A conversation with The Corrupting Sea (aka Jason Lamoreaux), also labelrunner for Somewherecold Records, about his new Trilogy I series.
TJ Norris/Toneshift: Hey, afternoon Jason, how are you doing and what’s up with you lately?
Jason Lamoreaux/The Corrupting Sea/Somewherecold Records: Well, mostly spending my days recording, working on the record label, and getting things moving for the releases that will finish off 2019. It’s been a banner year for Somewherecold Records in a lot of ways. So both stressful and pleased all at the same time.
As would be expected from certain angles. Awesome to hear, of course, as you know we have covered some of your work. Aside from your own sound projects as This Corrupting Sea (which we will cover in more depth this hour), what is it like balancing being a soundmaker as well as a curator via your label? How long have you been doing this?
JL: Well, it really started way back in 2001 with me joining the blog Somewherecold. At the time, it was owned by a friend of mine in Canada and we became partners in running it eventually. That ran until about 2008 or 2009 then we were both in graduate school and things kind of fell to the wayside for obvious reasons. We actually started the label then, co-releasing some cd and vinyl releases with now defunct Republican of Texas Recordings. We released an early Hammock vinyl, a Starflyer 59 vinyl and a few others. That didn’t last long and well, that period was history.
Come 2016 and I’m out of work and really depressed. So I decided to get out the archives, rebuild the site, and begin reviewing albums and interviewing artists. I’ve always had the dream of putting out my own music, so the label was initially set up for The Corrupting Sea to have an outlet but that quickly became something much bigger with the addition of The Beremy Jets and others. Having done the blog, I had built relationships with artists over the years and that’s how folks like Yellow6 and Aidan Baker ended up agreeing to be a part of it all.
In terms of balancing all that with my own recording project, it’s not easy necessarily. I guess I live a rather weird life in that work life isn’t 40 hours a week, so I can sort of wedge in some recording and some writing and some promo here and there. I also have an art guy that really helps me out in that regard to keep the art side of things flowing for the label.
You have some exciting associated artists, both known and unknown. Today I’d like to focus specifically on the latest ‘trilogy’. How did that come about, and I assume there will be additional multiple-release sets like this? Are they complete collaborations or split-releases? By the way I am listening to ‘Trilogy I: Akkad the Orphic Priest / The Corrupting Sea’ at the moment.
JL: The Trilogy series came about, perhaps for selfish reasons.
Aha. They all include your personal project This Corrupting Sea, is this to showcase your work with other artists?
JL: I’ve always wanted to work with particular friends or particular artists and the entire series are splits with me and another artists. The first trilogy being Yellow6, Akkad, and Anders Brorby. As someone new on the scene compared to these folks, I wanted to juxtapose my own work with theirs as a means of pushing myself musically. It’s sort of like being a writer. You read and try to improve as you begin to understand how different writers work their magic and this series sort of does that for me in a way.
So in that light are you pinging back and forth on the content with each record? Let’s take Akkad the Orphic Priest for example first. And this is the first time I’ve heard his work by the way. It sounds as if its levitating.
JL: No, what I do is tend to listen to the artist’s back catalog as we both produce tracks separately and then we kind of surprise each other with the results.I feel very influenced by the other artist in my tracks on each release.
So, there is a bit of an ‘exquisite corpse’ embedded? In some ways it’s like a sixth sense so to speak I guess.
JL: I guess, in a way. However, when we get each other’s tracks, they are actually finished. I have found it amazing how well the splits have gelled in spite of things being quite between me and the other artist till near the end.
So, for example I know Cody very well (Akkad) and I stuck primarily with synths and midi/loop manipulations for my tracks. So the medium mirrored his in a way.With Yellow6, I primarily shift to guitar for the very same reason.
On ‘Trilogy I: Akkad the Orphic Priest / The Corrupting Sea‘ your work sounds far more modular than his. Both creating loopy atmospheric, ambient tones.
JL: Yes, I suppose it does, but I have no modular synths. It is all a Korg Minilogue run through a pedal board and soft synths run through an Akai midi controller.
Hmmm, quite a sensitive listen, and honestly of the three records, this one I can relate to the most. Maybe because I listen so much that it soothes the raw eardrum. I think a lot of people need that these days.
