Welcome to Press Play, the monthly playlist curated by labels and artists from around the world. Today Sonosphere highlights the French label, A N Y W A V E. We had the pleasure to correspond with Aurel Delamour, artist and co-creator of the label.
Check out the interview, mixtape and track list below. Subscribe to us at SoundCloud, itunes, and GooglePlay.
Tell me about Anywave, how did it begin?
I created the label with my friend Stephanie 15 years ago – mainly because we wanted to release our own work. But we quickly took a break… that lasted over 10 years! As for the name, it was her idea, IIRC she thought about no wave and I was very much into new wave, so that’s what “Anywave” is supposed to mean: the synthesis of different types of wave music – hopefully it’s still relevant, now that we’ve been releasing music for real.
How do you find and work with your artists?
We dig through Internet every day with my buddies in the label. But we also receive many submissions from artists.
It has happened many times that we worked with other labels. Sometimes, because we need extra money to achieve a budget, sometimes just because we want to have a release in common with people we like, like with Lentonia or Montagne Sacrée for instance.
What do you look for in an artist/band? How do you shape or “feel out” the “sound of Anywave”?
“Singularity” is a word I much enjoy to use when I speak about our artists, singularity can take different shapes, I’m fully aware that it’s very difficult to be purely innovative, you always take from what has been done before. For instance, Heather Celeste’s work gathers dark techno codes, it also includes minimal wave, but she doesn’t simply put all this together, she really does something special, with a lot of improvisation, a rather lo-fi production – at least on the material she’s released on Anywave. It’s her personal balance that makes her music unique to our ears. It’s true for most of the artists we’ve produced, they do their stuff in a very particular way.
When we decide to work with a band, we try to include their project into our own story. As we seek total freedom in our artistic choices (no boundaries of style, no strategic plan), we give the artists the same freedom. So we have to find a way to make their project a part of our own without betraying their intentions. Sometimes enthusiasm and mutual love just do the job! But I think the visual work we do might be the cement that makes the label understandable at first.
What is your preferred “genre” or sound to represent on the label? Is it mostly personal taste or does some consumer demand play in?
I don’t know. « Bedroom-pop », or « bedroom-something ». As for A V G V S T, which is my own band, I once wrote “postwave”, and then “pornwave”, though it has nothing really [to do with] porn. My friend Zane O’Brien who rules escc9 and Lux Era found an excellent genre designation: “post-whatever”, I’m a bit upset I couldn’t come up with that myself!
Who was the first Anywave artist/band signed?
A V G V S T, obviously. Then, we really started the current version of Anywave with two Egyptian bands, PanSTARRS and Gast, by the way, the two most opposite sides of our catalogue, one a pure lo-fi post-punk band, and the other an IDM project, sounding a bit like the early Warp Records’ productions.
Who is the newest addition to the label?
Patrick Wiklacz, a French ambient / experimental electronic composer and sound designer, who never released his work on a label before. An album will be be out in April or May.
And Laura Gozlan : we’ve published Physical Self, her exhibition soundtrack. The format of this project is a bit unusual for a music label because it is an artist book by Myriam Barchechat and Laura Gozlan with a download code for the music, a 10 minutes track of abstract darkwave composed by Laura. The book reinterprets her video installation, it is meant to be an adaptation of the original artwork.
Has the label evolved since the beginning? If so, how?
A lot!! We went through v1, v2, v3, and we’re heading to v4. It fits better to our current frame of mind , I guess our scheme wasn’t very clear, and rather clumsy, at the beginning. At some point, I got a bit pissed with mimicry. The fact is we didn’t plan to make things grow, but when you’re releasing 5 to 7 records in one year, I guess you can say you are actually developing the label. So you try to make something that works, and as you have no idea how things work, you look at what other labels do… and then you realise after a while you’ve just been in someone else’s shoes. Still, I’ve got many references, and there are many inspiring labels, but as far as we’re concerned inspiration should stay on an artistic level, we have to find our own way to make things work.
Who presses your vinyl records/cassettes? How important is physical copies of music?
We like to work with small factories for vinyls and tapes. We’d like to be able to press the cassettes ourselves in the near future. That’s what we already do with CDs. For us physical copies are important for different reasons: first it gives the project some credibility in the eyes of the audience and of the media (it’s almost impossible to get any review with only a digital release). The second reason is that we love creating objects, touching them. Myriam, our art director, is a great designer, and I do share her concern about giving a physical shape to music, that can add a meaningful dimension to a record – not to mention the aesthetic dimension of course. Hence it’s a real pleasure to go on with physical copies, in particular when it’s handmade limited series.
Streaming services have been great for finding new music. How is it working through bandcamp/soundcloud? Does that drive the business?
It’s been a primary tool for us to get our name out there. Well, we’re not really famous of course, but we have a little audience we can reach through social networks and platforms like Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Changes in those platforms have huge consequences on the way we communicate and share music, so it means we might be too dependent on them.
What are you excited about for the next year for your label? What do plan for future?
You may have noticed this last year was a rather quiet one. We’ve been focusing on other matters than music production, such as booking a tour for the Ukrainian duet Bad News from Cosmos, or questioning ourselves about the meaning of a label in 2017. By many aspects, a label is more or less comparable to a political party, especially when you rule it with three other persons, you have to make decisions but you also have to listen to what they have to say. I can be a bit authoritarian when I’m discussing our projects, but I’m also full of doubt. This year was a year of doubts, to be honest. Now, we’ve decided to rule Anywave in a different way: we’re gonna travel light. What I’m saying regarding the future is in total contradiction with our next release! Indeed Fléau’s second album is the most ambitious project we’ve ever made (thanks to the help of our friend label Atelier Ciseaux, who co-produced the record): a double vinyl and a collector edition with an artist booklet… But then, we plan to release mostly limited editions, screen printed CDs and tapes. What’s already on track is a split album with Bad News from Cosmos and Heima Matti, Patrick Wiklacz’s album « N » and the sixth volume of the Wavecore series.
New York City-based composer collective ICEBERG New Music was in residence at Crosstown Arts here in Memphis for two weeks of concerts, workshops, and lectures back in June of 2017.
We spoke with composers from the second of the two concerts in the Crosstown Arts series, and attended their workshops and lectures that ranged from a “Sound Scavenger Hunt” to a lecture on “Popular and Classical Music in 1960s America.” Memphis-based contemporary chamber group Blueshift Ensemble collaborated with ICEBERG and performed the collective’s original compositions for the concert series.
I hope you enjoy our talk about Iceberg’s mission, the future of new music, collaboration, blending genre’s and more!
Special thanks to Iceberg New Music, Jenny Davis and the Blueshift Ensemble, and Justin Thompson and the whole Crosstown Arts Community.
Alex Burtzos – OMAHA (all the things you could be you are you were) for string quartet
Drake Andersen – Photons for flute and clarinet
Yu-Chun Chien – Co-Composition for a cellist
Jonathan Russ – Eat Your Vegetables for solo clarinet
Harry Stafylakis – Unrelent for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion
We linked up with Memphis electronic artist Ihcilon and asked him a few questions. He was also kind enough to make a playlist for everyone’s enjoyment. Look for him to be playing some shows around town this year.
How long have you been performing as Ihcilon?
The first thing I released was an EP in December 2014. But I had been futzing around with the idea of electronic music since around 1999.
Can you tell our followers how to pronounce Ihcilon phonetically?
To be honest, I really don’t have an official way of pronouncing it that has stuck. I decided on ee-hih-lohn but most people say ih-sih-lon so really either way. When I chose it I never expected anyone to have to pronounce it.
Can you describe your process to making your sounds?
It usually starts with something I hear in regular time: motors, blowers, or sometimes the sound of things hitting together like hammers or wind chimes. I’ll try to recreate it in software and if that doesn’t work I turn to household objects and cheap wind instruments. A lot of it happens by accident. Everything is improvised and recorded in one take. I’ll have a basic road map but fingers will slip or memories will lapse and will yield some sometimes interesting results.
What instruments do you most enjoy working with?
I don’t know if many would agree with this definition, but my favorite instrument at the moment is my phone. I mean, I would love to say that I absolutely love my Buchla or Moog but I don’t own anything like that. There is software on my phone that kind of sound like those things and that’s where the joy is right now.
What inspires you to create?
Personal experiences. Much of the sound you will hear from Ihcilon are more autobiographical than anything. You will hear reinterpreted sounds of medical equipment, internal audio of migraines, sounds from dreams, conversations, shows I have been to… It all kind of mixes together.
Are there any moments as a performer that stand out to you?
Memphis Concréte 2017 was by and large the best thing I had ever been involved in up to that point. It was amazing and unlike anything I had ever seen here.
What can Memphis do better to grow and promote electronic music here?
We’re doing a really good job cultivating a scene here. It’s all still a relatively new idea for this area. I think Memphis is still trying to figure out what to do with music you can’t necessarily dance to. But we have many venues that will let us in and as long as that keeps happening I feel like the scene will grow on its own.
If you were to collaborate with one artist who would it be?
Just one?? Probably Diamanda Galás. Her voice has always been captivating. But I will collaborate with just about anyone.
What do you have planned for 2018?
Memphis Concréte, do a handful of shows, and release at least one album. There’s nothing bigger than that.
Here are the songs featured on the mix:
Cyril The Dancing Bear – Pending Disco
iscDo – The Dust Gets In
Three Voices – Retrospection
False – Operant
All is Almost a Prayer – Stammer
Null – Stammer
Mainsplainer – Ihcilon
Photo by Heather Wallace
Cage let chance override musical composition the way it plays upon nature. He focused on the subtleties between sound and silence, the same way they intertwine in existence. Embracing noise as others did before him, including Russolo, Satie, and Varese, Cage was able to transcend the bounds of traditional music composition that would baffle the avant-garde world for decades. In this episode we talk with Laura Kuhn, James Pritchett, and Brian Brandt of Mode Records.
Parsons Rocket Project is obsessed with all things celestial and spacey. Perhaps that’s why they named their band after Rocket Scientist, Jack Parsons. Sonosphere corresponded with the members of PRP to talk about space, time, and the music in between. They also shared a dream-pop playlist flush with rock reverb, fuzz and disco thumps. Check it all out in the interview and playlist below. Thanks PRP for the tunes!
The debut EP was formed during a tumultuous time for you all as individuals and a band – what songs were you listening to, who/what were your inspirations; was songwriting almost like therapy for you all? Did it bring you together, solidifying the band?
well, it still is tumultuous! we were/are listening to No Joy, Brian Eno, The War on Drugs,Trailer Trash Tracys, Ulrich Schnauss, TYCHO, and a lot of fun stuff like Summer Camp and disco-era Bee Gees (not kidding, its that disco thump) the way we recorded the EP we never were all in the same room at the same time, so it really was isolated in that sense. it really was a virtual band until after the tracks were recorded. there was some definite personal turbulence going on the time these were written, that is reflected in the tracks particularly “burn.”
Were you always interested in science and space as a kid? What about Jack Parsons led you to name your band after him?
Definitely an obsession with celestial/space things for all of us. Saturn and stars tattoos, spacey graphics, space noises, space rock, I’m not kidding when I use the term “obsession.” its definitely a thing for us.
Parsons’ mingling of science and occultism is fascinating and it produced amazing results with dire consequences. he innovated some rocket technology, but ended up blowing himself up and leaving a very sordid legacy. He is such an interesting character though, the creation of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the trip to the moon, he played a huge role in that and he was also a real legendary degenerate, so that is really intriguing. NASA has disowned his history, but there is a crater on the moon named after him (on the dark side of the moon of course.) and many still refer to JPL, the Jet Propulsion Lab as the Jack Parsons Lab. there may be some upcoming movies or TV shows that explore Parsons, so that will be interesting.
Do you incorporate science and space into your performances?
like a trip to hyperspace
Does the city of Atlanta influence your sound/aesthetic?
there are a lot of interesting bands around ATL, there are Applesauce Tears & Twin Studies, Deerhunter. as far as the environment here, it can be very urban and gritty, we spend some time in that environment but also spend some time in areas with a lot of mid-century architecture (space age) and that has an influence too.
What was it like working with Joe Lambert and recording in a space where some legendary songs were made?
Joe Lambert is such a heavyweight in the industry, we could not have been more pleased with the results there. Ben Price’s StudiLaroche where we recorded is such a great space. we’ve all recorded there in other bands so it is a very familiar, comfortable, homey space. Plus its a great studio, he has a lot of cool sound toys there to play with and he is one of the best around as far as engineering & producing. recording was just a lot of fun, when we brought in Anne, Michelle and Jennifer for vocals tracking and it was such a great time, like a house party. we had to keep leaving to get more beer, we really invoked some 80s absurd rock star good times but it was productive sonically too, we’re pleased with the tracks.
Will you be touring with the new record?
that was the plan but we got hit by the life tornado, Ben Price (guitars, vox) was injured in a really terrible bicycle crash and then there has been other disturbances…so the touring plans got pushed back for now but we’ll come back to that. we’re now all super busy at the moment not just with working on new parsons rocket project material, but we also have our other projects. K Michelle is working on her 2nd LP, Paul has another space rock band called map of the moon that is recording with Dan Dixon (PLS PLS)
Parsons Rocket Project has some big shows coming up in Atlanta in the meantime and we can’t wait for that. The EP is out and its been well-received, so we’re definitely looking forward to expressing ourselves at high volume. after we get our new material recorded, we’d like to do a compact tour which was the original intent.
What are you looking forward to most about touring?
its exciting, the travel, playing different rooms and meeting people. (individually) we’ve toured pretty extensively before in all of our previous bands, so we’re looking forward to touring more intelligently now. we used to slug it out in the clubs for long stretches of time and we really weren’t very smart about it. short, disciplined, focused bursts are the way to go and that is what we plan to do, eventually.
Trailer Trash Tracys – Strangling Good Guys (0:01)
Ulrich Schnauss, Mark Peters – Slow Southern Skies (3:48)
Parsons Rocket Project – Exit Launch (8:05)
Amber Arcades – Turning Light (11:01)
Blouse – Happy Days (18:02)
No Joy – Second Spine (22:13)
PLS PLS – Jet Black (26:03)
Applesauce Tears – Fuzzy Mammoth (29:30)
Bee Gees – Jive Talkin’ (33:21)
No Joy – Hellhole (37:06)
Ummagma – Rotation (40:25)
This month Sonosphere talks with Martyn Heyne, composer, producer and engineer. Martyn has a new album out on November 17th called Electric Intervals on !K7 Records’ new imprint 7K!
We discuss the making of this album, which is his first full length solo work. Martyn has worked in a producer and engineering role with the likes of Nils Frahm, The National, Efterklang, Peter Broderick, and others.
We also chat about the creating the video of the single “Carry” with FELD, the Berlin based design studio behind the album’s imagery, and the nuisances involved in listening and recording music.
Tracks in this episode:
The National – Don’t Swallow the Cap
Martyn Heyne – Curium
Martyn Heyne – Carry
Funkstörung – Test
Dais Records is run by Gibby Miller and Ryan Martin. They release records that most assumed they would only hear stories about and never hear the tracks themselves. From there first release, “Early Worm,” a 1968 recording from Genesis P-Orridge, thought to be long lost, they have positioned themselves as one of the best curated labels in existence. Dais is now 10 years old and they’ve managed to do all of this while on opposite coasts Through Skype and e-mail correspondence we were able to catch up with the guys at Dais Records. Take a listen to the interview with Gibby and Ryan followed by a playlist.
2:45 Ragnar Grippe – Sand Part 1
30:02 Tor Lundvall – Hiding
32:56 Coil – 7-Methoxy-β-Carboline: (Telepathine)
55:49 GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE & Thee Early Worm – Rather Hard to Libel
57:22 Choir Boy – Sunday Light
1:01:29 YOU – Feral
1:05:26 Psychic TV – Papal Breakdance
1:11:37 Annabelle’s Garden – If
1:16:37 Youth Code – What Is The Answer
1:19:37 Drab Majesty – 39 By Design
1:24:30 Death of Lovers – The Absolute
1:29:35 Deviation Social – Machines Convulse
1:32:58 Sissy Spacek – Always Eating
1:33:16 Aaron Dilloway – Ghost
1:38:05 Iceage – Remember
1:40:17 Coum Transmissions – 73 Vibrant
1:43:07 Them Are Us Too – Marilyn
1:46:41 Twin Stumps – Siberia
1:50:58 Tor Lundvall – July Evening
1:52:30 Cold Showers – New Dawn
1:57:00 Martial Canterel – And I Thought
2:00:49 Drew McDowall – This Is What It’s Like
This month Sonosphere teams up with the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and the Memphis Musicology podcast to bring you 60 years of Royal Studios. We visit with co-owner and music producer Boo Mitchell on a tour of Royal Studios in South Memphis.
Royal turns 60 this year and in this episode we’ll reminisce with singer/songwriter Don Bryant on writing hit songs and singing with Willie Mitchell’s band; legendary recording artist Ann Peebles and the magical night behind her hit “I Can’t Stand the Rain;” Memphis musician Scott Bomar on Willie Mitchell’s legacy as teacher, producer and engineer of so many classic hits; and Amber Hamilton with the Memphis Music Initiative and the partnership they have with Royal to pass on its legacy to the future talent.
Come celebrate with Boo and the Mitchell family at the Levitt Shell on October 14th featuring local, regional and national artists and November 18th for the grand finale event at the Orpheum. For more information visit royalstudios.com
Special thanks to Ezra Wheeler from the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and host of the Memphis Musicology podcast for co-producing this episode with Sonosphere.
This month’s Press Play mixtape comes from a Toronto-based label called Adhesive Sounds (A/S). Sonosphere connected with A/S creator, Kel.
When did you create Adhesive Sounds?
The winter of 2014 was a time when I was basically housebound with an illness. I was forced to find some kind of creative outlet to keep me active and ease any symptoms of cabin fever.
During my imposed confinement, I started listening to more ambient and freeform music. Film scores were big on my listening menu as well as modern composers. I studied graphic design, and have an enduring interest in the relationship between sound and imagery and its packaging. Music has always been a huge part of my life and starting a label had been a pipe-dream. The label developed from this period of isolation. A blessing in disguise.
How do you find your artists?
By reaching out, and in some cases hunting down, these artists. I listen to everything along the way, everything that is sent to me, everything that seems to share that invisible connecting thread of sound and visual aesthetics.
What do you look for in an artist/band? How do you shape or “feel out the sound” of your label?
I typically look to release records by current artists who I feel connects with A/S on some stylistic level, unconventional sounds blended with a pop sensibility (in the broadest sense) and an aesthetic that crosses cultures.
Does Toronto as the city/scene affect your choices for the label? If so, how?
Having moved from Edmonton to Toronto in 2010, I had some catching up to do to get a hold on the art and music scene, and the history – and I do feel committed and obligated to represent Toronto with A/S.
What is your preferred “genre” or sound to represent on the label? Is it mostly personal taste or does some consumer demand play in?
Well, for the last couple of years, I guess Vaporwave has been our defining genre. I fell in love with the genre – the whole thing – the influences both visual and sonic. Plundering that era just on the cusp of the Internet Age. The Utopian and Dystopian themes. And certainly consumer demand plays a big part. That’s when the label really lifted off. Vaporwave listeners are a pretty devoted group. And the whole packaging that goes along with the sound. And the main medium, the cassette, is kind of a fetish.
