Articles by " Life: Aquatic"
L. Lee has been turning heads and moving bodies with his relatively new Cassius Select project, releasing a highly regarded EP and being booked for some large upcoming shows. His original Guerre project now demands our attention. His latest piece, at a perfect length of two minutes and ten seconds, is short and effective. The sounds are humid and murky, all except for his clear, layered vocals that cut through the piece. A wobbly bass line, a thumping kick pattern, and flickering shakers make Haste Guerre‘s most danceable release so far.
I asked L. Lee some questions for better understanding of his latest work:
How do you distinguish your two main projects (Cassius Select and Guerre) from one another? Do you set out to make a piece for one of the projects purposefully, or do you decide afterwards what project it belongs to according to its sound?
It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that the two projects are naturally overlapping into each other’s sound. At first the distinction between them was the absence of vocals on the Cassius Select project, but that is beginning to dissolve in Guerre as well. Vocals are occupying different areas in the songs, and they’re being approached in a much more unorthodox fashion. But at this point I’m trying to allow that rule (the absence of vocals) to create unique distinctions in both. I’m just getting to let that bloom. As to whether I build songs with either in mind… well let’s just say my intentions rarely meet my predicted outcome.
But who knows… I may feel that they’re not necessary in the future. It is just a bit more interesting and fun to me in that way. To try and occupy various vibes with just as much truth and honesty as any other. Because that is how the human mind works—we’re constantly opening and exchanging different personalities all the time, in everything.
Guerre is becoming noticeably more upbeat of late, particularly in your live shows. What drew you to making danceable music?
I think when I first started making my own music there was always a rhythmic basis to it, however basic it was. And I suppose I can attribute that to having an older brother who was a drummer. He exposed me to so many more rhythms, most I couldn’t even understand at the time. And so I had to deal with the idea of the drum all the time. And when you begin to make any music with drums in it, I think one natural way of progression is the one into dance music. And when you start to play live shows, there is this expectation in myself to make people move because it is such a powerful thing to have that physical reaction.
As of late it has been my interest to see what drives certain movements in people. And what drives certain movements in myself, the way I respond to a drum pattern. And that drives the kind of music I write. And it is also the things you surround yourself with, like the friends you hang out with, the places you go, the things you go out and see. The tunes they get you onto. The vibes they give off… and when you see people dance, and I mean really dance, not going crazy acrobatic or anything, but when they understand—when they’re locked in, agreeing, empathizing with it—that is such a wild thing to see. But I also don’t see that interest in making people dance as the sole guide to the music I try and write. I think that with the variety and richness in ideas out there in nature and everything, one cannot simply inhabit one vibe their whole life. But that’s because I grew up in a generation where we were grown thinking we could live in any and all lives at once.
It’s been quite a few months since Drew Briggs, a.k.a. Divine Interface, provided us with a special house oriented guest mix. One of the standout pieces on the guest mix was “Hide Me”, an exclusive track by Briggs himself. A few days ago he uploaded “Hide Me” to his SoundCloud page.
Divine Interface‘s take on deep house is fuller in sound than his usual minimal, bass oriented pieces. Briggs’s ear for spine tingling vocal cuts is fully visible as the crystal clear samples dominate the track. The percussion is provided solely by the thumping kick, which is at times damped out by thick layers of synths that are stripped down and built up as the piece progresses.
Finally I arrive at posting one of my favourite pieces of the year so far.
Thomas William‘s “Boy Sauvage” is dense. Its percussive elements not only provide movement to the piece but add subtle melodic elements to it as well. The drums are dry and un-quantized; they are slowly built up from simple rhythm loops to more complex combinations as the track progresses. As these loops are layered it feels as though it could be a live recording of a performance, a rarity in electronic music. Threaded alongside the drum loops are bizarre organ sounds that are there for purely atmospheric reasons, and they grow more and more prominent towards the end of the piece as the mood intensifies.
To better understand Thomas Williams‘ “Boy Sauvage” I’ve asked him a few questions:
It feels like the drums in “Boy Sauvage” are doing all the melodic work, was that conscious or did it happen naturally when constructing it?
It wasn’t really conscious as such, it just sort of happened at the time—but I suppose lately I’ve been really trying to make stuff where percussion has a role other than purely as a marker of time. I’ve always been a little perplexed with rock and some genres where the drum sounds are taken for granted—I couldn’t understand how they could make music and not be concerned with that. I get it a bit more now but I still think it’s really important to use percussion in a way that’s thoughtful and individual—it’s really interesting to note that the 808 and similar sounds have taken on a role in hip hop and dance music that is similar to the standard drum kit in rock or jazz—where the percussive elements are standardized, and thought of as having the role of a generic timekeeper.
In a similar vein, in electronic music rhythmic elements are generally thought of as utilitarian, as being the building blocks of something danceable or functional—whereas I’m interested in tapping in to something else. I suppose I think it’s possible for rhythms to carry some sort of emotional content—this is all getting pretty vague, but in basic terms yes it’s something I’ve been thinking about and this particular tune is probably the most developed exploration of these ideas that I’ve made at this stage.
