To begin with, could you tell us something about your background and how you got into music?
I was some kind of music collector when I was a teenager. Mostly I was recording tapes from the radio, visiting local music shops which were selling cassettes; mostly pop music — in the early days of post-independent Georgia it was difficult to find something new and interesting locally. When the internet came through things naturally changed and I was exposed to a bigger world of music. At the same time someone gave me a pirate copy of FL Studio. I didn’t have any formal musical education or knowledge of how to record. It kind of just naturally evolved over some years.
You released your first EPs, Bmuli and Street Risen Wire back in 2010. One can already hear your preoccupation with texture and melody in those early works. How do you approach the making of an album?
I visualise albums as one whole work. For me it’s not just a bunch of tracks grouped together. Especially with this vein of electronic music, I prefer albums that are a cohesive and fluid experience to listen to from start to finish — hopefully with a few surprises throughout. I guess you just have to feel it, to choose the combination that makes sense somehow. Each album is preoccupied with texture, but at the same time I try to make something new because one can get bored with a certain stream or atmosphere of music. Sometimes when I’m making an album I experiment with sounds that I think won’t fit in with the album I’m making at the time; yet sometimes they do fit, and if they don’t then they might be suitable for a compilation or my side-projects.
Most reviewers, mention the fact that you are from Georgia when discussing your work. Indeed a sense of place is often integral to your work, which is frequently built around field recordings. The Late Night Diving EP from 2013, on Kate Carr’s Flaming Pines, for instance, mixes the personal and the political. It was inspired by old wedding footage found during a trip to rural Georgia, and it tackles the country’s Soviet past and its complex relationship with Russia. As the liner notes state, Late Night Diving is about “changes, and struggles big and small. The struggle for national independence, the struggle to find a home. The struggle to change, and the struggle to stay the same. The struggle to remember and to forget.” As a nod to this history you bought yourself a vintage soviet mic, the mke 271 which you used for field recordings. And yet, the field recordings are mostly heavily processed and shaped into loops and drones. How important is it for you, for there to be some location marker in your work?
I have been fairly transient these past years. I left my hometown Batumi in 2009. Since then I’ve been traveling abroad a lot because of my work, and I’ve changed locations here in Tbilisi a couple of times — so I suppose a sense of motion, more than a specific location, influences the mood and/or production of the sound. Maybe living in Georgia has some subconscious impact on the music, but I don’t try to make work that could be described as ‘Georgian’ or ‘post-Soviet’ or what have you.
Your first full-length album, The Diary of a Second Officer, 2012, which came out on Time Released Sounds, is a sort of imagined audio diary, which collects field recordings from several locations. As you described, you travelled with your mini setup: laptop, headphones, 3 octave midi keyboard and hand recorder. Movement plays a large part role in shaping the trajectory of the sound, and yet even when places such as Lagos and Kagoshima are pinpointed in the track titles, there is no immediately identifiable sound, which could trigger some kind of mental image of those different sonic environments. You avoid any “exoticism” preferring to shape a very consistent aural world through subtle variations, rather than jarring juxtapositions, creating clearly defined varying moods sustained by carefully calibrated melodies. How important is structure in your work?
When I first start a track I usually don’t have a strong concept or structure in mind; I approach it openly and let the sounds come out as they want, then pull out what I like and refine. I’m continuously recording, which can be quite overwhelming at times, so after all this process I just want to get to the essence of the track. And then I see where the track fits with other work. So initially I begin quite open, and then become more defined and disciplined through development, but I still leave room for imperfections. A kind of instinctual sense of structure is important.
Under the moniker Aux Field, you’ve recorded the album Imaginable Layers, which came out at the beginning of last year on Umor Rex. As the liner notes indicate, your new project “is an act heavily based on the sound explorations through the hands on processing and modulation of the analog hardware instruments. There is a clear balance between the space-wave-form territories and the controlled beat, which at the end create a mixture of a modern rhythmic and dynamic ambient music and the old school electronic German avant-garde.” With Imaginable Layers you also seem to have confidently stepped out of the confines of the more drone/ambient domain to venture into a rhythmic terrain where pattern tends to prevail over texture. This element was always somehow present in your work, but is this a direction you plan to investigate further in the future?
As you mention, rhythmic elements have always been present in my work, even if camouflaged. However, after producing under my name for some time I really needed something to break the pattern. I wanted to put more emphasis on rhythm in general. Not necessarily with beats or kicks, but with exploring things like arpeggios and percussive synth sequences. I became interested in making more raw sounds dynamic. I wanted to find a more pronounced edge, to make more black and white music, where the instrumentation was harder and the effects more physical. I ended up making four tracks that were markedly different to the rest of my music, so I decided to use a different moniker. Record label Umor Rex showed interest in the project and encouraged me to develop and release what became the debut of ‘Imaginable Layers’. I intend to keep making music as Aux Field.
Your latest album, Budapest, is actually named after the street you live in Tbilisi, which places, once again, location at the centre of the equation with an autobiographical dimension. All tracks were produced and recorded at your place, mixing analog with digital, synths and guitars. The tracks’ titles read almost like a sort of instruction manual, Line In, Pulse Added Two, Line Out… Could you tell us about the genesis of this album?
I had been in contact with Dmitry from ’’Dronarivm’’. He listened to some of my previous work, we were communicating and then he suggested to collaborate. I already had some tracks in progress and just started to record more. Budapest happened more naturally than my other records. It has no grand concept behind it; it is quite personal music I guess. The titles were mostly improvised. I had to record most of the album in the same place as I had acquired quite a bit more equipment; all outboard gear that I enjoyed testing and making new music with. I don’t mean to be vague, but Budapest is a continuation of my music interests in general.
There’s probably a broader range of moods in Budapest compared to some of your other work, contemplative, joyful, nostalgic, serene, “unashamedly romantic”… even though many of the same ingredients return, such as the use of field recordings, on Typ & Lis, and the crackling tape at the beginning of Sul Dges. My first impression is that this feels like an album which was allowed to breath and to organically grow over time. Was that the case?
Yes exactly. As I mentioned, I didn’t have any conceptual approach with this one, it’s kinda what you hear is what it is.
What is your current studio set-up and how does it compare to your live set-up?
I use Ableton as my primary DAW. Occasionally I use some VST synthesizers, but that is mostly for commercial projects. For my personal music I prefer to improvise with external gear and then add a few touches in DAW. I’m quite fond of Eurorack equipment. I much prefer to use equipment that you can physically shape the sounds with — doesn’t matter if it’s analogue or digital — just something that I can get in touch with, that has a good feeling. I come from a software background so it’s an exciting new world for me to explore various types of instrumentation.
Here is the list of gear I mainly use: MS-20mini, Teenage Engineering OP-1, Microbrute, Some Eurorack Modules (Intellijel, Expert Sleeprs, Mutabable Instruments etc.) Fender Telecaster, Moog (MF-105M, MF-103), TC Electronics (Flashback, HOF) Field Recorders (Sony WN-D6C, Zoom H1) Tascam cassette 4 track, Microphones, iMac, Studio Monitors, Headphone etc.
My live set-up varies: it depends on the location of the venue and how I’m going to transport my gear on the night. I would pick up some sort of combination of the above mentioned gear but certainly TE OP-1 is always the choice for me due to its portability and feature loaded package. I would like to take all my gear, but I also like putting limitations on myself.
Together with Irakli Shonia you also play in the duo Datagramma, which, as far as I can tell is a relatively new affair. Are you planning any official releases, aside from the split tape from the Tbilisi Triennial with Mika Motskobili, which came out recently?
In essence Datagramma is a live act based project. And we don’t use computers or do any post-production at all. We are trying to embrace uncertainty, which can produce some unexpected and rewarding results, as well as moments that are not so interesting.
Recently Irakli rented a nice studio. We’re planning to record some improvised sessions there, and we’ll record our live shows as well. Maybe one of the sets will be released, but there are no fixed plans at the moment. I’m happy with it being a performance-based project.
Could you describe the experimental and electronic music scene in Tbilisi and in Georgia in general? There are only few names I am aware such as those of deejay and producer Newa and the sound artist Irakli Abramishvili, who recently had the Ep Night Sound Memories out on the Italian label Many Feet Under. What is the actual situation on the ground? Are there any labels, dedicated websites, venues and festivals that help to create a “support group” for experimental musicians?
You can say that currently experimental and electronic music is at a developing stage in Georgia, but it looks promising. A dance music oriented clubbing scene is thriving. Because of this, some people are starting to look into more diverse sides of electronic music rather than just techno or house. Two venues where I play sometimes are ‘Bassiani’ & ‘Mtkvarze’. There are more venues and festivals but I rarely go out so I am not aware of the situation so much. Sometimes for sound related works you can visit Gallery Nectar, Centre of Contemporary Art Tbilisi and Artarea. Cafe Pirimze have started inviting artists every weekend. I guess the music scene happens in venues more here now. And it’s nearly wholly centralised in Tbilisi.
Record shop, Vodkast Records, has opened recently and it’s doing pretty good with sales. There are many established and up-and-coming producers in Georgia now.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the new ‘’Aux Field’’ stuff as well as under my own name. I will be contributing to some compilations, and I have a few upcoming live gigs here in Tbilisi.
Budapest is out on Dronarivm in a limited special edition CD of 150.
Photo credit: Ana Chorgolashvili