Library #12

Ocathail / Hastío

The library’s first split tape is now live. Two sides of wondrous guitar soli and living room complexion. Side One has Ocathail, the recording name for Patrick Cahill, with five pieces of folk-blues burn and rich meditational airy push-pull. Side Two has Hastío, the recording name for Phil Neff, with one long piece of room ambient raga in slow-motion melt, with a beauty come-down, and ragged strum/chord improv. The windows are open and breathing along with the rolling tape.

I asked both players the same five questions, please read on.

(Full disclosure, Pat’s my brother, so some of our chat gets a hair insider, we’ve played music together since we first picked up instruments years ago, so things are ever-intertwined.)

can you fill us on in how the recording went for yr side of the tape, what was the ritual or system that you used? and at what times of the day or night works best? and is there any other philosophy at play with the recording styles you fellows use, i know you both went live to one track, just straight up plug and play, was this by design or convenience, etc? was it digital or four-track?

Patrick: I recorded my stuff digitally with my mac, omnidirectional condenser mic, and USB interface. Most of my tracks were recorded at night but maybe also on a weekend afternoon. My set-up is so easy and I leave it connected all the time and it’s in my living room, that i can hit record at any time. I’ve been playing a ton of acoustic guitar over the past few years and especially this last year, that recording became a necessity. I was using the voice memos on my phone and was considering doing a small tape release of recordings done with my phone but this obvious upgrade of recording quality helped things become clearer and made/make my Martin sound pretty wicked. My process has really been experimenting with guitar and voice and honing an improv vocal and guitar thing and almost all of my recordings on my phone and computer are of this type of thing. It just so happens that some of the last things I recorded really worked together and ended up being instrumental. Philosophically speaking I have zero preference for recording formats. Also zero preference for it sounding “good” or “clean”.

Phil: The goal here was an “audio diary”-type recording. I had been working part time for the last year or so and felt like a lot of my best, most spontaneous playing was happening on weekday mornings at my kitchen table, so my idea was to just press record during those sessions and fill up sides of some C40s I had lying around. That said, I think this recording actually happened on a weekend afternoon. I have a 4-track setup, but I decided just to use my partner’s portable Panasonic cassette recorder for this in order to keep things simple, impromptu and hissy. Speaking of rituals and systems, I have been working on a song cycle using Ben Chasny’s Hexadic system, which has been very challenging and rewarding. There is a short section on one of the tapes I sent you that includes Hexadic material, but not on the side for the split with Patrick. It was actually Six Organs of Admittance’s School of the Flower record that made me pick up the guitar in the first place, so it’s been extremely gratifying to be able to be in correspondence with Ben.

yr playing has resemblances and interesting parallels, obviously you both enjoy and share a liking for similar techniques and players, fingerstyle and chording and raga-type moves come to mind, when or how did yr style or development come to this place? what kind of growth were you after along the way or does it matter? are you both self-taught too? is there anything you wish you could do/reach or are you both at a place where what you feel like expressing (in whatever way/fidelity/vibe that expression forms) is in a continuous line, so to speak?

Patrick: Interesting question; it’s hard to think of a development or trajectory. I’m self-taught where basically my biggest lessons were 1 – an Ian MacKaye interview from like twenty years ago saying why do you have to play traditional chords at the (what-do-you-call-it?) open neck position so move the same chords up and down the neck. 2 – Meeting Tom Watson (from Mike Watt’s band about 17 years ago) and him saying he couldn’t get a new guitar from his mom until he learned 50 chords, or 100 chords on a borrowed guitar when he was a young kid. And 3 – You and me learning guitar and equating it to skateboarding when we were about 18; “try crazy shit and see if you land it”. I’ve been playing with my fingers and without a pick for probably 15 years right when I got hardcore into the Delta Blues. I’ve never in my guitar playing really learned any songs other than maybe a few Neil Young tunes for a campfire type thing.

I always have just effed around on guitar, fumbling my way through chords or structures or open tuning things or slide things or disjointed things. Always been a huge fan of Beefheart, US Maple, Dead C, SY, Gastr Del Sol and abstract, atonal guitar music. Technique and virtuosity have never interested me. Although, honestly I feel like the dudes in Beefheart were guitar gods and same with the Maple boys. I love listening to stuff like that; but I also love broken, detached, accidental stuff. Probably more. And through the years I maybe have gotten better at repeating patterns and have the patterns slightly morph or shift in time and tone and then, hopefully, some natural dynamics of performance come into play. I’m trying to “lock in” to what I’m playing and sometimes the more I play a riff or idea, the more that can happen. It takes time. That’s what I’m constantly searching for and reaching towards. Being locked into a pattern that somehow gets more intense or more interesting over the passage of time. Raga music via Riley/Palestine/Young via Spacemen 3. I’m okay with where I am at on guitar – I don’t feel like I need to get “better” or more “technical” or rotate thumb patterns in a crazy syncopated way via fingerpicking virtuosos. I just happen to play with my fingers.

Phil: I’m self-taught on acoustic guitar over the last 12 years or so, after learning some bad habits from playing bass guitar in school. It probably took me 2 years or more of playing to even learn all the basic chords in standard tuning. I’ll never be a master finger-picker, but I feel like I’m always stretching and slowly improving. I have a hard time, and actually not much interest, learning “songs” by ear or from tabs, so I’ve always improvised around scales and drones. My goal now is to work some of the themes I have developed into cleaner compositions, ideally combining rehearsed and spontaneous material. Recording is one area where I feel like my skills aren’t at the point where I can really capture what I hear in my head, but I also appreciate the ambiance (and economics!) of low fidelity home recording.

when yr alone with the microphone in a here-it-is way, it’s quite a bit different than anything collaborative or multi-track’able, what do you like about this loner state and do you see this improvisational and real-time flow as inherently challenging? or would you rather not think about it so you can get out of yr head and relax into a purer space? or is the solo thing where yr most comfortable?

Patrick: Improvising when recording has been about 85 – 90% of my musical career. Our first band The Riderless improvised pretty much everything when recording over the span of the 10 albums. Same with Cahill Locksmith, East of the Valley Blues and now this one. I love it. I think there’s a pressure there that means that you have to be on your game, in the sense of not fucking up, but also in the sense of listening well and appreciating or allowing an intuition awareness to happen. Let things move, no plan, listen deeply, read and react, stay sharp.

To be fair, I had little licks or riffs for most of the tracks on this split tape and so I had an idea of what the track would end up sounding like, but I also wanted it to be pretty loose and let a natural flow happen. And almost always the finished recording sounds pretty different from the original riff. Being in a band and improvising is spectacular. Either playing live or recording – there really is no feeling quite like that connected, listening, tuned in, allowing things to happen, and everybody enjoying the sounds that are being created. There are no words. Being alone and improvising – all the same principles are present, but it’s way more intuitive and I think it calls for the player to be even less commanding or focused. Try to get out of the way. I’m most comfortable playing with East of the Valley Blues.

Phil: Solo playing is definitely my comfort zone, perhaps to a fault. My guitar practice has always been more about relaxation and feel rather than technique or precision. So that “here-it-is” moment with the microphone really psychs me out, it’s hard to capture that same state. I think the piece I called “El trueno en la ciudad” on La ofensiva interior is the closest I’ve come to reaching that true loner vibe with tape rolling. Recording setting might play a role too. I recorded outside at a park recently using the same technique as my side for the split with Patrick, and it seems like being out in the world helps establish that sense of “real-time flow”. (The outdoor recording is found here.)

being very inspired/inspiring guitarists, do you think about music and even life stuff through that guitar-filter, meaning, when you think about some passage or some memory or place and then start thinking about writing or composing or trying out new things, does it always come back to the guitar first? like it’s always in yr hands, even if imaginary? do you listen to other players in relation to yr own knowledge and feel on the guitar? i am always curious about this, being a player myself, it’s really hard to hear guitar and not think about what is going on in very specific ways. and when i don’t know what’s happening, that’s usually a very good thing. do you like being confused/challenged by guitar sounds/players? do you try and challenge yrself in yr own patterns and figures?

Patrick: I’m not sure if I do filter things through the guitar. Playing guitar and writing are the only art forms that I practice. And I don’t think I process things in that way. I definitely think about inspiration or ecstatic moments and creating music to fire that time or place up, but it’s more like “ah, it would be cool to have a guitar right now and just play.” It wouldn’t necessarily be like My Winnipeg by Guy Maddin, for example, where a place, time, memory, childhood becomes the work of art. He very specifically transforms his personal visions/life/memories into that film. I use this example because I was talking about the radicality of this film the other day. My very own Winnipeg (per analogy – I did not grow up in Winnipeg) would be me creating music/playing guitar within Winnipeg. Make sense?  To be more clear – I would filter my visions/memories/childhood/dreams through a state of feeling/mental space but not actually have that really affect the actual “art” beyond that. I don’t feel like you would see a connection there. It might sound like a messed up Mississippi John Hurt riff, so no real connection to Winnipeg (per analogy).

I’m always listening to guitar players or guitar music. And I love so many – Dickey Betts, Nick Drake, Loren Connors, Murray Favro, Fahey, Basho, all the delta blues players, Doc Watson, Woody Guthrie, Gordie Lightfoot, Neil Young, Phil Tyler, Christina Carter, Joni Mitchell, Memphis Minnie, Elizabeth Cotten, Bonnie Raitt and on and on. And sometimes I listen in regards to my own playing and maybe “borrowing” a riff or idea Keith Richards-style, or just listening and admiring the vibe and enjoying the sound of the guitar, rather than a specific note pattern or fingering. Because I’m self-taught and can’t read music and know very little about musical theory – I visualize finger patterns on the neck and I’m actually probably not even close to what the actual chord may be – and then go home and play the pattern I remember in some new way. Voila. My favourite guitar moments in musical history do not involve any sense of real technique or virtuosity like Neubauten’s Headcleaner, for example. Or the “solo” at the end of Talk Talk’s New Grass. Or the solo in Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams.

Phil: The guitar *is* always there, which can actually be a bit frustrating, especially when I can’t bring what’s in my head out into sound. All the guitarists I watch or listen to challenge me. I never think, “Oh, I could do that.” As I said above, using the Hexadic system has been a productive challenge, and so has playing in different tunings. I feel like exploring a new tuning is almost like learning a new language, and it brings a special burst of creativity. That’s part of the reason that I use Spanish in my presentation of the Hastío project, because it reminds me of the energy that I accessed when I was first studying Spanish, with all the language centers of my brain on fire, writing poetry every day. And playing guitar was a major source of resilience for me later when I was doing stressful work in Guatemala. My playing has gone through distinct periods based on my mood and what kind of gear I have access to, and it’s strange, but I really can’t access some elements of those previous periods anymore. That is a very particular kind of nostalgia: specific combinations of guitars and rooms and feelings that will never exist again.

lastly, we’ll have to try and get a small label showcase together sometime as the music fits really well together and who doesn’t want to blow the budget on flying across the continent? but any gigs or future things on the go right now that you want to talk about? anything else yr finding inspiring of late? any life things catching you by surprise?

