Synths I’d Like to F*ck: SILF on Budapest, music and their label Farbwechsel

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SILF (Synths I’d Like to F*ck) is a Hungarian electronic music group. The two members, Bálint Zalkai (aka Alpár) and Martin Mikolai (aka S Olbricht), have been running the Hungarian label called Farbwechsel since 2012 and have become a staple of not only local, but also international underground through their numerous solo releases on labels such as Opal Tapes, Lobster Theremin and SicSic Tapes. Their preferred tools of expression are analogue instruments, from which they extract sophisticated dancefloor friendly electronics. They released their first, self-titled, EP on Farbwechsel in 2013. SILF were nominated for SHAPE by UH FEST, where they are set to perform in September 2015.

Can you talk about how SILF was born?

Bálint Zalkai: SILF was born in 2011, when I got my first synths and drum machines. Martin [Mikolai] came over once and we started to jam. The direction at that time was completely different, it was mostly techno like noise. Then as time passed, and we also became more confident in handling the gear, the results became cleaner and the sound of SILF developed. The name came from this typical last minute stress before the first concert, when you have to think of a name that will then stick around. So it became SILF, Synths I’d Like to F*ck.

You both have solo projects, how is SILF different to how you work alone and how does the aesthetic of all of your individual and mutual projects influence each other?

BZ: We both brought our solo project’s mentality, but the results do not resemble either of them. In Olbricht’s music, there are lot of percussive elements, Martin really has a thing for drums. There’s an idiosyncratic character that’s hard to describe to his whole work. Once, someone sent in a Ste Pwri Tmod track, with a question, whether it was SILF. It wasn’t SILF, and it wasn’t even 4/4, but it was undeniable, that Martin is playing the drums on there. In his solo work, he’s much more abstract, offbeat, a little of which is also transferred onto his other projects, he builds a really strong groove as a base in general.

When it comes to Alpár, there are no drums at all. Since I got a modular synth, a few rhythm based elements have appeared in the music, but these are more like accidental filter modulations, not programmed drums. Until now, the Alpár setup has continuously changed and differed from the SILF one. Now, however, the gear I’m using in both projects is more or less the same. The DIY modular scene is really active, they have been doing really great modules in the last couple of years. My rack is 70 percent DIY, and everything is built from there. It is a really unique instrument, and I’m trying it out in all respects. Although I’m using it in a different way in each project, I’m curious, in longterm, about the parallels in sound between each.

Is the fact that you make music on analogue hardware important?

BZ: This is a question of process rather than results. It is possible to make music with anything, you don’t need 60 types of instruments.  The good thing is, rather, that most of the instruments are limited, but they have their own character. When you are trying to use it to the maximum, you can arrive at really nice results. It’s much more fun to make music like this than with a computer. We are really lucky to have met Zoli Balla. We can try out any instrument we’ve dreamt of at his place [Ballacid studio in Budapest’s outskirts]. But you need some limitations though, because the more stuff you are surrounded with, the more lost you can feel.

What is the importance of the Ballacid studio for SILF and the producers in Budapest?

BZ: Ballacid is our friend Zoli Balla, and he’s become an institution here in Budapest. He’s been collecting musical instruments and records. If you look at the Ballacid youtube channel, you will realise that the guy is a little crazy, but in the best sense of the word. He loves this milieu of vintage instruments, and that’s why he started to collect them. He also likes to share them with others, a lot of people go to record a few tracks or borrow gear there. There are musicians, whom we met at his place for the first time, such as Eril Fjord. Things simply happen at this 8th floor block apartment in Ujpest. We can talk about our gear obsessions sincerely as if we were in a synthaholic anonymous group (laughs).

Can you talk about the actual music making in SILF? Does it mainly revolve around the live recordings? What are your roles in SILF, who does what?

BZ: We start to jam, Martin makes a hypnotic groove and I do some psyched synths. If we like the results, we record them all into one stereo track. We sit for ages next to each other, without talking, we are pressing and tweaking everything, looking for cables, and then suddenly, one of us starts to talk and says something like ‘This is really good, we should record it’. We don’t mess around a lot, there is a threshold for mistakes after which we repeat the recording because the mishaps are really annoying, but it is not very common. Luckily, our brains work the same way, so we don’t react to each other, but rather we just do things simultaneously. From this, a very good flow has developed, which can be only sourced from these jams. It’s not possible to premeditate it.

What are your plans with SILF?

BZ: What is certain is that there will be a Farbwechsel EP. We also have lots of recordings, which are waiting to be released. Apart from this, we are also playing a lot of live shows. We’ve managed to diversify the setup and sound. Before, we made things harder for ourselves. When, for instance, we’d put 32 sounds into the sequencer of a SH-101, it’s likely it would get fucked up somewhere between 25 and 32, and up until then, most of the time, only the kick drum would work which can be boring. So it’s good to let go of these romantic ideas and simplify the process. But this is evolution, no?

Farbwechsel has become a flagship for the fledgling Budapest electronic scene,  championing many increasingly successful producers from the start (eg. Imre Kiss, Norwell, Route 8, etc).

BZ: We started Farbwechsel in 2012. After the pointless demo submissions and because of the increasingly active Budapest scene, we decided that we have to do something. Once, Olbricht said, that he couldn’t find a label for his album The Last Act of Dorothy Stratten, and this was the final straw that made us decide to start it. We were very lucky that our graphic designer Daniel Jani also liked this idea, especially that he would have a free hand when it comes to the visuals. It wouldn’t be such a label without him and he also became a really good friend. We have a really good relationship with everyone with whom we’ve ever worked with. We have become very tight friends, we meet regularly, jam together. I think the Budapest scene is really happening now, people push each other, everyone’s music has developed a lot in the last one or two years. There’s Aiwa, for instance, who will soon release his second Farbwechsel album. It is great that everyone is working on their stuff. From the standpoint of the label, we are happy, that we were finally able to release this great music on vinyl. When it comes to short term plans, one of them is to publish music of the artists who have already released something with us – (Aiwa, Imre Kiss, Route 8, SILF) – and also, of course, others, but we’d like to define the basis of the label through its stable roster.

 

 

 

 

Between Philip Glass and Diamanda Galás: An interview with Księżyc

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The first incarnation of Księżyc was active in the 1990’s, the second exists now. In both forms the members include Agata Harz (vocals), Katarzyna Smoluk (vocals, piano), Robert Niziński (wind instruments, keyboards), Lechosław Polak (accordion, keyboards, synthesizers) and Remigiusz Mazur Hanaj (tapes). The sonic universe of Księżyc is idiosyncratic and combines inspiration drawn from early and late medieval music rooted in the Slavic tradition with elements of 20th century minimalism and vocal experiments. The surreal fairy tale inspired lyrics (written by Remigiusz Mazur Hanaj) add to the inherent beauty, sadness and madness within. Following the Penultimate Press reissue of their self-titled full length recording, the band re-united with a series of shows across Poland. Their upcoming record, a reissue of a 1992 concert, is slated for release on Blackest Ever Black this year.

Księżyc means ‘moon’ in Polish. Why did you choose it and did you select a Polish name purposefully? (A lot of bands choose English names in an effort to “be international”)

Robert Niziński: Moon / Księżyc is a feminine symbol. Księżyc was formed as a female trio: Agata Harz, Katarzyna Smoluk and Ola Nakonieczna. The girls are of Polish and Ukrainian origin. The lyrics are in Polish, so there was no reason to name the group in any other language. The ‘moon’ has connotations of fertility, intuition, the unconscious, passive creativity, and also periods and rhythms of life. And the name of the group says a lot about our way of making music. Moon symbolizes poetry, the mysterious powers of nature, detachment from earthly human affairs. Our music was in its nature unpretentious (even if often perceived as extravagant), and we didn’t strive for international fame, so it was natural to choose a Polish name as we were active mostly here in Poland.

The band had two incarnations – one in the 1990s, the other now. What has happened over those twenty years, and how different would you say the band is now compared to then?

Agata Harz/Remigiusz Mazur Hanaj: In our first incarnation, we performed not more than 30 concerts over several years. Our audience wasn’t large, from 3 to 50 people. Our concerts were partly improvised. Four of us used to be members of a theatre group, whose performing and working style was based on Grotowski’s method and that‘s why, in a natural way, our concerts were performative. Today we use less theatrical expression, with more happening in our imagination filled up with music. There are more places and opportunities for playing our music, although not as many as we wish. Our audience is also larger. It’s hundreds of people now. Our not-so-easy music has lots of international fans. It surprises us and makes us happy.

