srijeda, 6. veljače 2013.

Orcas - Orcas (2012) + Thomas Meluch (aka Benoît Pioulard) & Rafael Anton Irisarri

Thomas Meluch (iliti Benoit Pioulard) i Rafael Anton Irisarri, dvojica velikana ambijentalne muzike udružili su svoje astralne umove i napravili audio-razglednice za metafizičke hermafrodite zarobljene u oceanu.

The question isn't why Thomas Meluch (aka Benoît Pioulard) and Rafael Anton Irisarri decided to work together; it's what took them so long. While Meluch's music often resembles an amnesiac crooner making up karaoke lyrics for Boards of Canada instrumentals, and Irisarri splits the difference between Harold Budd and Gas (trending post-minimal under his own name and electronic as the Sight Below), both of them freely muddle up ambient, classical, electronic, and pop idioms in search of the ideal blend of melodic immediacy and formal opacity. And they've been moving in the same interlocked circles for years, recording for most of the bigger labels that steward this furtive electro-acoustic stuff: Kranky and Type (Pioulard), Room40 and Miasmah (Irisarri), and Ghostly International (both). Ticking another one off the list, they join forces as Orcas for this modest, entrancing Morr Music debut, which sounds in reality exactly how it sounds on paper: nocturnal ambient pop in the manner of Eluvium's Similes, if Similes had benefited from the same rugged grandeur as Copia.
The most distinctive and consistent feature of Meluch's music is his sedate yet expressive voice, which moves like something heavy underwater, complacently drowning ("Like coming up for air," he intones repeatedly on the hesitantly skipping "Pallor Cedes"). Irisarri, meanwhile, builds elegantly decaying, chiaroscuro mosaics that seethe with electronic processing. These modes integrate naturally-- in fact, they seem to fill each other's absences. Meluch and Irisarri encase sad, twinkling pop songs for piano or guitar in slow, shuddering masses of electronic sound, striking a fine balance between lyric-driven emotional appeals and aloof abstractions. In either case, Meluch's voice is rightly the focal point, whether atomized into a hissing glow or lucidly double-tracked into streaked harmony, recalling Grizzly Bear at their duskiest-- especially on standout "Arrow Drawn", whose cunning melodic pleasures insinuate themselves slowly, which makes them last.
There are more immediate highs as well, such as "Until Then", a frugal Broadcast cover for close-miked piano and dirty stylus, and "Carrion", a grainy, blossoming hymn. Whether menaced by growling distortion, enshrined in gusty reverb, or draped over an unadorned guitar, Meluch's tender, isolated singing is a stable fulcrum for the music's pendulous swing between extreme, gentle inertia and sudden, violent flux. This type of collaboration between experimental pop musicians can too often devolve into aimless fancywork and tech shenanigans, but Meluch and Irisarri have crafted a genuine, coherent album that conjures immense shadows and immense depths worthy of its namesake. - Brian Howe

Orcas Band Interview: A Balance Of Majestic Forces

Are there any lessons you’ve learned about your own creative process as a musician as a direct result of working collaboratively on Orcas? Are there any that will stay with you in the future?

Benoît Pioulard: Well, I already knew that my recording process was ridiculously simple and underdeveloped by most people’s standards… I mean, I like it that way in my blissful ignorance, but working with Rafael allowed me to be exposed to some much more advanced recording and sound manipulation techniques. Those things, to me, are what set this project apart from my solo stuff in a major way, so I don’t imagine much will change for the sound of Benoit, such as it is.
Rafael Anton Irisarri: I’ve re-learned to work with others, to be patient and to accept change as a natural form, to not be contrived by preconceptions, to be open to suggestions and ways of thinking. It’s been really wonderful, as I’m usually a hermit when I work solo.

Creating this record was a very natural process for the two of you. Do you think both of you relate to creation (as a philosophical construct) or the emotional output of music in similar ways? If so, do you think that extends outwards to general life philosophies, as well?
BP: I tend not to overthink or over-analyze the act of creation too much, or proselytize about it since I don’t know anything about how or why others do it. It’s just something I can’t avoid, and I’m still baffled that the results seem to be marginally appealing to a few people out there. My overarching ‘philosophy’ of all things centers on the fact that Nothing Matters, so that definitely plays into my music and photos. I’ve never tried to claim that my efforts are important or meaningful, because they’re not… it’s just self-indulgent fun. What’s important is being a good person and tending your own garden as responsibly as you can.
RAI: For me, music was for the longest time a form of therapy. I was a very awkward kid growing up — the kind of lonely, skinny, fragile, bullied boy you see exemplified in fictional characters like Oskar (from the novel Låt den rätte komma in). From an early time, music became my way of coping with the fact that I didn’t seem to belong anywhere. To this day, I still feel like this sometimes. I don’t really have a “life philosophical stance,” but if I would have one, I’d borrow a line from my favorite book: “It is lonely when you are among people too.”

“I’ve never tried to claim that my efforts are important or meaningful, because they’re not… it’s just self-indulgent fun. What’s important is being a good person and tending your own garden as responsibly as you can.” - Benoit Pioulard

In some ways, Orcas is a very polished and straight-forward record, but there are many layers of grain and nuance to be dissected. How much of the pop structures and additional underlying details were the result of planning versus experimentation?
BP: All of those things came from very organic kernels… I think every song — with the exception of the Broadcast cover — developed from near-nothingness, which is to say that we just started with some kind of improvisation that built up until a chord structure idea appeared and continued constructing things from there. Or if the direction seemed more like an instrumental/ambient piece, we’d let it go in that direction. I think both modes are equally appealing to us. Rafael is especially perfectionistic, so thanks to him, several of the songs underwent major changes over long periods of time, over the course of several revisits and reimaginings.
RAI: Many years ago, I would have a particular sound in my head, and I would try to recreate it, basing an entire composition from that idea. As I’ve developed further, I’ve become more and more obsessed with building my own tools to create new, unique vocabulary. This of course is entirely personal and related to my own limitations as a musician; I’m not a proficient player in any instruments. I just play many instruments based on ideas and feelings I have at the time, so it’s not like I can sit down with sheet music and play some Bach (as an example) on the piano. I took a more “punk” approach/direction, and decided that if I could take an instrument and express an emotion with it, it didn’t matter what my technical limitations were. This is of course, part of my process, too; I use my limitations as part of my creative process. Rather than seeing something as a handicap, I observe it as opportunity to express myself in a unique way. At the same time, I do a lot of improvisation in the studio and record everything. Lots and lots of happy accidents tend to happen this way, so then my job as a composer becomes “managing” these accidents while shaping them into compositions, almost like a sculpture artist (as cliché as this comparison may sound).
Each track on Orcas leans cohesively towards the light or the dark — but when one dissects the individual components, seemingly contradictory sounds emerge. How much of this record was composed in the editing process through compiling together different combinations of sounds? Were certain textural details interchangeably attempted on different tracks until winning combinations emerged?

BP: As I kind of mentioned above, yes, there was a fairly long process of allowing these songs to sit and gestate, so when we’d come back to them it would seem naturally apparent if a change or development needed to happen that didn’t necessarily appear to us at first. For me, the dark and light elements coexist really nicely — as they do in life itself — so it’s difficult to imagine one without the other. This is kind of how the Pacific Northwest settles in my heart, too; there’s a unique kind of happiness that results from the gloom.
RAI: I’m naturally drawn to the darker nature of life, maybe from life experiences, or maybe cause some of us are born this way, [we] are more connected to darker personalities. I dunno, I’m not a psychoanalyst; my music tends to be an extension of how I feel at the moment of composing it. I do what comes most natural to me.

Can you describe how some of the more interesting layers of sound were created?
BP: Rafael will have more insight into the details of that, perhaps, but for my part it was a lot of bits-and-pieces kind of playing in order to fill in gaps that I could hear in the structure or melodies, which were then processed into their final form. Some of the richer sound layers are live guitar that’s been processed beyond recognition of its original form, but as far as I can recall everything comes from an organic or live source.
RAI: Well, most of it stems from improvising in the studio, recording everything, then processing, filtering, re-amplifying, detuning, deconstructing and manipulating. A simple example is the “trumpet” sounds that lead on “Pallor Cedes” — that is actually Tom playing a glockenspiel using a viola bow, to which I applied the aforementioned processing style.

“Lots and lots of happy accidents tend to happen [via improvisation], so then my job as a composer becomes ‘managing’ these accidents while shaping them into compositions, almost like a sculpture artist.” - Rafael Anton Irisarri

Was the name Orcas chosen before or after the completion of the record? Are there qualities about the orca — as a creature — that you think translates thematically to your sound?
BP: I think Rafael suggested the name somewhere around mid-way through the recording process, once it became apparent that we were both pretty serious about this as a full-time project. Orcas are a really good emblem of the American Pacific Northwest, since they’re methodical, majestic-looking creatures and at times can be violent, and to me they conjure shadows and depths. The name also stands for ‘Oregon’ and ‘Cascadia’ since I was living in Portland and Rafael in Seattle throughout the project’s development..

Are there plans for further collaborative efforts as Orcas?
BP: Yes; even though I’m living in the UK now we’re still exchanging ideas and working on demos of new songs in preparation for future recording sessions.. So, since we work so well together and share such a good wavelength, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to give up the project anytime soon.
RAI: Yes, absolutely, we are working on new material remotely, and plan to record some more this summer. That said – I really hope our listeners and listeners of this kind of music in general really supports our first album by buying it, either on a physical format, or thru any of the multitude of legal download stores. It’s beyond frustrating to put so much effort into an album, spent countless hours making something sound exactly how you envision it, only to find it “file-shared” as crappy-sounding MP3′s. What you listen on those low-res rips is not a very accurate representation of how it sounds on vinyl for instance. There is really no equivalent. So if you like our music, please support it by purchasing it.

The Law

By Benjamin Shapiro

Orcas is basically the Leopold & Loeb of the post-classical scene: L-R Rafael Anton Irisarri and Benoît Pioulard.
If you’re listening to post-classical ambient music right now, chances are you’re trying to do one of two things—fall asleep, or keep abreast of one of the most fertile genres of American music in 2012. If you’ve still got the patience and attention span to actually sit still and listen to a full album, the rewards for this stuff are vast, and far outweigh the narcotizing effect.
One of my favorite new bands on the folkier side of the genre is Orcas, a collaboration between songwriter Benoît Pioulard and composer Rafael Anton Irisarri, also of the Sight Below. Their debut record came out on Morr Music a few months back, and we’re proud to present the album’s first video, a hazy, scratchy visualization of the records second track, “Arrow Drawn.” I wanted to know what kind of mindset produces this stuff, so earlier this week I hopped on the line with Rafael to talk about breaking the law, bananagrams, and recording in the abandoned saw mill from the Twin Peaks title sequence. Check the video and accompanying interview below.

NOISEY: Hey Raf! Thanks for talking to me, dude.
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Sure, no problem.
Can you tell me a bit about how you and Pioulard came together for Orcas?
I was the co-curator for a fest here in Seattle called Decibel. I booked Tom back in 2009, and we kept in touch. I invited him over for a weekend at my studio in Seattle afterwards and we started to work together on improvisations in the studio. It all grew from there.
Didn’t he move to England?
Yeah, I haven’t been over there in a bit. He was over in Portland this past September—we put on a show that got shut down by the police.
OK wait. A minimal post-classical show got busted by the cops?
Haha, yeah. Probably the first ambient drone show shut down by the fuzz. It was pretty ridiculous.
What happened?
Noise complaint, go figure. Cops in the Northwest are hardasses, just like everywhere else I guess. I’m in Seattle, and we have some really absurd rules.
What’s the last law that you broke?
Drinking onstage. Up until very recently, drinking onstage wasn’t allowed in Seattle.
You’re kidding.
Nope. Venues would have signs backstage warning bands not to drink onstage. I once saw Peter from Sonic Boom get kicked out of a club for it.
I didn’t realize that minimal composers were such badasses. What’s the deal with all this ambient post-classical stuff coming back? I feel like with Winged Victory For The Sullen’s success there’s been a bit of an upsurge?
I have no idea. I find it strange, mostly because this music doesn’t really provide instant gratification. It’s fairly inaccessible, and it takes time and effort. That’s something kids don’t do. People are so damn lazy, just skipping from one illegal download to the next, and not really listening. It’s very awkward for us to see the good response to our record.

