to highlight the contradiction of the package form itself. For example, if you move on to the next song, the previous song will be seriously ruined. I set up such an element. Bringing abstraction into music, making it stand out and sharing it, is always a big goal for me. But that’s very difficult.

Chain DLK: Can you provide some commentary on the tracks of PataMusic? Any hidden story behind it that you want to share with our readers?

Shoei Amimori: Anyway, there were many kinds of songs and it was difficult. I’m not a singer but there are some songs where I’m singing, some songs like “Climb Downhill 1” that require elaborate post production on a computer, and so on. I made full use of the right and left brain poles. However, in order to raise the above-mentioned issue, there had to be many kinds of songs.

courtesy of Arata Mino

Chain DLK: You have a relevant academic background…is there any composer you studied that paved the way to PataMusic? If so, how?

Shoei Amimori: I have always given respect to and credited some critical aspects to John Cage. Cage had valued the ‘‘sound’’ and ‘‘listening.’’ I would like to draw out the power of such elements without making them mysterious.

Chain DLK: Some tracks sounds like mirroring TV commercials…any jingle that became like a recurring nightmare during composition or over your career?

Shoei Amimori: For me, the most interesting element of music is melody. The reason is that it is difficult to create or listen from a quantitative point of view like harmony or rhythm. Nevertheless, it can be addictive to listeners. That may be why it sounds like TVCM.

Chain DLK: Many moments of PataMusic resemble the amazing experiments by other great Japanese composers, who became famous out of national boundaries, like Haruomi Hosono or Nobukazu Takemura…do you feel closer to some of them, by chance?

Shoei Amimori: As you say, my work may resemble their works in some ways. I’m intending to look over the music all over the world in the same way as them, but that may be just “Japanese.”

courtesy of Arata Mino

Chain DLK:  Are there any connections of PataMusic with your previous outputs? Can you talk about your more or less recent past releases?

Shoei Amimori: Last year, we presented an orchestral piece of contemporary music under the commission of NHK (State-owned broadcasting stations of Japan). Since the premiere on the radio was released, I added a part just before the broadcast occured in the piece to be interesting when listening on the radio. For example, using a very long silence. This attempt is similar to the challenge for the form of the album that was made in “Pata Music.”

Chain DLK: Did you plan any touring to spread PataMusic out of Japan as well?

Shoei Amimori: Regarding the live performance related to my solo works, I’ve only done them in Tokyo. So I want to do it all over the world. I will make plans in the near future.

Chain DLK:Any other work in progress?

Shoei Amimori: This year, I am planning some productions. These are an exhibition of sound installation, a production of other artists, and so on. Now I’m enjoying some collaboration works. I want to start making my own work next year.

Shoei Amimori website URL: www.shoheiamimori.com

May 142019
 

About Miguel Ángel Ruíz aka Orfeón Gagarin, the Spanish artist we recently interviewed after listening to the re-release of his self-titled debut album (initially released in 1986 by the Spanish independent label Toracis Tapes) on Valencia-based record label Verlag System, Antoni Aura, director of the label, wrote: “This Orfeón Gagarin’s debut of 1986 sounds to the XXI Century and collects the savoir-faire of Miguel. The signal of the DIY punk spirit is evident. It is a clear designation of origin for that underground electronic 80ies cassette from outdated Madrid; the one who had no place in the exquisite ‘movida madrileña’ (madrilean new wave). It is evident that ‘In vitro process’ could never access that Olympus of the gods. It is perceived in courts as ‘Last Instance’ to that young man who is around the twenties, who hears crackling needles of the turntable in the groove of the German LPs of Sky, as it would happen to the founder of Mute Records or the ambient series of Eno in ‘Eucarystics.’ It is that crude, hard cover, full of thick points, that portrays the viewer’s gaze beyond the shape of the dish. This image captures the essence and mystery of this album. Do not be deceived, that look goes beyond the O.V.N.I. and from human finitude observes with stupor the immeasurableness of the cosmos, its infinity, its power.” Let’s validate his feedback by meeting this interesting artist.

Orfeón Gagarin – cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hola, Miguel! How are you?

