Seems like a day for massive tracks and this excellent new collaboration between Chris Corsano, David Maranha, and Richard Youngs should serve up the full amount of desert tarpit psychosis you need for the year. The record is made up of two huge tracks recorded by the trio on a hot June night of their 2019 tour at Les Ateliers Claus in Brussels. The A-side, presented here ripples in over the parched blacktop in discomfiting waves before Youngs’ flute adds an eerie tension. From there the song turns spiritual, Youngs adds vocals that lift up to the heavens. Corsano beats out a constant nod and clarinet and violin saw at the burnt air with equal hunger. Its not often that three such talents hit the tape together and this set proves that it pays to capture the rare air when its blowing. The record is out 4/30 in a ltd pressing of 300 from Improved Sequence.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.
Jimmy Tamborello has had a fascinating and expansive career as Dntel, not to mention his involvement in The Postal Service. I had no interest in talking to him about The Postal Service, but I was very interested in talking to him about Dntel—specifically, his gorgeous new album for Morr Music/Les Albums Claus, The Seas Trees See, as well as the legacy of his excellent Life Is Full of Possibilities, a record that felt truly futuristic and unique when it came out in 2001.
How has your year been?
Not too different from the few years before this. I’d already been a bit isolated, but it’s definitely been a bit crazy. A lot of ups and downs. I’m in a numb period now.
Is living in a sort of isolation just a part of your preference in living?
It’s just my personality. I moved to Altadena in 2014, which is closer to the mountains. I used to live in Silverlake, so I became more of a hermit when I moved out here.
What were some of your earliest experiences listening to music?
In elementary school, I got into breakdancing when I was in third grade. I really liked the music in the class I went to—electro-type stuff. In junior high, I met a friend and we encouraged each other to get into music more and go to concerts and stuff. We eventually realized it was possible for us to make our own music, or pretend to be a band. It was this big revelation—that I could be involved in something I enjoy so much.
What was the first band you were in?
It was called Nothing To Say. For our first song, we took the chords from a New Order song—I think it was “True Faith.” I had the sheet music, and we played the chords in reverse order.
What was the moment you got into electronic music in general?
My dad has always been into jazz—he plays sax and flute. In seventh grade, he put a home studio together, and he had a keyboard, a sequencer, and an 8-track. So I had those tools at my house, and I started using them because it was what was available.
Do you remember the first track you ever made?
I remember I had my own Casio keyboard that had a lot of demo tracks and automated beats you could play. Me and my friend would just yell and sing over those.
You played bass in the band Strictly Ballroom for a bit, too. You put out an album on Waxploitation.
I’d already started doing electronic music. Even DNTEL I started around ‘94. For the band, I was in college and I had a new group of friends that were all into music, and we were getting into that world. My younger brother was really into hardcore in high school in Santa Barbara, so he was turning me on to those bands too. But I was always doing the DNTEL stuff at the same time. The band was more just something to do with other people. My after-school activity was always pretending to be in a band. [Laughs] We used to send tapes to the local paper and radio station to try and get reviewed. It was always my hobby.
Tell me about putting together Life Is Full of Possibilities. It arrived at a point in which “indie” was becoming more open-minded about integrating electronic music into its framework.
I finally had a computer that could handle recording audio, so it was the first time I could record vocals instead of using samples on a sampler. I look back on that time fondly, because it was one of the only times since I started making music where I noticed something missing in music that I always wanted to hear but wasn’t there, or was really rare. To have that moment where you feel like you’ve made something that hasn’t been represented yet—indie sensibilities and vocals with electronic music that’s more experimental and glitchy…at that time, even when electronic artists that I liked would work with vocals, the electronic music would become more straightforward.
A new documentary is exploring the rich history of female composers at the forefront of electronic music – Madeleine Seidel speaks to director Lisa Rovner to find out more
Sisters with Transistors is the new documentary from filmmaker Lisa Rovener that sheds light on the forgotten histories of female composers in electronic music. These composers such as Delia Derbyshire, Wendy Carlos, and Suzanna Ciani were innovators in their field, pioneering new musical styles and instruments in an industry that was unwelcoming to both female musicians and their avant-garde creations. In Sisters with Transistors, Rovner – along with iconic musician and artist Laurie Anderson’s narration – reclaims electronic music’s women-led roots by highlighting these composers’ stories through archival footage, interviews, and of course, music. In this interview, Rovner tells us about the documentary, working with Anderson, and how she hopes Sisters with Transistors will inspire a new generation of women in electronic music.
