Originally Published in September 2004
The Aural Organics of j.frede
By TJ NORRIS
In the last half dozen years j.frede (born James Frederick in New Mexico, circa 1975) has slowly emerged in the City of Angels as one of the world’s premiere young phonographers. His work embodies the presence of the ethereal in works that fluidly blend organic field recordings with bold digital technologies. Frede’s intuitive compositions source sounds from his immediate and distant axis having actively explored the subtle tones of field recordings in his compositions since his first European tour in 1998. In a constant process of discovering what he explains as “countless natural sonics” the environment often brings him all the acoustics he requires that do not exist in the synthetic or digital realm. He sees himself as an integral part of a burgeoning community of phonograhers that includes such other notable artists as Seth Nehil, Christopher DeLaurenti, MNortham, Dale Lloyd and Eric La Casa among many others. You can surf to http://www.phonography.org for the latest in who is currently channeling the elements. Labels like 12K, Accretions, and/OAR and Intransitive have supported the emergence of sounds bathed in the cryptic harmonies between nature and man. When I spoke with frede from his studio in Los Angeles he said “Recently I have been doing contact recordings of trees and plants for an upcoming event in LA that will focus on sounds from nature.” From bees and trees to flowers and showers, frede’s insistent passion for bringing aural harmony to spaces with more super highways and stripmalls than a bit of green may make him the Henry David Thoreau of his generation.
Most recently his work has become something of an excerpted, accented, and it might even be called post-self, collaborative work with UK’s Scanner (Robin Rimbaud). On ‘j.frede Rewrites Scanner’s Diary’ the latest recording which is now available on frede’s own Current Recordings (www.current-recordings.com) he takes on Scanner’s Y2K ‘Diary’ CD release, a live recording, as the source material for a completely re-scripted interpolation of the original, based on Rimbaud’s daily journal dated back to the Disco era (1976). This somewhat traditional process must certainly pose a challenge for an artist who seems to only be constantly traveling the globe. Frede says “I was visiting Robin in London at the end of 2001 and he gave me a copy of his ‘Diary’ CD and he explained about the accompanying tour and his personal discipline with his diaries. I loved the concept and the recordings that went along with this album so in 2003 as we were discussing collaborative projects we both felt this would be interesting and thought the title was rather funny….so it began.” As electronic music can often be interpreted as impersonal, frede’s use of such private and nuanced artifacts of memory truly counters the ultimate means to an end herein. As the recording plays, the pages of Rimbaud’s personal passages unfurl under the mysterious, stop-start harmonic convergence frede composes. “I began taking apart his live recordings from the CD, taking care to not mix the sources from track to track, out of my own neurotic conceptual nature, and create new tracks or in this instance “pages” from the recordings. The finished piece is a full length album that explores Scanner’s textures and sounds arranged in new compositions.” Quiet, dreamy isolation meets fragmented memory bits head on.
And Rimbaud is not frede’s only collaborator of late, he is what some may call a co-op artist, merging his mind and talent with many others who lay the land high and low including professional piano tuner David Nereson on frede’s recent “Unprepared Piano” release (Current Recordings), his noise work with a hardcore band named Deadlock Frequency, and other unreleased work projects with veteran sound artists Kim Cascone and Francisco Lopez. He shyly admits that there are other collaborative projects on the horizon that “i will keep quiet for now…” His collaborations grow from friendships and through various correspondence.
As a visual artist frede has developed a growing roster of ongoing installation pieces. With a small band of artists who work in this modality, his combination of sound with sculptural elements, video and other interactive technologies takes an avenue that enables the audience to have a more full experience of the sound center of the work. Each of his sound sculptures follow a strict conceptual format, that aligns to strict disciplines in his life and for years he was plain bored of simply performing live in the typical stereo PA construct, so he incorporated working with live quadraphonic performances that leant to the experience of site specific sound space. This, of course, set up a precedent for challenging the average audience’s attention span, and those who typically come out to a show for flashy bling-bling would be in for a completely different mind altering body numbing experience at the helm of frede’s craft. When asked if he could reflect on his process and discuss the temporary nature of creating work in a more physical context, effecting how the visuals or sound might come first he explained “Each installation varies – some are for single evening engagements some are long running exhibitions. I have found it easier for people to relate to my work through my installations than through my live performances – people have the option of understanding it at their own pace, and they are not forced in a seat for 20 minutes… so as much as I love performing live, i am very passionate about presenting installations.” His methodical approach is readily identified as he went further saying “My process….. well I have a book full of “future works” that I keep, when an idea or a concept comes to me I sketch down all of the info onto index cards then organize the ramblings and type them onto a “projects” template – then I print them out and file them into the future works book.”
From museums and planetariums to Nazi bunkers (Blockhaus in Nantes, France) and on the hull of a ship the live experience in frede’s world is more of a basic shifting of the alchemies of sacred turf. Performing live allows him the ability to really focus on the sounds available at the speed of real time. He releases binaural sounds captured in his travels throughout Europe and the United States into foreign and contained live spaces where the dynamics of the particular piece and the duration of the performance may vary depending on the performance environment. He weaves sound textures creating real-time spatial environments that move what you hear around the space manually or by sequencing the pans.