The artwork on the three discs in the trilogy seem to connect, is this a waveform of some sort, is there something that conceptually links the three splits?
JL: That is an image I manipulated in my own photographic art. My art guy and I took it and made pieces of it the cover of each to give the trilogy a visual connection. I think visual connections are important for ambient/experimental music and I knew who was going to be doing these three albums ahead of time. The art just spoke to me in terms of the artist’s ethos. There will be an entirely different image used for Trilogy II.
You are referring to Xylophonica, yes?
Great! One last thing about the ‘Trilogy I: Akkad the Orphic Priest / The Corrupting Sea‘ record, tell me about the “aliens” you refer to in your titles. Also, how did you initially connect with Akkad the Orphic Priest?
JL: Well, as with all my pieces, I’ve been kind of personal. I’ve recently been in counseling and so forth and have been diagnosed with a number of psychological issues due to 10+ years of trauma. PTSD, Depression, and, as a result, Social Anxiety Disorder (something I never saw in myself). The Aliens are those things in my brain and body that cause these things. The stimuli or reactions. Sometimes, they take a break, as it were. 😉
And what ended up being the overlap between the two of your compositions for this split?
JL: So Akkad is Cody McPhail and he’s really one of the central figures in the ambient scene in Dallas. He runs Dallas Ambient Music Nights and has been an incredible builder of the community for many, many years. The scene is cogent and tight frankly because of him and a few other wonderful people. Well, we’ve become great friends. He really mentored me in my live show and encouraged me along the way. So working with him on a release is always a blessing. I’ll be putting out one of his albums before the end of 2019. Much of my work on that split is a direct result of Cody’s mentoring of me. It’s like the master plays and then his padawan follows. As I always say, I want to grow up to be Cody McPhail. lol
There are all sorts of conceptions of aliens, btw, large and small, from outer-space and in our chemistry as you say, and I appreciate that you battle them head-on, even publicly and creatively! So many people assume that the mind and the body are separate instruments, but that’s obviously not true. So thank you.
So, let’s switch gears and talk about: ”Trilogy I: Anders Brørby / The Corrupting Sea‘. I am familiar with Brørby’s work – where did you two intersect?
JL: I put out an album called “Somnambulate” on Katuktu Collective at the beginning of 2018. That made Anders and me label-mates. Well, I was a fan of the label and had bought everything on it already and knew Anders from that release. He liked my album. We both began exploring each other catalogs and I just asked him if he would be interested in doing a release on the label. So I did “Kill Count” and then we decided to do the split as well.
His track Further Beyond is an outstanding contribution here, that is serious deep listening. It’s very painterly. Do you know anything specific about his process, or what exactly appealed to your ear about what he’s doing to create this collab?
JL: I actually don’t know the specifics. All I know is, his tracks just blow me away. He’s a master of the art and, quite frankly, I feel like my side of that split failed him. He has argued otherwise with me. LOL. But his work is just beautiful. He finds this way of capturing sonic textures and tones and layering them in a special way. It’s hard to put my finger on, but I strive for it myself and will keep doing so.
Your work seems more ‘unplugged’ on this set than on the others.
JL: Yes, I tried to work a guitar/synth combo on this one, for better or worse. Anders has told me he loves the tracks. I may have approached them differently now. With each recording, I learn something new about the process, myself as an artist, and what works and doesn’t. I’m just not afraid to put it out there I guess.
Are you saying that these artists are in some way mentors for your process?
JL: Yes, in a lot of ways they are. I think it would be arrogant for me to consider myself on their level at this point. They have years on me in mixing, mastering, playing, constructing, and the whole nine yards. I’m just honored they like what what I do and I learn from everything I hear from them.
Do you listen to a lot of fusion style music (ie: Grateful Dead, Chick Corea, Godspeed You Black Emperor)?
JL: I listen to a ton of shoegaze, dreampop, post-rock, cold wave, electronica, and new wave music. These are sitting in the background of my musical sort of toolbox.
I’m asking because I hear there’s something rather psychedelic built-in.
JL: Yeah, that probably comes from my shoegazey/dreampop side because psych-rock tends to bleed into those genres. Like, I love Flavor Crystals and bands like them.The way I use pedals and what I use are influenced by that genre… heavily.
