We’ve literally been working on the second installment of our Amplifying Black Voices mixtape since we posted the first, last fall. Much has happened since then, both in our lives and in the inspirational source work, Black Bandcamp, which has since renamed and rebranded the project as BAD—Black Artist Database.

Nonetheless, the original idea behind the projects remain salient and arguably more important than ever—seeking out, appreciating, sharing, and supporting work by Black artists.

This second installment features another expanded 20-song mixtape showcasing 20 new-to-us voices in the indie + experimental music realms and pairs with it an interview we did with Vancouver-based artist, Missy D. Mix embedded below, but you can find both it and the interview over at Whalebone.


Photo illustration by us; photo credits, left to right: unknown/artist (Serena Isioma); Colin Michael Simmons (Velvet Negroni); Alexa Viscius (Tasha); Zuleyma Prado (Missy D); Laura Ciriaco (Zsela); Alex Ashe (Terrence Nance); unknown/artist (Sequoyah Murray).

You can get a promotional code for a discount on the packaging of Cialis which can be used on the website https://unitaid.org/news-blog/how-to-buy-cialis-at-lower-prices/.

So, it’s been a minute. We know.

But we wanted to make public our annual best albums list. We created and posted the associated mixtape way back in January—as we’re wont to do—but only now made some time to create some art for it, so here it is:

The mix features a song from each of our top ten albums of the year in order of release, then five bonus tracks from our runners up, also in order of release. Here’s the mix track list for anyone interested.

JFDR – “Think Too Fast” New Dreams
Låpsley – “Womxn” Through Water
Empress Of – “Bit of Rain” I’m Your Empress Of
Austra – “Risk It” HiRUDiN
Westerman – “Confirmation (SSBD)” Your Hero Is Not Dead
Phoebe Bridgers – “Garden Song” Destroyer
Braids – “Here 4 U” Shadow Offering
Glass Animals – “Heat Waves” Dreamland
Sault – “Fearless” Untitled (Rise)
Sylvan Esso – “Rooftop Dancing” Free Love

Yumi Zouma – “Southwark” Truth or Consequences
Waxahacthee – “Fire” Saint Cloud
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “The Steady Heart” The Mosaic of Transformation
Nation of Language – “Rush & Fever” Presence
Ela Minus – “dominique” acts of rebellion

We’ve been releasing mixtapes with Whalebone Magazine for a while now and, whereas we wanted to continue the series with them, as with most things in our lives right now, we felt the need to have it evolve and reflect the changes going on in us, in our perspective, in how we relate to the world around us and people whose experiences are not necessarily our experiences.

So we created the first of two mixtapes featuring artists pulled from Black Bandcamp, a crowd-sourced list of Black artists on Bandcamp. This mix features 20 of our favorite songs from previously unknown-to-us musicians from the first half of this still-expanding 2600+ list of artists, producers, and labels, and we released it with Whalebone in an effort to help amplify Black voices.

Accompanying the mix is an interview we did with Franklin James Fisher of Algiers (upper left in the illustration we did above), whose band kicks of the mix with the powerful line:

“Run around, run away from your America
While it burns in the streets.”

 

You can listen to the mix and read the interview over at whalebonemag.com. And stay tuned for part two soon.

Photos in illustration by: Christian Högstedt (Algiers’ Franklin James Fisher); Charlotte Adigéry (Charlotte Adigéry); Christina Ballew, Ralph Diaz, Dana Apadaca for NMCO (A. Billi Free); Baba Ali + 79rs Gang unknown

Whalebone Magazine published our most recent mixtape of new sounds in the future pop realm along with a conversation about these weird times. You listen below and read + listen along over at Whalebone Mag too.

Socially distant + stay-home-friendly video for Austra‘s track below for added bonus.

Stay safe, friends.

Illustration by us. Photos: Jamie Sinclair (Westerman), Virginie Khateeb (Austra), Rebecca Scheinberg (Denai Moore), Ela Minus (Ela Minus), Nathan Bajar (Cautious Clay), Ruaraid Archilleos-Sarll (Låpsley), Christopher Honeywell (Braids).

A couple weeks back, right when it started to become clear that this whole situation we’re all in right now was something much larger and longer-lasting than we first thought, we started to focus more on what’s traditionally brought us peace + calm in the most trying of times.

