Biologijski folk, magloviti glasovi, spuštanje planine na dno bunara, šuma kao televizija za oblake.
We first ventured into the soundworld of Inez Lightfoot last year with her impeccably-crafted Pollen on the Brow cassette and her vision has only grown in leaps & bounds since. Familiars is a statement. It rings in the morning mists like a spectre in the woods calling each of us back home. This is music that is crawling with life in all the tiny cracks and corners of each organic composition. Lightfoot’s muse is always on the move, drifting from the dirt to the clouds, but always keeping her pushing forward.
Album opener, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” is the perfect overture; a short hymnal that sets the stage for everything to come. There is a quiet confidence in that minute-and-a-half leading into the whimsical “Spring and Wing.” It’s on this song that Lightfoot’s voice makes its first appearance. The manner in whichthe vocals swirl around like balloons floating in the air is enchanting. There’s a playfulness to it (and as well on “Hope is Kindled”) that draws you in and keeps you close.
Familiars is a small album in the sense that it feels so personal, like you’re sitting in her living room, having a long talk over beers. The conversation drifts from the metaphysical to the mundane, talking of daily tasks and deepest fears with equal importance. Anchored on each side by “Tooth and Nail” and “Sprouting Velvet Antlers,” the record stretches out that dialogue until it becomes something musical and transcendent. The former builds on a structural rhythm built from a hypnotic bassline and various percussive clatter, infusing itself with a ghostly tribalism. There’s beauty in the repetition, drifting as it does into a cathartic death rattle where the only thing you hear once you’re buried underground are the birds and voices in your head.
If “Tooth and Nail” takes you to death’s door, then “Sprouting Velvet Antlers” cradles you on the other side. Acoustic instrumentation punctuates the ethereal organ drones and, again, Lightfoot’s voice it streams into your conscience. It builds slowly and eventually lulls you into a place of safety and comfort by wrapping you up in those soft, beautiful vocals. The album closes how it began, with the short and sweet zither-imbued “Shenandoah,” tying things up perfect. Lightfoot insists there is something valuable to be found all around, no matter how tiny some things seem. - digitalis recordings
Enchantingly plaintive electronic folk and drone hymnals from Inez Lightfoot, a prolific young woman who's issued a stack of cassettes and CDs on Ruralfaune and Biological Radio among others since 2011 leading to this debut vinyl for Digitalis. She's got a gently conversational style, taking in the baroque overture 'Holy, Holy, Holy' and the gaelic-sounding folk of 'Sprig and Wing' before introducing her ghostly vocal amidst rustling, ritualist percussion with 'Tooth and Nail' and the metaphysically distanced 'Corn Daughter'. Her instrumentation is at its richest on the MSOTT-like layered organs and vocals of 'Hope Is Kindled' and the longing drift of 'Sprouting Velvet Antlers' before she places the final flowers with the beautiful 'Babe The Blue Axe' and the sharp zither tones of 'Shenandoah'. - boomkat
Inez Lightfoot / Je Suis le Petit Chevalier,
Shapeshifter's Ascent (2011)
Rare is the chance to work with one of the ladies involved in our cassette-oriented culture; even rarer is the chance to bring two such amazing women together on a single split edition. From the hush of a winter’s midnight, Inez Lightfoot opens this hour-long ceremony evoking animal powers and seasonal forces of nature. Presiding with the intimacy and strength of a curandera, Inez synchronizes the flow of analog electricity with raw expressions of blood & breath. Captivating as the light of a full moon, this is beautiful hyp-gnosis at an earthen altar. French/Belgian artist Felicia Atkinson echoes these sentiments on the following side with her own brand of mysterious music generation. Performing as Je Suis le Petit Chevalier, Felicia unites the energy of synthesizer with her voice into a brew of humid atmospherics. Every sung line and keyboard pulse is like a pebble dropped onto the still surface of a pond, leaving behind distinct after-impressions yet always giving way to the next entrancing note. Limited edition of 111 pro-dubbed & imprinted c60 tapes w/ double-sided jcard and insert. - stunnedrecords.blogspot.co.uk/
How fitting it was, the other day, to be cycling through an overgrown bike path with the textures of Inez Lightfoot and Je Suis le Petit Chevalier still fresh somewhere between my cochleas and subconscious. I’m speaking of an ethereal drone split-cassette containing Inez Lightfoot’s “visceral” (as Inez described it) side -- encompassing the mysteries of nature, and sea-foam-soft synth driven drone from Je Suis contrasting yet complimenting the opposite side. Two ladies who are aurally attuned to their surroundings score on this one.
