Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

Jul 25

Erik Wøllo: dark, dreamy guitar sensibility

Erik Wøllo: dark, dreamy guitar sensibility

by Patrick Ogle

Erik Wøllo is a Norwegian electronic musician and composer with over 50 albums to his credit. Stretching back to the mid-80s, his releases are highly imaginary and engaging, building a bridge between grand realms and gentle, serene atmospheres. In addition to his own albums, he has composed pieces for ensembles, ballets, film, television and theater.

Wøllo’s dark, dreamy sensibility appeals to a wide audience. Chill, ambient, shoegaze, trip hop, classical, fans of all of these and more will find something to like in Wøllo’s work. It would be easy to imagine that a follower of Dead Can Dance or Elliot Carter could hear analogs to their favorites in this vast library of sound. There are songs I can see played in clubs (“Sojourn I” off of “Sojourns” leaps to mind. DJs: grab a copy to mix into your set). He uses the guitar heavily in his work which may surprise those who listen to it without knowing his history or his philosophy.

“My soundworld is built upon long suspended notes, drones and textures,” says Wøllo. “The main challenge for me has always been that the notes on a guitar string die out very quickly. It is just the nature of the instrument. Not like a violin, for example, where you can use the bow up and down to play long sustained notes. I often find there is a need to use a lot of additional studio treatments to create the sounds I want. I have several custom-made pedalboards and other tools that can transform what I play into something more textural than the original.”

He says that this lack of sustain was one of many reasons he started to use synthesizers in the late seventies. Needing control over the length of notes, he’s been experimenting with this ever since using ebow, slide, various sustainer pickup systems, programming delays, reverb and a variety of other effects.

But the guitar has never left his repertoire.

“Most of my albums do have string instruments in one form or another. Both electric and acoustic. Very often I use diverse guitar synthesizers or trigger other synthesizer modules with my MIDI equipped guitars. I am a melodic composer for the most part, and I feel this instrument adds more of what you can call human element or a human touch,” he says. “The direct touch with the fingers on a string or on a drum will often make the tone more alive, expressive and exciting for the listener’s ears. It can be very subtle and just the icing on the cake, but still it adds something. Something more interesting, it gives a certain depth to the total soundscape. The pieces might be more personal, direct and original.”

Wøllo doesn’t, of course, use only guitars.

“I have a big collection of synthesizers!” says Wøllo. “First of all I am a composer who makes electronic music. I have been attracted to this aesthetic since the late 70s. In 1984, as a professional touring performer in various fusion bands, I decided to work mainly as a composer using the studio as my instrument.”

“I started to play the guitar at 11. Through all stages in my career, from rock, to jazz, it has always been my main instrument. For several years I practiced more than 8 hours a day and studied diverse techniques. From playing classical pieces by Bach to diving into fusion John McLaughlin material. Today all this is in there somewhere as a part of my education and history but now mostly only as compositional fragments.”

“I can use any instrument, no boundaries. Well, a few exceptions… there are no saxophones in my recordings. They would not fit in my soundscapes. Certain instruments have a certain vibe connected to them. I have been working a lot with kanteles lately, a stringed Finnish folk instrument. Other than my guitars and synthesizers, I have a nice collection of percussion instruments from all over the world. I record these, making loops etc…”

With little reservation Wøllo says his favorite, and indeed indispensable, pieces of gear are his old Lexicon reverbs.

“I have a lot of them, still use them. They are essential in my work. On a mix, I typically use like 4 or 5 in the fx sends on the mixer channels, all with different settings and equalizing to cover the whole spectrum. Software reverbs can sound good sometimes and they have gotten better especially for small rooms and spaces. But hardware units do have more depth and complex sonic realism. Also I need to mention my e-bow, which has become an important part of my trademark expression.”

Wøllo also uses loopers in his work, especially his new release, Inversions.

“Using looping pedals is a way for me to quickly develop ideas, adding layers and trying out repeating ostinatos, etc. A great composition tool. Also, as a solo performer, these are great devices in a live setting,” he says.

His loopers include TC Electronics, Digitech and Boss.

“I used Ableton Live as a looper with MIDI pedals for a while, which is a complicated setup with a computer and soundcard etc. Hardware looping pedals are a better and a more intuitive solution for me, both in my house and in my studio. I have been using the latest Boss RC-600 a lot, which is a great leap forward,” he says. “Still, I miss a few options and possibilities in the looper pedals that are available today. More instant real-time control would be a great option to have. And also if the looper could be more sensitive to your playing, like a second player assisting you in real time. Giving instant feedback to you. But that is future…”

“In my 40-year career I have been exposed to and been listening to many different genres and working with so many different artists. When I sit down to compose, it becomes a symbiosis of all these influences and intuitively it turns into something new and personal as it is processed through my filters,” says Wøllo.

At some point in the process he says his compositions begin to have their own life and he follows that path. Inversions is a series of connected instrumental pieces with something of a dark sensibility. The release was recorded in Wøllo’s house in his kitchen and living room. He did not go into the studio at all.

“The best ideas often come to you when you are in the middle of doing something else. In my kitchen there is a nice spot for rehearsing, and I have a guitar and a looper always available there, ready to record. Over the years this has resulted in a lot of interesting, intuitive and exciting sketches,” says Wøllo. “For this EP I collected some of the best performances, formed as a suite in 7 short episodes that have a total length of 30 minutes. All performed on various electric guitars, looping pedals and effects. There are no synthesizers on this album.”

He says he is attracted to any musician that can play and deliver messages from their deep, inner self.

“Music is an abstract art,” Wøllo says. “It is so easy to get lost and distracted in the physical aspect of it — being too obsessed with technique, equipment and gear, etc. For me the challenge has always been less is more. To find the right note, in the right place in the right sequence of notes, and leave space around it so everything can breathe. Can I be in a state of mind beyond thinking when playing and performing, going deeper and getting the attention away from the self. Then the music can lift off. And in that moment finding ways into the subconscious, almost like research into the unknown mind. There is a consciousness and an awareness in this that can take a lifetime to achieve.”

With Inversions, Wøllo shows that there’s much more to uncover with this humble stringed instrument.

May 26

Sam interviews Mike of Lycia, 1993

Sam writes: While digging through my folders for interviews for the fanzine I am making for my Kickstarter backers on Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s A chaos of desire reissue, I found this interview I did with Mike of Lycia in 1993 for the fanzine INQUISTA. They must have been a European zine, based on the Hyperium logo (our European partner back in the day) on the page. Click the image below for an image file of the full interview.

May 12

TheAdelaidean: Music, writing and mathematics are my three great loves.

TheAdelaidean: Music, writing and mathematics are my three great loves.

by Patrick Ogle

Sean Williams is an award-winning author and a professor of creative writing at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. His book The Force Unleashed (based on the Star Wars video game) is a #1 New York Times bestseller. As a youngster he won the Young Composer Award in South Australia, and in 2017 he received the Australian Antarctica Division’s annual Arts Fellowship to research a novel combining the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration with H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

He is also theAdelaidean, a musical moniker referring to the name of his home city. The musical project is so varied that you might think each release comes from an entirely different artist.

“My music suffers from the same problem as my writing, which is that I like to move between genres. I call this a problem, but for some audiences it’s the exact opposite, because it keeps things fresh. The common thread uniting my compositions for Projekt are that they’re all ambient, but while I started with lo-fi/lowercase textures, I’ve definitely been drifting towards cleaner sounds lately. Still slow, moody, patient, with a bit of a dark edge at times.”

There is continuity in the individual recordings, of course, but from record to record there are significant changes.

“Some, like Isolation and Inner Real Life, are conceptually defined early on: both of these albums grew out of exercises in music-creation based on source materials (tapes I recorded in the 1980s and jazz recordings from my father-in-law, respectively). In those cases, the final results grew organically out of the textures that were available. For other albums, like Solarpunk, the unifying theme came later: I think of these albums like collecting a book of short stories, in that individual works may not have been created with a larger purpose in mind, but just such a purpose forms subconsciously around them, and subsumes them, making them part of something much bigger.”

Solarpunk has a lo-fi indie vibe that might seem at odds with the ambient and almost orchestral stylings of other recordings. It is a record that would not be out of place on Canada’s Arts & Crafts label.

