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

Jan 292018
 

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“Every angle is literally a view I have from my current window; I’m looking down into a pit filled with mostly deunionised 6-day per week workers who have travelled much, much further than I would have to if that were my workplace, building their way out of the city. So what’s my role here?” By these words, Andrew McLellan described the video work related to his amazing mini-album “Tape 1” (coming on tape and files by Room40’s sister label A Guide To Saints) as Enderie. Let’s check out his role in music at least!

 

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

Enderie: I believe I’m good. Yes. Good, thank you. Thanks for asking.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on Tape 1, can you trace back your musical history as Andrew?

Enderie: Yes, I’ll try from the start. I grew up in Far North Queensland. I somewhat worshipped the first three albums by The Prodigy. I thought DJing would be my method.

I began High School masturbating with Sonic Foundry’s Acid 2.0 on my parents’ PCs. I was on the computer a lot. It’s weird having one tool to do everything with and working with its limitations, emulating sounds that were achieved entirely differently.

I remember once I wanted a reverse cymbal sound, but I couldn’t reverse the waveform. So I cut up the regular cymbal crash into as many fine pieces as I could and arranged them backward. I think it sounded better…

I like Acid 2.0, as it was a blank kind of tool based on samples and processing rather than synthesis. I used Propellerhead’s Reason; a lot of friends were making psy-trance with Fruity Loops, but they all seemed locked in some kind of genre to me.

Later on, I became more sociable in bands with guitars with a few others who fed me interesting punk, some free jazz and things in a register I couldn’t name.

Sometime around here, I began making stuff solo as Cured Pink. In Cairns, there were very few options for live music under drinking age. so I was still very much a bedroom musician only recording, not performing. I moved to Brisbane after high school and found many experimental music events of interest, ostensibly in conversation with the records I had been listening to for a couple years prior. Even though I continued the masturbation, I found others to do it with to slightly more critical acclaim. Musically, I was mostly off the computer. There were self-built instruments and improvisation.

I was involved in a variety of things, including Soft Power, Kitchen’s Floor, Greg Boring, and Stiiifs, although Cured Pink continued to be the primary item for myself and it became a band (with Glen Schenau, Mitchell Perkins and Stuart Busby) around 2011.

We’re still an item, but living in different cities never makes a band more productive. I miss the regularity of its dialog. Album 2 is coming eventually.

 

Enderie - courtesy of Carmen Juarez

courtesy of Carmen Juarez

Chain D.L.K.: How did the solo-alter ego Enderie come out?

Enderie: It was a facebook name – I can’t recall how it became a name to perform as, but I have a feeling I was booked as Enderie for one of the parties at the late Real Bad Music in Moorooka, Brisbane, after I’d started making my idea of dance music again. But with hardware this time. Around 2012?

There was a final ‘solo’ Cured Pink record kinda introducing it all, ‘As Enderie Nuatal’: https://curedpink.bandcamp.com/album/11-put-aside

I suppose it’s full circle, as I’ve come back to playing with myself at home, emulating The Prodigy. Though, the hardware gives me a break; it’s nice doing something that doesn’t involve looking at a screen.

 

Chain D.L.K.: With a title like Title 1, I guess there will be a sequel…

Enderie: Enderie II was actually released a week later, on Paradise Daily. Check it out here: https://paradisedaily.bandcamp.com/album/enderie-ii-cs

 

Chain D.L.K.: The ‘dirty’ technoid sound of Tape 1 activated some old musical memories, in particular, some stylistic sparks in Melbourne (I remember the Organarchy collective, for instance)… Any link to that scene, even if I read you come from Brisbane and were active in Sidney…?

Enderie: Oh, great! No, no direct connection, that was all very much before my time. What I love of what little I’ve found of Organarchy is the direct button pushing and quite saturated sounds, and of course some of the modes of protest and resistance they were involved with at the time.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Does your choice of a lo-fi-based sound hide a functional refusal of technocracy instead of a passion for lo-fi samplers and devices?

Enderie: You know, I don’t really consciously think of it as a lo-fi sound; often, I’m aiming relatively full-frequency. But I generally play on smaller, distorting PAs in band venues and find myself trying to emulate the idiosyncrasies of their distortions when recording. Otherwise, I find something is missing. Hearing back Instagram excerpts of my sets gives me pointers. Mostly I like materials that are thin, you know – take up a limited amount of space so they don’t push each other too much.

I try to avoid using really familiar electronic sounds like 808 kicks – they’re such a convention, the ear demands some kind of conventional deployment of them all too often. Which can be fun sometimes, learning a convention so it can be debased. But better to start elsewhere.

Compared to software like Ableton Live, which gives relative access to high-production values inside the conventions of much electronic music, hardware (even cheap stuff) I think is more out of reach for a greater number of people, since it requires some degree of investment or trade. Even if it’s lower-fi in sound, I don’t think the sounds something produces can act out a meaningful critique of production values anymore. All ranges of signifying sounds are horizontally available, thanks to software piracy and re-retro’d hardware, etc. Once sounds were produced independent of genre-associations; now the tools act as routers for any existing aesthetic content.

The material difference between higher-fi and lower-fi is becoming mute, and aesthetics is a weird game.

