"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Crunchy seam

Obviously enough, Highpoint Lowlife's fine 10-20 (previously here) is far from alone in managing to still mine plenty of value out of the crunchy seam no longer called IDM - not with a straight face, anyway... Take Craque & Robert Logan.

Craque's Navfrakure (from the forthcoming Supple, Audiobulb - mastered by Anticipate/Ghostly/HPLL/Kranky cohort Twerk, by the way) exemplifies the busy intelligence in his extensive body of netlabel releases. Check out earlier work like Density Operator (Stadtgruen) & Gamma (Test Tube), & read a wide-ranging interview with Matt below.

From Gamma, the nicely dense sketch Penetrarette

Logan's Inscape (out tomorrow on Slowfoot), meanwhile, is murky, brooding & not averse to bombast. At its best, though, as on Jehova Rapha, it musters powerful atmospherics.  

Previously here

Sincere thanks to Matt for participating so fully. 

> Do you see yourself as working in any kind of tradition?

   I'd say no, but maybe that needs a disclaimer.

    Debussy, Satie, and Stravinsky all mesmerized me as a kid, but at the same time Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley were constants in my teens. My college composition teacher, Jon Polifrone, studied with Nadia Boulanger, and I think both their approaches and attitudes have been important to the way I think about writing music.

   Live improvisation became a very important part of my life early on, especially free jazz and noise. John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Bill Frisell, Derek Bailey - all those who incorporate free improv alongside structured composition really impacted me. Complex theoretical analysis intrigued me at the time too: Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Mozart especially.

   So it's not surprising I eventually ended up studying John Cage very heavily in grad school (while I was singing opera, natch!). Pretty soon I met and got to know Pauline Oliveros, and though I haven't participated in any of the Deep Listening Retreats, I have done a good deal of work with her and others in that tradition. I had the pleasure of speaking with Joan La Barbara once while studying experimental vocal works, her activity with Morton Feldman was very important for me as a student.

    I actually feel more aligned with these "traditions" than any dance music genre, because I was only really exposed to ‘non-abstract’ electronic music well after music school was over. I have my proclivities of course, the soulfulness and tempo of House and Dub Techno matched up with my love of reggae very nicely. I think I am a fan of breakbeats because I played percussion in high school band.

> How has your music changed since you began?

   Well I have done a LOT of different styles of music. It was only after my trio "Comma" - a three-man vocal improv unit - eventually widened to five members as "Gray Code" that I was experimentally including dance beats in our shows. A lot of what I did back then was very free jazz oriented. Stuff I did in college was more traditional, which is probably expected (Polifrone once commented on my 12-tone cello suite as something I "had to do to get it out of me").

   The graphic scores and structured improv pieces during grad school were where I think I started to break out of ‘traditions’ but it wasn't until after I was exposed to Dance Music proper that I really started to develop my own electronica-based sound. People tell me I have a sound, I don't know what it is!

> Do you use anything besides a laptop to make your music?

  Yes, quite a lot. The real source of what I do comes from electro-acoustic improvisation with amplified objects, homebuilt instruments, and an array of looping and delay devices, and other hardware effects. At times my tracks are directly off the live recorded session; the track 'Conductive Plate' on "Material" (Kahvi #249) is a raw improvisation, no post-editing except for levels and mastering. Because I am very in-touch with my performer side and creating sound with my own hands (and throat), live use of a laptop has been very limited in my experience. The computer for me is a post-production and editing tool, above all else. I don't use it as my primary way of artistic expression. I also own three guitars, a cello, and I studied trumpet in school as well. In fact, any place you hear what sounds like an acoustic instrument is me playing it, I am not a sampler when it comes to source material, I'd rather make the sound myself. A big part of my philosophy is "original sound", and is one reason I've recently opted to build my own analog synth and noisemaking devices. Very rarely do I ever use actual synthesized sound, and usually it's for something particular like bass tones or organ notes (neither of which I own nor have room for).

> Best thing anyone's said/written about your music? Worst?

    I've had comments that my pieces are "timeless" and I've been called a musical genius, which is very flattering and I love my fans for their support and listening. One of my favorite comments by a friend at a live show was that it was like "tripping on acid without the acid!"

  The worst is when I get compared to artists that don't approach things the way I do, but the nature of the sonic language automatically places me in the hot seat. I don't feel like an innovator, I am only a musician attempting to express himself through a language of sound. If the end result is an amalgamation of experience, then so be it.

> Do you make any non-Craque music?

   I have written intuitive pieces and graphic scores for both instruments and voices, full suites for solo instruments like cello and clarinet, both a string and vocal quartet, arrangements for brass quintet, a fully scored work for wind ensemble, and recently uncovered my college notes for a experimental opera.

  In fact, I only first got into "electronic" music because I wanted a way to hear the traditionally notated works I was doing in college (1990-94), I think my first uniquely "electronic" works were improvisations based on patches I created on my Emu Proteus synth.

  Right now I am concentrating on Craque as an outlet for musical expression, but that's not to say I won't sit down and write another notated piece for a soloist some time. For the most part anything I do in the realm of experimental electronica comes with a Craque tag.

> Do you make music with anyone else or always solo? Anyone you'd like to collaborate with? Or remix?

    Naturally I love collaboration, it's where I came from. In fact I am the least involved with collaboration now than I have ever been, due mostly to the lack of an organized scene around where we live (southern CA). While in Chicago I recorded many events with other players, including a wonderful experience with Quantazelle on WLUW's "Something Else" and other group improv shows. I've already mentioned Comma and Gray Code, and actually the name "Craque" came from a band formed in college (I played guitar and sang) that did some originals but also covers of Naked City and arrangements of standards from the real book. More recently I remixed a Proswell track, and have been doing some things back and forth with Ilkae too. I'm always up for suggestions, I'd really love to do more.

> Who else do you listen to (for pleasure, for inspiration, for a change)?

   There has been an explosion of electronic music around the globe, and I am a voracious listener and detective of unique approaches to sound. Sometimes I do nothing but listen to the sonic atmosphere around me, other times I am hunting through netlabels for new artists and connections. I have a bad habit of obtaining music, listening to it once, and forgetting about it because something else appears in my cognitive queue. I love digging through used record bins and finding whatever presents itself, so my online music hunting follows a similar pattern. Last.fm is one of my favorite sites because of the way I can correlate and discover new things. I love listening to new jazz like Dave Douglas and MMW as much as I do glitchy textures or fragile downtempo electronica from Raster-Noton, 12K and Audiobulb. The act of listening never stops, and it has helped me through some difficult times too.

> What's next for you/Craque?

  Try to take things one day at a time, get more involved in local shows the same way I have in Chicago and DC communities, and continue building homemade noise. Getting into circuit design has opened doors: I've finished a 2-oscillator tabletop synth and am currently working on an Arduino + WaveShield design for triggering my own composed samples, and have ideas for sound mangling boxes. I've been inspired by a lot of the DIY electronics folks have been putting together, I like that sense of working directly with electricity and original vibration of materials to create a unique sonic palette. Sitting on a computer arranging stuff in software is not fulfilling music making for me, so I suppose most of all I want to keep playing, and I'm considering more vocal work on my next album (when or where ever that may be).

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