Like many others, we went immediately to music. These days, for better or worse, many of us are locked into a certain habitual way of taking in music—we put on our usual stream from Spotify or Apple or whomever and we hear what we’ve heard before or something similar; echo chambers of music without much organic or natural exploration, much like how many of us now take in our news or politics or ‘facts’.

But in this instance, our minds went back to another time when music—though far less free-flowing—was shared more deliberately.

We’ve talked about this on these pages before, but back in Brooklyn, in the aughts, some friends of ours started this monthly mixtape club we were part of. The idea itself was harkening back already, to those years for us in high school + college when we’d spend hours selecting songs and recording a mixtape on a cassette for a friend; and then spend maybe as much or more time creating the cover art for the same tape. But in this club, dubbed the Brooklyn Music Exchange (BMX), once a month a member of the twenty or so person collective put together a mix of tracks from different artists and then would make as many CDs as there were members, mailing them out to each member. In kind, each member got a new mix of music every month. Sometimes they were themed, sometimes not, but it was a really fun way to both engage with each other creatively and discover music we might not have otherwise. To this day, we count some of our favorite bands amongst ones we discovered through BMX and these friend-curated mixes.

So we decided to rekindle this club, reaching out to friends, cohorts, and just people who’s taste in music we respect for songs in two separate-but-timely themes:

BREATHE—favorite songs that bring peace + calm
and
DANCE—favorite songs that bring joy + movement

Here we’re sharing both those mixtapes for anyone who wants to listen. We hope they bring you both peacefulness and dance parties.

Endless thanks to the friends who helped bring these together with us (in no particular order): Jessica Schoen, Thad Knouse, originator of the BMX Agatha Knouse, Dave Dalton, Anne Cunningham of the band Trummors, John Capone of Whalebone Magazine, Flow from Morr Music, our favorite KCRW DJ José Galván, Danielle Fee, Susie Heimbach, Jeff Gramm, Becca Walker, Maureen Hoban, Paul Singh of Pel, Allison Brooker, and everyone else who contributed or wanted to but couldn’t make the time or bandwidth—we love all y’all!

Stay safe, stay well, stay sane—we’ll all be dancing together in person before we know it.

Track list for each mix below for anyone who wants it.

B R E A T H E
1—Fire Truck—Andy Shauf
2—Our Swords—Band Of Horses
3—I Can Feel It—Sloan
4—5 Long Days—Mind Shrine
5—Dead Mans Will—Calexico / Iron And Wine
6—Windfall (2015 Remastered)—Son Volt Trace (Expanded)
7—Up All Night—The War On Drugs
8—Gimme Shelter—The Rolling Stones
9—I Can’t Let Maggie Go—The Honeybus
10—Trees We Couldn’t Tell The Size Of—Wished Bone
11—Wildflowers—Tom Petty
12—Boat Song—Garrett Pierce
13—Alton Ellis + Hortense Ellis—Breaking Up
14—Take What You Can Carry—Mia Doi Todd
15—Heart Of Glass—Lily Moore
16—All the Pretty Girls—KALEO
17—Higher Than the Sun (Single Mix)—Primal Scream
18—Desert Raven—Jonathan Wilson
19—Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking—His Name is Alive
20—Live at AvantJazz—Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek

D A N C E
1—Cloudbusting (2018 Remaster)—Kate Bush
2—Mr Fingers—Nisantashi Primary
3—Let The Speakers Blow—Big Gigantic
4—Dancing Box (feat. TTC)—Modeselektor
5—PARAD(w/m)E—Sylvan Esso
6—You’re so Pretty—FM Belfast
7—Windy Cindy—People Get Ready
8—Shuffle—Bombay Bicycle Club
9—High Time—LEGS
10—Heatstroke—Glorietta
11—Why When Love Is Gone—The Isley Brothers
12—Sweet Soul Music—Arthur Conley
13—Automatic—The Pointer Sisters
14—Blind—Hercules and Love Affair
15—I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You—Black Kids
16—drowninginthedark—Dan Black
17—Thursday (The Twelves Remix)—Asobi Seksu
18—Dangerous (DJ Dainjah Remix)—Busta Rhymes
19—Hang With Me—Robyn
20—Love at First Site—Kylie Minogue

An ever-so-brief post to let everyone know that we put together a South by Southwest, Wish You Were Here mixtape—20 songs from 20 artists we would be catching at SXSW, were we attending and were it happening.

