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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Martyn Pepperell


Raised by Riddims

Delivered... Martyn Pepperell | Scene | Sun 23 Dec 2018 8:00 am

UK Funky DJ Bamz’ music is informed by a deep sense of history and a glimpse into the future of bass driven club music. At the core of this is the «riddim», the rhythmical backbone but also a way of thinking about music in general. Bamz will perform on January 12, 2019, at the 9th Norient Musikfilm Festival in Bern, Switzerland.

For DJ Bamz, rhythm is the melody (Promo Photo, London)

What does the word «riddim» evoke? I think of the billowing low end of dub reggae and Jamaican sound system culture, and how, as Jamaicans immigrated to England, that same pulse carried over into bashment, before becoming part of the foundation of UK-born music styles like jungle, drum & bass, UK garage, 2-step, dubstep, grime, and UK funky. It wasn’t just that love of bass that carried over either, it was a whole set of ideas around DJing and MCing (or deejaying as they call it in Jamaica), the interplay between riddims (rhythms) and voicings (vocals), and a sense of history and tradition being passed down through the genres.

The importance of the riddim, the instrumental side of a song, as seen as a primary building block, is a common factor that draws a line from Montego Bay hero King Jammy’s 80s productions to the contemporary works of 22-year-old South London musician Bamz. In an interview with UK video magazine Guap, Tiana Rochelle Oldroyd-Ellis revealed that her earliest musical memory was skanking to the ragga garage sounds of «Booo!» by Sticky and Miss Dynamite, a textbook example of Jamaican musical ideas translating over into a fresh new form.

Historically Informed Rhythms

At age six, she started beatboxing, a first intimate encounter with rhythm. Four years later, she started producing, before taking up DJing during secondary school. By sixteen, she’d performed on stage alongside legendary dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, and left school to pursue a music career, followed by a working relationship with the rapper Nadia Rose. At present, Bamz’ UK funky slanted instrumentals and border crossing DJ sets hang around a sense of rhythm informed by an educated understanding of history, context and culture.

For her, it is very important to continue the lineage of classic Jamaican music to UK dance music. As she told A Nation of Billions, «when it comes to making riddims and stuff – riddim culture is a big thing. The riddim is the car and the lyrics is the passenger so from riddim culture, you can hear those kinds of things incorporated into other genres like, garage, drum & bass. We can’t deny era, after era, decade after decade, Jamaican music – reggae, ska, dancehall, bashment – it’s had a huge influence for years». Thanks to young artists like Bamz, that influence isn’t going away anytime soon.

Mix


9th Norient Musikfilm Festival 2019

J.G. Biberkopf: «Clubs are conservative»

Delivered... Martyn Pepperell | Scene | Tue 13 Dec 2016 9:32 pm

J.G. Biberkopf´s music is as challenging as it is engrossing. On his new album Ecologies II: Ecosystems of Excess, which he will perform live at the Norient Musikfilm Festival 2017, he explores the way global politics shape the ecosystems of the earth. Norient talked to him about looking for a political stance in a troubled world and making music within the «exploitation mechanisms» of art institutions.

J.G. Biberkopf (Knives Label, Lithuania, 2016)

J.G. Biberkopf (Knives Label, Lithuania, 2016)

Although he grew up in Vilnius, Lithuania, J.G. Biberkopf’s music first came to our attention within the art music meets club music interzone associated with collectives like Fade To Mind and Night Slugs. After releasing mixes through Truants and The Astral Plane, he released his debut EP Ecologies in 2015 through Kuedo and Joe Shakespeare’s Knives label. A year on, he’s just expanded on it with his debut album Ecologies II: Ecosystems of Excess, again released through Knives.

Where his first EP was crafted as a journey through the representations of nature that emerge with the social media landscape, the creation of his album was driven by his reading and thoughts on the way global politics shape the Earth’s ecosystem as well as the architectures and infrastructures of power. Fashioned out of a mixture of field recordings and samples, traditional club music concepts and well thought out theory, it’s an immaculately detailed and designed synthesis where although the sum is resolutely bigger than it’s parts, they all play their own crucial roles within Biberkopf’s musical ecosystem.

Given the level of detail and thought behind the album, the musician opted to extend the narrative with an artbook housed in the album’s packaging. Designed an illustrated by award-winning cult design studio Maximage, it also contains an essay based on the album written by New York writer Deforrest Brown Jr. In celebration of the release, I asked J.G. Biberkopf about amongst other things, his background, processes and the experiences that went into the creation of the album and the supporting book.

[Martyn Pepperell]: I understand you started making music on pirated software as a reaction to the social environment while you were growing up in Vilnius? Could you expand on this period a bit more? What were you listening by to before heading down the producer route? And how did giving yourself these tools open up the world for you?
[J.G. Biberkopf]: Well, my parents are from information sciences – mother is a mathematician and father is an engineer, both work in IT now, so I ended up well versed in these things. While I was growing up the country was going through an extreme transition from being occupied by the Soviet Union, so bootleg and piracy culture blossomed – nobody would question the morality of pirating, so my parents would never say that paying for entertainment or pleasure is reasonable.

In parallel, when I was a teen, I went to quite bad schools in tough neighbourhoods. I was unhealthy – I got diagnosed with bipolar and I ended up falling out of the educational system altogether. In the end for me, music was like carving out a space, getting a load off, expressing, creating an identity, which wouldn’t be allowed, in that particular social order which very traumatised and violent. I think the turning point in how I relate to music was hearing Nas’ Illmatic, which was one of the things I really connected to in a profound way. Later on, I was fond of people like John Waters, R.W. Fassbinder, and Gus Van Sant, Keren Cytter, even later on, Ryan Trecartin, which I got to know about early on through piracy and initiatives like ubu.com.

A new consciousness

[MP]: Your music is driven by your thoughts around how global politics shapes the Earth’s ecosystem and the architectures and structures of power. What sort of experiences or discoveries pushed you in this direction, and why did music feel like the appropriate platform for you to address these issues?
[JB]: Well, it’s one of the worst platforms for these things – that I’m pretty much certain by now – especially on its own. Although I’m doing it wrong, it’s interesting and a lot of the time frustrating to make it work. I think with projects like Drexiciya and Underground Resistance, the way they used instrumental music as a platform for political activism and experimentation became a huge influence for me. Also, the way Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst did it with Platform last year was encouraging, to see how they manoeuvre the complicated farce that music media and industry is, to start a conversation about anything meaningful to bring specific discourses.

Artists like Nkisi, Aisha Devi, D’eon who experiment with music (in order) to invent new ways for new modes of existence, and for new philosophies are a continuing influence. I am disillusioned with club entertainment, electronic music. For me, it is important to escape the old tradition of this music with a fixation on the technological, which in my view is a heritage of electronic music instruments evolving out of military technologies.

But if we’re talking about the direction of the album, I think I was reading Mckenzie Wark’s texts. I got the realisation that new patterns of climate conditions and irregularities mean a disruption in how society relates to each other: a new consciousness, and new modes of existence for inhabitants of the Earth, which isn’t that original I guess? In the end, the Ecologies II was an effort to understand how I should position myself in the contemporary order of things, and carve out a way of living. Integrity is criticised a lot, but I still hold it in high regard. I believe in the «practice what you preach» approach. So, I think by the time I finished the record I had become quite ascetic.

[MP]: I also understand that on another level Ecologies II was written in response to your experiences travelling through the megapolises of South East Asia. When and why did you start visiting these places, and what did you learn from your time in them?
[JB]: I think this is a story that has begun to live its life, which has not that much substance. I wouldn’t give a particular place that much of importance. But I was travelling through South East Asia at a time which I think was a critical point for the album. I did write a couple of tracks that were a reaction to experiences here, like for example Globalalia which I think is probably a response to experiences to EDM parties in Malaysia and realisation how globalisation and modernity go hand in hand with particular strands of club music.

Also while here I was reading Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft, which was the best book I could pick up by accident for travelling. It gave a lot of insight, but that book’s work needs to be a whole conversation. I am currently in Bangkok and will move on from here for the next couples of months, doing «research». I am very much interested in the rapid continuing modernisation, especially the patterns of spatial production and the protocolization of usage of space here.

