If you followed the interesting musical and artistic path by Tristan Douglas aka Antwood, you shouldn’t have missed his recent creation Delphi. We could introduce his third album on Planet Mu as a proper creation, as Delphi is the name of the fictional character he forged together with his girlfriend Olivia Dreisinger, and such a bicephalous origin is not casual at all, as Delphi also represents the hurdles faced by lovers in our age and those felt by Tristan himself, as well as the battle between fantasy and reality. In his own words: “Olivia and I started making the album cover as soon as I knew what direction Delphi was headed in. I took objects that had significance to me at the time of production and physically recreated them as “Delphi world” objects so that the album’s narrative and each track are represented in the cover photo. If you flip the album over, there is a computer rendering by Paulin Rogues of the two landmarks in the ancient city of Delphi – not quite ancient or modern Delphi, somehow real life but also fantastical.” Imagine such a theme translated into the sonic language that Tristan developed in the guise of Antwood. But let’s see how Tristan introduced his creature to our readers.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Tristan! How are you?
Antwood: Really good, thanks!
Chain D.L.K.: An interesting note on the cover artwork of your release… I recognized an old coin with the symbol of my “raped” home town Taranto – at the center of Italian chronicles for serious matters related to the pollution caused by the biggest European steel factory – and Taras, the son of Greek god Neptune riding a dolphin, who supposedly founded Taranto according to mythology…. Did you know that? Any relation with Taranto I ignore?
Antwood: When I made the cover art, I was looking for old coins that featured dolphins depicted in Greek mythology as a way to represent Apollo. According to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, the god Apollo first came to Delphi in the form of a dolphin, carrying Cretan priests on his back. So I figured the dolphin on the coin was Apollo, with a priest on his back. But looking at the coin more closely now I see that it is Taras and the coin is Italian. Dolphins are all over Greek mythology. But I suppose it doesn’t really matter for the symbolism whether the dolphin on the coin is connected to Apollo since for them the concept of dolphins was very positive – dolphins were a good omen – so whether it’s Dionysus, Poseidon, Delphin the sea god, Taras or another Greek god the dolphin stands for respect, admiration and affection and that’s how I wanted to use it
Chain D.L.K.: …but besides this detail, let’s focus on the main character, Delphi! Why did you choose to intersect mythology to forge this fictitious sonic novel?
Antwood: I did use elements of Greek mythology, but I would say the structure of the record is more a take on the monomyth, where the hero (often the chosen one) is introduced in their ordinary mundane world and contrasted with the “other world” in which the hero will enter when they accept their quest. Delphi hits most of the hero’s journey narrative stages, like the call to adventure, the crossing of the threshold, the tests and allies, the innermost cave, the ordeal, the road back, the resurrection and the return. I call it a take on the monomyth narrative because Delphi’s final form (besides being an album) is more of a fanfic, where the author takes the template and injects themselves into the story and then shifts the focus to whatever personal and specific weird things they choose. So the Delphi story is a hero’s journey, but the journey is basically a daydream and, instead of returning triumphantly with lessons learned at the end of the story, Delphi sits bored and confused on top of the mountain, checking her phone, right back where she was at the beginning with nothing learned.
Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on single acts of this character, some questions… what’s the weight in the whole concept of the album of the contribution by your girlfriend Olivia?
Antwood: Early on when I only had a track called “Delphi” and wanted to build something around it, Olivia proposed that Delphi was a person and not just a place. From there, we constructed the character and the story together over the next year or so as I would work on the tracks. Olivia wrote all the words, which were either stuff she wrote to me in real life or things she wrote for the album. The Skype Ghost line and Hostile Message poem were things that Olivia wrote to me in real life. The process of deciding which of the elements from real life should be incorporated into the album was intuitive, and it happened naturally without planning. The cover was collaborative as well.
Chain D.L.K.: As we mentioned the coin, what’s the meaning of the other elements visible on the cover artwork? The other coins, that Club Dread bracelet, the pills, the moth, etc…
Antwood: A lot of real and made-up things got merged together on the album and the artwork, and the album and artwork are very entangled with both mine and Olivia’s real lives. It was satisfying and helpful to make a project like this, although it can be a bit uncomfortable and confusing to talk about in extreme detail since most of what I want to say is already there in the art. But I’ll do my best to explain the things on the cover a bit more:
The Phone: the phone is mine, with the Skype Ghost message displayed which was written to me by Olivia in the first week we met. I ghosted her because I was in the hospital and couldn’t contact her.
The Pills & Hospital Bracelet: I was in and out of the hospital a lot at that time and had procured a collection of wristbands and pill bottles that I modified for Delphi as part of her narrative. I wrote Ecstatic Dance in the hospital. I had the idea that Club Dread would have festival bracelets that would double as hospital admission bracelets for overdoses and mental health emergencies.
The Coins: According to myth, Apollo slew a python that was guarding the land of Delphi, and its body fell into a chasm. The fumes that arose from its decomposing body were a sweet-smelling vapor called pneuma that was thought to induce the Oracle’s clairvoyant trances by allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In my story, the Delphi character confronts a corrupt Pythia (Oracle) and throws a coin with the dolphin Apollo into a chasm as part of her quest.
The Stone: There is a stone beside the coins which Olivia put in my jacket pocket without me knowing one day while walking on a beach.