I collected free jazz records really avidly at one stage—ESP, AACM, Sun Ra, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, all that stuff, and I think the use of drums and percussion in that music really rubbed off on me, particularly the Art Ensemble of Chicago in some of their live recordings. I love a certain violence, or physical presence, that’s apparent in some rhythms—the sort of cathartic element involved in marking time in a kind of aggressive way. This is a really good example of that, though on a slightly funkier tip I suppose.
A lot of your music seems strongly influenced by cinema (“Boy Sauvage” in particular).
Yes people often pick up on that which is interesting. Cinema is a huge source of inspiration for me. It seems like an obvious point, and I suppose it is, but I find it fascinating that cinema can take you to heights of pathos which are almost excruciating. Fellini’s La Strada is one of my favourite films—the final scene where she dies and he’s left alone and it becomes apparent he loves her even though he treated her so badly is one of the most gut wrenching things I’ve ever witnessed, and yet it’s a construction, and I find that interesting about human beings; what’s ‘real’ is not so important as what’s sensible. There’s this element of manipulation going on in most forms of art, other than perhaps in high modernity—which interests me greatly. In fact, I’ve been working on a collection of tunes for a while now which play on this idea, at least in my mind—I’m very interested in these moments of transcendent pathos and emotional manipulation, and my way into that is to try and test the conventions of film scoring. I’ve been isolating fragments of audio taken from these precise points in various films, and then trying to extrapolate music from these moments—attempting to make cliches transcendent, or to reclaim the content of musical cliches for my own purposes. The results have been very mixed, I suppose because it’s very difficult transcend cliche.
Do you ever envision these sounds making an appearance on the screen?
I’m very much open to my music being used in other contexts, I’d love to compose for film. If someone gave me the opportunity I’d jump at it. But it hasn’t really come up thus far, and in some ways I don’t really like the idea of pursuing music making where the primary medium is something other than sound. I suppose like most things it takes some pretty serious time and commitment to get anywhere in that world and I’ve so far been distracted from it—but yes if it comes up at some point I’d be stoked.
And the obvious question: what’s planned for TW in the near future?
Well, I’m not sure really. In terms of releases, I have quite a lot of material which is slowly accumulating—but there’s no obvious thread between it all so I’m a little confused about how to release it. I think I’m just going to finish up some demos and send them around to some people and see what comes of it.
Though there’s my long running duo with Marcus Whale—we’ve been asked to do a release through a label I really like, which is pretty exciting, but I can’t really talk about it yet because it’s in the very early stages. Gig-wise I’ve had a very busy start to the year, so I’m looking forward to having a little time off from that in the near future and just getting into the studio.
Young Léon Crescent has just recently popped up in the Melbourne scene. Having already been scoped out by renowned collective //This Thing// and having a release lined up, he is headed for big things. He has chosen his introduction to be mysterious and unique. His sound, above all, is a mix of different distinguishable genres. The most apparent might be the strong Chicago footwork element he uses. The soft sinewave bass line is all present. On top of which sit filtered, watery shakers and light snare taps. Pitched up vocal picks from Kanye‘s “Mercy” makes a ridiculously good mix with this new sound, self-dubbed ‘housework’. I pray this is the beginning of a worthy Australian footwork scene.
This video of Oscar Key Sung performing his sublime love song ”All That I Think About” is worthy of its subject. We begin by watching Oscar slowly build the song from the ground up with looped vocals and finger snaps. The video commences simple and static. As the song advances the video becomes more and more adventurous, all the while coming back to the simple unaltered setting of Oscar’s bedroom. The director shows true restraint in his filming with simple and seamless cut shots. The pinnacle of the video arrives with Oscar modelling his different jackets, giving a subtle and humble insight into Oscar’s character.
From Oscar Key Sung:
The idea for this video was initially just to document the way I had recently been performing the song (very stripped back and completely different to the recorded version), so I considered just filming myself off my phone or something and popping that on YouTube, in the same way that a dancer might document their ideas.
I have recently been thinking a lot about the idea of the music video, and I feel it’s a little oppressing in ways. For one thing, they are stuck in this silent contrived world that has no sense of time or diegetic sound. Of course I love music videos, but it’s just weird to me in a way, also. Also they are so final, it just scares me that there should only be one version of a song, and only one visual representation. I think as I make more work I want there to be alternative versions of songs, and videos, as much out of curiosity as to soothe my indecisiveness. So while I am at this time trying to finish a lot of new work, I thought it could be fun to have a relaxed project that was an extension of something I had already released. Ryan and I have been friends for a few years now, and he has filmed many live performances that I have done with “Brothers Hand Mirror” and “Oscar and Martin” so we have a great rapport .
In getting Ryan on board, I knew the production value of the out come would be greatly increased, but also that we would be very comfortable with each other and that the video would look natural. I asked Ryan to come to my house and film me singing the song while I recorded it, under the assumption that he would also take a number of shots in and around my house to make a video in a similar style to his “little things” videos which he often posts on his Vimeo channel. The style of his short works is reflective and dreamy, he tends to make banal events appear sensitive and important. I think that it is funny and to his credit that Ryan was able to make what was really just an afternoon of me goofing around in my room into an atmospheric document. The only thing we disagreed on was including a shot of the tuna sandwiches I made us for lunch!
Stream the original recording below: