11183_JKT

The Soft Moon : Deeper

Luis Vasquez, aka The Soft Moon, over the course of two full-length albums, one ep, and several singles has gone and made his own little musical world where there’s very little light. Up to this point his music consists of a mix of gothic post-punk, dark techno, and the sound of a club remix of Pornography-era Cure songs. Even though vocally the most you get out of Vasquez is pants, wheezes, and yelps, you still get the feeling that the music he makes is incredibly personal to him. The Soft Moon is the sound of an underground Berlin night club in the early 80s. It’s tense, dark, sexual, and primal.

Luis Vasquez’ new album as The Soft Moon is called Deeper, and it lives up to its name. It’s just as dark as previous albums, but more focused on emotions other than desire. This album feels like Luis Vasquez is working through some things in his life. The wheezes and yelps are quelled by Vasquez’ actual singing voice. Musically it’s still very visceral and primal, but Deeper feels more confessional. It’s the best Soft Moon album yet.

It’s very suiting that this record opens with a wavering mound of noise called “Inward”, as that’s where this album takes us. “Inward” to “Black”, we are treated to a sound that Trent Reznor wishes he could get back to. This album is the most NIN-like that The Soft Moon has gotten to. If I had to compare it to a NIN album, I’d say The Fragile. Like Mr. Reznor’s darkly confessional opus, Deeper is a brooding and bruised journal entry in Vasquez’ life. But unlike Trent Reznor’s near-death experience of an album, The Soft Moon’s confessional opus feels oddly healthy. Therapeutic, even. “Far” is a fast-paced Tram ride into the night. Staring out the window to traces of light and wall. I hate to beat a dead horse, but The Soft Moon still remind me of classic early-80s Cure. The flanged bass and guitar really do it. At times this great song also brings to mind Oliver Ackermann’s A Place To Bury Strangers, albeit with less ear-bleeding. “Wasting” sounds like a drop into the abyss, as guitar, keys, and bass echo into the darkness. Vasquez starts out singing, but his voice trails off into and endless delay. He sounds like he’s disintegrating as the rhythm picks up and his voice comes back into focus.

On previous records, Vasquez hinted at sounds that resembled NIN. I think The Soft Moon’s sound is a kindred spirit to Trent Reznor’s noise-making prowess; while at the same time not aping or copying. Luis Vasquez has a very unique style that mixes dark techno, post-punk, and Gothic bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, and The Cure. His music isn’t nearly as claustrophobic as Reznor’s compressed insanity. “Wrong” is a perfect example of that. With the robotic voice, industrial groove, and bubbling synths, you get the feeling of Kraftwerk being remixed by Reznor. It’s clean and precise, but still jagged, rough, and sweat-inducing. Vasquez also adds an Afro-Cuban flair in the percussive heartbeat. Title track “Deeper” is another example of the tribal and primal percussion that Vasquez has woven into this new album. It’s heavy, intense, and very sexual.

Elsewhere, “Try” brings that flanged bass back with Vasquez’ longing vocals, “Desertion” pulsates with a bass-heavy rhythm, and “Without” is a piano-driven ballad, bringing to mind NINs “Something I Can Never Have”. “Feel” is classicist post-punk groove. A great Gothic dance track, something that would’ve fit nicely on Cocteau Twins’ Garlands. “Being” opens with the sound of a tape recorder being played, rewound, and re-played as Vasquez’ voice repeats “I can’t see my face, I don’t know who I am.” Musically the song is driving and intense.

I think The Soft Moon set out to make a more personal, inward-looking album and Luis Vasquez succeeded in that. Deeper is every bit as dark, intense, and brooding as previous albums. But at the core of this record is a heart that seems to have been hurt. Deeper is the process of healing, and the search for light at the end of a very dark, winding tunnel.

8.8 out of 10

 

dave and ego

White Hills Find A New Groove : A Talk with Dave W and Ego Sensation

If you’re a fan of New York City’s White Hills, then you know they’re not a band to rest on theirwalks for motorists laurels. With each album they seem to take their fuzzed-out space rock to another, much higher plateau. Whether it be creating ambient drone tracks to sit in-between their gothic Sabbath crunch rockers, or taking a twelve minute ride on a motorik chassis through some dark underworld whilst keyboard wheezes wisp by your ears. Each successive record seems to trump the previous.

In just a couple of weeks Dave W and Ego Sensation will be releasing their latest record onto the world. Walks For Motorists is the follow-up to 2013s So You Are…So You’ll Be, and if lead single “No Will” is any indication they have indeed pushed their music and themselves to yet another plateau. Darker, heavier, and with a new production sheen that accents Sensation’s bass and Dave W’s vocals. The White Hills sound machine has been put into precise focus this time around. But after talking to the White Hills duo recently it sounds as if they wanted to start from scratch on this record and step out of their comfort zone. The results sound stunning.

J. Hubner: Hello Dave and Ego. It’s great talking with you two again. Between the release of So You Are…So You’ll Be in 2013 and now White Hills had a pretty amazing year and a half. Lots of touring, both here in the States and Europe, including a run with The Cult. You two were also a part of Jim Jarmusch’s excellent ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, as well as reissuing your great 2009 Glitter Glamour Atrocity in 2014. From an outside looking in perspective it seems like a pretty great year and a half for White Hills. Would you agree?