Orfeón Gagarin: After dinner, grateful to appear in your magazine!

Chain DLK: I’ve recently relocated to Spain… I only know some aspects of contemporary and modern music development of this country (the first name that pops into my mind when thinking of the Spanish experimental/electronic music is the one of Esplendor Geometrico… but there are many more…), so I’m happy I have the chance to have a chat with a veteran like you… Any introduction to the Spanish electronic music scene of the recent decades? Anything that foreign listeners could have missed (even if worthy of consideration) in your viewpoint?

Orfeón Gagarin: Yes, Esplendor Geometrico were (and still are) the best known worldwide. But there was an amazing movement in the 80s for bedroom artists and some groups, and a cassette exchange network that also expanded across Europe and the USA. An important point was a program on Radio 3, a state radio station, dedicated to electronic alternative music. There I could hear the most outlandish things, from Comando Bruno, Avant Dernieres Pensees, Macromassa, Luis Mesa, the Necronomicon fanzine, etc., so I realized that there were people doing strange things like me at that moment. But over the years everything changed; many left the guerrilla and the new generations already in the 90s fell into the temptation of techno and dance music. Recently, there has been a return to the primitive artisan roots thanks to the popularization of electronic instruments, musical software and Internet communication, where the producer and the listener can deal without the need of an intermediate.

The problem is that many works have sometimes been relegated to the retail boxes of record stores, international distribution has always been the biggest problem. Spanish listeners often overlook what has been done within their borders.

And also, there are few festivals and occasions to listen to this music live, except for brave initiatives, almost always counting on dark & uncomfortable, bad sounding venues.


Orfeón Gagarin in 2018 – courtesy of Carlos Lopez

Chain DLK: Can you tell us something about the very first days and sources of inspiration for the birth of Orfeon Gagarin? Why such a weird name?

Orfeón Gagarin: Once, I saw an exhibition of Russian cosmonauts here in Madrid at the beginning of the 80s. I took pictures, I became interested in the subject, I bought a gigantic book about the life of Yuri Gagarin in a Russian Spanish bookstore. The name came to me simply because of the union of two seemingly unrelated words. Cosmonauts, surrealism, the unknown, everything is part of my private universe.

Chain DLK: Your self-titled album, which recently come out on Verlag, is your third one, isn’t it? Any word about your first two albums? Do you think they might deserve a re-release?

Orfeón Gagarin: No, actually the Orfeon Gagarin album recently published by Verlag is my first work on cassette, in 1986, reedited and improved in vinyl format. KEDR was my second cassette, which will probably also see its reissue shortly by the same label; this work is dedicated to Gagarin’s space flight, because “KEDR” was the name of his ship in the conversations with the terrestrial control. “Contestacion Capilar” is a CD that was published in 1996, as a compilation of short pieces from the Toracic archives. There are more albums like Neumotorax s.XX, which was published in a small edition by the Italian label Menstrual Recordings some years ago. It is frankly a difficult task to summarize all this in words. An “orfeon” is a traditional choir in Spain with just voices, no instruments. A solo speaker but many personalities at the time. That’s how I consider myself.


Orfeón Gagarin in 1986 – courtesy of Miguel Ángel Ruíz

Chain DLK: The fact that there’s a ‘gagarin’ maybe influenced my imagination, but while listening to Orfeon Gagarin, my mind often jumped to the sceneries evoked by many works by Gennady Golobokov, a well-known Russian pop-artist, and his socialist space workers…do you know them? Any space age reverie in your music?

Orfeón Gagarin:I did not know the Russian artist that you say, but I see that it can be a form of plastic expression compatible with my aerial and dramatic sounds. Recently, 2 vinyl albums have been published in a collaboration with a friend from Madrid under the name of Dekatron, whose covers include retro-futurist paintings by Adamo Dimitriadis, a contemporary painter with whom I feel very identified.

Chain DLK: Re-releases normally occur for releases, which can be considered forerunners of something that could be better appreciated or understood years after its initial birth date…would you say the same for Orfeon Gagarin?