Get something on your chest! This Summer frede introduced a vibrant new series of t-shirts called “current.array” created to bring print designs from composers working in the field of microsound and lowercase music. The artists include Janek Schaefer (AudiOh!) who’s “12 Tone Turntable” is something of a dizzying vortex for turntablists with a passion for lock grooves and scratching, the contained dna of what could be the origination of tie-die in “Voice Print” by Steve Roden (Trente Oiseaux, Sirr) and John Hudak’s (Alluvial, Intransitive) swirly James Bond meets Vertigo-a-go-go.
In 2003 frede birthed the LA-based imprint Current Recordings, his second record label. Passion intact his penchant for producing work got him into curating sound festivals and events that initially helped launch his first record label, Ritual Document Release. The handprinted, handmade design and packaging is an fundamental part of the label, providing a more elegant, human touch to the standard jewel case packaging process. And the future is bright for Current, as they are currently putting together the Fall release from LA-based composer Kadet titled “Thin Air” as an enhanced CD with a 3D interactive application “Sensorium” created by Kadet and Reto Schmid. Other future releases include a 3″ CD from David Brady and a limited 7″ from Steve Roden. As artist, curator and label chief, frede is working harder than ever to establish new ways to morph art forms and genres melding the creative stylus, not slowing down for a nanosecond on his electronic freeway.
(Originally published on December 29, 2011)
MAURIZIO BIANCHI, the enigmatic Milanese sound composer (considered by many as the father of the noise movement) is back to business after a very short yearlong hiatus. His work, which grew out of the “cassette culture” of the late 70′s and 80′s embodies masterful principles that evoke the sixth sense while dispensing demons of sorts. With over 100 recordings to his name under numerous imprints, now in his latter 50′s, Bianchi is the sort of composer to be reckoned with only now gaining a mysterious second wind with output growing exponentially in the last few years.
TJ Norris :: Greetings sir. I appreciate having this opportunity to connect with you.
Maurizio Bianchi :: Actually I’m at a crossroads in my past, present and future production, and I strive to celebrate the decline of the current system doomed from the ancient biblical prophecies to a disastrous end, but there is a chance to save.
TJN :: As a young man in Italy how were you first exposed to music, what were some of your early familial influences?
MB :: Initially I was exposed to the so called pop music until the early part of the 70′s when I started to listen to more cerebral/experimental sounds. My musical influences are the early Tangerine Dream, Kluster and the musique concréte. And the psychological influences are rooted in the stupidity of mankind who thinks to govern themselves without the help of the Supreme Spiritual Being, and the results we see all around us.
TJN :: Some of that becomes evident in the finer points of how you use tone and velocity in your work. How have these early experiences fed into your current strategies if at all…are there residual ideas you constantly rework as source material?
MB :: The question is a little complicated but the answer is very simple: there are many fragments but only one collage, my creativity.
TJN :: Your work has been released under both your full name and initials M.B. For what reason? And can you say something about the use of aliases?
MB :: At the beginning I used the alias of Sacher-Pelz, after that I started to use the acronym M. B. to give a mysterious identification of myself, and then I used my full name to be aware of my whole constructive instinct.
TJN :: Most people keep sacred their beliefs. Can you speak about how religion has in your creative practice? I often hear muted voices (speaking in tongues?) strewn throughout…
MB :: In the current secularized society, my faith is the foundation of my life, and the music is only a reflex of my inwardness, and the result is a plain satisfaction. Concerning the voices, they are not real voices, but treated sounds that seem like voices but in fact they’re synthetic.
TJN :: Since the late 70′s you have released an impressive discography of over one hundred recordings with nine new releases in 2011 alone on labels such as Lona Records, Mirror Tapes and your very own label Menstrual Recordings. Are most of these works re-releases or are you constantly in the studio?
MB :: Most of them are re-treatments of my previous sounds because I like to express my music in different ways in order to have a wide variety of solutions.
In this egotistical world, the collaborations are a sort of exchange of communication and dialogue, a philanthropic enrichment and a spiritual edification.
TJN :: Speaking of new releases, one that captured my attention readily is Hibernum on EE Tapes. A work of sheer curiosity and depth the sounds you are making seem to grow from a vortex of cinema noir. It’s as if you took reel-to-reels and at points scraped them through shallow gravel, yet there is something ambient and peaceful embedded. Made up of three distinct segments (with interesting dates) it made me curious about its titles. Can you say more about this work?
MB :: This work is in fact a compendium of my 3 past decades of activity, and it’s projected into the future with an eye on the present.
TJN :: You have had many collaborators over the years including Telepherique, Cría Cuervos, Maor Appelbaum, Nimh and Aube. Can you please talk about your collaboration?
MB :: In this egotistical world, the collaborations are a sort of exchange of communication and dialogue, a philanthropic enrichment and a spiritual edification.
TJN :: What do you speculate as trends in the field of improvisation, something that may offers anything new in the theater of sound these days? What seems innovative or strikes a chord with you?
MB :: There are new possibilities, but not opened to new directions because of the lack of creativity. The innovative is not always a progress, but often a regression because the author is embedded by the machinery devices.
TJN :: As far as labels are concerned Silentes Minimal Editions of Treviso (formerly Amplexus) has released more of your work than others.
MB :: The owner of the label, Stefano Gentile is a very professional guy and he was very positively impressed by every work I proposed to him because in common we have the same emotional feeling towards the experimental genuineness.