Ego Sensation: Definitely! But we’ve had a long winter without any touring so we’re ready to hit the road again.

J. Hubner: So let’s talk about Walks For Motorists, your new record. From listening to “No Will”, the first single, it sounds like a real shift sonically and in mood. It sounds really groove and bass heavy.

Dave W: Yes, “Walks For Motorists” is definitely groove and bass heavy. That was one of the main goals in making this record. None of the music on this album was written on the guitar. It was either written on the bass or a keyboard. Guitar was the last instrument brought into  every track. Sometimes we even decided to ditch it completely.

J. Hubner: Going into the writing process what did you two want to accomplish this time around? Were you ready to change the sound up a bit? What was the songwriting process like with this record? 

Dave W: We were definitely looking for new ways to approach what we do. Ego went about a process of writing a song a day which kicked things off and inspired me to get on the program. It didn’t matter how good or bad the song was, you just had to put together the basics of a song in one day and then leave it behind. This process was enlightening and inspiring for the both of us. When we realized we had over 50 songs, we decided to go back, trim the list down, and focus in on the ones we felt were the best.

J. Hubner: What other differences were there this time around as opposed to previous albums?

Dave W: The other big change to our process was writing with a drum machine not with a drummer in the room with us. For me this was one of the key aspects that makes this album stand out amongst our others. Basic rhythms allowed the music to have a more open and spacious feel as compared to some of our previous work. No instrument was fighting against another for space in the stereo field. Everything was able to occupy its own space and breathe.

J. Hubner: Another big change is that this time around an outside producer was brought in to produce. You two traveled to the UK to record Walks For Motorists with David Wrench. Being a big fan of Bear In Heaven I was excited about this, and from the sound of “No Will” I’d say you two made the right choice. How did White Hills connect with David?

Dave W: When we began talking about this album, I told Ego that I didn’t want to mix and produce it. I thought it was time for us to use a producer and go somewhere outside of New York City to record it. We sat down and came up with a list of people that we thought would be interesting to work with even if they weren’t known as a producer. The idea to approach David Wrench came a bit later. A few years before he was in NYC recording Bear In Heaven, during that time David and I spent some time together.  As we discussed producers more and more, it became apparent to us that David was the one. We wanted to create something different than our previous work and using a producer that is primarily known for dance music seemed like the ideal person to approach. It was through David how we ended up at Bryn Derwen in Bethesda, Wales. I have to say, we definitely made the right choice. Working with David was a pleasure and we’d love to work with him again if the chance arises.

J. Hubner: So what was informing the sound of this record? Were there any specific artists or albums that inspired the creative process this time around?

Dave W: No artists in particular, but rather producers. This time around I was looking for a very specific type of production, so before heading into the studio, I immersed myself in the works of producers like Brian Eno, Steve Lillywhite, Mike Hedges, Nigel Gray, Flood, and Phil Thornalley in order to dissect their mixes. David and I had a number of conversations in regard to the specifics  I took away from this exercise and I have to say he nailed it!

J. Hubner: A good friend of mine(and fellow White Hills admirer) lives only about 20 minutes from where you recorded in Wales. What did you two think of the area? It looked very picturesque where you two were.

Ego Sensation: Definitely! I’m considering going there to hike on the numerous trails in the area. The countryside was so beautiful and there’s a fantastic curry place in Bethesda. You should go stay there with your friend J Hubner!

J. Hubner: Would you ever consider going back and recording there again? 

Ego Sensation: As much as I’d love to record there again, I think we’ll have to try something new next time. Life is short and I like to get as many new experiences under my belt as possible.

J. Hubner: White Hills and Thrill Jockey always goes above and beyond with their releases. So You Are…So You’ll Be came with a bonus 12″ of unreleased music, and Walks For Motorists is no different. What can you tell me about the music on ‘Drives For Pedestrians’?

Dave W: As with the other limited edition “bootleg style” EP’s we’ve done through Thrill Jockey, the songs were compiled from sessions and rehearsals from years past and feature a cross section of songs that for some reason or another have laid dormant until now.

Ego Sensation: Thrill Jockey is a great label. They really care about the quality of their releases and about giving fans something extra. The first song on ‘Drives For Pedestrians’ is the title track from ‘Frying On This Rock’ that didn’t make it onto the album.

J. Hubner: Are there any specific plans or ideas for the upcoming live shows? How much do you plan on touring in 2015?

Ego Sensation: We just did a few shows in NYC with a troupe of Butoh dancers and we may start incorporating other performers into our live shows on a regular basis.  We have a 2 month tour of Europe coming up in April and May. We aren’t sure what our US touring plans will be yet but most likely we’ll do something in the fall.

J. Hubner: With each White Hills record I get a cinematic feel. I think your music translates well into cinema, or it could translate well. The work you’ve done on the trailer, as well as your podcasts show you to have a flair for it. You both have a knack for the visual aspect of art. Have you two ever considered getting into film scoring?