RN: The second incarnation began at the moment when we started to work on the re-issue of our first album. In 2013, it was remastered and Mark Harwood (Penultimate Press) released Księżyc on vinyl under the catalogue number PP8. In my opinion it was the beginning of the re-birth and comeback…

Katarzyna Smoluk: Now, after the reunion, the group is different, yet the same. The way we make music is similar – somebody has an idea, the others join in and we play and sing trying to fit in – we are a gathering of very independent musicians, and there is a lot of freedom involved. This is more like a conversation, even though the voices of people and instruments intertwine with each other. The music we play nowadays is quite different, there is more improvisation in it, more freedom of expression, and it is – at least for me – richer, and the sounds are more unpredictable.

You are drawing inspiration from medieval music, also taking cues from Slavic tradition, all of this coupled with minimalism and 20th century music. Can you talk more about these elements and influences and how they are manifest in your music?

KSM: Slavic traditional music is ingrained in our minds, it is the thing that has impressed each one of us at some point, and remains important. The same is true for minimal music, and any other music that can be associated with the music we play.

You mention various influences, among them also some peculiar ones like Hildegard von Bingen, the 11th century German writer, mystic and visionary. 

RN: The repetitive structures, short motifs, the experimental approach for voice expression and creation of the sound place our work, let’s say, somewhere between Philip Glass and Diamanda Galás, the Slavic tradition, John Cage and the “future music of the universe”…

AH/RH: The contemporary music we were interested in – for example Meredith Monk, Steve Reich – is not so new and the ancient music – for example by Hildegard von Bingen, Thomas Morley and many others – is not so ancient, it is surprisingly up-to-date. All of these are „mine” and „ours”. When we were young, we also listened to rock music (Recommended Rec artists).

RH: …And my favourite bands from that time are: This Heat, Camberwell Now, The Swans, Pere Ubu.

Can you talk about your work with Polish folk tales and Slavic mythology/folklore as such. Why does it fascinate you, and how do you translate it into your music?

AH/RH: We discovered traditional music and it was a strong experience. It was like discovering an unknown land. During the communist years, this music was doomed and hidden. Over 20 years, we have been wandering across Polish villages, making field recordings and learning to play instruments, sing and dance from old musicians. I published some of these recordings in a special series of CD’s on In Crudo label. And some of them I use after processing and mixing for creating new music (this year, they will be published as „field recordings of dreams”). We used our experiences in some musical projects based on Polish traditional music, but also experimental music like the group Wędrowiec (The Wanderer).

Can you talk about your live shows, the whole scenography? Do you recollect a memorable concert?

KSM: The concepts come into being during the live performances. They are obviously prepared and thought out beforehand, but the concept comes when we know the venue. We like to play with the associations of a place, but also with things that occurred to us at some (usually recent) moments, ideas, flashes of memory, anything can trigger a new scenography or a performative act.

RN: There were a few spectacular concerts in the career of the band. I’m sure that for the girls, Agata and Kasia, one of the most memorable was the concert in a jailhouse, organised by Amnesty International for the prisoners. When it comes to exchanging energy during the live shows, this one was a bit hard and devastating for the performers. I remember one of our concerts in Warsaw. Suddenly, a large group of soldiers in uniforms appeared among the audience. They sat down and left the show after one song. All of them at the same time. Quietly. A case of a wrong choice perhaps? I liked a lot our performances in Wales, UK. We played in caves, old wooden churches, and also in one hospital, where we performed for mentally ill patients as well as for the staff – doctors and nurses. The reactions were quite intense and loud. A very strange experience, and a deep hope that they had a good time listening to our music…

AH: My favourite concert took place in an old factory in Warsaw in the temperature of plus 3 degrees Celsius. Me and Kasia were singing on swings made of old steel radiators.

Can you talk about your Blackest Ever Black release?