TJN :: Some would describe your work in terms of dark ambient, gothic electronica – what do you think of such labels and descriptors? How might you describe your expectations of an overall signature sound?
MB :: Posterity will judge, because his contemporaries are too limited.
TJN :: Do you have a significant other?
MB :: I’m happily married for more than 27 years and my home life is focused in edification of the family and in spreading the word of God to all kind of people, without prejudices.
TJN :: Stories have circulated that there have been times where you have just stopped composing for periods of time. Is that true and if so is it simply to recharge? All artists need respite, but like a painter knowing when to put the brush down and say the work is done, how do you play into this sense of pause?
MB :: I stopped to reflect on my spiritual attitude and focus on adoration. After a while I went back to express my inner growth.
TJN :: Have you presented your work live?
MB :: I’ve never performed live because my sound is based on the cerebral and physical, to prevent further superficialization of the masses.
TJN :: Your work has most definitely influenced younger composers. I can hear crossover in recordings by Troum, Michael Northam, Alessandro Tedeschi (Netherworld), Aidan Baker and others. Your freeform style has opened doors for these and others. Do you think it is important to pass on your principles of practice to new generations somehow – either through teaching or scripting didactic conceptual theory?
MB :: I am sure that the seed sown is producing excellent fruit through these young artists, and am happy to have traced a groove that will not be extinguished easily. It’s much better than a sterile academic address to the futility creativity almost grazes.
(Originally published in September 2011)
Over the years Sasu Ripatti, better known as Vladislav Delay (among other aliases and monikers) has out-shined many other names that have since faded from the electronica/techno scene in general. He has recorded for some of the most respected seminal labels in the genre (Chain Reaction, Mille Plateaux, Staubgold and Leaf) and is about to announce a new relationship with Raster-Noton. Collaborations have included those with the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, Craig Armstrong and his partner Antye Greie (AGF). One thing that has his work standing the test of time is an endless sense of definition-proof direction, not at all scattered, masterful in a worldly sense of musicality and overall breadth of style. TJ Norris had the chance to catch up with him on the cusp of releasing a few new exciting projects.
TJ Norris / Igloo Magazine :: Many greetings as it’s been a while since we connected and I am sure you have been real busy. Where are you?
Vladislav Delay :: I’m back home, on the island of Hailuoto, Northern Finland near the Arctic Circle. I’m just back from Berlin, we had a release party for the new Luomo album at the club Watergate.
TJN :: What is going on these days?
Delay :: What’s going on these days? Difficult to say. Struggling between being a no-compromise artist and avoiding too much travels and publicity but trying to pay my bills. Trying to focus and dedicate time on new music at least as much as ever while hardly making a living with it anymore. But I think I’m fortunate enough, I still can do this after quite many years. It’s a hard call these days. Luckily I’m so far away from all the music business and scene nonsense and all that, it definitely helps to keep my own focus and mind. Also dedicating time for my daughter who’s growing older every day and not wanting to miss any of it.
Questioning the world more than ever I guess. Spending quite a bit of time reading and thinking about life, culture, social things, politics. Horrified by lots of stuff. Being in the middle of nowhere, wilderness, a paradise basically, and at the same time having satellite TV and watching the news all over the world feels so absurd — sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s actually true.
Above all, trying to stay focused on music with lots of ideas and plans.
TJN :: Very much appreciated in these, agreed, times of uncertainty. Speaking of the focus being on your music – after seeing the video for “Latoma [Echocord]” I’m curious about what is was like working with the great Czech claymation filmmaker Jan Švankmajer and how that came about?
Delay :: Actually I have no idea. My great assistant in Berlin managed it. I wasn’t involved at all in it, I just saw it one day. It was the second or third time when I have seen a really properly done video for my track just appearing. It’s quite amazing. I have a feeling a few people have been making videos because they were inspired by the music but I’m not 100% sure if Latoma came about like that. It’s possible that the label had something to do with that but if so I wasn’t kept in the loop, quite odd.
TJN :: It’s certainly unexpected, but a fit fusion of sound and image.
You have so many various monikers to record under (Sistol, Luomo, etc). Do you have a certain ethic or sound to come across that serves each of these particular projects? Have their been any projects you have disbanded and why?
Delay :: Usually it’s just a vision to do something, and usually there’s already an existing moniker or project where it fits. Or like in Luomo’s case it’s just so that I need to do that kind of music every now and then, there’s a very strong vision about what Luomo is musically and I just push that further and try to get closer to the core of it.
It’s all about just trying to stay challenged, to find interesting stuff to do. And juggle between a wide range of music to not get stuck on something or keep repeating myself, within reason of course. I hardly even have single tracks unfinished or released. I don’t try stuff out for the sake of it, even though I feel like I would like to do that sometime again. But the last 10 years has been about having a vision and going for that and making sure I finish as satisfied and close to that vision as possible. Not that the end result is the same as the earlier vision or idea, often times actually not, but the inner feeling of it and standing behind it usually is there.
Then again, I never listen to my stuff once it’s finished unless I play that material in concerts, I just leave it behind and go further. Almost all the monikers and projects have certain fundamentals and the concept to exercise but then again I try to find something new every time within this context.
TJN :: Since you mentioned your live concert performance I recall seeing you perform once, I remember the elaborate set-up and that I found you to be a dramatic live performer. Will you tour soon to support any new works, and what do you think of performing live in general?
Delay :: Back to location. I try to travel less and less, out of my own interest and also to spend more time with my family and in the studio. So no touring, though still I travel a fair amount with all these active projects.
I think it’s essential to perform live to stay in touch with the outside world, especially for someone like me who’s very private and not that social. It is also the true test for me to see how I feel about my productions when I play in front of 10 or 1000 people. When you make the music by yourself for yourself you can easily become just stuck and not see the forest from the trees. Especially in the field of electronic music with all the tools around making music becomes easily doing just stuff for no reason, like a dog who just licks its balls only because it can. To get out and play in public makes you see those trees very fast again.
I like to travel and see different places and people. But having to do that for a living, and do it constantly is terrible at the same time. I have tried to change since moving up north. It’s just too heavy to travel all the time, I fly most often the whole day with 6 flights just for one show and back.
TJN :: Your honesty is fresh, and much appreciated – if more artists were feeling instead of repeating we might be a better overall voice for change and understanding. I’m hearing that when one travels you would imagine that you should sensitively take in the place, the people. Working to play a one-off show can often overshadow the purpose of the actual organic experience overall.
What have you been listening these days, material that is on repeat?
Delay :: I’m pretty frustrated with music these days to be honest. I follow a lot, I even subscribed to damn Spotify so I can keep up with all the releases as they just aren’t worth buying physically anymore. Both musically and technically speaking I think we are living very sad times. But I feel like I’m the only one thinking like that so I’m not sure how much I should open my soul.
The last 10 years has been about having a vision and going for that and making sure I finish as satisfied and close to that vision as possible. Not that the end result is the same as the earlier vision or idea, often times actually not, but the inner feeling of it and standing behind it usually is there.
While the film industry, for example, is all about hi-def and blu-ray and whatnot, the maximum experience and highest possible realization and end result, the music field is going crazy for the shittiest possible quality of music. Low-res mp3s, tiny earpods, millions of tracks and not knowing who made what. As long as it’s loud and there’s a ton of it it’s seemingly fine. It’s amazing. While actually the music making technology allows for better quality than ever before.
It doesn’t end with the end users either. It begins already in the studios, or more and more in laptops. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Kanye West’s last album (which I think is musically quite brilliant and the best album in a long time) or some guy raping his laptop with illegal software, it way too often sounds terrible to me in regards to mixing and loudness. It just kills the ears and you can’t listen to it for more than but a few little moments.
So I find myself listening to old stuff when it’s about actually listening to music for enjoyment. Jazz, Jamaican stuff.
I also listen lots of hip-hop for entertainment but it’s very much on the surface only. And it drives me crazy that those guys who definitely could afford to do it properly just don’t give a fuck, it just sounds unforgivably bad and done without much care. And nobody seems to care about that beside a few mastering engineers whining about it in specialist forums. The new generation of producers in all kinds of electronic music and often in mainstream music like hip-hop are in principle capable of doing things unimaginable in the past and are extremely creative at times, but at the same time for me it sounds and feels they lack foundation in music and technology to actually back up that search for new things. or it’s not worth caring about anymore, which would be much more terrible situation. The new generation of people who buy and listen to that stuff are growing up with such shitty sounding music it’s unbelievable. Maybe it’s good that they listen it via low-res systems, at least you don’t hear how bad it actually sounds.
TJN :: LOL, very true, go on….
Delay :: I can’t listen in the studio, to most of the stuff released today. Why all the gear? Why spend time writing the music and then doing the fuck all in the end in regards to sound? Then again, bottom line: good music should sound good on even the shittiest of systems. So, go figure. I’m not smiling though.
TJN :: There are still some of us audiophiles out here who do find respite in quality – and not listening to everything through the cheapest of built-in computer speakers! Hearing the music itself is paramount. Now, can you say something about how your techno/dance records influence your other moreso restrained/minimal efforts and vice-versa if at all?
Delay :: I keep them quite separated anyway, I don’t feel much influence from my semi-club productions when doing what might be more considered experimental, and the other way around as well.
TJN :: It’s exciting to hear your teaming up with the team of Raster-Noton for their 15th anniversary of the label to release Vantaa. It’s release has been announced to be out in November. Have you joined their regular roster and how would you describe the alignment of this new record with their output? Of course this also brings to mind visuals as well, will the release include anything special in terms of its physical release?
Delay :: We agreed to try a long-term collaboration, they wanted even exclusivity for VD stuff which is fine for me. I have known these guys for a long time and like them a lot. The album was done before I even approached them or even thought of them.
I played the same album to several labels actually. So there’s no RN influence whatsoever, and I don’t think there will be in the future either. I’m quite very far away from a specific RN sound if there is one. I think it’s good and they are also happy to expand their sound offerings.
Only thing where the RN aesthetics come to play is the artwork, which is always done by them and they were very insistent on that, which is also fine by me. I don’t plan to have any specific visuals tied in to VD sets when playing live but my partner Antye will, for example, do visuals for me when we embark to tour in Japan soon. But other times I’ll be playing without visuals, or possibly also with other visual artists, like Lillevan.