“Solarpunk started as an assembly of two-plus hours of fragments that over some months I arranged and edited into what the album is now, a whole thing in its own right. I think of this as a very powerful metaphor for how positive futures come into being, through the efforts of many disparate people towards an end they might not even be aware of, entirely, until it arrives.”

Over the years Williams says he has had a variety of processes which were dependent on the materials he had on hand.

“I’m not a natural performer of any instrument, but I can and do occasionally knock out progressions on a piano if I’m looking for inspiration,” he says. “I also love the timbre of instruments, and I have a background in sound engineering that taught me lots of old-fashioned techniques to manipulate recorded sound, many of which have been baked into DAWs and can still be useful.”

Sometimes Williams starts with a simple loop that he feels has possibilities. Then he works with the other materials and sounds that he has at hand.

“Occasionally I use randomness to get me started or to get something that’s stalled moving again. I’m fascinated by the many different means available of varying existing musical artefacts and using them to build something new,” he says. “There are a lot of common elements that wind through my music, although they’re so mutated that I’d be amazed if anyone has noticed. My process, like my music, is in a constant state of evolution.”

Williams employs a variety of instruments in his releases. On Isolation, he plays piano, autoharp, tuning fork, alto recorder, bicycle bell, windshield wipers and… slinkies. You may notice some of these items are not, strictly speaking, instruments.

“My most recent compositions are made in a mixture of Ableton and Audacity, and I’m still deciding if either of them counts as an instrument, although obviously they’re both crucial to lots of people’s processes, including mine,” says Williams. “Although I studied music composition and found success with formal styles of writing, I regard my explorations through software as being a very slow kind of improvisation, so in that sense I guess my computer is indeed my main instrument. My study just happens to be full of keyboards and guitars and other cool things that I use to get a particular sound evolving in my own fumbling way.”

Williams is something of a gear head but like many of us his eyes are bigger than his wallet.

“Man, I love gear so much, but I’m constantly forcing myself not to buy any. Space is an issue, and so is money, of course, otherwise I’d own one of everything (old and new: I’ve always wanted a sackbut, for instance),” he says. “ I also like to be portable. Next year, I’ll return to Antarctica to overwinter, making an album while I’m there, and there’s only so much gear I’ll be able to take. Laptop, headphones, a mic or two: anything more than that can’t be guaranteed. So keeping it lean is definitely my current philosophy. When I get back, though, and the home studio I’m planning is built, all bets will be off.”

Music, writing and mathematics are Williams’ three great loves.

“I’ve always said that just one part of my brain handles the labor involved in each of them, and although that’s probably an over-simplification, I’m sure it’s partly true. All three involve specialist language, and structures, and logics that frequently overlap,” says Williams. “I constantly find myself performing intuitive calculations that draw from each of these fields, to the benefit of the final result, I think. I’m sure I’m not unique in this; I’m equally sure that there are other methods of creation that are just as valid.”

Williams says that, unlike many people he knows, he doesn’t create visually.

“I don’t even ‘hear’ what I’m composing either while I’m composing, in the strict sense of the word. I’m playing at a more theoretical level, if that makes sense (and without wanting to claim any superiority in this approach; it’s just how I work),” he says. “This concept of music-without-sound is something I explore in my novel Impossible Music — and one can see audio-visual outcome of this speculation in a work called ‘vocem video’ (link: vimeo) that I created with Ian Gibbins, an acclaimed visual artist, poet and former neuroscientist. The idea is that you can turn off the sound and still gain a sense of the music from the images alone. That, in fact, was how it was premiered at the launch of the book.”

The name “theAdelaidean”, as noted, relates to Adelaide, where Williams has spent most of his life.

“I was actually born a four-and-a-half-hour drive to the northwest in a country town called Whyalla, but “theWhyallan” didn’t have the same ring to it,” he says.

“Adelaide a large-ish city by international standards (over a million people) but considered small in Australian and has always struggled with its role on the national and international stage. Embracing the arts and arts festivals is a big part of its cultural identity — boasting Australia’s first writers’ week, for instance — but the fact of its remoteness has often made it a difficult draw for visitors from far-off. Like Australians in general, we tend to look outside our local community for new and interesting stuff to celebrate, so we’ve perversely suffered a bit of a creative brain-drain here, despite being in theory an arts-friendly place to live and work. I’ve managed to stay here through an international writing and music career that now spans over thirty years, but I know plenty of creators (those who need physical audiences, for instance) who moved elsewhere and never came back.”