Who was the first Adhesive Sound artist/band?
Our first release was the Clockwork Wizards inspired side project by Japanese Treats.
Who is the newest addition to the label?
自決 9 6and Gyoza District are a couple new producers that we’re super stoked to have on board. We’d also like to welcome Soda Lite, qualchan. and AVION to the A/S roster.
Has the label evolved since the beginning? If so, how?
I think we had an strong idea of how we wanted things to go, but of course as time progresses you sharpen your skills when it comes to how things get released and the manner of systems you put in place to make things more accessible to your audience.
Who presses your vinyl records/cassettes? How important is physical copies of music?
We typically get our physical media done through Analogue Media. I think a few label models were influential subconsciously with the curatorial path of A/S. 4AD, Factory, Italians Do It Better…
Streaming services have also been very great for new music. How is it working through bandcamp/soundcloud? Does that drive the business?
Streaming is a big driver, for sure. Listeners and potential buyers get to sample the tracks and preview the artwork. And for us, the label, it’s invaluable to stream new talent that we may consider approaching to collaborate on a project.
New releases to promote this year?
The second half of 2017 will include new projects from Waterfront Dining, a sophomore release from 3 Ninjasks, and a debut EP from David Ben Jack.
What are you excited about for the next year for your label? What do plan for future?
We’re looking forward to continuing releasing records by progressive artists who we feel connect with A/S on an aesthetic level. Also, we’re excited about unconventional formats. Releasing poster albums, zines.
- 69.7ºF Summer is Life. – skyline divine
- 01-PASTiS (Sonosphere Premiere track) – KöSHRiMP
- Nature’s 5.02 Setting – Finlii
- regardi la ripples – Soda Lite
- Bermuda-Coral – Hi Tide
- Dimensional – Gyoza District
- ものを降伏させる – haircuts for men
- Waterfall Sanctuary – バーチャルボーイＡ ｔ ｓ ｕ
- b o d y l i n e – s h o r e (Sonosphere Premiere track) – b o d y l i n e
- Magic Cavern – Form
- In the Dark – Manchac Networks
- sky full of stars (Sonosphere Premiere track) – AVION
- Aftermath (ft. t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者) – Hong Kong Express
- 真夜中の庭 [midnight garden] – TVVin_PINEZ_M4LL
- The Capsule Hotel Where She Lives – 自決 9 6
- オープニング・テーマ (Leisure Centre remix) – 豊平区民TOYOHIRAKUMIN
- Entrance (Sonosphere Premiere track) – David Ben Jack
Crosstown Arts played host to Continuum Music Festival August 3-5, 2017. Continuum Music Festival was the idea Jenny Davis and Jonathan Kirkscey of Blueshift Ensemble . Continuum was “a festival of collaborations among musicians and artists working in diverse genres from Memphis and beyond, bringing to life unique performance experiences in the historic Crosstown neighborhood.” The festival featured performances from River City Flute Quartet, Nief-Norf, Chatterbird, Don Lifted, Luna Nova, Rob Jungklas, and Blueshift Ensemble. We were able to catch up with Jonathan Russ, performers, and members of the various music collectives. We present to you our latest episode which recaps Continuum and gives insight to what is going on not only in Memphis but all across Tennessee. Thanks to Jenny Davis, Jonathan Kirkscey, Lawrence Matthews, Patricia Gray, Robert G. Patterson, Celine Thackston, Maya Stone, Jesse Strauss, Ashley Walters, Jay Sorce, Jonathan Russ, Rob Jungklas and all of Crosstown Arts. Enjoy!
On June 24th and 25th of 2017 an interesting experimental electronic music fest descended upon the MidSouth with artists primarily from Memphis, Mississippi, and the southeast.
“I wanted to take electronic music back to its roots,” said creator Robert Traxler. His inception for the fest came from the experimental spirit of the original electronic music artists like Delia Derbyshire, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Suzanne Ciani, Pierre Schaeffer, and many, many more from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. But musique concrete is not all we found at this festival. Harsh noise, techno, ambient analog improv sets, and a live score of Forbidden Planet were a few of the performances found at Memphis Concrete.
Take a tour through the fest with Robert and some of the talented artists that participated in the Memphis Concrete Festival in the latest episode of Sonosphere.
Dominic Van Horn (Aster, manualcontrol)
Kim Rueger (Belly Full of Stars)
Connor Brown (Cheap Spirits)
Kane Blanchard (Tatras)
Kole Oakes (Pas Moi)
The live Memphis Concrete sets heard here by Belly Full of Stars, Aster, Cheap Spirits, Pas Moi, Ben Bauermeister, Tatras, manualcontrol, and Robert Traxler were captured and edited by Robert Traxler.
Two other tracks used by participants in the fest are “#2” by NEPTR and “Viginti Quintuplet” by Ben Ricketts. Thanks to all the artists for sharing their time and work.
In this special, bonus episode of Sonosphere we present An Evening with Wu Fei in collaboration with Crosstown Arts. This is Fei’s live performance at the Crosstown Arts gallery on Cleveland Street in Memphis, TN on June 30, 2017. The intimate space lent itself to an interactive performance between the audience and Wu Fei as she showcases what the guzheng can do through its thousand-year history.
Wu Fei is a composer and guzheng player. She is a native of Beijing and a current Nashville resident. She is a master of the guzheng, the ancient 21-string Chinese zither. At this performance Fei told stories of her upbringing in Beijing, her relentless practice with the guzheng and how she found improv at Mills College as well as through her time in New York’s improv scene. She mixes her Western and Chinese traditional sensibilities with a contemporary, experimental dialect that only Fei can convey in her “down-to-earth,” personable way. We thank her and Crosstown Arts for an amazing show!
Knoxville, a city of just under 200,000 residents, was vibrant during this year’s Big Ears Festival. It is impossible to experience this festival without experiencing Knoxville itself. Wonderfully woven into Old City, downtown, and World’s Fair Park, Big Ears makes Knoxville feel like a quaint European city.
Big Ears is a festival focused on connecting pop, classical, and experimental music. The inaugural Big Ears took place in 2009 and featured composers such as Phillip Glass and Pauline Oliveros. This year’s festival honored Oliveros, who passed last November, by opening the festival with Nief-Norf performing the composer’s Single Stroke Meditation. Oliveros taught us to listen; she composed for “ear-minded people.” It was fitting to begin a festival with her practice of approaching the world with open ears. The Mill & Mine, a concert and event venue in the historic Old City, was filled with people of all ages trying to center themselves before four days of beautiful and confounding music, art, and film.
Big Ears offered an endless supply of entertainment, all in close proximity, letting you freely flow from one exhibition to the next. With international acts such as Colleen, Gavin Bryars, Anna Meredith, DakhaBrakha, Frode Haltli, Nils Økland, and Wu Fei, among many others, attendees would have been extremely hard pressed not to experience something completely new. Acts such as Wilco, Blonde Redhead, Tortoise, and Deerhoof brought more familiarity. Members of Wilco spread their influence to every corner of the city, performing solo and with collaborators.
We spoke with artists Cecile Schott (Colleen), Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), Anna Meredith, Andrew Bliss and Kerry O’Brien of Nief-Norf, Wu Fei, Frode Haltli, and Melinda Lio. They provided insight to a plethora of differing music styles and approaches, and they remarked on Knoxville’s inspiring environment. One specific message remained the same to them: music is a free-flowing art form that can be composed from any background and in many styles.
Nief-Norf performed Michael Gordon’s “Timber” [an hour-long composition for six percussionists playing wooden simantras (2x4s)] in front of hundreds that packed in around their circle at the Mill & Mine. This was a wonderfully meditative piece that was also a measure of endurance for the performers.
There were so many fun and challenging performances during the festival it is hard to recount all of them. We will recap a few that really resonated with us. Wu Fei played her guzheng,an ancient Chinese instrument, in a packed in the gothic revival-style St. John’s Cathedral. The Chinese folk songs echoing around the room were foreign to a Tennessee Catholic church, but it did provide a religious-like experience that was also bright and thought-provoking. Plucking the guzheng, Fei’s demeanor was very intense. Each song was followed by a loud sigh that would signal the end. She was insightful and playful between songs, pausing between songs to make jokes or give the audience some education about the instrument. She revealed that this performance marked the first time she played two guzheng at once. One could never have guessed.
Anna Meredith, British composer, producer and performer, weaved electronic and acoustic sounds through up tempo dance songs that got the audience moving on the first night of the festival. As the last leg on her first U.S. tour, Anna Meredith brought energy and her fierce personality to the stage at Big Ears. Her band included a tuba, drums/percussion, guitar, and cellist – with Anna Meredith at the helm. If she wasn’t banging on a drum, whipping out her clarinet, or bringing the digital sounds, she was dancing – and so were we.
Being a fan of Twin Peaks and Xiu Xiu, this performance at Tennessee Theatre was on our list of must see events. Xiu Xiu’s performance was everything we had hoped for. It was eerie and dramatic, bringing you into their vision of Lynch’s cult television show. The performance ended with Shanya reading an entry from Laura Palmer’s diary wherein she curses Bob for everything and wishes for death. Right as she finished reading, Jamie stopped drumming and embodied Leland Palmer by singing Mairzy Doats while dancing mad and sporadically.
At the Square Room, Philip Jeck spun records and created a sometimes harsh but mostly calm listening experience. As we watched him meticulously shift the sounds we were fascinated while also being lulled into a trance.
