Ulrich Troyer is an Austrian freelance composer and musician with a passion for electronics and performative arts. His recent release “Somatic Soundtracks” has been made in close collaboration with choreographer Georg Blaschke for some dance performances so most of the tracks were originally composed for multichannel performances and were later adapted for this CD without them losing its impressive hypnotic power. Besides the attention to sonic details, listeners are going to realize Troyer’s stylistic versatility: he easily buttonholes listeners by means of frothy abstract soundscapes (“Embraceable You”, “Ensemble in Gefahr”), heady drones built from distorted guitars (“Somatic Script”), deconstructed dub structures and bass lines (“In Case Of Loss”, “Your Dancer”), microbial dub and reggae tunes (“Song For Heide”, “Back from Serbia”). After we heard this well-crafted release, we had a chat with Ulrich. Have a read and a listen! “Somatic Soundtracks” comes out on 4bit Productions.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Ulrich. How are you? Do I disturb you?
Ulrich Troyer: Not at all. Lot of things happening but life is good. 2013 will be a great year
Chain D.L.K.: Compliments on your recent “Somatic Soundtrack” release… very catchy stuff… let’s talk about that… first of all how did you meet Georg Blaschke? What can you tell us about the origin of your collaboration, common perspectives and interests?
Ulrich Troyer: Thank you very much. At IMPULSTANZ two years ago I had seen a piece by Georg which was called “Jetzt bist Du dran” featuring the young dancer Petr Ochvat and a track by Mika Vainio. I immediately felt connected to his approach. I sent Georg a selection of my music and a few months later he wrote me and proposed a dance piece which he felt could fit well to my music. The collaboration was very smooth and symbiotic. Some kind of soul mate feeling. Since then we worked together on 6 more pieces so far. Common perspectives and interests are the body in relation to architecture, visual and fine arts as inspirational source, minimal music in the sense of “stripped down to the bones” and maybe also a general way to see or look at things in life.
Chain D.L.K.: Why do you define your soundtracks as “somatic”?
Ulrich Troyer: We choose the title for our compilation because of Georg’s application of the Feldenkrais Method to choreography, movement research and performance. He was also using the term Somatic quite often to describe his pieces. One piece we did together was also called “Somatic Script”.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you make any briefing or planning before your live interactions or do you improvise? Any funny anecdote about people’s reaction?
Ulrich Troyer: Georg usually knows quite exactly what the music or soundscapes should evoke and the cool thing with the way we interact is that one of us almost immediately understands what the other wants to say. I think this is quite unique and special in a creative setting and makes a lot of things easier. This does not mean that we don’t have so-called creative crisis within the production of a piece. This happens all the time – but in a very constructive way. There is place for improvisation in the studio or in a live or rehearsal setting but in general the soundtracks for Georg are “tailor-made-suits”.
Chain D.L.K.: “Ensemble in Gefahr” reminded me of the sound of some glass and metallic shaking stuff in the shop of a cruising ship or the noise of the engines while I was crossing the Baltic Sea! Anyway, what was the danger (Gefahr)? Do you think cryptomnesia phenomena could have some influence for a performer like you?
Ulrich Troyer: The danger in the above mentioned piece was the fact, that Georg and Robert Steijn conceived the piece as a structured improvised abstract with a personal story about their friendship. This setting can work great but also fail completely. The soundtrack was also improvised and live – working with the resonance frequencies of windows & radiators of the performance space. Regarding your question, if the cryptomnesia phenomenon could be an influence – my approach of work is maybe very near to a Jamaican music approach of permanent remix, rework, versioning of own ideas and ideas inspired by music that I deeply respect and admire. I never use samples from others but I try to inhale the essence, the feeling, the groove, drive and mood or at least the skeleton of the track that blows me away. Inspiration in this sense for the track ” Ensemble in Gefahr” was on the one hand the sound art of Pomassl & on the other hand the technoide polyrhythmic patterns of the Moritz von Oswald Trio. The sound source for the bass sound was Doepfer’s Dark Energy Semi-modular Synth and for the rhythmic part a sampler filled with snippets of an audio recording of a free weights session during a body work-out I did with a friend.
Chain D.L.K.: Distorted guitar-driven drones of “Somatic Script” reminded me of some stuff by Richard Pinhas… do you have any source for inspiration for the building of your soundtracks? Are there any sound-artist you’d like to collaborate with?