RN: I met Kiran Sande, the head of BEB, last year in Kraków during the Unsound festival. He saw our concert there. We played in a beautiful old interior of St Catherine Church. Half a year earlier we started exchanging emails after Mat Schulz (Unsound) forwarded me a long letter from Kiran with a proposal of a Księżyc release on BEB. It was surprising for me that Kiran had been already familiar with our music for a long time. He even knew the dates of our performances and titles of our rare old recordings. We discussed a variety of options and focused on searching for the tapes and completing our archives, because the tapes ‘disappeared’ from our shelf. It was hard work and kind of a sentimental journey in time. In 1992 we played a concert at St. Vincent Church in Wroclaw. The performance was recorded by Mirek Koch and four pieces were released a year later on our debut 7 inch vinyl (“Nów”) by OBUH records. Finally, we found the old tape with the whole concert recorded. Now we’re working on the restoration of this archive material and hopefully some of these ‘historical’ recordings will be released by BEB this year.

A lot has changed in terms of politics and society, especially in the East. Can you reflect? Does this influence you artistically?

AH/RH: Yes, of course, but our artistic work wasn’t directly related to any political or social context. Our music was always connected to the area of culture and humanity, which has never changed from the times of Shakespeare or ancient Egypt. After the liberation from communism, many opportunities to cooperate with western artists appeared naturally, something that was limited or impossible twenty years ago. But it lasted for a long time and at the beginning of the liberation period, in the 90s, the economic situation was bad and put an end to the activity of many alternative artistic groups (no places to perform, no money for living etc.). Some of such bands have been reactivated in Poland, but in Ukraine, where we have some friends, this was not the case.

RN: A lot has changed after the big political transformation in this corner of Eastern Europe. The music (along with the musicians) crosses the frontiers more easily.

SHAPE Artists’ Hour ft. Ksiezyc – 22nd May 2015 by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

Rumour has it, Księżyc will perform at the upcoming Les Siestes Electroniques festival, which kicks off in Tolouse, France, on 25 June 2015. For more information, click here.

Yair Elazar Glotman a.k.a. Ketev drops new video

Did You know that the dark techno producer Ketev is also a classically trained contrabass player, influenced by minimalist composers, such as Steve Reich, or free improvisers, such as Joëlle Léandre? Check out this video teaser for the SHAPE artist’s first album of acoustic music, released under his real name – Yair Elazar Glotman – and titled Études.

“Études” is a collection of solo contrabass performances recorded at the EMS studios in Stockholm, released by Subtext Recordings. The video features the track “Drift” and is directed by James Ginzburg.

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Ketev, meanwhile, is Glotman’s post techno project, made by phasing patterns from Reel-to-reel tape loops that are manipulated by 4-track cassette decks, Ketev creates roaring textures above slowly shifting rhythmic mantras. The artist’s self-titled debut release on Opal Tapes in 2014, described as “picking up where the darkest records by Andy Stott and Sam Kerridge left off” (Boomkat), was well-received, and quickly followed-up by a second release, Singular Stare, on the UK label where to now?.

 

You can catch Glotman playing under the Ketev moniker at a SHAPE showcase as part of the musikprotokoll festival in Graz, Austria on October 8.

NTS mixtape by SILF’s S. Olbricht

To highlight the fact that SHAPE artists SILF have recently been confirmed for Budapest’s UH Fest (September 27 – October 4), S Olbricht, one half of the group, has crafted a mixtape for London’s radio station NTS Live.

The mix is a handpicked selection of upcoming tracks, demos and other Farbwechsel-related sonics.

Shape w/ S Olbricht – 14th June 2015 by Nts Radio on Mixcloud

SILF (Synths I’d Love to Fuck) is a Hungarian electronic music group. The two members, Bálint Zalkai (aka Alpár) and Martin Mikolai (aka S Olbricht) have been running Farbwechsel, an increasingly popular imprint for forward-thinking electronic music, since 2012 and have become a staple of not only local, but also international underground, through their numerous solo releases on labels such as Opal Tapes, Lobster Theremin or SicSic Tapes.

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Click here for previous SHAPE-related broadcasts on NTS.

Les Siestes Électroniques: The art of music

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Based in Toulouse, Southern France, Les Siestes Électroniques is a summer meeting point for emerging artists from the field of adventurous music. The festival consists of two editions – the Toulouse one takes place in a public garden and apart from concerts, also encompasses workshops, talks and other types of discourse about contemporary music. The Paris edition takes place within the premises of the ethnographical musem quai Branly. The Toulouse edition takes place between 25-28 June, the Parisian follows up throughout July 2015. Here, communications officer Jeanne-Sophie Fort and artistic director Samuel Aubert discuss the ins and outs of Les Siestes Électroniques

Can you talk about the motivations that were behind establishing Les Siestes Électroniques

Jeanne-Sophie Fort: When it started, its creator Samuel Aubert was living in Toulouse, and there hadn’t been many events in town related to electronic music. He wanted to introduce electronic music to a wider audience in a public garden during an afternoon in different conditions than those in clubs or rave parties. Over the course of those fourteen years he’s wanted to make people discover different kinds of music, so now we are not only focused on electronic music, but also music that is experimental, pop and rock, as long as it’s stimulating to our ears.

Can you talk about the Toulouse edition?

JSF: The point is to have it in a public garden in the heart of Toulouse because it’s easier for people to come, it’s in the end of June, usually the weather is good. There are many different spots where people can lie down and enjoy music with their eyes closed.  The festival goers can reappropriate the public garden and listen to music however they’d like to.

So it’s also like a statement against this dark, anonymous, hedonistic vibe which is inherently tied to the reception of underground electronic music.

JSF: We focus on the daytime. It is a quite statement, even if you’ll find more and more festivals that welcome public on beaches. But the main issue is that we’re trying to engage a wider audience, not just a specific section of public interested in a specific music scene. That’s why we came up with this daylight context and why we’ve been struggling for 14 years to keep our initiative free of any charges. And that’s also why we’re now more than just an electronic festival. If party-goers want to go out at night, we invite them to go to the parties organised by our Toulouse partners in different locations. The festival connects all local promoters and venues and creates some kind of network.

Can you talk about the dramaturgy of the festival?

JSF: Les Siestes is run by an association of approx. 50 people, most of whom live in Toulouse, but also in Paris and the rest of the world. All these people are connected and they send their music tips to Samuel Aubert, the artistic director, who then makes a selection. Each year he wants to show something. This year, the lineup goes back to the roots of electronic music. We’ve got people from Singapore coming to do an experimental musical performance, etc.

You don’t reveal your lineups. Why?

JSF: We want to keep it secret until the D-Day. For most of our audience, our lineup is very obscure anyway. But they keep coming back! So we’ve figured out that not revealing the names on our bill would be a good way to celebrate the curiosity of our audience. It’s symbolic. It’s the way we’ll show each other (the promoter and the audience) our mutual trust.

You also have a Parisian edition of Les Siestes Électroniques, which takes place a few weeks after the Toulouse one.

JSF: Artists are invited to pick sounds from the sound bank of the museum and reappropriate them. This sound bank of ethnological and naturalist music is dedicated to researchers and is not open to public. The person in charge of this audio collection was frustrated because he had a massive quantity of music from all over the world, but he could not make it public to different types of audiences. Les Siestes suggested to invite artists from various backgrounds to recreate these sound materials and reveal their versions every Sunday afternoon over the course of the summer. Ethnological music has become interesting to a wider audience. Two years ago, we went to Vietnam to organise Les Siestes Électroniques with this project.

How was this experience?

JSF: The Vietnamese do not listen to music the way we do. It is a communist country, people are not used to listen to what they want to. We were curious about what would electronic music be in a context of a country where there is no electronic music scene apart from Japanese and Korean pop. What we noticed is that people dance together, it’s almost choreographed. In Europe, people are more individualistic. In Europe, the focus is on our feet, while having our eyes closed, concentrated on our inner feelings. The way we perceive music through our bodies says a lot about the way we consume it. It was very interesting to experience the fact that people do not listen to music the same way we do. When we were in Congo to organise an edition there, we realised that music has a different meaning there. You should have a look at our web-documentaries to discover the density of these experiences abroad.


LES SIESTES AU VIETNAM | Le docu by lessiesteselectroniques

You also have a DIY music academy.

JSF: We did that 3 or 4 years ago. The objective was to gather people who wanted to experience and hack machines. Four people kept meeting up after the festival and created a band called Do It Yourself Music Academy that has become “DIMA” throughout the years. Later, we renamed our workshops to Futurism. These are meetings for people who work in technology and make music – workshops, conferences – centred around the question What is music today?.

Can you talk about the artists who represent your festival in SHAPE?

