While last year’s “Juncture“ aimed at deconstructing the binaries and dualities shaping our lives and thoughts, in artist’s intention, “Dog Mountain“ (2021, Hallow Ground) focuses on geographical divisions resulting from political processes and social constructions. Let’s explore this interesting release, his likewise interesting conceptual framework as well as its author, the Zurich-based producer (also known for having co-founded Edipo Re) Laurin Huber by his own words.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Laurin! How are you doing?
Laurin Huber: I’m doing very well, thank you.
Chain D.L.K.: I noticed in 2020-2021, your solo discography got filled by two titles. Should I see this somehow controversial pandemic emergency had some positive effects? Jokes aside, how did this weird situation impact your own artistic path and sensitivity?
Laurin Huber: Juncture” came out by the end of February 2020, just before the pandemic really started taking shape in Europe. So naturally, everything went quiet very soon after that. The new situation left me with a lot of time to work on new material. I had started collecting ideas for a new record already, so I found myself researching and recording intensively pretty soon. My working practice was certainly different during that time. Very focused, with less interruption and fragmentation. The situation allowed me to make various detours and to try out new methods and sound-making and editing tools without the pressure of an upcoming show or a looming deadline.
Chain D.L.K.: I really appreciated “Juncture”. In particular, I appreciated the sonic strategy you followed to build each track. Can you explain it in your own words?
Laurin Huber: At the time of recording Juncture” I was quite focused on rhythms, experimenting with polyrhythmic structures and the possibilities of reduction. Even when there are no actual beats, the music is structured quite rhythmically, maybe except for the last track. The notions of repetition and difference were another interest at the time which led to rather long-form tracks based on various overlapping and interacting loops, reaching in the direction of a sort of Stoic, Muslimgauze-like state of mind. After playing and recording with bands for some years, the recording process for Juncture” was also about developing ways of working as a solo artist, resulting in a focus on intuitive playing and live-mixing rather than extended editing and post-production.
Chain D.L.K.: I read some introductory words on “Juncture” by yourself where you said you are “generally interested in thought that tries to look at the world beyond dualisms”… how do you drag such an interest and drop on your compositional approach and the sound you forge?
Laurin Huber: In general the fact that I’ve studied Philosophy at the University might explain a lot. At the time of making the record, I was particularly interested in the field of material feminism, where the above-mentioned problem has been and is being widely discussed. My main focus when it comes to this theoretical backdrop was to carry the act of thinking about certain topics or questions into another field, namely my own musical practice. The idea was not to do a non-dualistic” record, whatever that would be, but to keep on thinking about certain topics by other means, experimenting with various possible translations from thoughts and ideas into sound. It was a quite personal and affective process in this sense, despite the big” philosophical topic/question. And of course, this intellectual approach cannot be separated from the mostly joyous and intuitive process of music-making. The result is a record that has a certain framing, but is primarily one thing, of course: an interplay of sound waves.
Chain D.L.K.: …and would you say there’s some specific composer who managed in your opinion in reaching that dualism on a musical level? If yes, who and how? Can you make any examples?
Laurin Huber: I personally wouldn’t label a work as per se non-dualistic”. But there’s certainly people who were or who are interested in this topic and whose ideas and methods aim in the direction of thinking beyond dualisms”. Currently, there are a lot of people in the arts dealing with the division between nature and culture, for example. There are a lot of contemporary sound-works on the so-called Anthropocene, the climate crisis, and non-human life forms being published. Jana Winderen would be one example. But there’s certainly a longer tradition of anti-dualistic” thought within Western music, for example in free improvisation, but also in the works of people like Pauline Oliveros. For non-Western music traditions, the story is quite different, of course.
Chain D.L.K.: Considering what we discussed till this point, what are the intersections between Juncture and the recently dropped Dog Mountain?
Laurin Huber: I’d say Dog Mountain” includes similar gestures, but works with very different means and techniques. While on Juncture” I worked mostly with drum machines, synthesizers, and samplers, I didn’t use samples in the classical sense at all on Dog Mountain”. Instead, I used tape loops, a guitar, a synthesizer, field recordings, and some Max/MSP and PD scripts. This somehow led in another direction, towards a quite different sonic system. There are still a lot of rhythmicities in the music, I guess, but mostly enacted by other means: by looping, by playing an instrument in a particular way, by live mixing different sound sources intuitively. It also feels like this new approach allowed me to push the possibility of translations of ideas into sounds I’ve been speaking about even further, as there were fewer defining and possibly limiting structures.
Chain D.L.K.: You explored the metaphor of the border. Why did you mention the one between Norway and Russia as the title of the fourth (awesome) part of the release?
Laurin Huber: Since my childhood days I’ve regularly spent time in Northern Norway or Sápmi (the traditional Sámi homeland including parts of today’s Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia) through family and friendship ties. I just recently came back from another stay in the Porsanger area. Traces of this connection, interest and fascination can already be found on Juncture”. For me personally, but also for my work, Sápmi is a very interesting place. It’s an area where various cultures, political systems, ways of living and worldviews overlap and mix. It’s also an area of political struggle where questions regarding political self-determination, indigenous/traditional knowledge systems or green colonialism are being debated. Regarding your questions about the title: While thinking about the Russian/Norwegian borderlands, the Storskog/Borisoglebsk crossing became a special interest. In autumn 2015 the crossing was suddenly part of a so-called Arctic Route” for migration into the Schengen Area. People seeking refuge in Europe were driving from Russia to Norway by bicycle, as it wasn’t allowed to cross the border on foot. The episode has been followed by a quite severe backlash, which led to the closure of the route.
Chain D.L.K.: Just out of curiosity, where’s that place on the cover artwork?
Laurin Huber: It’s in Japan, I don’t know where exactly, though. Michael Bodenmann, who’s done the artwork for Dog Mountain” has been traveling the country extensively. The picture is taken from his collection.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides instruments, you inserted some field recordings in Dog Mountain. Where did you grab them? How do they relate to the topics you crossed?
Laurin Huber: Some of them are from Finnmark/Norway/Sápmi, others from Switzerland. I’ve also worked with some found materials: archival recordings and the audio tracks of amateur videos. While the recordings from Norway are older, the ones I made in CH are from spring and summer 2020. In relation to my reading of borderlands and the process of bordering, I tried to find specific places where visible or invisible borders could be experienced and investigated sonically. One example is a sculpture by the Swiss artist Roman Signer in Zug/CH. It’s a sort of tunnel-like staircase leading down into a lake with a window at its end, a sort of passage between land and water.
Chain D.L.K.: In your opinion, was there any branch or trend of experimental music that was like dropping a collective brick?
Laurin Huber: Good question! I couldn’t pin it down to a single branch or genre, though.
Chain D.L.K.: Any words about your collaborative projects? Will Wavering Hands have a follow-up to their short story?
Laurin Huber: I’m currently playing live as part of two projects: Frederik and Taimashoe. I’ve also been involved in the recordings of the debut album of the former called Portraits” (released back in March on Visage, Copenhagen). I’m also doing quite a lot of label work these days. The latest Wavering Hands record came out in 2019: a tape called Flower of Paradise” on Perfect Aesthetics. There are some very loose ideas for a follow-up, but nothing concrete at the moment. We’ll see!
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Laurin Huber: I’ve been doing some research on mining and mineral extraction in the context of the so-called green” economy lately. I’m reading a lot and I started to do some first audio recordings, visiting places of former copper mines in the Swiss Alps. This might evolve into a new record one day, but the project is still at a very early stage.