John Rossiter came of age as an emo kid in the Midwest, so it goes without saying that he’s had some formative Saddle Creek experience. But with only the slightest prompt, the Young Jesus frontman is gonna say it anyway: “Album Of The Year is one of my all-time favorite records,” … More »
Going into this interview, I knew Courtney Barnett was notorious for her laconicism. Despite her reputation for her stream-of-consciousness, effusive lyrical talents, the Melburnian indie rocker is famously shy and soft spoken in person. For some musicians, acting so aloof would come off as supercilious, as if an interview were insultingly beneath them. But as it so happens, Barnett is far too relaxed for such indignations.
I met Courtney Barnett backstage at the 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines, Iowa. She carried herself with a calm, affable demeanor and spoke quietly, shyly for much of our interview. Des Moines is the first of a litany of stops on her forthcoming tour that stretches on past November, and despite the formidable stretch of shows she’s about to embark on, Barnett seems unfazed. She maintains a coolness about her, fiddling nonchalantly with the tab of a soda can as we talk. She’s touring in support of her new album Tell Me How You Really Feel, which was released last May.
As we conversed, Courtney opined on the writing process on the road, the energy surrounding the making of Tell Me, and the art shows she held following the release of the album, among other topics.
Excited for the show today?
I am, yeah. I think it’s gonna be real fun.
How long have you been on tour now?
Well, this tour only started a couple days ago. But I was back home in Melbourne for a couple weeks, and before that we did two months. And then the album came out two months ago, so yeah, it’s kind of broken up, you know?
And this tour goes until the end of November?
It kind of goes on forever [laughs].
Oh, like Bob Dylan and the Never Ending Tour?
Well, we have more [dates] booked after [November]; it’s just not announced yet and there’s time off in between. I could never tour full time for two years, but there’s a couple weeks in between shows where we can go home and gather our thoughts.
How do you cope with the longer stretches when you’re away from home?
I don’t really know. I guess it’s a lot of mental stuff.
Do you find yourself able to write or be creative on the road?
Yeah, more so recently.
You wrote a lot on the last tour?
Yeah, I think it’s just like… pushing through and doing it. It’s like, “I’m gonna write something!” instead of thinking, “Oh, that seems hard.”
For the next leg of your tour, you’re playing with Vagabon. How did you get into contact with her?
I think she’s on my English label [Marathon Artists], and some friends showed me her music and I loved it. I’ve still not seen her live, though.
So the last album Lotta Sea Lice kind of had a relaxed, casual feel to it, but your new album Tell Me How You Really Feel seems more direct or visceral. What was the atmosphere like when you were making that album? What kind of headspace were you in?
Well, the Kurt [Vile] one was definitely low-key, kind of on the fly, like we didn’t have a plan to make an album, so it was really casual and a bit kind of goofy. But yeah, it was a fun atmosphere. And my album [Tell Me] was so different, I spent so much more time and mental energy on it. I’ve been kind of working on it for the last couple of years. And the songwriting’s kind of similar; my songs on Sea Lice are from the same kind of mental space, just executed in a different way.
Compared to Sometimes I Sit and Think, it seems to be grungier/ heavier. Did you make a conscious decision to do something different musically or is that something you realized after the fact?
A little bit. I think what I was trying to do was focus a bit more on guitars and try to find a way to match the live energy. Because live energy is so much more [visceral] and the studio always tends to be a bit timid, or polite and gentle. And so I think the nervous energy of performing just ramps it up to this other place.
And that’s what you were channeling during the recording?
A little bit, yeah. And it’s still so hard to get [that sound] because you’re in a studio, but I think Tell Me is closer to that.
Kim and Kelley Deal were both present on the new album. What did you take away from working with them?
That was so low-key, I mean, they just recorded their vocals and just sent them over.
So it wasn’t even in the same room?
No, they were in America and we did the album in Melbourne. But I was in touch with Kim a lot while I was writing the album and making the album. So it was nice to have her energy in my ear.
So what was she saying to you while you were in contact?
Oh, nothing really [relevant], it’s just hard to articulate [Kim’s role].
I read the interview with Abbi Jacobson where you talk about wanting to be more vulnerable on this album and not use humor as a kind of defense mechanism. What prompted that change to move away from humor since you were almost known for it before?
Yeah, I think it was more trying not to hide behind it. I think I’m still kind of a bit silly and stupid. I never really thought I was funny, I was just kind of mucking around, I guess. I think there’s still plenty of that on this album. But it’s less obvious.
I’m sure it’s easy to transmute that vulnerability into a studio recording with the option of multiple takes, but do you find you’re able to communicate that same level of emotion in a live performance? Are you getting the same feeling across?
Yeah, I think that’s why music is so fun and I never quite know how it works. [The songs] change so much that you don’t know how it’s gonna turn out, and even the emotion from each song changes every day anyway.
So it’s less of a premeditated thing, it’s more in the moment, would you say?
Yes, definitely, it’s kind of a gut instinct.
So many journalists have written about the alphabet soup line in “Nameless, Faceless.” [The lyric from “Nameless Faceless” goes: “He said: ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you.’” The line is lifted verbatim from a tweet dragging Barnett for her lyrical style.] Do you still find yourself tempted to look at internet comments on your videos?
No, I don’t look at that stuff really. I don’t use social media much anymore, just Instagram… there are too many things to look at.
It’s a lot of stuff. Do you think you could handle [criticism] differently from when you were first starting out as a musician?
I just think it’s one of those things you learn in life in general. Some people are nasty and you need to understand where it comes from, or at least try and understand where it comes from and that it’s not personal or true.
So you worked with Burke Reid as producer again for the album. Why did you want to work with him again? What’s your relationship like?
He’s great. We did that last album, and I just felt really safe and understood. He’s a wizard [laughs].
I read that you’ve said some of these songs were written when you were a teenager, which ones were those?
“Sunday Roast,” I wrote the guitar line when I was 13, and “Help Yourself,” I kind of wrote the main riff when I was 16. I didn’t have any instruments at the time, but I had these microphones, so I just sang the drum beat and the bass line and sang these harmonies. And they both just stuck in my head over time.
So it wasn’t anything lyrically?
No, just the music stuff.
What made you want to revisit those songs now as opposed to your first album?
They’ve just always been there and I’ve played them, but I’ve never been able to finish them. So it’s like, if something keeps coming back like that, then it’s for a reason.
Did you have to push yourself to finish those songs?
Yeah, because I’m a bit of a… I put things off.
You do the cover art for all your albums. Tell me about what went into this one?
The photo that I took — I was doing this series of Polaroids while I was writing and I hadn’t really been drawing much like a lot of the albums. So the photo seemed to capture the title, I think.
Tell me about feature on your website where fans submit their email and they can post a 250-character blurb about their thoughts and feelings. Was that your idea?
It wasn’t my idea, but I can’t actually remember who came up with it. It was someone that worked with… a friend. I was trying to think of things to do around the title and around the album. I really liked it when the album came out; we did a handful of little art shows and we used all the text. It’s quite powerful reading through it all. We did a New York one. We had all the words printed up on the walls of the gallery, and I think that volume of [the comments] is quite overwhelming. Because it’s so personal and some of it’s super casual. It’s quite voyeuristic in a way, and we had no idea about the story. But altogether, it’s really strong.
Were you using it as a substitute for social media?
Not really. I think it’s more the idea of, you know, expressing yourself and talking about your feelings and the importance of that. I’ve kind of done it through writing the songs, so I’ve shared already. This is people sharing back.
Jafé has recently released a new single titled “Her(e)” with DeModa, and their rich musical tapestry works incredibly well together. To get into the creative mind of this talented guitarist and artist, we got in touch to hear about his Musical Guilty Pleasures. 1) Britney Spears – “Toxic” I don’t care what anyone says, this
1991 is the year alternative rock went mainstream. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden were about to take over the world; Out Of Time and “Losing My Religion” turned R.E.M. into megastars; and the first Lollapalooza tour brought the underground across the country. More »
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Two titans have merged into a singular powerful force, introduced to the world as Marsian. Marc Houle is one member driving this new force, bringing his immense expertise in hardware and boundary-leaping electronica, house, and techno to the fold. Meanwhile, Octopus owner Sian adds a searing flair to Marsian that ties the group’s collective talents together.
Their time has been brief, but monumental. Marsian’s first release, X-Rays, brought to light just how complementary their diverse talents are. Since then, the pair have been impressing the music scene at large with their array of hard-hitting, technical works that explore the realms of techno, acid, and electro. They’ve solidified their presence in the underground through an introductory tour as well, which saw them pummeling their audiences with gripping live performances.
Who are Marsian, really? DA sought out to uncover more of this intriguing new act in this edition of Techno Tuesday, where we dive into the project’s nascence, inspirations, and where they’re looking to take Marsian in the future. Enjoy our premiere of “Convergence,” off their newest Chromatic EP, while learning about what makes Marsian who they are.
Let’s first talk about your history together. How long have you known each other/when did you begin working together, and ultimately what led to a more concrete partnership and the formation of Marsian?
M: This is a mystery to us. It’s like we woke up one day and it was all happening. I know we go way back I think right?
S: I think we first met many years ago and always just kind of clicked with our music and our renegade attitudes. The collaboration just kind of spawned out of us sharing some tracks and ideas with one another and seeing how well our sounds meshed.
Whose idea was it to come up with the punny, yet appropriate name for your project?
M: Frankly we think it’s kinda stupid how people from Mars are called Martians. It should be Marsians and everyone knows it. We’re just cementing the obvious out there.
S: Truth be told, myself and Marc both had some very interesting, supernatural childhood experiences, some people say abduction or surprise adoption…but we prefer to stay private about these things.
What kinds of things have you two explored (or are planning to explore) in this project that you normally wouldn’t express under your individual projects?
M: For me it’s like we’re heading down a dark road with parties going on all over. It’s a bit menacing but there’s too much fun going on for it to be scary.
S: With the live performance it’s really uncharted territory with each performance taking on a life of its own. With our productions each track we make feels like something fresh and exciting since we work a lot remotely bouncing ideas off of one another some really cool sounds evolve from what our normal style would be.
Your debut in Detroit was quite impressive; we enjoyed the live setup. Are you planning on doing live performances for all your gigs? What does your setup look like and what’s your favorite thing to play around with on stage?
M: I think it’s always going to be live. That’s the best way to get both our inputs at once. If it’s just a DJ set, everything’s sort of set in stone and lacks the flexibility we have going now. I’m still trying to find the perfect synth to take on stage that lets me have the wide range of sounds I need out there. The TR-8 kick has been a savior whenever we needed more punch.
S: The live aspect of the collaboration is so dynamic and ever-changing that I think that’s one of the most exciting parts about it so I don’t see us veering away from doing a live performance. Our setup is definitely ever changing and we’re always on the hunt for that next piece of gear that will bring some new other-worldy sounds to our performances.
You’ve noted in the past that your minds have melded together into a new style, and that what’s coming out of Marsian is a more experimental, club-oriented sound. Can you go into detail on some of the more experimental things you’ve been trying out? Ie, new synth techniques, sample usage, genre blending, etc?
M: On a lot of the tracks we’ve been working on, I’d make a whole bunch of synth parts and Graham (Sian) had the good sense to strip it down to the essentials and focus on the sounds and groove. I think the kick and bass are way stronger than on anything I ever make alone.
S: Marc’s so good at making those truly weird and mind-melting elements of the tracks and I think that coupled with the heavier grooves I tend to make it’s really created a powerful new experimental vibe that really works on the dance floor.
On that note, what is the farthest you guys would be willing to push the Marsian project? Do you ever fancy yourselves doing something completely unexpected, like dnb or glitchy modular music?
M: Right now I’m happy delving deeper into the sound we have started. If there ever came a time it was no longer interesting, I think we would have to rethink things. But we have so much further to go down this road that it’s not really a possibility.
S: I think the sound we’ve got going on right now is so exciting and seems to really be working at all of our performances, that we will likely keep delving into our current sound like Marc said, doing what we feel… but who knows what we’ll come up with next, the possibilities are opening up.
How do you two normally make music together given the distance? Do you fly over to each others’ studios and physically work together, or do you mainly email projects back-and-forth to each other? How does a general day of producing go in the Marsian world?
M: Luckily we’ve gotten to the point where transferring mass amounts of data back and forth is no problem. We work in separated parts since Graham is mostly in Ableton and this old man is still using Cubase. It’s kinda nice that way because we can use the best of both worlds and mix it all together. Speaking of mixing, the final tracks get mixed on an SSL desk with some great effects to add space and warmth.
S: It’s great to be living in a time where we can work together even though we live so far from one another. A lot of times one of us comes up with some ideas and shoots them over to the other and this process goes back and forth a bit till we have a finished product. Technology makes it so easy these days.
Generic, but difficult question – don’t you love these? Anywho…if you were asked to define ‘Marsian’ through just one of your productions thus far, which would it be?
S: I think “Chromatic” probably, it’s such a raw track that really highlights both of our vibes so well into one track. Both off center and also quite dance floor, weirdly works out somehow.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this particular EP? How did it come about, and who got the ball rolling on it?
S: Well as we mentioned above, we both kind of get elements going for a track and then see where it goes, but “Convergence” really just started with one sound…..the rave stab. This was the anchor for building a world of sounds around.
When and where can we expect to see more Marsian?
G: After a busy summer of touring we’re taking a little break to get some new music out there, but we’ve got a USA tour coming soon. Stay tuned for more info & announcements.
Photo credit: The Octopus Team
Released in April 2018, Souls set out to translate the cyclical intimacies and distances of a relationship into song. A delve further into a distinctive style of electronic sound comprised of indie, dream-pop, and ambient house constructions, Souls duly emerged as a refined conceptual project that showcased Shallou’s deftness in melding elements of different genres, and related a romantically centered story without total reliance on lyrical expression.
The romantic nature of the seven-track EP’s narrative focus is apparent in individual song titles like “You and Me,” “…Lost,” and “Lie,” but for some of the tracks on the EP like “Sigh” and “…Lost,” the titles provide the only concrete words found in relation to the given song, leaving technical elements like BPM tempo and instrumental tone to do the expressive work that lyrics typically perform. “You and Me,” Kasbo and Cody Lovaas feature, “Find,” “Vignette,” “Lie,” and “Skin” by contrast offer listeners lyrically concrete developments in the at times tenuous relationship between the fictional lovers.
The production of an EP can parallel the course of a relationship in that the artist too might drift from and return to the project in the same way that one of the hypothetical lovers on Souls strays from the other, only to flutter back in time. Curious about Shallou’s in-studio approach to crafting Souls, Dancing Astronaut caught up with the producer to talk Souls’ track by track conception, and how Shallou’s musical vision translates to his live performances as the LA talent prepares for a slew of headlining fall tour dates.
Dancing Astronaut: Can you talk a little bit about your vision for your most recent EP, Souls?
Shallou: Souls was a pivotal project for me because I wanted to flesh out some of the visual and sonic ideas from the All Becomes Okay EP. Music-wise, these songs have more traditional song forms, some pop-appeal, while keeping the ambient instrumental aspects that helped me reach an audience in the first place. Visually, the artwork continues to build out this world the little character in the corner is exploring. I wanted to blend my favorite things about indie, dream-pop, ambient and dance into something that felt different in the electronic space, but something unique that doesn’t overly focus on drops. I wanted to create my own beautiful sound without limiting it to the edm world. Electronic music shaped me as a producer, but I have a deep love for folk and indie rock as well which I showcased in the Souls Sessions that just came out on Youtube.
