Easychord makes a texturally minimal, lush and overflowing sort of ambient music, droney, with use of tape loops music defined with marine mood whereof the favourite format is mid-lenght suites and large wavy soundscapes composed of drone textures...
Hi Roberto, to begin with, how did you choose your moniker Easychord?
To be honest, I cannot recall the exact moment when I decided to use this specific moniker. I have always been in the habit of jotting down notes, words and phrases that inspired me on anything that came handy, be it my moleskine, my mobile or any scrap of paper I could find. I would later use these notes in my creative projects. I had scribbled down the word Easychord some time ago in a similar way. I have always liked the way it sounded and how it looked like on paper. It was only with hindsight that I remembered a song by Stereolab entitled Captain Easychord, but there is no direct reference to it.
I first came across your work through the Italian netlabel Laverna, which released your album Not In My Family Tree. How did that come about and what was the inspiration behind it? Also what’s behind the title?
Yes, Laverna got in touch with me through Enrico Coniglio who was positively impressed by my music and who, slowly but surely, encouraged me to work on an album for Laverna. This proved to be a very good thing as it opened up a few doors enabling me to release Not In My Family Tree on tape on the British label DarkEraTapes and subsequently on CD on Leonardo Rosado’s label Heart and Soul.
I would say that Not In My Family Tree is an album centered round the notion of how difficult it is in our day and age to feel “at home”, so to speak, or to feel comfortable in one’s own shoes. While I was working on the material, I used to ponder on how the people around me, myself included, have relationships issues. Or I used to ask myself why I sometimes find it difficult dealing with my own family or where this certain sense of oppression linked to ideas of belonging and to strict social conventions we have to comply with on a daily basis, comes from. It’s kind of a vicious circle.
Having said that, I don’t really find it such a dark album as it might first seem. I believe it is infused with a high degree of humanity and a sort of melancholic resignation, but in a good way. It suggests a sense of liberation, and functions as a “pacifying” stream of consciousness.
The piano seems to be your instrument of choice, with tentative fragments of melody echoing in the distance lost in the enveloping soundscape. Are these anchoring moments or, rather, deliberately out of focus lines from possible narratives?
The fact that the piano became the central focus around which the other soundscapes rotate was the result of a set of circumstances that saw me living in a small house during the time I was working on Not In My Family Tree that had a small 1950s piano where I spent many Autumn afternoons. This naturally led me to integrate the piano into the album without me even really noticing at first. On the other hand I liked the idea of an album that functioned as a single homogeneous stream, with a constant tension or perpetual movement, a bit like a sea current. Therefore, I tried to collect all those parts with a shared common denominator in terms of sound and dynamics while in keeping within a certain continuity concerning audio frequency.
Speaking of narrative, the title of one of your early works, I Wasn’t There For Goodbye, has a narrative quality to it. How important is this aspect to you?
I have to say that over 10 years, since I began making music, I have dabbled with different genres but every process and development I have gone through in terms of sound has followed a “textual” narrative line. In a certain sense, as a film buff, I consider making an album as akin to making a film or a documentary.
Behind the evolution of a piece of work, implicitly there’s always a concept, it doesn’t matter whether this is made evident or not.
I find it more interesting to leave any possible interpretation open ended just as with abstract art or Hermeticism in poetry unless one is dealing with installations or commissioned sound works that often adhere to a precise theme.
With Easychord I work a lot on the concepts of “circularity” and “slowness” and I have to say that I found it very satisfying to read the following quote by John Berger on abstract art in a recent review of Not In My Family Tree: “As if the painting—absolutely still, soundless— becomes a corridor, connecting the moment it represents with the moment at which you are looking at it”. This means that I have been able to translate into sound the concept I had in mind.
Loops figure very prominently in your work, with the sound aiming for some distant vanishing point. How important is the circular motif in your own soundworld?
Yes, loops are definitely important in my work. I am fascinated by them. I have always pursued a circular and impressionistic approach to music, the same spiral movement that is noticeable on old tapes where melodies unfold slowly and in a slightly cloudy way as if they were rings of smoke.
Are endings difficult for you?
Within the creative process I have learnt over time to “go with the flow”, to leave everything to pour out as if it was hemorrhaging in order to have the music sound credible and heartfelt. Very often I find it difficult to end a track. Come to think of it, there’s so much stuff that will remain trapped forever on my laptop or binned without finding a resolution. Still, more often than not, I am surprised by how things develop slowly but surely from an initial state of natural chaos into something concrete. I like it when this happens because these tracks acquire traits similar to meditation.
Sure it is not easy to let oneself go, because often one is obsessed, in an unhealthy way, with the idea of making music, however if one manages to acquire that method, things begin to unfold in a slow but fascinating way.
If your music was a photograph, I would say it was a back-lit image with the shapes clearly outlined and the details immersed in darkness and barley visible. And yet the sound is very luminous. Do you like working with light and shade effects?
Thanks for this accurate description, which I agree with. Aside from films, I have also a strong interest in the visual arts, and in particular in photography and architecture and even though I do not consider myself an expert on the subject I feel that these two disciplines are akin to the musical path I have undertaken. This is reflected by the choice of photographs for my albums and the propensity for geometrical illustrations on the covers.
Concerning the use of lights and visuals instead, some time ago, I worked on the sound design for photographer Sara Bracco’s installation A Spine of Photograph, which included a video inspired by Paul Auster and his novel The Invention of Solitude. As part of the installation I performed within a net structure and behind a fabric with loosely weaved strings onto which lights and images were projected.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of working with images and I hope to have the opportunity of doing it more often in the future. It would be very gratifying for me, without a doubt.
With You, The Ocean you seem to have gone back to basics in a way, focusing very strongly on analogue and organic sounds only to construct what is probably your most complex work to date. Is this the direction you will be following for the foreseeable future?
Yes, with “You, The Ocean” I have undoubtedly employed a different practical approach from my previous works. I wanted to create first and foremost something more physical and which had a live origin. The recording originated from field recordings captured live, without the aid of laptops and was developed from many different sources and instruments with the intent of creating a single and organic stream in which to lose oneself. Amongst the works I have produced under the Easychord moniker, this is the track that comes closer to the concept of the “sounds of memory”, which is something I would like to develop further in the future.
The work of 12k and people like Stephan Mathieu seems to have had quite an influence on you. If your dream label asked you to do a split release with an artist of your own choice, who would you choose and why?
I truly appreciate Mathieu’s path and I consider him to be a master in his own genre. All his albums combine elegance with beauty and the same applies to 12k’s output. Thanks for thinking of my work in relation to theirs. Still, I am not sure they have a direct influence on my music. To be honest I have never thought about it. In the end I don’t think it is important. There are several labels I follow and that I consider akin to my idea of music. A part from Taylor Deupree’s label I would like to cite two other lesser know labels, Cotton Goods and Slaapwel Records, as well as the legendary Kranky, but there are many other good ones. If I had to choose an artist with whom I’d like to collaborate, I’d be ambitious and would love to do an ambient split release with Mark Nelson from Pan American and Labradford. His output has always been very coherent and elegant and I have always admired the way he developed his output over the years without losing in credibility and style. The same could be said about Philip Jack another artist I greatly admired.
You are from Turin, an industrial town in the Piedmont region. What kind of influence would you say this city has had on your own music if any at all? Also have you got any favorite areas, places, streets, buildings, anything that holds a special meaning to you?
In the course of the last few years, I have started to love more and more the city I live in, with its shy and reserved character and its characteristic Nordic coldness that makes it so beautiful. I love experiencing Turin by night or on those rare occasions when it feels depopulated and one can discover unexpected corners and vistas. The city is infused in its sparkling grey colour, which never feels oppressive, even when melancholic and sumptuous. There is so much beauty and architectural appeal from a past era that I find it a constant source of inspiration.
Amongst the different sites within Turin,, my favorites are the Palatine Gate and the archeological park with its Roman ruins, Piazza Carignano, the Valentino Park, the Precollina, and the post-industrial and vaguely distressing atmosphere of the Lingotto track. I would also like to cite Villa Capriglio, which was used as a location in a number of films by Dario Argento, San Salvario because of its colours and the fact that it is multicultural, the Principi D’Acaja district where I would like to live, and finally the central area of Via Montebello, a real magnet for film buffs where one has a vantage and breathtaking view of the Mole Antonelliana.
The cultural scene in Turin seems to be quite lively and diverse. Anything you would recommend in particular?
Turin is undoubtedly quite a vibrant city in terms of musicians and artists, it stands at a crossroads for different cultures and genres and for this reason it is hard to work out what is being portrayed in terms of cultural scene. It has always been a great magnet for contemporary/classical music and, in the past few years, Turin has become one of the leading design capitals of the world as well as being renowned for its electronic music festivals.
In terms of music experimentation I would like to cite Enore Zaffiri, a composer and musician who founded the Sudio di Musica Elettronica di Torino (Turin’s Electronic Music Studio or SMET). He spread the new electronic music language in Italy in the 60s and the 70s through the use of synthesizers as a concert hall instrument and with the aid of visuals. In a nutshell, he is one of the greatest Italian musicians to specialize in Computer Art.
What are you currently working on and when are we to expect the next fully formed Easychord album?
I am working on new material, but I prefer to let each album unfold slowly, I need to become intimate with the music I play and with that sensation of surprise that takes hold of me when I suddenly realize I have something concrete in my hands.
We live in “fast times”, too fast, and I believe slowness to be the only way to reconcile oneself with the truly essential things in our lives.
I admit to being hypercritical towards the wealth of music and art, which is currently being produced. I do not believe we need such an overload of content, as a result of which we find ourselves out of step with the real weight of things.
In the past decade we have become greedy, sadly arrogant and competitive and I believe that times are ripe for a new beginning. There is no lack of ideas, it’s just the urgency with which albums, films or art of any kind is produced that is no longer there.