Your new album, Luminance, was released last April by Somewhere Recordings. The title seems to reference a verse from Leonard Cohen’s song, Anthem, “There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in”. The interplay between light and shade, between what is apparent and what lies hidden, is at the core of the album. Could you tell me something about the genesis of this album and its underlying concept?
To be honest, the concept came later. I had 4 or 5 tracks, which are now part of this album, on my Soundcloud account when Tim, the label head at Somehow Recordings, contacted me to tell me, “Remove them from the web, I want to do a full release”.
Therefore, I gathered my ideas and organized the material I had, creating further new tracks and, above all, trying to find a common style and a common concept for the tracks.
While I was working, I noticed that most of the tracks had some vaguely cryptic early parts. There were many field recordings, some atonal parts and a loose time structure. It was like a kind of prelude to something “important” that should have come later. Indeed, after a while, something did happen, and an overriding theme emerged, a musical theme, mostly psychedelic, cinematic, and ethereal, but with a solid internal structure.
In a word, I identified at a conceptual level, the “Theme” with the “Light” and the “Preludes” with the “Cracks” mentioned by Leonard Cohen.
Memory is a recurring theme of yours. “A type of memory that feeds on field recordings, sometimes piano parts, sometimes gentle pads and cinematic atmospheres.” Does weaving in a strong sense of melody help you to create this distinct and almost nostalgic feel?
I think “the sound of memory” is a like tool that allows you to have some kind of mental projection over the past.
This type of sound is often muffled, softened, and in my case, interwoven with field recordings.
I prefer to disorient or to try and surprise the listener with something that already belongs to them, with sounds and objects that are already part of them, something familiar like a distant, muffled piano or samples, voices and samples that somehow can give a feeling of a shared past or experience. In this sense, the melody reveals itself as an important tool in the context of musical experimentation for the whole track.
Video has always been an integral part of your work, but I feel with Luminance the link has become even stronger, to the point that I’m left wondering whether the images might sometimes come before the sound. Was that ever the case and how did you go about creating the artwork and the visuals for the new album?
As I said mentioned earlier, I didn’t begin this project with a concept in mind. I just created music and shot videos. Only later, I realized that some of the material had a common thread. The concept emerged naturally. From that point on, I moved in a more conscious way, following the style and concept that was developing organically. I work a lot with video editing to make sense of the sound, and vice versa, especially when I produce site-specific installations. At the end of the process, when I was scrolling through the photos I had on my camera, I found the perfect image for the cover: a little girl playing on her own in a room (she is the daughter of a friend of mine). She is captured at the centre of the frame with a strong interplay of light and shadow.
Indeed, there are close similarities between your visual and you aural work, in the way you create and investigate intricate textures and explore different surfaces. Water, for instance, is a strong element, which finds its sonic counterpart in the use of loops. There’s also often some kind of journey involved. What has your own journey been like with this album?
The journey was beautiful and intense, but also difficult. Music is the only area in which I am extremely meticulous so many songs have been reworked several times. I must admit that initially, I wasn’t even 100% convinced of some of the songs selected by Tim. I thought that they were good songs for “Soundcloud” but maybe not for an album, and that I could do better. Therefore, I reworked the music concentrating above all on the mastering. After that, another problem was born: to produce something in line with that same mood, and with the kind of concept that had emerged. Of course, the music was more difficult and required more time. The videos evolved almost naturally. For “Lacks Soul”, I already had some nice shots I’d taken at the “Eur Park” in Rome. For “Further”, instead, I worked mostly on the editing with pre-existing material and I focused on the post-production side of things.
Since we last spoke you have conducted a number of further soundwalks and workshops in different cities such as Bisceglie and Bologna amongst others. How did these new experiences compare to your first forays into sound mapping when you worked in Taranto and in the Pigneto district in Rome together with Alessio Ballerini? Is it still difficult to find financing, for instance, or were you able to build on past experiences?
Sure enough, many things have changed. At the time when I realized the sound map of Taranto, AIPS (Italian Soundscapes Archive) did not exist, and I still hadn’t met Alessio. Only the following year later, when I moved to Rome, I eventually met Alessio and together we decided to create AIPS. We then found a formula, and a shared method that could be applied to every workshop within different contexts in various cities.
There is a lot of work to be done during these workshops, both before, and after. Alongside the promotion of the event, and the event itself we now also produce a collective performance on completion of the workshop, which is something we started doing only a few months ago as a way of engaging even further the participants to the workshop. At that point, all the post-production work begins and one has to upload all the audio samples online and embed them onto an interactive map of the city.
AIPS proposes this kind of project to public institutions and associations. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints and the cuts to arts funding, there is generally a lot of interest but little money available, which makes it very difficult to get a project off the ground. Ideally, we would love for these workshops to be open and free to all, but this could only happen if someone covered the running costs for the whole event. We are indeed currently working on trying to find more opportunities to get public funding in order to allow more people to attend our workshops.
– Gianmarco Del Re for Fluid Radio