Manafonistas

on life, music etc beyond mainstream

After Michael told me, already last summer, about Björn Meyer’s then forthcoming solo album on ECM, I wanted to take the chance to look into the Swede’s previous work. Of course I already had the ECM releases of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, which he was part of, and having followed Anouar Brahem’s complete body of work on the label, I was also aware of his participation in Brahem’s band (which I have seen in concert here in Berlin a few years ago).

But then I became aware of the recording with Samuel Rohrer and Klaus Gesing, and that made me very curious, as all three of them have been on a string of very good or even excellent ECM albums, so hearing about their trio album Amiira felt a bit like finding out about a lost ECM recording. So I wrote to the label, arjunamusic, only to find out that it is Samuel Rohrer’s imprint — and the Swiss drummer is also living here in Berlin. Besides his participation in Colin Vallon’s trio (on their ECM debut as well as their equally recommendable pre-ECM album Ailleurs on the Hat Hut label), he played on Susanne Abbuehl’s April, in Wolfert Brederode’s quartet on Currents and Post Scriptum, and I bought the self-titled debut album by another trio of Samuel’s called Ambiq a few years ago. He was very welcoming and sent me a few of his label’s more recent releases, and since I came to like them a lot, I wanted to talk to him about his work a bit.

 
 


 
 

So, Samuel, the only arjunamusic release I had before you sent me a few others was the first Ambiq album (and I also bought the cool remixes by Villalobos and Tobias.), which comes with a really unusual combination of sounds and instruments. You played a mix of electronic and conventional percussive instruments, Claudio Puntin can be heard on clarinet and and electronics, and Max Loderbauer only played a Buchla 200e modular synthesizer.

I think it is a really fascinating album, as it is terribly hard to categorize, among other things. The music is somewhere between improvised techno and noisy jazz music. Groove [German magazine for electronic music] called it „metaphysical jazz“ in the vein of Don Cherry or Elvin Jones. They also wrote the music „translates our times’ menacing urban signs into sound“ and the „gloomy and mosaic-like“ album wants to „move the soul“.

Would you agree with these descriptions? Where does Ambiq’s music originate from?

 

Oh thank you. And I don’t remember if I have ever read all this … It’s always interesting to see how this music is put into words, which was created with so little intention, except with the wish to let it happen.

Since all the tracks are totally free improvised, like all the concerts we play, we don’t lose a lot of words about our music or what we are going to play. There never were many. (Only now we start to think about leading the music in a specific direction for the next album.) This means the music really brings the immediate feelings, tastes, actions and reactions of the three of us together. It must be a very personal music of three individuals then. We all have quite different backgrounds, but we all look for the same thing in music, which is to combine sounds, textures, melodies and rhythms in a way we could not have thought of in the first place. We trust in each others musicality and taste, also to keep a strong idea even if we don’t find any consensus. Very often that is where the music happens. It’s not only about agreeing all the time to create something harmonic. If you stick to an idea and stay open at the same time, great things can happen.

I personally always look for the balance between textures, melodies, rhythms, silence… To create something rich, I think, it always contains all the ingredients. Only the weighting moves from one element to another, so they constantly balance each other out. In the end, everything – all the rhythms, melodies or harmonies – are all frequencies and we just decide how to form the sound and its silence. And if it really happens, we don’t even decide about this anymore.

 

Last February, when I worked, as every year, in the „Panorama“ section of the Berlin Film Festival, we presented Romuald Karmakar’s great film Denk ich an Deutschland in der Nacht (If I think of Germany at Night), in which Ricardo Villalobos is one of the five protagonists. In the film we get to see a short section of a concert with a quartet, which I found enormously fascinating, and it took me quite a while to find out that this was actually Ambiq + Villalobos. Any plans to record or release an album with this band?