Williams says these facts have given the city an interesting, if frustrating, relationship with the arts. There is a tension that helps the creative process, even if this isn’t always appreciated in the moment.

“Adelaide recently became a UNESCO City of Music, which is exciting, although some of the shine has come off that with the cancellation of our Unsound music festival due to lack of government support,” says Williams. “Recent governments have been ambivalent when it came to supporting individual artists too, such as writers and composers, in favor of larger enterprises — TV and computer games, say, or operatic spectaculars by composers who have been dead for centuries. This is a shame, but maybe that makes us living artists work harder, and better, in order to succeed on our own terms.”

Regardless of the trials and tribulations of the arts in Adelaide, Williams says it has been a great place to grow and develop as an artist.

“The landscape influences me (several of my books in particular). Sometimes the isolation from busier cultural centers like Sydney helps me find my own creative vibe: it’s often easier to find a stillness here that’s missing in big cities,” he says. “The reason why I chose the name ‘theAdelaidean’ for my ambient persona is simply that it’s also the name of the tallest building in town. It was being built when I needed to choose a name, and I thought it would be cool for promo shots — taking an ugly apartment and owning it for artistic purposes. But alas, there’s no big neon sign projecting my brand across the plains. Curse them!”

theAdelaidean’s Solarpunk is available at Projekt’s Bandcamp page, Spotify, Pandora, and all other digital sites.

Apr 30

Steve Roach live in NYC at Ambient Church June 4, 2022

Ambient Church presents Steve Roach in New York City

Church of the Heavenly Rest 1085 5th Avenue New York, NY 10128 Saturday, June 4, 2022 Doors 7pm. Show 8pm.

Ambient church website w/ticket link

Soundworlds will flow across time and space at this two-hour journey led by legend of ambient synthesis Steve Roach. Held in an historic cathedral in Manhattan, Roach’s premiere New York City performance will be accompanied by an immersive, architecturally-mapped light performance.

“Expertly curated programs of meditative, devotional, and minimal avant-garde electronic music paired with stunning 3D-mapped projections, covering the church’s interiors with gently undulating New Age visuals…” – The New Yorker

Steve Roach Bio

A longstanding leader in contemporary electronic music, composer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Roach draws on the beauty and power of the Earth’s landscapes to create lush, meditative soundscapes. Throughout his decades-long career, he’s explored styles ranging from tribal rhythms to deep space music, and he’s proven to be an enormous influence on several generations of ambient artists, trance producers, and new age/world music fusionists.

Grammy nominated in 2018 and 2019 consecutively, his career spans four decades and nearly 150 releases. His massive catalog of landmark recordings includes 1984’s Structures from Silence, 1988’s Dreamtime Return and 2003’s Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces (parts 1-4). His collaboration with electronic pioneer Michael Stearns on 2021’s Beyond Earth & Sky was an opportunity to reconnect with an artist Roach first worked with in 1989. He has maintained an impossibly prolific work rate throughout his career resulting in countless hours of truly sublime, otherworldly music.

Drawing from a vast, unique and deeply personal authenticity, his albums are fueled by the momentum of a lifetime dedicated to the soundcurrent. Always reaching towards what’s next on the horizon, Roach is an artist operating at the pinnacle of his artform, driven by a passion and unbroken focus enhancing the emotive, soul-stirring depth of his music. Capturing peak moments as they occur in his Timeroom studio, he creates a sonic experience that breathes emotion and vital life energy that connects to an ever-growing worldwide audience.

From the expansive, time-suspending spaces reflecting his spiritual home in Arizona to the fire breathing, sequencer-driven rhythmic-tribal expressions woven from all things electric and organic, this innovative world of sound has been nourished by years of transcendent concerts worldwide.

Press, Visit: Steve Roach Downloadable Image Gallery and Wikipedia page.

Apr 12

FREE: the Chaos Serpent single

Stream / free download at Projekt’s bandcamp, video at at youTube, stream at Spotify (Spotify link goes live on Friday the 15th.)