Ego Sensation: When we’re writing new music I always get cinematic images in my head which is why I feel compelled to make most of our videos. We have thought of scoring films and would love to do something for Pedro Almodovar, Atom Egoyan, Jim Jarmusch, Wes Anderson, and so many others.

J. Hubner: Have you ever been approached by anyone to score their work?

Ego Sensation: We’ve been approached to do a few short pieces but never a feature. Maybe this is the year!

J. Hubner: So what’s after 2015? Where do you want to take White Hills next?

Ego Sensation: If this were an IQ test i’d say 2016! But as I think I understand your true intent, I will say we plan to take White Hills beyond the edges of time and space. We will continue, grow, expand, experiment, and even potentially find a small island where other freak artists can come live rent free in exchange for their weird ideas.


All I can say is I hope I’m given a map to this island, as I have plenty of weird ideas to share. Sounds like my kind of place.

Walks For Motorists arrives April 7th via Thrill Jockey.

 

 

The Black Ryder : The Door Behind the Door

The Black Ryder seem to enjoy wading in that hazy, dream pop sound that emanated from theblack ryder UK in the late 80s and early 90s. Guitars awash in feedback and chorused drone as tremolo bars are in full dip as synths come in and out of the mix. Half-whispered, stoned vocals purr a melody along with the drugged and euphoric music. Just drop the needle(or hit play) on “To Never Know You”, the opening track on The Black Ryder’s debut Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride and everything will become perfectly clear. Continue listening and that My Bloody Valentine/Ride/Lush/Slowdive vibe will coat your brain, for better or worse.

Since that album’s initial release in 2009, Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper have put away most of the Creation Records’ roster for what sounds like heavy doses of Spiritualized, Massive Attack, and even some Pink Floyd. The Door Behind the Door, The Black Ryder’s new long player, is a technicolor listen of an album. It has the aspirations of a three-hour cinematic opus, where Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride was a gritty little indie film. While they don’t always succeed in hitting the mark, it’s still fun listening to them try.

Scott Von Ryper and Aimee Nash obviously had a vision for this record. When you open a sophomore record with a two minute noise piece instead of greeting waiting ears with some ear candy you either really don’t care what anyone thinks, or you’re setting the mood for what’s coming next. The Black Ryder are most definitely doing the latter, as the next two songs, the cinematic “Seventh Moon” and the melancholy “The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down” deliver on a grand scale. Nash has a voice that could make a reading of the phone book mysterious and sultry, and “Seventh Moon” showcases that voice beautifully. Production that would bring a tear to Alan Parsons’ eyes, the scope of the song builds throughout until we’re greeted with backing vocals, what sounds like actual orchestration(could be synths), and climactic swell that even Jason Pierce would have to give a stoned nod to. “The Going Up Was Worth the Coming Down” has Von Ryper plucking a pretty acoustic melody as he musically and emotionally puts all his cards on the table. The song adds keys, loping drums, and electric guitar that only adds to the emotional heft. It’s classic 70s AOR stuff.

Elsewhere, “Let Me Be Your Light” brings back some of that psychedelic ambiance from their debut with Aimee Nash doing her best Hope Sandoval, maybe even better than Hope Sandoval. The song has a slinky quality to it that makes the hazy noises hiding behind the melody all the more interesting. “Throwing Stones” has an earthy vibe to it. Very much reminiscent of some buried track off Pink Floyd’s Meddle. Nash puts a smokey finish on her vocals that makes her sound a bit like Norah Jones. This track gets pretty spectacular with the choir that kicks in half way through. These touches give this record a grandiose feel that most indie rock records nowadays don’t even attempt to achieve.

Sometimes, though, bigger doesn’t always translate to better. “Santaria” seems to have found its ending far sooner than its six-minute length, with the song halfway in getting noisy unnecessarily. “Until the Calm of Dawn” is a pretty piece with a touch of Sparklehorse in the telephone vocals, but unfortunately it’s muted by the 12-minute closer “(Le Dernier Sommeil) The Final Sleep”. While ambitious and quite beautiful, the song feels more like an experiment rather than a piece that adds to the overall feel of the album. By the end, you just feel wore out.

The Door Behind the Door is an ambitious record for The Black Ryder to make. It’s not an “you’re in, you’re out” kind of fuzzy rock record. It’s dense, symphonic, and at times a bit sluggish, but my hat’s off to these two. You either go all in, or you go home. The Black Ryder went all in and then some.

7.5 out of 10

 

 

 

clair de lune

Debussy, You’ve Made A Mess Of Me

Whenever I hear Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” I always get sad. Not because it’s such a beautiful piece of music(which it is), but for other reasons. Reasons I’ll explain momentarily.

Way back 15 years ago, a day after we had our first child, I had called my grandma Hubner to tell her that she had a new grandchild to adore and shower with the occasional compliment. After saying how happy she was for my wife and I she asked me what her new granddaughter’s name was…

“Claire.”

“Oh, how lovely. Just like “Clair de Lune”. That is one of my favorite songs. Did you know that?”

I didn’t.

