Sharon Stone at Cannes 2021
Sharon Stone at Cannes 2021
Rap God Aura
Dokuz İmparator Tanrılar Festivali, Tayland.
louis' "few changes" are him playing some songs with the guitar u cant change my mind...
BY JORDAN MAINZER
What is a piece of music, and at what point does it become something else? These are the questions that Loscil’s latest album Clara asks, somewhat inherently. The ambient electronic project from Vancouver musician Scott Morgan has always found seemingly infinite depths in minimal composition. During a set at Big Ears Festival 2015 celebrating the release of 2014′s Sea Island, he generated imperfect associations of images of waves and colors with sounds and pitches, defying expectations for even those who were paying close attention. 2019′s Equivalents was comprised of piano samples inspired by Alfred Stieglitz’s black-and-white photos of clouds; knowing the context of the music proved rewarding, as the sounds were open enough to generate new imagined visual inspirations based on each listener’s personal context. Clara takes Loscil’s vastness to even further heights--yet, its source material is a mere 3 minutes.
Always wanting to return to his educational roots and work with acoustic musicians, Morgan took advantage of an orchestra in Budapest auctioning off time slots for them to play others’ compositions. He got a half-hour slot with the 22-piece (!) band, and they played the aforementioned few minutes and recorded it, lathe-cut, onto a 7-inch they sent to him in February 2020. What Morgan did next is probably not what the orchestra expected: He purposefully broke the physical product, and then resampled it to make an entirely new piece of music, sending off Clara to longtime record label Kranky last summer. “It was always my intention to do an album this way,” Morgan told me over the phone a few months ago before the album was released in late May. “Do a piece for an orchestra, take it apart, and put it back together again.”
Like many of Loscil’s albums, Clara is inspired by ideas of light and dark, from moods and timbres to the imagery it conveys or is inspired by. What’s most stunning is how much at times it sounds sourced from acoustic instrumentation while other times appearing completely alien. Opener “Lux” retains the somber quality of the strings along with the drone hues of the samples and layers, alternating between shadow and light like a rising sun in the morning occasionally obscured by clouds. “Stella” has similarly recognizable instrumentation, but the disintegration of the record gives the sounds a hornlike quality before descending into total piece. And strings are coupled with slow arpeggios on “Flamma”. Yet, tracks like “Lumina”, “Lucida”, and “Vespera” have percussive, lurching qualities, clacking beats and distant arpeggios that recall ambient techno. The drones of “Sol” chop in and out, while the penultimate “Orta” sports skitters of background texture, swaying into the slow-building closing title track. Clara is, simply, an all-encompassing album, one that has equal capacity to confound and captivate.
Read my interview with Morgan about Clara, edited for length and clarity.
Since I Left You: Why do you think you’ve been wanting to do an album like Clara for such a long time?
Scott Morgan: I’ve always been a kind of, for lack a better description, “closet real” composer. I went to music school and learned the basics of writing for instruments but got kind of hypnotized by electronic and computer music and left the acoustic writing world behind, always having it in the back of my mind that I’d like to return to writing orchestral or large ensemble works. I was looking for a way to do that on the cheap, because for one, it’s usually really expensive, and one way composers get that opportunity is by working on a film, but a project never came along. So I thought I’d take it into my own hands. The goal was always to try writing for a larger ensemble and get back to that way of working while weaving it in to the work I do with computers and electronics.
SILY: There are a lot of contrasting elements here: You have this large orchestra, but the recording you have is a finite number of minutes, yet you get so much out of the source material. That’s the type of thing I feel like people have done during the pandemic, to try to get a lot out of little source material. Do you feel the same way?
SM: Yeah. Honestly, that’s been sort of my approach all along. I really enjoy the process of sourcing new sounds. That’s what excites and inspires me, to build a palate or collection of new sounds. Usually, they’re intimate recordings of small things like instruments or field recordings, things I can easily do myself at home or in the field. I like to create that kernel of stuff you can rework, loop, filter, process, and continue to develop a library out of. This time, I really wanted to do it specifically with a large ensemble. It’s such a rich and familiar sound and part of our psyche, in a way, mostly because of classical music and film scoring. There’s just something really universal about that kind of orchestral sound I really wanted to work with.
SILY: There’s an aspect of Clara that has to do with natural decay of material, and similarly, there’s an inherently somber, nostalgic quality to orchestral string music that fits with that idea. Is that nostalgia consistent with your relationship with string or orchestra music?
SM: There’s lots of hokey, cheeseball string music out there if you really want to find it. But we are very selective. It’s that film music aspect of it. It’s been used in so many emotional scenes in films. That aspect has driven home the idea that it’s this very introspective trigger. There’s no doubt that’s partly why I’m attracted to it. It’s an automatic connection to inner space.
SILY: When you talk about how much this album has to do with light and shade, do you mean with regard to the images that it might evoke or something even more literal?
SM: There are two things about that. One, over the years of making music and receiving feedback from people, I find it really interesting how some people interpret things as dark, and how people use that word to describe music quite often. I find that fascinating because other people come to me and tell me they use the same piece of music for meditating, doing yoga, or having a baby. I had someone tell me they played my records while they were giving birth. [laughs]
SM: I found this dual interpretation fascinating, and I realized that when you make music that reaches a level of intimacy for a listener--like listening on headphones and going into a hypnotic state--it triggers a subjective place that people are in. I think there is something about just creating contrast and an emotional foundation through which the listener can enter and bring their emotional state.
That’s one aspect of light and dark. The other is I’ve been interested, at an amateur level, in photography and image-making in general and gravitate to black and white because it strips away. Color can be amazing and inspiring, but to me, it’s an added layer of clutter. Black and white and the contrast between them is fascinating in and of itself in terms of image-making. My last record for Kranky [Equivalents] was a head-on take on photography and abstraction, black and white photography in particular and the work of Alfred Stieglitz. My music is kind of black and white in a weird way. [I’m] just playing these ideas.
SILY: That makes a lot of sense.
SM: That’s good to hear, because it doesn’t make total sense to me. These ideas float around in your head in a very nebulous and abstract way, and it’s hard to put them into words.
SILY: How did you end up sequencing the record? Was the order of the tracks the order you made them in?
SM: I usually have several stages. The first stage is collecting source material, and the second is composition, generating ideas and sketches--often, simple, looped-based compositions. Then I go into an editing phase where I finetune some things. I really, at that point, think about the album. I’m an album-centric person when it comes to music. I appreciate the construction of a record in terms of flow, and how you can’t have too many low-key tracks in a row. I usually sequence things strategically to keep the listener engaged.
SILY: What inspired the song titles? They’re certainly evocative.
SM: It primarily came from the place of the ideas of light and dark we’ve been talking about. I like the idea of the titles evoking more light than dark. Most of the titles are Latin words or Latin-derived words for light. In the process of searching for words, I came across “clara,” which is a Latin word meaning “bright,” and it happens to be my youngest daughter’s name as well. I invited her into the room and said, “Hey, what do you think of me naming a piece of music after you?” We had this little moment, and she was into it. I thought it was a nice, hidden second meaning, but it’s really this idea of light coming through I wanted to evoke in the titles.
SILY: Some of the tracks, you can much more clearly hear the source material, like the strings on “Lux” and “Stella”. But most are not like that. You could go in not knowing the context and be completely unaware of the source material. How did you decide how to make these tracks “sound,” for lack of a better term?
SM: “Lux” is a perfect example of the orchestra kind of not overly processed. There’s a little looping and some reverb applied, and I’m pitch-shifting a little bit. Some of the tracks, the game almost became about seeing how far away you could take them from the source material. You can turn any sound into any other sound these days. There are so many tools at your disposal, to resample and process it. I also had the original piece cut into a vinyl record which I purposefully damaged and manipulated and resampled. To me, that’s the enjoyment of the process: seeing how far you can take it from the source. The fact that story exists, that I made the record this way, is interesting, but it’s irrelevant at a certain point. It doesn’t matter to me whether someone hears or doesn’t hear the source material, because it’s about listening to the [new] piece of music as it is, finished. The game for me as a creator is to play with that content and see what I can do with it.
SILY: On a lot of the tracks, you use arpeggios and sort-of beats. Were you consciously trying to explore different genres and tempos and textures?
SM: Pretty consciously. I like a record that feels like a designed experience. In a way, it’s an experiment to see where you can take this material. How do I turn a source of string sounds into a rhythmic pattern? That challenge is kind of what interests me as a creator, but it’s also building an experience for someone to listen to. I wanted to create something with variety and places to go rather than a homogeneous experience--which could also be interesting, but for me, less interesting.
SILY: I was recently listening to the record on headphones--non-noise-cancelling headphones--and I couldn’t tell whether the sounds I was hearing were on the record or outside. It almost created an even more enveloping experience and led me to wonder whether, as much as you embrace randomness, whether you’re inspired by the natural world when you make music.
SM: I love that experience. Even the other day, I was working on something with my studio, and a plane flew overhead. [It was] a prop plane, and those have a pitch to them, a natural glissando above and below the drone I was playing. I love those serendipitous moments of music interacting with the soundscape. Obviously, it’s not always a good thing. You can be outgunned by the real world sometimes. It can dominate what you’re listening to in a way that’s not pleasant. But it’s nice when you get a happy accident.
SILY: You have released records on labels other than Kranky. What decides for you where you release your records?
SM: Kranky and I have been working together for 20 years. We have a long, really good relationship that I value a lot. I think of the records I make for Kranky as my “official releases,” if that makes any sense. Most of the stuff not on Kranky is self-released material that doesn’t fit because it’s an EP, and they won’t do EPs, or a special project or collection of remixes. Usually, it’s the extras I release myself. I put out Lifelike myself, which was a soundtrack for a game piece. It just didn’t make sense to put it on Kranky. It wasn’t even officially a record.
SILY: What’s the inspiration behind the cover art for this record?
SM: It’s a photograph of ice. It’s a macro shot. I’m kind of an amateur photographer and have a book coming of macro shots of ice that was yet another lockdown project I could easily do at home in my studio. You’re just dealing with a small set of stuff. I was interested in the refractions of the light coming through ice. I defer to natural sources like water, something I return to over and over. Taking photographs of light coming through frozen water seemed like a logical thing to do, in a way.
SILY: Is there any chance you’ll tour this record or play shows?
SM: Mentally, I had written off the idea of playing any shows this year. It’s been so hard to plan anything. I had a tour set up for last fall that had to be cancelled, obviously. Everything in the process of trying to set up has been cancelled or delayed, so it’s like, “Why bother?” [laughs] I’d rather wait out the storm and plan things later.
I don’t have a live version of this. If times were normal, I’d spend some time with the material building a live set out of it. Something performable, adding video, and getting ready to tour. I haven’t done any of that with this material. It might just be the case that it will be too late by the time we get into 2022. I might already be thinking about the next project, so probably not.
SILY: Pandemic-aside, could you hypothetically think of a way to adapt these songs to a live performance?
SM: Yes and no. The most exciting thing, which would be totally almost impossible, would be to do something with an actual large ensemble. Collaborate and reinvent the source material in a live way, use some of the electronic compositions. That would be amazing but wouldn’t happen unless someone decided to shower me with money. [laughs]
SILY: What have you been working on in the meantime?
SM: I have this photobook that's very much connected to this material. I have an EP of music I hope to present. Last year, I released a Faults, Coasts, Lines photobook and EP. Releasing imagery along with music is really interesting to me. I’ll probably release that by the summer or early fall. I’ve been doing commission-related stuff, working with dancers, other artists and collaborating offline.
SILY: Anything you’ve been listening to, watching, or reading lately?
SM: I’ve watched so many shows this last year it’s become a mess. I’m sure everybody’s in the same boat. I’ve probably watched 10 years worth of television in the last year. The last thing I consumed ferociously was the new Adam Curtis documentary series Can’t Get You Out of My Head. That consumed me for a period of time. I’m discovering brand new music every day, which has been a benefit of the weird lockdown. Bandcamp Fridays. All the music being made, there’s just an incredible wealth of stuff.
LUX from aAron Munson on Vimeo.
This means a new skin contest hosted by Flight Rising, good luck to all those participating!
If you want to make extra sure your skin submission is proper, be sure to run your skin through the coverage tester on the site. It’ll help identify how much wiggle room you have until you hit that 50% coverage barrier, or if you want to see you stayed within the lines. The last thing you want is something you made to be disqualified because of that 0.1% transparent pixel blob next to the wing from fat fingering the eraser..
You can find the coverage tester right after clicking the link here!
We’re still a little bit tight on cash IRL, so if you would like to support you can do so over on Patreon or Kofi <3
A Saludecio è in corso il restauro dei murales realizzati durante l'Ottocento Festival. I più vecchi hanno ormai circa 35 anni.
"a few changes" 👀
really fucking weird to think that raksha bandhan is this month.
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