To thank the 260 backers that pledged $13,282 to help bring Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s A chaos of desire reissue Kickstarter to life, the current 3-piece “Serpent” line-up releases a 2-song single with neoclassical reinterpretations of two songs from the 1991 album.

The focus on strings and vocals reveals a new shine upon the dark existential beauty. These passionate tales inhabit a chaotic realm of memory, fear and desire confronting pained emotions. Synthesist Sam Rosenthal is joined by Swedish cellist Henrik Meierkord and vocalist Jon DeRosa.

Sam Rosenthal writes:

While planning the Kickstarter for A chaos of desire I wondered how to bring the 2022-era band into the past and involve us in the campaign. Inspiration strikes!!! We could record new neo-classical versions of tracks from chaos. I formed these recordings by reusing my synth parts from the digitized 1990 8-track master tape; Jon and Henrik added vocals and strings in their respective hometowns (Los Angeles & Stockholm, Sweden). Then — like when I mixed The Cleft Serpent — I pulled as much of myself out of the mix as I could to end up with lush, beautiful, mournful versions of “A chaos of desire” & “Could i stay the honest one.”

Jon and I tossed around ideas and thought it would be a wonderful surprise at the end of the campaign to give the band’s fans something entirely fresh: our reinterpretations of the past. We’re thanking everyone for their pledges which brought us to the funding goal; and thanking everyone who has enjoyed the band in the 31 years since we released A chaos of desire.

The single will be at all streaming sites on April 15. Sam

a chaos of desire

Mar 29

I’m very thrilled to release Michael Stearns: Planetary Unfolding

Friday is the re-release date for Michael Stearns’ Planetary Unfolding. I am thrilled that I get to offer Michael’s early work on my Projekt label. He’s one of the originals; having both Michael and Steve Roach on Projekt brings together the classic American EM artists.

I’ve read your wonderful comments about this album on Bandcamp and youTube, such as:

Tony B wrote: Thank you for reissuing Planetary Unfolding. It is a desert island disc for me! Gabriel R wrote: At last! One of my favorite albums, for so long unavailable on CD. Thank you Projekt for putting this out!

Planetary Unfolding was out of print far too long, and it’s my pleasure to make it available for you again. This remastered version captures the beauty and sustained world of Michael’s 1981 creation. The CD comes in a 6-panel digipak with the return of the original cover + full liner notes. Purchase CD or download today, and you can stream on our Bandcamp page. On Friday, the album will be up at all streaming sites, Amazon, etc. (here’s the Spotify link for Friday.) – Sam

Michael Stearns: Planetary Unfolding (2022 Remaster) Available here at the Projekt website and our bandcamp page, European website, high res digital at SPM

Projekt Records inaugurates an ongoing CD/digital reissue series of 13 influential works from American electronic ambient composer Michael Stearns. On April 1, 2022, Projekt rereleases Stearns’ groundbreaking and long out-of-print Planetary Unfolding (1981). Featuring the sound of the Serge Modular Synthesizer in 6 movements, the slowly evolving atmospheric swirls of this early spacemusic classic are a journey within inner and outer space.

His essential masterpiece tells the story of the cosmos not with words but with mighty, emotional sonics. The pieces have aged gracefully, as powerful today as 41 years ago. From our subatomic origins to our intergalactic destiny, the universe is made of sound held together through resonance where atoms, cells, oceans, plants, animals and humans are all part of a complex orchestration.

“Michael Stearns’ Planetary Unfolding defines the word breathtaking. He doesn’t just take you somewhere, he makes you hear music differently, taking you deep into the vibration of sound. Planetary Unfolding transforms the space of your listening and your mind. It’s a monumental work of ambient music.” — John Diliberto (((Echoes)))”

Mar 28

🎬 Black Tape For A Blue Girl “beneath the icy floe” video

From Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s Sam Rosenthal: Hi. I’d love to have your support on my crowdfunding for a reissue of Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s 1991 album, A chaos of desire. There’s one week to go to reach the funding goal — as I write this 148 people have brought us 66% of the way there. With your help I’ll manufacture three formats: a 140-gram 2-color vinyl 2LP, the CD, and a MiniDisc.