Orfeón Gagarin: Many young people listen to this music and are surprised that is was created so long ago and still sounds quite current. Keep in mind that in my case, they were recorded with few resources, exploring the possibilities of recorders, tapes, organs that now seem outdated, primitive computers or even electric razors that challenge the listener with devilish noises. Bearing in mind that now it is difficult to be surprised with new sounds, even though now stupid music software has thousands of them.

Chain DLK: There are many awesome tracks in Orfeon Gagarin. What are the more interesting (and more difficult to catch by contemporary listeners) technical aspects of some of its tracks, in your own words?

Orfeón Gagarin: At the time I recorded that cassette, my primary focus was to organize my existing brain chaos, since I wanted to do everything in a short time. I’m not disciplined, so they started to emerge as disparate themes, and always trying to use exciting tools and methods, like the voices of “Not is possible landing” created with a speech synthesizer for my newly acquired Commodore 64, the wave radio cuts through my Korg MS10, the rudimentary multi-track recording using two half-speed tape recorders, or the analog sequencer in Gulag. Unlike my contemporaries, I did not enjoy the UK industrial noise so much that I felt more comfortable between the cosmic couriers, the electroacoustic experiments of krautrock, or the American minimal composers, all contaminated by my own eclectic breath.


Orfeón Gagarin (2017) – courtesy of Lourdes Garcia

Chain DLK: …And any weird samples, such as the ones in “Voces Mauritanas”?

Orfeón Gagarin: Yes, the Maghreb stations are easy to tune to here, late at night. Then, modified by the synthesizer and with touches of persuasive percussion that can remember the nights where the moon shines in the desert and songs of fraternity resonate worldwide. Gagarin saw it from above.

Chain DLK: What does Omsk 1939 refer to?

Orfeon Gagarin: I am sure that year something important happened in Omsk, but I am not authorized to reveal it.

Chain DLK: One of my favorite moment of the album is the highly hypnotic “Ultima Istancia”…any words about this amazing track?

Orfeón Gagarin: That was a mix of different recordings. The sequencer was amazingly more or less tuned in that key, so I pressed the REC key and the miracle happened. Now with a computer everything is too easy, but it loses the magic. No space for accidents or casual coincidences.

Chain DLK: When you re-listen to some of your old entries, do you ever think that something could be better embellished or recorded?

Orfeón Gagarin: Next June I will play a reinterpretation of these songs live, at the Tagomago festival in Valencia, one of the few electronic music festivals in Spain. I, of course, do not call electronic music dance or club music. I do not think it will exceed the original versions, but for me it’s a challenge.

Chain DLK: Any work in progress?

Orfeón Gagarin: Soon a collaboration with another musician from Madrid (Giron) will appear as “Zytospace” in Verlag System as well a new solo album as Orfeón Gagarin with new material at the famous Geometrik label. Zytospace is music with multisequence and vaporous attitudes. Also preparing a reissue on my own Toracic label of “La Cámara Gamma”, another cassette from the late 80’s, dark and threatening and my solo second album “KEDR” as Orfeón Gagarin in vinyl for Verlag System record label too. Unfortunately some reel recordings are in poor condition so it will not be purely a reliable reissue. But also this can provide a point of risk. In Toracic things never go as planned!

Apr 072019
 

After studies of composition and improvisation under Phillip Wachsmann in London and an academic training on electronic music and sonology at the renowned Royal Conservatory of The Hague, the German (currently based in Berlin) composer Dirk P.Haubrich has started many important collaborations in the field of dance with many well known performers and choreographers. On the occasion of a night at the Opera Garnier in Paris dedicated to the famous Czech former dance performer and choreographer Jiří Kylián, who collaborated with him, Dirk’s sound grabbed the attention of Quanta Records. That meeting brought about the release of Dirk’s debut album, including two long pieces, “Robinson Out Of Context” and “7 to 8”, initially born as compositions (in between experimental, drone music and ambient) to accompany choreographic works by Bruno Listopad and Shen Wei respectively. We had a chat with Dirk focused on this interesting debut. Check it out!

cover artwork by A Trois Studio

Chain DLK: Hi, Dirk! How are you?

Dirk P.Haubrich: Hi, Vito, fine. Thank you very much for showing interest in my music.


