PLURALS AND ANDREW W J MACKENZIE (UK)
This week, our feature soundtrack comes from Plurals. Based in the UK, the group fuse drone/doom and noise explorations with musique concrete create atmospheric, long-form improvisations. Earlier this week, Ears Have Ears presenter Brooke Olsen spoke to Daniel W J Mackenzie - Plurals member, festival curator and a solo artist scoring soundtracks for dance, performance and installation under his own name, whilst also creating music solo as Ekca Liena.
Image: Plurals Band live at Cafe Oto in London
B: Daniel you’re a busy human being - creating solo and collaborative sound works and installations whilst curating events in the UK. In regards to your solo projects, what have you been working on lately?
D: Lately I've been adopting more of a sound art approach to my solo material in an attempt to lead away from conventional music releases - like CD releases. Releasing music is something I’ve done a fair bit of and I feel like the experimental music scene is moving away from that kind of thing, and really the music community in general is looking at other ways of connecting with audiences. I’m keen to explore how my sound works in an installation setting. I was involved in this event last year in Helsinki, a new gallery, which really piqued my practical interest in sound art and installation, something I hadn’t done a great deal of before. The music and sound I create under my own name involves lots more potential installation work as a result; with my other solo alias, Ekca Liena, it’s much more of a studio project.
Creating sound for performance and installation is something I’m trying to do a bit more of. There are things related to this approach which I will be involved in next year. I can’t tell you much about them at the moment but it will be a bit different to what I‘m working on now. There are a number of UK and international events I will be involved in as part of this, touching on sound collage and hopefully more sculpture - it’s quite exciting to think in terms of new mediums which are not musically based.
In terms of performance there’s an interesting thing I just did for an experimental dance troupe where I use just hair dryers to create sound, with minimal audio processing - the whole thing sounds like raw hair dryers basically. It’s a great way to work, to expand on the sonic sources of your material.
B: Have you hit upon a particular hair dryer that has a great sound? I imagine that you had to test quite a lot of them to find the exact tones you were after?
D: Actually there was one that stood out as being the most characterful. It’s a 1950s pink Pifco hair dryer which barely works. The sound it made was amazing because it seemed to have this minor chord buried within the tone that it makes. That’s the thing I really wanted to hold significance in the recordings I’ve made for the composition. It sounds miserable somehow. It must’ve had a bad life.
B: We’re across the other side of the world and whilst there are some similarities in experimental music communities globally, in Australia and the UK they are of course quite different for a number of reasons. I’m interested in getting a snapshot of UK experimental music and sound art community.
What sort of experimental music is blipping on your radar in the UK at the moment Daniel and how would you explain the experimental music community over there?
D: It always kind of changes I suppose. There has been a noise and drone thing happening here for as long as I’ve been involved in it. It’s a small country and you can drive halfway across it in about 3 or 4 hours. Because of that the experimental music community feels connected country-wide and you don’t get so much separation between the scenes. The noise community for me is based out of London, Leeds and Brighton, but then I split my time mostly across London and Brighton. Plurals have created and become part of these experimental music networks across different cities. Free improv and vocal work is happening all over the place also. There is chaos and constant transformation in the UK music community all of the time. It’s an exciting thing to be part of.
B: You were involved recently in curating the Fort Process festival (Sept ‘14). The event involved a diverse list of contributing musicians such as internationally acclaimed media artist Thomas Koner, pioneering free jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and self-proclaimed ‘musical travel agent’ Philippe Petit. can you tell us more about this event?
D: It’s a one day event held in a fort in Newhaven just outside of Brighton. The general idea of it is that we take this unconventional military industrial setting and transform it using sounds and light, turning it into this creative, immersive and unconventional experience. The things we curated had the space in mind, resulting in really harmonious or contrasting relationships, and what we ended up with was something fairly chaotic and intense, but strangely mesmerising. We thought that through this event we could draw people to this place that is mostly ignored, which is sad because it’s such a bizarre place with alot of character. We wanted to twist that into something kind of strange and psychedelic, and it certainly worked.
Image: Sound work at Fort Process festival
B: That of course brings us to Plurals, the group you are part of who also played at the Fort Process festival. What is the group about and who is involved in it?
D: Plurals is an improvising band I’m in with people from Brighton and London that has existed for 7 years. It’s mainly drone and noise but we also touch on all sorts of other things, creating a kind of psychedelic and sometimes ambient feel to our performances and recordings. There’s non- musical stuff happening in there but also often elements of doom, tape manipulation and free improvisation. It’s an evolving sound. We toured in 2011 with Aidan Baker and Nadja, recording a Latitudes Session along the way, and the future looks to hold more of the same - more touring and more recording.
B: Do you feel like there is a strong connection or affinity between Plurals and Nadja? Nadja are of course creating dense drone and there are strong elements of that as well in Plurals’ music. From seeing Nadja play live and from listening to Plurals’ records I can definitely hear a connection myself.
D: Yeah I think so. Nadja’s music is much more structured of course, much of it pinned on the drums, and with a more refined instrumental and sonic makeup. There’s not as much scope for improvisation but I think within their sound there’s an atmosphere that resonates with us. I think they have room to mess with the format slightly. With us it’s more about the slow burn, tension, release and the unexpected - something fairly dark, a brutality to get the point across. I think it’s that brutality and tension links us.
This is an Australian track.
This is a local artist.
This week on Ears Have Ears our feature soundtrack comes from Plurals. Based in the UK, the group fuse drone/doom and noise explorations with musique concrete and folk to create atmospheric, long-form improvisations.
Earlier this week, Ears Have Ears presenter Brooke Olsen spoke to Daniel W J Mackenzie – Plurals member, festival curator and a solo artist about installation and experimental music in the UK. Read the interview here:
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