"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Monday, 17 June 2013

Phax & figures

They would say that, of course. But there's nothing hyperbolic about the Broken20 hype machine calling Orphax's Un Coeur, Deux Coeurs, Un Coeur, Sans Coeur "extraordinarily beautiful". It is, plainly - a delicate, spectral dance of minimal but insistent tones & trilling, jarring sounds that makes me want to garland its maker & see him lauded along the streets & canals of Amsterdam...

The full "meditative & enveloping" package, as B20 rightly frame it, also includes two films by the great Erstlaub - named Orphax's closest musical connection in an interview with Sietse (Orphax) below. Across a notably thoughtful set of answers he reflects on drone, tradition, his own listening, the Dutch 'scene', running a label, collaborations,  remixes & future plans, as well as highlighting his new crowdfunding initiative

Also below, more of this Dutch dervish's rich output - including his recent Live at MFR HQ, the thrilling first in a new 'portrait series' from his own Moving Furniture label, the darkly exquisite J'ai une ame solitaire, & a fine, empathetic remix of Kenneth Kirschner...

Do you see yourself as working in any kind of tradition? 
Calling it a tradition is kind of grand for me. I of course make something that fits with certain other music and there is quite an active international scene out there in the drone world. But I wouldn't directly call it something like a tradition. For me it something that comes quite naturally as it is the kind of sound I am interested in hearing. It is like walking somewhere in a forest or a field where you can still hear the sounds of the city buzz. The distant highway, or distant construction work, or maybe the farmer with his plow in the field. Those kind of buzzing sounds have been interesting me for ever. Even as a small kid I found it somehow interesting to hear those...and wonder why there actually isn't a place (in The Netherlands) without human sounds. Only later on, firstly in the middle of Spain and later on in Iceland, I noticed there is such a thing as a place without human sound. But even there you hear buzzing sounds, though different ones. 

How has your music changed since you began?
In 95 or 96 I started playing with audio-trackers on my parents' PC. It was all pretty non-serious stuff creating techno and gabba-like beats with loads of noisy melodies. Only when I moved to Amsterdam to live on my own did stuff get more serious. This was at the end of 98. At some point I decided that I wanted to work more with electronic music and stop playing the drums, so in 99 I sold my drumkit and bought a synth (Roland JP-8000). This is when things really turned for me. I started to make more structured music, mainly ambient techno and IDM kind of things. This resulted into my 2001 release "Dedicated" which never really got released (until now) but was used as demo for a compilation on Narrominded. They released an LP with CD-R that contained two tracks of mine, Glass (an ambient techno track that was once mentioned in a review as "outtake of Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin, which also made it to the John Peel show), and Then (an ambient track which already hinted to my drone future). Not long of the release of this compilation in 2002 I got fed up with beats. So as ex-drummer I turned in no-drums. In the beginning this resulted in industrial-like soundscapes, closely related to the whole Dark Ambient scene, but the further I got the more minimalist it became and so it slowly developed into (ambient) drone music. In 2002-2004 this resulted in several mp3 releases which sometimes connected really well and, looking back at it now, was really something of that time. It is the kind of stuff you now still hear, but then by more famous musicians who at that time were smart enough to send out demos to labels (I was more into just getting everything out through mp3 releases those days).
After a while, already in 2003, I also started to experiment with other sound sources than just the computer. This brought a major change to the sound, where at first it was very minimal and smooth, things got rougher, more noisy and lo-fi. And up to this day I kind of work in this way, sometimes making the sound more psychedelic with loads of vocals or guitars, while other times it is more minimal (again) when I only use no live inputs and just work with my main programme, audiomulch.
Also at some point I started to incorporate field recordings (first time was in 2004 or 2005 I think, on the album Sand In Boxes). 
These days, besides the minimalist drones and lo-fi psychedelic drones, I try to work on more experimental works in the direction of sound art, where I for example only use feedback loops or other strange ways. 