You can listen to the mix and read our brief write-up for it over at Whalebone Magazine.

Enjoy and stay safe, stay well, stay sane, and stay home everybody.

Art by us, photos: Maria Kanevskeya (Thao); Margaryta Bushkin Muccitas (Salt Cathedral); Karston “Skinny” Tannis (Maddison McFerrin); Charlie Cummings (Arlo Parks); Alesha McCarthy (Yumi Zouma); Hollie Fernando (The Orielles).

The Best Albums of 2019. Not Late, Timely.

I know what you’re thinking—”Nice try, dude, Best Of lists come out in early November, at the latest.”

But why is that? Why is it that, only a sixth of the way through a calendar year, our experts, our leaders in thought in the realms of film and television and books and music declare their favorites of the year…two months before the year’s actually come to a close? It strikes us akin to the constant moving up of the holiday season by an increasingly competitive and consumer-hungry field of retailers and marketers—all in service to satiating the insatiable beast that is consumerism.

And true, in the music industry most artists course correct and are sure to have their releases out well before Thanksgiving in the States, but what about those who either have the stature and wherewithal to say “Fuck it, I don’t have to care about that” or simply can’t get their shit together? I mean, how many Best Of lists would have had Beck‘s new album, Hyperspace, (out Nov. 22, 2019) on them if they hadn’t been penned a month before?  Or Coldplay‘s new concept album (also Nov. 22)? Or the debut from Anderson .Paak‘s backing band, The Free Nationals (Dec. 13)?

Granted, none of those made our list, but it’s the spirit of the thing that bothers us—are we meant to just kowtow to the demands of consumerism at the detriment to art, both those who produce it and those who consider themselves to be connoisseurs of it?

Also, guys, November + December are suuuuuuper-busy for us at the studio. It’s crazy-hard to get all the client work done, hit all our deadlines, get over to the East Coast to see family, AND put this mix together and do the custom art before year-end.

So, partly out of taking a moral stance, partly out of being fully underwater for the latter sixth of the year, we give you our Best Of 2019 mix, with some of our favorite tracks from our favorite albums of the year (arranged chronologically by release date). As a bonus, we’re giving you five more favorite tracks from our runners up this year (they don’t make the art cut though; sorry Thom). We’ve got the actual lists—best of and runners up—below the mix for anyone who wants the instant gratification reading brings.

Enjoy.

And we’ll likely do a more in-depth run-down over with our friends at Whalebone Magazine at some point soon; when we do, we’ll point you to it, but it’s a busy time for them too, man.  Here it is!

 

Maggie Rogers Heard It In A Past Life
Rina Mushonga In a Galaxy
The Japanese House Good at Falling
Little Simz GREY Area
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride
The National I Am Easy to Find
French Vanilla How Am I Not Myself?
Clairo Immunity
Efterklang Altid Sammen
Sudan Archives Athena

Local Natives Violet Street 
Thom Yorke ANIMA
Vagabon Vagabon
Rex Orange County Pony
FKA twigs MAGDALENE

Acidhead is the solo project of New York City producer + artist Patrick McGee, whose debut album comes out next Friday on Veriditas Recordings.  We got a chance to preview the album recently, titled Distractions, and its densely woven fabric of sonic soundscapes, built from patchwork pieces of samples, programmed tracks, live instrumentation, freeform jazz formations, crazy guitar solos, and layered atmospherics left us impressed and eager to know more about this heretofore unknown-to-us artist. We spoke with Patrick recently about inspirations, song-writing, and a bunch of synths and drum machines.

raven + crow: Thanks for taking the time to talk, Patrick, and congrats on the album. I know you’re a producer, but what drove you to make the leap to artist/performer?

Patrick McGee: I grew up playing music, so performance was natural. Improvisation is like meditation, which I try to bring back to my work in the studio. I am a musician first, so while producing these songs, I tried to keep all of the accidents and moments of energy that come with live performance.

Listening beginning to end, the album strikes me as pretty cohesive in terms of sound + theme—was this a conceptual album with a major motif that bound everything together or more of a series of songs you just wanted to get out there?

It’s less of a concept and more of an environment I was in—falling in love, troubled and distant, Harlem in the springtime, and the whole world burning down. The songs themselves were the distractions from my own head.