 

Chain D.L.K.: What’s the connection between the repeated motto of the first track (the system decide and laser beam)?

Enderie: It’s two sentences from a single interview – an engineer describing their excitement around an automated system. The repeated refrain seemed to create new meanings. People who ask me always seem to have their own narrative concocted about the connection.

 

Snapshot of 'Let's System Decide (A Laser Beam)' - courtesy of Jamie Gray

Snapshot of ‘Let’s System Decide (A Laser Beam)’ – courtesy of Jamie Gray

Chain D.L.K.: The source of that chattering opening on the following track, “Meal”?

Enderie: Crowds at a music festival and a reporter struggling to find their objectivity. The context seemed archival to me; perfect.

 

Chain D.L.K.: No video got attached to the audio tracks that reached my desk, but I read there’s also a video part of Tape 1…or is there an expanded edition titled Videotape 1? 🙂

Enderie: No videotape, just a short video for System Decides: https://vimeo.com/220239465

 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides some jokes on a seemingly obsolete format, can you explain how the understanding of audio tracks could be enhanced by the attached video clips?

Enderie: They’re promotional and give a ready contextualizing narrative to otherwise ambiguous and anonymous vehicular audio. That’s why I felt I’d do it with a radio edit – I can’t expect people to watch for more than 2 minutes. So I see it as an efficient means of helping a new listener chunk new information.

 

Chain D.L.K.: According to many contemporary thinkers, the so-called system likes to attack mnemonic memes of masses in order to enslave them…do you agree? Were you referring to this cultural aspect in “Stopped Memory”?

Enderie: Not consciously. But, generally speaking, I can’t disagree with that critique – without knowing the specific thinkers you’re referencing, I suppose we’re talking about attention spans being run to their limits. The effect is a general miasma that only knows to prioritize self-care in the face of uncertainty.

A couple of years ago, I worked on a performance piece based on speed-reading and the elimination of subvocalisation – the internal voice that reads each word and slows down reading rates. The trade-off for acceleration of information consumption is, of course, personal analysis and memorization. Many media outlets are accelerating, if not in their delivery, then in our consumption patterns. Similar effects have been shown lately with the binge-watching of television shows.

The spaces between stimuli and data sets are needing to be more deliberately created and maintained by us, it seems. Against these spaces, most media want/need constant engagement and scrolling to maintain their market share.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Do you include some mainstream “artists” in the hordes to be attacked (ref. the last track of the ones you forged in 2016)?

Enderie: Not really! There are many mainstream artists I really get a lot out of hearing. I used to have a more negative disposition to my impression of the commercial industry, instead wanting to champion independent avenues – but in terms of music, at least, I don’t think either are divisible from the other. They need each other.

The title comes from a split record by Brazil’s Stuhlzapfchen Von “N” & BSB. H. The phrase still seems to carry a lot of weight.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Two tracks in Tape 1 (“Sore” and “It’s a feasible feat”) were forged in different moments…what’s the relation between them and the rest of the tape?

Enderie: Only that I wrote them and I judged them to be of sufficient quality to still be included, though I’ve lost the means to perform them live with different equipment, lost files, etc. I can’t really recall making ‘It’s a feasible feat’ – that’s the only one that came from a jam session I was never able to replicate. A real fluke, I think.

 

Enderie " Tape 1" (2017, A Guide To Saints) - cover artwork

Enderie ” Tape 1″ (2017, A Guide To Saints) – cover artwork

Chain D.L.K.: The ones you made in 2016 have been recorded on the unceded lands of Gadigal of the Eora… are they Aboriginal territories? Do you have a connection with them?

Enderie: Yes, but the only connection I have is as a settler-beneficiary of the ongoing colonization of an entire continent that includes hundreds of nations that never ceded their territory to the British Commonwealth or another foreign party.

I know it happens in other parts of the world, though specifically to this continent, there is an increasingly practiced due process to acknowledge the Country proceedings or an event is taking place upon; that is, if you’re unable to be officially welcomed by someone able to do so. This isn’t without issue, as politicians can save face by acknowledging a Country on one hand, though meter out a condescending and paternalistic policy with the other, sometimes in the same statement.

But for many people, every opportunity to acknowledge the Country is being taken up, on event posters, listings, and liner notes. I’m new to it. It changes the language of a place, which affronts the narrative imposed by colonization. Brisbane becomes Meanjin again, and necessary questions are asked.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Did you ever tour out of Australia? Can you tell us something about your forthcoming live acts?

Enderie: Yes, Enderie toured Taiwan in late 2017, with Liquid Architecture (an organization for artists working with sound), playing with many friends in Taipei, Taichung, and Tainan. It felt very politically and musically relative to what I engage within Australia.

Cured Pink toured Europe in late 2015! We visited Cafe Oto in London, NK Projekt and Scherer 8 in Berlin, Poland, Mayhem in Copenhagen, Het Bos in Antwerp, through France down to Lisbon. I spent a fair bit of time in Jogjakarta in 2011, making music and instruments and playing the odd show.

I haven’t got further plans just yet, but am always interested.

 

visit Enderie on the web at: www.curedpink.com