Why drone?
Why not? Hahaha. Seriously, it is what I like myself. It is for me the most basic building block of music. I love how, if you listen very carefully, in a drone many things happen with overtones, microtonal changes and more. 
Somehow it is the kind of sound I just like to hear most. Almost all my favorite music these days somehow has something with drones. This can be traditional music from India or Hungary as much as it can be stuff like Six Organs of Admittance or Tony Conrad and Charlemagne Palestine. 
For everyone who doesn't really get the whole drone thing I recommend listening to some Tibetan overtone singing or just got sit in your lazy chair and listen to Catherine Christer Hennix or some work by Eliane Radigue (Feedback Works and Trilogie de la Mort are amazing works for example). It is such an intense experience, which really enriches your way of listening to music, and actually also in general when walking on the street (only not so good in conversations, because I am always distracted by other sounds). 

Do you use anything besides a laptop to make your music? 
Actually I do quite a lot. I work with my voice as input, semi-acoustic guitar (I really need to fix that thing), my synth (the Roland), field recordings, lobby bells, a bowed thumb piano, a bowed plastic cup, melodica, a Casio SA-10 (which I got for 5 euros - what a win), a self-build OSC machine called WOM (which you can get from Tom Buggs...google it) and many other things...it can be anything that I find that makes sound...how about a cardboard box which I play with my bow...that's some disturbing but amazing sound (it always scares the shit out of my cats when I do that one). 

Is there anything Dutch in your music (or your approach to it)? Are nationality & location important to you/your music?
Nationality and location are not really important to my music. So can't really say there is anything Dutch in my music. Besides that my friend musicians in the Netherlands do totally different things from me, so I can't say I feel connected with "the scene" in such a way. It is more the mutual support and respect between the musicians, though the scene in The Netherlands is quite splintered at this moment. 
Music-wise I still feel most connected with my mate Erstlaub, though. Even when we both went different ways the last few years. But he is Scottish, so that doesn't count...does it? 
In The Netherlands probably most connected in a way is the music of Steffan de Turck (aka Staplerfahrer) who I did play a few shows with and we often check each others work. He is an amazing, totally underrated musician. I am happy to know of his work and that I can release something by him on my label Moving Furniture Records soon. 
Dutch musicians I also respect a lot are Jos Smolders, Machinist and Wouter van Veldhoven. They really bring something new in their work and think very well about what they actually are doing. Sometimes it is very conceptual, while other times it is more free, but always with a keen eye on detail and quality. And with that they always know to renew themselves in certain ways. I love that...and I also love how they actually really know their equipment in and out. 

Do you make any non-Orphax music?
Yes, there is some non-Orphax music out there. I used to be in a band called Zonderland. We made somekind of improvised post-rock/metal/noise/psychedelic weird shit. 
Also there are certain side projects I use for making noise (De Buffel) and something for more minimal techno things (I am not gonna tell you...yet) but I am not active with those projects at all. 

Do you make music with anyone else or always solo? Anyone you'd like to collaborate with? Or remix?
I did play live with Jos Smolders once and am also working on a project with him where he made photos for inspiration and I make a track based on those. I like this idea and hope to soon really finish some sounds with these. Further, quite some years ago I did a improvisation tour with three other Dutch musicians which was good fun. We played four times. And I played live twice with Ruaridh Law from TVO (the Broken20 head honcho). This was fun and totally free. I would love to do so more often. 
Further I am quite up for other collaborations, but have no direct preferences on who...more on "who/what" not, as I do not like to work with harsh noise musicians. While sometimes I do like noise for me it isn't really inspirational to work with a harsh noise source. I get bored too quickly. 
Further I would like to do more remixes. I did a few for Erstlaub and The Marcia Blaine School for Girls among others and there will be one out for Kenneth Kirschner soon, one I am really proud of [stream below]. Although it is a rare thing, I actually like to do it. I love to work with sounds created by others and make my own thing of it. So if anyone is looking for a remix: hit me up ;-)

