Track Of The Day: Tan Cologne – ‘Topaz Wave’

A captivating, soothing reflection on a memory of “surfing in a red tide algea bloom”, New Mexico based duo Tan Cologne have shared their latest single ‘Topaz Wave’. Taken from their upcoming new album which is set for release later this year via Labrador Records, the track is a peaceful, hazy musing on the natural phenomenon of phosphorescent algae, explored through atmospheric guitar twangs, gentle percussion and lullaby-esque vocals.

Formed of interdisciplinary artists Lauren Green and Marissa Macias, Tan Cologne are deeply influenced by the “sonic modalities…of earthly and otherworldly landscapes.” They create sounds that are inspired by their natural surroundings in New Mexico, and in 2020, the duo released their debut album Cave Vaults on the Moon in New Mexico, a collection of beguiling, experimental soundscapes that focused on the theme of growth.

With their latest single ‘Topaz Wave’, the band continue to reflect on the power of nature, with a sound that shimmers and meanders like the natural phenomena it’s based on. “The song carries a memory of surfing in a red tide algea bloom with the waves flickering and illuminating the ocean energy,” Tan Cologne explain. “We wrote the song beside an arroyo, a dry river bed, in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. The sides of the arroyo walls are shaped like curved waves – reflecting the experience of tidal and earth transformation, and how the desert land was once ocean.” The arroyo can be seen in the track’s accompanying video, directed by Carly Short.

Watch the video for ‘Topaz Wave’ below.

Follow Tan Cologne on bandcamp, Spotify, TwitterInstagram

Photo credit: Marissa Macias

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTRODUCING INTERVIEW: x/o

A creative polymath with a curious mind, Vietnamese-Canadian producer, vocalist and filmmaker x/o creates cinematic electronic soundscapes exploring the revelations and challenges that come with undergoing a personal metamorphosis. Their debut album, Chaos Butterfly, is an altruistic journey towards self-acceptance, full of eclectic beats, urgent vocals and a myriad of synthetic sounds. We caught up with x/o to talk about their new record, what inspired the sound of Chaos Butterfly, and the importance of duality within their work…

 

What are your earliest memories of making music? Can you remember who or what inspired you to start creating your own sounds?

When I was little, my family introduced me to karaoke and Vietnamese variety shows like Paris by Night and I was obsessed. I remember telling my mom I wanted to either be a singer on Paris by Night or a computer programmer. It’s funny how producing electronic music in the present day still makes sense to my childhood dreams. But strangely enough, as obsessed with music as I was, I never did take any music/band classes in school.

It wasn’t till I was 19 or so, that I heard you could make music on garage band and was curious about playing with the software. I had to get my first laptop for school, so ended up getting a basic MacBook and tinkered from there. I tend to have a lot of DIY energy when it comes to learning new software and I had previously taught myself how to use photoshop. The inspiration came from the accessibility of instruments and tools in the software that I didn’t have prior. The idea of limitless possibilities was very exciting to me.

It’s nice to hear that you’re living some of your childhood dreams through music!

You’ve recently released your debut album Chaos Butterfly. It’s loosely based around the narrative of “an anti-hero navigating trauma…a vengeful spirit who finds true strength in inner healing and forgiveness.” Can you elaborate on this concept? How did you translate this narrative into the music for the record?

Chaos Butterfly is the parallel sequel to my previous EP, Cocoon Egg. Parallel in the sense that both works deal with healing over adversity, and a sequel in the sense that the butterfly is the evolved form. But the narrative came from wanting to portray duality in contrast with the previous EP. I often play with different visual and sonic elements – soft/hard, masculine/feminine, light/dark, external/internal, etc. – and experiment with the loose narrative from there.

When I work on an album or EP, I love the idea of it being a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist. Meant to be listened to from front to back, the narrative is translated through the emotional journey in each passing track with the song titles as additional hints for your imagination.

Your music is very cinematic. I know you’ve also described Chaos Butterfly as “a journey of self-acceptance and reflection…towards your non-binary identity.” Was creating the album an empowering process because of this?

Because I wrote this over five years, the process was one that grew as I grew. When I began I was still figuring it out myself and questioning a lot of things, but with time it was like a slow building of confidence and self-acceptance that led me to find this empowerment through music to be comfortable in my own skin in my own way.

With the project x/o, it had been a safe haven for me to express and explore gender in this way long before I had the actual words to articulate what it meant to me. It took a long time to have the courage to talk about my gender fluidity. So in many ways, the evolution of the project really is a transformative butterfly experience for me.

What would you say are you most proud of about this record? Do you have a favourite track?

‘Hea11ng Ca11’ is one of my favourite tracks. It’s the ending of the album and there’s a wave of relief that washes over you after having listened to the intensity of the journey prior. It’s also parallel to the ending of Cocoon Egg’s ‘love and reb1111rth’ – a hopeful path towards healing and growth.

I’m really proud to have pushed my skill sets to the limit and to have challenged myself a lot during this project. It was important to me to produce, record, and mix the project myself but also explore other avenues like screenwriting, film and art direction for the project. For instance, writing and directing for music video/short film ‘Red Alert’, the animated visualizer series ‘Chrysalis Wrath’ and ‘Initiation Relic’. I’m excited to share more visual world-building explorations very soon.

Speaking about visuals, can you talk us through the concepts behind your beautiful videos for singles ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Chrysalis Wrath’?

As duality is a key theme in my work, ‘Red Alert’ was a great opportunity for me to explore these themes in a visual context. In the music video/short film, the lead character is fearfully confronted by numerous red signs. This eventually consumes them as they become the colour red itself. There’s an interesting dynamic between white vs red selves being safe vs dangerous/angel vs devil, the different levels of subconscious, and instinct/intuition at play. I worked with a small talented film crew to make it happen.

For ‘Chrysalis Wrath’, for a long time now I have been interested in both feminine and masculine tropes in my practice as another extension of duality, and in particular subverting seemingly “feminine iconography” like eggs and butterflies in a way that gives it a more “masculine” energy. I worked with fantasy illustrator NicoSaba to make these ideas come to life.

Do you have any plans to perform your new album live this year?

Yes, I just had the opportunity to perform with Brussels collectives He4rtbroken and Slagwerk at Listen Festival, and I am planning to perform a number of dates in Europe where I will be based for the next few months.

That’s exciting! Finally, as we’re a new music blog, we always ask artists to recommend a band or another artist that they’ve been listening to. Can you recommend someone to us?

Definitely check out artist Bela. They are an incredible electronic artist from South Korea and their EP Guidelines released on Editions Apparent is full of powerfully refreshing takes on experimental music informed by Korean folk music.

Thanks to x/o for chatting with us!

Follow x/o on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter & Instagram

Listen to/buy Chaos Butterfly here

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Kee Avil – ‘saf’

An intoxicating, claustrophobic listen that sharpens the senses, Montréal-based experimental artist and producer Vicky Mettler aka Kee Avil has shared her latest single ‘saf’. Taken from her debut album Crease, which is set for release on 11th March, the track unravels like a gratifying exhale, underscored by magnetic electronics and Avil’s intense, alluring vocals.

A guitarist, singer, producer and member of Sam Shalabi’s acclaimed Land Of Kush project, Mettler cut her teeth playing in various noise and improv outfits before fully fleshing out her new moniker Kee Avil. “Songwriting, to me, is like sculpting,” Mettler explains. “It stems from an initial word, emotion or sound, which I then build on, molding it into a more refined shape, glued into an artificial structure. Other times, my role is to peel it, scrape at its exterior, to reveal its natural state and its part within the whole.”

It’s this physicality behind the shaping of her sounds that makes Mettler’s music feel so visceral, especially in her new track ‘saf’. “Is this the same ache we all share? / can you feel it there under your ribs?” she probes over serpentine electronics, urging listeners to immerse themselves in the tense atmosphere she has created.

Following her self-titled EP released via Black Bough Records in 2018, Mettler’s debut album Crease was written over a period of three years, with each song representing “a certain moment in time, an emotion, exercise or spontaneous idea that creates its own world…built without consideration for the other.” With her razor sharp focus and disorientating blend of sounds and vocals, Mettler’s new full length offering looks set to be as spinetingling as her latest single.

Watch the video for ‘saf’ below.

Follow Kee Avil on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Photo Credit: Lawrence Fafard (Mask by Ariane Paradis)

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Naoko Sakata – ‘Dancing Spirits’

Sweden is better known to most for being home to the beating heart of quality pop music than for its long legacy of experimental and improvisational composers. But what a legacy it is! Women have been at the forefront of this extraordinary scene for decades and in recent years have become increasingly visible. It’s possible, for example, to draw a direct line from artists like 1970s drone pioneer Catherine Christer Hennix through to current critical favourites Ellen Arkbro, Maria w Horn and Anna von Hausswolff.

Since moving to Sweden in 2008, Japanese-born Naoko Sakata has established herself as a major talent. First with her eponymous jazz trio and lately as a soloist of fierce intuition. Dancing Spirits is her second album of solo piano improvs, following last year’s impressive Inner Planets, and the first to be released through von Hausswolff’s own label, Pomperipossa Records.

Recorded in a Gothenburg church over two evenings in August 2020, these seven highly expressive improvisations are the sound of an artist pulling threads of composition not out of thin air – there is no such thing in a church – but from some other unknowable source of energy and emotions. Sometimes those threads unravel wildly, yanking something portentous into focus before resolving into musical dust motes that settle on the floor. At other times, the drama is more gently prescribed and the directionless journeying feels in thrall to something distant and tidal.

Sakata believes in the hidden influence of planetary alignment and in creating sacred spaces where peace and chaos are allowed to coexist and to channel ideas and emotions. As with astrology, part of the enjoyment of Sakata’s music comes from the ability to project one’s own imaginations and stories onto each composition. Anna von Hausswolff’s striking photography suggests a strong folkloric element at play. Dancing spirits, often women, have been referenced in popular stories dating as far back as Neolithic times. These spirits go by many names, from the tragic rusalka of central Europe to the dawn goddess Ame-no-Uzume and other dancing kami of Japanese mythology, and their stories are often linked with fertility, of the earth and of the people.

Whatever their rhyme or reason, Sakata does not discriminate in opening herself up to these dynamic energies and others. Her unobstructed playing gives body to whomever or whatever is drawn into the music, at the mic’d place at the mic’d time. Dancing Spirits, then, functions as a non-canonical window into a cosmic choreography of player, piano and what lies beyond the limits of scientific detection. It’s a challenging listen in that it makes a ritual of fearlessness, but admirable, too, for the very same reason.

Follow Naoko Sakata on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Artwork: Gianluca Grasselli

Alan Pedder
@_neverdoneing