The sound of Silk Saw, one of the brainchildren of Gabriel Séverin and Marc Mœdea, is closest to what could vaguely be defined as rhythmic noise, but actually, it is difficult to label in spite of its hook to the synchronicity of pleasure and pain that creates human experience. Nine years after their previous release, they reappeared on Moscow-based label Kotä Records, one of the most proactive participants in the field of avant-garde and experimental music in Russia, which released their gorgeous “Imaginary Landscapes”. Let’s get deeper into it.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! How are you?
Silk Saw: Fine, although a bit cold at the moment.
Chain D.L.K.: Some (I hope only a few) readers maybe don’t know anything about Silk Saw…could you introduce its origin in your own words?
Silk Saw: We are a duo from Brussels, doing this collaboration since the beginning of the nineties. We say collaboration because Marc and I, Gabriel, worked together on a lot of projects as a duo (see Ultraphonist, Jardin d’Usure) or with other people (Moonsanto, Babils, etc.). Everything we made has always had an experimental approach. Silk Saw has a more electronic side with a strong rhythmic component, but it isn’t exactly a cakewalk.
Chain D.L.K.: You came back after 9 years (and 10 albums)…when you meet a pal after such a long time, the first question you ask is “What happened in the meantime…?”
Silk Saw: First, we’re getting old. So there’s less desire for releasing a record every month. Then we’re involved in other musical projects, especially me, Gabriel, that take a lot of time (Rob(u)rang, Babils, etc. and of course my mastering and mixing activities). We also like to watch our children growing. It’s always a pleasure to tell the same old joke, but with fresh ideas that came from other experiences.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you upgraded sonic equipment over the years? If so, what’s the most important newcomer?
Silk Saw: Marc is not a geek like me, but he recently bought the new Elektron Analog Rytm. For my part, I have also had some Elektron stuff for years, but it would be difficult to put forward some equipment because there are new things coming into my studio every month, whether it be antique (like old rhythm machines), brand new or software.
I must confess that currently the Korg Electribe 2, the Roland SH-1, TR-8 and RC-505, the Yamaha Reface series and the TC Helicon Voicelive Touch are my favorite toys. Besides, the evolution of the computer programs is amazing, so I’m using a lot of them (especially Kontakt and Komplete, but also tons of plugs, like the ones from Overloud, for mixing and production).
Chain D.L.K.: One of the records I jealously hold in my collection is your debut “Come Freely Go Safely”…I admit I found a used copy in a record shop in Berlin, but it was a lucky finding…do you remember the approach you had while making that great album?
Silk Saw: At that time we were more naïve, of course. The main idea came from the guys from Sub Rosa. Two years before they released our first collaboration under the name Jardin d’Usure, which was a mixture of art brut/Dadaism, musique concrète and electronic music, the SR staff asked us to put almost the same ideas in a more commercial side. That’s when Silk Saw arose. That’s why the musical part was so basic. The main work was still between the lines.
Chain D.L.K.: You made records for two of my favorite labels…Sub Rosa and Ant-Zen…did you change something in your sound in relation to the audience of your demos?
Silk Saw: In fact, it is a bit opposite what happened. While creating the third album, we realized that the sound was a bit too harsh to be released by Sub Rosa. Since we were in contact with some Belgian people on Ant-Zen, it was easier to knock on that door.
Chain D.L.K.: Belgium and France provided a large quantity of stuff (Genevieve Pasquier, 2nd Gen and so on) close to your style, which even if it’s difficult to file under some defined genre, it’s somehow drilling and hallucinatory…first of all, would you accept such a way of labeling?
Silk Saw: Well, as far as I know, G. Pasquier is from Germany and 2nd Gen (that we met once in Berlin, during a festival, where they performed as a sympathetic and funny duo) are more from England. By the way, they released an album on Quatermass, which was a sub-label of Sub Rosa.
Anyway, we accept the terms drilling and hallucinatory, as, for sure, most of the time we try to obtain some hypnotic state as a trance (the hypnotic side can surely be found in our minimalist project Ultraphonist). In general, I would say that hypnotic or hysterical trance is a big part of most of our musical activities (think Marc’s solo project Individual, or to Rob(u)rang).
Chain D.L.K.: That’s right! A somewhat tricky question about nationality! Related to the previous question, why do so many Belgian sound artists have this feature, in your opinion? Would you say it’s the most genuine evolution of the primeval soul (including social and “spiritual” aspects) of techno and industrial engines?
Silk Saw: I guess our strong industrial past (coal and metal industry, etc.) could be a sufficient explanation of our propensity for mechanical rhythms. The decline of these industries during the seventies brought a lot of disenchantment. This led to a culture of the sad machine. That’s why the “cold wave” scene was so big in our country at the end of the seventies. At that time, Brussels was the second homeland for a lot of Mancunian musicians… that’s also why techno (more than house) became really important here so quickly.
Chain D.L.K.: “Imaginary Landscapes” is really good…how long did you work on it?
Silk Saw: Maybe four years, but not constantly, of course. We had a bunch of tracks completed, then Kotä Records asked us if we would be interested in releasing an album. We accepted and the other tracks were achieved in a few months because we had a lot of unfinished material. So it is a mix of old and new stuff. I suppose the next album will be quite different as it’ll be based on the completely new material.
Chain D.L.K.: For some mysterious reason, many moments make me think of Béjart’s use of musique concrète in a more spasmodically mechanical dimension…any more or less hidden components of classical composers?
Silk Saw: Contemporary music and musique concrète were always determining influences for us. Think Russolo, Dubuffet, Stravinsky, Scelsi, Ligeti, Penderecki, Gubaidulina, P. Henry, Bayle, Parmegiani, Xenakis, Oliveros, you name it.
Chain D.L.K.: The description attached to the record says you tried to make a sonic translation of life on Earth as a sort of mixture of pain and pleasure…interesting! Could you explain?
Silk Saw: We always had a kind of ironic point of view about life on Earth, which is still today the only reality humans can describe. No need to be an expert to realize that life is not exactly a piece of cake. But laughter is the best medicine, even if it’s a Cioran’s one.
Chain D.L.K.: Where did you grab the voices and laughs for “Same Area”?
Silk Saw: Oh, some of these voices were recorded from the radio by a friend of ours (Lowdjo). Some other voices came from all the artists I’m recording in my studio. Maybe I should not say that, but it is strongly transformed.
Chain D.L.K.: Are those claps in “Enough Slap”, slaps?
Silk Saw: Oh no! We’re not like that, he he (laugh). It’s only a mixture of different sounds. The title is meant as a wish for a general change. Time for action in order to eradicate capitalism.
Chain D.L.K.: …and what can you say about “The Decision to Exist”? Why did you split it into two parts?
Silk Saw: First of all, the title refers to another funny Cioran quote (“Since all life is futility, then the decision to exist must be the most irrational of all”).
The track was split after an idea of Marc’s. Of course, at the beginning, it was one single piece that might be indigestible. Pretty sure the cake is still unpalatable for most of the people.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you performed it on live stage? If so, any interesting feedback?
Silk Saw: No. And most certainly never, as always. We never performed live the albums we’ve made. We’re always doing new things live, sometimes with some elements already used on the albums. It would be too complicated to play live all the instruments/machines used in the studio (except if we played with a big band). But some records we made are in fact live takes (“Walksongs” for example).
Chain D.L.K.: Any other work in progress?
Silk Saw: As we’ll do rehearsals very soon, for sure it’ll lead to new tracks and thus a new album is possible. For my part, I know there’ll be a new album for Rob(u)rang on Sub Rosa this year, still digging the trance groove but more in an African psychedelic mood. (There will also be appearing soon an acid side of the same project.) Babils, the cosmic dada rock band that I’m involved in, should also release an album this year. Oh, and there is still a second album nearly finished of Individual, Marc’s side project, but the devil only knows when it will be released!
You can pre-listen “Imaginary Landscapes” here: