The library’s first CD-R.
A split disc from two anomalous, constantly working, compelling artists.
Ryan Waldron, who records as Talugung and lives in Hamilton, glides the first four pieces through intricate trial-and-error fascinated with microtonal and limiting scale-work, mesmerized and ultimately shaping entire hypnotic and repeating sound-worlds around treated timbre and wooden sustain. Adventurous and meditative, a deep approach to unwinding natural pulse and natural acoustic emulation.
Blanca Rego, who records as _blank and lives in Barcelona, finishes the album with a long-form curious piece of abstracted reinterpreted field recording, both data-bent and new-art cumulative, turning found sound ideas into stretched-out puffs of smoke, blurred from original presentation and flipped into static one-note-like hanging clouds. They pass by overhead but brush against us and vibrate like breezes from heavy swinging bells pushing their musical imprint of fine air and movement.
I asked both artists the same five questions, please read on.
how did you go about preparing and recording this album and when did this material start to take shape? did you have a plan in mind on how you wanted it to sound or be presented? did you do anything differently with this collection of material that is new or part of a newer process for you? can you describe what it is that we’re hearing?
Ryan: I started working on this in the spring of 2016 by recording a few sounds that I thought might work well together. I ended up using 8 or 9 acoustic samples that I pitch-shifted into different just intonation scales. There are bowed metal and wood sounds, some flutes, a gong, and a plucked wood sound. I’ve had the idea to try to make some tunes using a kind of unequal loop style for a while. Since the loops are slightly different lengths, the melodies and harmonies are constantly changing, but at the same time there’s lots of repetition. This technique is similar to some of Steve Reich’s early pieces.
Blanca: The original material was a field recording made through one of the windows of the flat where I live in Barcelona (Spain). That specific window is not directly over the street, it’s over some courtyards of the buildings of the block, and the side street is usually quiet because it’s narrow, without traffic, but that day there was a bit of noise because there were some people dismantling a small stage. I didn’t have any plan in mind when I made the recording, I just made it. Later that day, I was editing it, without any aim, just playing with filters, equalizers, etc. and I ended up with that track, which I found funny because it’s quite dark, like something from a horror film, but the original material was really mundane and uninteresting. Usually I don’t work with field recordings, but when I use field recordings I tend to end up with very abstract sounds, because I’m not interested in documentation or representation.
you both work in other art forms/media, was there anything visual that would be considered a pairing to this work that you were working on or even just thinking about? do you see yr music in colour and if so, what are the tones or shadings that you visualize? what is it about music creation that keeps you inspired in alternative ways from other media/drawing?
Ryan: Maybe minimalist abstraction from the 60s? Something more abstract often works well with instrumental music, I think. I visualize music a little bit, but nothing too specific as far as colour goes. It’s definitely interesting to think about how we actually experience music. I’m sure we’re all creating new mental models for the experience every time we listen to something, with the listening environment playing a big role. Making music can be pretty different if you piece things together on a computer vs playing an instrument, but I find I enjoy both for the same reason I like visual art – I think the inspiration is similar, but I usually end up focusing on one thing at a time.
Blanca: I’ve always been obsessed with the relationship between image and sound, and most of my work reflects that obsession, but this piece is just a sound experiment. I wasn’t thinking in anything visual when I made it, it’s more about an atmosphere or an emotional state. I don’t consider myself a musician and I’m not really interested in creating “music”. When I work exclusively with sound, I don’t think in any kind of colours or visuals. If I’m working in something that uses sound and images, usually both things are so tied that I don’t see the sound in colours or the colours as sound, for me both are the same thing. In fact, I work a lot with data bending, saving audio files as image files and vice versa, so images and sounds are exactly the same data, not an interpretation. I think that the main difference between sound and other media is that we feel sound through our whole body, not just the ears, so it can move you not only emotionally but also physically.
the act of disassembling or removing parts is pretty key to both of yr processes i think (or maybe it’s the other way around, a very serious and determined slow-building or assembly), is that a fair statement to make? all of this material is highly minimal-sounding, whether it is the short repetitive staccato pitch of talugung or the drawn-out and distorted and granular cloud-filled pulsing tone of _blank, why do you choose to work within a limited tonal/notational scale or pitch, is there freedom in hearing similar sounds move and shift in subtle and suggestive ways? i find both of yr albums very moving, was this palette set beforehand or was there some trial-and-error involved to get the right feeling?
Ryan: I subtracted or didn’t include lots of false starts or combinations that I wasn’t happy with. Sometimes it’s nice to focus on the details of a particular sound and if you record some interesting sounds that can get you off on the right foot to using a minimal palette. With these pieces I was mainly working with rhythm and melody ideas so trial and error to get the right tempos, densities and note combinations for the selected sounds was important. I ended up using six-note scales for the 4 pieces. I tried pentatonic scales but I found it was sounding too much like I was copying Balinese music. Six-note scales are nice to work with, and it’s fun to try out different intervals. On the second piece I used big gaps between some notes so it has very uneven, unbalanced scale.
Blanca: I’m not a musician, so I can’t set a palette beforehand, when I work with sound there’s a lot of trial and error, and even chance, involved. I don’t think that I disassemble or remove parts, but I’m definitely interested in void and noise and I prefer drones and pulsing tones than melodies or musical structures, so I guess that I tend to simplify. When you work with musical structures, you’re working with a very traditional system, even if what you create is not pop. Curiously, most people think that noise music is much more incompressible or intellectual than “standard” music, but that’s not true, noise is something really simple and physical, while music is a very complex construction, a way to organise noise. I’m not specifically interested in a limited tonal/notational scale or pitch, but I don’t want to create “music” because music moves you in an “artificial” way, I’m much more interested in throwing off the listener than in creating any kind of specific emotion.
if you had to recreate yr part of the split album live using only acoustic instruments, say in a trio or quartet setting, what would be the instrument choices? or maybe you wouldn’t want to do that at all, so you don’t have pick, but maybe you could mention why working in this way, digitally and alone (and i can dig that too), is the end-game?
Ryan: It would take some instruments that could play non-tempered scales – maybe trombones, violins, or a string quartet, or some Harry Partch sorts of things. It would also probably take pretty expert players to play the shifting loops. It’s pretty easy to get tuning and rhythmic precision when you use a computer and the end results can have an interesting sound, but a live acoustic version would be great.
Blanca: I wouldn’t want to do that, I prefer the abstraction of the digital media. Obviously, a computer is not an abstract thing, but it’s not specifically for making music, an acoustic instrument is just for that. I don’t work always alone, but usually I prefer to work alone because what I do is really personal, I’m not trying to explain something, or to transmit a message or a feeling, so it’s difficult to work with other people because usually I don’t have any aim in mind. But it’s neither improvisation, I know what I’m doing and what I’m trying to dislocate, at least when I make experimental films, which is what I do mainly.
what’s the future bring? happy new year! any resolutions?
Ryan: I plan to make some woodcuts and hang out with the kids – simple goals! Thanks Kev!
Blanca: Who knows… but it’d be nice to be able to make a living with my films. Happy new year!
The split CD-R was burned at home in a small edition of 33 copies, with accompanying original black-and-white artwork by both artists printed on banana paper at home, housed in recycled paper envelopes.
From all of us, we hope you enjoy and can pass it on.