Intonal, Sweden’s foremost event in experimental and electronic music, took place in Malmö this past weekend. Stereoklang was on site to report on the acts and do some filming. We also had the great opportunity to interview the experimental rhythmic band GOAT from Japan – Read the Goat interview further down in this article.
Intonal’s reputation has certainly grown over the years and this is clearly noticeable judging from the line up in the 2018 edition of the festival. The line up this year include acts like Charlotte Bendiks (which we will cover in a separate exclusive interview in the coming days), Detroit legend Gerald Donald with his act Arpanet, Mokira (Andreas Tiilliander), Ellen Arkbro, Aleksi Perälä, DEVA, Alessandro Cortini, Don’t DJ and many more. Full schedule and line up can be found here.
As always the beauty of the event is the sheer mixture of artists doing everything from pure noise, to electric storms, ambient soundscapes as well as more in your face techno / electro sets. And if you are around well past midnight you will explore some of the most interesting DJs on the underground scene of today. The sent of Berlin, Cologne, Tokyo and Detroit are all present over the course of four days. In case you feel tired why not do that to the tones of Mokira running a six hour sleepover performance. Intonal organizers themselves describes their event in a typical Malmö-ish way:
“It’s not easy to explain Malmö and its inhabitants to an outsider. It’s not a pretty yet standoffish city like Stockholm, nor is it a jovial place like Gothenburg – the Hobbiton of Sweden. Right-wing media often portray Malmö as some kind of post-apocalyptic warzone while the City council builds expensive congress centres and pretends everything’s great. They’re both wrong of course. The best description of the character of the ‘Malmöits’ is actually Shania Twain’s “That don’t impress me much”. It’s the capital of salty stoicism. So how’s it possible that Inkonst and Inter Arts Center are able to present Intonal for the forth year in the running in this hard-boiled city? A festival filled to the brim with oddities, musical experiments and leftfield dance music. “
Although it is nearly impossible to summarize an event like this, with a plethora of sounds and expressions. Artists with so different approaches to music and compositions some acts do stand out. Arpanet, which when you listen to his albums today feels a bit dated, but guess if we were proven wrong when Gerald entered the stage. A pumping performance with maximum attention to details. Alexis Langevin-Tétrault, although on the louder side of the enjoyable, really made an impression with his steel construction – creating his micro electric thunderstorm. Mokira who over six hours managed to guide as through an ambient soundscape, never missing the attention to details that sculpts the listening experience. And finally Goat, the odd one outs, who were as far from electronic as you possibly get with their mixture of rhythms and beats. A captivating monotone session that thrilled everyone who listened in.
Sarah Davachi from Canada holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Calgary, and a master’s degree in electronic music and recording media from Mills College in Oakland, California where she studied with Maggi Payne, James Fei, and David Bernstein. As a composer and performer of electro acoustic music, Davachi’s projects are primarily concerned with disclosing the delicate psychoacoustics of intimate aural spaces, utilizing extended durations and simple harmonic structures that emphasize subtle variations in overtone complexity, temperament and intonation, and natural resonances. Using Mellotron and electric organ, the Canadian minimalist teases echoes of Baroque music and post-rock while honing in on the idea of the drone as a phenomenological, time-bending experience. On Let Night Come on Bells End the Day, her fifth full-length release in six years, Davachi limits her palette to Mellotron and electric organ across five pieces which, like the best drone music, offer a fleeting glimpse of the infinite. Her albums derive their individual character from their respective sets of instruments, varying according to her systematic exploration of the range of available timbres. Vergers in 2016 was composed on the EMS Synthi 100, an analog synthesizer from the 1970s, while last year’s All My Circles Run was entirely acoustic, focusing on overdubbed strings, organ, piano, and voice. Davachi’s ability to leap from instrument to instrument, framing their individual temperaments while listening for unexpected affinities, isn’t a fluke; one of her first jobs was as a guide at Calgary’s National Music Centre, where she would arrive early to spend time learning a new instrument before conducting tours.
Langevin-Tétrault integrates dynamics of live music from post-rock and acousmatic sound explorations into electronic music genres that don’t often venture into such performative territory. His collaborative work with groups such as QUADr and BetaFeed (with artists Lucas Paris, Pierre-Luc Lecours and Myriam Boucher) fuses experimental music to its technological means and to audiovisual performance, using objects-turned-instruments, foley techniques, modular synthesizers, graphics tablets and visual projections to build an abstract and intense narrative. Yet his musical practice comes down to pure sound in his award-winning solo electroacoustic compositions, tangling with octophonic variations of a single sound, rhizomatic writing and sound hybridisation. He applies a similarly deft ear in his work in sound design for theatre, film and video, and video games. Meanwhile, under the moniker Alexeï Kawolski, he’s prolifically self-released experimental minimal electronic albums since 2009, inspired by politics, acts of resistance and literature by Dostoevsky and Camus.
Deva is a pop artist based in the internet. An independent entity with complete agency over her virtual being, she is interested in digital synthesis, retrofuturism and fluid identities. Her music mixes lush cascading synths with dark analogue plasticities, while her AI generated lyrics delve into pop culture and sci-fi randomness. Deva’s set at Intonal will be her very first performance in a physical venue. Deva’s performance has partly been developed during her residency at Inkonst and IAC, in collaboration with Canadian artists Myriam Bleau and Felix Gourd.