Rafael Anton Irisarri.
How does the success of Orcas fit into your movement forward as a composer?
Oh, I’m not a man with a plan. I just do, and chips can fall where they may. Plans are for suits.
I feel like a nerd now.
I like spontanaeity. Going according to plan sucks. That’s why I improvise all my sets. Around four or five years ago I had a regular job working for a PR firm, spinning things for douches and lawyers and whatever. Letting go was very liberating.
It must have felt so good to let go.
Well, technically I was fired for being too opinionated, but you know what I mean.
I think that counts!
It definitely had an impact. I was going through a severe depression before all that shit went downhill, so making the Sight Below’s first record was a great cleanse. I learned I had no control and there was no point in trying to plan anything. I love that risk.
It seems like Orcas was a bit of a risk.
Oh, definitely. It all could have gone pretty wrong, Collaborations are usually terrible. I mean… LULU?
That was definitely a piece of trash.
For sure. But Tom and I respect each other’s work and are in sync. It’s worked out so far. We’re planning some European tours now for the spring and summer and into the fall. We’re going to hit the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the Czech Republic… All that. We’ll be doing solo sets as well, so it’ll be a three-band thing with just the pair of us.
What’s Tom like? I’ve never spoken to him.
He’s the nicest. Very polite and soft-spoken. He’s like my kid brother. He lived with me a while and it was very cool—we’d go to a local pub and play bananagrams or kick it drinking scotch and watching curb. We’re huge Larry David fans. Oh, also huge David Lynch fans. We field recorded up by the Snoqualmie area, where Lynch shot Twin Peaks. If you listen to the eight track on the record, “I Saw My Echo,” you can hear some stuff we recorded in the abandoned saw mill from the opening sequence.
That’s amazing.
We love David Lynch!

Benoît Pioulard:

clear (2001)
skymost (2003)
dakota / housecoat (2006)
précis (2006)
temper (2008)
lasted (2010)
hymnal (2013)

Benoit Pioulard is the project of Oregon-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Meluch who used treated guitars, percussion, dulcimer, samples and field recordings to craft the simple, dreamy and hazy songs of the EP Enge (Moodgadget, 2005) and of the album Precis (Kranky, 2006). The latter opens with the industrial-scale cacophony of La Guerre De Sept Ans, but then indulges in relatively harmless lullabies that make Devendra Banhart sound experimental. The arrangements of Together & Down and Palimend, as well as the Simon & Garfunkel-ian vocals and jangling guitar of Needle & Thread, show his talent as a pop auteur, but the brief interludes that should attest to his membership in the digital generation (such as the instrumental collage of Patter) offer too little to distinguish him from old-fashioned singer-songwriters.
Temper (2008) was another example of bedroom digital folk that invested in all three dimensions: creative lyrics, creative melodies and creative sonics.-

Rafael Anton Irisarri:

"Irisarri uses his guitar as a strings-like symphonic element to generate atmospheric massesÖlike an ambient symphony recording thatís been rescued from attic entombment after half a century." - Textura
Rafael Anton Irisarri is an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, curator, producer and mixed media artist. He is predominantly associated with post-minimalist, drone and ambient music and has been exploring textural electronics for over half a decade. He is also known as the main member of electronic/shoegaze outfit The Sight Below.
Irisarriís recorded output captures an essential vision of floating tones, deep pulsing bass and textured Gaussian curves. His use of ostinato phrases taps into minimalist ideals, whilst his use of atmospheric layers of reverb suggests a more cinematic quality. In all, Irisarriís compositions are deeply emotive and epic to the point of being symphonic. His work is widely published in over a dozen labels around the globe, most notably on respected Ann Arbor, MI imprint Ghostly International. His compositions were once described by The Wire contributing writer Jefferson Petrey as "a dual perspective close-up focus on the micro textures of rustling static-filled sonic surfaces with the wide-open distant tree lined horizons of sunset at dusk." Indie website Popmatters depicted his music as ìsensual, propulsive, and shrouded in mercurial darknessî while UK's Drowned In Sound chronicled ìhis ear for a soul-crushing melody continues to shine through the albumís dense caverns of reverb.î Chris Brosman from online tastemaker Pitchfork Media referred to his production work as ìa beautifully bleak cloud of sound," while music journalist Patric Fallon from XLR8R magazine praised his compositions as "dense, panoramic soundscapes."
Irisarri travels frequently to perform live throughout Europe, North America, Australia and the Middle East. Highlights include concerts at Barcelonaís Sonar Festival, Detroitís Movement: DEMF, Montrealís MUTEK, Krakowís Unsound Festival, and Londonís OpenFrame. Aside from electronic music festivals, Irisarri has presented his works at multidisciplinary arts events, including Milanís prestigious MITO SettembreMusica festival and Israel Festival in Jerusalem.
Irisarri has collaborated live with an assortment of like-minded artists: Fennesz, Lillevan, Lawrence English, Grouper, Andrea Belfi, Simon Scott, Lusine, Shackleton, Lissom, Solvent, Svarte Greiner, and Marcus Fjellströ".
Back home in Seattle, Irisarri curates and produces advance sound and interdisciplinary art events, thus helping create a hub for contemporary art proposals in the city while engaging in a constant dialogue with fellow artists, producers, critics and audiences.
A side project of Rafael Anton Irisarri: The Sight Below-

The Sight Below is an alias of Rafael Anton Irisarri, an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, curator, producer and interdisciplinary artist based out of the Pacific Northwest. The music of The Sight Below conjures half-remembered dreams and soft-focus sentiments with elegiac beauty; like blurred snippets of film recognizable only as organic objects: black-and-white amoebas milling about, or a sunset rendered in grayscale. The resulting textured Gaussian curves are pinned to deep, propulsive bass tones and achingly subtle electronics. These guide the listener across the gloom and towards the music’s hopeful center. The results seem as effortless as natural phenomena; in fact, they’re carefully played, head-nodding hymns to the artist’s secluded life.
Glider (and its accompanying No Place for Us EP), released on Ghostly International in Autumn 2008, introduced a dark ambient techno aesthetic equally inspired by shoegaze, David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and Wolfgang Voigt’s minimalistic rhythms. The album combined layer upon layer of processed guitars and electronics with muffled percussion and bass pulses, all improvised and recorded live. These works were described by All Music Guide as “impeccably made ambient thump-and-drone”, while Pitchfork Media praised them as “a beautifully bleak cloud of sound.”
Murmur followed in 2009 and included remixes by Arctic techno pioneer Biosphere, Eluvium, and Simon Scott (ex-member of British icons Slowdive). It steered Irisarri’s direction towards a Basic Channel/Chain Reaction territory – a self-admitted early influence on the artist’s sound. FACT magazine gave the EP a 4/5 rating and it was featured as “Single of The Week” on Boomkat, calling it an “excellent use of its feathered ambient core, lightening up an uptempo dub-techno template with plumes of abstract, floating textures.”
The following year The Sight Below released another eclectic, yet well-received album, 2010’s It All Falls Apart. Featuring vocals by fellow Seattle resident Tiny Vipers (Sub Pop) and additional production work by Simon Scott, XLR8R magazine gave it a 9/10 ranking and called it “an astounding range of visceral sonic possibilities, like
a hurricane passing over an ocean, gathering heat and force while simultaneously cooling the waters below.”
In 2011, The Sight Below released “N-Plants remixes” (for UK’s legendary Touch label), a 12” record on its own right and an extension of Biosphere’s critically-acclaimed “N-Plants” album – a work that explored the beauty and vulnerability of Japanese nuclear power
facilities. In all, Irisarri has a string of remixes under his belt, commissioned by German minimal techno master Pantha Du Prince (Rough Trade), School of Seven Bells (Ghostly), cv313 (Echospace), The Naked And The Famous (Somewhat Damaged/Fiction), Fax (SEM), Stewart Walker (Persona), ISAN (Morr Music), and Glitterbug (False Industries), amongst many others.
Irisarri continues to travel frequently to perform live throughout the world. His live improvised sets have earned him praise from the music press and influential figures like Chain Reaction’s own Robert Henke and ex-Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür. In this live context, he has collaborated twice with Austrian guitarist extraordinaire Fennesz, and toured extensively in North America with Pantha Du Prince and labelmate Lusine. Past highlights include concerts at Barcelona’s Sónar Festival (2009), Detroit’s Movement: DEMF (2009), Montreal’s MUTEK (2009), Berlin’s Berghain (2009). Krakow’s Unsound (2008), Rotterdam’s DEAF (2012), Nantes’ S.O.Y. (2008), London’s OpenFrame (2010) and Sevilla’s CICUS (2012). Aside from electronic music festivals, Irisarri has presented his works at multidisciplinary arts events, including Milan’s prestigious MITO SettembreMusica festival (2009) and Israel Festival (2010) in Jerusalem.
Back home in Seattle, Irisarri curates and produces advanced sound and interdisciplinary art events, thus helping create a hub for contemporary art proposals in the city. In 2011, he started the Substrata Festival, a three-day intimate event focusing on varying perspectives of scale though the use of sound, composition and visuals – an international showcase featuring accomplished artists working in the cutting edge where structural abstraction meets physical dynamics.
“Irisarri embodies the hybrid genre…the new kind of composer, who exists in an undifferentiated welter of pop, techno, and classical.” -Pitchfork (USA)

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