The Quietus: What compelled you to make this documentary in the first place about underrepresented women in the history of electronic music?
Lisa Rovner: What really drew me in was that this music was the sound of liberation. The political aspect of the story was what grabbed me, and I was drawn to these women and these photographs of them that I was discovering online… It was both my personal interest in politics and bringing politics to the screen, and obviously the music and obviously these women – these women who were enchanting me through the archive I sourced online.
Can you walk me through the research process with the archival footage? There must be a lot of information to include with the footage from the BBC and other places in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
It took me four years to source everything, and until the last moment, I was still swapping things and discovering new things. It was an extremely difficult story to properly uncover. With [composers] Delia [Derbyshire] and Daphne [Oram’s] archive, some of it was housed at the BBC, which was a bit easier, but some of the other stuff was much harder to source. Some of [the footage] came from the women’s families; some of it came from the women themselves. Suzanne Ciani and Laurie Spiegel both luckily took a lot of care in archiving their work, so that was kind of more straight-forward––although the concert footage of Suzanne where you first meet her in 1974 where she’s smoking a cigarette, that took a lot of work to get, to get digitised, and then to get licensed. Originally, I had just thought, “Oh, we’ll find an archivist and you know, that will be great,” but when the archivist came back with nothing, I just thought that this was going to be a very involved process, so I took on the challenge. I just spent the next few years reaching out to universities tracking these women’s lives and all the different places they’ve been and all the people they’d potentially met, all the people they had slept with. It was a huge, huge work but so rewarding discovering some of these gems.
The recordings of Laurie Spiegel and some of the later composers that you profile are so striking, because they seem to be so interested in recording themselves. It’s like they knew that this was going to be historic one day and needed to be preserved.
That is what's so interesting about this story. All of these women, perhaps they were aware of how important they were, but other people were too. Other people were inviting them on television, and other people were recording them… What’s really fascinating is how they have been left out of the bigger narrative of electronic music, of the canon. Of course, things are changing – for some of us, these stories are not lost.
The Oscillation festival will mix talks, performances and works for radio + workshops. Check the complete program HERE
Tuned Circuits, the 2021 edition of Oscillation Festival, borrows its title from Daphne Oram, the early electronic composer and instrument inventor. In Oram’s work and writing we glimpse the possibility of a parallel between electronic and biological circuits, and a desire to perceive phenomena simultaneously from various sides. More broadly, the festival looks at practices and phenomena of tuning. Tuning is a fundament of music making. To think in terms of tuning is to think in terms of relations; of one thing coming into consonance or dissonance with another, of one thing colouring and affecting another. It is also to think in terms of time, since tuning requires a process of constant calibration: what is now in tune will not stay that way.
Ben Bertrand made a soundtrack for “Snakearms - Alexander Vantournhout / not standing”
Everyone is still getting their heads around Senyawa’s magnificent Alkisah album, and the inspired way in which they released it. Depending on where you reside, and where you get your music fed to you, you might have copped the album in any number of ways. It was released by scores of labels, each edition with different artwork and packaging, and often embellished with additional remixes or other such unique material. A completist’s nightmare, but do completists even exist any more?
Amongst the many unique configurations and spin-offs, Belgian label Les Albums Claus – itself a spin-off of the alternative music venue Les Ateliers Claus – gathered together a separate remix album with a stunning cast that deserves appraisal in its own right. From Sugai Ken’s tender drips and drops to a typically downcast and ominous rhythmic tryst from Tolouse Low Trax, there are a lot of bold ideas that spring from reinterpreting Senyawa’s predominantly intense sound. The ever-brilliant Celine Gillain is perhaps the star of the show though, exercising a brooding restraint for the opening half of her version of ‘Alkisah II’ before opening it up into a dead-eyed stepper down low, and a sparkling FM fantasy up top.