“Well if my granddaughter is even just a bit as beautiful as that piece of music then we are indeed lucky.”

I pretended I understood and hung up the phone a few minutes later. I had indeed heard of Claude Debussy, and of “Clair de Lune”, but I couldn’t tell you what it sounded like. But the old gal was pretty impressed with our name choice for our firstborn, so I assumed we’d done something right.

Up until grandma Hubner passed away in 2004, whenever she’d see our Claire she would holdIMG_0249 her affectionately and would at least one time during her visit mention “Clair de Lune” and Claude Debussy. For my wife and I it stuck. I’d since gotten a copy of the song and would play it often and it would do something to me whenever I heard it. It was both a feeling of happiness and melancholy. Happiness at the beautiful daughter I helped to create that was the song’s unintentional namesake. And melancholy for my grandma Hubner, a woman that had a reputation for being “difficult” to put it mildly. But when she spoke of this piece of music I could see a happier soul in her eyes that had long been buried under years of forgotten dreams and unfulfilled aspirations.

For me, “Clair de Lune” is very bittersweet.

So over the weekend my wife and our oldest Claire(now nearly 15 years old) took a day for themselves and headed to Indianapolis for some mother/daughter shopping time. Sunday morning as the wife and I enjoyed some coffee she told me that Claire had asked her about the Indiana Academy. The Indiana Academy is a school on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. It’s for only Junior and Senior age high school kids and is for the very brightest. I won’t pretend to know all there is to know about this school. All I’ll say is that when I was a Junior in high school I wouldn’t have been smart enough to even look a brochure for this school.

My oldest is more than smart enough to go to this school, but up to this point she’d never even shown any real interest. It’s set up like college. Kids stay in dorms and are there all year, coming home for holidays and weekends. She’s pretty tight with her friends, so I think at first the idea of not being with her pals(her family, ehh) bugged her. But for some reason this weekend something changed and she was telling my wife all about the school, the requirements, all the different classes available, like she’d been putting some thought into this thing. My wife said they talked about this all the way to Indianapolis and the thought of her going there was getting her very excited. But on the ride home the idea began to really sink in that our baby may actually do this and leave us, two years before she normally would.

IMG_0248You see, my wife has known about and longed for our daughter to go to the Indiana Academy since Claire was 5 years old. Yes, my wife was looking into this place when our oldest was just going into Kindergarten. Granted, even at that age it wasn’t a strange concept to think that our Claire was going to be something special. We knew she was smarter than the average kid right after she’d turned 3 years old. Just a day after bringing our second oldest home from being born, Claire, at 3, was reading. Just out of the blue she started reading flash cards. It was the most bizarre and wonderful thing. Friends were over to see our new baby and Claire picked up these flash cards and began reading the words on them. It was like some crazy parlor trick, or finding out your kid was a mind reader or something. It was nuts. So for my wife to be looking that far ahead into the future wasn’t all that nuts. She couldn’t look far enough into the future to do her hair and get dressed so we could make it to the movies in time, but she could see the potential in our 5 year old. That’s good, though. I’m good with the worrying about the now, and she was good with the later.

So what did I think of all of this? Well, as much as I was excited at the thought of our daughter going to a prestigious school and becoming something great in the future back when she was still in Osh Kosh B’Gosh, the fact that the reality of that situation is only a little more than a year away put me in a bit of a existential funk. I know she’s older, and I know she’s incredibly bright and that the Indiana Academy is probably the right fit for her academic future and intellect. But Christ, where did the last 15 years go? It wasn’t supposed to go by so quick. My “Clair de Lune” wasn’t supposed to get old so fast. One minute I’m playing with Thomas The Tank Engine with her at the Hallmark store looking for a candle that we both like the scent of, the next thing I know she’s speed reading Douglas Adams and asking to borrow my Wes Anderson movies. Jesus, I’m middle-aged and my baby girl is not a baby anymore.

I had this dream once. It was probably ten years ago. I dreamt that I had three kids, and they were all standing in front of me, all older and looking at me as if I was insignificant. You know, they all had that look in their eyes like they had better things to do than be wasting time with their old man. In this dream it hurt me. It hurt me bad. Then from behind these kids(they were all girls…before we had our son), my Claire appears in her Dora nightgown and she tells me “It’s okay Daddy. I won’t forget you. I”ll always love you like this.” I woke up crying like an idiot. It was at a point where I was noticing how much older my little girl was getting. The dad’s fear of becoming not as loved and needed. Losing that bond a father has with his little girl. Christ, she was only 4 or 5 when I had that dream.

Anyways, that dream has stuck with me ever since. I still get choked up thinking about that dream. I know this growing up thing is just a part of life, and as far as for me growing up and losing my hair, turning 40, turning middle-aged, well I could give a shit. But knowing I’ll never have those moments with my kids again when they were little and amused with dad’s made-up bedtime stories and bizarro sock puppets made with dirty old gym socks, well that’s a harder one to swallow.

