Watch: The Horn The Hunt “My Face In Your Eyes”

16 Jun 2015 — Andrew Darley

After a winter spent in Greenland in 2008, Clare Carter and Joseph Osborne decided to try writing music together. The couple’s experiment revealed a creative spark in songwriting and sound crafting. Channeling the genres that inspired them, their band The Horn The Hunt crosses electronic, rock, folk and pop. Now on their fourth album, Wovo, their songwriting has only grown in strength. Both sonically and vocally, they have become more distinguished and tighter as a unit. Their new single "My Face In Your Eyes" highlights their ability to play with restraint; its soothing synth melody rocks back and forth as Clare’s voice heralds the joys and pain of togetherness with others. Its accompanying video sees their live band perform in an unassuming British club hall until there’s only one member left. The video is dedicated to their bassist, Ian Smart, who passed away earlier this year. 

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Interview: GABI

12 Jun 2015 — Zachary Taube

I first listened to GABI’s Sympathy on a ride around Berlin’s Ringbahn. It was one of those bright-yet-cloudy Berlin afternoons where you’re not quite sure where the sun is, and you’re overwhelmed with just how white the sky can be. Sympathy is equally overwhelming; nine tracks of elegant, sensitive, whimsically explorative and intuitive composition, drawing upon an amalgamation of genres ranging from orchestrated minimalism to experimental pop, electronic composition, Balinese gamelan and arcane folk.

GABI aka Gabrielle Herbst is trained in both composition and vocal performance, and it shows; she breaks the voice apart, down into its most basic elements, and composes from that point of reference. Sympathy is less about what Herbst sings (her lyrics are sparse, minimal, and at some points nonsensical) but about how she sings it. She truncates the voice into short bursts or articulation, hocketing with nothing more than a short expulsion of breath to form a skeleton around which the rich fleshiness of her cry, the anxious hesitance of her stringed orchestrations and the eeriness of distant percussion can wrap.

I sat down with Gabrielle a few hours before her recent show at Acud in Berlin to talk about Sympathy, intuitive composition, longing and synesthesia. Check it out below.

Sympathy is out on Software.

Photo by Amanda Hatfield.

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Your music is compositionally very vivid and ethereal. How do you experience music? How do you want people to experience music and how do you want people to experience your music?

Well, I guess that I have a lot of different influences. I come from more of a classical background, so I myself have a really strong, deep background of studying classical instrumental music, and then studied composition at Bard with Joan Tower and also Marina Rosenfeld and Zeena Perkins, who was a visiting professor at the time. So that’s a huge influence for me, as well as all kinds of world music growing up, pop and rock, pretty much everything was in our household, folk, Americana. So for me music is, simply put, music is music, you know? And I like to not pay attention to thoughts of genre while I’m composing. Though I’m really interested in music that has a conceptual intellectual framework that drives it, my music does not have that, so I like to compose from a really intuitive place and write music that just particularly speaks to me. It's either something that I want to hear or something that, you know, really describes the state that I’m in at the moment or a feeling or a vision that I think is really inspiring in the moment and share that with people. I want people to go into a state when listening to my music and it's not really meant to be…well, it can be anything.

Of course it can be anything.

I hope that it kind of engulfs people in a sensual way and creates a state and mindset for them that maybe brings them to new thoughts or new feelings of themselves.

Sympathy especially feels like such an organic album. I was listening to it and hearing all of these influences, from Bjork to Reich to John Adams, especially when the songs really start to break down. What’s your process of composition?

Well what you were just saying, you know, [is that] the music has a lot of abstraction. But it's very deeply personal, so it’s sort of meant to be – not even meant to be, it became – a state of mind. As an album, it’s a state of mind, it's very organic to me, it’s very intuitive. How do I compose? Well, it really depends on the project. I also compose in a more classical vain, and I wrote an opera last year which was a fully notated score for a chamber orchestra of singers. That was composed in a way where I notated every single instrument. It was a very…classically composed piece, very set-- a set narrative and language for the conductor to take and work with the musicians and pull it off in three rehearsals, because everything’s there in the score.

With this album it was much more…there are certain notated sections and a lot of un-notated sections…I wrote most of the songs from a place of exploring my voice, not sitting at a piano and writing down specific notes, but experimenting with electronics, my voice and my pedals…my really simple loop pedal, and sort of creating layers and sounds I was drawn to and realizing that with my self, you know, I could create such a huge sound. And so that became the palate of the album, me exploring new terrain with my voice in solitude. And then I brought those songs to musicians who I work with, my band right now, and I said – or I notated – certain things. I arranged parts for them from a very vocal intuitive off the page free form place. So, very different. I have two sides to myself…there’s Gabrielle Herbst and then there’s GABI. And they’re different mindsets. I think they influence each other quite a bit, but they’re different personas.

The whole project is shrouded in a very specific aesthetic. Everything is coated in this whiteness and this purity. How much does visual culture play with your music, persona and (alter) ego?

When I’m composing, I see things very visually…I see music.

Are you a synesthete?

I don’t really know, I do know that when I listen to music I see different colors and work from that place, so music for me is both felt and seen. It’s like vibrations in your body and visual fantasies. So visuals are super important for me always, but visual culture I think is…in the age that we live in now is a huge component of getting to know a musician and understanding and connecting with them. I’ve been working with Allie Avital Tsypin, who’s a really close collaborator, and it’s nice to work closely with someone who really understands you and your music. It’s nice to have that relationship when creating visual elements to the music. I want to go much further with the visual components of my live set.

There’s so much longing in Sympathy, especially in the last three or four tracks.  There’s this ache in it that’s so painful on one hand, but on the other it’s almost sublime. Do you feel like Sympathy wants to ask questions or to provide some sort of answer or closure or resolve in that longing?

I think both. It’s interesting that you brought up the idea of longing, because that’s really true. There’s a lot of that feeling in the music, but that sublime element that goes along with that is this sort of realization that the pleasure doesn’t exist without that pain and you need the two to define each other and you need the one to know what the other means. That’s the sublime uplifting nature of the longing, is to realize that it needs to exist and to indulge and have a catharsis and take it as it is and give it…accept it. That’s something that I sort of found for myself through the album that I hope can reach other people in the same way and [be] pretty uplifting for them. And, in the same way, I love the idea of people enjoying it, getting into a state while listening to it that is exploratory for themselves and brings them new sensations or new questions and is ultimately a soothing and loving experience.

You’re opening for David Longstreth soon at David Byrne’s Meltdown. That’s a pretty big deal. How’s it feel to be recognized as a peer in such an early stage of in your career as GABI? What’s next other than finishing up this European tour? Are you touring the States? Are you recording more? Collaborating?

Kind of, all of the above…I’m doing some collaborations, various ones, that are in the works or starting, so hopefully those will emerge soon. I love collaborating with people and interpreting their music with my voice, it’s really exciting. The dates in August are being set right now, so there will be another European tour around those dates. And we’re playing some US dates this summer, and a bigger US tour in the fall. So yeah, I think that the live show is a really important way to reach people. And I think where the label and I were prioritizing that as a way to connect with people. As you’ll see at some point, the live set is actually a really different experience than the album, which it always is with bands, but I think with this case performance is really important to me, a big part of reaching people. So, a lot of performing, and I’m already thinking about the next record. I’m really excited to write it. It’s not there yet at all, but I’m already, you know, imagining songs and thinking about new songs and we’ll probably start trying that in later shows, because that’s so much fun.

 

Watch: Jannick Schou “Skov II”

12 Jun 2015 — Henry Schiller

“Skov II” seems to be hiding something. On the latest from Danish noisemaker Jannick Schou, wallops of percussion and melody flex into the expanse of noise by which “Skov II” seems, initially, to be defined. What’s going on under the rug? Sure, samples of neighing horses inflict the track with a sense of doom and gloom, but Schou seems more keen on making your head shake than scaring you away.

The video for “Skov II” highlights the track’s balance of graveyard ambience and late night fun. We’re driven through a world of twisting lines and chattering digital shapes; assaulted by video artifacts and occasionally by obfuscated “real world” images like that of an eye opening and closing (at least I think that’s what it was). Though you might be hard-pressed to come up with a way to categorize “Skov II” (is it the night out or the nightmare?), it’s more than likely you’ll be pulled into its rhythm.