Colleen performed both on Friday at the Mill & Mine and at The Standard on Sunday. The Standard offered a more intimate environment. She invited everyone to sit down and enjoy the performance. She picked her viola de gamba and carried us to another place with her voice, which was also looping in time. Her cover of “Pearl’s Dream” by Walter Schumann from James Agee’s Night of the Hunter was mesmerizing and thoughtful considering Agee is from Knoxville.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith performing Saturday at the Mill & Mine hypnotized the audience with the intriguing, analogue sounds of her Buchla synthesizer. A dark and roomy Mill & Mine buzzed with curiosity as the audience, enchanted by original, digital artwork swarming in vibrant colors behind her, danced and swayed to upbeat, yet thoughtful music. Her music entrenched in natural sounds, made you feel like you were outside in the woods dancing around a fire.
Michael Hurley performed both in the Tennessee Theatre and at the Standard. We saw Hurley at the Tennessee Theatre, which was decked out for Wilco’s performance later that evening. Hurley offered what only he can, stories of lonely but often whimsy folk that is familiar because his influence runs deep in early and modern folk and rock music. The large theatre environment left us longing to see him in a more intimate environment that The Standard might have offered, but the Pilot Light – a small dive close by – may have been an even more ideal space for Hurley to share his playful storytelling in song.
Numerous panels focusing on a variety of issues and topics that let curious audience members further entrench themselves. We attended one such panel discussing Pauline Oliveros’ life and works; presented by The Wire (UK) with Alvin Curran and Emily Manzo as speakers. Curran painted a vivid picture of Oliveros life, influence and inclusivity in her music-making. Curran highlighted her discontent with the status quo, a discontent that allowed her compositional “experiments” to open the ears and minds of her students and peers. Her ideas resonate so perfectly with what Big Ears accomplishes. Curran, thoughtfully reminiscing on Oliveros’ love of finding music in various sounds around us, asked the audience to “burst into spontaneous music-making.” Curran conducted a 30-second humming orchestra of attendees’ voices that was both beautiful and surprising to the audience. Concluding the panel we were allowed to participate with many others in a group meditation as well as Rock Piece by Pauline. With our fellow attendees, we made sound with the natural, local environment – with Tennessee rocks. Each rock contributed its unique note to the group’s music. The most resounding experience of the festival, this piece, composed by one of the utmost accomplished, and inspiring composers of our time, brought strangers together growing not only our ears but opening our minds to Oliveros’ world of sound-making.
The lineup was one of the most eclectic and interesting ones you’d find at any U.S. music festival, and like the rocks, each performer provided a unique experience that built upon the history, evolution and connectivity of modern music, new music, noise music, and pop music. Among the festival attendees, volunteers, guests, and artists, everyone was open to new sounds and ideas. After the final performance of the festival (Xiu Xiu at the Mill & Mine), Cecile (Colleen) wandered up toward the stage and asked how Shanya was producing those sounds. It is this curiosity and intrigue that makes Big Ears Festival such a unique experience.
Last year Sonosphere visited the small, Texas town of Marfa for the Marfa Myths music festival created by Mexican Summer and Ballroom Marfa. Now in its fourth year Marfa Myths has grown to a three day fest with hundreds of individuals from around the country in attendance. It’s still a small festival, which allows for intimate conversations.
This year’s festival is upon us, so let’s travel back in time to Marfa Myths 2016 during a two-day wind storm, where I talk with sound artist Maria Chavez about her performance informed by the wind and chards of vinyl; where harpist Mary Lattimore shares insight into her latest album informed by road trips out west.
Head out this year, March 9-12 to Marfa Myths 2017 and you won’t regret it. Tickets at mexicansummer.com
With the upcoming release of the Duets for Mellotron LP, we decided to share our interview with the people behind this project. Prior to the April 16, 2016 performance, at Crosstown Arts in Memphis, TN, we sat down with Winston Eggleston, Robby Grant and Johnathan Kirkscey and talked about what brought this show to fruition and their history with this unique instrument. Check out the interview on this episode of Sonosphere featuring a track from the performance, “Joan Folds Towels” written by Robby Grant and Jonathan Kirkscey.
Pick up your album January 13-18th, 2017 at Crosstown Arts and relive a beautiful night that was a first of its kind.
Welcome to Sonosphere the podcast that explores the sounds all around us; in art and music movements through history.
This is part 5 of our Birth of Modern Music Series on European composers of the early 20th century from the atonal compositions of Austria’s Schoenberg to the realization of total serialism of Olivier Messiaen we continue our coverage with German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and the evolution of electronic music. This episode we’ll hear from Stockhausen scholar Joe Drew; thanks to Ben Siler as the voice of Stockhausen.
Stockhausen tracks in order:
Gesang Der Junglinge
Aus Den Seiben
Gesang Der Junglinge
Welcome back to Sonosphere’s Birth of Modern Music series featuring modern European, classical composers that inspired the experimental, avant garde art and music scenes of the 50s, 60s and resonate in music composition today.
In the first episode of the series we highlighted Arnold Schoenberg whose atonal works ushered in a new school of composers. Then we moved to Erik Satie whose Vexations and other “sonic experiments” influenced his peers and John Cage who discovered the piece years later. After that we covered Edgard Varese, a peculiar composer who sculpted sounds in a way never accomplished previously. Today we will delve into the life and works of Olivier Messiaen.
Messiaen escaped the world of composition’s shift to serialism through religion, nature, and birdsong, but he had a profound influence on the evolution of electronic music composition through composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, and Xenakis.
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Thanks for listening!
Songs in this month’s episode:
- Des Canyons Aux Etoiles I: Le Desert
- Des Canyons Aux Etoiles II: Les Orioles
- Preludes: La Colombe (The Dove)
- Quartet for the End of Time
- Turangalila – Symphonie
- Mode de valeurs et d’intensites
- Meditations sur le mystere de la Sainte Trinite
photo: Catalogue d’Oiseaux: styriarte.com
Welcome to Sonosphere! This month’s episode features Zac Ives co-founder and co-owner of Goner Records, Natalie Hoffman of NOTS, Chris Shaw of Ex-cult and JB Horrell of Ex-Cult and Aquarian Blood to bring you a Goner Fest 2016 Special Edition.
Thanks to the Goner family and Memphis musicians for sharing their passion! Goner Fest 13 is this weekend starting tonight, Wednesday September 28, 2016 at Crosstown featuring flyers from the Memphis underground installation called Torn Down by Thursday. Bands are playing September 29th through Oct. 2nd. Come on out!
Check out the Goner Special Edition on iTunes and play on Soundcloud below.
Varese searched for the modern sound, the sound that would define his generation. Like Schoenberg before him, Varese’s early atonal period broke down language and form into a stream of sensations – “his screaming chords seemed to have no emotion tied to them, no history or future” – just very present in the now.
Join us on the journey through the life and mind of French American composer Edgard Varese.
The ultimate “underground” modernist artist in Paris, Satie didn’t get a lot of credit when he was alive for his work. He was largely forgotten until John Cage found his Vexations composition fifty years after his death.
His music “did not resolve as it should according to tonal laws” says our guest Dr. Caroline Potter. She talks with us about how Satie broke from Parisian tradition and led an avant-garde scene which influenced ambient and minimalist artists for years to come.
Join us as we traverse the eccentric life and work of Erik Satie.
This episode is the first in a series of European composers that start a change in music, paving the way for avant-garde and disruptive sounds from the classical minimalist genre, to punk and rock and roll we hear today.
This episode is an introduction to our series on the Birth of Modern Music. It will highlight radical dissonance in Western classical compositions. We will individually describe the work and influence of Arnold Schoenberg, Erik Satie, Edgard Varese, Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. They were powerhouses in the classical composition revolution at the turn of the 20th century and their influence permeated into mid-century beatnik, free improv and psychedelic culture.
Look for the first episode in this series next week. Until then, we have prepared for you a playlist highlighting the work of Arnold Schoenberg, the first modernist we’ll explore in our next episode. Check it out at sonospherepodcast.com and click on Press Play. Enjoy!
Pierre Boulez – Le Marteau sans Maitre VI Bourreaux de Solitude
Welcome to episode three, The Ancient Sampler: A History and Evolution of the Mellotron.
Press Play showcases a playlist of artists featured in this month’s podcast. Next week we delve deeper into the Italian Futurist movement of the early 20th century. Stay tuned!
Welcome to Press Play, the playlist that will showcase the music and sounds featured in the month’s Sonosphere podcast. Today we will take you through the sounds of what many categorize as noise music through the 20th and 21st century. (more…)
This month the Press Play mixtape features Tara Rodgers, aka Analog Tara. Tara is a multi-instrumentalist composer and historian of electronic music and sound who produces techno tracks using analog sound sources.
This is a mix of Analog Tara tracks from the album At the Switch Hotel from 2003, written, performed, and produced by Analog Tara on synths, drum machines & more.
Tara Rodgers is a former Sonosphere podcast guest, and we are big fans of her book, Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. The book features 24 interviews with 24 women from the electronic music genre.
Rodgers originally hails from upstate New York and is now based in the Washington, DC area. She earned an MFA in Electronic Music & Recording Media at Mills College and a PhD in Communication Studies at McGill University.
She’ll be presenting a free, open to the public artist talk at noon on the Crosstown Concourse Theater Stair on March 31. Later that night at 8 pm (doors at 7:30 pm), she’ll perform original compositions in Crosstown Arts’ East Atrium, including tracks from her new Fundamentals EP, out this spring on the DC label 1432R.
The performance is a ticketed event with a cash bar. Tickets are $12 and available on
This is the first performance in Sonosphere’s Sound Observations series. This four-part series will highlight new explorations in sound through lectures and performances by musicians, composers, and scholars from across the country. Join us as we explore the sounds all around us.
Enjoy the mix: