Members: Hugo Lamy, Etienne Reimund
Occupation: Producers, composers, sound artists
Current release: After their first release for Italian imprint OOH-sounds (crY), Glass's Anxiety Prime is out now via Comic Sans Records.
If you enjoyed this interview with Glass and would like to stay up to date on new releases, visit them on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?
Sound is fascinating for a lots of reasons for us: Itself it is a quite incredible material (moving air particle that carries information about our surrounding). Also the million different aspects and impact that it can have on us, what it can trigger in terms of emotions, the different usages of sound in society, what we do with it as a language. You cannot get tired of it.
Some things that participate to make it interesting for us are the research of new ideas and sound, playing in front an audience, the creation of new pieces, asking ourselves aesthetic questions, concepts and how we interact with others through our music.
Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
It’s hard to tell today. We do not directly come from a particular tradition but obviously we come from something or a lot of things we could say.
What’s interesting today for us regarding this topic is that a lots of music today is really a hybrid of genres. The ease of access we have today to a wealth of musical content is surely part of that. Maybe that blurs the obvious musical lineage.
What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
We do not have a preferred sound material to work with. It’s actually quite the opposite at the moment: we found it very important in our practice to blend a large variety of sonic material together. We often play with the way they interact with each other to create something surprising: a weird space, feeling or enrichment of one another. It’s also a very easy way to keep us interested on a day to day basis.
Our track « Jim and Caroline Were Bad Omens» is a good illustration for that - we collected lots of sounds from broken instruments, real percussions and used a wide range of synthesis techniques and sound manipulation to create a sonic environment that benefits from playing with the ambiguity between synthetic and organic material.
Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?
We collect sounds really often from a lot a different places.
Hugo loves to collect different sounds either from his home studio or his work space (musical instrument shop). We sometimes record sounds from the outside, and often use our own instruments or rip web streaming and sample packs.
We kind of collect them along the way when we are working on a track in a very disorganized and spontaneous way. They either need to be relevant for a particular project (i.e the free dog recording in « Quantic blunt ») or just interesting and rich enough for us to be processed a lot of time till we cannot recognize them anymore.
We only keep very small parts of our experiments and then organize all those fragments together.
Some artists use sounds as a means for emotional self-expression, others take a more conceptual approach or want to present intriguing sound matter. How would you characterise your own goals and motivations in this regard?
I think we go back and forth between a conceptual approach to designing sound: trying to experiment as much as we can with sound design, rhythm, and musical references or designing a conceptual approach to a record. But on the other hand we love to compose in a very spontaneous way and make records that strongly resonate with our environment, feelings or energy at a particular time. I would say that we have an experimental approach to creating sounds and structures. But in the end, when we compose with those sounds, we do it in a very impulsive and unpredictable way.
This approach is again really readable in the way our album Anxiety Prime was made. We tried to have a coherent and distinctive sound (as much as we could) so we experimented a lot on this part. Also each track is kind of in a different «style» but it’s still one piece because of the sound, the concept and the energy, violence or personal involvement we put in each one.
We love our records to be a very temporal slice of our life.
From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?
We each have different way of producing, Etienne tends to produce only with his laptop, using different software like Ableton or max/msp, digital instruments or programming (for example we made small machine learning patches to generate rhythms or sounds out of a lot of generic and ready to use sounds and midi packs on internet). Hugo’s practice is more centered around recordings (tweaking tapes for instance), modular and regular synth.
We sample all those small experiments to process them and use them later in a very dense sonic matrix during the composition process. No matter what we use it’s the idea that matters and we try to use techniques that are as relevant as possible to go where we want to explore.
This fragmented way of working is obvious on tracks we made like «crY»: drum patterns are epileptics, a lots of processing and different sound sources are used. You can almost see all the samples on the screen when listening.
Which tools have been most important and useful for you when it comes to working with and editing sounds?
Definitely the laptop for us. When we are working, we stack a lot of sonic and rhythmic experiments in a projet to bend and process them. We only keep small fragments of those and then arrange them in a very dense collage to make a track. This would be impossible for us to do without a computer.
The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?
It’s hard to relate to this question for us because the sounds we make often comes from the act of experimenting rather than being first imagined then done. However we surely do take as much advantage as we can from modern production tools almost in every step of our creative process.
That being said it is true that we are still waiting to find the perfect distortion sound because we haven’t found the one we dream about yet.
Many artists have related that certain sounds trigger compositional ideas in them or are even a compositional element in their own right. Provided this is the case for you – what, exactly, is about certain sounds that triggers such ideas in you?
This can definitely be the case for us. This could be closely related to a small sequence of notes or chords on a synth that can start an idea or the willingness to work on something even if it does not stay in the piece in the end. It can also be a particular sound in a particular place such as broken piano strings in a specific space with his specific reverb that makes you feel something or the timbre of a voice.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
We recently had the chance to have one of our track played by artist Mika Oki in an «Acousmonium » in Bruxelles, it was obvious when we heard the track the the experience of a particular piece can be greatly influenced by the space and that the space constitute an element of musical writing wich is very unique and personal to everyone.
This is also a good example that some particular experience and by extension music or compositional process can only be made in or reach their full potential in a particular space. It could be because of the proprieties of the space and/or the energy that exists in a moment (for instance some track are weird at home but feel absolutely perfect and right when listened on a proper system, in a proper space filled with people that are sharing the same experience and energy).
The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?
We don’t know this movement but we think we are affected a lot by our sound environment. It can definitely shape our thoughts, mood and interactions.
We can listen to a pop song or open our window and simply take in the noises of the environment. Without going into the semantics of 'music vs field recordings', in which way are these experiences different and / or connected, do you feel?
Those two experiences feel very connected if we strictly think about the sonic experience: a very abstract piece or sound can have the same impact on you as a more popular musical piece, in this case it could be your listening approach that allows whether or not those two things are really different. On the other hand a pop song is part of our culture, it is politic and we can interact on so many other levels with it that are clearly different.