“Skov II” is the second video to be released for Schou’s album Fabrik, which came out Tuesday on Experimedia.

 

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Norway According to Boska

11 Jun 2015 — Lukas Dubro

I first met Jon-Eirik Boska two years ago at Torstrassenfestival in Berlin. Ever since, I am impressed by his work. Aside from his dance music project Boska, he plays drums with my most favourite Berlin band, Fiordmoss, and for Kaia, a new pop musician who just moved in from Copenhagen. In April he toured Norway with a jazz trio, and over the years has played various styles and genres, from Senegalese music to the orchestral Star Wars soundtrack. Jon-Eirik is somebody who lives and loves what he is doing. He tours, plays, records, teaches and practices more than anyone I know-- maybe he got it from his father who used to play in the famous '80s pop band Ken Dang.

Jon-Eirik is a storyteller, and I've heard many about his hometown Volda in Norway and all people he's met and places he's seen along the way touring through Norway and other European countries while playing his beautiful music to the people. With the recent release of his new EP, Cascades, I asked him if he didn't want to share a few of them. Read the feature after the break and listen to his EP below.

Cascades is out now. Get it over here.

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(1) The Brothers

My friends and I were djing at a party in Tromsø. It was amazingly fun, but at 3 o'clock we had to stop. That's how it is up there, the fun always stops at 3. And because of that there are after-parties everywhere.  So we ended up at my friends place accidentally because the door was open. Suddenly this "russ" (what we call high school graduates in Norway) walks in with a friend. Someone holds a short speech where he says the following: "It's really great to be here and to have fun. But we also need to remember that there are other places where things aren't so good. Like in Syria and stuff." We toast and drink to Syria and stuff. The friend of the russ also wants to hold a speech. But he is really drunk. He says something about "the man can hold his liquor." And proceeds to pour a tea cup full of gin for him and his friend. At the end of the speech he just drinks it. He was expecting enthusiasm. But the only thing somebody said was: "See you tomorrow!" He screamed for a while, shouting random stuff and punching his friend the russ. Finally he passed out, vomiting and pissing all over the rug. The host who is a doctor didn't say anything about it until then. I guess she was used to after-parties. Anyhow, she decided enough was enough and called for an ambulance, but they wouldn't get him. Then we called the cops, but they didn't get him either. So we took his phone and called his brother, who finally picked him up. When he walked in he said, "Yep, that's my brother."

(2) The Polar Bears

The next one is clickbait. We have these crazy friends who decided they want to do a concert in Spitzbergen. But these guys are cool kids, they wouldn't do their show in one of those settlements up there called Barentsburg and Longyearbyen -  you can tell by the name the first person there suffered so much that they had to call it that way. Instead, they wanted to play at one of the abandoned mining settlements from the soviet era called "Pyramida." There you can find a statue of Lenin on the foot of a mountain looking like a pyramid. Mining and eating walrus was the only reason why people would go up there in the first place. We got there by boat, because there are no roads. We took all of our equipment with us and power generators, because there is no electricity. We also brought several guns. Because it is illegal up there to leave a house without a gun-- polar bears could eat you. Yes, they eat people! There are a thousand humans on the whole island, and 3,000 polar bears. This is not fair, is it? After our arrival we walked right in to an abandoned movie theater. Everything was covered in a centimeter of dust because nobody had been there for decades. We cleared space on the stage and tried to set up some fancy canvases for my girlfriend Petra to project some visuals. They recorded a music video in there and had an exhibition. The third day we invited people to a concert - but remember: nobody lives there but polar bears. Literally. It's a 4-5 hour boatride from the closest place. Still: 150 people managed to show up. The lesson is: It was a better crowd than the average crowd in Berlin. And remember, we were at an abandoned mining settlement at the north pole.