Ulrich Troyer: For Somatic Script I wanted to create a Wall of Sound in C-minor with a distorted 5/4 rhythm as rolling layer. I don’t remember right now what Georg wanted or put in as inspirational reference. But it happens quite often that Georg comes with a musical reference as starting point. But the aim is never to copy or imitate this reference but it is a good starting point for the musical journey. In the end the result is also something new – but still with some of the vibe or mood of the musical reference in it, at least for us. – Rather than with a sound artist I would like to collaborate with the drum kit artist Tony Allen.
Chain D.L.K.: Tracks on the CD are reworks of previous multichannel compositions… what was the main problem with to the transfer to CD? Do you think listeners will miss something from the original composition?
Ulrich Troyer: Yes and no – the setting and atmosphere, the space, the audience, the energy of the performers, the sound system – all these things are not transferable to a CD-Edition. A DVD or a CD with an illustrated book would also not transport the experience of the real performance. Aware of this I created completely new versions, new mixes and edits which you could listen to without actually seeing the performance. Maybe even in your car driving through the night. Together with Georg and Kassian, my brother which did also the mastering with which I am extremely satisfied, we found the right flow for the CD.
Chain D.L.K.: Another listening memory you re-activated by means of your amazing microdub tracks (“Your Dancer”, “In Case Of Loss”) is that of the Staedtizism series Komfort Labor and ~scape released some years ago… slow motion jazz-like rhythm, those lazy click’n’beat streams, those steamy sounds… it was maybe one of the most interesting “contemporary” application of glitch logics to dub… would you say your compositions are somewhat glitchy?
Ulrich Troyer: Yes, definitely. I am interested in the inaccuracy of analogue machines and their circuits and definitely hear often the beauty in circuit bended instruments & stomp boxes. I am using errors that I make or that my gear makes to make the output more organic and surprising within the context of a repetitive structure.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any track or performance you particularly liked? If so, why?
Ulrich Troyer: I enjoyed all of this performances and working processes a lot – but one scene which touched me maybe the most was Heide Kinzelhofer’s performance in the piece Somatic Script during the song I created for her. She was so happy with her song and so present in these moments that every show was a special moment for me and I think also for the audience. What I like when I work with dancers is the immediate feedback, positive or negative, I get from them when I write music for a piece. It’s an exciting and thrilling way of working.
Chain D.L.K.: You also made a real-time performance during the 2010 Viennale for “The Strangling Hand”… what are the main problems in “sound-interacting” with a movie instead of a choreographer?
Ulrich Troyer: I did this together with Juergen Berlakovich. A friend and likewise member of the Vegetable Orchestra. Maybe the main difference is that the performers can react to the music if it should be different from the expected or planned – working with a film needs to be very precise otherwise it is very obvious that something was not working. Working with film and in this case with silent movies is great because of the challenge to be very exact with what is happening sound wise, the interesting thing about live interaction with performers are the surprising things that can happen in a live situation between the audience, the performers and the music – timings and variations can be quite different from show to show.
Chain D.L.K.: After dnb, neurotech, minimal techno, dubstep and any other recent attempts at labeling weird styles, what could be the next one in your point of view?
Ulrich Troyer: Oh, I really don’t know. The most charming music style I did discover lately, in this case created by the group themselves, is the “Afro-Alpin-Dubstep-Killer-Sou
Chain D.L.K.: What about the equipment you use? Any piece of advice to producers of synths or software about something they haven’t manufactured yet that you could use?
Ulrich Troyer: I use the computer as midi-sequencer and tape machine to command and record my analogue synths & instruments. I am a big fan of Vermona synths & effects. This is a small but very cool manufacturer from the former GDR. My main software is Ableton Live and Wave Editor. I love Ableton because of its intuitive concept. For me it is like having pen and paper. The simpler the better. I really like it when a tool is only built for one single function and in a way that is simple and easy to use. Vermona’s Drum-synth DRM1 is a great tool: you can’t save anything. So you have to be quick and record everything straight to tape when you have found the right sound. This helps a lot not to get bogged down in details and not getting lost.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any audible detail you’d like to dwell upon in ordinary life and situations?
Ulrich Troyer: I really like the sound of my flow heater. I used it for NOK and still enjoy it each time when the heater starts.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Ulrich Troyer: I just finished a new piece for Georg (“Figure 5”) which was shown a few times last winter. I think this could be material for another release. “Songs for William – Part 2” is finished and in the release pipeline. Some “Songs for William Live Dub Shows” will happen in 2013. Beside that I am regularly touring as member of the Vegetable Orchestra and I am also working a lot as Sound-designer and Soundtrack-Composer. A nice and funny App for kids will be released soon. I was responsible for the Sound-design and have a share in the project along with Lucas Zanotto and Niels Hoffmann. It will be called DRAWNIMAL.
visit Ulrich Troyer on the web at: www.ulrichtroyer.com