The Moth: a moth had flown into my coffee cup one night when Olivia and I were broken up. In the morning I took a photo of it and sent it to her, and it helped make things better somehow. In ancient Delphi, people would go to the Corycian Cave to pay homage to Pan and his nymphs and other deities by leaving small offerings (little keepsakes like tiny vases and jewelry). In Greek mythology, Corycia was a naiad, one of the nymphs of the springs of the Corycian Cave which was named after her. She lived on Mount Parnassus in Phocis and with Apollo, she became the mother of Lycoreus who gave his name to the city Lycoreia which resided above the sanctuary of Delphi. Corycia is also a genus of moth, so the coffee moth became Delphi’s offering when she went into the Corycian cave in the track “Cave Moth.” Later in “Some Dust” Delphi imagines herself as the moth.
Chain D.L.K.: I appreciate the choice of contemporary electronic music language to tell a story… are there any previous similar artifacts that inspired this idea?
Antwood: Maybe Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love is similar. It also has a similar 2-part structure, and musically it is an influence and was at the time I made Delphi. It’s also similar in that it tells a dramatic story told through snapshots of the protagonist’s emotional state. But I can’t think of any electronic music records that really do this. It’s not very easy to market.
Chain D.L.K.: Considering the order of the track as mirroring the part of a plot, why did Delphi appear on the third track? What can you say about the parts (Skype Ghost and Club Dread) that precedes the track where the name of Delphi appears for the time?
Antwood: Delphi’s voice appears on the first track which is kind of prologue that introduces the simplified theme. Then we are dropped right into Delphi’s life, into Club Dread, and it isn’t until the title track that Delphi is put into focus and described as a character. The theme at this point is Delphi in the real world, and the music has recognizable electronic music features. It feels a bit immature to me. As the story progresses the theme is adapted to where Delphi is at emotionally. In “Healing Labyrinth” the theme is more direct, and even more so in “Delphi’s Song” where the theme is stripped down to its basic components of tune and arpeggio without any extra style or ornament which was intended to render Delphi more vulnerable and honest.
Chain D.L.K.: Can you explain the meaning of that “Hostile Message” and the choice of a cheeseburger? 🙂
Antwood: That was a real thing Olivia wrote to me last year and the meaning is literal.
Chain D.L.K.: Many scary monstrous entities appear in the tracks of the first part (vaguely remind some creatures by Otto Von Schirach or Richard Devine)… I can imagine the connections with the fiction, but can you explain them in detail?
I’m not sure. I didn’t think of anything as monstrous entities but that’s an interesting observation.
Chain D.L.K.: “Healing Labyrinth” seems to mark the end of the above-mentioned stage, while “Portal” – one of my favorite track from the exquisitely technical viewpoint – and that female “goodbye” at the beginning before the awesome maelstrom and the following emotional sets of this track sound like the beginning of a new stage … any word about this stage of the record?
Antwood: Yeah you are right, I see the record as divided into 2 parts separated by “Portal.” In the portal, the character Delphi travels across the threshold to the city of ancient Delphi, on the back of Apollo in the form of a dolphin (hence the dolphin sound at the start of the track). It’s the beginning of her quest or escape or however, you want to think about it. Over the course of Portal, the Delphi theme is deconstructed and sheds its “real-world” sound palette and morphs into a more dense and mystical tone where it stays until “Delphi’s Song.”
In the second part, there are moments that also evoke Greek music as well as sets that detach from juke or bass-driven music to go closer to cinematic music… is there a study behind it that you want to share with our readers?
The second half of the album takes place in an imagined, semi-historical land of Delphi. I tried to make the music feel like the story and landscape I was imagining. This part of the record went through a few iterations. At first, I was really going for an ancient, mystical sound that faithfully referenced ancient Greek music modes and instrumentation. But that ended up coming across as gimmicky and wasn’t what I was going for. I have to be careful not to let the concept of a record dictate what I want to do musically, or it becomes creatively limiting. Plus, this was not only an imagined ancient Greek world, but a fanfic retelling of an allegorical cliché narrative, so I felt pretty free to do whatever I wanted to achieve the mood I was going for.
Chain D.L.K.: Delphi’s Song vaguely reminded the sonorities of the notorious themes for The Legend of Zelda… any similarities between Zelda and Delphi?
Antwood: I think there are musical similarities just because they are both other-worldly music with classical components and flutes and intended to propel a story forward. But Zelda is a damsel in distress narrative and Delphi is a hero’s journey, so they are different in that way.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to forge some new characters or new chapters for Delphi’s story in the future?
Antwood: I would like to make more if anybody is interested.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the connection between this release and your whole musical path?
Antwood: After my first two albums, I wanted to work on something less dystopic. The two previous albums came from a place of apprehension and dread about the internet and the future. With Virtuous.scr I was trying to make the music as if it had come from artificial intelligence, and Sponsored Content took place in a glossy, absurd and vacant online world. I think of Virtuous.scr as forward-moving but ending up in a place that is uncanny and inconclusive, while Sponsored Content is static, like a structure with corridors and showrooms rooms full of novelty material for sale. Both were inhuman, and any moments of optimism or honesty were intentionally compromised by the topics they dealt with. Delphi isn’t totally straight forward or lacking any cynicism, but there are moments where it breaks free from that and it can get across feelings that are more hopeful.