Arca‚s music isn’t only characteristic for its anxious and aggresive synth sounds, but especially for deconstructing our understanding of music in time and space. Thanks to his twisted playfullness and a touching story behind, he streches and distorts music particles for expressing his extraordinary nature and building it up melodic and rhytmical patterns, that can vanish as fast as they appear and often their listeners with its volatility.
His LP Xen is a big success and tonight’s Berghain was full to bursting. While enjoying the audiovisual show of Arca and his inseperable friend Jesse Kanda who’s responsible for the visual part, I noticed several things about it:
1. Arca’s a solid rapper.
Although his music on debut LP Xen or &&&&& mixtape is mostly instrumental, he’s not afraid of the microphone and live he can both sing aetheral soprano vocals or rap with a fiery urge.
2. He’s into latino rhythms.
Alejandro Ghersi comes from Venezuela and allows his roots to unobtrusively grow into his music. In tracks like Sisters, Slit Thru or Thievery, swaying percussive rhythms keep the tracks to stick together and not fragment in 1 000 different pieces that all head opposite directions.
3. He’s the next level queer
From Arca’s promo pictures, we can notice he’s into high boots and SM aesthetics (or not only aesthetics?!). But the whole live performance, including the screening, indicates that he’s partly Xen – a sexy but epicene female who transforms into a baby face of his borned alterego, partly a party queen who likes wearing skirts and party a young boy who started to feel confident in his own body and mind.
4. He’s mentally connected with Jesse Kanda,
whose stroboscopic phantasmagories embody Arca’s ambivalent feelings about his identity, and visually describe his music so vividly and accurately, that Arca’s abstract, yet evokative music sometimes feels like a soundtrack to those sick videos.
5. He likes to smell his arm pit.
Arca can be a progressive, extraordinary and skilled musician, but he’s a diva on stage. Even while rapping, he rahther puts his arm straight up in the air than makes characteristic broad gestures. Other times, he poses like a model from your uncle’s poster that he had in the toilet in the 80s.
PS: Here’s great text on Arca and his music approaches / contributions as well as a reaction on Britt Brown’s retro review of Xen: http://adhoc.fm/post/dear-arca-adhoc-issue-2/
Another interview for S13, this time with black magician of electronic music Franck Vigroux.
Franck Vigroux is a French musician, instrumentalist, composer, turntablist and movie director, who covers wide musical range from avantgarde and improvisational music to experimental and extreme kinds of electronic music. He uses both classic instruments such as a guitar as well as analogue electronic devices. Vigroux records and performs by himself or in terms of collaborative projects and live acts with artists like Mika Vainio, Ben Miller, Reinhold Friedl and other artists such as dancers, visual artists or directors. In 2003, he founded his own label D’Autres Cordes Records and 5 years later started the Company D’autres cordes, dedicated to performing arts. For Secret Thirteen, he shares his creative strategies and approaches, talks about his various projects as well as his attitude towards the future.
You are a virtuoso on guitar, worked with instrumental ensembles, use a lot of different electronic devices and are a turntablist… Yet on your new album Climent, you brought your guitar back to life with simply playing tones and overtones. How your approach of making music changed during the years?
Guitar is my first instrument, I still play it, but not that much. After years and years of practice and hundreds of concerts, I was looking for something else, new musical experiences. So at the beginning of the 2000’s I started to use turntables and samplers, making live collages, cut-ups, improvisations. That’s how I also came to composition and particularly electroacoustic music.
I have neglected the guitar for the last three years, I was totally focused on my electronic instruments and my work in terms of performing art or audiovisual projects. But last spring I found again that old 50€ guitar my mother bought me when I was 16. Strings haven’t been changed since probably 15 years, the instrument really needs to be repaired, but… It was an instrument dedicated to play with a bottleneck actually, I have to say I was a blues fanatic at that time, I was particularly into the delta blues… The roots.
So I recorded Ciment while I was making the music for Centaure EP. Both recordings are based on two very different instrumental approaches, but at the same time, they both are something very natural for me. And esthetically, they’re not that far away from each other, even though one has clearly blues influences (Climent) and the other has industrial noise influences. But for me, it’s something natural, it looks like my musician route.
What kind of feelings or impressions do you like to leave in listeners’ minds with your music on Climent? Or is it more a study of the guitar and overtones themselves?
There are many things to comment on your question. When I compose music, I don’t think about listeners, I don’t think about the others, I just think about the music and the ideas I try to reach with the few musical skills I have. Otherwise, you probably know that recently U2’s album was in all iTunes upgrade, that was just the worst thing Apple has ever done at such scale, what’s next ? A book obliged to be read? We are almost there, real dystopia.
For Ciment I wanted to avoid any kind of virtuosity, I tried to make something slow and open, no chord resolution, ghost melodies, silence… There may be something melancholic in that music, something appeased, while in Centaure the sound is massive and brutal, made of beats, noises, drones. But both albums are very complementary and if you want to know my music, I think it’s interesting to listen to both of them!
Do you study sounds more from their physical, metaphorical or biological perspective? Which aspects of sound do you examine recently?
Physically for sure. It’s something I like to explore – the volume, extremely low and high frequencies. But I can say I particularly explore all kind of distortion combinations with digital and analogue, fuzz, overdrive, bit crusher etc.
You search for new sounds mainly in your studio. Apart of the guitar, which instruments have you been using lately? And where do you get your inspiration for sound exploration, apart of your studio?
I try to invent my own instrument with combination of several electronics devices. The last set up I’m working on is a combination of a Buchla synth and Revox reel to reel tape recorder, plus two “freeze” pedals. That’s an example. Usually, I have 4 or 5 sets of that kind for live performances.
In studio, I like to explore analogue electronics like synths or filters and acoustic sounds I record by myself. These sounds are already very inspiring, their nature is so rich… My inspiration also comes from everywhere – the music I listen to of course. And all I see and hear on a daily basis is inspiring.
Nová deska brooklynské trojice zní jako plynulé pokračování předchozího dlouhohrajícího alba Diver. Kromě výraznějšího kýče rocku a disca osmdesátých let se daleko neposunuli a pouze vybrušují specifický synth-popový zvuk s etno prvky. Přesto na albu Minus Tide nabízí příjemné letní osvěžení a výlet k vodě bez nutnosti kupovat letenky.
Přestože kapela Lemonade vznikla v San Franciscu, již delší dobu sídlí v Brooklynu a do tamější hudební scény jsou její členové namočení i jinak – bubeník Alex Pasternak je DJ, baskytarista Ben Steidel zase majitel obchodu s deskami. V projektu Lemonade nicméně trojice zachovala slunečnou atmosféru pobřeží Frisca, kterou kříží s chillwavovým sněním Delorean a starými melodiemi vlny balearic disca.
I na novince Lemonade pokračují ve specifickém synth-popovém zvuku. Kombinují osmdesátkovou nostalgii a taneční rytmy s uvolněným zpěvem a prvky world music, jako jsou zvuky indiánských flétniček, marimba nebo hojně používané perkuse. Ačkoli si kapela drží současný zvuk, na tomto albu je osmá dekáda 20. století ještě výraznější, než na předchozí dlouhohrající desce Diver – syntezátory jsou diskotékovější, vokálové echo roztahanější. Občas se objeví i klouzavé vybrnkávání elektrické kytary jako v rockových baladách a jednou dokonce zavyje i barový saxofon.
I když první nahrávky Lemonade jsou stylově jinde a i po prvním výrazném singlu Lifted se hledali, ve svém současném zvuku melodických písní s vrstvenými strukturami se za poslední 4 roky usadili pevně. A to natolik, že Minus Tide zní jako třetí a čtvrtá strana Diver. Bohužel na novince chybí hity typu Ice Water nebo Vivid a při poslechu celého alba se málokterá píseň samostatně vryje do paměti. Stejně jako u předchozího dlouhohrajícího počinu si Minus Tide budete víc užívat až po několika posleších, kdy začnete jednotlivé písně rozeznávat od prvních tónů.
Album plyne jako řeka, v horkém počasí zchladí lépe než šuměnka a stejně tak bude příjemným společníkem na procházkách za posledními slunečními paprsky. Atmosféra hudby Lemonade se opakuje ve skladbách znovu a znovu dokola, a ztrácí tak občas na síle a podmanivosti, kapela přesto dokáže nezaměnitelným stylem evokovat vláčné letní dny a západy slunce na pláži. Jen škoda, že album nevyšlo alespoň o měsíc dřív – mohlo se stát jedním z letošních soundtracků k létu.
C-drík Fermont (aka Kirdec) is a musician, singer, composer and drummer originally from Congo based in Berlin. He specializes on releasing electronic, experimental and industrial music from Asia, Africa and South America. Although he’s lived in Europe for most of his life, his origin as well as innate curiosity have lead him since the 90s to explore the unknown fields of non-Western unusual music, which he releases on his label Syrphe. He’s been also making a lot of music by himself both in solo projects and bands of various genres from breakcore and industrial to ambient and synth wave, as well as music for film and theater. He’s a straight edge, who respects the nature, antisexist and antiracist and his approach to life is wilful and thorough. This interview for Secret Thirteen was originally conducted in September 2013 in his community flat located in suburban part of Berlin and was updated in September 2014.
You run a label, write a book and essays, play with different people, create music for different projects, give lectures, travel around the globe – how do you manage being your own boss?
I prefer to do most things myself, because when something goes wrong, the only responsible person is myself. I don’t have to get mad at somebody except me and I also know which direction I take and why. I work a lot and some people wouldn’t follow me, if I would work with collaborators. Some of the projects I do take a lot of energy and time and I can afford to tell myself: OK today, I can’t sleep, cos I need to do that. And I would never ask somebody else not to sleep because of me.