The idea of ‘Souls’ came from this idea of collaboration and exploring the intimacy of a relationship with the help of other artists and singers. Each song has its own story of love blooming or caught in flux, some lyrics expressing concrete emotions (“Lie”;”You and Me”) and some more ethereal concepts (“Vignette”, “Sigh”). “Souls” expresses the intense moments of intimacy and distance that come with every long-term relationship. With All Becomes Okay, I was inspired by the concept of the cycle of life (hence the all over my social media) but with Souls I was inspired by the concept of the cycle of a relationship.
Dancing Astronaut: Being that the EP tells a sonic story of two lovers who both gravitate towards one another and experience disconnects, I’m really interested to hear how you approached the EP’s production. Did you sequentially craft this story song by song, tailoring each individual song to the sonic narrative? Or did you produce these songs in a more random order, later finding a way to make them dovetail to tell this story? I’m curious about the extent to which the concept influenced the order in which you produced the EP’s 7 tracks.
Shallou: The EP story kind of just came together that way. I feel like everyone’s writing instinct is to speak about their love and relationships, so the songs with features came together first. I was then able to piece together a story from those singles and tracks that were written by just me specifically for the EP (i.e. Vignette, Sigh, Lost). I think the best way to craft a story is to just start with your instinct and see where it takes you creatively. Its much easier to make things for a story that happens naturally then to try and make a story from scratch. I sequenced the songs by key as well. Sigh was an intro I had been sitting on for a long time and I used that key and certain ideas from it to create the instrumental for “Find” w/Kasbo. Same with Vignette. “Lost” functioned as a sort of instrumental intro to “Lie” because they shared keys as well.
Dancing Astronaut: Can you also talk a little about how your production of this EP differed (in any way) from your debut EP, All Becomes Okay, released back in 2017?
Shallou: The production on this EP has higher BPM counts, and thus a little more energy. For example, “Vignette” is 120 and “You and Me” is 113 which are my highest tempos yet. I think overall this EP is a little bit dancier and more vocal heavy. I think its easier for people to relate to tracks with vocals on them, evidenced by the recent explosion of producer-singer/rapper collabs across all genres. I really enjoy aspects of that trend and I wanted each track to have a perfect marriage of vocal + instrumental, some by throwing some of my own vocals chopped up in there so they feel like truly “our” songs.
Dancing Astronaut: You’ve clearly carved out a niche for yourself in ambient house circles, and there’s an inimitable indie influence that’s perceptible in your productions. You recently toured alongside Big Gigantic and played some of your very first headlining shows. What’s been most important to you when it comes to playing these headlining dates—do you have a specific vision for your live shows in terms of the ambience or production involved in these show dates?
Shallou: I have to admit I was a little intimidated going out with Big Gigantic. I had never seen them before and everyone had told me their set went very hard. My music is admittedly pretty chill across the board. I took that as inspiration to make a live-hybrid set. I added a drummer and amped up some of my slower songs to try and grab the audience more. I was really surprised by the crowd’s positive reaction; they were really there to have a good time and dance. I think thats the point of going to see a show; you want to feel excited and involved and I’ve kept that as a major element of my performance ever since. I’m excited to show this next tour how I’ve grown as a performer. I’m still singing live, playing keys and performing all my own music, but focusing on creating “moments” for the audience Theres moments for the ambient fans and dance fans alike. For production, we’re looking to make it as unique as possible, and try to bring the world from my artwork to life for people who have been following me since the beginning. Telling a story is a very important thing for me.