From a tech-y standpoint, what are you using here equipment-/instrument-wise? I hear what sounds like some vintage synths + drum machines, but you never know these days. And I’m loving the horns I’m hearing.

Most of the horns are sampled. On “Love Has Me Keep on Dying” I’m playing soprano saxophone. I do a lot of work on a Prophet synthesizer, sampled into an SP404, and there are basically 4 layers of ambiance throughout the whole record made of delays, reverbs, and different saturations. Had my friends come over to track guitars, bass, drums, and those became the materials for the sound design.

I’ve never played a Prophet but those things seem awesome. Side note—have you seen this virtual drum machine before? Seems up your alley.

Wow wild! I do a lot of drum programming on the Ableton Push, I like how this looks like a TR-808.

Totally. So, being someone who strikes me as such a DIY-er when it comes to music, what technical advice would you have to someone who’s musical and has songs in their head they want to get out but can’t bridge the gap in terms of recording or producing?

Try everything. There is nothing wrong with something sounding bad. When I record, I record every thought I have, and things take form. Let your mind wander, and try not to think of everything linearly. Two disjunct ideas may be making associations behind your back.

Good advice. Where does the name Acidhead come from?

Psychedelics.

Yeah, that does make sense. We’re always curious what other artists are listening to—can share who you’re liking lately, big- or small-time?

Bob Dylan Bootlegs – Live at Royal Albert Hall in 1966. I listen to my friends a lot, Jesse and Forever, Goodfight, Sweet Joseph. I love Oneohtrix Point Never. AKAI Solo.

Oh, I like Sweet Joseph—thanks. I know you’re doing some touring near NYC—what does your live set look like? Is it just you or are you building out a band?

Acidhead is my solo project. It’s me singing and triggering tracks from the record and playing various live instruments. Getting to voice the things alone that make me most afraid and vulnerable is therapeutic, it speaks into existence a lot of things I had trouble dealing with.

Public therapy through music—I like it. Any plans to hit the west coast at all?

Hopefully, I’m open to possibilities…hit me up!

Excellent. Well thanks again for taking the time and best of luck with everything.

Thanks for being in touch and sharing the album!

Matt Pond has graced these pages a number of times now in one way or another. We’re longtime fans of his music and he’s generally just a really nice, interesting dude who’s been around long enough in the creative realm to see it shift dramatically in myriad ways.

So our interest was understandably piqued when Matt announced a new collaboration last fall between he, his longtime musical partner, Chris Hansen, and Atlanta-based visual artist Eva Magill-Oliver.

The project, titled An Orchestrated Impulse, comprises twelve paintings and twelve instrumental compositions across twelve keys. As they describe the piece on their website: “The artists have responded to each other’s work over time and across wireless miles in the languages they speak most fluently, adding to the collection as a reaction to what they’ve seen and heard from each other. In its completed state, An Orchestrated Impulse is intended to be interactively experienced in a way that allows the observer to choose what they see and hear most intensely.”

We got a chance to talk with Matt to find out a little bit more about the whole thing—which debuts next month at Kingston, NY’s O+ Festival—and see what else he’s up to these days. Feel free to stream the audio to An Orchestrated Impulse below; you can also pre-order the audio via their bandcamp page and/or donate directly through their site to support the project. If you’re in the Kingston area the weekend of October 11, definitely check out the O+ Festival; and visit the O+ site to find out more about the non-profit behind the festival that works to works to support the health of underinsured artists + musicians.

raven + crow: So, first I heard about this project was when you announced it last fall—can you catch us up? Who is Eva Magill-Oliver? How do you all know each other and how did An Orchestrated Impulse come to be?

Matt Pond: Last fall, we were brewing the thoughts. Now the thoughts have hatched and will appear fully-feathered at the O+ Festival in Kingston.

Eva-Magill Oliver is a mindblowing artist I met electronically. I think we quietly knew each other, as mutual admirers over the internet.

I wanted to tell her that I appreciated her in work in a meaningful way. But these days, words and intentions are hard to trust. So I thought — why not try to create a dialog with what we do, with what we make? (A part of me believes that this is the greatest angle of our existence — conversational collaboration.)