(3) The Lyngen Alps

I toured in northern Norway for two weeks in May. I played with the father of a good friend of mine called Kaia in schools where we were teaching kids history and played baroque music in a modern way. The Lyngen Alps is a quite small area with mountains up to 1,500 meters high. Right now it's full of ski tourists too. All of northern Norway is very awe inspiring. It's full of these mad landscapes. You could drive endlessly without seeing anyone. No houses, no cars. The Lyngen Alps are particularly brutal. We were driving on a beautiful sunny day, the white mountains around us. We were on the way from one little village to the next. We were driving by the fiord and suddenly there was a lake at the foot of the mountains. We had to stop the car and to go outside. It was so magnificent. It was warm. Four geese took off from the lake, large black and white ones. Most of the water was frozen. I almost cried, it was so heartbreakingly beautiful. With our iPhones we pathetically tried to capture the splendor on our three inch displays. That's when a colleague received a message, which brought him back to reality  "I am getting an invoice," he said. It seemed completely absurd. When we arrived at the school we asked the people how it feels to live in such a place. They weren't impressed at all. "We are just used to it," they said.

Watch Boska eating the artwork of Cascades:

Swim Platførm “SURFACE 2”

11 Jun 2015 — Richard Greenan

Swim Platførm is French sound artist Romeo Poirier. I wrote some months back about "HVAL FALL", his ghostly collaboration with the Norwegian poet Lars Haga Raavand. Now comes Romeo's debut EP, the svelte electronic collage-work of SURFACES.

Accompanied by an analogue photo set, the EP forms a series of lush, aquatic vignettes. These songs glide in and out of earshot, bustling like miniature engines, finely tuned and rhythmically confounding. With the M.O. writ large, it's easy to imagine a submarine benignly combing the seabed. The restrained legato brass on "SURFACE 2" recalls the Cinematic Orchestra – music from a time when electronica symbolised wide-eyed exploration, rather than darkness for the sake of darkness. I think I can hear radar blips cloaked in ice-cave reverb, periscopic grinds and creaks, the clack of gas cannisters, shifting shingle, or the muted flutter of a chlorine pump. "SURFACE 4's" steady churn brings to mind the factory sampling work of YMO on Technodelic: industrial but somehow good-natured, a symbiosis of machinery and wildlife - like an artificial reef or propeller blades smothered in algae.

SURFACES is out this week via Kit Records.

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Holly Herndon and the Fortress of Music

11 Jun 2015 — Henry Schiller

Last Thursday, June 4 I saw Holly Herndon perform at Brooklyn's The Wick in support of her fantastic sophmore album Platform. Below, I've provided something of a play-by-play of my experience. 

Herndon has five more dates on her current tour, including one at Berghain tonight.

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I’m a few days late (or at least a few days behind the New York Times) but it will be a dark day indeed when a No Fear of Pop writer goes to a Holly Herndon show and can’t think of anything to write about it.
I showed up to Bushwick’s cleverly(?) named The Wick at around 8:50. Doors had, one day earlier, been moved from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m., which disappointed me because I had assumed that the show’s surprisingly late start time (this was a weeknight, after all) was something of a nod to the Berlin club scene to which Herndon owes allegiance.

Is Brooklyn finished? I ask myself.

Does music at hip indie venues like Bushwick’s hilariously(?) named The Wick have a curfew because owners must now live in fear of being shut down by wealthier neighbors?

Who’s to say.

A bit about Bushwick’s terribly(?) named The Wick: The venue occupies the ground floor of a shuttered brewery, and comes pretty close to earning its self-appointed title of “music fortress”. The Wick is cavernous – I count at least four separate “spaces”, including an outdoors – and the performance area is remarkably beautiful-- a razed-looking brick foundation with a wooden pyramid of a ceiling. The stage itself looks like it was very much built for rock music, with stacks of speakers and amps lined up at the front. I feel as though the owners of The Wick have set the room up to blast people in the face with music. I worry that this is a place for “rocking out” to music that Pitchfork approved of in 2001, and not really the place to “vibe out” to music that Pitchfork approves of in 2015. I worry that this is a good venue to see Spoon.

That said, I really like The Wick, and it pulls of the impressive task of feeling like both intimate and spacious. I am sad that it will be closing this December to make room for an apartment building with a Whole Foods in the lobby.