So what’s all of this have to do with Debussy and “Clair de Lune”, you ask? Well today I happenedFullSizeRender (8) to play it at work and all those feelings came back to me. Not so much about my grandma Hubner, but of my little girl. The reality that yes, she’s not a baby anymore. The reality that yes, she’s looking into her own future and wanting to do something to make that future brighter. I listened to “Clair de Lune” three times in a row and I remembered all of these things Claire and I did when she was little. Like driving around in my truck with The Burden Brothers’ “Buried In Your Black Heart” blasting and she just kept yelling “Louder!” Or me pulling out my Star Wars action figures for her to play with when she was sick. Or taking her to her first movie(The Spongebob Squarepants Movie). Or buying her a goldfish on a Friday and having it die on a Sunday and how heartbroken she was(she still remembers that damn goldfish…she was barely 2 years old.) Today, listening to that song and thinking about how fast time goes I realized I’m just wasting time getting sad about it. It is what it is. My little girl is getting older, smarter, and more beautiful every day. I shouldn’t be down, I should be proud and happy. And I am. And I will be, regardless of where she goes and what she does. Cause despite the ever-so-quick passing of time, and the fact that Claire is as tall as me(if not taller by now), she’s still my little girl and she still looks up to me.

No, I’m not crying. I’ve just got some Debussy in my eye.

 

inventions

Inventions : Maze Of Woods

Inventions is the musical collaboration of Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper and Explosions in The Sky’smaze of woods Mark Smith. On the surface their 2014 self-titled debut as Inventions was a nice mix of Eluvium’s glitchy and atmospheric electronics and Explosion’s wide-eyed and cavernous musical landscape. While it was a solid effort, it didn’t seem to beg for repeated listens. Less than a year after that debut, Inventions returns with the stunning Maze Of Woods. Cooper and Smith no longer sound like to buddies making glitchy, expansive bedroom music. They have found a way to expand each other’s musical palates and create something completely new.

“Escapers” announces itself immediately with a pronounced beat, a ghostly vocal, and alien glitches and swaths of noise as guitar comes in and out in bursts of reverb. It’s a messy, ethereal, and very promising beginning. “Springworlds” has a bubbling rhythm just under the surface as a guitar plays in the distance. It’s the perfect mix of Cooper’s electronic prowess and Smith’s ability to create intense emotional connection with ringing, echoed guitar parts.

Maze Of Woods brings to mind Boards of Canada in its subtle emotional pulls and the nostalgic longing in the sparse use of human elements(ghostly vocals and spoken word moments). “Peregrine”, for example, is very reminiscent of Music Has The Right To Children in its desolate glitches, while the piano sounds like a lost Kid A track. “Slow Breathing Circuit” sounds like it’s name. It has the feel of something inorganic becoming organic. It sounds like the inside of an ancient clock slowing coming back to life. It’s eerie, haunting, and quite beautiful. “Wolfkids” has elements of Oneohtrix Point Never in it’s synth layers before the beat comes in and gives the song a dance edge. “Moanmusic” is this mix of dense electronic haze while acoustic piano fights for breath amidst the shots of electronic swirl. “Feeling The Sun Thru The Earth At Night” is as epic as the title suggests. It pulls the grandiosity of an Explosions in The Sky track into this pool of psychedelic haze and dream-like binary swirl.

There’s a dreamy feel to this album. Piano, guitar, whispered vocals, and ambient textures float in and out of the mix while occasionally prominent beats come in to give you the urge to move. But there isn’t just one main agenda here on Maze Of Woods. Cooper and Smith are each equal in creating the sometimes melancholy and sometimes uplifting moods. There are definite echoes of artists like Baths, Oneohtrix Point Never, Boards of Canada, and of course each guy’s other gigs. But comparisons aside, Inventions has become something completely its own on this record. Something bigger than just a collaboration.

Inventions’ Maze Of Woods is still two friends, as well as labelmates, making music together and complimenting each others strengths in the process. But it’s also a record that moves beyond whatever musical baggage Matthew Cooper and Mark Smith may have brought last time around. This is a record that stands on its own as something unique and wonderful. Maze Of Woods has created a world where you can easily get lost in its 40 minute time span and not mind the journey you take.

8.4 out of 10

 

jonas munk

Music You Can Touch : A Conversation With Jonas Munk

Jonas Munk is no slave to one musical master. He can jump from electronic music, to krautrock, to ambient drone, and to psych rock without blinking an eye. Sometimes all those jumps can happen in the course of a day. An afternoon, even. Keeping things new and fresh is a vital part to how Munk keeps himself invigorated musically and artistically. With someone as well versed in music as Jonas Munk, I can see this being a must.

Jonas Munk is the guitarist in the Danish psych powerhouse Causa Sui. He’s also a gifted keyboardist and has put out several albums under the name Manual. That music is decidedly more along the line of Boards of Canada and Tycho. He has also released two albums under his own name. The first was 2012s Pan. That album was a warm and bubbly concoction of krautrock. Think Kraftwerk’s Computer World with Michael Rother playing guitar over it and you might have an idea of that album’s excellent trip. Munk has just released his newest solo effort called Absorb/Fabric/Cascade, a decidedly different aural trip, but one that’s very much worth taking. Inspired to create a musical journey that doesn’t lead with emotional cues or narratives, but one that is more visceral; more about feel and texture. It’s broken into three parts, hence the title, and it moves and flows organically. It creates a space for one to just get lost in and feel what they want to feel.

