Brett Naucke’s last decade and more of releases all focus on the musician’s solo synth excursions, collections ranging from prickly modular mania to Multiple hallucinations and EMS hallucinations to the ambient textures of Suspended garden and beyond. Regardless of stylistic diffusion, sounds are always from Naucke’s extensive testing and filtration process, distilled cores refined after hours of laboratory experimentation.
At The manor, Naucke’s LP 2018 for Editions Mego branching out Spectrum coils, he slowly expanded his world with the inclusion of longtime friends and collaborators Nathalie Chami (TALsounds) and Whitney johnson (Matchess) on “The clocks of the manor”. Describing his ambitions for the project as more “elaborate” and tangentially “orchestral,” Naucke sought greater instrumental strength than he knew Chami and Johnson could help him achieve.
Following the release of the record, Chami and Johnson joined Naucke for the series of shows performing the sum of Manor Equipment. “We didn’t play on the record as a band, and the way I wrote it with very unconventional synths and production techniques was sort of impossible to play live,” says Naucke, “ so we kind of rethought the whole live album… It was going really well, it all felt a lot more natural than I expected.
The fluidity of the trio’s musical creation led Naucke to reinvent his compositional approach by calling on Chami and Johnson for his next project, titled Set of mirrors after the unofficial name of the group. “Usually I grow a lot of material at a time and it’s usually very project-oriented,” he says of the process. “There is a lot of room for improvisation and for things to go completely crazy, but I’m not used to sitting and jotting things down and writing things in MIDI or doing things that are not completely open-ended. [origin]. ” Set of mirrors find a happy medium between these approaches, combining Naucke’s penchant for the present moment and the need for notation.
“Everything was going very well, it all felt a lot more natural than I expected. “
To achieve this element of collaboration, the musician came to Chami and Johnson with a set of synthesizer and MIDI demos and more grandiose conceptual directions for musical extrapolation. “I wrote all of these plays for them knowing they would take them and do their thing,” he says. To help guide this collective retooling, Naucke brought specific visual and emotional references to the Mirror Ensemble rehearsals, a regular source of inspiration in his creative process. “I’m always very inspired to do work based on a sculpture or a photograph or a movie or a time and place where I was that looked like something. I usually try to make the records sound like things, ”he says. “It’s not synthesis; it’s kind of like, what does watching a living wall sound do for you? “
The main visual influences for Set of mirrors came from Andrei Tarkovskythe 1975 movie The mirror. Naucke notes the specific influence of the film’s lack of music and its austere, surreal imagery; its balance between icy calm and natural beauty. The track “A Look That Tells Time” responds to one of the film’s most famous images, where a rural barn burns down in the middle of a torrential downpour. “The scorch and the rain is unsettling, but it’s also the most calming thing on earth. I kept thinking about it and thinking to myself, “What does this look like? Naucke says. “A Look That Tells Time” reproduces a rain-like crackle, with Johnson’s violin melodies sweeping the spaces between the scattered synth plinks. In its final minutes, the track falls into masses of synth choralisms, reaching a grandiose near-stasis akin to Tarkovsky’s iconic austerity.
“I usually try to make the records sound the way things look.”
This piece, and others on Set of mirrors, circulates between its three employees via uninterrupted transmissions and transactions. Familiar with the subtleties of his collaborators’ playing styles, Set of mirrors allowed Naucke to evolve the musical skeletons he created through the full performances of the trio. “It’s easier to do with people who are like sisters to you than [with] people you don’t know, [who] you just gave it [to] like, “Oh, I wrote this piece for you, here’s the notation, play it,” which sounded crazy to me and still feels crazy, ”he says.“ That wouldn’t suit anyone else, I wouldn’t ask anyone else to do it. “
Especially compared to some of Naucke’s previous and more gnarled work, Set of mirrors possesses a warm feeling of comfort brought by its origins of live instrumentation and its collaborative kinship. The aural sense of peace and naturalism reflects the effect the album’s awesome creation process had on Naucke. “This record was inspired by playing music with my sisters and they completely changed my confidence,” he says. “I can do more elaborate instrumentation… I can kind of do anything with that. It was a very calming feeling.
Set of mirrors came out now through American dreams; listen and buy below.