I worry that sound at The Wick will be bad, because the place reminds me of a run-down Scottish farmhouse and I have never seen electronic music performed in one of those. I move as close to the front of the stage as I possibly can (note: I’m an idiot.)

I could dedicate the next 2,000 words of this review to my experience as an audience member at The Wick. I could describe, in painstaking detail, the feeling that appeared in my gut every one of the six hundred times I heard the word “tech” or “startup” or “south by southwest” while I was an audience member at The Wick. I could try to determine the amount, in billions of dollars, of student loan money paid to Oberlin College by the collective audience members at The Wick.

But music.

Around 9 p.m. Evan Caminiti took the stage and performed a mesmerizing ambient piece that lasts roughly 40 minutes. At one point Caminiti earns the derision (and, I think, respect) of everyone in the audience by issuing forth a sharp blast of sound that is not so much heard as it is felt. Painfully; in the throat and chest.

Are you still paying attention? It almost asks.

Next was a downright immense performance from experimental composer and vocalist GABI (nee Gabrielle Herbst). Herbst was joined on stage by an ensemble of percussion, guitar, violin, viola and laptop.

Herndon was joined on stage by Mat Dryhurst and Brian Rogers, who typed out audience questions (texted to a number that had been projected behind Herndon as she set up) and answered them on a word processor projected behind Herndon.

The following exchange received a loud smattering of deserved applause:

“What should I say to the girls next to me?"

"A: Respect their space”

While a request to pit Berlin against New York received a response of visceral anger from a man standing near me who I am 100% certain was not born in New York. The answer: “Kingston”.

It was fun to watch the questions and answers be typed out in real time, and also fun to see how much Dryhurst and Rogers seemed to enjoy it, especially when they came up with a particularly cutting jib. Herndon kept turning away from her laptop to read the exchanges, and I always find a little pleasure in any indication that a performer is still having fun, still excited about what they’re doing even after months on tour.

Meanwhile, I receive a text from my friend Chris telling me that he forgot to come to the venue and instead went home.

“We’ll have to go back” I respond, and I mean it at the time.

But I may never go back to The Wick, which will probably be a Trader Joe’s wine outlet by the end of next week.

All of these text exchanges occurred in the simmering ambience before (and between) Herndon’s actual songs, where she really cut into things.

There was a feeling of loose improvisation to Herndon’s performance, though this was possibly artifice (who knows what’s going on behind that laptop?). Nevertheless, the wonderful clatter of electronics gave the performance a feeling of malleability. It felt as though the crowd’s reaction to the music – much like our text messages – might by Herndon be consumed, considered, and responded to: the black “A:” replaced by a particularly hefty beat or a dazzling slurp of distorted vocals.

As she whipped the air of The Wick along her furious carnival of synthesized sound, there was a lot going on behind Herndon as well. Namely, a crazy, reactive video program (this is the kind of thing that Max was designed for) created by Akihiko Taniguchi that resembled this Windows 95 screensaver and was filled with flattened images of human beings (Herndon and a Lidl-bag toting individual stood out to me) which toppled as they neared the “viewer”, and also oblong three-dimensional shapes with photos of fruit skin mapped to their virtual skin. If all of this sounds crazy and incomprehensible, it is only because I am a terrible writer. In the moment, surrendered to the safari of sonic structures through which Herndon’s music was pulling me, it all made perfect sense.

But it was also something else: It was fun. For a performance so concerned with the troubling link between humans and technology – a performance that explicitly addressed, in its text message game, our need for immediate gratification and constant interaction – this was a difficult thing to pull off.

It is difficult at live performances of “laptop music” to really gauge how much is actually being generated in front of you versus how much of a song is pre-programmed. Herndon’s performance seemed to engage directly with this issue. In fact I realize, looking back on the show, that at no point was I entirely sure of who was controlling what: was the video’s wild interactivity in fact determined by the shifts in the music? Were the audience’s text messages contributing in any way?

It’s hard to find the controller amidst the mounting chaos, and Herndon’s performance reminded me of a sort of performance art ventriloquism piece. A good ventriloquist doesn’t just disguise the fact that she’s talking: She creates a sense of interaction between herself and her dummy, such that you aren’t even watching to see how she’s doing it anymore; you’re just watching a conversation between two people. You forget that the whole thing is being manipulated by one person, let alone how that person is doing it.