Jill Cunniff is a lifelong New Yorker, born and raised. But today the Luscious Jackson frontwoman and founding member is in Los Angeles visiting her brother, who, naturally, works in TV. Like many other Brooklynites (Cunniff currently resides in Park Slope), she’s openly fascinated with the City Of Angels, specifically its sprawling mid-century architecture and … More »
For followers of what we might call the “experimental club” scene, Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke need no introduction. Their productions — ferrous, mellifluous things — cut through the contemporary dance music landscape with precision and alacrity, enfolding the bounce of regional club musics, the grind of rap, and a classically-inflected sense of bombast to forge a sound that is unmistakably theirs. The visuals that accompany their music — hosted on their platform, Fractal Fantasy — are equally striking. In these works, the human form and the natural world are abraded by digitality, distended and striated, a hyperreal algorithmic reworking of ontology producing images of serene alienation and techno-immersion.
With the imminent release of their debut EP for Planet Mu, Vicious Circles, a trademark blend of twinkling ambience and diamond-edged club levellers, I spoke to the duo via email, a conversation that moved easily from the mechanics of collaboration to the human sensitivity to voice. Their responses speak to a deep understanding of their practice and a sense of care for the communities in which they are entangled.
Firstly, I’d like to ask about Vicious Circles. Where does the name come from? What were the circumstances that led to releasing this extended collaboration now?
ZJ: A few years ago, we started noticing a couple of “vicious circles” emerging in our lives, some internal, some external, and the spirit of this record was to actively break free of them. We essentially felt that there was a lack of inspiration in our scene that was feeding back into itself in a negative loop, and we thought that perhaps we could escape it by creating an environment for ourselves that catalyzed innovation and sonic diversity.
SH: For example, when we made this record, we tried not to work on the same song at the same time — instead, we’d put our headphones on, have two songs going on two separate laptops, and trade every 20 minutes or so. Doing that created a dynamic in which we were constantly trying to surprise each other, and this created a positive feedback loop that allowed us to experiment with ideas we wouldn’t normally slump into. As time went by, these experiments started to take on their own identity, and it became obvious that we had to release them.
More generally, what tends to be the dynamic or workflow for this kind of collaboration? Zora, in an interview with The FADER you described your process as one of being more in the moment while Sinjin’s is more a case of having an initial, overarching vision. How did those two processes work together?
ZJ: When you produce by yourself, you feed off of your own ideas in your own vacuum, whereas in collaborations you enter someone else’s space and mindset. Generally when we collaborate with others, we try to find a common ground with the artist and build from that, but the dynamic between Sinjin and I is a bit deeper. We spend most of our time together, so we know each other really well, which creates a shameless environment in which we can dare to try crazy ideas without worrying about failure.
What led you to putting this release out on Planet Mu?
SH: Planet Mu is one of our favorite labels. If you look at their back catalog, it’s hard not to be mind-blown by what they’ve achieved in terms of spreading culture and innovation.
ZJ: Artists like DJ Rashad, Young Smoke, Jlin, DJ Nate, Aphex Twin, RP Boo, and Traxman have had such a positive impact, and I love how Planet Mu curate their releases. They’re somehow able to accentuate the beauty of the songs without diluting the raw expression. So when they reached out about doing a record, it was a no-brainer for us.
Leading on from the first question, what makes for a successful collaboration, both on a personal and musical level?
SH: I feel like it’s hard to judge the success of a project simply by numbers. Some of the greatest projects never see the light of day, and some of the most abhorrent projects are commercially successful.
ZJ: I think success in creativity is a very subjective thing. In the context of collaboration, I think the connection that you share with the other artist is what makes it successful. For example, Sinjin and I went to DJ Spinn’s studio in Chicago last year; Gant-Man was there too, and we just jammed and explored a few ideas. To me, it was successful because, even if we may never release the music, it was still a memorable experience — those guys are legends, and stuff like that doesn’t happen every day. Then, of course, there’s the success of finishing a great collaboration that can just drive your adrenaline through the roof.
How do you situate yourself within the contemporary club landscape?
ZJ: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where we’re situated, but we came up with this post-genre wave that emerged about 6 or 7 years ago. That bubble has since burst, but I like to think we’ve built our own little utopia out of the rubble.
