Extended Resonance Extra show on Stephen Grew’s musical influences

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Listen to a special two-hour Resonance Extra show on SHAPE artist Stephen Grew. Throughout the show, the Lancaster-based improvising pianist will introduce works of classical music that have influenced his own work – you will be able to hear each piece (or cycle of shorter works) in full length, from Stravinsky to Tippett and Debussy’s famously difficult-to-perform Études.

Stephen Grew has been playing totally improvised piano and electronic keyboard music for over 30 years. His music works with the life forces of the instrument, their sounds and a multiplicity of rhythmic patterns, dynamic extremes and whatever an improviser conjures in the creative moment.

He has played in many European countries, toured relentlessly in his native country the UK and collaborated with many musicians, including the great British improvisers of our time. He also has countless recordings released on a variety of labels.

During this show you will be able to hear the following works with introductions by Grew:

The Miraculous Mandarin
by Béla Bartók
Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra by Béla Bartók
Études by Claude Debussy
Symphony in C by Igor Stravinsky
Piano Sonata No. 2 by Michael Tippett

Stephen Grew will perform a solo show as part of the Skaņu Mežs festival on October 6 in Riga, Latvia.

Christian Kroupa: ‘You can’t really be into making just house or techno all the time.’

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Hailing from the sleepy town of Logatec, Slovenia, Christian Kroupa had a music epiphany at a drum’n’bass party in 2008. In 2013, he surprised the Slovenian music scene with his approach to dark ambient music. Since then, he’s proved his skills and innovation as a participant of the Red Bull Music Academy, performing at different stages (like Sónar in Barcelona or EMAF in Tokyo). He is currently working on new experimental, ambient music, but also keeping an eye on house and techno, making appearances on the legendary R&S Records and fabriclondon 90 mix with his alter ego, Alleged Witches.

Can you talk about your musical beginnings? What is your first musical memory?

My first musical memory would be driving to places with my parents as a 6, 7 year old kid. We would be travelling to different locations throughout the country, while listening to cassettes from Jean-Michel Jarre to Kraftwerk, also rock music like Dire Straits, Billy Idol, Def Leppard or even some reggae like UB40. Basically everything my parents, especially my dad, were listening to. Soon, I got my first Walkman and went through my parents’ cassettes and got my hands on Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Alphaville and other bands from the 80s. And it is still the music I enjoy the most. Later I started listening to more “serious” electronic music like The Prodigy or mixes from Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills. But I was also listening to commercial music on MTV, of course, haha.

Can you talk about the environment you grew up in – how did it form you creatively?

I think the most important thing is that you are a part of an environment where you can access art or music. I consider myself lucky, I have parents who are quite into music so they introduced me to various kinds of music. I come from Slovenia, a town called Logatec, where music is referred to as something you’re listening to while driving, mostly just so you don’t drive in silence and mostly just commercial radio stations. So people don’t really come into contact with more serious stuff and their perspective on music is very different from mine. I grew up in a community where a lot of people from ex- Yugoslavia live, so I was exposed to diversity but I wasn’t that much into alternative culture, except listening to music. What I did was playing football all the time.

Where are you based and how is the music scene there?

I’m still based in Logatec, but mostly just because this is where I make my music and hang with my friends whom I’ve known for ages. But I spend quite a lot of time in Ljubljana, where the mentality is very different to my hometown, though there is just 30km difference between the cities. I don’t want to sound negative, but even in Ljubljana the scene is not really that great. One problem is that the scene should give something to the people, a contact with something. But here, I think the scene is just for the existence of itself. Just so something happens and that is it. With no greater purpose. Neither to show something different to people, nor to get people into music or DJing. The private clubs are there just to make profit. The guys who get the money from the government just don’t want to lose too much of what they get. There are many people here who are doing great stuff, but the scene just isn’t doing them any favours. It should be there to give you a hand, have you noticed, even abroad. But we are in this bubble where everything looks fine, but the reality is that time is just passing us by.

You started producing in 2008, after attending a party. What was the impulse that lead you to it? You also have various guises – from ambient to house/techno.

That is right. It was a local drum&bass party and I don’t know how, but I just got into that state of mind where I said, wow, I want to do this. Not to DJ, but to make music. After a few years I got my first gigs, so I was also stoked about playing music to other people. I still am. It gives me goosebumps. I look at it as a privilege. That something hits you at the age of 18 and suddenly you know what you want do to with your life. A lot of people I know still don’t know what they want to do. I think it’s just something you have in you. Not really as a job, more like a religion. Here is music and then there is everything else. At least in my case. Sure, it changes with time. But at the core is still the passion, devotion and love. I just do what I do. Also a lot of drum&bass or experimental, ambient stuff. You can’t really be into making just house or techno all the time.  I rather write an ambient track, than waste my time drinking beer and waiting for the inspiration to strike me. I find my inspiration while making music. When I make house, I find inspiration for ambient and vice versa.