Best thing anyone's said/written about your music? Worst?
Pff, I don't really know this one. I thought it was funny that someone once said about a live performance through an internet stream that he had the best sex ever with his girlfriend during my set. And I was really honoured that John Peel played one of my songs on his show. But what was best, I don't know. 
Nor worst. Getting remarks from people who are not into drone music or experimental music in any form that my music is boring doesn't really matter to me. It would be the same if someone asked my opinion about their newest trance or R'n'B track. What do I know about that stuff...I can hear if it is made well or not, but can't tell you if it is something outstanding or special in the scene. 

Who else do you listen to (for pleasure, for inspiration, for a change)?
I got some favorites like Six Organs of Admittance, Sonic Youth (and all side-projects), Richard Youngs, Grouper, Eliane Radigue, Fennesz and more like those. But for me lately the music by Kassel Jaeger is quite special to me. He is this young composer that is connected to GRM, but what he does is so different and quite outstanding from the rest in the whole drone scene. His three albums on Senufo Editions are all gold to me (and his other work is also quite something special). For sure people should check him out. 
I am also quite a lot in to the traditional music from Northern-Africa (Morocco, Algeria) and the Arabic countries and Persian music. And if you really want to make me happy put on some overtone singing from Tibet or India and you'll start hearing me go all the way "whrooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmm" and other throat singing sounds. 
And besides all the experimental and (for Western ears) strange mumbo-jumbo I also quite dig the songs by Angel Olsen, Songs:Ohia and Fleet Foxes or other favourite sing-a-long things such as Best Coast and Jens Lekman. It is all so free of pretension. I love it.  

Does running a label affect your music in any way?
Not really, at least not in how I make things. While when I started the label I didn't want to use it to release my own music at some point this changed. This had to do with loads of problems for other labels with money and such. There will be this CD out this year that passed several labels that since all went bankrupt (or almost and switched direction of music to a more popular sound) that I decided to do it myself. Specially because it seems be quite normal these days. So many label peeps do it. My idea was "if they can, I can". 

What's next for you/Orphax/MFR?
For Orphax and Moving Furniture Records big days are ahead. After the release of my new album "Un coeur, deux coeurs, un coeur, sans coeur" on Broken20 I want to release my album "De Tragedie van een liedjesschrijver zonder woorden" on Moving Furniture Records. I have setup a crowdfunding project for this so people can support me in making this possible. 
People can support me on this by going to http://igg.me/at/orphax-cd and pre-order a CD. 
It is a good and fair way to get some funds to actually get this CD pressed and get the label really running again. Because after that MFR will be putting out a reissue of the first Accrual album, followed by works by Asher. After this period things are getting vague but for sure new ideas will pop up. 
Further with MFR I kicked off a new series for 3" CD-R releases in handmade artwork called The Portrait Series. For this I now have at least 5 musicians who will make an edition and already talking with a 6th. For sure I can say this will be TVO, Matto Frank, Staplerfahrer, Machinist and Martijn Comes. As you can see quite a Dutch bunch of peeps (except TVO), but this will change. 
With MFR we are also planning more concerts for the coming season (after the summer) hopefully also outside my living room. For starters I am working with Ben Nash right now on a show and am having some meetings with an Amsterdam-based organization about a space. Soon I hope to have more news on this one...exciting times ahead, as you can see. 
Other news on the Orphax front is that I am working on new material for at least 3 releases, am talking with a Dutch label about another release (though this is still really vague, and as good might never happen) and just some days ago an old idea I had with Steffan de Turck came up again to make a split LP together. So maybe that will happen also this or the next year...

2013-02-25 by Orphax

Kenneth Kirschner - 111103 (Orphax remix 180605)

J'ai une âme solitaire (excerpt for wandering souls) by Orphax

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