It’s late 2008, and Dag Rosenqvist asks Aaron Martin for a cello part for his then work-in-progress, The Black Sun Transmissions…
That initial request grows into a gradual exchange of musical DNA, part being a recording of an electric guitar from Martin. Rosenqvist, suffering an enforced layover in The Netherlands due to Icelandic ash in the 2010 eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, starts working on that guitar part, which becomes music, which eventually becomes From The Mouth Of The Sun, which leads to the creation of ‘Woven Tide’, which is to be released by Experimedia on January 31st.
So, amongst the lost opportunities and missed deadlines that the grounding of air travel had in 2010, an amazing record emerges from the volcanic ash; literally from the mouth of the sun.
The album has seemingly been on the horizon for several months (if not longer), with Rosenqvist having mentioned it here on Fluid as early as November 2010 in an interview with Alex Gibson, discussing his collaboration with Simon Scott, ‘Conformists’ –
“I’m also working on a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Aaron Martin. We’ve completed five tracks and four more are in the works. In my mind this is the perfect combination of the two of us: lush orchestrated parts, some noisier parts paired with drones and lots of acoustical instruments like cello, pump organ, banjo and piano. This should be out … sometime closer to summer 2011.”
So, given that this work had been crawling over the horizon for quite a while, we all felt pretty keen to know the story behind the epic album. Martin and Rosenqvist kindly discussed the project by email over the last few months, during which time at least one interesting development occurred…
Rosenqvist posted on his blog in late December that he is retiring Jasper TX with one last release, ‘An Index Of Failure’, his comment being “Eleven years is enough I think.” Luckily for listeners of both, Martin and himself plan to continue on with From The Mouth Of The Sun, but the year that produced the record seems to have been eventful one for all concerned…
Did you two know one another from prior to 2008?
AM: No. The first time we came into direct contact with one another was when Dag asked me to do the arrangement for “Weight of Days”. I had been aware of and enjoyed his work as Jasper TX since his album on Lampse, and always felt a connection with what he was doing, though. At that point, I hadn’t had any of my music released, so I never anticipated working together with him on an album. I was pleasantly surprised that we worked together well, and had similar ideas about how to make things work nearly every step of the way.
How did you first cross paths?
DR: The first time I heard of Aaron was when Rutger sent me the ‘Cello Recycling’ 3”. And I immediately liked the approach. There was something raw in it that I really liked so when I started planning for “Weight of Days” I knew that I wanted Aaron to play the cello on it.
For those not familiar with it, the Cello Recycling project was originally commissioned for use in an art gallery, presumably as an installation piece; Rutger Zuydervelt, better known as the somewhat prolific Machinefabriek, took cello improvisations from Martin and built them into a slow-burning post-ambient monster. The project was later released on Type with Martin’s take on Rutger’s work, “Cello Drowning”, two sides of the same tarnished coin.
Where did From The Mouth Of The Sun come from?
DR: Well, I had asked Aaron do record some cello parts that I had written for the track “Weight Of Days” off of ‘The Black Sun Transmissions’. This was back in 2008, I think. So he recorded them and also added some excellent ideas of his own to the recordings. Then he used some of those recordings for the track “Water Tongue” off his ‘Worried About The Fire’ album on Experimedia.
And when he asked me to contribute a remix for an upcoming tape featuring remixes of the entire album I knew I just had to work on “Water Tongue” that in turn contained parts of recordings he had done for me earlier… So there’s actually a connections between those three albums.
How long did the record take, from where it started as an idea to the finished product?
DR: I think we started talking about doing something together in the beginning of 2010 but I know I was very busy at the time and couldn’t really commit to anything right then. Then when Eyjafjallajökull forced the world to a standstill in April I got stuck in den Haag, The Netherlands for an additional three or four days during which I started playing around with some recordings of Trombone and French Horn I had done a couple of months earlier to another project. And during the course of those very insecure, chaotic and strange days I made the foundation to what was to become “Like Shadows In An Empty Cathedral”.
And I actually think that Aaron had sent me a recording of an electric guitar (which is the foundation of “My Skin Drinks Light That Has Passed Through Leaves”) a while before this that I also started playing around with during time. But the collaboration didn’t take off for real (at least for me, as I remember it) until I had left school in the beginning of June and was basically unemployed for almost two months. Then I can’t really remember but I think the album was done like mid-December or something like that. So it was a pretty quick one. So from initial discussions to finished album in about a year.
How did the creative process work between the two of you?
DR: I think I made the basic foundations in terms of chords and stuff like that for most of the tracks. And Aaron would send me sounds and recordings that I built even more foundations of. Some things emanated from previous recordings but transformed into something completely new. And once we had a foundation we would bounce that back and fourth a couple of times. Add stuff, mix and re-mix, add more, take away and mix some more.