Can you talk about your other project, Alleged Witches?

It all started in 2015 when I wrote a track with some tribal samples and decided to name it Alleged Witches. Then I did a few more similar tracks and decided they will become part of my project called Alleged Witches. Quite fast I also realised they are much more specific than the stuff I did under my own name. The tracks also became much more complex, sure they are repetitive house tracks, but the percussion is quite complex. I got obsessed with searching for the right sample, the right kick drum, clap, chant, flute, etc. There is more or less 50 different sounds in each of the Alleged Witches tracks. And the Alleged Witches tracks are basically some of the rarest tracks I can easily say I feel proud of. Not all of them, of course. Because most of the tracks I make are nothing special. After a while I started sending them to artists which I adore and they gave me quite a positive feedback back then – from Ben UFO, to Midland, Alexander Nut, R&S records gave me a chance to do a remix for Alex Smoke, Scuba used one of the tracks in his Fabric 90 mix. So everything became much more serious and Alleged Witches became my priority project.

Is the occult and mysterious something inspiring to you?

Most definitely. I think it is also about the times we are living in. It is like as if were sleeping for the past couple of years and suddenly woke up and saw that things are not what they seem. Suddenly, the world is also a dark place. And darkness can be a perfect inspiration for making art.
There is also a struggle between what to believe, what is real and what is not. I’m quite into spiritual matters and philosophy, so I ask myself about death and the afterlife, what is my purpose, where do we come from and it just happens that these things feed my inspiration, probably somewhere from my subconscious. It is all about feelings. I just know that reading about the occult, black magic, mystery and voodoo gives me goosebumps. Reading about the Kardashians does not.

How do you make music in terms of the process and execution?

Depends on the genre that I’m making, but as said, it’s all about emotions. If I do stuff under Alleged Witches, it’s all about the drums at least at the beginning, then the pain kicks in, when you start digging for the right vocals or flute, etc. I know a lot of artists have an idea in their mind, then they just transfer it into the beat, melody. I can’t do that. I need to sit down and start playing around. Make some loops and go on from there. Some tracks have quite a lot of different sounds in them, so it can become a nightmare when you start arranging the sounds. But if the collected sounds are cool, the arrangement just comes by easily. But this happens about two times out of ten, haha. I try to finish everything anyway. It is better than to have it sitting unfinished on your computer. Finishing stuff is a process of itself. Making a track from four second bars can be tricky. You have to keep it interesting for yourself and keep the track interesting as well. People ask about how long it takes to finish or make a track… 5 hours? 1 day? 3 days? It takes an entire life. You maybe got the skills in the past few years, but it took you your entire life to arrive to this moment.

What are you currently working on & planning?

The same as always. Get up in the morning and start making music. Sometimes something comes out of it, sometimes it doesn’t. But you never know when it will happen, so you have to catch the right moment. It is like, I don’t know what I’m searching for, but when I’ll find it, I’ll know this is it. Recently, Alleged Witches’ Serve The Spirits 12inch EP came out on Meda Fury, which is a sub-label of R&S. Need to say, big thanks to Nick Williams for believing in these tracks and putting them out. The newer Alleged Witches material should be out at the end of this year, not going to say where, but I’m really glad it is happening. Don’t know what I’m going to do with the stuff written under my own name. I have quite a lot of material but as said, Alleged Witches is a much more specific project. I do a lot of different stuff, so I should really decide what to do with it. But I guess this will happen naturally. The plan is to make music that makes me cry or dance to it. And play as many gigs as possible, because I really love playing music to other people.

Watch or listen: Maoupa Mazzochetti live at Red Light Radio

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Watch (or listen) SHAPE artist Maoupa Mazzochetti DJ at the studio of Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio.

Maoupa Mazzocchetti debuted on Unknown Precept with some cryptic dispatch from the brink of hardwave and minimal electronics, showing the Brussels-based producer experimenting with thick quakes, paranoid tones and caustic drum machine welts. Call it what you will, Maoupa’s vicious industrial terror for when the dance-floor turns ugly gives sex-appeal to discomfort; be prepared to get carried away…

Maoupa Mazzochetti will be playing live at UH Fest (October 1- 8).

Pictures: SONICA’s Radical Ear with Lawrence English

The Radical Ear! project aims to create sound installations/archives and maps through a series of workshops where participants get the necessary expertise from the fields of field recording, sound documentation, manipulation of field recordings and sound archiving. Through collaboration with mentors and other participants they will learn to organize field recording materials and contextualize them. The results of the workshops will be presented at the SONICA festival 2017.

In this edition, organized in collaboration with SHAPE on the 7th of August, artist Lawrence English introduced participants to specific techniques of listening and recording which he is using in his work, too. The introductory theoretical part was followed by a field walk with listening and field recording.

In the last decade Lawrence English has become one of the leading international figures in field recording. He has been since working all over the world, from Antarctica to Japan.

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All pictures by Katja Goljat.

Watch and listen: Elektrovolt on Red Light Radio

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Listen to Elektrovolt‘s live set from Red Light Radio, part of our ongoing collaboration with the Amsterdam-based station. Elektrovolt is the electronic alter ego of Jimi Hellinga, living in Den Haag, the Netherlands. At an early age, Jimi took viola lessons but making noises and experimenting with sounds and other instruments was what he really wanted to do. After buying his first synthesizer his first tracks appeared, all played live without sequencers, and so were the first performances too. Influenced by Logic System, Kraftwerk, the Hague electronic scene and also medieval music, his own music could be described as melodic, electro, drone, techno. Over the years, Elektrovolt has played on Dutch festivals such as Langweiligkeit, State-X New Forms and Todaysart and collaborated with Legowelt (Nacho Patrol, Zandvoort & Uilenbal), Tjebbe van der Kooij (Black Helikopters), Trapper Drone Orchestra and as a medieval musician with Carole et Brullare.

Watch or listen: Mama Snake’s set on Red Light Radio

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Listen to Mama Snake’s DJ set from Red Light Radio, part of our ongoing collaboration with the Amsterdam-based station. Mama Snake is part of Copenhagen’s DJ trio Apeiron Crew, which is a 2017 SHAPE project. Mama Snake aka Sara Svanholm works tirelessly, juggling both her final year studies in medicine whilst honing in on her skills as one of Copenhagen’s most respected and technically gifted techno DJs.

Snake has garnered an increasingly fervent following since forming Apeiron Crew alongside Solid Blake, Smokey and previous member Courtesy, with whom she runs their freshly formed label Ectotherm. The label has begun and will continue to showcase the work of local producers and offer exposure to artists that for the most part are being ignored by international imprints. Listen to Mama Snake’s set below and read our interview with Apeiron Crew here. 

Mari Kvien Brunvoll on music-making, awards and Ricardo Villalobos

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Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s music is a personal expression that straddles jazz, electro pop, acoustic blues and folk music from different corners of the world. The Norwegian musician has been touring extensively as a solo artist since 2008. Her self-titled album (2012) was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy in the open category. The track, “Everywhere You Go”, from this album, earned her a new audience when Ricardo Villalobos discovered the song and created a 28 minute long remix of it. Mari has also been touring and recording with several other projects, duos and trios, on top of working with dancers, authors, and actors.

Can you talk about your background – how and where did you start with music? Do you recollect your first musical memory?

My musical memories from the early childhood are muddled; that is to say, I have no idea what came first. But I do remember waiting for my mum in the kitchen while listening to her giving piano lessons to her students in the next room. And I used to record specific radio shows on cassette, and I would note down the name of each fascinating musical piece I heard. I realised I wanted to make music quite early, and studied it at high school from the age of 16. After that I studied Jazz at the Conservatory of Bergen, and spent some time in India and Berlin in between. I realised that Norway is a small country, but that music is universal; you can go anywhere and meet people with similar interests throughout the world.

You come from an artistic family – can you talk about growing up and what role art & music played in your upbringing?

My mum was a musical teacher, singer, and pianist. She still is, and she also writes poems. I believe that experiencing her open attitude towards the arts has influenced me. I was fortunate to be able to check out experimental music with my mum every summer, during the Molde Jazz Festival. I liked the way new sounds influenced me; making me feel high and light somehow, and open inside. As a child I used to borrow Roxette cassettes from my much older sister and brother, and when it was dark I would dance and secretly watch my reflection in the window. Having older siblings who were very into music was a super way of being introduced to new artists.

What role does voice play in your music, and do you have any vocal inspirations?

