Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chatham Rise

On the quiet side, introspective and lovely, Chatham Rise are working on music to make you love long winter nights. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the winter nights are indeed cold and long, Chatham Rise are making songs with names like Here, Gone, and Air. Do you get a feeling instantly, just from hearing the song titles? The band's name, their song titles, and their artwork do convey a feeling before you even hear a note.
Chatham Rise's debut EP opens with Gone, a wistfully gorgeous piece of sound, which begins with strummed guitar and slightly sad vocals, then thunders into big guitar and drums. Autopilot uses tribal, pulsing beats to pull along the drone, and the chanting, ghostly vocals. Border Crossing is shoegaze at its finest: a calming, sweetly sad melody with barely-there vocals, just enough to warm you a bit. Fans of Chapterhouse and Slowdive will love Border Crossing. Here closes the EP with a sparse guitar, and almost no percussion, light vocals, and a feeling of hope and high, above the melancholy. This self-titled debut EP is self-produced by the band, and I am honored to have special copy of it in my collection. Sad yet uplifting, quiet yet inspirational, Chatham Rise indeed make you feel. Check them out on MySpace, friends.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lucifer Sun

UK artist Lucifer Sun makes music that can be seen as a study of opposing forces: light and dark, high and low, invigorating and calming, truth and secrecy. I find all of these elements in the songs of Lucifer Sun, and how they have been woven into the fabric of the sounds is something to be amazed by and appreciated. Long songs, sometimes VERY long, meander through a druggy haze, like a moment in time that seemingly lasts for hours and hours, are what comprise Lucifer Sun's debut recordings. The songs appear minimalist upon first listen, but command more listens with deeper inspection. I asked Chris and Tom, the members of Lucifer Sun, some questions to find out what lies behind the compositions they create, and what drives them to make their art.

You have so many diverse things that you cite as influences for your music and art, from wood to entheogens to road trips to William Burroughs. Can you tell me a bit more about how you see the world and how this drives you to create art?
Tom - Without sounding too negative we’re not really impressed with the way the world is today, and has been for a long time. The topics and values the majority of people have, seem to be pretty worthless to me, for the most part. The world is full of distractions to keep people happy while the bullshit is allowed to go on all around them.
It’s not all bad but I do wish more of the world would be switched on to more important issues, and would generally relax. The world feels like a very uptight place. Our world and the art we creative is in some way a release for us. A way to vent frustrations and tensions but also to glorify everything good and free-thinking. We’re constantly told that we live in a free world, but if you don’t fit into the boxes that the masses and society would like, then you do tend to feel it’s not quite as free as we’re all led to believe.
Chris - We get angry at how things are shown to us, drug laws, our 'rights' as human beings, the supposed 'freedom' we have in the west. The whole issue on how the media feeds us a particular line on a story, the story we are 'sold' about global warming, economics, etc. I think it's easy to get totally down about it all, but hidden among all this, there are great, beautiful things. I'm a strong believer that the use of entheogens and other substances can make you a better person. You know they open your mind, to how things really are on a far greater level than we could ever understand. The idea that we are insignificant and part of an ever-powerful, continual cycle of life. I think that's important. There are ancient cave paintings of mushrooms, man has been ingesting this stuff for thousands of years; we worshiped the sun, the idea that religions are essentially stories passed down over generations. Man worshiped the sun for a reason: without it we will die, it brings food, warmth etc. So it's kind of from those ideas how we approach our music, trying to create something that has a positive impact in some way on people.

I love how you write your blog entries. You come across as many things: educated and erudite, edgy and energetic, open-minded and ambitious, and of course, talented. What have you been working on lately? What types of medium are you using?
Chris - The blog is just stuff that I come across, stuff we've done. It makes much more sense to get it out in a public domain than have it sitting around, even if someone reads it, listens to the music, and doesn't like it. The Poppy Tea Demos are all hand made, stenciled using guitar body paint, and we are working with friends who are photographers, our drummer's at Art College, etc...
Tom - At the moment we’re trying to not tie ourselves down to simply writing songs in a bog standard conventional way. Right now we’re working quite well without having too many premeditated thoughts about what we’re about to play/write. We’re using visuals and ideas provided from other people and friends to create a really different feel about our music. Definitely working with other people is something we’re really interested to explore a lot more seeing as it expands the spectrum of the final piece.

The music you are making is definitely NOT for the masses, and that is a huge compliment. Your songs are long, and best appreciated loud and through headphones. The type of music fan who is going to appreciate what you are making, we are definitely a niche. That must be a great feeling! What are your thoughts on whom you want to reach with your music?
Tom - Who ever gets it really. We’re fully aware it’s not for everyone. Not everyone gets the concept of a song that last more than 3 or 4 minutes and has one or two chords throughout the entire piece. The music we make sounds the way it sounds and lasts as long as it lasts depending on how we’re all feeling when we’re playing it or recording it. It feels and sounds good to us and knowing other people enjoy hearing it is great. Previous bands we’ve played in have had a very rigid, certain number of bars, segmented sections…etc. With this band we wanted to be far more open and relaxed about just letting the songs play themselves in a way.
Chris - Yeah, You know I don't think I've ever really thought who I want to reach. Anybody and everyone. I don't want our music to be restricted. I want it to be enjoyed or hated by everyone.

Are you jamming when you record, or is everything planned out & executed precisely?
Tom - Right now a lot of the recorded stuff is very spontaneous and on the spot kind of thing. We don’t tend to write a whole song and then bring it to the rest of the band and say here this is how it goes. It’s either a rough idea, chord sequence or whatever, or we’ll just have a drum beat going that we dig and pretty much make it up as we go along and if we like the sound of it then it’ll make it to a song we keep.
Having said that, we are still in the early stages of this band and recording ourselves with what equipment we either own, or can get our hands on, so it’s pretty stripped down in both the recording equipment and our actual sound.
Chris - Recording our jams etc...is great cause we can use them as a springboard to work off...you know: that section is great, that part needs work...what the hell was going on in the last bar, that's shit, How can we improve on this, etc.

Amplifier Mantra is 16 minutes long. I absolutely love this. It’s so long, yet never bores, actually quite the opposite. It constantly intrigues me, right up until the end. It’s not complicated and intricate, but it has a vibe that I ride the entire time it’s playing. And Dopamine Blues (So Low), the clue in the name: SO LOW. I also love this. The sound for the first 4 ½ minutes is so low, is it even a sound? Then when the almost-blues-y guitar kicks in…….another amazing ride. What went into composing these songs?
Tom - Amplifier Mantra was another song written in another improvised situation. We usually setup some microphones and record our entire practice sessions just in case we come across anything we really like but might forget by the next practice. We actually didn’t manage to record the first time we played it due to some technical hitch which we were a bit pissed about, but we did our best to do it justice with the second attempted recording we do have. Aside from Come On, a lot of the recordings and songs are still in their very early stages and we’ve since written more lyrics and have various other ideas, adding more layers to songs and focusing on certain parts of the recording. It’s quite an interesting way to work because even when we’re really happy with a recording and we hear good things from other people who have listened, we know there is still more we can do with those songs as they evolve over time.
Dopamine was a really relaxed recording. Earlier in the day we’d recorded a couple of nice takes of The Year Of Our Death and Amp Mantra, and felt pretty good playing Dopamine, which has been around a little longer so it was a fairly confident take.
Chris - I've always been interested in drones and repetition in music, and creating a vibe on record or at a gig, etc...taking the listener on a journey. It's meditation, self healing. The fact that a lot of what we do is all improvised and comes from an initial chord or riff, interests me. You know, it's like on a higher level of understanding. Your role as an instrument within a band...when to come in, when to let the song move on. We've still got a lot to learn. It's interesting what you mention about Dopamine blues and the 'SO LOW' cause I've never noticed that myself: if you turn the volume up during that part, you can hear us playing. (Ed. note: YES, at very high volume, you hear music playing within the first four minutes, and it is sublime).
I like how the dynamics on that track are so wide, because I'm so fucking fed up of the massively compressed shit that we are forced to hear. It's all record company/radio driven and it's got to do with the "loudness wars". You know when you open up a track in some audio software and it just looks like a brick, where are the dynamics in music? The reason everyone goes on about how older recordings sound so great, is because there is dynamics in there:there's a vibe, they experimented with sound, they were concentrating on the performance, they let quirky things in, they had to make final decisions about the recording throughout the process. Now it's left to be fixed in the mix. The Poppy Tea Demos were recorded with two dynamic microphones capturing our sound in the room. The reflections off the walls. It's documentarist, archival. Your capturing a moment in time. How many mistakes do you hear in released recordings anymore? None at at large commercial level, that's for sure. It's like everyone's forgotten that it's OK for recordings to have a quirk to them. That's what makes music and recording so beautiful.

Also, I was just listening to Come On! Extended Mix, and it's at once soothing, and exhilarating. Like a hot shower while on Ecstacy. This song provides a feeling to get hooked on. What are your thoughts on that song?
Tom - I find it hard to put into words my thoughts and feelings about some of our songs. I know for me personally it’s more of a vibe and feeling that I get when we’re in the studio playing around with the song. I guess the song sounds the way it does depending on our emotions and the general vibe at the time of writing and recording. One thing I would say is that the sound of our songs definitely reflects the way we feel as people these days.
Chris - Definitely, it's almost a stream of consciousness way of working. The extended mix works with the idea that within every song lies a thousand new songs. It's all about the vibe, Meditation music.

You're in your early 20s? I assume you have been into music and art for much of your life? What artists do you listen to, and what authors do you enjoy reading?
Chris - Yeah, me and Tom are both 22 and our drummers 16. When I was 12 I started to get into guitar and I'd record stuff I've done on this huge black tape player, using an old headphone set as a microphone that I would gaffer tape to my amp or to the wall. I remember when I first watched A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner. Those days are great because for the first time you're shown this whole world outside of anyone's control. You're not getting any edited or moderated versions from parents etc: you're free to explore all these paths. Tom spent years playing guitar, listening to old records, staying up all night just improvising, it's things like that, which later pay off. At the moment I'm listening to the Dead Skeletons, lots of stuff off Type Recordings, Singapore Sling. Reading William Burroughs - Naked Gun, Hells Angels by Thompson. Tom's got Velvet Underground's early demos on vinyl, I think it's just Reed and Cale, it's great. You can hear the sound of the apartment loft they were recording in.

What are you currently working on? Are you collaborating with anyone?
Tom - Just trying to get our thing together. We’re quietly confident and pleased with the material we’re coming out with so far, but we know there’s a lot, lot more to come as we hopefully expand the number of people we work with and play with. Having more musicians to add to the core group of Lucifer Sun is something we’re looking at doing when ever we come across the right people.

What projects lay ahead for Lucifer Sun in 2010?

Tom - Something we’re very much looking forward to doing is writing the music for a short film one of our good friends is making. This kind of thing really interests us. There is a huge difference between writing music for the purpose of itself and writing music to accompany another form of art.
We also plan to release a lot more stuff this year. Rather than taking too much time writing and recording we want to get as much material out there and heard as possible. The concept of an almost continuous flow of projects, art and music is what we’re looking to do. We’re making up the artwork for the new demo ourselves which we hope people will enjoy having as much as the music itself.
Another thing we’re looking to do is move into a work space unit where we can live and work on Lucifer Sun from and we think a lot more stuff will start happening once we sort that.
Chris - We're playing the Buffalo Bar on January 27th for Goo Nite. Otherwise, booking more gigs throughout the year. Like Tom said, working with our friend Wade on his film, he's very much an extra member of the band. I'd also like to do a series of recordings working with another friend of ours Per, Spoken Croatian vocals, with drones by us. It's exciting.

Exciting? Yes, I would definitely say what Lucifer Sun is doing is quite exciting indeed. They are true artists, and they are everything this little blog stands for. They are what is important and meaningful in music today. When you step away from the big-corporate-run machines, you find treasures like Lucifer Sun. I hope you all enjoyed this profile on the band as much as I enjoyed presenting it to you. Go listen to and experience Lucifer Sun, they are giving you their music to check out, you can NOT miss this opportunity to experience them:

Raw Meat Demo
Poppy Tea Demo

Watch and Listen on Youtube