Sunday Morning Medicine: Jesse Woolston bathes breathtaking ambient in otherworldly visuals

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The electronic music world is constantly evolving. With new technology making its creation more accessible than ever, the question of what pushes it forward becomes more prominent. Live elements and sets are currently in vogue, with artists exploring the cutting edge with diverse instrumentation, complex rigs, and bands.

But what goes beyond that? Jesse Woolston’s vision might be the answer. He’s dipped his toes into multiple mediums, and is now merging them into one. As a base, the New Zealand-born producer’s brand of electronica is cinematic, and layered with precision. Though his roots are in the drums, he has a keen ear for melody, creatively stitching together piano chords, cello, synth, and samples into ethereal soundscapes that hit the mind at profound angles.

µstructure brings together is unique musical talents and his knack for visual design, telling a sensory story that creates a new reality while jump-starting a meditative state. Its release came alongside giant installations that were stationed around the globe.

“When it comes to the process behind my writing, I often lean on two contrasting inspirations. The former being technology and the intricacy and precision of programming while the latter being nature, environments, and unrestricted emotion,” he explained on his Facebook. He accomplishes this well in µstructure. Its opener, for example, opens with an eerie piano that bares a resemblance to Max Richter’s “Organum;” albeit, more intricate despite its lighter weight.

Much of the EP is formless, yet at the same time, catches and maintains attention through its duration. Ironically, µstructure’s title track is lacking in definition, yet it’s haunting, drawn-out notes and innovative sound design make it brilliant nonetheless. Sonic waves crescendo and decrescendo strategically in “Movement” and “Design In Motion,” whilst “Lambent 01” creates intrigue in its minimalism.

Mellow and entrancing, µstructure makes an outstanding standalone candidate for this week’s Sunday Morning Medicine.

Henry Saiz & Band define music as a connective force in hauntingly daring LP, ‘Human’ [Album Review]

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There are few forces that unify humanity as greatly as music. It feels as though we’re inherently drawn to rhythm and sound frequencies woven into notes and melodies, with great philosophers like Pythagoras even boasting about its healing powers. More recently, a study proved these notions with the discovery that brain activity is heightened when experiencing live music in a social setting.

Henry Saiz is one who’s been touched profoundly by these properties throughout his life, and has brought a brand new layer in their exploration through Human. The crowdfunded audiovisual album — his third  — is his most ambitious endeavor to date, seeks to connect music to the place it’s written as well as the people listening to it.

His funding campaign considerably exceeded goal, showing just how much trust his fans, and other interested connoisseurs, placed in what would come of this mission. To accomplish it, he and his band embarked on an expansive journey alongside the world, carefully selecting ten magnetic locations to inspire each chapter of the story. A video accompanies each chapter as well, offering a deeper look at the inner workings of the album’s creative process.

“I’ve always considered electronic music as a starting point — a territory without borders,” stated Saiz at the beginning of “Downfall,” Human’s leading single and video. It’s meant to illuminate the album’s core message and aesthetic, synthesizing elements across electronica and ethereal vocals into a bitterweet symphony. Beauty, wonder, and a hint of darkness are captured in “Downfall,” allowing the song to double as a reflection of humanity itself — as perceived by Saiz.

The band venture out to the Canary Islands to begin their, settling down in the picturesque beach town of Lanzarote before traversing over to Australia. Both these places are abundant in natural beauty, and their landmasses are both largely unpopulated; thus, they made for excellent “invitation[s] to escape reality,” per Henry in the second episode of the Human docuseries. “Haven” and “Ghosts,” the finished products of recording in these areas, certainly achieve their intended goal of inserting a sense of surrealism into the album, using futuristic vocals, drums recorded in cavernous volcanoes, eclectic rhythms, airy synthesizers and other dreamy elements to do so.

Next up, “The Golden Cage,” Henry Saiz and Band take listeners to Dubai, which is considered a highly developed and progressive city-state within the Middle East. Its urban atmosphere and oasis-esque location are translated into a flowy soundscape with a hint of edgy, progressive rock-inspired guitar riffs at the end that are reminiscent of solos strummed out in 1970s stadiums. Likewise, “Dragon Hills,” inspired by Saigon, also plays around with retro elements; albeit, in synth form and with added Southern Asiatic melodic arrangement to better emulate its setting.

We head back into the wilderness once more for “Human,” “Time Machine,” and “Me Llama Una Voz,” which were penned in the Kenyan savanna, Joshua Tree, and the Argentian Andes, respectively. Saiz heavily touches upon the tribal, carnal parts of the human nature in these records, with each sharing a common theme of mysticism hidden in their melodies.

“Human” is a rare vocal-less composition on the album, forcing listeners to find piece and meaning within its harmonies and hollow percussion. “Time Machine” is as psychedelic as the desert it was inspired by, hooking the mind in splashes of indie-tinged verses about rebirth and eerie recordings in the background. “Me Llama Una Voz” conveys its sonic message by weaving pan flutes into is underlay, verses sung by a local vocalist, and expansive melodies that give off the feeling of trudging through the mountains — much like Saiz and his band did while searching for inspiration.