The voice is my soul, my channel, or something like that, and my main method of artistic expression. At times when I can’t express myself through singing, either due to some issue with my voice or simply a lack of inspiration or belief in myself, I find it really hard to work with music. But I really enjoy playing other instruments as well. I have just bought my first piano, after not having played the piano for years, and I am like a child now. The piano suddenly sounds so fresh and rich to me. I like to work with both acappella voice and with heavily manipulated voices using effects, amps, and samplers, and I enjoy the surprise of the meetings of voice and slightly off-pitched voice-like instruments like flutes, kalimbas, organs, and also analogue synths with animal-like sounds. There are many voices that have been important to me in the process of trying to find my own voice. I often listened to Billie Holiday and other jazz singers in my youth, and also guys like Marc Bolan and Neil Young. These days I find it more interesting to listen to instrumental music or electronic music, and sometimes I intuitively try to catch where the element of voice could have fit into that music. I have fallen in love many times with voices from Indian or African traditional music and also old blues musicians like Memphis Minnie and Skip James. I like it when voices have some kind of deep ugliness and beauty at the same time, and also a feminine and masculine sound. I think I’m drawn towards voices that inhabit some kind of duality of expression.

Can you talk about how you make your music?

I’m always looking for new methods of making music, and I’m happiest when I get the chance to work intuitively and playfully. For instance, I often like making music on instruments or equipment that is unfamiliar, because it activates the intuition. When I was making music for films last year it provided me with new ways of thinking, and suddenly I made a different form of music, quite new to me. I improvise a lot in my studio, and I often record what I do in order to refine the sound or enhance the melodic or rhythmic qualities that come out of the session.

To me, making music is to look for something. To sing, seek, and listen, simultaneously. As I open my mouth to make sound, it’s like a water drop forming and falling to the ground: Splash. And then it’s gone, just like the sound is gone. And just like water falls differently each time depending on so many factors, the voice is dependent on air, power, body movements. I often must remind myself that to be able to work with music I must accept finding myself in between the beginning and the end result. I dream of being able to rest or float or whatever, in the space where creation is happening. And I have the belief that this is possible to some extent. But either I work too hard or I fall apart in dealing with all the contradictory feelings that arise in the process. Remaining focused and steadily working is a tiring process. Additionally for me, making music involves many emotions; pleasant and dark emotions meet, and the strength of the feelings is just so intense. I truly love to create. I am activated by looking for what is lacking in the musical soundscape or mood: “Is it too light, is it too dark? This is thick, now I need thin!” It’s like something could tip over the edge. For me, trying to balance it has a lot to do with artistic presence.

Your album was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy. What were your feelings about it?

I was very happy to be nominated. It was encouraging that they had discovered my music, despite very little promotion. This solo album is made out of live recordings, and it was really cool to get such recognition for my solo project, especially since I have never worked so hard on anything in my whole life. I had already been playing a lot of live acts before releasing anything, and it was so interesting to see that the live recordings could work well without being couples with the visual experience of a concert.

Minimal techno producer Ricardo Villalobos remixed a track off your album. What did you think about it and have you been inspired by electronic music?

It is really incredible how he made such a long meditative piece (30 min) out of this song. I find his work mesmerizing, and I’m deeply honoured by his interest in my music. I have definitely been inspired by electronic music as a genre. I would even say that electronic music is what I listen to most in my daily life. For instance Four Tet, Alog, and earlier composers like Stockhausen. I enjoy working with my colleague Espen Sommer Eide (Phonophani, Alog) who makes wonderful electronic music. We have a duo together called Kvien & Sommer, and we have released a record titled Weathering on the Russian label, Full Of Nothing.

The lyrics in Everywhere You Go are also poignant. Can you talk about them?

This kind of question is hard to answer, because I want the listener to combine his or her own personal experiences with the words! In Everywhere You Go I have borrowed the lines from a Memphis Minnie song (she inspired me greatly earlier on) and mixed them with my own lyrics. The lyrics express a mix of feelings, a state of mind, or some kind of situation in your life that could make you realise that “this is it, this is my now”… The lyrics are quite open, the strange man they describe may be some kind of devil, or a negative memory.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m composing and recording music in my studio for a theatre piece, a version of the folk tale, Cinderella, at the National Theatre Scene in Bergen. It is challenging in many (good) ways. I have not written melodies for singers other than myself before, and now I’m composing the whole soundscape. I’m also in the process of building hanging porcelain instruments, inspired by the glass instruments of Harry Partch. My trio project, Building Instrument, will record our third studio album after the New Year. Other than that, I have plans for several collaborations, and I will also play some solo events in the coming year.