Jonas was kind enough to allow me to bug him with some questions. Not only that, but he answered them as well.

J. Hubner: Hi Jonas. So how did Absorb/Fabric/Cascade come about? Was there a concept behind this record?

Jonas Munk: Actually my initial idea was to create a shorter release, a long EP or a mini LP, with just a couple long drone tracks focused entirely on texture and sound. I love the EP format and it’s a great way to explore different aspects of ones style, but unfortunately noone takes them seriously these days, so in order to avoid having to drive boxes of records to the landfill I decided to expand it a bit and release it as a full length.

J. Hubner: Instrument-wise, what did you use to create these songs? Synths obviously, but there are definitely some organic qualities in the instrumentation as well. Did you limit your music palate going in?

Jonas Munk: Definitely. I wanted this record to be all about the texture of the sound, in a very physical way. So far my entire body of work has had a strong focus on harmonic content and compositional structure, but this time all the focus was on the sonic aspect. Of course the two can’t be separated completely. The thing is, once you zoom in on the sound as its own phenomenon all kinds of subtle emotionally charged elements start revealing themselves in the sonic details – for example, the way a filter slowly and gradually opens over a period of time can be a really intimate thing and actually generate vivid reactions in the listener. That was the basic idea for these pieces: I wanted them to be really abstract soundwise and relying on very simple ideas, such as ‘something slowly brightening and darkening’, ‘gradual rhythmic changes’, ‘sounds slowly blooming and triggering something new along the way’…etc. There’s something so beautiful about simple movements like that.

J. Hubner: That concept sounds very much like Steve Reich’s body of work. Taking one motif and repeating it continuously until it starts to become something else. 

Jonas Munk: Steve Reich is a master of that – music as a gradual process – take some of his works from the 1970s for example: once a marimba pattern reaches a certain level of complexity it triggers a new instrument to appear, the length of chords evolve over time until completely sustained, melodies form new harmonies in canons…..all those techniques he evolved in the 1970s. There’s something so organic about it – like with the biological world you can contiously zoom in and it’ll reveal new details. There’s a complexity and depth to it, although it’s simple and easy to enjoy it as a listener. A lot of electronic minimal and ambient music appears so banal and synthetic in comparison.

J. Hubner: And the instrumentation you used to achieve these sonic organisms? 

Jonas Munk: As for instrumentation I used three different analog synthesizers as well as different fuzz boxes, filter modules and delays, but there’s also guitars in there and a piano in ”Fabric”. The funny thing is that electronics can also have a very organic character. It depends on how you use them. A lot of that stuff, say, analog synths and fuzz boxes, don’t even feel like technological devices anymore. Just like an acustic guitar the tuning depends on room temperature, and the sounds generated in no way has a futuristic quality anymore, which is interesting.

J. Hubner: How would you, or can you, compare your previous solo effort Pan to Absorb/Fabric/Cascade? 

Jonas Munk: ”Pan” was more of an ”homage a krautrock”, the idea being that diving into a specific period of the past with new ears might generate something interesting. I think it’s a great little record.

J. Hubner: So do I. I think it’s a fantastic piece of music. 

Jonas Munk: I’m proud of it. In the end a lot of different ideas ended up in the mix and each track on ”Pan” is going in a different direction. With the new record I wanted to zoom in on one specific aspect and explore that to the full. They both share a very unpolished, natural sound – there’s no reverb anywhere on those records, and the electronics and synthesizers have a bit of a raw quality. Sometimes you can hear me tuning the synthesizers during a part cause it was drifting out of tune, stuff like that.

J. Hubner: The album is very beautiful, but that beauty isn’t forced. It all flows very naturally. It’s both dark and light. How did you go about creating these pieces of music?

Jonas Munk: I certainly wanted it to be quite abstract and ambiguous in nature. It was important not to have any too specific emotional traits. I wanted the music to be able to create an open environment for the listener to expand into, rather than impose any direct meaning.

J. Hubner: What do you draw inspiration from? Are there other composers that inspire you to create? Cinema? Literature? I’m curious as to what fuels the creation of a record like Absorb/Fabric/Cascade. 

Jonas Munk: It’s a bit hard to answer a question like that, cause personally I’ve never felt any direct, causal effect between experience and creation. I work on music pretty much everyday, one way or another. When I’ve put my kid in daycare in the morning I either take care of label stuff or I go to the studio and work for 6-7 hours. That’s how I work most often. Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes I collaborate with others or work with bands. I’m aware it doesn’t live up to the most romantic conceptions of artistic creation! But I don’t believe in genius, I believe in work and dedication.

J. Hubner: There’s nothing wrong with that. I admire and prescribe to the idea that personal goals, whether they be something as simple as mowing the lawn or painting the living room; or as complex as writing the great American novel or composing a violin concerto, can be done with hard work and consistent work. Not with being a genius or having good luck. 