Patrick: A small label showcase would be wonderful! I thought the label fronts the bill on this? I’m planning on doing some solo shows as soon as the tape comes out in Toronto and maybe outside Toronto, too, if possible. And I’m re-focusing now on doing some recordings of myself on guitar with voice in an improvised way like I mentioned earlier. But I feel like I’m going to expand on it and multi-track, and layer and experiment with production. And the “improvised way” could quite easily become “actual songs”. My other main hobby is carpentry and that’s how I make my living. I have a small shop where I live in Toronto and I have access to a huge shop where I work every day – and so I am in the process of building some things. And I’ll have some time off in January and so I hope to get some more work built fully at my shop at home!

Phil: Live performance is definitely the next hurdle for me, and it feels like a major one. There’s nothing on the horizon for me gig-wise, but there is a supportive and open DIY music community here in Seattle. I would love to come to Toronto, I’ve got a few close friends there! Really my ideal performance setting is just playing in the background in an informal space.

The split tape was dubbed at home in a small edition of 30 copies, with transparency film inserts (of original artwork and calligraphy) mailed to me from Phil.

The digital album is free.

From all of us, we hope you enjoy and can pass it on.

Until next time,

Library #11

Mold Omen – No Edits in Heaven

Mold Omen interview with Andy Livingston to coincide with the new release for the library #11, No Edits in Heaven, available now.

hey andy, how are you? thanks for being into this man! i want to talk about some of the writing you do off the top, there’s a great and funny and conversational prose style descriptionary purpose to the things you say about yr releases on bandcamp, etc, what would you say about this tape we’re releasing today? i’m a big fan of having a few words match up with releases and to help shape or describe or get one thinking about other connections and techniques or whatever, setting the table so to speak, have you always been writing free form about yr material and do you write in any other capacities?

This album was literally a lost one. I was looking on a hard drive for something else and came upon the folder where these tracks came from. And they were recorded at Mike’s house Winter 2013. I even want to say Mike’s brother Martin recorded them, but I could be confusing myself. We remembered very little about the session, but it was so far away from the kind of stuff we are currently doing it was an interesting snapshot of what we were doing back then.

What I would say about it was that there was a heavy impromptu drone aspect that we laid down, in order to pile up random things on top. What those things are are kind of a mystery now though since it was so long ago!

It’s funny that you bring up writing, cause that’s how Mike and I met, we were both staff writers for the late Foxy Digitalis blog and started corresponding and instead of meeting for a beer, we started to jam and that was like almost seven years ago. Mike continues to write in a number of ways (both academic and pop culture stuff). I tried to do the freelance thing for about a year but it drained my soul and I have written one thing in a year and can’t really see myself doing it again for a while.

do you think humour is an important element in noise/experimental music? to not take yrself too seriously? some of the album/song titles are great! i dig it. i’ve long held the opinion that we need to be able to loosen the grips to connect on a real level and humour and wit and sly/sneaky attitudes help with that. we’re all just teetering over the abyss with all of this anyway, no?

I think a sense of humor just comes from a really natural place of finding stuff weird and laughing about it and ourselves. The band is a very expensive and consuming hobby and I can’t see how sustainable it could be if we were both really trying to explore a dark side all the time.

Although we take what we do pretty seriously, at the end of the day it’s a band that improvises noise and we’ve found ourselves singing into bubble wrap. So taking it seriously just isn’t really for us.

where does the heavy drone/dissidence stem from? was this pre-planned or thought/talked about before you got this project going? or maybe this is the natural trajectory of playing together? it seems like a no-rules project and one where you can go deep into textures and atonality with freedom, that must be a pretty rad thing to have all the doors blown off? do you ever go too far where you have to rope it back in?

We never, ever talked about setting a goal of what to achieve as a group when we started. I think it was less about achieving a sound and more about letting the band be an active and organic thing. So whatever we wanted to do was immediately on the table.

The drone stuff is better as an element instead of a whole meal and since there are only two of us, having something as a drone does fill out the sound more and allow us to build up textures and play multiple instruments at a time if we see fit.

I don’t think there exists a “too far” when we play. The best songs we ever have are ones where things seem like they can fall apart at any minute, or the ones that do fall apart at every minute.

you’ve had quite a few releases on a bunch of different weirdo labels, mostly tapes and a couple of cdrs, do you guys have a particular format in mind with each release? or are you just going where the wind takes you?

I think whatever comes across the imaginary desk of Mold Omen Industries is always something that’s worth pursuing. I don’t think we’ve had set ideas on releases relating to formats, except only in terms of editing and track sequence.

mold omen is you and mike pursley, can you describe what each of you brings to this project? are there distinct sound-creating ideas and modes that separate out the duo and help push it forward? or do you switch up on instruments and try to blend yr voices/ideas into one?

Like any relationship, it takes some work and mixing things up every once in a while. I think at one point I thought that what we brought broke down to rhythm & lead. The rhythm part doesn’t necessarily mean drums or bass, but providing some kind of bed to lay down whatever the lead (also not necessarily meaning guitar) to go along with.

Although there have been times when we’re both the rhythm and both the lead, so I don’t know how any of that actually stands. There’s almost no pre-planning of what we do except we tend to work out a set beforehand if we play a show, just to get an idea. It’s also helpful so we know what each other is bringing in terms of gear. If we’re recording anything is possible though.

is mold omen music improvised on the whole? what are yr thoughts on improv vs composition and do you ever think about long-form scripted type work? modern classical/ensemble music with notation and cues? ever think about making mold omen a larger group? has membership changed at all over the years?

Yep, everything is improvised. We may have a larger conceptual idea of what things should sound like, but there’s never any real directive. I can’t read music and I have wonky double-jointed knuckles that makes changing chords almost impossible, so we have never really talked about composition because of those limitations. I think doing something larger scale would be interesting, but I think it would have to come from a natural place of thinking of some large idea that would use cues and notation.

MO is just us and always been us and if that changes then it won’t be called Mold Omen anymore. We’ve jammed with a couple of other people before, but nothing really jelled past then, but we’re always available to be someone’s backing band. I’m mostly serious about that.

what are the advantages or disadvantages of living in baltimore? yr close to a bunch of different places, must make travel and touring more of a possibility and something you can bang out on weekends, do you guys tour much? or play out much at all? and how would a live mold omen set differ from the home stew?

Baltimore is small but has an irrationally large art and music scene for the amount of people here. Despite the size there’s a clique element to the city. We’ve both benefited and felt limited by the clique approach, but what can you do? We played out a lot more before we took a brief hiatus while Mike and his wife had a child. We’ve been slow to get back into it, but venues close and change pretty frequently here so it’s not uncommon for a lull in shows.

The only thing that’s really different in our approach to playing live is we generally have a better idea of what we’re doing and almost inevitably some piece of equipment breaks or malfunctions in front of people when we’re setting up.

andy, you’ve started yr own tape label, volcano casanova (great name!), what made you want to get that going and how do you think that’ll help with future releases of mold omen or yr own solo jams? is it a vehicle to keep pumping everything out, you mentioned that you have a pretty good archive of work waiting/ready for release at any time? do you have plans to release other material outside yr family tree? and so far it’s been recycled tape styles, any other format plans? or professional duplication?

I want to limit the number of releases that I’m involved in and would rather start to promote other people. I chose an album from myself because I was ready for that to come out and I knew Mold Omen had a killer exotica album in us. I have a few releases lined up, and the timeline is pretty fluid so I’m not too worried about doing this above a hobby level at this point. I definitely want to have more people outside of us do it, but I like having the format of the label be hyper curated. Even if there’s an artist that hasn’t really played around with those sounds, but I think they’re sonically interesting I’m probably asking them to do an album.

I won’t do professional duplication. I don’t have any kind of strict political feeling about it (obviously many MO albums have been done this way) but for me, I just rather have the feeling that this tape with weird sounds came from some place else entirely. Also economically, it just makes more sense for me to do it this way.

how do you define post-exotica and what are some of the styles or techniques that yr into that you think pushes some of this music into this frame?

Post-exotica is easy listening gone through the orgone machine. All the nice, vaguely familiar and soothing sounds turn into tales of anxiety. Although there are lots of people who previously have used these templates to explore the farther reaches of relaxation, I always think of the twin peaks of post-exotica as Mike Cooper and Tom Recchion.

when did you guys start to get into more experimental or underground sounds? i’m always fascinated with the curve we all take towards more specific scenes or sounds that we’re looking for, or chasing, and i think we all tend to stumble into weirder shit in neat ways. sometimes it’s a natural progression from say college/indie rock into captain beefheart into free jazz into sun city girls, etc, or it’s a mind-blow of a concert/show/drugs/situation where it all comes at once, do you guys jump all over the place in yr listening habits? i would guess that you guys stretch into pretty extreme tastes across the board?

At some point in my twenties I just hit a wall and I remember thinking “I just can’t listen to another white guy with a guitar talk about his feelings” and then really pushed myself to figure out what was going on with something like Wolf Eyes.

So it was just going further and further away, but I always think in terms of Mold Omen, we’re a song based group so the kind of thing that we listen to is probably not that too out there.

what’s been blowing you away of late? anything on yr minds pertaining to any scenes or formats or changing listening patterns? authors or filmmakers that inspire? life things that yr grappling with?

The last time I was at Mike’s he had the new Alan Bishop and the Beatriz Ferreyra. Lately for me I have not been into a bunch of new stuff, but taking a detour into guys like Eugene Chadbourne, Daevid Allen, and Henry Flynt. I took a two-week sabbatical from home recording and finally read Ulysses, which was really great. No wonder people talk about that book so much.

you seem to revel in blown-out and busted-up gear and sound choices, where do you land on the gear fetishist scale? (zero being ‘don’t give a shit, just play’ and ten being ‘i collect vintage tube amps and reel to reel machines’) and do you have preferences for home recording vs studio styles. and the lower fidelity and hairier audio choices are part of the master plan, correct?

We did a majority of our recording in the basement of a house I lived in for about four years and the natural reverb of that spot was really great. Since then I’ve moved into other apartments and capturing the sound has become a challenge and has made us think about different ways we can alter our recording. But mostly it’s still just practice amps being recorded into the onboard mic of a computer.

I’m really not a gear fetishist. I certainly have preferences for stuff, but the most interesting sounds come from different things. I have a violin that I’ve owned for as long as we’ve been a band and I never changed the strings. Since I don’t really know how to play any instrument anyways, it’s more an effort of making the most interesting sound out of anything I’m in front of.

can you tell me what’s going on with this new album? some heavy droning guitars and feedback, what is it we’re hearing? what are the instruments at play here? is tone and sustaining figures the goal, and just holding drones to sink yr teeth into? there’s a beautiful balance between long held tanpura-type drone/sustain/ring and some wild sharrock’esque guitar skittery, even some druggy vocal moans, a nice mix of drifting eye-close and wake-the- fuck-up, that on purpose here? two sides of the same coin?

I’m pretty sure you nailed it. There is guitar, keyboard (maybe even from both of us), droning vocals, probably a cassette being played or the oscillation of a pedal chain. I think since we were both doing music reviews at a high point for drone releases (2008-2010- ish) it was sort of draining to try and find a new way to write about a record that just sounded like someone turning up a knob very slowly. There was a concerted effort to add more sounds to a drone, especially cause we were not interested in being a “drone band”. Drones are precise and we are not. And if it sounds like we were being precise, that’s either a trick of recording or editing or both.

if someone from work or in yr family says ‘oh yr a musician? what kind of music do you play?’ what do you respond with?

