MØRK: Disco in Odd Times

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The pianist and composer MØRK is a melody-maker. He tells gripping stories without words, using his mechanical piano. The Norwegian word «Mørk» translates as «Dark» in English. Mørk is from the island of Senja, which lies in the northern part of Norway. His musical influences range from Esbjørn Svensson Trio, Nils Petter Molvær and Motorpsycho to Deep Purple, Kraftwerk and Americana. 

You’re a pianist, composer and electronic music producer. Can you describe your journey to music?

I started taking piano classes at my first year of school, at the age of 7.  I joined my first band around 12-13, playing electric organ actually! We did covers of classic rock songs as kids (and many grown-ups) do. Eventually we ventured further into a kind of 70’s West coast pop and became obsessed with ie. Toto. To this day the synth-sounds of Steve Porcaro in the late 70s and early 80s are still a big influence for me with his ridiculously big live-rigs and fat sounds from both Moog modular stuff and early FM-synths like Yamaha gs1.

At high school I became interested in jazz, and from my second year there until my last year in college (6 years) I was mainly working on piano-based nordic-style minimalist jazz. Håkon Gebhardt (Motorpsycho) showed me how to make piezo microphones at home for $5 so I started making a lot of those and fiddling around with them on the grand piano and ended up getting a lot of lo-fi mechanical sounds, which to me sounded really, really cool. And so that laid the groundwork for the heavy piano-sound you can hear on my 2 “mechanical”-jazz records.

After finishing college I completed my last record “Meantime Lifetime” and toured with it, having some brilliant experiences and some really shitty ones as well. I was touring a month alone and tried to perform the material (which originally had been made for the entire band) all by myself with new more electronic arrangements. This turned out really shitty on a few occasions (some good ones too), and I actually lost gigs because of it. That was a terrible feeling and I swear I will never do that to myself or the audience again. But, to my rescue, I discovered an article-series in Sound On Sound called Synth Secrets written by the excellent Gordon Reid. I also moved into a new studio/office-house here in Tromsø with (amongst others) Per Martinsen (Mental Overdrive) and Poppa Lars (Tungtvann). That has really shifted my day-to-day influences and been my way into what I am working on now, which is electronic music, in many forms.

Anyways, I buried myself in this 63-part, highly mathematical series on what synthesis of sound is and really re-discovered the joy of music. When you study music at a conservatory (which I did) you only study one instrument, which in my case was piano. And that’s all fine and good. But there is so much else out there!

Can you talk about the narrative of your music/music-making? (it was mentioned you create stories without words)

I often have some sort of visual idea when I start out with a tune, at least the good ones usually have a visual idea. And that visual evolves to certain stories in my head. But what stories other people hear when they listen to my music, is really up to them. I have heard quite a few different versions. And that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it.

Can you talk about the creation of your music – several musicians are credited on your albums, is it all recorded with instruments?

Yes, they are all instruments. The two Mørk albums have all been composed by me and recorded by the band which consists of myself on grand piano and three of my closest friends (and brilliant musicians): Kristian Olstad on guitars (check out his free-project Leagus), Christer Jørgensen on drums, and Dag Okstad on double bass. In my head we were trying (maybe subconsciously, again) to fuse jazz, rock, classical and electronic music. I am very proud of both of the records, but never listen to them.

You are from the island Senja. Can you describe it and has it had an influence on your music?

Senja is a huge island in the northern part of Norway, which nowadays is getting a lot of tourists who go there to experience the Northern lights, mountains that run all the way down to the sea… In the summer we have the midnight sun, so it’s all about nature. And the people. The kindest and most down to earth people on the planet. It also has a really strong cultural heritage. Whoever is reading this, you really should come to Tromsø (easy by flight via Oslo), and take a few days detour to Senja (which is just a couple hours south of here).

Mork apparently translates as “dark” in Norwegian, but your music is anything but. It is interesting that on one hand you have this doom, dark world of metal in Norway, on the other there’s the bright nu-disco scene with Lindstrom etc. Where do you put your work within this spectrum, if any?

I have never played in a black metal band, so I would definitely say closer to the Oslo Disco scene. But at the same time I feel some sort of a connection to that scene, I think I draw more inspiration from the strong history of electronic music here in Tromsø and at the same time more international influences.

What are you working on right now and what are your 2016 plans?