Samuel Aubert: There’s Mondkopf from Toulouse who now lives in Paris. His work is interesting, because it has changed over the years.  With Guillaume Heuguet he created a label called In Paradisum. And among the label’s roster is also Low Jack, another artist which is part of the SHAPE platform. In Paradisum is clearly one of the new labels that have been burgeoning in Paris since 2010. Then we suggested Lorenzo Senni. The way he is approaching a popular sub-genre of music, which is well-know but pretty badly appreciated by connoisseurs, and turning it into some kind of pure sonic artefact, is stunning. He turned Trance into contemporary music. This is Jesus changing water into wine! And last but not least, we’re thrilled to have DJ Nigga Fox, representing Portugal and Africa. There is now a whole bunch of scenes and sub-genres that are crossing the bridges between European and African dance music but Kuduro is maybe the most vibrant and ecstatic. As one of the most southern festival within the Shape platform we would like to also advocate for the future sound of “The South of Europe” ;)

Do these artists have something in common? Do you think they explore the question that you as the festival also asks?

SA: I don’t think that these three artists have something in common, but they are good examples of the possible diversity of contemporary music and they are definitively challenging the way we listen to music. These artists are making something idiosyncratic. It is hard to put them into a specific genre of music.

The art of listening is important to you.

SA: The art of listening is at the heart of our job. The difference between a good and a bad festival is all about the art of listening, the condition you are providing to the audience to experience the music at its best.

What about the future of Les Siestes?

JSF: I hope it’s going to be bright. I’m quite confident, because each year, we end up doing something different than the year before. We try to question ourselves all the time. We have different projects, we have an R&D department, we work with tech companies from Toulouse. We try to create something that can be responsive to public movements. Maybe we will also further develop the Parisian edition. We also publish a music journal (Revue Audimat) and perhaps also books in a few months …

And you will keep posing the question about music and the music making of today?

JSF: Everything we do at Les Siestes Electroniques is an answer to the question “what is music today”, and actually, how we listen to it and compose it nowadays. The reception is also very important, the quality of sound and the places to listen to music. People can experience the festival in a normal way, or if they want to experience it differently, we’ll make it possible.

SHAPE Festivals’ Hour ft. Les Siestes Electroniques – 18th May 2015 by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

photo © Cedric Lange 2014

Oknai mixtape tonight on NTS Live

This Friday, SHAPE artist Oknai will share the stage with Warp RecordsClark at an outdoor event, organized by SONICA festival. To get an idea of what his performance will sound like, tune into London’s NTS Live tonight at 3:00 AM (GMT) for an excluvie mixtape by the Berlin-based producer.

The mixtape, titled “Rising from the Waters”, is entirely comprised of Oknai’s own material, both previously released and new.

6. Picture for Ljublja event - oknai by katja_kremenic

Oknai is an electronic artist based in Berlin, who got his rep from his ‘clip-chop’ live sets. In 2011 the rx:tx label released his first EP Ain’t a Dream, featuring raw, lo-fi drums, though its rough edges tend to get smoothed over by the wealth of detail, sampled fragments from all over the place and unique arrangements, all tucked someplace between glitchop, hiphop, IDM and the other. High Tide is the follow up to Oknai’s debut. The album was entirely produced on the coasts of Costa Rica where Oknai was surfing, diving, exploring, eating them exotic fruits and, well, making music. And the music is not about bananas, pineapples and coffe. It’s also not necessarily a sunny record. It’s a subtle and cohesive mix of lo-fi drums, synths and lots of bass. It’s hiphop with hidden juke-ish rhythmics. It’s High Tide, very much a night ride.

The show can be streamed live from the NTS Live website or found later on the homepage of SHAPE!

Click here for previous SHAPE-related broadcasts on NTS.

From dub to vegetables: An interview with Ulrich Troyer

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Ulrich Troyer’s artistic approach is dominated by an interaction between architecture, music and fine arts. The acoustic space and the reverberation of sound events form a circular theme in his work. Troyer’s commitment to dub production methods offer the perfect playground for his sonic experiments. His interest in sound system music (bass, dub, techno and their abstractions) led to the trilogy Songs For William. His debut Nok was released by the Viennese label MEGO in 2000 and resulted in an honorary mention at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. Since 2005, Troyer has performed actively as a member of The Vegetable Orchestra. We met during the ICAS Festival in Dresden in early May 2015, where he was also performing. He was nominated for SHAPE by musikprotokoll im steirischen herbst / ORF.

You are playing your “Songs For William” project at the ICAS Festival. Can you talk about it?

Ulrich Troyer: The project combines music, hand-drawn visuals for the live performance and a comic novel about a guitar effect pedal. William, the main character, is a guitar stomp box, probably a distortion pedal, who lives in the 4Bit Studio together with several other effect pedals such as delays, reverbs and filters. I started working on the “Songs For William” project back in 2006. It was intended to be a trilogy from the beginning. I released two parts of it so far, and hopefully next year the third and last part.

Where does your interest in dub originate?

UT: I’m not interested in reggae and dub cliches, but I’m really fascinated by the bass lines, bass frequencies and spaces that you can find in dub music. The concept of dub music was invented back in the 1960s by King Tubby and Lee Perry. Their use of the studio as an instrument is a very inspiring way to create for instance electronic music. Even if this concept is over 50 years old, it is still fresh and up-to-date. Dub as an artistic concept is the perfect playground for me to experiment.

Is it difficult to find your own expression, your own voice, within this genre?

UT: Everybody who creates something out of passion has his own voice. I find my inspiration in the records that blow me away. And then I want to create something new that is as good as the piece of music that made me happy, sad or moved me in a special way. I’m not looking to recreate the music itself, but the feeling it evoked in me.

Another aspect in your music is stripped down minimalism and repetition. Were you also influenced by the minimalist composers like Stockhausen?

UT: Yes, definitely. In the 90s, when I was fascinated by the Vienna experimental electronic scene around Fennesz, Pita and the Mego label, I was also discovering the electronic music of the 1950s. I was fascinated by Stockhausen and his concept of tape composition where you listen to music coming from a tape in a darkened room. Speaking of tape music – I remember that I was also blown away at that time by an early tape piece by György Ligeti. If I remember it correctly, it was “Artikulationen”. I listened to it at the Electroacoustic Institute in Vienna in the 90s, and it sounded absolutely modern and fresh to me.

Space and time are the building blocks of dub. How do you work with them?

UT:  I think of a dub track like an ‘acoustic walk’ through a building – first a small room, then a bigger one, then a staircase, then a bathroom… I like using real architecture such as a stairway, a bathroom or even a toilet as an echo chamber. You put a speaker and a microphone in a room and send the snare via the speaker into the space and then you record the reverberation. It’s a technique from the 50s, when they put a speaker and a microphone into a bathroom and over the auxiliary channel from a mixer, they could add reverberation on vocals or instruments. They didn’t have plugins then. This was the easiest way to create an artificial reverb. I love this idea of the echo camber.

The delay also adds this dreamy, nostalgic layer. The past is repeating itself in a way.

UT: Yes, that’s true. But it’s like a story told from one person to the other – like the German game “Stille Post”, I think it’s called “Chinese Whispers” in English. It’s the same, but always a different and often surprising version.

Is it important to innovate in music?

UT: It’s always important to create something new that is interesting for the ear, but I think every great new music is based on some older great ideas. Nothing is completely new. Maybe it’s another interpretation or version of something that already has been. It’s always important to respect the people who made a similar thing a hundred years ago and declare where that idea came from originally.

I’ve always wondered what sort of music would somebody who has never heard any music in their life make, cut off from external influences.

UT: Personally I imagine it could sound like a hypnotic groove with strange sounds created with everyday objects, maybe even with vegetables.

Can you talk about the sonic architecture and using the studio as an instrument in your work?

UT: When I was a kid I wanted to become a composer or a musician but I thought the only way to make a living off music would be to become a music teacher. And I didn’t really like to practise an instrument either – I learned to play the flute and the guitar when I was at school. I didn’t know that what I do now existed as a vocation then. So I decided to study architecture in Vienna. But then during my time at the university I discovered electronic music, and realised, that it is possible to be something like a sound architect and create soundscapes with several layers and spaces in a studio all by myself. So I changed my plan: instead of becoming an architect, I decided to build bass lines and musical spaces using echo chambers. For my final project at university, I recorded interviews with blind people. I considered them experts on hearing architecture and space.

What has your involvement in The Vegetable Orchestra taught you about sound and the nature of performing?