 

There is some material ready to be released, which was recorded live, as well as an unedited studio session waiting to be reopened. Right now it just doesn’t feel like it’s the time for it. Let’s see what comes next. If we play more in the future, we might even record more material … Sometimes things need time …

 
 


 
 

I do like the description of Ambiq’s music in Groove, because it could actually describe very different kinds of music as well.

Considering how you just described your work process, though, it’s kind of funny to see what it evokes in our minds, in us listeners. I have of course read what you wrote about the general idea of your label, arjunamusic, and that is strongly related to what you just said:

 

It is based on the wish to achieve as much artistic independence as possible, which comes out of the essential realization that happiness is not coming in the first place from outer success, rather the urge and to have the freedom to create, is the essential basis to make anything happen and to unfold a strong personal statement. This led to and still is the motivation to create a platform for unique and personal music, which includes a stylistically broad artistic performance.

 

That is actually very appealing to me as a filmmaker, as well as to me as a lover of arts and music. So let me get to your most recent solo album, Range of Regularity, which is a veritable solo recording: You played a variety of mostly percussive instruments (including a prepared piano, which I think counts as percussive, too), in connection with a few synths. Listening to your earlier album Noreia (from 2012, with Claudio Puntin, Peter Herbert and Skúli Sverrison) moved me a lot when I listened to it driving though dry and slightly surreal desert landscapes in the USA last September. But Range of Regularity I did not really make friends with yet. I do appreciate its „minimal“ approach and the reduced spectrum of sounds, sure. But since you wrote about the uncompromising approach to creating, could you maybe give me a few hints on the process you went through in making this album, which might help me get a better understanding of your thought process? In what regard was Range of Regularity an album you felt you had to make?

 

The most important for me is to move on and find constantly new inspiration. To be free while I play music, but also in the sense of possibilities. Freedom in the sense of crossing borders and confronting yourself with new situations – and not so much on the outside, but, in terms of music, more through the sounds you hear and how you can create or combine them. While working more in the electronic music scene I met a lot of interesting producers. At the same time I started to work with some of them, and my sonic world and understanding was constantly growing (or let’s say this just opened new doors to many new possibilities).

More and more I started to combine electronic and acoustic sounds in a live situation, and I recorded myself in my studio.

It felt like the most natural step for me to make that move and produce a first album by myself. With my sonic world, with my roots as a jazz musician, but within the context of electronic music and with using its rules and frames. I knew it had to be a mix of different worlds. With knowing that of course the jazz scene would not really understand this, it felt like breaking out of something, finding new challenges and setting new ways and sails for me in the future as a producer and sound designer. In the beginning it felt maybe like two separate worlds, but slowly they start to merge into each other and are becoming one – like the label idea, with its acoustic and electronic releases. Basically, I try to follow my intuition, and my curiosity keeps me going forward and finding new ways to express myself.

 

I’d be curious to hear other people’s opinions on the album. The one track I probably like best is the final one, Uncertain Grace. I find it very moving. I did, however, not find the album covered in a lot of music magazines, though indeed it could fit into a variety of genres, from electronic to experimental, even jazz and also into comprehensive magazines like Musikexpress.

 

The difficulty is to find a promo agency who covers the whole range, from acoustic, jazz oriented releases, feuilletons and art magazines to electronic and club music. There were quite a few reviews, interviews and radio broadcasts, but mostly in the electronic music field. In the end, what counts most for me is the reaction of musicians and producers I honor for their work.

 
 


 
 

How do you deal with people’s reactions in general, when it comes to an album like Range of Regularity, which you produce on your very own? Do you ask people for advice during the process? And can you easily deal with your music being out there, and you, in a way, don’t get as much back from it, as opposed to, for instance, in a project like the collaborations with Ambiq, Villalobos or the latest album, Brightbird?

 

Not only as a musician but also as a label I continue to research on how to balance out a space between the acoustic music scene – where I come from – and the electronic world. This certainly needs time and is definitely a very interesting place to be. As a solo artist I never had a lot of exposure – so far: Making this step plus defining my work in new territories is a challenge and inspiring at the same time.