I will be delving further into the electronic world, focusing on my solo stuff. I have just finished working on a disco-esque EP entitled “Disco in Odd Times” which will be released on Beatservice records in March 2016. Also I have been selected for something called “Festival Profile” at Festspillene i Nord-Norge, which means I get to play a lot of concerts over a whole week at one of northern Norway’s biggest and most important festivals. This I am really looking forward to! Other than that I will be making music in the spring and doing other festival shows.

www.facebook.com/morkmusic

Photo: Knut Aaserud

 

Reptile Master: Eerie melancholy and gut-wrenching terror

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Filled with passion for everything evil, Reptile Master from northern Norway are on a mission to spread the gospel of Doom. With strong roots in both traditional heavy metal, post-metal and sludge, they create a new sound composed of the outermost extremes found in aggression and sorrow. We caught up with Nicolay Tufte Østvold to discuss the ins and outs of the band.

Can you tell us about your background and environment where you are based and create your music?

Reptile Master was formed by a group of friends, all members of metal bands from a wide spectrum of metal genres. We all live in Tromsø, and we also produce and make our music here. Tromsø has an incredibly diverse music scene for a small town, and there’s a very good sense of solidarity across these groups. A huge part of the bands and artists based in Tromsø all have their rehearsal rooms and studios in the same building, and most of us know each other so it’s a very rewarding environment to create in.

How is your music created? Obviously, it’s very atmospheric, there’s always bass and vocals. 

Most of our music is created by the band as a whole, and it’s very important to us that a riff or a song can be felt with both body and ears. A sludgy, slow riff should punch you in the stomach as well as the ears. Volume and the mass/wall of sound is a huge part of our music, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. We also try to stretch parts of tracks and try to reach a trance state. We are hugely influenced by drone music, as well as a wide range of different rock and metal music. We often figure out that if we turn down the BPM a bit more, it will be perfect. This process repeats itself sometimes and the result often is our meanest, slowest riffs. We try to balance the combination of eerie melancholy and gut-wrenching terror. Our song making often starts out with a sketch of a riff, and we jam on, and around it to find a structure and frame for the song.

In what way did the Norwegian metal scene influence you? I always wondered why is it so big there, is it just the weather or are there psychological reasons?

It haven’t been (to my knowledge) a very huge scene for doom/sludge/slow metal in Norway until recently, when these genres really blossomed. Black metal has obviously been a big part of Norwegian music export, and I believe most metal bands from Norway are at some point influenced by the music and the cold appearance of these bands. Reptile Master is more influenced by desert rock, both American and Middle Eastern, and also the repeating chants of Tibetan folk music. We also try to implement Norwegian folk music inspired parts, and tonal use.

We’re probably more inspired by nature and harsh weather than we think, but take it for granted since we’re in it all the time. It certainly comes in handy when you’re taking hostile metal band photos :) From September to April we have about an hour of sun every 24 hours, so it’s probably easier to get inspiration to make dark music.

Do you consider music a form of catharsis – venting & sublimating negativity that’s around us?

Even though we – quoting Scott Kelly of Neurosis – try to capture the sound of the apocalypse, and make an unpleasant vibe in our music, we’re probably the most conflict-shy and harmless group of people above the Arctic Circle. We want people coming to see us live, to enter this trance-like state of mind and feel the music (it’s hard to explain it without sounding hippyish). If listeners can vent their negativity through us, perfect!

Can you tell us about your latest album?

“In the Light of a Sinking Sun” is the product of almost 5 years of playing as a band, slowly building a repertoire and gradually picking out the tracks that would fit well together on an album. We released an EP called “Hoist the Bell” a couple of years ago, but longed for a high quality studio recording. We played several mute film concerts (for Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Cave of the Spider Women) making the whole arrangement from scratch during these years, which has been a huge inspiration for both the way we make music and how to make this (pretty extreme volume based) music work as a soundtrack to a movie for theatre audiences. These concerts have also influenced the way we made the more atmospheric parts of the album, as well as how to build up the dynamic of tracks.

SHAPE mix for NTS Live by Etienne Jaumet

Stream this mix by the legendary French electronic musician Etienne Jaumet, who participates in the SHAPE platform with Satori –  a collaboration with visual artist Félicie d’Estienne d’Orves.

The mixtape was aired on the London-based radio station NTS Live, yet it was created for a different occasion: gathering together tracks by – to name a few – Portishead, Kraftwerk and Run DMC, it was intended for an exhibition at MUDAM, a contemporary art museum in Luxembourg.

Shape w/ Etienne Jaumet – 16th December 2015 by Nts Radio on Mixcloud

Parisian musician Etienne Jaumet has been a serial collaborator and solo artist since the mid 2000’s, providing a backbone of kosmiche electronics and kraut-tinged techno for DJ Gilb’r and his Versatile Records. But perhaps Jaumet is best known as half of Zombie Zombie, the krautrock-and-horror-soundtrack-influenced duo, with a penchant for vintage synthesizers.

Click here for previous SHAPE-related broadcasts on NTS.

Julien Mier’s SHAPE mix for Resonance FM

Stream this new SHAPE mix by Netherlands-based composer and producer Julien Mier, created for the UK radio station Resonance FM as well as its new supplementary version Resonance Extra. The mix, diverse in its influences, yet steadily warm in its sound, consists entirely of Mier’s own productions.

SHAPE Artists' Hour – Julien Mier – 8th December 2015 by Resonanceextra on Mixcloud

Julien Mier is a young composer and producer from the Netherlands, known for his eclectic and washed out collision of musical genres. His signature is this width approach of fragmented melodies, packed in a palette of, sometimes almost waterfall kind of textures and dreamy, melancholic stories. Julien, born in Eindhoven in 1989, is an autonomous composer, producer and interested in interactive installation with cross media purposes. He grew up in the peaceful village Santpoort, near the dunes and the sea, his imagination grew up as well because of the organic feel of nature. After failing to play guitar and piano (because the teachers got frustrated that Julien was only improvising and not playing the pieces) he got attracted in computer software that could put down short “samples” of sound together. His interest in making his own soundscapes and stories in sound attracted him into this wide, new world.

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Mier was nominated to the SHAPE platform by The Hague’s TodaysArt festival and, on December, the 12th, he had his first SHAPE performance at the State-X New Forms festival.

The track list of this mix is as follows:

1. Don’t Doubt
2. Covered In Ash
3. Finally Daylight
4. It’s Slightly Open
5. Rippled Portrait
6. Timid Feathered Creatures
7. Off Grid
8. The Wheel (SOHN Cover)
9. Right On Edge
10. Unfortunately
11. Pixel Skin
12. Burnt Up
13. Flutter (Bonobo Remix)
14. The City Sleeps
15. Magnifying Glass
16. SeeSea (Machinedrum Remix)
17. Inner Imprint
18. 11
19. Absolutely Quiet

Borusiade’s SHAPE mix for Radio Campus

Stream a new mix by Romanian DJ and producer Borusiade, created to kick off SHAPE platform’s new collaboration with the French radio network Radio Campus France. The mix features tracks by Prostitutes, Genesis P-Orridge and many others; it was aired as part of the network’s broadcast series Campus Club.

Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, and now residing in Berlin, Borusiade aka Miruna Boruzescu started DJing in 2002 as one of the few female DJs in the city’s emerging alternative clubbing scene. Influenced by a classical musical education and fascinated by raw electronic sounds, Borusiade combined these elements in the construction of her DJ sets and, starting 2005, also in her music production. After experimenting with different projects, Borusiade slowly crystalized a sound of her own, often dark, with poignant bass lines, obsessive themes and by all means melodic. Her DJ sets combine bold and obscure sounds and genres fluctuating mostly in the field of dark disco, minimal wave, raw house with a touch of acid. The sound is gloomy and powerful, with beats that touch one’s deepest senses on the dance floor.

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Borusiade at the 2015 edition of Unsound festival (photo by Anna Spysz)

The track list of the mix is as follows:

1. Telsco – Mutatzione
2. A Thunder Orchestra – Diabolical Gesture
3. Khidja – Monkey Tiger
4. Mr TC – Hebrew House
5. Johnny 5 – Kaka
6. Prostitutes – So Damn Gaunt
7. Senking – Great Day
8. Oklo Gabon – City Gym (Lena Willikens Remix)
9. JIMII – Templo (Instrumental)
10. Marco Bernardi – Catman’s Going To Get You
11. I-F – Theme From Sunwheel Beach-bar
12. Benedikt Frey – SH Birds
13. Genesis P-Orridge with Splinter Test – When Fire Cleanses

 

Download a new track by Stanislav Abrahám!