Martin Bowes of Attrition’s remastering reveals a new shine upon chaos’ dark beauty. It’s a realm of memory, fear and desire set upon dense electronics confronting pained emotions. Oscar Herrera’s intense, searing vocals and Julianna Town’s sensitive siren song are complemented by Vicki Richards’ sinewy violin.

Backing this campaign is like preordering and a lot like being a patron of the arts.

📹 To begin the final week I’ve posted a 2nd video from the album on youTube, this one for the instrumental “beneath the icy floe.” I’ve always thought of this song as a passage through the shamanic death & rebirth initiation; it was cool to find a cinematographer with footage that captured this idea, and then edit it into a clip that creates the experimental narrative I imagined. Watch it on your big screen. It’s gorgeous. 🎬<

OPTION MAGAZINE #37, 1991: Melancholy streams of electronics and strings, with either floating female vocals or gothic male intonations – reminiscent of certain Dead Can Dance pieces (especially guest vocalist Loren’s reading of the title track), although without the mysticism, scholarship, and anachronistic plunderings. These pieces are contemporary interpretations of the gothic mind set, and the lyrics are often maudlin and self pitying: try “shine shuddered light into my eyes / I cannot escape, unending lies” from “The Hypocrite Is Me.” The music itself is a pleasant depressive drone, and certain songs – “Pandora’s Box,” with its busy rhythm, guitar, and Roxy Music-like melody, and “Tear Love From My Mind,” with its piano highlights and Skinner Box’s Julianna Town’s fine singing – are good listening no matter what your genre preferences. <

Listen to the remastered 12-track album augmented with 18 bonus tracks at Spotify (or wherever you stream music.)

Kickstarter is all or nothing, We need to pass A chaos of desire‘s $12K goal to make this reissue exist. Thanks for helping make it possible!

Mar 10

lovely videos to relax to this weekend, from Projekt artists

Projekt’s artists have been creating entertainment for your eyes as well as your ears. Go to YouTube on your big living room TV and sit yourself down to lovely videos on the Projekt: Music Videos playlist. While you’re there subscribe to the playlist to get our latest clips in your recommendations. There are new videos this week from Lorenzo Montanà, Black Tape For A Blue Girl, and Erik Wøllo. Plus recent clips from Peter Phippen, Jarguna, theAdelaidean, and Steve Roach. Hit play, and enjoy! De-stress this weekend with some great music & visuals from Projekt’s artists. Take care, SamName-your-price at Bandcamp: Descent by Lorenzo Montanà & Neogene by jarguna. preOrder Planetary Unfolding CD & digital from Michael Stearns.

Feb 02

PROJEKT ARTIST’S VIDEOS playlist

Hi — I’ve created a playlist for you at youTube.

PROJEKT ARTIST’S VIDEOS playlist

I update it as each of us artists release a new video. Subscribe and you won’t miss any of the new clips we post. I like that about youTube: I turn on the TV at night (Nova Kitty loves laying on her side on the couch for her late night TV-time-with-pets) and right at the top of youTube are new things to watch from the people I subscribe to. Thanks for doing the work for me AI.

The first clip on the playlist is “Holding Light” a video I create for Steve Roach’s new album. It turned out really atmospheric and trippy. Give it a watch.

And subscribe.

Also: recent clips from Erik Wøllo, Peter Phippen, theAdelaidean/Deepspace, Benjamin James Stewart, more…

Sam

Sep 07

TheAdelaidean in Antarctic

Projekt’s TheAdelaidean is headed back to Antarctic! Sean’s been selected to winter with the Australian Antarctic Program in 2023, the first writer to do so! His first album Isolation was about lockdown. His newest Sounds Like Rain is water-themed (and it’s a Name-your-price download.) Maybe we’ll get a snow-themed album from next, made in one of the most isolated places on Earth!

Sean says: “Returning to Antarctica has been a dream ever since I was there in 2017. That was a nine-day research trip, but this time I will be actively creating while on the ice, writing stories and music, and also podcasting and teaching students back home via satellite. I’ll have six months of long nights and the Aurora Australis to inspire me. I’m so excited to hear what emerges from this incredible experience.”