With the label I have also built a circle of people around me with whom I work for the productions. Of course I am curious about their opinions and I always welcome other people’s ideas. But very often, in the end it’s a question of taste, which is built on quality. Particularly when you try to find your own voice, you can’t create a result that is for everybody. I view all the projects more as one big working field, and it is important to finish one idea to go on and start with new ones. And it is about finding the balance between working on my own and sharing ideas and collaborate with others. Both ways seem to work for me.

 
Is the remixes series a way of getting in contact with others with your soloistic work?

 

The remixes are basically a way to promote an album during a longer timeframe. I try to bring it a step further with finding producers who are interested in remixing music which is out of their usual territory and not so obvious to remix in the first place. To overlap improvised music with more club oriented work is slowly becoming a characteristic of the label.

 

Finally, about Brightbird – another really moving album, with pianist João Paulo Esteves da Silva, who brings a beautiful, slight fado and folk influence into the flow of the music, and double bass player Mário Franco; the album to me has a fascinatingly simple but also „dancing“ atmosphere. It was recorded at La Buissone, which is one of Manfred Eicher’s preferred studios, located in the French Provence, so I assume it is very inspiring. The cover design is by The Designers Republic, an unusual choice, since they’re primarily known for their influential Warp Records designs. The album is able to speak for itself, so I don’t really have a question about it. But it would be great if this music would be appreciated more widely.

 

I agree, also an album like Brightbird should get much more attention. To put a new label out there is one thing, but to establish it to give the music a wider audience is a big task. Unfortunately it is a fact that mostly the same (major) labels get the attention. It requires more research from listeners, magazines and reviewers to give smaller labels a spot. That’s why I like to think in bigger shapes and in longterm projects. In our fast and superficial time it’s very healthy to work on things that are built on constant growth and for the act of creating. If there is no solid ground, outer success appears as very short-lived thing. And solid things need time.

 

Where is your work and your label going to next? What can we look forward to from arjunamusic in 2018?

 

Max Loderbauer is about to finish two remixes of Brightbird tracks; they will be released sometime later this year. A trio recording with Jan Bang, Eivind Aarset and myself is in the making. Also new projects with Nils Petter Molvær and for example the young trumpet player Hilde Marie Holsen, are on the way, as well as preparations for some productions of working bands like AMBIQ and amiira. Together with a friend, who does most of the mastering of the productions, we are planning to release a series of analog-recorded, hand-made individually crafted vinyls, which might include some old releases as well as new projects. More details about this will follow soon.

 
Thank you very much for this extensive conversation. I am highly curious to hear these new collaborations. I met Hilde a while ago in Oslo, her work is very unorthodox and fascinating; and I noticed she posted a photo of your recording session online not long ago.

Here are two more links: A video for a track of his recent solo work (Body of Ignorance) and a 2017 podcast mixing live and unreleased material with releases of Samuel Rohrer’s various projects, here on XLR8R.

Dieser Beitrag wurde geschrieben am Mittwoch, 17. Januar 2018 und wurde abgelegt unter "Blog". Du kannst die Kommentare verfolgen mit RSS 2.0. Du kannst hier einen Kommentar hinterlassen. Pingen ist zur Zeit nicht erlaubt.

2 Kommentare

  1. Olaf:

    Danke für den Hinweis, mindestens bei Amiira macht es beim Reinhören gleich Klick, die Vorankündigung hören sich spannend an, freue mich neue Musik zu entdecken!

  2. Brian whistler:

    Great interview. Lots of new things to check out. Think I’ll start with Amjira. Thanks!

Kommentar hinterlassen

XHTML erlaubte Tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*


Manafonistas | Impressum | Kontakt
Wordpress 4.9.4 Design basiert auf Gabis Wordpress-Templates
53 Verweise - 0,230 Sekunden.