In The Still Of The Flight
These are ever increasingly frenetic times that we live in. An environment that mainlines constant stimulation into our retina and eardrums perpetually screaming at us to ‘DO’ something, be it consume, criticise, fear, worry, buy or recognise our inadequacies… well in everything really.
We are at the coal face of humanity smashing away at the hard rock searching for some etherial prize that may never arrive, but in our frenzied quest we don’t even see the gold all around us, as it lays there scattered about, but it’s only with a peaceful/restful eyes that we can spot it glistening amongst the dust of noise, that glittering still.
There is a quote ‘When the pupil is ready, the Master appears’ (it has multiple sources, but it’s definitely not Yoda) that has been around for a long time that seems quite appropriate for the current rise and Zeitgeist of ambient or neoclassical music. Music has always had holistic properties, but in such a frenzied, ungodly world, it provides the meditative peace that maybe was once found in religious ceremony, that brief contemplative, reflective peace that brought a foundation and fortitude to the week ahead. Created in a moment deliberately greater/transcendental (whether it was done with architecture, incense smoke and mirrors or not) than ourselves.
One such moment of treasure is the newly released album by antipodean musician Andrew Tuttle. ‘Fantasy League’ is his second release under his actual name, though he has been gathering and releasing compositions from the musical ether for many years. Using a hypnotic blend of digital, banjo and acoustic guitar he creates sounds that are equally from the past, present and future as waves of recognisable and unknown sounds gently cascade against us. There is such an undulating organic presence to the works that even though they are predominantly digital in origin, they are quickly absorbed into every fibre of our being. Again, such is their warmth and embrace that it is nigh on impossible to actually do anything whilst listening to the album, and therein lies its beauty and power, it’s incredibly captivating stuff as notes flock, sweep and soar all around us, effectively giving us a brief momentary power of flight to rise up above the noise and float in the peaceful glow of calm.
I don’t believe in religion (to each their own though), as I was never comfortable in being presented with a view of the world that I don’t share (except all the positive non killing bits of course), I much preferred the ability of artists to create gateways that they gifted to us and enabled us to go on our own journeys and adventures. Andrew’s album is one of these creative passports that will take you to new places that you never knew existed. That’s not a bad start to the week, or the rest of your life.
Fantasy League is out now. Andrew is playing Cafe OTO in London on the 27th April. For more information go to www.andrewtuttle.com.au
In anticipation of his forthcoming London gig Flush caught up with Andrew to expand to the release of the album and the inspirations behind it.
FTF:What was the inspiration behind the tile of the album ‘Fantasy League’?
Andrew Tuttle: I’ve got a lot of time and love for a lot of sport, and as I was trying to think of a title for the set of recordings I was thinking of loose analogies between the music I make and durational sport anyway. I had been thinking a bit about the weird back and forth of creating an album, where you’re creating something in isolation for an extended period of time and also simultaneously out of the ‘public’ side of making music, e.g touring, performing, etc. There’s something about this process that is superficially social whilst being a bit hermetic, and I thought fantasy league competitions had a bit of a neat parallel. In both situations, there’s a risk of being too emotionally involved in weird ways – but I’m happy to say I give up way less quickly on albums than I do on fantasy leagues!
FTF: What were your musical influences when growing up, and have they seeped into the work you create and the directions you take, subjects you investigate?
AT: I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to an incredibly diverse array of music in my formative years in my home city of Brisbane. I started going to all-ages shows in my early teens and I was able to see quite a lot of interesting music in that time. Not all of it obviously influenced me in the long run, but the passion, innovation and openness of the punk rock, underground rave, experimental, improv and indie rock communities that I’ve been directly or tangentially involved with here have influenced what I do. In particular though, the loose ‘experimental’ community in Brisbane and throughout Australia in general (I also lived in Melbourne from 2006-2008) has influenced me greatly. My first ever guitar teacher influenced what I do too – for whatever reason he never really showed me power chords (or even many open chords!) – instead focussing on playing the vocal melody on guitar. I think that has definitely influenced the way I play all of my instruments.
FTF: As you are currently touring with the album, there is definitely a sense of journeying throughout the tracks. Do their titles have any significance as they seem quite playful.
AT: Most of the time, titles for the tracks on an album come after they’ve been created. The titles and themes are generally retrofitted, one of those weird things that comes about as a result of making instrumental music that uses a computer!
FTF: What was the germination and catalyst of the album?
AT: This album came about really organically actually! My girlfriend and I moved house in April last year, just before my previous album Slowcation was released. It was time to move on from previous place, and she found this amazing place in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm. There’s enough room for a dedicated studio space and it is within walking distance to the shops, to my work and to quite a few venues; so I think the opportunity to walk more in Brisbane’s beautiful autumn and winter allowed me to slow down and think more. The first ideas for the album probably actually came about from improvisations and studio sessions to prepare for my Slowcation launches in Australia, and once I finished those I wanted to keep working on ideas. Throughout the recordings I started to have more of an idea about what the album may turn out like, but there was a point where it was going to be an entirely synth and computer based album so it ended up changing a fair bit!
FTF: The tracks are extremely cinematic in their scope, effectively becoming a soundtrack to the listeners real time movie. They brought back floods of memories of Blade Runner, Deliverance, The Martian Chronicles, The Man Who Feel To Earth and even The Duke Of Burgundy. Are movies a big influence in your work?