Clubs are conservative

[MP]: Ecologies II is built out of field recordings, programmed parts, melodies and sound design. It’s an accelerated take on musique concrete and its techniques. Do you consciously think of yourself as working in a musique concrete tradition or not?
[JB]: I don’t think I’m part of the canon. I have pretty limited knowledge of it, but certain ideas and pieces do resonate with me. I learnt about musique concrete early on. If to continue name dropping, I think Helena Gough’s album Microklimata was the first piece of musique concrete that I connected with. Then there’s work of Luc Ferrari, his Anecdotal compositions and theory of it. AGF’s experiments in 00’s were especially dear to me.

I tend to get annoyed when what I do is called sound design, I don’t even know what it means (likewise «producer») which is almost a way of not accepting certain language as music. It is funny that people can still be conservative about it. Clubs are conservative in unexpected ways. When you confront certain definitions of music, certain expectations of music that are dominant, you shouldn’t be surprised when faced with derision. Although with this album, I think it is a bit different, since I believe it is trying to be more «musical». Knives pushed for releasing the more musical tracks, so a lot of «musique concrete» pieces got left out.

[MP]: Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in the number of albums written as investigations of ecology and life cycles, be it life cycles of a creature or even a massive star. Do you have any thoughts on why these sort of topics are coming up at the moment?
[JB]: Honestly, apart from a particular group of people, loosely connected via social media, I pretty much stopped following and listening to contemporary electronic music. I really struggle to legitimise listening to a lot of it for various reasons. I also have to do stressful work most of the time, which hijacks my mind entirely – and I can’t do background listening at all. So I don’t know what is happening in the media, or what the dominant discourses are.

Of course, if going back to the questions, there’s a lot more effort to understand what’s going on. The same rise in «investigations» are happening in academia, theory and art, where’s there so much more about the effort to understand implications, of this transition on a global level, speculate on what is going to happen, and how you react and mobilise. Some of the work is worse – especially when it tries to capitalise on it – some is better, when it actually contributes knowledge.

Music for active listening

[MP]:  Ecologies II is a truly immersive album that really rewards close listening. What was it that made you want to create a record that worked like that? Obviously, I’m overly cynical here, but sometimes it seems like this is one of the hardest periods of time to hold someone’s attention in ever.
[JB]: Well, I don’t know if you could universalize that experience. It’s an unpleasant event, which you choose to partake in. I don’t make it for passive listening, and I think at certain moments, I make decisions that are fighting against it becoming background music. Jamie [Teasdale aka Kuedo] did have an impact on the album, – in making it «immersive» and «cinematic». As I was experimenting with applying classical dramaturgical theory for my live shows, and Jamie’s much more well versed in classical composition, we found a common language. So he gave a lot of insight. I think it worked together to lead the album to where it is at.

[MP]: The LP version of  Ecologies II comes with an essay by Deforrest Brown Jr. packaged in an artbook format designed by cult design studio Maximage. Why was it important to present the album with this supporting material, and what sort of processes did you have to work through to get it over the line?
[JB]: Well, the «artbook» started, as there was a need, to give any clue onto the knowledge that I try to build with the Ecologies project, especially since it’s becoming less about the music, more about the research. I think music becomes mostly a reaction to the research I do, and the way I do research is less and less compatible with composing music. Also with the label, we were thinking of ways to get away from the LP format, we thought of doing more of a book, with more contributors, but in the end, we had to go with this compromise for various reasons.

So I started talking with Deforrest last year, as I felt that he shared a lot with what I was going through. This lead to us having these dense conversations through this year, about what we are both thinking about what’s happening and where we are coming from in connection to it. I made these chapters of the whole ecologies system, he started writing, and we would go back forth responding to each other. It ended up being an especially dense piece, which can be alienating by its complexity – Deforrest tends to write in concentrated sentences – but I think it nails it, and it kind of becomes a sort of a manual to the Ecologies series.