Holly Herndon is a great ventriloquist.

Review/Interview: Jenny Hval

10 Jun 2015 — Ethan Jacobs

On the opening track of Jenny Hval’s second full-length release Apocalypse Girl, the Norwegian singer quotes the Danish poet Mette Moestrup. “Think. Big. Girl. Like King. Think. Kingsize,” Hval punches with a soft whisper, enunciating the final consonant of each word so that you can almost hear the flicks of her tongue. The track is like a confessional overview of the album, sprinkled with jarring phrases that Hval pronounces carefully like “soft dick rock” over a backdrop of discordant, bending samples. While the word “kingsize” might inspire associations with the super-size-me mentality of the United States, the word here is more akin to Hval’s zoomed out, big-picture approach with the record. Even with softened, broader themes and more open space, her meditations have never been more poignant.

This may be Jenny Hval's second proper LP, but she has been making music since she was 19 when she joined a goth band called Shelly’s Raven (they couldn’t use Shelly’s Crow because it was too similar to Sheryl Crow). She eventually left the group to record her own music under the moniker Rockettothesky for her first two albums, which mostly gained traction in her native Norway. 2013’s Innocence is Kinky was her first eponymous release, whose critical praise more officially made a name for Hval’s brand of sample heavy, nonconforming pop music that guides blindly through spaces with smart and disarmingly confrontational lyrics. Although the soundscapes of each of Hval’s releases vary, her fascination with language and her ability to use it as a device of confrontation always remains central. On Apocalypse, her command of words allows her to explore broader themes like spirituality and death that she avoided in her previous records.

The last time Hval toured, her frustration with shoddy sound systems at various venues gave way to the erratic explosions of sound and fuzz on her 2013 release. The accompanying lyrics, via some form of mimicry, assumed a predatory, active function. Innocence deliberately objectified the human body using shallow definitions of language: The album begins with Hval saying, “That night I watched people fucking on my computer.Apocalypse Girl boasts the same amount of profanity in its lyrics, but the record more clearly capitalizes on Hval’s desire to create the softer, more emotional music that she deviated from on Innocence. Tracks like “Why This_” and “Heaven” are more sentimental simply because they are quieter pop songs, each element easily traced back to Hval’s aim to create spacious tracks.

With more afforded space for fragile emotion, her crude lyrics explore sexuality as something expansive and natural rather than further exploiting Innocence’s emphasis on a lustful, animalistic notion. For example the recurring comparison of the soft dick and a banana dissolves the sexual connotation of the penis as well as its association with power and success. By softening up (literally) and zooming out, Apocalypse Girl directs more attention to Hval’s intelligent lyricism, especially when it comes to sex and gender. “And when I touched you, I turned you into a girl, only for a moment,” Hval coos over a backdrop of soaring synths and gentle harp plucking on “Angels and Anaemia.” It’s not that Hval hasn’t tackled the issue of gender on her other records, but Apocalypse’s overarching quiet inspires more profound introspection than her other releases. The record leaves space for tender emotions and deep thought, which makes the pictures she paints more vivid and her own experiences more accessible.

Hval may have quieted down on Apocalypse, but her hypnotically shrill and crystalline vocals remain integral, especially when you consider the words they’re responsible for. In “That Battle is Over” Hval’s repetition of “heaven” is so piercing that it sounds like glass could shatter. It’s all very purposeful, though: Hval puts a sharp inflection on certain words and thickly enunciates syllables as if she wants you to hear them echoing in your head after the song is over. Her words resonate the most on Apocalypse because they are impactful in the album’s stiller environments. She’s can’t be easily figured out, but her zoomed out perspective on this album better shows us the bigger picture she was looking at.

Apocalypse Girl is out now via Sacred Bones. Continue reading for the interview. 

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Do you enjoy being loud and being soft?

At the moment I'm enjoying doing what we're doing live, but it's not so much about being loud anymore. I think I enjoy dynamics, but the way dynamics work for me always changes. So sometimes for certain period of time it can be about actual dynamics as in loudness and softness of volume but at the moment I feel like the dynamics are different, there's a different range and it's more about emotional content. It's more about something endearing and humorous or autobiographical and fantastical; it's between something quiet and whispered and something more like emphatic religious singing. So it’s not so much about the loudness as about the level of ecstasy or something like that.