The “flow” of this split with Anders Brørby seems more or less like a completely different take on some type of stimulus, with very different results, less like a direct observation of each other.
JL: Yes, it turned out that way, though it wasn’t really. Let me explain.
I put out his album “Kill Count” right before this, so I spent a lot of time with that album. It’s about a serial killer. It is visceral and very, very dark. I almost didn’t put it out because it disturbed me so much. So, his influence on me in that second half isn’t about really the techniques or sounds but rather the “feeling”. Death and mourning really came into play in my half and that’s just how it came out in terms of expressing that process. You can see that expressed in the track titles beginning with “Rites of Passing“.
I most definitely hear the influence of the whole shoegaze movement, for sure. I hear this influence, particularly on the track ‘Recovery’.
JL: Yes, when I pick up a guitar, I’m bound to have some sort of shoegaze influence sitting in there somewhere. It’s just a part of me.
When did you first start playing guitar?
JL: I started actually on the bass when I was 16 and then picked up guitar here and there not long afterward. I’ve picked it up and put it down over the years. I didn’t record a song until I was in my 40’s, so I’m no aficionado or anything. Well, maybe it was late 30’s, I am getting close to 50 now.
Before we move on to the third and final part of this first trilogy, have you decided to either blend some of these works with video and/or present them live? They each have their own flavor that seems to trigger unique visualizations. I am curious.
JL: I would love to do video work with some of these. That would be fabulous. But I’ve never reproduced a track live that I’ve recorded in the studio. I always present something else live. Studio stuff feels odd live because of the process and when I create something for a live show, it’s done in a totally different manner. Anyway, a video collection for the series like for YouTube would be amazing. The label does have a video channel and we’ve already put out a video for “Mourning” I made myself as well as one for “Listening to Aliens“.
In terms of going from the studio to live, is it the whole improvised spirit that prevents altering a composition from its original form?
JL: Yes, and the way I set up Ableton and so forth for live shows. I feel like taking what I do in the studio and forcing into a live format would be like cramming a square into a circular hole. It’s hard to explain. It probably has something to do with my revulsion of “form” in some of my work.
I understand that 100%, I’d imagine that many electronic artists face this same to “press play” or not debate, it seems too easy to add a few added effects to a live scenario – maybe certain projects are made to be fit for a live scenario and others not. It could be as simple as that. But it doesn’t help me from refraining what it would be to take your two parts of the split and directly overlaying them to imagine a result? That gets back to the ‘exquisite corpse’ thing I mentioned earlier. Superimposition as it were.
JL: Right. It would be an interesting experiment.
I, for one, love these types of experiments (having some up my own sleeves!). Now, as for your closer in the series, ‘Trilogy I: Yellow6 / The Corrupting Sea‘ – I’ve long been interested in Jon Attwood‘s sound (Yellow6). Isn’t he a film composer these days?
JL: No, not that I know of. Jon and I speak often. If he is, I’m totally oblivious to that part of his life. lol
OK, right on, where did you guys meet?
JL: Well, Somewherecold was one of the first blogs over here in the states to write on his work way back in 2001. I’ve been a fan every since. So, we met through that whole connection: interviews, reviews, etc. One day I got the nutty idea to try my hand at some ambient tracks, sent them to him, and he loved them.It’s probably why I’m doing what I’m doing.He’s been the biggest encourager of me moving forward and opening doors to me at labels and giving me advice.
So there is this sort of organic interconnection between writing and sound you think? I feel the same way between visual art and sound – I’ve too many examples to site, but wonder about others who find themselves interconnected in unique formats and through variant guises.
JL: Indeed. In fact, I’ve just asked Rick Reed if he would be willing to create a visual series for my live show but instead of hearing the live set from me and then creating the visuals, I will be creating the live set based on his visuals.I’m excited to see how it turns out.His visuals will then be projected on the stage while I play.
These intersections are vital to our collective culture. Your work on this last trilogy is far more ambient and minimal, the best of the series in my humble opinion. Was that approach intentional to responding to or knowing this would be a split with Yellow6?