Inez Lightfoot, a local to me in Pittsburgh, features her usual legion of night-chirpers (crickets), not the stereotypical sound effect present at a lacking performance, rather a constant, calming creature chant approving the peaceful offering that is Inez’s music. A waterfall drone may be heard, eventually crashing into a distorted rush -- a quite literal harsh noise sound accompanied with a cathartic yell. Then, a babbling brook shares the essence with the ghost-neighs of a Native American warrior princess. It’s always a treat to experience the new experimentation in Inez’s music. The sounds seem to erupt out of an ancient hollowed-out tree trunk with transcendental vitality.
French/Belgian Je Suis le Petit Chevalier (good thing her music is not as difficult to listen to as is pronouncing her moniker) hazes out the other side with crooning chants and a knack for inducing a dream-like state. At one moment, she takes what sounds similar to squeaky car brakes and turns it into a ritualistic pattern -- lulling the audience elsewhere. The setting I get is somewhat of an abandoned club with some songs serving as echoes of times past, still haunting whatever may lurk around the cobwebbed corners. So with the spookier tendencies some of these songs flaunt, the rest are relaxing -- like cruising through a coastal region with a soothing mist enveloping.
Alongside other female droners such as Grouper and Inca Ore, these ladies have potential to emerge even higher in the underground scene. If pretense was present this would seal the deal, but it will happen naturally as the fallen leaf grazes the placid lake (okay, that was pretentious -- had to get that off my chest) and naturally as their art comes across. The one complaint I can think of is in the vocal department; I would like to hear more pronounced lyrics once in a while. In any case, both sides better get used to being in my Buick’s tape deck rotation. - Zach Katonik
ltd#216: inez lightfoot “pollen on the brow” c34
straight from the streets of appalachia, inez lightfoot is brewing something magical in her sonic cauldron. hot on the heels of a split tape on stunned and a tape, "pollen on the brow" is an organic spectre filled with heavenly voices swirling around a wooden abyss. field recordings add whimsy while lightfoot's voice, featured more prominently in the mix than past efforts, lights everything it touches. shrouded in a gauzy haze, this is ritualistic music put through a vice and deconstructed into something exquisite.
The Inner World of a Lone Wolf: An Interview with Inez Lightfoot
Jackie McDowell is the “lone wolf” creative spirit known as Inez Lightfoot. Currently residing in Portland, OR with hubby Matt and their cat Toody, Jackie keeps herself busy with a wide variety of endeavors, ranging from collaborating with Belgian experimentalist Felicia Atkinson (Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier), to continuously developing her own line of handmade clothing fashioned from salvaged or reclaimed fabrics and notions, to collaborating with her other half both musically (Waterfinder) and through co-running a label (Biological Radio). However, Jackie is perhaps best known for her catalogue of Lightfooted recordings, the likes of which have been released on labels such as Stunned, Ruralfaune, Digitalis Ltd., and most recently, Kim Dawn. Lightfoot’s Kim Dawn release, titled The Ballad of Wandlimb was one of my personal favorites from 2012. I was thrilled to have the pleasure of exchanging a few words with Mrs. Lightfoot, whose hand-sewn-landscapes of sound take the listener by the hand and out into the forest on a wild-mushroom chase, where you find yourself getting lost in the essence of a super-natural dreamworld. What follows is a genuine conversation about music, inspiration, nature, literature, cats, and more…listen in, and watch out for Jackie’s projects throughout the coming year and beyond:
1. Inez Lightfoot is a very striking alias. How did you come up with that moniker and how long have you been recording as I.L.?
