INTERBELLUM: OVER ALL OF SPAIN THE SKY IS CLEAR
Me, writing about the excellent Interbellum album on Bruce Adam's new label FSS. You really should buy a copy right now.
Interbellum are Chicago-based pianist and sound-manipulator Brendan Burke and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. I was very intrigued about their music (as you can tell from the review it resonated with me on an intensely personal level), so I made contact. Thanks to Brendan for kindly fleshing out a few details...
Tell me a bit about the cello playing on this...
BB: "I used some samples of cello when Fred wasn't available and programmed them myself, as well as some samples of upright bass (arco). That said, I would say that 95% of the strings on the album are Fred. I also used some samples of timpani, but most of the other samples are of the "non-musical" type..."
One of the things that I think really adds another layer of resonance/narrative to the music is the way that you've occasionally embedded human voices within it. I think it really gives it another level of meaning without distracting from the music itself...it provides a sense of Now and Then, or of the passage of time, of memory, etc...
BB: "I think that your word narrative is probably the right word. People often say that certain music sounds like a soundtrack. And I like a lot of music like that, but they usually mean that it sounds like the music part of a movie soundtrack. I'd like to expand that idea and actually include sounds and voices that aren't part of the music directly, but are really more part of the film. So that (at least sometimes) it sounds like the film would sound, not just the way the music for the film would sound. I hope that makes sense. So for me, each song is like a little film, and has narrative themes which are different from the other songs. Some are about family, some are about natural disasters, etc. Hopefully, the listener can supply the visual, while the audio supplies everything else."
I was curious about the genesis of this project. I'm guessing that you and Fred have collaborated in the past (possibly on other people's records/sessions?), but wondered if there were any particular reasons why you settled on this particular approach for this album - was there a particular seed of an idea or an inspiration?
"I should first say that this record has been a very long time in the making. I began writing for it about 7 years ago! I had decided that I wanted to record some of the music I had been envisioning for some time. I had been listening to various things (obviously) and I think among them were the recordings of Jacqueline Du Pre and Daniel Barenboim performing Beethoven. So the sound of cello and piano together was on my mind.
"I wrote all the music out over the course of about a year, testing the way it sounded using sampled cello. When I was satisfied with it, I needed to record it. I've been friends with Fred for probably 12 years, and I've recorded him many times as an engineer (I owned a studio here in Chicago and recorded many friends in the free music scene like Fred, Ken Vandermark, Peter Brotzman, Joe McPhee, etc). So I called Fred and asked him if he would play on it. Fred recorded all his parts in one day. First, he played the cello parts as written by me, then he went through all the pieces probably twice and improvised. I kept all the takes and then began the process of integrating them into the final product. The editing and mixing took a long time.
"During that time, my friend Bruce Adams from Kranky records was very interested in the music. Eventually, Bruce left Kranky to found his own label, FSS. At that time, Bruce asked me if I was still working on the project. So one thing led to another and now he's put it out."
Any other projects coming up that you'd like to alert people about?
"With regard to other projects, I'd like to put out another Interbellum record within the next year or so. I'm doing some work that is a little more loop-based and that has begun to incorporate some rhythmic elements. Still, it's definitely not too far from the current record in style.Thanks again for your interest."
And thanks to Tom Lea for hepping me to Wrnlrd, another cool act on FSS who are right up my street. I think you might really like their blend of DIY Metal and Hypno-Drone-Forest-Mulch. I know I do.
I was espesh. intrigued by Bruce's description of them combining "the science fiction novels of Cordwainer Smith, surrealism, automatic writing and the arcana of Washington DC." They sound like some spiritual Black Metal second cousin to Ice Bird Spiral. I'm def. going to be checking them out in a big way.