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Louka (Meadow in English) is Stanislav Abrahám’s edit of an unpublished composition which is part of his live set. Characteristically delicate, Louka is an improvised digital voyage into ethereal sonic landscapes. You can download it from the Soundcloud player below:

Stanislav Abrahám is an audiovisual performer, sound and new media artist based in Prague, Czech Republic. He has crossed over from music and pure sound art to more conceptual works. As a sound designer, he collaborates with many sound, visual, and performance artists on various interdisciplinary projects, such as theatre and dance performances. He also does studio production work, recording and sound post-production of audiovisual works. He studied at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and among his artistic interests are telecommunications, recording media and the phenomenon of the “disembodied voice”.

Photo: Intermediale 2015 Legnica Poland

Video report of TodaysArt.NL festival

The 2015 edition of TodaysArt festival in The Hague was held from September, the 24th, till September, the 27th. The line-up featured a variety of audiovisual installations and musical acts, including Lotic, Ellen Allien and Prefuse 73 as well as a SHAPE showcase. SHAPE artists Zamilska, Marco Donnarumma, DJ Nigga Fox and Lorenzo Senni are also featured in this short film about the festival.

The film was created by Tanja Busking, Kim Idsinga, Dayna Casey, Seppe Ovink and Benjamin van Gaalen.

Exclusive stream of Lorenzo Senni’s “AAT” on ORF!

Tonight (10 December 2015), the listeners of ORF’s Oe1 Zeit-Ton will have the first (and perhaps the only) chance to hear SHAPE artist Lorenzo Senni‘s piece AAT (Advanced Abstract Trance) outside of a concert hall or a club. The recording was made at the 2015 edition of musikprotokoll festival in Graz. The broadcast starts at 23:03 (Austrian time). More info can be found here – the show can be streamed online also 7 days after the broadcast.

ORF Musikprotokoll 2015

Photo by Martin Gross

Here is how Senni described Advanced Abstract Trance in an interview for Electronic Beats: “Before Superimpositions and Quantum Jelly I did a record of abstract computer music called Dunno. I wanted to go back in that direction and use the sonic material that currently interests me. Quantum Jelly was born because I was interested in the build-up of trance tracks. I went through thousands of tracks and analyzed build-ups to see what was going on. I used the same method on Advanced Abstract Trance, but I was looking for breakdowns and studying what was going on with the falling bass and the moments that follow the drop, when the producers need to keep the tension high but provide a sense of release. I put together a display of these moments. It can be a stressful and frustrating listen sometimes because it seems to give false starts.”

Lorenzo Senni is a Milan based composer and multidisciplinary artist. With research including algorithmic methods in the arts, Senni investigates the mechanisms of dance music and releases are dedicated to the deconstructions of the sounds of trance and hard techno rave culture of the 1990s.

 

The Nigga Fox style!

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Still in his early 20s, Rogério Brandão aka DJ Nigga Fox has already played in leading clubs all over the world, while discreetly refining his own productions. On his well-received debut “O Meu Estilo” 12″, released in 2013 on Príncipe Discos, he presented the world with parts of his unbelievably vast aural palette. Although his music might be informed by kuduro, afro-house, Angolan deep, tarraxinha or batida, it retains a very distinctive sonic vocabulary. His track LUMI appeared on a Warp compilation earlier this year. He was nominated to SHAPE by Les Siestes Electroniques.

Can you talk about your childhood? Do you remember your first encounter with music?

When I started listening to music I was about 4 or 5 years old, and it was the music that my parents listened to, music from our land, Angola. Honestly I wasn’t mad for it because I couldn’t understand the lyrics they were singing, I only liked the instrumental and rhythm parts.

How was it after moving to Lisbon? I read that your brother was a DJ. How did did you get involved in the local scene?

When I arrived in Lisbon I was still a three-year-old child. I only gave my first shot at producing music in 2007. My brother was a producer – and still is but doesn’t share his tracks – and he was the one who showed me FL Studio. From that day on I didn’t want anything [but to make music], I was having a blast.

Your debut release was called “O Meu Estilo”. What is the most important element in your music?

The name of the record says it all, ‘My Style’. It was made in my bedroom with the little resources I had at the time.  I take real pride in having made that record as it opened a lot of doors for me.

You have travelled a lot and your music has many fans all over the world. Why do you think it has resonated so much in the electronic scene?

Because it’s a new music style, it’s fresh with a lot of breaks. It’s not commercial. I think that’s a good thing. It’s Nigga Fox style!

Are there any local producers we should keep an eye on?

There’s so many here in Lisbon, but I’d recommend the Príncipe affiliated DJ’s.

What are your plans for 2016?

To keep on working as I’ve been doing so far.

Photo: Diogo Simoes