Let’s see, I’ve been making music as I.L. since 2009, but I didn’t actually record anything until 2010. My first recordings happened live in our living room one sunny afternoon, and it ended up as the first Inez Lightfoot release, a short tape on Biological Radio in July 2010. The name Inez Lightfoot just sort of came to me in 2009; I wasn’t looking for a moniker, it just fell out of the sky and into my head one day, and I liked it, so I went with it and have never really questioned it! That name actually came to me around the same time as I started making my own solo music, so the timing was great! I think the name Inez Lightfoot was probably born of various sources in my mind, including my longtime love for ’70s folk-rock musicians, especially Canadian ones. I grew up listening to that stuff, so it’s a big part of my life and probably heavily informs my aesthetic.
2. I know you’re currently based in Portland, Oregon. How long have you been based there, and how did you end up there? Portland seems to be a place with an increasingly up-beat music scene. Do you find that Portland is a good environment for creating this type of music, or do you feel isolated musically when compared to majority of musician/artists living there?
I’ve traveled and lived in a lot of different places over the past decade or so; I was definitely a bit of a traveler in my 20s. At this point I’m happy to say that Portland has become my home, mostly because it just feels right to settle here. Matt and I both love it here for so many reasons, but for me it’s really all about the native flora and fauna! I find it so inspiring. I also really appreciate the general feeling of positivity and peacefulness in our neighborhood, which is situated right by Mount Tabor (an inactive volcano that is a really lovely wooded park now). As far as how I feel about the experimental music sphere in Portland…well, I definitely think it’s thriving; it seems to be really strong and awesome right now, particularly the house show scene, and there are many people producing wonderful art and music here, for sure. As for me, I just kind of do my own thing and don’t really connect with the greater Portland experimental scene only because I’ve always been sort of a lone wolf. My home and my family are really important, and that’s where it’s at for me! Matt and I have a small but awesome group of close friends who are also musicians/artists who live right up the street, so I definitely feel really fortunate to have my own little community that uplifts me and inspires me creatively.
3. Over the past few years you’ve had a number of solo releases on a variety of labels. Which of your releases this year is your personal favorite, and why? What has been your favorite label to work with, and why?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer because they have all been positive experiences for me; each one was so different, yet equally exciting for me to see come to life through each label’s unique artwork and just the incredibly beautiful overall design of the releases. Every label has been wonderful to work with, and I feel immense gratitude to each of them for their support and their kindness.
4. I know you’ve released music on a variety of formats as well, including 3-inch Cd-Rs and cassettes. What is your preferred medium to present your sounds on and why?
I am actually really open to all formats. I’ve been able to feel super satisfied hearing my music on both cassette and CD-R. I think that every format has its strengths and weaknesses. I do love the good old analog aesthetic of a cassette tape, though!
5. Your most recent release, The Ballad ofWandlimb, is one 17-minute-long journey, and definitely my favorite of all your releases so far. Can you talk about your approach to recording it, and more specifically, describe your approach and concept behind The Ballad of Wandlimb?
I’m glad you like it! I definitely approached it a bit differently than some of my earlier pieces. I recorded the material that became The Ballad of Wandlimb in one two-hour home session instead of chipping away at it over the course of a few days or weeks. I was feeling really inspired by a particular passage in a Tolkien book at the time, so I followed that feeling and let it shape the work. What I was really going for was my own three-part musical interpretation of one brief passage in the book, I guess you could say! So I chose certain instruments and other elements that resonated with the narrative, at least to me, and then I decided how I wanted to arrange them, and I approached the recording that way.
6. What types of instruments and sound sources do you draw from when creating compositions? Do you have a preference to acoustic or electronic instruments? Do you have a particular set-up that is static, or do your sound sources vary from release to release?