[MP]: I note that this project would not have been possible without the kind support of CTM and Deutschlandradio Kultur Radiolab. What sort of relationship do you have with these organisations and what did they bring to the table? How important do you see this sort of support as being for people working within this space?
[JG]: Me and Marija Bozinkovska Jones were selected to create a performance for CTM’s & Deutschlandradio Kultur Radiolab last year. It allowed experimenting with a lot of ideas with support on various levels from these organisations. They give and they take, but what they take is pretty respectful and the compromises you make aren’t at all corrupting. I genuinely enjoyed the experience. We had some screw ups with the performance itself, but the experience itself was brilliant, especially when compared to working with significant art institutions, which honestly a lot of the time feel like complex exploitation mechanisms, scams driven by their symbolical capital. Anyway, I am incredibly grateful that I am able to do projects like that, with some financial support, which allows me to escape much more compromising commercial projects in order to make ends meet.

J.G. Biberkopf will perform his audiovisual liveset Ecosystems of Excess at the Norient Musikfilm Festival 2017 on January 12 in Bern, on January 13 in Lausanne and on January 14 in St. Gallen.

From clubmusic to permaculture

Delivered... Martyn Pepperell | Scene | Tue 8 Nov 2016 8:18 pm

The electronic musician FIS combines broken rhythms derived from somnambulant drum & bass and cinematic melodies with notions of a futurist naturalism. Martyn Pepperell talked to him about noise, permaculture and perfect harmony.

FIS. Photo: Sophie Schnell.

FIS. Foto: Sophie Schnell

Over the last half decade, Berlin-based, New Zealand-born music producer and permaculturalist Oliver Perryman aka FIS has embarked on a journey from the edges of jungle and drum&bass to the beating heart of extreme cinematic composition. Along the way, he has released EP-based asymmetrical rhythm abstractions at labels like Samurai Horo, Exit Records and Tri Angle Records before letting himself sink into the ecstatic electronic noise of his debut album «The Blue Quicksand Is Going Now».

On his debut, FIS reveled in the beauty of the natural world, and its potential as a catalyst for personal change and healing. A year later, he returns with «From Patterns To Details», released by Subtext Recordings. Starting with the understanding of permaculture’s potential to establish a state of alignment between man and nature, this album sees FIS expanding this idea into a form of futurist naturalism that embraces technology as life in a different state. From there, he uses atomised sonics white noise and gorgeous drones to dream of a perfect harmony that reaches into the ever-shifting extremities of infinity and back again.

Martyn Pepperell: As part of the promotion of From Patterns To Details, English poet Rick Holland shared a series of poems inspired by the album. What’s the story here?
FIS: I saw some of Rick’s poems and thought he seemed like the perfect guy to show me some aspects of the album I could never come to terms with myself. I thought it would be cool to have something different to offer, some kind of artistic response. Rick says something that has a deeper energetic subtext born from the way he arranges words. There is this silvery groundwater to his work and it felt like a great way to communicate what the album was about. Some people are going to be able to decipher the intent of «From Patterns To Details» by listening to it, but it’s nice to involve another artist and find the in-between thing that doesn’t seem to care if a poet elucidates it or a musician, because that is the true space of the record.

In September I interviewed Scratcha DVA. Something he said stuck with me. «Tunes have to be listened to at the right time, in the right space or surroundings».

It makes you think about how much stuff is being lost because of the mediums we use, and how much stuff is being connected with because it’s perfect for the internet. I think the success of a lot of music relates to its internet friendliness. I don’t know whether that’s intentional or not, but It think it might be more and more these days.

When I interviewed you last year, you said, «I think my music has yet to find its appropriate setting to be performed live». Has that changed?
I feel like my music has found its way with people. I think on both accidental and intentional levels, everything I’ve said and done over the last few years has suggested its natural setting anyway. In terms of the shows promoters are asking me to play now, and what they understand me as being there to do, it seems that my music not only prescribes its own settings, but has found those right settings.

Environment doesn't matter

Would it be fair to say the release of «From Patterns to Details» has been the most press you’ve ever done?
Yes. I just feel more comfortable now. In the past, doing interviews used to be such a thing for me. I would be fretting over what I wanted to say and trying to get it all perfect. That sort of thing is a sign your feet aren’t firmly planted somewhere. I feel centered and connected within this project, so why not connect with people?

How do you feel living and working as a creative in Germany differs from back home in New Zealand?
For comfort as an artist, New Zealand is like training at altitude. It’s like an exercycle on the highest gear, and I’m not just talking economically. It’s a matter of openness. I cannot tell you why, but right now New Zealand does not feel that open to artwork or artists.

When you talk about the arts in Berlin, there can be a sense that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. The ultimate point I would like to make though is this: environment doesn’t matter that much to me. If you are going to call yourself an artist – and I don’t personally bother with that word for myself, or get up in the morning and say, «I’m going to be an artist today», – your focus should be on the work anyway. Your attention should be given to something you are creating, not where you are.

Repetition is a part of life

You’ve framed your last album as about the relationship between nature, permaculture and technology. How did these ideas come together in your head?
It’s been a reoccurring theme in my work in the past. This was just about having spent a bit longer doing this. I think I’m coming into clarity about what I’m doing, which is why it’s been made explicit this time. The next record might be about the same shit, and the one after that, and the one after that. I don’t really care.

On a very basic level, repetition is a part of being alive, and within music, plenty of well-known and lesser known figures have made careers out of repeating themselves. I think there can be a commercial interest in repetition, just as there can be a commercial interest in some sense for people to reinvent themselves. I feel like in the circles I’m in, it’s very uncool to be sincere at the moment. It seems like things have boiled down to a few select festivals which are the only ones left with some money, and a sense of people around that who want to end up on those festival lineups. There is a very short yearly work cycle going on.

FIS playing live. Photo: Sophie Schnell.

FIS in action. Photo: Sophie Schnell

I think it’s summed up well in «end of year lists» as the best place a record can end up. The list ties off the cycle, a new one opens and then it’s time to try and get on it again with a new concept. Festivals do this as well now too. They have a festival theme each year. What I notice is once the theme has been cashed in on; there is no longer any personal interest in that topic. If it really mattered, you would still talk about it afterward.

I think with this record I wanted to put a bit of a stake in the ground personally because I do make music because I love it, and there are things in my life I do genuinely care about, permaculture design is one of those things. I just generally care about people being a bit better off personally, but also ecologically having a bit of a higher vibration. It was time to own that I guess.

Consistency between nature and technology

How have you drawn on nature and permaculture to develop your music?
In permaculture design, one of the major aspects is just letting life express itself. There was this famous Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka. He’s dead now, but he basically perfected this to a point where he did nothing, He ran a profitable farm selling rice and barley. Fukuoka timed things to perfection by observing the cycles on the site.

All he did was throw the seeds he wanted for his next crop. When it was time to harvest one thing, he’d walk across, top it off, and then his next crop would just grow through the bottom. He never turned, tilled or plowed. He called that concept do-nothing farming. Ultimately there is nothing to do. So much work is born out of the idea that it is necessary, rather than the reality that there are already systems here to provide.

It doesn’t end at do-nothing. From that understanding, you are qualified to think about what to do. You can make quite beautiful decisions about what to create, and create quite freely and safely on your own terms. Having understood it’s not necessary, you choose to do so anyway, because of a genuine want to create something that is beautiful as a gift to the universe.

What about the technology side of things?
I’m currently collaborating with a musician in New Zealand named Rob Throne. He plays Taonga pūoro, a set of traditional Māori instruments used as part of sacred rituals and storytelling. We were talking about whether we should electronically process recordings of Taonga pūoro. For the sake of this conversation, they represent natural elements, and computers represent technology. When Rob first heard the processing I’d done on some of the recordings, he thought some of the waiora or spirit might have been lost through the computer. Then, as we discussed it and listened further, he realised it was exploring a sonic aura in the recording that was previously unheard.

What I’ve found really interesting in terms of a technological meeting place with these recordings is how I’m hearing new stuff as I play around with them. I’m hearing even more spine-tingling identity, which is ultimately coming from the seed of the recording. To me, that is not a matter of inconsistency between nature and technology. It’s one element meeting another element within the universe and having a conversation. I’m an organic entity, and the computer in front of me right now is technology, but the genealogy of the matter in this computer is just as old as the matter in me. Ultimately, in time these distinctions collapse, because everything comes from the source originally anyway.

What we are talking about across all of these domains is an all encompassing surrender. Surrender; opening up, it’s the same thing. I still really love nature and organic life, but I’ve had to let go of the sense that it is more, that somehow I know what is or isn’t true to Mother Earth. It’s not really my place to have an opinion here.

From clubmusic to permaculture

Delivered... Martyn Pepperell | Scene | Tue 8 Nov 2016 1:11 pm

The electronic musician FIS combines broken rhythms derived from somnambulant drum & bass and cinematic melodies with notions of a futurist naturalism. Martyn Pepperel talked to him about noise, permaculture and perfect harmony.

FIS. Photo: Sophie Schnell.

FIS. Foto: Sophie Schnell.

Over the last half decade, Berlin-based, New Zealand-born music producer and permaculturalist Oliver Perryman aka FIS has embarked on a journey from the edges of jungle and drum&bass to the beating heart of extreme cinematic composition. Along the way, he has released EP-based asymmetrical rhythm abstractions at labels like Samurai Horo, Exit Records and Tri Angle Records before letting himself sink into the ecstatic electronic noise of his debut album «The Blue Quicksand Is Going Now».

On his debut, FIS reveled in the beauty of the natural world, and its potential as a catalyst for personal change and healing. A year later, he returns with «From Patterns To Details», released by Subtext Recordings. Starting with the understanding of permaculture’s potential to establish a state of alignment between man and nature, this album sees FIS expanding this idea into a form of futurist naturalism that embraces technology as life in a different state. From there, he uses atomised sonics white noise and gorgeous drones to dream of a perfect harmony that reaches into the ever-shifting extremities of infinity and back again.

Martyn Pepperell: As part of the promotion of From Patterns To Details, English poet Rick Holland shared a series of poems inspired by the album. What’s the story here?

FIS: I saw some of Rick’s poems and thought he seemed like the perfect guy to show me some aspects of the album I could never come to terms with myself. I thought it would be cool to have something different to offer, some kind of artistic response. Rick says something that has a deeper energetic subtext born from the way he arranges words. There is this silvery groundwater to his work and it felt like a great way to communicate what the album was about. Some people are going to be able to decipher the intent of «From Patterns To Details» by listening to it, but it’s nice to involve another artist and find the in-between thing that doesn’t seem to care if a poet elucidates it or a musician, because that is the true space of the record.

In September I interviewed Scratcha DVA. Something he said stuck with me. «Tunes have to be listened to at the right time, in the right space or surroundings».

It makes you think about how much stuff is being lost because of the mediums we use, and how much stuff is being connected with because it’s perfect for the internet. I think the success of a lot of music relates to its internet friendliness. I don’t know whether that’s intentional or not, but It think it might be more and more these days.

When I interviewed you last year, you said, «I think my music has yet to find its appropriate setting to be performed live». Has that changed?

I feel like my music has found its way with people. I think on both accidental and intentional levels, everything I’ve said and done over the last few years has suggested its natural setting anyway. In terms of the shows promoters are asking me to play now, and what they understand me as being there to do, it seems that my music not only prescribes its own settings, but has found those right settings.

Environment doesn´t matter

Would it be fair to say the release of «From Patterns to Details» has been the most press you’ve ever done?

Yes. I just feel more comfortable now. In the past, doing interviews used to be such a thing for me. I would be fretting over what I wanted to say and trying to get it all perfect. That sort of thing is a sign your feet aren’t firmly planted somewhere. I feel centered and connected within this project, so why not connect with people?

How do you feel living and working as a creative in Germany differs from back home in New Zealand?

For comfort as an artist, New Zealand is like training at altitude. It’s like an exercycle on the highest gear, and I’m not just talking economically. It’s a matter of openness. I cannot tell you why, but right now New Zealand does not feel that open to artwork or artists.

When you talk about the arts in Berlin, there can be a sense that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. The ultimate point I would like to make though is this: environment doesn’t matter that much to me. If you are going to call yourself an artist – and I don’t personally bother with that word for myself, or get up in the morning and say, «I’m going to be an artist today», – your focus should be on the work anyway. Your attention should be given to something you are creating, not where you are.

Repetition is a part of life

You’ve framed your last album as about the relationship between nature, permaculture and technology. How did these ideas come together in your head?

It’s been a reoccurring theme in my work in the past. This was just about having spent a bit longer doing this. I think I’m coming into clarity about what I’m doing, which is why it’s been made explicit this time. The next record might be about the same shit, and the one after that, and the one after that. I don’t really care.

On a very basic level, repetition is a part of being alive, and within music, plenty of well-known and lesser known figures have made careers out of repeating themselves. I think there can be a commercial interest in repetition, just as there can be a commercial interest in some sense for people to reinvent themselves. I feel like in the circles I’m in, it’s very uncool to be sincere at the moment. It seems like things have boiled down to a few select festivals which are the only ones left with some money, and a sense of people around that who want to end up on those festival lineups. There is a very short yearly work cycle going on.

FIS playing live. Photo: Sophie Schnell.

FIS in action. Photo: Sophie Schnell.

I think it’s summed up well in «end of year lists» as the best place a record can end up. The list ties off the cycle, a new one opens and then it’s time to try and get on it again with a new concept. Festivals do this as well now too. They have a festival theme each year. What I notice is once the theme has been cashed in on; there is no longer any personal interest in that topic. If it really mattered, you would still talk about it afterward.

I think with this record I wanted to put a bit of a stake in the ground personally because I do make music because I love it, and there are things in my life I do genuinely care about, permaculture design is one of those things. I just generally care about people being a bit better off personally, but also ecologically having a bit of a higher vibration. It was time to own that I guess.

Consistency between nature and technology

How have you drawn on nature and permaculture to develop your music?

In permaculture design, one of the major aspects is just letting life express itself. There was this famous Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka. He’s dead now, but he basically perfected this to a point where he did nothing, He ran a profitable farm selling rice and barley. Fukuoka timed things to perfection by observing the cycles on the site.

All he did was throw the seeds he wanted for his next crop. When it was time to harvest one thing, he’d walk across, top it off, and then his next crop would just grow through the bottom. He never turned, tilled or plowed. He called that concept do-nothing farming. Ultimately there is nothing to do. So much work is born out of the idea that it is necessary, rather than the reality that there are already systems here to provide.

It doesn’t end at do-nothing. From that understanding, you are qualified to think about what to do. You can make quite beautiful decisions about what to create, and create quite freely and safely on your own terms. Having understood it’s not necessary, you choose to do so anyway, because of a genuine want to create something that is beautiful as a gift to the universe.

What about the technology side of things?

I’m currently collaborating with a musician in New Zealand named Rob Throne. He plays Taonga pūoro, a set of traditional Māori instruments used as part of sacred rituals and storytelling. We were talking about whether we should electronically process recordings of Taonga pūoro. For the sake of this conversation, they represent natural elements, and computers represent technology. When Rob first heard the processing I’d done on some of the recordings, he thought some of the waiora or spirit might have been lost through the computer. Then, as we discussed it and listened further, he realised it was exploring a sonic aura in the recording that was previously unheard.

What I’ve found really interesting in terms of a technological meeting place with these recordings is how I’m hearing new stuff as I play around with them. I’m hearing even more spine-tingling identity, which is ultimately coming from the seed of the recording. To me, that is not a matter of inconsistency between nature and technology. It’s one element meeting another element within the universe and having a conversation. I’m an organic entity, and the computer in front of me right now is technology, but the genealogy of the matter in this computer is just as old as the matter in me. Ultimately, in time these distinctions collapse, because everything comes from the source originally anyway.

What we are talking about across all of these domains is an all encompassing surrender. Surrender; opening up, it’s the same thing. I still really love nature and organic life, but I’ve had to let go of the sense that it is more, that somehow I know what is or isn’t true to Mother Earth. It’s not really my place to have an opinion here.

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