The whole process went quite easily actually and I think that we wanted to keep it quite rough, at least that was one of my ambitions with this one. I know that most of what I recorded was first-takes. Everything was very well recorded but I really wanted to keep a spontaneity about the whole thing and not over-work it too much. And that goes for the mixing and processing as well. Thinking about it now I don’t think we ever talked about what we wanted to do in terms of music, we kind of just let it happen and see where it would take us.
And it seemed to work fine.
Do you feel like you captured the rough spontaneity you wanted in the recording? Is it a goal for both of you to keep the life in the music, to not over-work it?
AM: I feel like the album is nice combination of spontaneity and refinement. I tend to record in long takes, rather than piecing together multiple takes. I think that gives the music a more intimate feel. ‘Woven Tide’ has a lot of string arrangements, though, which requires quite a bit of preparation beforehand, and a lot of focus to capture in long takes. I think a lot about what I want to with each individual track as I’m preparing a part, but once I hit record, I allow some room to feel the music out and try something new in the moment. With all of the music I’m involved with, it’s important for me that the listener sense the life behind the music. If the music sounds too pristine or you can no longer penetrate the human element involved in the recording process, I feel like that creates too much distance between the artist and the listener.
DR: I think that I generally tend to over think things a lot when I make music. I am always very critical to what I do and I tend to obsess over minor details. And to some extent I tried to let a bit of that go when we made this album. I always try to record things with good quality audio chains, from the microphone to the preamp and so on. And I think I focused even more on that for these recordings and rather than processing the sounds I tried to just leave them as they were.
Of course I used effects, both while recording and while mixing, but not to the extent I normally do. I wanted to keep the natural sound of things, including all it’s flaws. If the music is too perfect then it loses something. There has to be some grittiness and some dirt in it in order to appeal to me. And that’s where analogue equipment makes all the difference. Using a real piano rather than samples, running things through outboard compressors, tape echoes, reverbs etc. When you use analogue effect chains you allow for the element of chance that often surprises you in unexpected and lovely ways.
Is there a “theme” for the record?
AM: ‘Woven Tide’ has some subconscious themes and layers of meaning that appear throughout, but we didn’t set out with any themes in mind. It would be difficult to pinpoint exactly how to express these meanings, or even if Dag and I would be in agreement on what they are. I think the album coheres quite well as a whole and the listener is free to simply listen or to think about what themes are holding the music together.
DR: I don’t thing there’s a “theme” for it but for me it’s about nature, the ebb and flow of the seasons and the beauty and fury of nature, the shifts and changes. But it’s not a theme that we both agreed on, it’s just a feeling I had while recording and that I get when listening to it now.
Aaron, can you also hear the ebb and flow that Dag talks about?
AM: Yes, I definitely hear that. I think a lot of the music has to do with observing elements in nature or in one’s life that are too substantial for an individual to impact.
In that way, ‘Woven Tide’ has a wider scope with more abstract meaning than my solo work, where the music often concerns specific memories and events in my life.
Dag, you mentioned a love of grit and imperfection; can either of you point to where that influence came?
DR: To me the grittiness comes as a very natural thing. I don’t like recordings that are too perfect. There’s just nothing that kind of get me going when I hear something that is too perfect. I like to have good recording equipment in terms of microphones and outboard effects so that I can capture the frequencies I want in a recording, but I don’t want things to sound too clean and crisp. You have to include and embrace the element of chance when recording. All of a sudden something that you could never plan for seeps into a recording and that minor little thing might just be the thing that makes or breaks the whole recording, if you get what I mean?
I also think it’s a combination of me growing up listening to old jazz records and stuff like The Rolling Stones, Ramones and The Sex Pistols where you can hear that it’s someone actually playing an instrument. I also grew up listening to death and black metal and there’s tons of dirt in those recordings. Or at least it used to be.
I think it all comes down to what you want to achieve in a recording. Sometimes there’s a point in lining stuff straight into the pre-amp too. It’s all about esthetics and choices.
AM: The impetus for me came from both the instruments I use and how I learned to record music. I use a lot of acoustic instruments that are often unprocessed, and when I first started recording, I used a 4-track recorder. A lot of my habits from that beginning period have carried over (many have also been refined). Both of those elements lend themselves to imperfections that give the music a different kind of depth than recordings that are created in a more sophisticated environment.
Has the project spawned any other material that will come out at another point? What’s next for both of you?
DR: At the moment we aren’t working on anything but we definitely plan to do more. That was one of the things when choosing a band name for this, we wanted it to be more than just a one-off thing. The thing is that this collaboration worked so well between us, it was kind of intuitive so it would be a shame not to do more really.
I have a collection of odd bits and pieces that were collected over the last 5-6 years coming out this spring on the American label Handmade Birds. It’s a vinyl entitled ‘An Index of Failure’.
The album was mastered by James Plotkin and right now my fellow studio colleague, musician and friend Thomas Ekelund is hard at work with the cover for it. Which will look absolutely stunning by the way. It’s a collection of tracks that, for various reasons, didn’t get a proper release. Some of them are collaborations that didn’t pan out and some are from compilations that never got done.
It’s not a B-side kind of thing but rather a “best of” unreleased tracks. It actually features on track that I started working on and sent to Aaron for our collaboration. But we discarded it because it didn’t sit right with the rest of the tracks off of “Woven Tide”. So I decided to finish it on my own instead and it turned into something completely different…
It’s worth mentioning at this point that this dialogue comes from early November last year and may sound somewhat dated, given Dag’s decision to retire Jasper TX. While we were in the process of finalizing this interview, Dag agreed to go through a retrospective of his releases for a future article, so there is an adjunct to this dialogue to follow, likely in the next few months…
DR: I also have an album with another duo project called The Silence Set coming out sometime during spring 2012. The duo consists of myself and Johan G. Winther, who’s released tons of excellent music under the Tsukimono moniker. The album is called ‘Teeth Out’ and will be released on Swedish label Fang Bomb. It’s kind of broken lo-fi mixed with some noise elements, proper songs with vocals and everything.
But don’t worry, I’m not singing on it. But we got the wonderful Heather Woods Broderick to write lyrics and sing on one of the tracks, which might just be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been a part of. We got Nils Frahm to record and produce Heathers vocals and he also added some modular synthesizer. Believe me when I say it’s magical.
AM: Not yet, but I’m looking forward to working with Dag again as soon as we both have time to do more. Next up for me will be a release with a musician from New Mexico who records under the name Luperci. He plays sitar and heavily processes it. He did a remix for the recent “Worried about the Fire” remix tape ‘Stitched in Fire’.
I’ve also been contributing cello parts to the new project of Maurice De Jong (Gnaw Their Tongues) called Seirom. That album should be out soon and there are already some unreleased tracks available. A new Irish documentary short called “Remember Me, My Ghost” features eight pieces of my music and one ‘Woven Tide’ piece, as well, which is pretty exciting.
And the album itself?
As you would expect from these two, it is a very accomplished piece of work. There are a number of elements that distinguish it from other similar collaborative releases, primary amongst them a scope of sound used and a sense of mature restraint that reins in some of the more potentially direct pieces. The tracks vary in length from one-minute intros to ten-minute epics, and there’s a broad range of sounds and instruments; piano, guitar, sparse vocals, cello (obviously) and number of unidentifiable tonal elements that weave in and out.
Tracks like “Colour Loss” are good examples of this, with a simple melody directed through many iterations and guises, starting simply and quietly and eventually developing into a layered stringed hiss. One striking feature of the pieces is their well resolved nature; rather than being just random splashed paint on the canvas, all the ideas are developed out fully, given their due and then resolved neatly within the confines of the song. The clearly identifiable starts and ends of each track mean that the album has a sense of depth to it – at no stage do you feel as a listener that you’ve come in midway through something, and as a result the eight tracks have a resolved nature to them that make the album, as a listen, feel much longer time-wise than it is. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, but still feels substantial.
Given how long the album was in development for, the temptation must surely have been to rework it constantly, but both parties have achieved their stated aim of keeping a loose energy to it whilst it still sounds considered and detailed. Walking that fine line, tonally, is the triumph of the project.
The grit and spontaneity that both mention could very well be the “woven tide” of the title; mic noise, tape hiss, hums and rumbles fade in and out in a remarkably subtle fashion, almost to the point the their presence is almost indistinguishable from the music (“Pools Of Rust”), only really able to be focused on in context when their sudden removal highlights their absence.
The mastering is grand as usual from Taylor Duepree, and the artwork by Chris Koelle is both detailed and sparse. ‘Woven Tide’ is to be released worldwide on January 31 2012 on CD, 12” vinyl LP, and digitally. Direct pre-orders for an exclusive bundle with poster are available NOW from Experimedia.
A digital pre-release copy will be included for download with all formats immediately upon ordering in choice of Flac, Apple Lossless, and Mp3.
Woven Tide will be available from independent retailers beginning January 31 2012. Also worth mentioning is a very fine free remix of the track “Pools Of Rust” by Danny Saul available at Soundcloud –
Our thanks again to both the artists (also photographers Laura Steele & Andy Glaser for the use of their work) for their time and involvement, and also a strong recommendation to all reading to not miss this rare occurrence, woven in sound.