UT: The Vegetable Orchestra is based on the wonderfully simple idea to create music using vegetables only. It was founded in Vienna in 1998, I joined them in 2005. It is an inspiring creative collective composed of ten very diverse people. It is a permanent and always surprising challenge to create sounds out of such fading material as vegetables. I learned a lot about sound design and collaborative, artistic labour.

Vienna had these cycles when its electronic music scene reached out globally, with Kruder & Dorfmeister and then later the Mego label. Could you describe your involvement in it?

UT: My debut EP “Nok” came out on Mego in 2000 when the Vienna hype was already over. As a listener and concert visitor I was very much into all the Mego stuff from the beginning. This was the first time when I thought, ‘Wow there’s something happening in Vienna‘.

And how is it now?

UT: I love Vienna. It’s a perfect city to live and work in. There are lot of great musicians working in different styles, from free improvisation to electronic music to new Austrian pop like Bilderbuch and 5/8terl in Ehr’n. It’s a very diverse scene. Quite often I’d stumble into a concert and get surprised and blown away.

What are you working on this year?

UT: I’ve just finished composing music for the Kid’s app LOOPIMAL by Yatatoy, a small company that I run with Lucas Zanotto and Niels Hoffmann. I’m in the middle of working on a film called Nose Hair by the young Los Angeles based director Louis Morton. The film is about a boy who cannot smell, he has anosmia. I’m composing the soundtrack and doing the sound design. In August there will be an EP on 4Bit Productions with four different versions of the track DEADLOCK, including a remix by my brother Kassian, a melodica version, and two versions featuring Vin Gordon, the legendary studio one trombone player, and Didi Kern from Bulbul on percussion. And I hope to have enough time to work on the third part of my “Songs For William” trilogy.

www.ulrichtroyer.com

(photo by Eva Kelety)

SILF’s S Olbricht tomorrow on NTS Live

To highlight the fact that SHAPE artists SILF have recently been confirmed for Budapest’s UH Fest (September 27 – October 4), S Olbricht, one half of the group, has crafted a mixtape for London’s radio station NTS Live.

SILF (Synths I’d Love to Fuck) is a Hungarian electronic music group. The two members, Bálint Zalkai (aka Alpár) and Martin Mikolai (aka S Olbricht) have been running Farbwechsel, an increasingly popular imprint for forward-thinking electronic music, since 2012 and have become a staple of not only local, but also international underground, through their numerous solo releases on labels such as Opal Tapes, Lobster Theremin or SicSic Tapes.

The mix is a handpicked selection of upcoming tracks, demos and other Farbwechsel-related sonics.

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Listen to the broadcast of the mixtape on the live stream at the NTS homepage tomorrow (June 13) at 2 am (BST)…or find it later on our our website.

 Click here for previous SHAPE-related broadcasts on NTS.

Hildur Guðnadóttir tonight on ORF’s Oe1 Zeit-Ton

hildur6_s_by antje taiga jandrig

Tonight on ORF’s Oe1 Zeit-Ton – a special one-hour broadcast, devoted to SHAPE artist Hildur Guðnadóttir, featuring an extended interview as well as a full-lenght preview of her new album “Samen”.
Susanna Niedermayr, the host of the show, will speak to Guðnadóttir about getting older and reflecting on ones own work, about music as a time machine, about the similarities of the cello and the voice and her work on the new surround cello Ómar, which she is developing in collaboration with Hans Johannsson.

Hildur Guðnadóttir (1982) is an Icelandic cello player, composer and singer who has been manifesting herself at the forefront of experimental pop and contemporary music (e.g. with the band múm). In her solo works she draws out a broad spectrum of sounds from her instrument, ranging from intimate simplicity to huge soundscapes. Gudnadóttir began playing cello as a child, entered the Reykjavík Music Academy and then moved on to musical studies/composition and new media at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and Universitat der Kunste in Berlin.

Hildur has released four critically acclaimed solo albums: Mount A (2006), Without Sinking (2009), Leyfðu Ljósinu (2012) and Saman (2014). Hildur was nominated as composer of the year and Without Sinking got nominated as album of the year at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2009. The same year Without Sinking was also chosen as one of the albums of the year at the Kraumur Awards. Hildur’s albums are all released on Touch.

The show starts at 23:03 (UTC + 2H) and, as usual, can be streamed live on the Oe1 Website.