Haha, my family doesn’t really ask questions about what I’m doing with my life, but they understand I’m pretty weird. I think they would just nod politely in that way that people do when they have no idea what you’re talking about.

do you have any patterns or rituals when it comes to jamming together and for recording? and do you record everything? record with tape and/or digital?

We definitely do the “record everything” thing because you just never know. A lot of times you wind up using something like 25% of that (or less) because of technical issues, or you listen back and you don’t like what you’re playing or you’re gear starts fucking up.

We also do everything digitally cause it’s a step away from editing later. Even though I use cassettes a lot, I don’t have any romantic notion of using tape.

thanks andy, appreciate taking the time to answer these! what’s coming up with yr solo work and what are the future mold omen plans?

We have another album coming out on Moon Myst tapes which will be a nice companion piece to “No Edits in Heaven”. I have a couple of solo albums that I’m trying to finish up and one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done is called “Cabana Dentata” and I believe it’s coming out on Lurker Bias in Chicago.

Other than that we’re just gonna keep being weird.

Library #10

Downer Canada – Hieronsong

“being and outside been freed from being and freed being be outside and freed being pressure and atmosphere and minerals be been collecting being thoughts created airs being thoughts created airs being airs created thoughts being inside control and be beyond thoughts outside and leaving and lapping against other being thoughts lapping now outside being lapping and leaving been being outside my control”

Tenth release added to the library is the second collection from my Downer Canada project, titled Hieronsong. Physical copies were dubbed at home in a tiny edition of 11 cassettes and 5 microcassettes. Digital is free on Free Music Archive and Bandcamp, please grab and share.

Thanks for listening and take care,

Library #9

ROW – Live Den

Row (like a boat) or row (like a fight) are interchangeable when Cheryl and I pronounce this name, and lately I’ve been calling it Rest of World (like when yr shipping international), but she doesn’t like that as much, so sometimes we compromise with capitals – ROW or R.O.W. – to keep it mysterious and to make it look like the letters stand for something, maybe it’s a secret history or location (like rippling old willows), a place you could go to and to be hypnotized by.

Cheryl moves at a different pace than I do with recording and putting together albums, her Sealadder project is a lesson in patience and non-ego, letting it go to come back to later, nothing attached from before and no conceptions or philosophies taking it into the future. Just listen, make minor changes, listen some more, and let it rest. A monk tending to her garden, getting out of the way, letting nature and photosynthesis do the heavy lifting, guided by the wind shaking the branches and the sun and rain texturally changing the colours.

She won’t think twice about cutting out or editing around material, where I tend to work more in salvaging/repurposing, and a hell of a lot faster, which is my achilles heel. I move too fast, one project’ll bleed into the next and I’m going right after it, fired up, staying up way into the night on work nights and the weekends, almost hurriedly lose no time Kerouac-blues gunning for elated or high-feeling euphoria in-the-moment, sometimes I’ll get close, but never a direct hit, which keeps me cycling back to the paper-scroll of typewriter streams of consciousness.

First thought is always best thought when I work, I tend to blow right by things that most likely need another once-over or two, and I tend to get ahead of myself on every project I work on. That sentence has a lot of I’s, and that’s another problem.

This material has been sculpted and dug out from almost two years of recording, working purposefully quiet to slow-build the tracks.

This is much dirtier and grittier than our first album. The bright and trebled melodies have been replaced by claustrophobic, alleyway landscapes where soil and concrete overlap and turn grey. We wanted to go a bit deeper into our psyches/spirits and like a bad-trip vision quest you have to flip out a bit before you settle into yr own skin. We want the work to teeter on the edge, be more realistic, stripped of the shine and our idealistic naivete, it should include mysterious-feelings of our existential what’s-this and less feelings from us simultaneously. Blanker, content yet sympathetic, trying to get out of our own way, a natural flow where you can trace the direction and the path.

A blistering hot hike for hours inside a canvas of growth and brush, only secondary moments of sinking sun and winded breeze as relief, the meditation and endurance plays tricks and is the trick itself.

Magic is a state of mind.

Call it amateur electronic dub and chant communication. Things slip out of time, parts don’t totally line up as they probably should, there’s frequencies that are skying out of the frame, and that’s the wind blowing through the trees. We’re trying to build this from scratch and we’re winging it, and that improvisation and home-made craft-effort hopefully transcends the means and pushes this closer to that ecstatic environmental-sounding hallucination we’re after, or at the very least, it’s a step in that direction.

North/northwest and climbing.

I may have rushed this album a bit compared to how Cheryl would like to work, but that’s because I deeply believe in it (her as well) and think something happened along the way with the recordings we were collecting, a synchronous infinitive before-now-after, a strange feeling that they have been waiting here for us and will continue to grow out from our own rougher roots as transmissional sign-place, here-now and gone, flying off on their own cycle unattached.

Cheryl said that one track made her feel like she was in another world, and maybe we’re hoping that would actually be the case, a signal-spark at a microscopic level colliding with a floating oral history, only preserved by jumping tides. One can dream.

From the both of us, we hope you give a listen and we sincerely thank you for sharing your time with us.

Tapes were done in a small edition dubbed at home, in an edition of 25. Digital is free. Get in touch via email (powermoveslabel at gmail dot com) if you want a cassette, they’ll be free, we just ask that you can cover post, but we can work that out later. A few copies will be made available on bandcamp too if that’s a better/easier choice for you.

Take care,

Library #7

Layne Garrett – Reportage

Layne Garrett interview for his new release Reportage (Power Moves Library #7) available now.

hey layne, it was great meeting you recently and i’d love to get a little more inside yr work and process so why not start with this new album, what tools were used for this recording and what kind of instruments are you playing? what am i hearing?

let’s see – side 1 is tapes and feedback recorded live. some of the tapes are 30-second loops, some of them are regular cassettes, some 4-track, all of them are stuff i recorded, me playing god knows what. and then played back through various players and speakers – it’s been awhile, but i think there’s feedback happening probably via contact mic’d speakers.

the first track on side 2 is prepared resonator guitar recorded live, with roommate kitchen sounds in the background (hi-fi stuff i know). and then the patsy cline cover, if you can call it that, it’s three layers of homemade electronics and a vocal track, recorded to 4-track.

how do you know when you feel you’ve got a good recording/take and do you have any flow or rhythm in mind when you are building the collages?

i like to think i can feel it when interesting things are happening, but sometimes ya know you can get sucked into something that feels good but that isn’t necessarily worth trying to get anyone else to sit through. i remember reading a william s burroughs essay where he talks about whenever he feels like he’s written something good, it’s invariably trash. i don’t agree with that sentiment, but i do kind of keep it in the back of my head to check myself, to remember to listen with an extra critical ear when i’m feeling particularly ebullient about something i’ve played.

are slice-of-life verite moments just as important as the musical elements and what kind of sounds do you have in mind before you start recording/archiving?

i try not to have too much in mind before i start. i think it’s possible that what you’re hearing as ‘verite’ are me attempting to make music, ha. i can’t think of any moments in these recordings where i’m using source material that wasn’t initially intended to be musical.

what were you listening to/reading/watching/thinking about when producing this album?

eesh i dunno it’s been 6 months to a year since i made these recordings. one thing is that i’ve been compiling a tragic song playlist in my head for some years now, and the patsy cline song is on that list. some personal drama was behind a convoluted impulse to make that recording and the emotions released therein. in general no matter how detached i may try to be, music for me is certainly a conduit for accessing and expressing certain emotional realms. i think there can be direct and indirect parallels to psychological processes.

tied with the question earlier, instead of saying what are yr influences, i like to think about it more in terms of what are some of the feelings/ideas/thoughts you have about other powerful music/art that sits with you as yr creating, what sort of things are seeping into what you do? and this can be anything, not necessarily music-related, if that’s the case.

think i answered this one above. i’ll add that for me any art or music i’m particularly engaged with at any time is on a continuum with lived life, with relationships, conversations, interactions with the world around me. i have a four-year-old, you met her, i imagine maybe you could sense that she is a major source of inspiration, fount of energy, producer of all sorts of powerful feelings. i’ve also been spending a bunch of time on my friend’s farm in recent months, which is a source of sounds (incredibly loud frogs, wow; glass bottle dumps in the woods; longform bird conversations,…) and of calm – the landscape is open in a way that frees up some of the knots in the brain…

do you have any preference when it comes to tape or digital? any go-to recording devices?

well, my tiny portable digital recorder is definitely convenient for live recording and field recording. i usually use tapes more as an intermediary.

do you distinguish between found or field recordings and musical sessions when you archive? or do you compile on the fly and know where yr headed?

i have some recordings that are well-labeled, date, source, etc, and then i have piles and piles of unlabeled tapes and files, years and years, piles and piles……

you build instruments, when did you start to play around with that and how has the process and progress changed, if at all? what are some of yr favourite builds? do you have a workshop to get lost in? have any advice for someone looking to start building musical objects?

i lived in phoenix for awhile forever ago, i was into music but hadn’t yet been turned on to anything really out there, certainly had no knowledge of the array of experimental instrument builders that exists scattered all around. one day someone tossed out a box of random metal debris, small stuff, machined parts of i dunno what – for whatever reason i was fascinated. grabbed it, built some wind chimes for some friends who were about to get married. i remember spending tons of time on them and being really happy with how they came out, and at some point realizing i was probably way more excited about them than my friends were going to be, but giving them anyway. (first in a long and continuing string of realizations that no matter how endlessly fascinated you and i may be by the drip of a certain water pipe or the hum of a certain bathroom fan, etc, that it ain’t always a translateable feeling. that’s one thing that’s been so refreshing about having a kid, is that you can see with a blank-ish slate how open a person is to being enthralled by just about anything….)

anyway – instruments – my process is intuitive. if i start with a plan, the plan changes along the way. i always work with found/reclaimed materials, so part of it is a function of that – opening to what i’ve got and seeing where it takes me. it’s kind of an opposite path to the current emphasis on ‘makers’ and the importance of the design process, all of that. i find that stuff a bit hard to take. fostering creativity ultimately in the service of capital. like, hey, let’s design our way out of this shit-show, who are we kidding.

mmhmm – instruments – i’ve made a few sets of hanging gongs out of found car metal, i really like those. each piece of metal has a tone/tones all its own, many with distinct pitches, lots of wild overtones. i’m really into random tunings, things that kind of impose a shape from the start that as a player you’re then working with(in). also let’s see, i made this thing called the hadron collider, it’s a board with about 12 or 14 strings on it, stretched across a 5-inch speaker, so the speaker acts as the bridge, and then there is an acoustic guitar pickup under the strings near the nut. so i can either play sound through the speaker and process it through the strings, or more recently i’ve been using it primarily as a feedback device, so the pickup goes into the mixer and straight back out through the speaker, it’s a very expressive way of manipulating feedback, by varying the tension of the strings by putting varying amounts of pressure on them behind the speaker-bridge.

what are yr ideal recording situations/environments? what about ideal gear? do you scout out locations for some of the recording or does it just come natural, more in the moment?

i’m not picky about this kind of thing.