Despite the unique instrumentation and vocals that Henry uses to distinguish each song from one another, they are ultimately quite similar in style. Not only does it make his third album a cohesive story, but it additionally shows off just how similar humans can be, despite the distance that separates us. Everyone is drawn to a well-arranged song with a jarring melody, for example, no matter the genre. In creating an electronica album that refuses to adhere to a specific archetype while remaining cohesive overall, we are seeing Henry and his band demonstrating this fact in real time.

Photo taken from Henry Saiz’ Facebook

Human finally closes with a piece called “Answer,” almost challenging to listener to define their own perception of humanity. This piece is particularly special, as its home location was Antarctica. Like “Downfall,” a bittersweet nature pervades once more as its vocalist states that “this story never ends.” These words ring true; life seems to be an eternal learning experience for all involved. For Henry Saiz & Band and this album project, however, one theme rises above all else: music is a unifying force, and a key to finding one’s own meaning of life and connectivity with others.

Meet the underground talent of CRSSD Fest: Henry Saiz

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Henry Saiz

CRSSD‘s 7th edition is a special one —it marks the official third birthday of the festival. Hosted at its usual location at the picturesque Waterfront Park in San Diego, the semi-annual event certainly hasn’t faltered in its lineup curation, inviting the likes of Cirez DEmpire of the SunHenry Saiz, and Tchami onto its bill across March 3 & 4. Dancing Astronaut joins organizers in digging a little deeper into its roster to unearth its top underrated performers to find out their backstories thus far.

From ethereal, dark progressive to avant-garde electronica, Henry Saiz sits firmly on the cutting edge of dance music. Earning inspiration from natural places, his music is often a blend of profound melodic elements, comforting samples, and wistful progressions. His Natura Sonoris label additionally reflects this ethos, bringing caliber acts like Dosem, Clarian, Gab Rhome, and more into its fold.

Lately, however, Henry has drifted farther and farther away from the tropes of contemporary dance music, seeking reinvigoration once more to create music that he adored. His solution? An immersive revolutionary audiovisual album that took him all around the world to help spark ideas for what would soon become a veritable fable in sonic form. To boot, the project was entirely crowdfunded, demonstrating just how much trust his fans had in him to create something truly special.

The album is still a ways out from its official release; however, Saiz and his band will be providing fans a taste of what’s to come with a special live performance on CRSSD Fest‘s Ocean View stage. Dancing Astronaut was able to nab him for a quick discussion ahead of time to talk about his musical pathway, what excites him musically, and more.

CRSSD Fest is sold out, but you can still view further information about the fest here.

What catalyzed your love for dance music?
I´ve had a strong relationship with music since I was a child. My parents have great taste in music so they introduced me to such artists like Vangelis, Tangerine Dream or Mike Oldfield when I was very young and I was mesmerized by those synth tones and textures.

What was your first label release? Would you still play it?
That must´ve been ´You, The Living´ back in 2006. And no, I don’t play it anymore. My taste and music evolved from that kind of sound so it just wouldn’t work for me at this point. I have no regrets though, it was good for its time 🙂

Describe the moment or event that made you realize that you were meant to be a full-time DJ.
I don’t think there was specifically a moment like that, but probably when i got signed to the UK label Renaissance… Ever since I remember myself I knew that what i´m going to do in life would be related to music and for the majority of my existence i´ve actually been involved in music one way or another. Full-time djing just came naturally.

What’s your opinion of the dance scene in the US right now?
EDM hype seems to be almost gone and that´s all that matters haha. But yeah, people´s tastes are evolving into something better, they are moving to more authentic and true styles within dance music so I guess you guys are going in the right direction. But there´s also a good thing to it and it´s that it made electronic music more popular in general in the US so people who started with listening to mainstream EDM eventually became a techno or a house fan, and got to know me, for example.

What are you looking forward to most about CRSSD Fest?
I just love to play in California and I´ve heard many good things about CRSSD. Cant wait to play our new live show to such a crowd for the first time. My bandmates and I have been working on this audiovisual project for the past 1.5 years, and now the record is almost finished and so we changed our live show entirely to tour the new album with. So it´s very thrilling and exciting.

And also we´re looking forward to just playing such a cool festival, really. We love these, we love the atmosphere, we love the vibe and all the beautiful people.

Where are your favorite places to play in the world, and why?
Honestly, I can never choose one. Every place i´m playing has its own magical atmosphere, crowd and is just special in its own way. But if I had to choose a small few I’d say Crobar in Buenos Aires, Ministry Of Sound in London, Input in Barcelona, The Block Tel Aviv, Vent in Tokyo and Stereo Montreal. These would probably stand out.

What are the biggest things in your pipeline at the moment?
Finishing up this whole audiovisual album, you guys. Album is to be out in just a couple of weeks, so it´s a very stressful time haha. Other than that, working on some new stuff to release as Henry Saiz as well, so 2018 should be interesting.

If you could recommend three artists to catch from the lineup, who would you pick?
I´d probably be checking out Empire of The Sun and Little Dragon, and then Sasha and Cirez D too (Eric going techno is always a lot of fun).