Monday, 16 November 2009
INTERVIEW: Emptyset [Caravan]
Whilst our immediate relationship with the Caravan record label may have started through its close association with Pinch’s label management company Multiverse, the label's music could not be more different from Tectonic’s output. Caravan boss October kindly dealt us an amazing addition to our mix series a few months back to set the tailgated tone and since then, along with discussing the merits of Green Day’s early career, we’ve generally kept in radio contact.
The new, self titled, album from Emptyset - the duo of Paul Purgas and James ‘Ginz’ Ginsburg - has graciously found a home on October's label and thanks to our sideline in love of textures from people like Murcof, Fennesz and Phillip Jeck and our attendance of festivals like 2008’s Venn Festival, it’s also found a spiritual home with us, in our mutated ADHD riddle headspace.
‘Emptyset,’ as an album, is an exploration of low end frequency like no other. Its slow tribal thumps sit atop a brutal chorus of bass and droning atmospherics, perplexing the use of the techno prefix a tad by its eons of space and conceptual ideas. It’s a full on aural immersion - seemingly inspired as much by its Bristolian surroundings as by its musical contemporaries - that needs to be consumed whole to be understood.
We locked the duo down to Multiverse HQ, got them to spin us together a mix and give us the good word on their album project...
Sonic Router: Can you provide those who may not know you with a bit of background info?
Emptyset: The project began in 2005 after we both met through the Bristol music scene. We were from different backgrounds but realised there was a crossover in our way of thinking and a shared set of musical reference points that we wanted to explore. So from there we started experimenting with a sound that connected our interest in rhythm, bass and sonic detailing.
Outside of music who are you? What do you do on the daily?
When not working on music James Ginzburg manages the Multiverse network of labels, and Paul Purgas works as a curator of contemporary art as well as running the Body Hammer night in London.
How did you first get into making music? What was it that infected you to do produce?
We'd had experience with producing and performing music prior to working on emptyset. This particular project presented us with an opportunity to define a sonic world and look at what was possible in terms of signal chains and experimental textures.
What’s your production set up like?
We wrote the entire album in the Multiverse Studio. The signal chain we used was based on using Logic 8 as a playback device for the noise and sine waves and sending it through a series of valve compressors and EQs, various transistor based gear and series of microphones set up in the control room and on amplifiers set up in other isolated rooms. We wanted to create situations where the music came alive from its own side by finding the points within signal chains where distortion begins to form before it overpowers. If you listened to our source material it would sound pathetic, everything interesting happens in the relationship between different elements in the chain.
Where/who do you take inspiration from while making music?
Inspiration is fundamental to the project, if we don't feel the sense of immediacy or an urge to create we know it isn't right for us to get into the studio, so we just go back to conversations and discussions and when an idea begins to form we eventually get back to work. That seems to be the only workflow that feels natural and productive.
How did you get into techno?
Techno music was something that we've always been interested as a medium, but in essence we have always treated it as simply one reference point amongst many. That seemed to be the best relationship that enabled us to work with more freedom and flexibility.
Where did the Emptyset moniker come from? The ‘structure without content’ concept is quite interesting...
As the music started to emerge we needed to find a title that would help tie together the source ideas we were working with. The name inevitably helped us think about music functioning as a formal container for a wider universe that we could step into and start to deconstruct. In essence we wanted to think about the relationship between absence and presence and what that would translate to sonically.
How does the partnership between you guys work?
Ginz acted as engineer, but the creative partnership worked more in terms of us creating situations where we could float around the studio environment without working, bringing in ideas and conversations about what was going on in our life (usually our collective propensity for attracting awkward and complicated situations with women) and waiting for moments when the time felt right to sit down. Most of the time this was late at night when we thought we had talked for too long and nothing was going to happen that day and thought we might as well have a little go before going off our own ways.
Your debut album, also called ‘Emptyset,’ is out now. In your own words what can people expect from it?
The album was an opportunity to take some time out from making twelve inch records and instead focus on a more substantial interlocking piece of music that felt like an in-depth exploration. The process we used was geared towards a bedrock set of rhythms that gave a foundation for sonic events and generative textures.
In the accompanying album information Bristol is cited as a major influence to your music. It’s written about in an incredibly passionate almost romantic way. How do you consider the turmoil of redevelopment and the city’s history has affected your music?
Bristol over the past ten years has been in a constant battle with counter-urbanisation. The collapse of the city centre and the migration of services to the outskirts created a vacuum. From here central dereliction, abandonment and decay became a stark reality, and Bristol became in essence a city without a heart, a more fragmented type of urbanism. These influences around us were definitely feeding back into the sound we were creating.
Bristol’s affiliation for dubstep is pretty well publicised but how does it fare for the more brazen techno?
Techno music definitely has a presence in the city, something collectives like under_score and cuisine have worked hard to ensure, though it is still more of an underground.
What other producers should we be looking out for pushing the forward thinking deep techno sounds?
Louis Digital the former Warp/Arcola producer will be starting up a new label called City of Quartz next year. His 'Unspecified Enemies' record with CiM was a big inspiration, so we are looking forward to that.
Tell us about the mix you’ve made for us. There is a diverse range of artists involved from classic house producers to ambient/deep experimentations through dubstep, techno and beyond... what makes you bring all these strands together?
There has been such a diverse range of music that has inspired and interested us that DJing offers a good medium for sewing all these connections together. Mixing is simply an opportunity to think about how sounds come together in a very immediate and raw way, and cross patching genres and influences is often where the most interesting results happen.
What else is coming up for the project?
At present we are taking some time off after completing the album. We are putting together some loose ideas for a new record which will involve spatial recordings so that is in the pipeline.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
It will all happen in its own time.
DOWNLOAD: Emptyset – Sonic Router Mix
Fennesz - Happy Audio
Emptyset - Over
Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Pattern 1
Villalobos & Tanaka - Fumiyandric
Peverelist - Erstwhile Rhythm
Wax - 10001
A Made Up Sound - Bounce
Shake - Frictionalized
Taho - Energy Fields (Quince Remix)
Carl Craig - It's a Wonderful Life
Radioslave - Tantakatan
Rhythm is Rhythm - Move It (Only Mix)
Mark Broom - Bournewood (Soundhack Remix)
Peverelist - Infinity is Now
Fuzzy Logic - Bangers & Mash Vol.2
Robert Hood - Hoodmusic 2
Nitzer Ebb - Join in the Chant (Instrumental)
Lil' Louis - New York