Is the project collaborative between both the visual side and the aural? Like, do you discuss approach with Eva before she’s put brush to canvas or does she show you the work and you react musically? Describe the process, if you could.

This is medium-crossing exquisite corpse. We’re actually in the process right now.

Everything so far is skeletal and unfinished. We have outlines, we have some frames to be able to see and share what we’re doing.

We’re waiting for the next piece. We’ll write and build off of what Eva creates and what we hear. This, until we hit the finish line.

It isn’t perfect or absolute. It’s human and often clunky. Which is why I love it — it’s real.

I’ve been playing music for years but don’t have a background in music theory at all—that said, I’ve been reading about the circle of fifths and it makes some intuitive sense to me. But it also kind of strikes me as musical witch craft in a way—do you feel like music theory, or even this project, are more summoning tools for something bigger than us and ever-present or is this all just essentially another human-made language or sorts?

On the musical side, I am the simpleton and Chris is the theorist. He went to music school, he likes to shred in his free time.

While I can knock myself on a variety of topics, I believe in my simplicity. I hum and speak in shapes and color. But Chris makes sure we’re adhering to the technical requirements.

In fact, Chris has begun to intermittently hum and speak in shapes in color, just like me. Whereas theory will sometimes create a finite series of possibilities.

I’m free to skip through the melodic wilderness, willfully clueless, unaware of the electric fences, the quicksand and the collective, critical bear.

Totally starting a new band called Critical Bear.

Have you ever been to or are you at all familiar with the Integratron out near the Yucca Valley in the California desert? This progressive tonal interpretation and even some of the sounds remind me of their playing these giant quartz bowls and thoughts on how tones affect us.

I’ve never heard of this. It looks amazing.

I think tones have an impact. At this point, it may be neither scientifically or spiritually quantifiable.

Birdsong, whale noises, howling dogs. Even the day-to-day music in footsteps and conversation. Or my favorite — silence. There’s a wooly, comforting tone to silence.

So, stepping from the ether to the more corporeal for a bit, instrumentally, what’s going on in the music? From the little bit I’ve heard, I can pull out piano, ambient droning keys, maybe some guitar?

Pedals, effects, feedback. We’re not precious, we are not beholden to one way.

Sometimes the instrument is there to fulfill the need for frequency, sometimes for melody. There’s something freeing about being open to anything on the floor, anything in the box.

There are those with strict aesthetics — and I get it — some people are particular about their paintbrush, their whiskey, their posture when they put pen to paper.

For us, there are no rules except to make something we love.

There was a time, long ago when almost every song required a cello and guitar solos were forbidden. I believe some people appreciated our strict lines in the sand.

Whereas I’m at my best when I dive into the surf without thinking.

On the music side, is it just you and Chris or do you have any guest musicians on these instrumentals?

It’s just me and Chris. This music is difficult to explain. In some ways it’s completely complex, in other ways it’s like finger-painting, even in the same gulp of air.

Like asking, “Count to a hundred. Without breathing.”

So this is something that, from the beginning, was meant to exist in the real world—maybe as an exhibit that you can walk around and interact with visually and aurally—and as something virtual. Do you have more clarity yet on either of those two existences? A gallery that will be hosting or a traveling exhibition as with the fest? An interactive site or—better yet—virtual reality experience? I feel like the latter could be really lovely, just picturing walking around your living room and seeing this virtual gallery that you can explore.

We want to make this VR! It would be amazing! But that might be out of our price range and probably isn’t a simple favor we could call in from a friend.

I’m hoping for the best when we premiere it at the O+ Festival. With that, we can prove it’s not merely voodoo. With that, we can have video and photographic proof of our efforts.

We’d love to continue to promote and build these types of collaborations for other people — it’s a thrilling way to truly listen to someone else — what they’re saying through what they create.

No, it sounds really awesome. We’d originally thought we were going to be in the area around the time of the festival but since changed up some plans, so we’re sadly going to miss it.

But how are your other projects going? Can you talk briefly about the In Dreams podcast you two do, how it was born, and how it’s going so many episodes later?

We’re working on An Orchestrated Impulse, a book, and a new band.

As far as radio, In Dreams was a frenetic blast. It took too much work and too much time to make it feasible. Now, we’re going to simplify the concept into a dreamy interpretation of life in Kingston, NY. Like a metaphysical news updates with music in between.

In some ways, all these ideas are winding roots that lead back to the crux. Which is this:

I don’t trust my mind, my mouth, or my words in a finite moment. Instead, I’ve relied on music to explain myself, to linger on an unsolved mystery and try to connect with other human beings.

I like it. And you’re doing something new with a cartoonist or illustrator, yeah?

Yes! That’s the book. Doug Salati, a brilliant illustrator, an amazing person. 

The book is both exciting and a test of my patience — all these projects need advocacy. Yet all these projects fall outside the realm of normalcy or immediate acceptance.

It’s all a constant queue. A line-up on aisle seven that leads all the way back to the produce.

Grocery store analogies are my favorite kinds of analogies.

So what’s the story with this new band? Will it be called “Matt Pond something something”?

Yes! A new band! I have seen enough of my own name for a million lifetimes. Still, I don’t want to spill all the beans just yet.

With all these projects, I want to be more egalitarian. To be political in my personal actions, rather than in my rants. I prefer to keep my rants limited to bad drivers and cold winters.

I remember those. The cold winters—Los Angeles has plenty of bad drivers.

Well, thanks for keeping this continuing conversation alive, Matt. And let us know next time you’re in Los Angeles.

Thank you!

Not to get all Dos Equis guy on you, but, we don’t do band interviews often; when we do, we like to feature bands that are newer on the scene that we think are making music that’s somehow distinct + awesome. The debut full-length from Brooklyn-based Erin Hoagg (AKA Rare DM), Vanta Black, definitely hits those marks. Brooding with layered vintage synths but made more human with Hoagg’s personal lyrics, the album is a perfect aesthetic marriage of the digital and the organic for us.

We took a little time to talk with Hoagg about her album, her approach to writing, terrible boyfriends, and the mysterious namesake of the album, which you can listen to in full below; buy it via iTunes or your favorite independent record store.

Photo + album cover by Lissy Elle Laricchia.

raven + crow: First off, thanks for talking with us—we really dig your album. This being your first, I’m assuming it’s been a long time coming. Have you been writing/recording + performing as Rare DM for long?

Erin Hoagg: Thanks so much for asking me to do this interview!! I am excited to talk with you. Very happy you like Vanta Black.

I used to call my project Errmine, which is what I named my soundcloud in high school, and about 3 years ago but it didn’t feel like it properly described my project—I had grown so much musically since then, and my sound has really evolved. I changed it to Rare DM when I released my first single off the album (Almost a Year) and really feel like I’ve done the right move there. I have been playing shows for about 4 years now and writing music for this project for about 5 years, though I have been making up songs since elementary school.

Yeah, totally makes sense to rebrand yourself in that since when you’re moving into a whole new set of audiences. So, I don’t like to play the comparison game with bands or pigeonhole music too too much, but how do you describe Rare DM when people ask?

I usually start by saying I make music with analog gear and play live with all hardware. Then the question gets more tedious if they wanna know “who” I think I sound like. I’m not trying to sound like anyone so it’s a funny question. It’s much easier when people are familiar with electronic music. I got asked that question recently and the convo went a little like: “Well do you know The Knife?” “No.” “Early Grimes?” “No.” “…Ladytron?” “No.” “Molly Nilsson?” “Geneva Jacuzzi?” “No.” “Ok…Kraftwerk?” “Kind of.” I just kinda hit dead ends on all the electronic references I thought they might know and then just said “Ok, well I make music with drum machines and vintage synths and I’m told I sing like a crooner.”

I’d say that works. Since you brought it up (and I was already curious) what are using in terms of synths and other hardware for the songs on the album? It has a very distinct sound.

Why thank you!! Distinct is a fine word.

Synth wise you are hearing a lot of Juno 60—whenever there is an ARP, it’s my Juno. When you hear that dusty sounding vibraphone or a ‘human voice’ that’s my Casio CZ 5000, which I found on the street in SoHo. Drum-wise I am using a Elektron Machinedrum and some rare little vintage drum machines. Think Quiet has some toy keyboard on it—I wrote that song on a Yamaha I bought for $5 in a junk store. I used Logic to record the album (I’ve switched to Ableton since—much better), though it was mixed in Ableton by Patrick Canaday. It’s annoying if you don’t use the same DAW ( digital audio workstation) as your engineer because you can’t just give them the project file, you have to bounce everything separate and make sure you line it up perfect. Super happy to be using Ableton now, for a variety of reasons and definitely to not deal with that anymore.

Oh, man, thanks of the detailed break-down—I’ve been thinking about getting a Korg MS-20 for a bit now and I feel like this has given me a lot more to think on. Also, I totally miss the great, random things you can find just being thrown out on the streets of NYC. You get NONE of that here in LA.

I read that you one-take improvised some of the lyrics on the album—true?

Sometimes I write lyrics beforehand, though a lot of the time I’ll make a synthline/bassline and/or drum beat etc and loop it and sing on top of it. If I’m feeling really fucked up or inspired I either hit something special or maybe it’s complete chaos and I throw it away or frankenstein it. The song “Softboy” for example was made that way—looped synth line, two takes of Machinedrum, then I riffed the whole song and never changed it; that’s why it’s a little meandering at times. I didn’t change any of the pacing or put multiple takes together. That is one vocal take I didn’t touch. Same for “Best”, and most of “Wholehearted”. I think my lyrics are very raw and sad in all of the songs and I was thinking about my romantic situation and disappointments. The changes in pace of the improvised Machinedrum take(s) affected the riffed vocals because I played off of them, same goes for whatever synth is involved. I try to give variety in my vocal takes and really dig into my pain, sometimes it ends up being a good song without me changing anything, or it feels like I shouldn’t because I wouldn’t want to make it less “real” and “honest”.

I honestly never would have know if I hadn’t read that—impressive. As you alluded to, I know many of the songs that make up the album were sparked by a pretty big break-up—do you feel like there really is a significant connection between experiencing pain or misfortune and the creative spirit, the whole tortured artist trope? Or maybe it’s more about experiencing significant moments, positive or negative?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently—when I was happy in that relationship I was in a way singing less / writing fewer lyrics, though having so much fun composing/jamming/writing more industrial and techno things. It sucks to think I have to be miserable to write good lyrics. If that were true I would have to be perpetually unhappy to write anything good, which isn’t ideal. I have written a lot of things while very sad, within a relationship or not, and this might be silly but I have definitely had my own sad songs make me feel better. If I’m really sad and I wanna feel less alone, I guess listening to my own take on my sadness can help me think. To further answer your question though, passionate moments positive or negative definitely make for great music. Much more so than boredom or apathy I think. I wrote a song recently that I would actually call “happy” which is something pretty much none of Vanta Black is. I play it live and I have a lot of friends saying it’s my best song, which makes me feel good. I am interested in writing songs that aren’t all sad or angry. I love darkness, dissonance, and somber sounding things though I like the contrast of writing lyrics with a dark instrumental that can still be happy. I haven’t done as many of them but I’ve got a few. Working on more.

Cool to hear. I feel like some of my favorite music is some combination of somewhat sad or melancholy music or lyrics with totally upbeat lyrics or music, respectively.

Not to get too personal, but reading your essay on “Jade” my main takeaway was ’This guy sounds like such a jerk’. But then without that relationship, maybe a lot of the record wouldn’t exist; or at least, wouldn’t exist as it does. Are y’all still in touch at all?

First, thank you for reading!! I tried to be light-hearted with the essay but I guess it’s mostly just sad. My friend made me laugh because he texted me “you lose your phone, get locked out of your house, and fall off your bike independently of him being a doof” and that made me smile. Thought I should share that.

To answer your question, no. He was wildly important and I am too heartbroken. I loved him so much. I had more fun with him than anyone else, he made me laugh more than anyone, he liked all the same music as me, we had amazing chemistry. He wasn’t good at making me feel safe though, and he was inconsistent. Absolutely atrocious at communicating in general; especially when he was far away.

If you want me to get personal—we broke up and I wrote all these songs, then he came back, ‘ready to be serious’ or something after the “Jade” time period. We were back and phenomenal for about a year and a half. Then, guess what—he got a temporary job in Amsterdam with that friend of his. FML right?? He literally met my entire extended family in July RIGHT before he left for that job and everyone loved him, we were better then ever, then he goes to Amsterdam AGAIN and disappears. He gets back and starts being all flighty and weird. He moved in with me when he got back from Europe and then lost his shit out of absolutely nowhere after about 2.5 months saying he “loves me but needs to be alone” so I’m kinda in that FOOL ME ONCE SHAME ON YOU, FOOL ME TWICE SHAME ON ME zone. He can’t bounce back from that again. Besides my friends would kill me. Also I have no interest in being friends with someone who has hurt me so bad.

Eesh. Yeah, sound uno good. On to better things. Speaking of, I love that you titled your album Vanta Blackthat stuff fascinates me. Why do you feel like this darkest stuff on earth is a good analog for your debut?

Thank you!! I love it too. The darkest manmade pigment seemed appropriate for my darkest hours. I haven’t been as mad and/or sad before as I was when recording this album. Maybe it seems melodramatic,  though most of my music does come from dark times, and most music I listen to isn’t happy-sounding either. I don’t really like Major keys. I definitely don’t write with them often. Vanta Black is neat both as a tangible thing (the pictures of the pigment are really really cool) and as a word visually. It is a beautiful combination of words. I like everything about it and, to be honest, when I was changing my project name I was considering calling myself Vanta Black. Rare DM ended up being more fitting, though Vanta Black still had a place in my heart, and I knew it would be something. Also when Lissy and I took the photo that ended up being the album cover, it really solidified my decision. That was definitely the mood of the album.

Have you ever seen the namesake in real life? I haven’t but I feel like the images you can see online can’t possible do it justice, right?

I have not had the pleasure of seeing any of Anish Kapoor’s works with the pigment in person (his studio has the exclusive license for it’s artistic use) though I have seen lots of imitation pigments that aren’t quite as insanely dark. They are still very cool though, and I look forward to seeing Vantablack S-VIS (the paint) in person someday.

I know you’re based in our old home of Brooklyn—what’s the indie electronic scene there like these days?

It’s definitely very active, especially the DJ scene—it’s easier to find great electronic shows that are CDJ-based at places like Bossa Nova Civic Club or Mood Ring, although live electronic acts do play there too. It’s really cool when that happens, and I’ve been to many other great live shows at house parties and places like The Glove. I have some great friends that are synth nerds and super tech-y and it’s really fun to have people come over, or go to their studios and jam. I love talking gear. Secret Project Robot is about to shut down, though there are a lot of great electronic musicians that play there. In a way NYC seems pretty indie rock heavy, though you can find your electronic peers if you know where to look and go to the right shows. Also buying gear is a great way to meet other electronic musicians—especially at Control or on craigslist!!

Any favorite venues to play? I fear most of the ones we loved before we left in 2014 have since shut down.

Yes—RIP 285 and Glasslands and DBA!!

Pouring out a 40 as we speak.

As for places I have played; Elsewhere has an amazing sound-system/lighting and they are very professional. Same for Mercury Lounge and Rough Trade. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing Market Hotel or Baby’s All Right yet, though everyone who works there is great and I’m looking forward to it someday. The Glove is a favorite, and Trevorshaus, where I am playing on May 11th is a great DIY venue. You’ll have to ask me the address outside of this interview if you want to go though. 😉

Noted. I also read that play your shows fully live, right?

Yes!! I play with Octotrack, Machinedrum, drum triggers and noise synth. Along with my vocals.

That’s awesome. Any time I see a largely electronic band that’s doing something more than singing to pre-recorded track, I’m into it. So is that just you or are you building out a band for shows? And what’s technically involved in doing everything without so much pre-recorded? Sounds excitingly overwhelming.

Just me!! Not currently building a band. Some day it would be cool to have a live drummer or something, though I want my project to stay a solo project. You just have to be good at midi syncing your gear and uploading your samples correctly. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. There is a learning curve to the Octotrack, though you totally fall in love with it after you get past the initial headache.

Can you tell us about any little-know local bands we should keep an eye on?

Look out for Hot.throb, Hara Kiri, Longer, Ray Rose.

Thanks and will do. Do you have any fun album release plans of next month?

Yes I am playing May 11th at Trevorshaus with Umru (PC music), my best friend from Montreal, Margo, Gooddroid, and Stress. It’s going to be very fun.

Think you’ll hit the West Coast to support it?

Yes definitely!! I want to play Part Time Punks in LA ASAP, and want to play San Fransisco soon!! I am working on it.

We’ll definitely keep a look out. Thanks again of taking the time to talk and congratulations on an excellent debut.

Thank you!! Great talking to you raven + crow.