Jonas Munk: But on a more abstract level I’m sure the music I create absorbs whatever I’m into in some way. I always read quite a lot of books – novels, philosophy, poetry, biographies – I swim a lot, also take a few runs each week, brew strong coffee and cook indian currys, play with my kid, listen to a shitload of records and spend waaaay too much time on the fucking interweb whenever I get the chance.

J. Hubner: I think even the everyday stuff, what some might naively label as mundane, are just as important in our creative sides as those profound moments of enlightenment. So having a great cup of coffee, some fantastic Indian curry, or playing with your kid can inspire the deepest of artistic creation. At least that’s how I see it. 

So speaking of artistic creation, how did you start creating music?

Jonas Munk: Actually my first real instrument ever was an Ensoniq Mirage sampler my parents got from my uncle (who’s a professional musician) for my birthday one time.

J. Hubner: An Ensoniq Mirage sampler, nice.

Jonas Munk: But I didn’t really figure out how to have fun with it, except for recording my own burps and playing them on the keyboard, so they exchanged it for a drum kit which I loved right away. My dad got some more instruments eventually, a keyboard (from a different uncle), some japanese Jazzbass and SG copies, and set up a room in the basement where we could make some noise. During a holiday in Mallorca, Spain I ran into Jess Kahr (who I still play with to this day in Causa Sui) and it turned out he lived right around the corner back home, so we became best friends and started jamming a lot – me on the drums, Jess on the keys (hooked up to a Leslie cabinet with a rotating speaker), and I guess we never stopped!

J. Hubner: So you had quite a set up as a kid. Did your dad play with you sometimes as well?

Jonas Munk: Sometimes my dad would join on the guitar and we would play a Santana song or something like that, but mostly we wrote our own stuff or just jammed. This was when we were around 7 or 8.

J. Hubner: Wow! You guys started young. 

Jonas Munk: A few years later Jess talked to a classmate who just got a drum kit (Jakob Skøtt) about starting a band and I could join if I played the guitar, and that became the beginning of an obsession with that instrument. Although, the guitar was already familiar to me at that point.

J. Hubner: So was there as turning point for you guys where things shifted and music became your main goal?

Jonas Munk: When I was 16 we saw Tortoise at the Roskilde Festival and that experience initiated an interest in all kinds of weird music for all of us, most importantly at the time: electronic music. Soon after I got my first analog synthesizer (Korg Poly 800 mkII), a Yamaha delay unit and a step sequencer and for the next five years electronic music was my main interest, although I never left the guitar – it was integrated into the electronic sound I was evolving, both with my solo project Manual and our band (called Limp at that point). Soon I got an Akai sampler, a Juno 60 and a Fostex multitrack recorder and there was no limit to what was possible.

J. Hubner: So the basement jamming was put off to the side in favor of electronic experimentation?

Jonas Munk: It wasn’t like we ever left our passion for rock or the band format completely – that would be too black and white a description – but in 2004 (when I was 22) our passion for jamming and playing loud came back with a vengeance and we changed things around a bit and called ourselves Causa Sui. Since then it has all existed very much side by side.

J. Hubner: How do you balance the Causa Sui side with the solo electronic side? Is it even a balancing act? To me it seems like both could coexist quite nicely together.

Jonas Munk: A lot of people find those parallel projects strange, but it’s an incredible way of working – there’s a balance I really enjoy, shifting between styles and working methods from week to week, sometimes even within the same day. There was a time 6-7 years ago when I was working on ambient music during the day and jamming with Causa Sui all night, that was an incredible fertile period and there was just this abundance of ideas at all time. Now things are obviously a bit more constricted, but I still find that kind of variation extremely fruitful – one week I might be mixing a record for a folk band, the next I’m in London working 14 hour day shifts producing electronic music with Ulrich Schnauss, and after that I might be doing an improv session with Causa Sui.

J. Hubner: I would imagine all those styles and sessions  would bleed into one another, helping to push each other along in newer, more exciting directions. 

Jonas Munk: The different sessions start influencing each other, ideas ricochet from one project to the next, and that’s very rewarding. I pick up something important from each and everyone I work with. Everyone has a different perspective on music and there’s something to learn everywhere. Most people work linearly, evolving from one thing to the next, whereas I work in parallel, with projects that are very different in nature functioning side by side. For some reason that way of working is quite rare, but it has been the modus operandi for some of my favourie artists such as Brian Eno or Jim O’Rourke.

J. Hubner: Sticking with just one style, or working on simply one project at a time would be rather stifling, artistically speaking. You seem to need to have several things going at once. 

Jonas Munk: I work on music everyday and only working with one project in one style would quickly drain me and start to feel uninspiring. For me one of the most important parts of working on something is the clarity you get when stepping away from it, it freshens your ears.

J. Hubner: Would you ever consider performing Absorb/Fabric/Cascade live? Is it possible?

Jonas Munk: At the moment I’m working on a way to perform some of that stuff live. But I reckon it’s gonna be quite a minimal setup.

J. Hubner: Could this be the beginning of a series of ambient records? 

Jonas Munk: If people like this one I could imagine doing another drone record at some point.