What do you see as the logics that make it cohere, bearing in mind that the space you’re operating in, from a critic’s point of view, seems notoriously difficult to pin down, in terms of having a unified style, set of influences, etc.?
SH: It’s experimental club music at its core, because we’re quite literally experimenting with different forms of dance music primarily intended for the club environment.
ZJ: I think, musically, Fractal Fantasy forms part of the greater contemporary club landscape, although I wouldn’t say it’s defined solely by it. There are facets to the sound of Fractal Fantasy that have proximities to rap, R&B, even classical music that aren’t necessarily club-driven.
I’m interested in how Visceral Minds 2 came together. Obviously it’s much larger in scope than the first compilation and includes a wide range of collaborators. How did you know what or who to include in it?
SH: The Visceral Minds songs arose from touring and meeting up with friends around the world. We tried to include pretty much every collaboration, although some were hard to finish in time. I think all the artists on VM2 are like-minded in their approach to music but are also quite distinctive, and we really try to isolate and amplify those distinctions as much as possible within the compilation.
And then, thinking about music labels — or platforms, in your case — I’m interested in how your understanding of Fractal Fantasy has evolved since its inception, especially as you’ve started to collaborate and release more widely?
ZJ: Fractal Fantasy was never intended to be anything specific; we want it to be a fluid entity that adapts to our necessities and interests. Recently, we’ve mainly focused on music releases and accompanying interactive visuals, although we’re constantly working on different projects and collaborations, so I think the center weight will shift in the near future.
SH: Right now we’re experimenting with neural computing to generate audio and visuals, and would like to build a more substantial project with AI. We’re also working on new software, garments, instruments, installations, and we’d eventually like to build a physical space for everything to exist in.
More philosophically, your visuals — from my perspective at least — seem interested in the relationship between digital mediation and the human form, so what do you think the digital, and its visual modes, do to human form and its representation?
SH: Our brains are fine-tuned to pick up on facial expressions, body movements, posture, etc. As an artist, it’s practically impossible to make someone cry or get angry strictly with abstract imagery, but if you bring the relatability of the human form into the equation, you can start evoking all sorts of emotions. The first Visceral Minds video series was an attempt to evoke emotions strictly with abstract imagery — this was an interesting exercise, but I find it a lot more fun to play with the human figure.
Thinking about voice, Sinjin, you’ve said you’re drawn to a particular kind of choral voice. I’m wondering if you could think more broadly about voices, and whether you’re drawn to particular “voices” or “voicings” when producing?
SH: I grew up singing in an opera chorus, so you could say my musical foundation is grounded in that. Boys’ voices are very pure and fragile, which is what makes them so compelling. My voice broke when I was about 11 years old, so I can’t sing anymore, but I figured if I could recreate the timbre of a boy choralist with enough richness, I’d have an instrument that would really represent my background. I’ve been using this as my signature for the last 7-8 years and am always looking for ways to bring it to new levels.
Continuing on that theme, something like your Bodak Yellow remix seems to work so well because it hones in on what’s particular about Cardi’s voice, so that you can rework it alongside these other vocal textures and sonic layers. Is this interest in voice something that guides you in other areas, like who to remix or which “voices” to add to the platform?
SH: Humans have evolved heightened sensitivity to the frequency range between 1kHz and 10kHz in order to prioritize the human voice. For this reason, I think we have a predisposition to finding vocal-based instruments more compelling. You can stack dozens of vocal layers on a song, and it’ll still sound amazing if they’re in key with each other, which isn’t the case for many other instruments.
Is there a certain kind of voice you’re looking for when you’re seeking out collaborators?
ZJ: We both try to only work with artists who have given us goosebumps through their music… obviously we need to make exceptions here and there, but I find it works quite well.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for the two of you and for Fractal Fantasy. Can we start getting excited about Visceral Minds 3 yet?
ZJ: VM3 is currently in the works, we’re both also working on solo material, we’re about to do a small tour of our AV live set, and have a couple of installations coming up… loads of stuff really. Keep your eyes peeled!
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