Estoile Naiant is a record tightly packed, musically hyperactive; a sonic representation of a bright, flaring GIF file. We met up with London-based producer D just before his live set at CTM Festival in Berlin, for a chat about the conservation of electronic music in art institutions, the visual presentation of Estoile Naiant, and Jorge Luis Borges.
THUMP: Since the release of your 2013 EP Eolian Instate, you've been playing live much more often. Where have you been performing lately?
D: I was playing in Barcelona the other day, at L'Auditori Forum. It's basically a museum. This auditorium was incredible. I'm very curious how the music and the whole project will translate into new environments. It's a rare situation to have such distinctive shows to occur right next to each other. I recently played two different shows in New York. One was a seated venue, and that was an interesting environment to play. It was huge contrast between what was happening on stage and in the audience - and an hour later, I played at 285 Kent.
Which just got closed down.
D: They had a series of closing parties. I just happened to be in town and was invited to play there. It was crazy driving from this relaxed Manhattan show with tables, candles and people drinking wine - and then crossing the Hudson to 285. This place had such a good energy. It was a very enjoyable show.
Are you actively looking for shows that take place in different contexts and audiences?
D: It just happens. What I'm doing currently is a crossover of lots of places. My show at CTM Festival has a bit more of a club-feel, and the Barcelona show was in a seated venue with a huge screen, high production value in a certain way - and hundreds of people sitting there, being attentive and focused. I find them all very interesting to engage with. Looking at the limits and parameters in different spaces is interesting to me as a musician. To see how it works - or doesn't work.
You've been playing as part of the Warp night at Tate Gallery. How did this Jeremy Deller collaboration come together?
D: The exhibition was based around Deller's The History of the World. The space was designed according to this map, different moments in musical history relating to acid house. It's a natural fit, obviously with the history of Warp Records. Have you seen it?
Jeremy Deller tells the story of rave through his incredible personal archive, with music from Claude Speeed
I didn't go, but I saw friends posting pictures of a massive queue to Facebook, or pictures of a Roland Drum Machine… It was an interesting observation: museums and queues isn't an unusual thing, and in club culture - especially here in Berlin - queueing is a common either. But these audiences usually don't mix that much.
D: It's a testament to how successful these kinds of interactions between key institutions can be; Tate being one, Warp being another one. They are both unique and fulfil a specific role in not just British culture, but in a global sense.
Similar to MoMA and Kraftwerk in 2012. It seems as if techno - or electronic music as a whole is - getting more and more "curated".
D: Do you think that's related to the rise of the event as key mechanism for arts institutions? The aim obviously is to have visitor numbers up, to engage with different kinds of audiences. I think this also reflects movement in art practise itself: participation, events, live art and performance being the institution now. It's the bread and butter of museums now. A short time ago it was very unusual, and now it seems to be common sense.
What was your reaction when you got invited to participate in the Tate thing then?
D: An invitation to a performance always comes with a set of considerations to be taken. When I was approached to perform at Tate, I had the same questions in mind that I have for every other show. I didn't see it different from my other performances, but it was really interesting still: the whole spectacle of the place itself, that was notable.
With your new album Estoile Naiant, I've gotten to the impression that the language of visual art seems to be as important as the music itself. There are two classic music videos, there's very abstract artwork, and you're closely collaborating about all this with visual artist Jane Eastlight.
D: That runs through the concept, from the cover artwork to videos for the live performances. It's constantly evolving and being evaluated, shifting over time. For "Drift" there have been many versions for the live shows. The music video as is the version that happened most recently, and was then released. This has now been fed back into the live situation. It begins to grow in this context. It could also happen that material is being thrown away. It's important to be not too precious about things. With "Agen", I'd like viewers not to enter with a preconceived idea of what it might be. The music and the various images that exist as part of this project open a potential for viewers to consider it on their own terms. Across the whole Patten project, there's an aim to provide materials that make the act of perceiving kind of visible, essentially.
You've mentioned the constant evolution of your art. When do you consider your music as done?
D: It's completely variable. Some pieces have a lot of time poured into them, others less. But there are different times involved: If someone started a process and left a piece of music as data on a hard drive… it's still being worked on. Not physically manipulating it, but it still sits there. I think that's the best way to put it: let it sit around, then revisit it. Music isn't like a closed book. Sound objects are part of a continuum. A train of thought. Consideration of these things continues elsewhere. There are pieces of music that might exist on this record that are shifting. I never consider music being finished. A record is one snapshot of a moment in time of this thought process. Speaking of books: your press info refers to Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. Do you know his Book of Sand?
D: The reference is meant to be an entry point to the album, an open area. It seemed to be a personal reference, rather than an entry point. A peak into Patten's book shelf…
D: I think Labyrinths is very good. Borges' work is incredible in the sense that it produces very convincing, yet completely alien, ways of considering time. I think there's something very powerful about that. And I like the idea that people might discover Borges through my personal work.
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