Chain DLK: Can you tell us something about the way the Paris-based label Quanta got in touch with your sounds?

Dirk P.Haubrich: Quanta Records got in touch with me after listening to my music at the Opera Garnier in Paris during a modern dance performance. Adrien and Michael from Quanta Records seemed to like what they heard and they contacted me to buy a copy of my music. As there hasn’t been anything released yet, they offered to publish a record on their label Quanta Records.


Chain DLK: Would you say that the connection between you and Jiri Kylian could be compared to the one between Bejart and Pierre Henry or Michel Colombier?

Dirk P.Haubrich: I am not familiar with the ways of collaboration of Maurice Bejard and Pierre Henry and Michel Colombier. I would guess that it is very different, as there is not a standard way of collaborating.


Chain DLK: Does your sound follow the scenes or the movement of the performers, or would you say they follow your sound?

Dirk P.Haubrich: There are different routes and different states during a creation. But during a creation it is not like, for example, in a film production, where the music comes at the end and glues everything together to one coherent creature.

The coherence is developing in much smaller steps. Dancers like to move to music, so it is up to me to give them something in a quite early stage of a production. If they are working in the dance studio for several days without music, it might happen that there will be different music during rehearsal than mine. It might not necessarily be a bad choice, but it might create a different time space than the one I intended to. Rule of thumb: be first with the music. But after that, both fields get inspiration from each other.


Chain DLK: Which context did you imagine for Robinson during the composition of the first of the two suites of your output on Quanta? Any words about the way you built this composition up and the differences between the original version and its supposed reprise?

Dirk P.Haubrich: The original version of ‘Robinson out of Context’ was composed in 2003. I was working with a group of dancers and a choreographer, Bruno Listopad, on a creation for stage in a small 150-seat blackbox theater in Rotterdam, Holland. The premiere was in October, but I started collecting materials and moods, making decisions on directions and starting composition already in April. Initially I called the project Gamelan Project, as a reference to creating a dense but distinct swarm of sound and acoustic elements. Maybe some great sound-art might emerge, I thought.

The group listened to Marcel Duchamp’s “Creative Act”, (https://soundcloud.com/brainpicker/marcel-duchamp-the-creative-act) and it seems that people have had a good summer, not pressuring oneself to succeed.

During the project, I went through different directions of sound creation. I found it fascinating to use the ER1 Electribe drum machine as one input to a compressor program I wrote in Supercollider, a music programming app, in combination with granulated choir recordings created by moving through the sound using the mouseX value to position the grain. Some FX from the Eventide 7000 DSP did the rest to smooth things together, I guess.


Chain DLK: “7 to 8” on the other side was composed for another coreography as well… Can you introduce this piece?

Dirk P.Haubrich: For 7 to 8, i was moving for 5 weeks to Monte Carlo, where the Ballet de Monte Carlo offered me their Sound Studio to work in. Somehow luxurious to work, but not many connections to the city. Half the city was still closed for cars because of the Formula One that had just rushed through the city. Meanwhile, the pictures of the oil catastrophe of the Deepwater Horizon were still in our hearts, birds in a shimmering, black oil.


Chain DLK: Would you say that your music couldn’t exist without the arts you’re concocting with?

Dirk P.Haubrich: It can exist just by itself. When somebody takes the steps and starts the vinyl, sits down and listens, it starts to exist.


Chain DLK: Considering that potential listeners can’t see the related choreography, how do you suggest they listen?

Dirk P.Haubrich: The listener is not obliged to imagine anything, he rather is obliged to imagine nothing.


Chain DLK: Did you give any instructions to Rashad Becker for mastering?

Dirk P.Haubrich: I did not want to give him instructions before seeing his way of working and what his focus of listening would be. Very quickly, it became clear that he is a very aware listener. This was a very delightful experience. We did a lot of A-B listening, so he offered some opportunities for me to intervene, but I liked very much the way he was approaching my mix. So the time I spent remixing my material was well spent, and after all, I guess I spent several 10s of hours just listening, adjusting and remixing my material before meeting with Rashad in his mastering studio.


Chain DLK: Any work in progress?

Dirk P.Haubrich: I am preparing a new release; further info will be available soon.