The point of an interview from an artists's perspective is usually to talk about themselves. This is precisely what makes our conversation with Sara Oswald and Feldermelder different. For both, it's as interesting to talk about their creative partner as themselves, highlighting what the other contributed and how it helped them in their own endeavours. The result is not a mere round of flattery – but a serious talk about personal growth, overcoming obstacles and the magic of art.
Read our Sara Oswald + Feldermelder interview.
If playing the flamenco were about ego, then Alejandro Valdés could have turned Calles del Olvido into a formidable demonstration of his solo skills. On the album's nine tracks, Valdés's guitar work is equally passionate and sensitive, his picking quicksilvery virtuoso, his grooves replete with sensual finesse. However, nothing could be further from his mind.
Quite on the contrary, the release feeeds from the communal spirit of Palo de Agua, the band that Alejandro assembled in 2016 and which has continued to grow into a tightly woven unit of distinctly individual voices. Luis Armando Pérez Basterrechea's bittersweet violin lines take on a prominent melodic role, Jaleos Dayan Reyes Carreras's voice equally tastes of love and tears and the rest of the band support the leads with their mesmerising clapping and a unique sonic tapestry composed of bagpipes, electric bass and darbuka drums. Switching between fiery songwriting and almost hypnotic instrumental passages, the overall effect is akin to a dream: Everything can be expressed here, everything is possible.
Upon waking, what remains is a sense of longing, a smile on your face and the sensation that you have just experienced something magical.
Read our Alejandro Valdés interview.
What makes an artist an artist, in some respects, is the need to express themselves creatively even if no one were listening. Elisa Di Riccio aka APOTEK, it seems, fits that bill perfectly. To her, making music is a necessary part of existence, an ongoing quest to understand herself. It is lived spirituality, similar to the question "Who am I" that guided the teachings of Ramana Maharshi:
"Unexplored parts of myself naturally tend to arise during the creative process. While your sense of identity can often be a construct affected by the idea you have built of yourself, what comes out through the creative process is pure, authentic. It’s a matter of decoding the message your subconscious is sending you. To a certain extent,I think creating gives you access to your truest self."
Listening to her debut full-length Unknown Territorities feels like experiencing that philosophy in action. The title track opens with celestial cascades of harp and kalimba against a backdrop of soft rainstick patterns, before a four-to-the-floor rhythm kicks in, the textures grow increasingly dense and the tracks lifts off into higher spheres. Moods can grow darker and stranger at other parts of the album. But the complete absence of filters and intellectual limitations remains.
Will Di Riccio stop making music once she's gained access to her true self? On the strength of her debut, one certainly wouldn't hope so.
Read our APOTEK interview.
We've recently featured two musicians who published literary works – electronic producer Mark Rae ("The Caterpillar Club") and Courtney Marie Andrews ("Old Monarch"). That these remain exceptions is surprising, especially since the connection seems so natural: If music is indeed a language, why couldn't words be music, too?
For Chris Connelly's latest project, The Birthday Poems, meanwhile, the world of the word and the domain of sound were particularly closely entwined. As he recounts in our interview:
"The Birthday Poems was 2 years of reading and preparation, though at the start I wanted it to be a book, and for various reasons, it was a book I could not write. So I stuck to song format. I felt so fiercely driven by the story, enough that it made me re-shape the way I wrote lyrics to produce a narrative that was still borne of my writing style."
Connelly may not have been able to turn the story into a book, but The Birthday Poems, recorded with Monique Queen, is neither just another record, nor would the vague term "concept album" do it justice. Fusing songs, spoken word and extensive instrumental passages, stretching the fabric of genre from masterful songwriting via ambient to surreal funk and channelling the ghost of David Bowie (whom Connelly openly pays homage to in his Bowie cover band Sons of the Silent Age) in terms of melodic arches, harmonic progressions and album design, it creates a zone where the powers of literature and music congenially merge, first drawing the mind in with storytelling, then captivating the heart in single moments of crystallised emotion.