Oh man, ever since I discovered the concept of deep listening that Pauline Oliveros practices and shares with the world, my own musical horizon has just sort of exploded, and now I feel like I can find inspirational sources all over the place thanks to her! Like many experimental musicians, a lot of my sound sources are drawn directly from the world around me. I do a lot of my own field recordings, and I’ve sampled everything from backyard birds to our washing machine! I also use traditional instruments, especially stringed instruments or wooden instruments, and I experiment with making both electric and acoustic sounds from them. Another thing is making tape loops! I like to build loops from my own outtakes, material that I’ve canned but is still usable in some way. Mainly, though, I work from a permanent setup in our music room where all of our equipment is always ready to use, more or less. It’s really wonderfully convenient and makes it easy to record spontaneously.
7. Some composers prefer to be viewed as “musicians” and others as “artists.” When you approach recordings, do you generally view yourself as a musician or as a sound-artist, and why? Do you approach your recordings as “songs,” “sound collages,” “improvisations,” or as some type of mixture?
That’s a really interesting question, and I’m always fascinated by fellow experimental musicians’ opinions on this subject! I do like to think of myself as a musician, as much as what I’m doing may not sound like traditional music. Sound art is one of my favorite disciplines of fine art and one that I admire and appreciate very much, but I feel that it is more conceptual and process-based than what I am doing with my own sounds, which is very much rooted in personal expression. Even though I’m certainly no classically trained musician, I still feel like I can identify as a musician simply because I am creating something that I consider to be music. Labels are funny things, though, and I don’t get upset when people say, “Oh, she’s not a musician, she just does noise,” ha. It’s more about creative expression and shared experiences than anything else for me anyway, no matter what you call it.
9. Although I’m most familiar with your solo-music recordings, I know you’ve collaborated on other projects. Can you tell me a little more about these other projects? Particularly your collaboration with hubby Matt McDowell as WaterFinder, and with Félicia Atkinson as Rivière Amur; how did you come into contact and begin making music with both individuals, and how do these two projects differ in sound and concept from Inez Lightfoot?
Well, actually, WaterFinder’s journey has come to an end, but there is a new collaboration between Matt and I that we are super excited about…I can talk more about that in a bit…but yeah, Matt and I played together as WaterFinder from 2009-2011! It was our improvisational guitar/vocals/electronics project, and we did put out a handful of releases, most of them live recordings. We started playing music together in 2008 when we met – it just sort of naturally happened, probably because we both love listening to music and it was a common priority that we shared from day one! We experimented with all sorts of instruments and sound sources together, most of them pretty loud and heavy. WaterFinder was truly a meaningful and free-spirited collaboration that documented a very specific place and time for us, for sure. It was an incredible period of growth for us both, I believe! I’m also really stoked to be collaborating with Félicia Atkinson, my long-distance friend and musical cohort in Brussels who makes amazing solo music as Je Suis le Petit Chevalier. We were introduced through Phil and Myste French who released a split cassette for us in March this past year on Stunned. Félicia and I got in touch after that, and we realized very quickly that we shared many interests and creative inspirations, so we started working on music together as Rivière Amur soon thereafter! Both WaterFinder and Rivière Amur have differed from Inez Lightfoot because they are improv-based music projects; they center around listening to the other person’s sound and responding with my own. I love creating space for the other person to express themselves, then reacting to it. It’s an exciting process and one that continually challenges me in the best possible ways as an artist.
10. While we’re on the subject of collaborations, I know you and Matt run your own label called Biological Radio. I only own a few of the releases so far, but was instantly blown away by the hand-crafted nature of the packaging. Can you tell me a little more about the label?
Biological Radio is our home label and a way for us to share our music with our friends near and far. Matt started it before I knew him, in 2006 or so, and then we started working on the label together after we met in 2008. We just do small runs of our releases and make all the packaging by hand. It’s super fun and we really love doing it!
11. Like most artists, I know you are multi-talented. I’ve only recently discovered Iron City Upcyclery. Can you tell me a bit more about this outlet of creativity, and the concept and idea behind it? When did you start designing/making/re-making clothes and why?
