Stadiums & Shrines
medium_frequency_cover_animated

 

The controlled chaos of multimedia artist Brandon Locher was last explored here in 2013. Brandon took us through Mazes to the Motherload, his ongoing series of otherworldly, monochromatic drawings, as well as his sonic endeavors with The Meets ensemble and beyond. Today brings an update to Mazes, alongside a dazzling new instrumental. “Medium Frequency” is subtle yet atomic—much like its cover art above. The pulse (aptly noted by Decoder) remains fixed as an entire ecosystem unravels and multiplies. Strings and horns squiggle about in bliss.

Somewhere in that feature we asked Brandon if we ever find our way to the Motherlode, to which he replied:

“Hopefully embedded within these illustrations lies a personal topographic blueprint for the vision and self creation of even smaller moons, larger galaxies, and realized worlds… I don’t think I will ever find the Motherlode because I believe it’s more than just one thing. It’s about here and now.”

With this in mind, below is a collection of his most recent labyrinths. Regarding the new set, he adds:

“Since the New Year my studio practice has become much more introspective with my own individual journey. Producing music under my own name has allowed myself the permission to become completely honest with my new recorded works. From the very beginning my music has always been rooted in a self-produced vision and lately I’ve felt such an enhanced clarity and boundless freedom. I also continuously work on several visual art pieces for my ongoing drawing portfolio Mazes to the Motherlode while I am making new sounds in the studio. I quietly loop subtle patterns and repetitions while I draw for hours. I never force my musical ideas and always allow them to develop organically. Often my best sonic ideas come to mind while producing these abstract drawings.”

Thanks Brandon, here’s to many more.

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Mikael Seifu Eyes

 

By Michael Barron

The word for bard in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, is “azmari.” In the country’s folk music, the azmari performed solo, singing of everything from romantic love to political justice, often accompanied only by a single one-stringed bowed instrument called a masenqo. Even in the 20th century, as Western music made its way to the African nation, the spirit of the azmaris was never forsaken, and many continue to perform in large numbers. Think of them like the singer with an acoustic guitar, artists who tell stories through song.

Mikael Seifu isn’t a traditional azmari. You won’t hear him singing or bowing a string. But Seifu is a storyteller, and on the first track of his new EP Zelalem (released this month by RVNG Intl.), he uses a musical platform to weave together a tapestry of heritage and promise. Seifu is arguably the most promising electronic music producer to emerge from Ethiopia (with earlier origins in Washington D.C.), but it is in Zelalem, that Seifu turns his background into his foreground, in other words using his roots as steps toward self-investigation. On the opening track “The Protectors” he uses a recording of the Civil Rights leader Stokely Carmichael to give us the premise: “The unconscious are those who react on instinct. The conscious are those who react on reason. The job of the conscious is to make the unconscious conscious. Let us make a simple example.”

For Zelalem, Seifu has assembled a pastiche of influences that pull from disparate sources. Under the washed out production of Solipsist, a term for someone who believes all one can ever know is one’s self — one can discern the finger plucking of a Begena, a ten-string harp-like instrument, and possibly sampled from the recordings the Addis Ababa native and Begena player Kassa Tessema. On the following track, the familiar and soulful sound of a fretless bass and hi-end beat are charted by verses from the rapper L.A. The influences coalesce in the paired tracks “How to Save a Life (Vector of Eternity),” and “ዘላለም (Vector of Light),” where an orchestra of Ethiopian instruments led by the masenqo dance with head-nodding beats and lines from a very un-traditional instrument, the synthesizer.

S&S reached out to Seifu about shedding light on the sounds that went into the making of Zelalem. The producer, who recently posted a 50-min mixtape of Ethiopian folk music to his Soundcloud (embedded above), shared with us five YouTube videos—showcasing everything from traditional Ethiopian tunes to lyrically lush French rap—and provided commentary for each. Here’s what he had to say:

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Aluphor

 

Last December, a 30 minute mp3 named “built_off_off_mix_5_cello7” unexpectedly guided our travels through New Zealand. The file had a way of draping terrains, scoring moments of wonder across myriad landscapes, colors both vibrant and muted, golden and glacial. Landon Speers, an interdisciplinary artist (and friend of S&S) from the ‘prairies of western Canada’ now living in Brooklyn, sent over the rough edit for feedback. This was the early days of Aluphor, his serene new album as Headaches, out today on Human Pitch. A series of pulsing movements—built primarily from synth and cello—Aluphor can inspire sensory awareness, over time proving itself very generous, understated, and fully realized ambient work.

Landon is an accomplished photographer, and his eye informs the album’s tasteful artwork and audiovisual stream (embedded below via FACT). He’s a dreamer for sure, drawn to “people’s ability to have heightened visceral experiences when listening to music.” Here, in loose conversation, he explores this interaction between mediums:

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S&S-NewtownRadio-E36

 

Anticipation met anxiety. They danced for thirty minutes and then, finally, were silenced by the twenty five that followed; on this, our 36th episode.

Daniel Klag arrived early to the studio, bearing two samplers, a mixer, an iPad, and some effects pedals. 10PM sharp, we started, while the station’s signal did not. Troubleshoot, reset, retweet… 10:30 sharp, we began again. With the lights out, Daniel, fresh off the release of Reality and Self, produced an exceptional wash of static. And all was gone.

Following the set we spoke on the topic of ‘sound objects’. Daniel turned me onto Aki Onda‘s Diary, and with some encouragement, he’s collected those thoughts in the short piece below.

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Daniel Klag: Aki Onda’s Diary, released in 2011, consists of a sixty-minute cassette, coupled with a book containing actual-size photographs of forty-one other cassettes in Onda’s library. Here, cassette tapes are not only finished products, but also artifacts of the creation process.
 

Diary
Diary

 

As Onda describes in the book:

“Over a span of two decades, I have been using the cassette Walkman for making field recordings which I keep as a sound diary. I consider these recordings to be personal memories, and not just sounds.

Around the year 2002, I began doing performances in New York using my cassette collection. Playing back these recorded tapes, re-collecting and re-constructing sound memories, until they lose their meanings and subjectivity and begin to resonate as the memory of sound.”

The tape provided with this release contains two field recordings of calm beach sounds, one taken in Celestun, Mexico and the other in Trouville, France. The listener is transported to another time and place, imagining the scene from the audio clues provided: light footsteps, seabirds passing by, waves crashing, wind crackling as it passes the microphone.

We are left to wonder the contents of the other forty-one tapes, making guesses based on their scribbled labels. “Birds Conversation Eckford Street,” “Morocco ’88,” “Escalator at 53rd Subway”—the titles conjure up images of scenes both familiar and exotic. Though we are several levels removed from the original sound source, the photographs are beautiful in themselves, offering a glimpse at Onda’s view of the world.

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Thanks, Daniel. Reality and Self is available on tape via Chill Mega Chill.

Brandon Locher - Mazes to the Motherlode 1

 

Johnstown-based artist Brandon Locher commands a certain kind of organized chaos. He’s done this over a vast body of visual and musical work since 2006—all of which compile within the Locher co-founded creative collective My Idea of Fun. The two projects spotlighted today are his most current, and perhaps together both his most indirectly complimentary and contrasting. The Meets finds Brandon at the helm of a 20-person ensemble, directing and collaging an array of orchestral instruments and field recordings. Three years of sound went into It Happens Outside, a forthcoming LP. Mazes to the Motherlode finds Brandon deeply isolated, putting ink to paper, creating grayscale labyrinths of hyper-detail. Below, we get him going on the topic of each.

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