It is a work that escapes facile rationalisation, a reminder that what truly moves us may by its very nature remain inexplicable. Connelly himself doesn't have all the answers either:
"I don’t really have an answer except that for me, the real writing is done in that space, that deep time, and nothing, nothing comes close to that feeling, nothing that I have ever felt. It is perhaps on a par with viewing something incredible in nature. It is mystical and awe inspiring, and very, very personal."
Read our Chris Connelly interview.
The Portico Quartet have re-invented themselves several times over the course of their now 15 year long recording career, changing direction, switching genres and shuffling their line-up, constantly exploring and questioning what, precisely, the concept of a band entails. On Living Fields, they dissolved song into ambiance and back again, Art in the Age of Automation gave them a number one on the jazz charts and Live / Remix found fascinating parallels between the two disciplines mentioned in its title.
Terrain is different from these previous efforts in that it doesn't cover new stylistic ground – in many respects, this is the purest version of the band's vision so far. And yet, it takes this vision far beyond its original premise. On three expansive cuts, Duncan Bellamy and Jack Wyllie play, repeat and vary their seemingly simple themes until they hit a nerve, then massage it until all sense of time is lost. Building, sustaining and sculpting the music through subtle gradations in dynamics, texture and colour, the album's 19-minute opener is a stunning case in point. It is music at the cusp between this world and another, so immersive and focused it could both go on forever and end at any moment.
In our conversation, The Portico Quartet expand on the process that made Terrain what it is.
Read our Portico Quartet interview.
Some artists see themselves faced with a dilemma: Acting or singing? Music or painting? Design or sculpting? For Rosie Tucker, meanwhile, there was never really a choice: "I think it’s always been music for me,". they confess, "I’m told I was singing before I started speaking words. My parents aren’t particularly arty but they’ve always supported my music making. I wish I could tell you why noise does it for me, but I can’t."
After giving her third album Sucker Supreme a few spins, we have a suspicion, however: Few other forms of art allow Tucker to express themselves so precisely and yet with such intriguing ambiguity, with such breathless brevity within songs and such epic emotionality on the album level, to cover the entire range of her feelings and the full depth of her inner landscape. What starts out as a collection of to the point indie rock gems gradually takes intriguing twists and turns, changes of speed and direction, as Sucker Supreme broadens the palette with cosmic effects and synthesizers (Tucker admits to a fascination for Ellen Fullman's long string instrument).
"Some people can create from a place of being actively angry, sad, or upset. Whatever art comes out of me takes a lot more time to process strong emotions," they explain, "It emerges when I’m feeling safe."
Music, it seems, is capable of offering her that safe space better than anything else.
Read our Rosie Tucker interview.
The entire logic of the equipment industry is based on the idea that more gear gives you more precision in realising your goals. To German producer Stimming, that logic is flawed. The more possibilities we surround us with, he argues, the higher the risk of things derailing, the smaller our sense of control. His unique take on club music was an open admission of this paradox, hand-played beats defying the metronomic precision of quantized rhythms as rich, organic sounds and unpredictable arrangements created a peaceful kind of complexity. DJs, as he pointed out, loved his pieces, but were often unable to play them in their sets, their human elements – i.e. ever so slight fluctuations – conflicting with the linear machine stomp of almost any other track.
By taking functional grooves out of the equation, Stimming's new album Ludwig lifts his approach to a natural next level. Still suffused with slow, yet gently propulsive impulses, this is by no means ambient music, although the soft, fragile textures may occasionally suggest otherwise. But rather than aiming at the dancefloor, these concise compositions are inward journeys which leave a lot of room for interpretation: By allowing the listener to fill in some blanks herself, Ludwig is drawing her in even deeper, making her complicit, encouraging a response-loop that, before the pandemic, his live experiences would provide.
Stimming has become somewhat of a gear expert, which seems like another contradiction for an artist whose music tries its best to let its audience forget about the technology used to create it. On closer inspection, however, everything makes complete sense: With its sheer abundance of potentials, electronic music creates a sense of perfect confusion to get lost in. The producer may not be able to control every detail once things have been set in motion, but that doesn't mean he's become superfluous. Within the chaos, Stimming's like a captain of a ship in a storm – the course uncertain, but his hand's steady nonetheless.
Read our Stimming interview.