yr interested in free gift culture, was there any thing or moment that helped push you into that philosophy? i’ve always been interested in offering things like a library would, archived and ready to listen to/share, and i’d rather have it all out there (even if under water). i think value can be defined in multiple ways and we sometimes get a little locked into how things have always been, and it’s interesting to me to bounce outside of that and to try out different ideas or options. how do you define value or artistic growth vs payment? can they be separated?

well politically i’m on the spectrum of communist-leaning-anarchist. if someone wants to hear something of mine i want them to hear it. surviving as an artist, well it’s not possible unless you teach etc. which, it’s great for artists to teach. the thing for me (and i imagine for many others) is that the whole system of value is just so fucked. i guess as an artist you have to choose to what degree you want/need to subject your art to a system of valuation you don’t believe in. for me just living life, making the smallest decisions can sometimes be paralyzing, the alienation just becomes so overwhelming. i guess the right thing to do is to push through that, which in art maybe means to create things/experiences that straddle the line, that are accessible within the current paradigm and that point to possibilities so much more interesting, more human.

yr heavy into prepared guitar/banjo, what are some tricks/treats that you employ and when did you mutate/modify away from ‘traditional’ playing? and are you looking for weird scales/tuning systems or is sound as natural raw material the idea yr after?

yeah, i used to do alot of fingerstyle playing in crazy tunings, i think i got bored with the timbral limitations, so now i shove lots of things between the strings and investigate the results. been playing with rubber bands alot lately, to sort of half-mute, bring out hidden harmonics.

you make sculptural/musical creations and invite others to play and share in them, do you have any new ones taking shape and whereabouts are some of the pieces you’ve built floating around? the large sculpture/wind-gongs in the backyard of rhizome dc is amazing!

thanks! most of the larger-scale stuff i’ve made was never meant to be permanent, and as such the components are currently ‘floating around’ in piles in my studio awaiting their next assignment.

what do you look for in collaborations? what makes a strong community? benefits of lonerism vs collectives?

in collaborations: connection, defined somewhat intuitively. alchemical potential – wherein what is produced is more than the sum of the parts. also, growth potential. will this person and i push each other in new directions?

you have a world of sounds/vision, completely to the side of other ‘noise/experimental’ acts/persons, when/how do you think that vision started to take shape? or do you view yrself as constantly evolving and trying new things/ideas? no time to take the temperature?

well thanks, yeah i think my vision is cultivated on the fly, i just try to keep things interesting.

when did dissonance and deep listening become crucial to what you do? did you have to learn to listen at all? have you always been curious with sound? would you rather know how to play an instrument or play it for the first time?

i’m getting fuzzy, going to skip this one.

do you have any other intensely-focused hobbies or avocations? anything that uses parts of the brain in the same way? what about totally differently?

well, for me sex / physical bodily connection reaches into realms of consciousness that can overlap with those accessed musically. also, focused awareness of strong physical stimuli of whatever kind – cold water, meditative listening in nature, overwhelming flavors,…

other than that, parenting can be an intensely focused activity, in ways that range across the spectrum.

thanks for doing this man, it’s always great to dig deeper, isn’t it?

thank you kevin!

The Reportage tape is in a small edition of 20 copies, dubbed and assembled at home. Digital is available as a free download on Free Music Archive and Bandcamp.

We hope you like this, from the both of us, thanks so much for reading/listening!

Talk soon,

Library #6

Talugung – Folded Spring

Ryan Waldron/Talugung interview for his new release Folded Spring (Power Moves Library #6) available now.

hey ryan, so i count this as number 9 for the talugung project, as you’ve had a number of tapes and cdrs put out by a few different labels, including housecraft and sloow tapes and a bunch of other good-ones, how did you approach this collection of pieces versus the other works earlier in yr history and how has yr set-up/process evolved?

For some of my albums, especially the early ones, I overdubbed parts in real time; actually playing the instruments. With this new album I only did a little bit of live playing, mostly I’m working with short samples. The one thing that links the albums is the use of some favourite sounds.

i know that we talked before a little about how yr working these days, which is more computer-based and with samples and with layering/collaging, what are some of the instruments that yr recording or how are you getting the more organic/acoustic-sounding material?

I recorded some things at home – bowed wood paint sticks, bowed gongs, wine glasses, autoharp, cello, drums, glockenspiel, toys etc. Besides my own recordings, I also sampled some acoustic sounds from records – trumpets, violins, metallophones, flutes, and birds. I kept a lot of untreated acoustic sound in the final mixes.

i also hear quite a few sounds and ideas peppering throughout the entirety of the work, does this collection feel like one giant composition or are the segments/fragments purposeful and distinct to you?

The material I assembled was a bit modular, in that I put all the samples into the same tuning so that anything could fit with anything and still be in tune, so in that sense everything is like a big piece. I also used similar approaches with some of the songs, like the use of scattered drum sounds – but once I got working on the individual tracks, I wanted to give them an individual character.

when did time and rhythm become essential to talugung? yr a guitar player too and have always been tripped out by odder rhythms, i know that we always talk about charley patton and robert pete williams and joseph spence as being particularly complex and funky, and i know that you love african music and did a short-lived radio show at cfbu in st catharines, what is it about those elements that wow you? and do you try to hit at those types of ideas/movements? how would you describe that upbeat rhythmic thing that yr after?

I’m drawn to stuff that has fast interlocking rhythms, but with this album I’m trying to fake that feeling somewhat in that things are happening fast but without really lining up. I’m trying to make the mess of things happening sound a bit less like a mess – I think you can get part of the way there because our brains seem to want to find order in a sequence of sounds. A listener can supply their own sense of pulse to events happening that aren’t in strict metrical rhythms. An image I like is rain drops falling on water – it’s both random but highly patterned at the same time.

continuing with time, yr new stuff is getting freer and freer, it’s almost an insane computer free jazz, when you think of these pieces beforehand (if you do) are you structuring it or seeing it play out this way? or do you want to get in and work on the computer and let the pieces sort of dictate what flow they should take?