TJN :: After my first listen it’s got something of a worn, tribal/percussive feel on one hand and then again reminds me of a lullaby as well. There is a hazy sensibility, strings, some dispatched drone…is this a welcome nod to the days of Chain Reaction but something of a document or soundtrack for our times?
Delay :: This is quite accurate I guess. I wanted to go back to those feelings and structures I was working on in the early days but of course not to repeat them. I felt quite free to go explore the electronic side of things with this album since I had started the Quartet and could try out the acoustics, drums, improvisation and all that with the group.
Vladislav Delay Quartet line-up: Delay (drums and percussions), Mika Vainio (electronics), Lucio Capece (bass clarinet and soprano sax) and Derek Shirley (double bass)
A document or soundtrack of our times, not intentionally, at least. But of course it is inspired and also it maybe reflects back on the times and movements I witness around me. Overall I think it’s possibly the best album I have done as Vladislav Delay.
TJN :: You have something else coming right up, the first new Luomo record since 2008’s Convivial is just about out and your first on Moodmusic. What are we in for?
Delay :: It’s a continuity of what Luomo was for me since the beginning. I felt quite more open regarding what gear to use and how. I have always restricted myself in the Luomo productions in the way I use synths and drum machines et al, and this time I really kind of almost pushed myself to use things I’d not normally use. Or forced myself to be less restrictive. So, I guess it sounds maybe a bit more open and maybe also a touch more old school house as lots of gear I worked with were used in the past as well.
I have some quite serious problems with the dance/club scene though and I actually never have felt much any connection to it. And definitely less connected to it nowadays than maybe ever before. It’s just so lacking imagination and creativity IMO. It’s hard to relate to it as it’s so homogenous and based on the DJ-as-a-business culture – no risks.
I was just at Watergate to play the record release party. The sound technician was very concerned during the sound check that my bass drum sounds were different from track to track.
That probably says enough. It’s just unbelievable! If you have the same fucking kick drum for 12 hours everybody will be happy and not disturbed by any changes… it’s ugly, man.
TJN :: Bloody hell.
Delay :: So it’s a conflict in a way that I chose that medium out of necessity to do my kind of pop music alone without typical mainstream needs or sacrifices. It’s about pop music for me, not serving faceless club music – but I wouldn’t want to make pop music in a band sorta way, staged way, never. So it’s the best option, but it’s hardly a great medium after all and a massive sacrifice as well. So mainly it’s a private thing to do, making that music by myself as I really do enjoy making it. And the rest is hazardous to say the least. I try to see the good side to it. And it also makes me happy to see some people really enjoying it. Like the group of 8 people who traveled from Ireland just for the show in Berlin and who seemingly enjoyed it.
TJN :: I’ve enjoyed your more lofty projects like The Dolls and Explode (both 2005) on your own label, Huume. There was a significant amount of output on the imprint between 2004-08, are you still continuing to release material? And since both of those projects included AGF, what is it like working creatively with your wife and how do your aesthetics differ and merge?
Delay :: I stopped the label when I moved away from Berlin, more than 3 years ago. It was always just the output for my own stuff, and I kept at it while the music business was still somewhat healthy and I could just release music and sell few copies without unnecessary demands and compromises. When it started seriously changing, the mood went sour and I just closed the shop.
Since then I have been ping-ponging between labels for various projects. We also did another Agf/Delay for BPitch Control, though that second album was quite different from Explode.
It’s all about just trying to stay challenged, to find interesting stuff to do. And juggle between a wide range of music to not get stuck on something or keep repeating myself, within reason of course. I hardly even have single tracks unfinished or released. I don’t try stuff out for the sake of it, even though I feel like I would like to do that sometime again.
Working with your partner is always a massive challenge of course but we have kept cool about it I think, and grown a lot since we started. We almost broke up in the beginning but since then it’s been going quite all right, even though I think we both agree we have been quite careful when working together. We agree on some things but quite heavily disagree on others, and we both are very hardheaded when it comes to the creative process. We are just starting something new which I’m quite curious how that will run. Time will tell.
TJN :: Something to watch and wait for I’m sure. Speaking of working with artists – anyone out there who you would really like to collaborate with?
Delay :: Not really. Living here on the island I have become a hermit and a self- sufficient one. I don’t think collaborations hardly ever reach the true potential but very much the opposite. Part of me would love to produce all kinds of pop acts from Brandy to Justin Timberlake and also various hip-hop guys but it’s just not possible if I wanted to do what I thought was the coolest thing around. My interest in not creating mega sellers but interesting music. That’s obviously not most of pop or mainstream music.
TJN :: How does the place affect the music, are you partly isolated, or is it freeing to be just floating out there? Are you an island castaway?
Delay :: For me it was exactly the thing I needed to do and I’m so happy I went through all the terror of moving my family and studio to another country, and also risking to try out this island without any previous experiences there or security of any kind.
But I knew I had to get away from Berlin, both for private life reasons and also how being there just violated my creativity as well. I can fully understand how the city is great for many producers but we are all individuals. I never went there for the music as the current worldwide exodus seems to be happening. And while living there I realized it’s just not good for my music, too much unnecessary traffic and disturbance of all kinds.