There’s a softness, but contrasted with harsh lyrics.

Maybe this comes from experience working with very frank lyrics for a long time, but I feel like the lyrics this time, even though they have the same level of what people would call profanity I guess, it means something else now. In the sense of Kinky, most of it was focused on the gaze: people looking at other people as if the gaze is actually killing the object you're looking at. This wound being made by your looking at somebody. This time I don't feel like I'm using sexuality as something that's objectified and a natural part of life--something you grab like when you do the dishes, not something that you grab onto for the kind of successful climax, not something you look at and sexualize but more something almost frighteningly normal.

I was thinking on the last album that you were more aggressive and attacking certain ideas and really indulging in them, and this one I felt like is more--especially in conjunction with the way it sounds--it's more of a meditation on things. Would you agree?

Yeah, that's good. I also listened to a lot of Alice Coltrane. I listened to one album that she made in the 80s that's very spiritual called The Divine Songs. I listened to that a lot before I made the album..

What`s your experience been with the lyrics you write? Have people gotten more used to it? Do you ever get scary mail from people or anything?

Never. I just don't think I'm popular enough. I've had my share of reactions, but when it comes to direct confrontations with people who get annoyed by my lyrics, no. I also think that here in Norway people are more likely to have heard of me because I released a few albums here before any of my albums got any sort of attention elsewhere. So people have more of a history of hearing my work here. People find it weird, but Norway is quite liberal, or we think we are quite liberal. What people do here is avoid something if you find it confrontational,. Just avoid it. Make sure you don't ever hear it and we'll all be fine and have good times. I'm avoided a lot I think.

If I'm reading you correctly, I feel that I'm the same way. Confrontation is a beautiful thing, not for the sake of creating drama but just being straightforward with people. Have you always just been that way in not beating around the bush?

Oh, I’m not like that at all. I'm just like that when I write. As a person, I hate confrontation. I hate it, but all the people I admire can do it. I aspire to become better at it.

What's an example of a situation that makes you cringe because it's confrontational? What would that look like? Telling someone they smell bad or something?

I do love confrontational art. When you look for it, you can find really confrontational stuff. And there's a reason sometimes that things are called confrontational because sometimes it's just very hard to watch. But I do take a great interest in it. But when it comes to telling people that enough is enough or being extremely clear but fair, that to me is hard. I'm more of a conversation person. So the negotiations, the business of negotiations, that's not something I like. I think I could tell someone that they smelled, but I also think that I really wouldn't because it's OK to smell a bit. But the business stuff is a better example.

And so your art, your music is where you are able to explore that facet of being confrontational, and you enjoy that?

I enjoy being direct. It's the way I write. The way I write is pretty much the way I am too, but when it comes to being in a room with important people, I wouldn't speak like that. I wouldn't be in song or art mode, I'd have to speak normal language. And that is a different type of confrontation for sure. In my music, even if we're talking about lyrics, I'm inside a musical structure so I can dictate how the directness and confrontation are being put to the listener, and I can also find great freedom in the way that I compose the music and make the sounds align with the content of the song. So it's more about being free and working very freely allows you to be that way, but reality doesn't. Isn't that what it's like for everybody? There are some parts of your favorite things in life that make you feel free and then there is ordinary everyday life where you feel really restricted.

It's true you can only be confrontational in real life to a certain extent before you become evil.

But the people who can be confrontational and yet seem fair, those people I try to learn from.

A City Is An Island – Interview with Timothy George Kelly

10 Jun 2015 — Editor

In anticipation of the German premiere of Montréal music documentary A City Is An Island we have talked to the director Timothy George Kelly. The film will be shown at Kino Babylon Mitte on tomorrow, June 11 at 8pm followed by a Q&A with the director, musician Sean Nicholas Savage and artist Jason Harvey.

This interview was first posted on the website of Torstraßen Festival. Read it below the break.