JL: Yes, absolutely. Jon’s minimal looping style was very much at the center of how I was processing how I approached my recordings. Also, the tracks were about happy things instead of death and internal struggle, so that also changed the tone. While shoegaze runs through my veins, I can say that Jon’s work really is a core to how I think about guitar and ambient music. How could he not after listening to him for about two decades?
True. I found it interesting how you flipped the script here. His work is far more string-based here (and yours feels more like synth ambient washes), as opposed to the flipside where your pedal and twang was central to the collab with Brørby.
JL: Yes, I’m not sure why that happened. LOL. I think because I was in a better place mentally in terms of feelings. He’s one of those people I totally admired from afar and then became friends with and then, in a weird way, a peer. Again, I in no way claim any level of proficiency at his level, but he treats me like a peer and it’s been wonderful to have this happen over the years.
These comparisons are more indirect in the way I listen, but just pairing them begs the questions is all.
JL: (back to your question) Washes and ambient textures, bright ones, have a feeling of warmth to me. The fall in Kentucky and the shore of my home state of California on a foggy morning are at the center of those two tracks.
There’s a lot of nostalgia going on in there and, perhaps, some of this joy that “OMG I’m going to be on a record with Jon!”
Let’s talk about endurance (time, space, etc.). Your lengthy tracks here really in light of the series, seem to bode well for your style. Do you tend to play for lengthy periods of time? Are these edits from longer pieces, collages? What was your process on building these works?
JL: My process is always, well, what people would probably see as a mess if they were looking over my shoulder. I really do go into a sort of meditative state of mind or I sort of dissociate in a way while composing. So track lengths are sometimes something I think of ahead of time. Like, I will say “I want the challenge of a 35 minute track. Let’s see what happens.” But most times it’s simply me playing a drone, feeling my way to a stopping point, and then building around that. This has a lot to do with my headspace, emotions, if I have a story to tell at the moment, or whatever. So, there’s really no easy way to explain how I go about it. It’s very stream of thought in a way.
I suppose, in general, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to personal creative process – it’s more about the outcome.
Anything else you can share about the making of this or any of the ‘Trilogy‘ series? Is there anything upcoming you can share with us, or are these underwraps until announced?
JL: I think mostly that I’m excited it even happened and I’m really excited about what is to come. Some really great artists have agreed to work on the series and I can’t wait for people to hear what is going to happen.
Well, with life, things can change, but I will say that Mis+ress, riverrun, and A Journey of Giraffes have agreed to be in Trilogy II at this point. Who will go first and when it will be released is another story as I wrap up a ton of thing coming for the label like albums from Droneroom, Akkad the Orphic Priest, A Journey of Giraffes, and perhaps some wonderful surprises.
A few more questions if you don’t mind. I’ve noticed quite a bit of output from your end this year. Do you produce all this work yourself or do you have partners in the process?
JL: Paul Saarnak has been doing an incredible job mixing and mastering a lot of the albums I”m personally involved in. Brian Wenckebach mastered the Yellow6 Trilogy release. Other bands who are on the label send me their own masters but, if they ask for someone, I send them to Paul or Toby Crate Art (he mixed and mastered my System Shift album and the new A Journey of Giraffes album). Then, of course, I could not do any of this without Zylophonica. He is incredible at the working up the proper art and templates for printing, etc. He even made all the Corrupting Sea art, label art and logos, and A Journey of Giraffes logo, etc.
In terms of specific labels that you find yourself returning to (as a listener) on a regular basis, are there any who serve as a blueprint of what’s new, or inspiration for you personally creating Somewherecold Records?
JL: Polar Seas Recordings, Aural Canyon, Kranky, Histamine Tapes, Cathedral Transmissions…. There are probably too many to name.
Right on. Lastly, where does the name The Corrupting Sea originate?
JL: One of my favorite history/culture books about the ancient Mediterranean of the same name.
Have you spent time in the region?
JL: Yes, in Greece and Turkey. I actually have a PhD in Early Christianity and an MA in Classical Languages with a major in Classical Greek.
A soundmaker and a scholar! Wow, well this leaves a wealth of conversation to ensue into the future. Thank you much for taking the time to share your vision with us Jason!
JL: Thanks man, I really appreciate it.
Akkad the Orphic Priest
The Corrupting Sea