Matmos is most widely known for their musique concrète approach to electronic pop music. Their albums are highly conceptual and they are regarded as the crème de la crème of experimental electronic pop music. With that being said, I was extremely honored to be invited up to SnowGhost studio to take on a very undefined role in helping them gather and record sounds for their upcoming album. An ‘undefined role’ because working with Matmos is an extremely fluid process that is steeped in experimentation. You simply design scenarios that create an environment for something to happen, all within the boundaries of an overarching theme. We picked up Martin and Drew at the Kalispell Airport and immediately headed out to go record sounds at a conceptually relevant location. They instinctually navigated their surroundings for new sounds. Each sound is potentially part of a larger composition, or conversely, can be melodic and rhythmic on its own. The week was chalked full of magical moments, some misfires, intentional brilliance, some happy accidents, many late nights, an entire spectrum of emotions and finally ended with a high school marching band. Without knowing what to expect, it is exactly what I had expected.
Having lived in Nashville myself for 11 years, I am acutely aware of the benefits and trappings of ‘Music City’. Nashville is an industry town, and while there are some benefits to being close to where things are happening, it can sometimes have an adverse effect on creativity, where the business can often overshadow the creative process. Such being the case with Nashville country duo ‘Towne’. For the reasons mentioned above, Towne decided to take a trip to Montana to write and record new material. SnowGhost was hired to produce something completely different than what they were accustomed to writing or recording. Nowadays it is rare for a band to be sent on a writing trip with no expectation of outcome. What transpired, on day one, was a late night candle-lit writing session in a remote off-the-grid cabin which produced the song that was recorded the following morning. The song was recorded live using analog modular synths and programmed drums – there were no guitars. What emerged was a beautifully hypnotic 8 minute ambient electronic pop song about yearning for something real to happen. The song was an audio representation of what can happen when you intentionally let something unfold.
There has been so much music over the course of human history – I am positive that every rhythm and every melody has been explored in one way or another. So what makes music original? Think about how many times we have heard the plagal cadence, or blues and rock chord progressions, and said to ourselves, “wow, this is really original”. The answer is, all of the time! The truth is that it has nothing to do with the notes, and everything to do with the way those notes are being played and captured. Played and captured? What plays, and what captures? People, and sometimes machines play, instruments capture – and they all have a remarkably unique way of doing that. They all sound different, and all have different ways of conducting themselves. Whether it be a human voice, or a violin, or a totally new form, like sampling and granular synthesis, what is so cool about this concept, that all of these instruments require a different mindset and approach. This is what promotes and manifests new musical ideas. That is why I am always looking for new ways to play and capture the melodies I hear in my head.
I’m a big fan having the ability to audition different spectral perspectives on acoustic guitars – they are so ubiquitous, but also very personal for each player. Having quick A/B access to smooth ribbons and clear condensers allows me to record any guitar with minimal fuss. Here, the Telefunken C12s and Royer 122Vs are in a, Grace Design Spacebar meets Enhanced Audio M600, mid-side stereo array, with a short hop over to our lovely LaChapell 992EGs. What a sound!
It was great talking to Clare Menzel of the Flathead Beacon about the new MUST 115 class as FVCC. I’m really excited to share many of my experiences with FVCC students, and learn more about how people are using technology to improve the music experience, whether that be creating it or listening to it. This is a great way to get us all in a room talking about how we innovate in Montana with music and technology.
Last weekend I got to be a part of a really cool collaboration between students from Whitefish High School a few local creative professionals called 44Mentors. Michael Voisin, a senior at WFHS made his directorial debut with his screenplay ‘Somber’, utilizing students and professionals for everything from key grip to production assistant. He got a taste of what it was like to manifest ideas from paper to screen. I got to partner with student Thomas Carloss in capturing the sound. It was so cool to see them learn and apply the techniques in such a short amount of time. I look forward to the world premiere of ‘Somber’ May 21st at Tate Interiors gallery in Whitefish!
Hilary Matheson and Aaric Bryan from the Daily Interlake paid Whitefish High School a visit while the Physics, Music and Shop class came together to talk about what we’ve been up to the last few months…. It’s been a blast for me to hang with young people, addressing real world problems – and problems that affect them on a daily basis. When the music kids left their 50+ year old building and moved into their new state of the art space, The Center, it wasn’t without a new set of issues. The rooms were ping-y and bright, and the bass was mushy. I heard it right away, but had to figure out how to help the kids test and understand what they were up against. What I found most refreshing was the level of excitement that the students showed in the subjective process – the idea that a room can be ‘fixed’ with acoustic treatment, but that there is no right answer. The idea that we accept a certain level of imperfection, when that imperfection is deemed musical. This is my love affair with music as a science and art.
There is something so rewarding about sitting back after the hours of setup, giving talented artists every possible sonic option, and listening to them feel their way through new instruments. There’s a certain kind of a rough-edge feel about it. And sometimes there is a beautiful delicacy about it. Sometimes wild uncontrollable things burst through the speakers and send everyone running for the back door… and sometimes, something, just works. My last session with Cory Gray (producer, session musician, and currently touring with bands like the Dandy Warhols and Blind Pilot), Daniel Hindman (of Pure Bathing Culture, and formerly Vetiver), and Brian Wright (of Pure Bathing Culture and Grand Hallway) was just that. They arrived with nothing but backpacks, and were setup with every conceivable option for sound…. They did not disappoint. The sonic blending of electronic and acoustic instruments, as well as access to effects – performed live – was so fluid. The music from these virtuosic and creative players proved to be some of the most interesting recordings I have made as of late.