Drawing from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and one of the area's most majestic creatures, Rafael Anton Irisarri of The Sight Below and Thomas Meluch of Benoît Pioulard have breathed life into a new project, Orcas. On their debut self-titled disc, the two have created nine tracks of ambiance-heavy songs featuring a number of opposing elements, including light and dark, acoustic and electronic, textured subtlety and straight-forward hook. In that spirit of balance, this bilateral feature places side-by-side interview responses and sample tracks from both artists, to dissect the strengths, weaknesses, and sonic tendencies both musicians contribute to making Orcas the rich collaboration that it is.

Benoît Pioulard

"Sault" from Lasted Where Irisarri's soundscapes lay a gentle foundation for the work of Orcas, Meluch's work as Benoît Pioulard provides more accessible and structural elements, complete with singer-songwriter pop melodies. "Sault," from Benoît Pioulard's album Lasted, has guitar and vocal tendencies that connect to the piano and guitar lines of "Arrow Drawn," which is streaming below.

Rafael Anton Irisarri

"A Great Northern Sigh" from The North Bend As The Sight Below, Rafael Anton Irisarri's compositions rebuild familiar emotions and spaces by way of minimal electronic soundscapes. According to Irisarri, "A Great Northern Sigh" has conceptual and thematic ties to the work of Orcas, as it also relates to the Pacific Northwest. "Almost like an audio postcard," he adds. "What can I say -- I'm deeply inspired by this region and wouldn't imagine composing our Orcas album anywhere else."

 

Montreal-based producer, DJ, and electronic musician Michael Silver, also known as CFCF, has recently taken time out from his electronic creations and remix projects to embark on a new creative detour. On his April 2012 mini-LP, Exercises, CFCF stresses the beauty of classical music. Each track on Exercises is titled simply with a number and a one-word description, leaving listeners with the sense that the collection is one of experiments. Visually-evocative and conceptually-rich, Exercises sees Silver connecting his electronic roots wiht a desire to pay homage to musicians like Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian. This interview explores Exercises track-by-track, with insight from CFCF and a complete album stream. Where it is applicable, we have paired the tracks from Exercises with a supplementary influence. We begin with "A Flower Is Not A Flower," from composer Ryuichi Sakamoto's Playing The Piano, the album CFCF credits for sparking his initial interest in this project.

Listening Station Exercises Full Album Stream

Track-By-Track Conceptual Analysis

Exercise #1 (Entry) This marks a beginning, an entrance of sorts to the Exercises album. What got you interested in doing this more structured and piano-driven piece considering so much of your music is electronic-based? It began because I became addicted to Ryuichi Sakamoto's Playing the Piano. It was the soundtrack to my fall and winter, in late 2010 I guess. And from there it went to Chopin's Nocturnes and Glenn Gould and Philip Glass and some of David Borden's piano counterpoint pieces. So I decided to make a version of a track from my EP The River, "It Was Never Meant To Be This Way", that was mainly piano with some kind of reverb-drenched, non-lyrical vocals over it -- moaning I guess. And I cut together some footage from David Cronenberg's Stereo over it, and then it kind of became clear that this was something I wanted to explore a bit further and build a world [out] of. The piano patterns and the harsh lines of the brutalist architecture, and with the songs, [they] kind of fill in some kind of drama. CFCF's "It Was Never Meant To Be This Way (Piano Version)"

 

Jeremy Mangan makes paintings of barns. Barns are not in and of themselves fascinating subjects, and it's hard to escape the cliché imagery associated with them -- of wheat fields and bucolic pastures. But Jeremy Mangan makes barns magical.
jeremy mangan Mangan grew up in rural Washington but spent a number of years living in New York while attending graduate school at Hunter College. His interest in shantytowns and weather-worn buildings began with observations of his surroundings, and was later informed by the urban layering of New York City. "I think what [my interest] comes from is a combination of growing up here and always being attracted to these dilapidated old structures," Mangan explains over coffee. "And then in New York, the overbuilt stacking, the literal hierarchy -- where the higher up you are, the higher up you are. You look up and you see the penthouses, and then you look down and you go into a subway." When Mangan first began his explorations into rural Americana, he was working with a very unorthodox medium. "I was painting fairly realistic, naturalistic subject matter at that point, and I was frustrated, so I decided I would just use the dumbest material I could find -- something that wasn't meant for art making and wasn't so precise," Mangan explains. "So I just bought a cup of coffee from the local bodega and started painting with it."
"Music does something kind of like poetry does. We can access music and listen to music and it doesn't have the expectations on it that visual art does, to be important or meaningful or to have direct social commentary... There's just something visceral and direct about it that I want to be in my paintings also." - Jeremy Mangan
Looking at his work, it's hard to believe that Mangan managed to achieve such an impressive array of depth and tones using coffee, but he has always been a technically skilled artist. He attributes much of his painting technique to his time spent as an ice carver. While finishing his graduate degree, Mangan's studio shared a building with Okamato Studio, the ice sculpting business of Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto. "They knocked on my studio one day and said, 'Hey, I need to deliver this ice sculpture; I could use a hand with it.'" At first Mangan only helped with the deliveries, but he was gradually entrusted with more responsibilities. Eventually they let Mangan try his hand at carving. "They gave me a 300 pound block of ice and a chainsaw and said, 'Go for it.'" Mangan's experience with carving fundamentally changed the way he approached painting. "As a painter, I could look at a face as a mug shot, and then in profile, and imagine how I would render it and how the line should be, but ice sculpture made me think in terms of volume, and that took a while to learn." This sojourn as an ice sculptor led Mangan to many interesting situations, including one assignment making a giant reindeer for Martha Stewart's holiday party. "She seemed very... uh... composed. Like she was working. Very smiley, almost robotic. What you might expect." Although it was a day job that involved creating and working with his hands, Mangan ultimately felt that he needed to leave New York and make more time for the work he wanted to pursue. "I was working 40, 50 hours a week carving ice, and I didn't go that far away to become an ice carver. It was just a job. I wasn't painting... I joke that I needed to leave New York and move to Fife for things to really start coming together." jeremy mangan