Alongside the album, they have also released Weave - a buffer manipulator, space and drone machine that was developed in conjunction with their album, taking cues from the drone and tape noise tradition that they have explored.
Chris Child from FOIL Imprints recently discussed process, music and gear with the Larum duo.
Chris Child: Please describe the process through which you two collaborated - what was improvisational? And what was preconceived?
Chet Doxas: Micah and I were introduced to each other by mutual friends who aren’t even musicians. We live in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn (half a block away from each other) and I like to think part of what makes working together so easy is that we started making music together from a place of not knowing much about one another. Our first meetings were improvised jams with Micah on a modular Make Noise setup and cassette decks through FX, and myself on woodwinds.
We recorded most of sessions at his home with the idea that we might mine them for more material later down on. After a couple of these meetings, I brought in the song “All the Roads” to one of these sessions. Micah programmed each chord voicing into the modular synth and then started experimenting with some of the bass textures from the Roland MC-202.
After adding some additional woodwind layers (which we bounced to cassette and back into the DAW), the very sparse lead sheet of music grew into something much bigger than it looked like on paper. I’ve tried to make the rule that if I’m going to bring in something to our sessions that’s written down, it should only have the absolute essentials of the piece. That way, we can get to improvising as quickly as possible and see to it that the music gets to the place where it wants to be.
CC: Did you guys have an idea of what you wanted the EP to sound like?
CD: We are still excited about the way that the woodwinds sound with Micah’s setup. The brass, leather, cork and wood of the woodwinds (clarinet and tenor saxophone) provide an inspiring foil for Micah’s rig. We definitely embraced the lo-fi element of the cassette decks by jamming to some of Micah’s preexisting loops and field recordings and by also bouncing recorded woodwinds to the decks and back. I’d say the modular fills out the hi-fi chair in the band. I think that the EP has a nice balance of composed pieces (with beginning middles and ends) and the ambient pieces that feel like they’ve been going on for years and we just happened to drop into for a little while.
CC: What was your gear setup and what was appealing about it?
CD: Micah’s gear setup is always changing. Especially as he pursues his other projects in the world of sound installations, his scope of what he is hearing and wants to play in the band remains malleable. For instance, when we first started playing together, Micah was on one cassette deck and guitar pedals.
When we jammed the other day, I played along to a generative modular patch that had already been playing for quite a while before I arrived. This was combined with large-scale projections of coding that he had been working on throughout the week. Sometimes we add contact mics to my instrument and he does live processing. I like that he has control over part of my sound. It adds another element to improvise with: timbre. Micah is always finding new ways into the music. This keep the whole nature of our creative partnership improvised and keeps us both in the headspace of playing and writing from the biggest picture that we can.
CC: There are plenty of beautiful layered textures throughout the EP. Were you processing the sax performances? If so, what were you using and how did it affect the sound of the sax?
CD: One of the FX that got a lotta love was a pedal by Montreal Assembly called Count to Five. Once we had recorded some woodwind pads that we were happy with, we bounced those to cassette and started checking out the different ways that we could slice it up with the pedal. Then we would send it through a Memory Man for delay, a Strymon pedal for reverb, and back into the DAW. On the track “All the Roads” we did something that most saxophonists cringe at… we recorded the horn with an SM57. The reason that we saxophonists shy away from these is because they can tend to sound very nasal. We dug the way that it was giving the lead line a bit more presence and leaned into it by sending it through an Elektron Analog Heat.
CC: Noise (as a by-product of the recording process) seems to be a featured element on the EP. How was noise used it in a purposeful manner and what were the various sources of the noise?
Micah Frank: Noise has always been something I have found malleable and a huge sound design asset. Afterall, noise has such a broad band of frequencies you can sculpt it down to anything you wish. Or you can filter it across the spectrum, duplicate it or phase shift it. So there's that kind of noise. But there's also mechanical and tactile noise which is perhaps what you are referring to. These kinds of of noises are very prevalent on all of my recordings. I want the real world in some of that work - the sound of rooms, of nature, of things going on. That's for this project. Of course I also love completely sterile electronic sounds too, but that's in another project.
CC: Can you describe your live setup and what your roles in a performance are?
MF: I'm running two cassette 4-tracks and effect pedals. Chet is playing saxophone with a contact mic that I process him through. I think Chet plans to expand his setup to a four track as well. It's a nice juxtaposition because we spend a lot of time just spacing out on stage. Sometimes Chet will just stand there listening for 5 minutes and I will too. We set up these abstract live sculptures that can just take on a life of their own. When that happens, there's nothing to do on stage - just let it do its thing. Those are the best moments!
CC: Your visuals are compelling — what are the visual sources and the inspiration behind them? What software are you using for processing the images? How do you feel they tie into the performance?
MF: I am working on some installations that combine live coding paradigms with spatial audio. It's still in the early stages but coming along well. One of the things that has come out of that is visual work with an open source graphics framework called Hydra by Olivia Jack. I've been using it to process photographs of natural places. Some of the things it can do are simply incredible so we've also thrown that into our live show mix.
CC: What was the mixing process for this EP? What were some of the challenges?
MF: I've always been a proponent of the mix-as-you-go strategy. I don't zero everything out and say "Let's Mix!". I do spend a lot of time listening and making final tweaks but I think the whole vibe of something really needs to come together in iterations over time. This album took us 8 months to make and by the time we were finished the mixes seemed to sit where they belonged. The mixes are dark and lo-fi but I think that this music dictates that kind of mood.
Get "All the Roads" by Larum on Bandcamp.
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