So I had to look for something that works for me, not as easy as it sounds. The same thing, relates very much to the music making as well. It’s way easier to just join some hype or movement or just do what your neighbor is and I understand the capitalistic idea behind it, it’s about making a living and paying your bills (or some people really enjoy the popularity). But in the more deeper sense of creativity and art and all that, I saw quite many people turn to electronic music from totally different fields, be it an advertising agency person or promoter or whatever… shoe salesman. Some of them for sure are happier, and maybe closer to what they should have been doing all along – then again many are not. When they chose music it’s about Ableton Live, which I think is the worst thing to happen in music making, ever. That just brings this superficial feel to it. I don’t judge people’s choices or opinions, it’s just the results and the effects they have. For myself, I worked quite hard for several years, trying to find a place where I’d feel good to begin with and I knew then the work would feel good as well. In this island life being very far away from a lot of unnecessary stuff is just absolutely amazing. I can concentrate on what I do when I do it.
Photo credits: Ari Pekka Auvinen & Emanuele Sason.
Originally published 5/29/2011
InFiné Music is a still somewhat young Berlin/Paris-based label (only five years old) dedicated to a certain wave of what some may consider rather cinematic electronica. With a roster that boasts such artists as Apparat, Francesco Tristano, Murcof and The Hacker their motto,”easy music for the hard to please” rings true. Created by Agoria, Alexandre Cazac and Yannick Matray in 2006 I took some time to speak with them behind the scenes…
TJ Norris/for Igloo Magazine: Hello Julien, how is all going out there today?
Julien/InFiné Music: Hi TJ, It’s all going good. We were all in a rush last week. We are working hard on our release schedule for end of the year.
TJN: Busy beats. The label has a sort of custom-made feel somehow?
Julien:Most of the music, we have been releasing till now is very introspective indeed. Our first album was a solo piano of Francesco Tristano and we are about to release an album of Flamenco, in between Ethno House, Detroit Techno, hybrid jazz, rave. We have no stylistic trademark… but we are trying to create a musical consistency through this general feeling permeated in almost all our releases. We just love nicely structured and emotional music. Music with which one can travel, dream, think… One may find some answers to your existential questions in listening to InFiné music (big smiley here please) but we also hope one will be willing sometime to dance as well.
TJN: When I spun the latest by Murcof, Idiosynkrasia from Francesco Tristano and also the 12″ from Rone I felt a certain curatorial sensation, like a cinematic pastiche. Can you speak to these overtones at all?
Julien: Yes and actually, not so surprisingly La Sangre Iluminada is a soundtrack. But obviously this feeling has to do with the personalities of the two A&R’s of the label. Agoria and Alexandre Cazac have in common a strong liking for “cinematic” soundscapes and are really caring about the sequencing of our records. Most InFiné releases are flowing like movie scores and have an obvious narrative frame. There are little stories… we wanted to tell to the rest of the world.
TJN: After seeing Murcof live several times (most recently in Seattle for the Decibel Festival last year) I’ve always heard that sense of pause and breath, a subtle dramatic flair that conjures stories. He’s worked with several labels in years past. How did your release of La Sangre Iluminada come about?
Julien: Fernando is one of the godfathers of the Label. Alexandre knew him quite well already and introduced him to Francesco Tristano, a while ago when he was working on his debut album, “Not For Piano”. Fernando took part in its post-production and they both started to tour together. Fernando came to us with his soundtrack, which had been released previously on Intolerancia records, a Mexican Label. We all thought it was amazing material, which was truly fitted to InFiné. We wanted to make it a very nice LP version and here is it … we are happy people like it.
We just love nicely structured and emotional music. Music with which one can travel, dream, think… One may find some answers to your existential questions in listening to InFiné music (big smiley here please) but we also hope one will be willing sometime to dance as well.
TJN: Your roster is quite diverse, does that come from the fact that your offices are split between two countries? You also work with artists who create installations. How do you develop an aesthetic for the label?
Julien: Our official Headquarters is in Lyon in France, where Agoria lives. Most of the team is in Paris and I am living in Berlin. I think, what we get from this geographical triptych is a certain distance taken from local “buzz” and “fame”. Agoria is really committed to the development of Lyon’s musical scene but from the start, the idea was to develop an International roster. We are a slow-burning label, I think… we are not trying to release the hottest tracks on earth or a spread a sound related to a localized emerging scene, the sound of now. We like a lot of different styles and all our artists have a personal way of doing music but they are also our voice in their own countries. The “buzz” usually goes directly global, we are rather trying to build upon various local scenery.
TJN: Many of your artists play the club circuit, is that where you locate those you are working with, in the wake of night?
Julien: Sebastien Agoria is playing all over the world every weekend. He meets a lot of people on the road, talks about the label to other fellow international deejays. That helps a lot… but that’s not especially where we are looking at new artists. We aimed at promoting fresh faces, producing original music, but what’s the most important with us is the personal relationship we have with the artists, if we have faith in them in the long term. It’s not a question of networking or having a great time one night with someone. All our artists have long term contracts with us, they have the time to evolve their music and this decision is bound to way more complex parameters. Some consensual decisions between all of us.
TJN: What makes the best producer?
Julien: Personality, authenticity, kindness and surely a bit of boldness.
TJN: Since 2006, how do you define the change/shift in electronic music in general? Any significant reasons for these potential changes?
Julien: From a label perspective, everybody told us, it was completely a foolish idea to create a label in 2006. But five years after, we have already seen some young electronic labels acquiring some international recognition overnight and sometimes also slowly fading and disappearing as quickly. In electronic music, producing, promoting and selling music is cheap, the networks are easily reachable, and labels are sometimes just management companies aimed at promoting one main artist. The role of a label in electronic music is really called into question. But putting a record in store and in the media is one thing, creating a proper long-term identity is another. That’s why we are really happy when someone mentioning a InFiné feel or a trademark, that’s why, we are also happy when our artists are blossoming release after release.
TJN: What’s coming up?
Julien: Murcof’s soundtrack and Rone’s new EP So So So have just been released. We are releasing the LP version of Arandel’s In D with remixes, alternative and unreleased versions, one of the most surprising records of our catalog. End of August comes Barlande, an album of flamenco of Perdo Soler & Gaspar Claus produced by Bryce Dessner (The National, Clogs). I do not think I need to say anything more about this project. And two albums of Composerr and Cubenx are in the pipeline for the autumn/early winter.
For more information, visit InFiné Music.
Fields of Pure Sound
(12.12.05) LIKE-MINDED :: Non Visual Objects(NVO) is a small recording label based in Austria and operated by sound sculptor Heribert Friedl and Raphael Moser. Their initial three offerings have a strong minimalist slant and include work by Steve Roden, Roel Meelkop and Friedl himself. In the works are offerings by Richard Chartier, Bernhard Gunter/Friedl and a quartet collaboration, all of which we took some time to chat about when I caught up with him at home in Vienna.
TJ Norris :: Hello Heribert, how is Autumn treating you?
Heribert Friedl :: Autumn is my favorite time of the year. Especially this year it was really long and intense too. Beautiful colors and light, clear air and mild temperatures. Autumn is always the beginning of an intense working period for me. A good time to retreat and focus on the essence. So in this sense autumn is really treating me good.
TJN :: Ahhhhh, totally refreshing time, yes, the Fall always seems like creative renewal to me! Speaking of, a new label is very exciting, and your first three simultaneous releases are a great indication that minimalism is your primary color. How do you respond?
HF :: Yes, definitely! Especially in visual arts, American minimalism has had a big influence on me. I see my roots more in that area than in my local area (for example “Wiener Aktionismus”). Raphael also definitely has a minimal background. Parallel to NVO we have the ongoing project GRAT (www.grat.org), that was originally intended to be a CD label, but then turned into more of a visual arts project. Raphael and I initiated that together with Margit Hartnagel in 2000.
TJN :: Well, that’s creative evolution, change leads to new ventures. Do you refer to yourself as a sound artist, composer or musician? And as such, do you see NVO as a jumping off point to showcase your own work in context with others doing similar things with sound?
HF :: Music has always been a constant companion in my artwork. The valences always shifted. Although I studied sculpture, music has always been present. I don’t really want to place myself in one category. It is always about the work itself. If there is a composer, a musician or a visual artist behind the work is secondary. At the moment I am working with sound material, so it is obvious to associate myself to a musical context.
The idea of starting our own label has been around for a while. Unfortunately there is not much tradition of this kind of music here in Vienna, accordingly to a few people that I deal with. Raphael, who had lived in Tokyo for several years and at that time started to really get into and deal with this kind of music, then forced the idea of starting a label. It is mostly about getting people together that work on similar ideas, to build a community of like-minded people. For that the internet is of course a great thing. You are not attached to a certain place and are able to communicate globally. We just want to release music that we think has something to offer and we feel needs to get a chance to be presented properly. No matter what the musician’s background. The product is what counts in the end.
TJN :: So, you will be a altruistic pioneer of sorts in your own world. In creating the roster for NVO, do you see yourself as a curator, so to speak? And how is Raphael Moser involved in the process?
HF :: We run the label together. That means all decisions are made collaboratively. Since we have a very similar idea of art, there are hardly any differences in the process. All works are dealt with separately and each of us then gives his opinion. The result is almost always unanimous. Raphael also does the graphics for the label. Well, Territorium, I kind of curated, since there was a thematic idea for it, but otherwise it is more of a sorting out.
TJN :: Talk about aesthetics. The label, cover art, etc.
HF :: There is a certain aesthetic approach for NVO. We try to use the material economically and precise. The cover should not only physically protect and illustrate the music, but stand on its own as an artwork. With the packaging and the limited/hand-numbered edition we try give it the character of an object of art. By using high quality paper and 4-color print we want to give people the feeling of buying a professional product.
TJN :: And you most certainly do, the finished release has a definitive style, fanciful, yet austere.
How did the name NVO come about, will you in some way fuse what you do in the visual arts, installation, et al? I have noticed that despite the label name (the brand) that may infer only sound, that at least a few of your current releases (Meelkop and Roden) as well as those upcoming (Richard Chartier) actually feature visual artists and/or graphic designers. Can you talk about that some, or is it coincidence?
HF :: I first used the term nonvisualobjects in 1996 for an exhibition. I installed 10 ventilators in a sill. The sculpture was not only the actual object, the ventilators, but also the wind and the sound of the wind. I was talking about sculpture, but meant the annulment of matter. The object was there, just not visually perceptive. You could feel and hear the work, it incorporated the body of the viewer and personified itself as an invisible phenomenon. It is a matter of approaching the subject matter. Nothing is concluded nor excluded as priori.