AT: I’d love to say yes, but film isn’t a big conscious influence on my work. I probably watch more non-fiction than is healthy – and the inverse would be true with fiction. When I’m creating or performing music, I do tend to lose myself within a loose ‘narrative’, which hopefully listeners can find themselves in as well. That said, naturally I definitely have a different relationship with my music to anyone listening to it, so I actively encourage and am delighted by people having my music as the soundtrack to their real time ‘movie’!
FTF: Have you any plans to work on soundtracks? Or indeed any movies that you would have liked to have created the music for, or directors you would like to work with?
AT: I haven’t done many soundtracks to date as of yet, aside from a few collaborations and snippets for scenes. My main film music highlight was in 2014 when I scored The Cerebral City, a beautiful short documentary that American director created about the cityscape of Melbourne, Australia. Another highlight for me was doing a live score way back in 2008 for the film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt, at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. Coincidentally I was in Berlin prior to the performance, so I was able to create field recordings of trains, train stations and cityscapes in order to create a somewhat. authentic feel. I love working with film though and hope to do more someday. I really enjoy the challenge of creating music to fit visual scenes, particularly where both the video and audio exist to complement each other. I’m not really a fan of performing with ‘visuals’ for the sake of it as the tones I create are in that weird space between mechanised and organic, but performances or commissions where I’ve been able to work closely with a film/video artist have been true highlights!
FTF: In addition to the expansive soundscape of the tracks, they have a hypnotic quality about them. Chilean cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky has said that he had aspirations to induce an LSD like trip in the viewers mind whilst watching his planned version of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ (unfortunately the movie never got made). Given the sonic qualities and production, did you any similar aspirations with the album?
AT: When creating Fantasy League, to be honest I didn’t think too much about the end result and how people might think about it. Not in a wilful way, but because these tracks largely came out of edits and improvisations. I was in a really positive headspace when creating the music, so hopefully listeners will feel the same! I love music that conveys or dictates emotions, but with this particular album I’m happy for people to run their own message and thoughts.
FTF: Many of the tracks deceptively seem to dissolve away in structure, elements digitally drifting away in waves, briefly replaced and momentarily grounded by meandering real instruments. What is the creative process for their creation, how much overall structure is created before hand or is it intuitively/organically tapping into the creative lay lines?
AT: The creative process differs from performance to performance and recording to recording, but essentially there’s a similar creative ‘spark’ that I work from. When I’m creating music at home, I’ll start off with one instrument (usually guitar, banjo or synthesiser) in my Audiomulch software patch and improvise until I find sounds or ideas that I want to continue with. The process involves lots of looping, subtle changes, processing, unprocessed instrumentation, abrupt stops; and the process then starts over again. For something so based in the digital sphere, it is quite organic! As well as this, there are also songs which I’ve specifically composed for guitar or banjo… either in isolation or by collecting snippets of ideas from improvisations and putting them into song form.
The vast majority of Fantasy League was the result of this creative process, where I spent hours improvising and consolidating ideas. Some of the tracks on the album were lightly edited from this process, others are then multi-tracked in Ableton Live and feature dozens of different fragments from my improvisations (anywhere from 1-15 seconds) collaged together.My forthcoming tour will include a few set guitar or banjo compositions to work off, as that gives me a launching point which is conscious of time limitations.
Ambient music has been around for many years now, but it definitely is flourishing at the moment, the zeitgeist is right, with it’s almost holistic qualities providing protection from an ever increasingly stressful world. The album not only has a sense of journey about it, but also of a Catholic religious ceremony for an atheist world. It brings solace and actual peace of mind. I definitely agree that there’s a place for both the calm focus and the intensive listening focus of ambient and minimal music in society today. It is so easy to be overloaded by trying to do too many things at once, I’m definitely guilty of that in day to day life. I do like the idea of listening to an album as somewhat of a ritual, where you’re placing your mind under someone else’s creative direction, even if only for a short time. It is sometimes weird to create music that rewards both ‘zoning out’ and intense listening, but many of the albums I love demand – or not – the same conflicts in me as a listener, so it isn’t such a bad thing.
FTF: On the tour how will it all be reproduced during the live set?
AT: My recent and upcoming live performances will consist of a mixture between improvised and composed material. I create all the sounds in my sets from scratch, with banjo, synthesiser and acoustic guitar as the source instruments. These instruments are effected and processed to varying degrees in the Audiomulch program. I’ll be performing a mixture of music from Fantasy League, as yet un-recorded music and some updates on earlier music both under my own name and under my previous moniker of Anonymeye.
FTF: What are the plans for the foreseeable future? Any plans for further collaborations, or indeed is there anyone that you would like to work with?
AT: Immediately after my European shows I’ll be heading to Stockholm for a fortnight recording residency at the iconic EMS facility. My plan at this stage is to create an album with a strong modular synthesis and banjo focus, but the freedom of the residency will allow me to approach the sessions with an open mind! In terms of collaborations, American folk musician Charlie Parr and I have been talking about making some music together for years now. Hoping that we’ll be in the same place for long enough to happen one day!
FTF: As you are travelling around so much on tour now, who have you discovered/admire and have become the soundtrack to your current journey?
AT: I’ve recently been enjoying new music from Matmos, Ryley Walker, Francis Plagne, Rainbow Chan, Danny Paul Grody, Jessy Lanza, These Guy, M. Geddes Gengras, Violent Soho, Glenn Jones, Loretta Lynn, Curse ov Dialect and El Guincho. I’ve got some long flights and trains over the next month, so I think a combination of these, news and politics podcasts, my Eurovision playlist and a few piano favourites (including Steve Reich and Chilly Gonzales) will hopefully get me through!