Thanks for checking out my other project! Iron City Upcyclery is my line of handmade clothing that I sew completely from reclaimed or vintage fabrics. It’s an environmentally sustainable craft and a way of earning income, and it’s also just a really big source of joy in my life because I have always loved to sew ever since I was little. Many of the women in my family were seamstresses, either garment workers or hobbyists, and so I grew up around this sort of do-it-yourself aesthetic that I still cherish and try to employ in my life as much as possible. I love to find new uses for things and breathe new life into something formerly discarded or forgotten. You know, I’ve actually sampled the sound of my sewing machine in my Inez Lightfoot pieces! Everything ties together one way or another.
12. What are your other interests? I know you went to grad school for language and literature. How much have your studious interests affected your more creative endeavors? Do they feed off of one another, or are they exclusive?
Other than music and sewing, I like to cook and to spend time outdoors, ride my bike, walk around in the woods, and spend time with my friends and family. I love to read, and that’s why I went to grad school for language and literature. I don’t identify with the academic world, though, and I don’t feel like it has much to do with my creative endeavors. I was turned on to a lot of great fringe writers and independent filmmakers in school, but I honestly wish I had just taken the time to teach myself what I wanted to learn after high school instead of attending a university.
13. Speaking of interests…I know you’re a cat lover! How long have you been a fan of felines? Do your feline companions have an influence on your sounds, and how so? What is your favorite type of cat and why?
Awesome question! I once read an Eckhart Tolle quote that pretty much sums it up: “I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.” I’m definitely a feline fan, particularly since 2008 when we adopted our cat, Toody, from the shelter. I don’t have a favorite type, I just love ‘em all, pretty much, even the feisty ones…because we can all get feisty from time to time, right?
14. What are your top five influences, including but not limited to music, art, fashion, literature, animals, places, or personal experiences? Explain why?
Haha, well, this is a tough one because I am continually influenced by new things all the time! A huge creative influence is certainly the outdoor world, though – just trying to stay connected to and aware of natural cycles, changing seasons, lunar phases, etc. Deep listening is a huge influence, too, absolutely. The creative output of my friends also influences and inspires me so much — Sagas, Je Suis le Petit Chevalier, Nite Lite, Plankton Wat, Great Blue Heron, Brother Ong — there are so many others, too many to list! Another influence is my imagination and my dreams; I sometimes say to Matt that “Inez Lightfoot is just me trying to create an uncanny soundtrack to my own inner world,” ha. Tying in with that, I have to say that my family is definitely my biggest influence; Matt and I try to keep each other going to new places creatively through sharing ideas, feedback, experiences, and support for each other. He’s the reason why I feel so continually inspired as an artist.
15. What’s in store for Inez Lightfoot in 2012? Any releases or live performances planned that we should keep an eye out for?
I’m really looking forward to 2012; I think it’s gonna be a good year. I’m excited about some new Inez recordings in the works; I’m hoping to share them in the not-too-distant future. There’s a short Inez Lightfoot piece coming out in February as part of the Discriminate Music 2012 cassingle series, and Rivière Amur is also releasing a cassette on the ever-amazing Hooker Vision. Aside from that, Inez Lightfoot is playing live here in Portland in April with Cloud Shepherd, Sagas, and Eureka. Cloud Shepherd features Brian Lucas, who did the artwork for my Ruralfaune release.
My most exciting news is that Matt and I are fully engaged in our new project, Sun Cycles. It’s different than WaterFinder. We’re composing more. We’re using more acoustic instruments. We’re still using elements like loops, field recordings, drone, vocals, etc. – but the result is less pummeling! We recently moved from a house into an apartment, so now we have to get our ideas across in far subtler ways. We’ve been writing and recording a body of work this winter and should be finishing that up in the next few weeks!
So there’s definitely a lot to look forward to this year! The way that I see it, Inez Lightfoot is a lifelong creative pursuit, and I am just trying to keep the energy going, stay the true course, and share my love of sound as best I can.
Photos by Jackie & Matt McDowell, and Esti Piels.