TJN :: In my attempt to describe the impact of your vision: Sparsely ambient, fragmentary, fields of pure sound. The work casts shadows, laying a chalky patchwork of imaginative ambience. NVO generates something aurally tactile, in various organic layers of geometries and textures. How about that?
HF :: Well, that is probably because after all I am a trained sculptor. The use of material is a way of molding. You try to find a form and get rid of unneeded ballast. The approach to Raumzitate was actually a clearly conceptual one where my immediate surroundings were processed. Hardly audible sounds were macroscopically analyzed, dissected, edited and looped endlessly as a quotation.
Working on Ataraxia with Bernhard Guenter is much more orientated on composing and improvising, whereas Bradycard actually goes back to the beginning and tradition of my musical work. It is sort of working off of a history of myself. The working method is the same up to now, sound is analyzed and then combined. The software is not and never should be the message.
TJN :: Technology is only a tool. Can you say some about your own evolution? Some of the work you have done and maybe, since it’s the season, some of your favorite things…
HF :: Like I mentioned, I come from a visual art context. I studied sculpture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. I was first concretely confronted music at the age of six. During my time at school I also attended a musical school, where I first studied flute and then up to the age of 14, the Hackbrett. Afterwards I studied classical guitar. So music has always accompanied my visual art.
I took part in exhibitions in many countries. One of my favorite works was realized at the Museum Folkwang (Essen, Germany). It was an empty room you could enter from two sides. Only the walls were painted with scent substance that you could scratch and smell. Even though the room was completely empty, visually speaking, it was plumply filled with the scent.
TJN :: Wow, I love the whole rationale behind odorama! John Waters turned me on to that many moons ago with his kookie film Polyester, and I subsequently curated a few multi-sensory exhibitions, but the idea of actually painting with scents is really a unique way of working, and having your audience participate!
Regarding NVO, with such a distinct, honed cast of artists will your label host performances related to the releases, or other like events something like a label showcase at a music festival?
HF :: At the moment we are working on creating a platform for like-minded people. Working on the label continuing to release quality work, that is the priority now. Everything else we will see in the future, but of course we are also interested in organizing live events.
TJN :: I will watch for that. And, obviously there are other like small labels releasing and distributing in limited editions, even some like Spekk (Japan), 12K (US) and Raster-Noton (Germany) to name a few. How will NVO differ in terms of throwing your hat into the ring?
HF :: I think the mentioned labels basically all work on the same thing. It’s the details that differentiate them. Raster-Noton, 12k and not to forget Trente Oiseaux (10 years!) have been important for the scene for years. It is hard to imagine the scene without them. They have been pioneers. The scene is rather small but globally very well networked. Many musicians have worked for and with each other. It is giving and taking in a way. Everybody tries to explore new territories. Positioning the label at certain place/city is not really relevant any more, building up a small label like NVO now works on a global level. Even though the mentioned labels all work in a “minimal context,” they explore different fields. We are interested in any form of minimalism, digital, electro-acoustic or based on field recordings is secondary. There is still a lot to discover and we hope to contribute to that, to release new and interesting material.
TJN :: So, are you saying that cultural regionalism has been completely lost in the techno age? Or the sense of cultural place has lost its impact to convey the eccentricities of its locals, its natives? Have traditions dried up? Or is there some universal voice of minimalism? Is it a language unto itself, breaking barriers and axis’?
HF :: NVO could happen anywhere, but since our base is Vienna we work from here. NVO is also not to be seen as a regional development aid, it is just a part of the lot. Since the city is rather small it isn’t relevant to establish our own scene. As one can see 12k, Raster-Noton and Spekk are all over the globe, focusing on one idea, with differences of course. Minor influences of regional cultures can be found here and there but nothing you could call explicitly regional. Yes, therefore you can probably say it is a universal language of minimalism.
TJN :: Can you talk about the choice for running a small run label, and maybe some about the potential audience. Is starting a label such as this a pure labor of love, since the return on investment is not about dollars, obviously. Maybe you can comment on the art for art sake aspect of running a business/label with such an intent.
HF :: The idea of running a label has existed for quite a while. Since there is not that much interest for this kind of music here in Vienna we just did it ourselves. Of course running a small label is not “Big Business,” and that is not our idea behind it, but we also have to survive financially. Like I said, it is more about building a platform for like-minded people.
TJN :: So, how do you think, in any way, will your steps bring more of an interest to some audience in Vienna? What are the general public listening to there these days? Will you try to involve those near as well as those far? Is building a community in your own area of any special importance to you?
HF :: There is a tradition in electronic music here in Vienna and some of the labels have existed for many years. The scene is quite diverse, but in the area NVO is now working, we think nothing had really existed before. There is no label here in Vienna that releases our kind of music. Mego, Charhizma, Durian, and now Mosz are all labels that have their own field and their own small communities. Of course we try to be a contact point in our field of music but it is not primary in establishing ourselves here in Vienna.
TJN :: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Your voice is very welcome to the larger community. Any final words?
HF :: We would like to thank everybody for the worldwide support and hope we can continue to release quality and surprise people. And of course thank you TJ for doing this interview!