Once I start testing out sounds with other sounds, I’m looking for little sequences that seem to click – it’s almost like finding a riff that can be varied and expanded. I search for different textures that work together and then trying to arrange them into combinations where they sound like they’re interacting with each other; sounds colliding in the air and bouncing around.

it seems that the complexities and aural bulk is key to making the work for you, but you’ll find a way to have one sole instrument or sound or scrape stand alone for a brief second, is that contradiction or push-pull something yr going for? having a busy music fade out into simpler, more minimalistic tones?

One of the interesting things that happens when you start overdubbing sounds is as soon you add a sound to another sound, you’re subtracting part of what made the original sound interesting when it was standing by itself. I made a conscious effort to have the music swing back and forth from stacked sounds to silence. Hopefully this adds some interest; and you can’t beat a well-timed pause –

the sounds that all of yr releases have share a commonality with just intonation-type ideas, really neat and strange tunings and alien island sounds and more of a made-up language and system, and then when you think about music concrete and acousmatic musics, and computer and analogue editing and looping and manipulations, how do you find working on the computer with tuning systems versus playing around with stringed instruments? what are some of the ideas that yr after with tuning? dissonance? open strings?

I tuned instruments and samples to a simple just intonation scale that is pretty consonant but varies from standard tempered tuning. The computer allows you to pitch shift things around. Using a different pitch system makes the music sound different and creates different combinations of tones – everything vibrates differently. I like to use sliding pitches to add more variations as well. In the end, the just intonation ideas held up in some of the songs more than others. It’s hard not to get carried away in adding more noises and indeterminate pitches.

you’ve built several instruments over the years, can you tell me a bit about yr favourite ones and what kind of notions were at play for wanting to make them or create them? was it more of a function of finding different and newer raw sound? or did you want to make newer sounds with different tunings that you weren’t getting from the guitar, ideas in yr head that you weren’t able to get elsewhere?

One of my favourite sounds is bowed wood. It has a great vocal quality. If you use paint sticks cut to different lengths you can get a wobbly scale. Also bowed metal prongs have that similar vocal, moaning kind of sound. You can also bow metal things like coffee cans. One of the most interesting things I’ve done was adding stretched springs to an instrument to create a natural acoustic spring reverb that’s pretty similar to spring reverb in a guitar amp.

tying in with that, did you use any of the instruments you’ve built on this particular record? and what kind of instruments did you record/sample from yr stash and what kind of sounds were you looking for beyond yr collection/material?

I did use a few of my instruments I built on this album, mostly discussed in the questions above. For sampling other sounds, I tried to find some nice drum and synth sounds. I was favouring a pretty dry sound to keep everything defined and I didn’t worry about bass very much except I plunked bass drums here and there.

one theme i’m hearing on this tape and the one previous for power moves label proper, multiplying dead ends, is the use of children’s voices/cries? are you recording yr son and daughter?

Yes, my kids sing and vocalize on the tracks; just little snippets. It felt good to tie the music back to the specific time and place when it was created, plus my kids loved yelling into the microphone and then hearing the playback.

down the line, what kind of family band to you envision for the waldrons?

What’s the best example of a family-based band to aspire to? Maybe something like ESG?

what were some of the input sources that came along with the output recording and working on this record? what were you listening to/watching/reading/thinking about?

I’ve been taking out a lot of books from the library on 20th century artists. It’s interesting how my perception of artists has changed over the years – I think I appreciate everything more than I ever have but my taste is a bit different than when I was 20. I notice different things. For music, while I was making this album I was listening to some old and new electronic music. I was trying to tie this album into some of the ideas, approaches and sounds used in electronic music from the 50s and 60s and 70s.

I also can’t avoid a steady diet of West African music. I found out recently that the Syliphone Archive at the British Library is now available for streaming. There’s almost 8000 songs recorded in Guinea between the 50s and 90s; so much great music and with 8000 songs it feels almost endless.

yr art walks similar paths to yr music, do you view them as in parallel? does one reflect back on the other? are there ideas or themes that correlate?

I think with both drawing and music I want things to be a bit perplexing.

if you could have an ideal live gig or recording situation, what would be some of the tools that you would want for that? what are some of the dream instruments to play on? what are some of the historical computer or synthesizers or machines that you’d want a go at?

It might be interesting be able to play midi guitars where you can load your own samples and choose different non-tempered tunings. For historical stuff, Buchla Synths and mellotrons would be fun to have a look at.

and finally, back to this tape, do you let chance and randomness get involved in the work? and how much do you try to plan out or manage as yr recording and layering? meaning, do you have specific types of sounds or moves in mind when yr collaging and adding melody? and do you have specific outcomes or patterns that yr thinking about ahead of time or as yr going? how much improvisation plays a part?

There was a lot of initial work to set up a library of sounds for the whole album. Once that was ready to go, I just start putting things together to see what works. Once there are a few things working together, I’ll have ideas for additions and then slowly expand the time from a 10-20 second loop to something longer. Then I’ll change the different sections of things to try and find a balance between repetition and variation. These pieces don’t change that much from beginning to end except that the different sounds and motifs are playing in different combinations. For all the randomness, I was hoping I could stumble across some melody in a patchwork kind of way.

The Folded Spring tape is in a tiny edition of 17 copies, dubbed and assembled at home. Digital is available and free to download on Bandcamp and at the Free Music Archive.

From the both of us, we sincerely hope you give it a listen and we hope you dig it.

Talk soon, more to come,