J. Hubner: Last time I spoke with Jakob Skott he’d stated Causa Sui were working on some new music that was turning out pretty amazing. How’s that album coming along?

Jonas Munk: I’d say we’re at the most frustrating part of the process at the moment: very slowly writing material and fine tuning the new songs. Hopefully once we start recording this spring it’ll get rolling and the process will be more enjoyable. For the past 12 months we’ve been wrestling with new ideas that won’t come fully to life, always struggling with time, struggling with our own musical shortcomings, moving to a new studio – but if you ask me in two months hopefully the answer will be that we’re more than halfway through our heaviest, most well composed record of our career. I think it has to be a bit of a painful process – if it’s all fun it propably means we’re not taking things seriously enough.

J. Hubner: If you could pick an album that truly inspired you to create Absorb/Fabric/Cascade, what album would that be? And why?

Jonas Munk: I rediscovered Keith Fullerton Whitman’s ”Playthroughs” a couple of years ago. Beautiful album. That surely had an influence on the new record. Steve Reich’s ”Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ” has been one of my favourite pieces of music for the past 15 years but this might be the first time it has had a direct influence on my music. Also a piece from 1979 called ”Sei Note in Logica” by Roberto Cacciapaglia, an Italian composer I only discovered a few years ago. The mix of classical instrumentation and electronics is truly ahead of its time. I would also have to mention ”Wizards” by American electronic pioneer J.D. Emmanuel.

That’s four, sorry.

J. Hubner: That’s quite all right, Jonas. Thanks for talking. 

 

Absorb/Fabric/Cascade is out now on El Paraiso Records. Pick up a copy at http://www.elparaisorecords.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eternal Tapestry : Wild Strawberries

eternal tapestrySo who in the hell is Eternal Tapestry, and how did they get in my ears? I don’t recall ever having a conversation with anyone regarding this band. No “Hey, you should check out this band called Eternal Tapestry. They’re pretty cool”, or “This band Eternal Tapestry is right up your alley. You need to listen to them.” I don’t recall that talk. Much like the music they make, they appeared from the ether and were “just there”. They make music that could be described as psychedelic, or atmospheric. There are guitars that play solos, and drums that play hypnotic beats. There’s feedback, drones, some keyboards, and even some saxophone thrown in for good measure. There songs are expansive(long), and they tend to be of the heady kind where you buy the ticket, you take the ride. You don’t have to be f****d up to enjoy them, but if you happen to be you may even get more out of what they commit to tape. They title their songs things like “Cosmic Manhunt”, “The Hidden Void”, and “When I Was In Your Mind”, and their album covers resemble Bob Pepper and Frank Franzetta artwork.

So who are Eternal Tapestry? Are they space marauders travelling through galaxies spreading their spaced-out sounds? Are they crazy hippies losing their minds in a cabin somewhere in the woods of the Pacific Northwest making drones and buzzes day and night? Or maybe they’re just some nerdy guys that like sci fi and jamming in a living room, seeing how long they can sustain a single note?

I think they might be all three of those things and that’s quite all right. You see, this band called Eternal Tapestry just released one of the most dense, heady, freaky trips of an album you’ll hear all year. Wild Strawberries takes all those elements; the psych free jam, the atmospheric noise, the quiet interludes, and the chaotic noise squalls and combine them to make their best album to date.

“Mountain Primrose” opens the album. Eternal Tapestry take their time getting to the destination. Where is that destination? Hell if I know. It’s the journey that matters, man. There’s reverbed vocals that act as just another sonic layer rather than telling a story. It’s half nightmare and half fever dream that leads into the title track. “Wild Strawberries” is acid-fried psych rock. Imagine Surrealistic Pillow mixed with the DNA of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and you’d have an idea of what’s happening here. It’s 15 minutes of slow-burning space rock. “Enchanter’s Nightshade” sounds like skronky sci-fi blues. Some slow moving spaceship makes it’s way across the galaxy, skunky smoke billowing from a hole on top. At over 16 minutes, you will be mopping up your psyche after this track fades.

Previous albums, like Beyond The 4th Door, Palace Of The Night Skies, and A World Out Of Time have toyed with long form free jams like this, but Wild Strawberries commits. With four of the eight songs over the 10 minute mark this is a true blue double LP made for hazy basement listening sessions and long stares into the abyss.

The second half is a different beast altogether. “Woodland Anemone” is a two-minute synth exploration that sets the tone for side three and four. We’re treated to synth drones and ambient textures in the excellent “Maidenhair Spleenwort”. The organ is reminiscent of Terry Riley’s work in the early 70s, and the repetition of “Lace Fern” brings Riley’s 1975 masterstroke Descending Moonshine Dervishes to mind. “Pale-Green Sedge” and its white calm pushes us into the epic closer “White Adder’s Tongue”. It’s noisy beginnings build into a cacophony of noise built on keyboards, drones, feedback and percussion. It’s loud, abrasive, and immaculate.

So who are Eternal Tapestry? I don’t think it matters. What matters is that they exist and they made Wild Strawberries, a sprawling double LP mind melter of the highest order.

9.2 out of 10