I take some path which is not really usual, for example the label’s direction, organising tours and playing in places and continents where most people don’t especially go. And it’s easier for me to do that alone, because many of my friends don’t want to follow me in some countries for example, thinking that there is nothing interesting or it’s not worth it or it’s dangerous because of unstable political issues.
Are you a person of no compromises?
Mostly yes (laughter).
You have both European and African origins in your blood and you also lived in different places of the world. Would you mind to tell a bit about your past and how did it affect you, not only in terms of art and music, but also in terms of your life direction?
I was born in the Congo (Zaire), Africa and lived there for only 2 years. Then I moved to Belgium, where I grew up and lived most of my life. Then I also lived in the Netherlands for a little bit. After that I stayed for 6 months in Far-East Asia, but moving from one place to another, on tour basically. Now for four years I live in Germany.
How did this affect me? I guess that even if my culture was somehow more Western European back then, I always had a connection to Africa. Through the family or food and eventually music. So that shaped me a little bit.
Then I wondered why I saw so few Africans in this scene – let’s say electronic, industrial, punk and so on. I wanted to understand why we were so few and why most other people of African descent I knew weren’t at all into this music. I guess all this shaped me somehow. I also travelled here and there for holidays when I was a kid and I always wanted to know more about different cultures, languages, music etc.
In the primary school I was the only non-white kid, back then it was still possible in Belgium. Some excluded me somehow and that shaped me as well, regarding the fact that I am a stubborn person – when I do something I want to finish it, I want to look like I want to and nobody will never forbid me to dress like I want, to have the hairdo or piercings I want and so on. But I’ve been in conflict many times with everything: family, teachers… I fought for it and I won anyway.
So you are a discoverer since you are a kid. Because that’s what you still are now, you discover new musicians for many years.
Somehow yes, but when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronomer. In fact I got a lot of books about astronomy and astrophysics as well as scientific books for kids and teenagers. I was totally into it and with the time I’m still into astronomy. I do read a lot, but I don’t study it, cos I have no time for that.
When I was a teenager I started to listen to alternative electronic music like EBM or industrial music, I wanted to discover more and more, all the time. I discovered Front 242 first, then I discovered other bands like Skinny Puppy and Esplendor Geométrico, Laibach, Borghesia. And I thought OK, if I can find a band in Yugoslavia or in the USSR, maybe I can find something in Japan or in Brazil. So I wanted to go further and further and I started to dig. It became an obsession and so it still is now. I was thirsty all the time, it was never enough for me. I wanted to discover more and more and more music.
So let’s talk about Syrphe for a while, cos that’s were this passion leads to. You started it in early 90s and we think it was the first label that was focusing on this kind of music those times?
I started the label in 2002, but I run a tape label between 1991 and 1996, indeed. It was not called Syrphe, but it’s connected anyway. I published there my music and some artists from a bit everywhere, like De Fabriek from the Netherlands. But I also published some compilations including bands from South Africa, Chile or Japan and back then it was not always common, except for Japan. So I was one of the few ones and then with Syrphe I’ve been probably one of the first person to focus on alternative electronic music artists from Africa and Asia. There were few things before, but not so many. I think of Sonic Arts Network which published a very interesting compilation in 2007 with musicians from Iran, Palestine, Egypt, Angola… Or Somnus which published a Japanese, Taiwanese, Hongkongese compilation in 1994 or Etat Lab ten years later that was also focused onto Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and of course the South African tape label Network 77 that started to publish music in 1984 already.
For me it was important to be focused on it because this non-Western music is somehow oculted. It’s going better, mostly for the Middle-Eastern music or Arab experimental and electronic music, as well as the Chinese scene.
So how has this musical scene evolved during the years you have been focusing on it and running the label?
Wow, it exploded! Definitely. I remember, when I founded my tape label Sépulkrales Katakombes, it was so difficult to find anything from Africa. I just found Jay Scott in Cape Town producing tapes with international bands, but also bands from South Africa like his own project, Sphinx, and others like Willow and Carnage Visors as well… But this was my only contact there. I was trying hard. I wrote to some punks from the Philipines or Panama – and it was without internet back then. It was difficult. There were certainly little things going on here and there, but it was difficult to reach those artists. Now with the internet it’s so easy to communicate, and also a lot of people travel easily. Some of the musicians have members of their family living in Europe for example, so they come to visit them now and then. They bring back music eventually…
I’d say that during the past 10 years it literally exploded in many countries: China, Lebanon, Egypt, Indonesia… It’s pretty impressive. There are lots of young people just going deeper and deeper and now in some of those countries you can find something like an identity. In the past it was often a copy of what you can find in Europe, US, Australia, Japan. Now its changing. Quite fast.