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Your film illustrates how ambivalent many Montreal musicians are about self-promotion and even success. Did you encounter resistance to the project of documenting the Montreal music scene? If so, how did you convince people to be involved in your documentary?

There were different levels of resistance from different people. Younger artists are more often self-conscience, excited for a platform to talk and then afterwards sometimes wishing they had never done it at all. I think there is a real pressure now because of the internet, having to tour, having to have a press photo and music videos, it asks for an identity from young artists who may not know who they are yet and they are forced to cement that in recorded document that is in someone’s else’s control, which can result in a neurotic episode from some.

A lot of the older people who didn’t want to be in the film were just passive aggressive, which I would fire back with my greatest weapon, the never ending persistent weekly email. Mauro from Godspeed You! Black Emperor straight up told me to fuck off which I thought was pretty cool. There was this strange attitude from some of the nineties and early 00s crowd that making a film about the Montreal scene would somehow reveal the secret of the place and the floodgates would open. I grew up on a farm in Australia pretty much the furthest distance from Montreal possible, it ain’t a secret no more. The secret they are thinking of is just nostalgia for a time when their hangovers were more tolerable.

Most of the musicians in the film are solo artists. Is there something particularly solitary about Montreal life?

It’s economics of time and money. You have to tour now, touring with one person is way more affordable than multiple – and technology, people are create huge sounds with gear that didn’t exist ten years ago. Macbook Pro rock stars. And of course, winter. If you are solo, you don’t even have to leave your room.

You use a lot of live performances in the film — in venues, homes, and outside in Montreal city space. Why was that important to you?

I asked the artists where they would like to play. It was a way to document the space of the city whilst giving the audience what they want from a music documentary: music.

You spend a significant amount of time on language politics in Quebec, and the tension between French-speaking Quebecois and Anglo “ex-pats” who are mostly from other parts of Canada. Not knowing French is a weirdly big aspect of living in Montreal. Do you speak French? In your film, Brendan Reed compares asking this to asking someone about their sexuality. Do you agree?

One of my first jobs in Montreal was delivering sofas, my French never really improved from what was required there. I wouldn’t say Brendan is directly comparing sexuality and language, he is using sexuality as an example of something that is very important to someone’s identity which could result in people feeling isolated or ashamed. Anglophones feel guilty for their laziness in not ingraining themselves in the predominant language of Quebec, but the shame comes from language politics being in the fabric of Montreal culture and the anglophone being the perpetual outsider, the voluntary outsider, the lazy outsider, which leads to for so many to be the temporary citizen. It is this that makes them eventually leave.

What compelled you to make this film? Put another way, why did you feel it need to be made?

I am a filmmaker. I had no money to make a film about something made up, so I made a film about what was in front of me.

What kind of response has it had, in Montreal and outside?

Really well. I am just happy people completely ignore the technical issues the film has and see it has a heart, it was shot on a camera that is worth $150 now so I sit in the cinema at these film festivals and just feel like a kid, a pretend filmmaker, a liar, where all the other films that play have logos of companies and state support at the end credits. It is strange how something doesn’t look official until you put some kind of logo on it. Our brains love symbols.

Your film is about artists in Montreal, but your voice is absent. Why did you choose not to include yourself in it?

My voice is in it. It is everywhere. 90 hours of footage cut into 72 minutes. What is in it, what isn’t, that’s my voice right there.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

Australian. Moved to Montreal in 2008. Now based in London, UK. Have very little patience for shit fruit. I like painting, whisky and napping.

What are you working on next?

I am making a documentary about a techno collective called John’s Kingdom in Moscow right now. They are pretty interesting, all friends who somehow have a very similar sound, which in the world of Ableton and digital music creation where anyone who can work a torrent basically has an endless palette of sounds, is quite rare.

And then when I am back in London I will start another film in reaction to what Katie Hopkins has been saying about immigrants. The window of what has become reasonable to say in the right-wing press in the UK is disgusting and needs to be fought against, we are in an information war and it is very loud and very confusing and very fucked up. So I am going to make a film asking only egalitarian revolutionaries their opinions of the police, what it is to be human and if a policeman can be one. No one will care about the film of course, but it’s worth trying anyway.