Nadine was involved with the arts from a young age, finding herself on the stage until age 14. She creates out of instinct, following a vision that she doesn’t always understand herself. She sees something in her head and has to create it, using whatever medium calls to her. It might be crafted from wood, fabric and clay or it might be writing a piece of music and designing outfits for a dance troupe. For Nadine, it’s the state of mind you enter when you create art. The realm of magic making.
Nadine Byrne is a musician and visual artist based in Stockholm. Her interdisciplinary artistic practice spans across sound, sculpture, performance and film. She often explores themes of memory and loss originating in her own personal history. Her practice is also informed by her fascination towards visual and social manifestations of alternative constructions of reality. Byrne has performed internationally and released albums as part of the ongoing audiovisual project Ectoplasm Girls together with her sister Tanya Byrne, and solo under the name The Magic State as well as under her own name. The album and short film Dreaming Remembering is set to be released during spring 2018 on iDEAL Recordings.
The Japanese act Goat is a unique music experience, especially if you are normally fancying electronic music – Goat are in many ways quite the opposite. Using traditional instrumentation with drums, bass, xylophones and other percussions they truly stand out at Intonal. On the other hand their music is far from traditional a band focusing on monotone, repetitive rhythms and harmonics outside of the 12-tones. After going through a reshape in early 2017 with a new lineup, they have moved on to build compositions that explore rhythmic aspect even further, centering on intertwining patterns of repetitive rhythms. So far, they have released two albums from the label HEADZ; their debut album “NEW GAMES” in 2013, and second album “Rhythm & Sound” in 2015. Stereoklang made an interview with Koshiro Hino, who plays the bass and percussions, and is also the founder and main composer in the band.
You stand out playing a traditional set at an electronic music festival – how do you see that you fit in? “We do not feel that awkward playing at Intonal. Back home in Japan we often play at these type of events where one mixes traditional sets with electronic music performances.”
You have made two previous albums, what can you say about these two; how do they differ and where should a new listener to GOAT start? (Rhythms & Sound / New games): “I really recommend new listeners to start with the album New Games as it really shows the essence of our music. On this album we really combine all that is connected to our music and the approach we take.”
You have been famous with your monotone rhythms – where does this sound ideas come from? Why did you move in this direction? “The idea around these monotone rhythms actually comes from many different sources, but a main change came when I played in my former band (before Goat) and saw this painting by a Japanese artist that so minimalist, basically only patterns, and it really became a turning point. It was hand drawn but looked like it had been made by a computer. That painting became the starting point of Goat.”
You often step outside the 12-tone notes and use unusual harmonies – what is that you would like to achieve with this approach to music? “Playing the 12-tone notes, as we were doing in my former band, felt really limiting and in the way of creativity. With the focus on rhythms I felt a need to go outside this system to be able to evolve the sound and experience.”
Has jazz music had any effect on your compositions? Miles Davis etc: “Not really but perhaps indirectly, since I had been listening a lot to jazz at one time. Of course there are many interesting aspects on jazz that have influenced me a lot. I remember Steve Reich speaking about John Coltrane’s album “Africa / Brass” in an interview and his insight and view largely inspired the concept of my music also.”
Are you interested in including electronic sets and instruments in your music? “I actually have my own solo project on the side where I explore and make use of electronic instruments, but Goat is, and will continue to be, a band focusing on traditional instrumentation. I actually played with my other act in Copenhagen the day before coming here.”
What are your influences and how would you describe the Japanese music scene of today? “Because I am based Osaka there are a few local Japanese acts that gave me strong influences, such as Boredoms and Dinarhythms, which have focus on percussions and rhythms. I also feel that the number of real bands are decreasing, bands that play live instruments. Today the music scene has become a bit over crowded with SoundCloud artists etc, so the scene today has become a bit different, in both positive and negative sense.”
You use a lot of abstract art; e.g. website and album covers – what is your relationship to this? “From a music perspective I have never worked to make my music abstract as such, but as this is the way our music sounds and the path we want to follow it became natural to also associate this with abstract visuals and art.
Looking at the creative process; how do you start composing your music, inspirations and the music production process? “It often starts with a strong rhythm. It is a rhythm that not one single instrument can play, only the combination of instruments can jointly create the sound and rhythms that I have composed. Each part needs to sound different. In Japan it is also important to be different, to stand out, to find value in doing something unique – I think this is something that really shapes the Japanese music scene
Looking at the experimental music scene of today, would you say that your standard instrumentation can be a limitation? I am thinking for example of acts like Kyoka who uses field recordings in her music. “The Goat project will not go in this direction. It is the aim of the band to continue to explore minimal and monotone rhythms through the use of traditional instruments. In my other projects I can explore those other areas.”
Finally, what are your plans going forward? “We are currently working on our third album. More details will follow. What you here in our concert at Intonal will provide a good idea on the sound of the new album.”
Arpanet took the stage at midnight and did so in the best of ways. The two Arpanet albums had been polished and updated and the beats coming out from Gerald Donald’s machines were impressive. Unfortunately we did not get an opportunity to interview Donald, as he is notoriously against speaking of himself, although Stereoklang and Gerald had a good discussions on YMO and the electronic music scene back stage. Gerald has stated before: “I will not directly indicate my involvement in any project. I will leave this question open to observer interpretation. The most important thing has always been the music and concept itself. I adhere to this philosophy. People spend way too much time engaging personalities rather than the music that’s accompanying that personality.”
Intonal summarized the fact that Arpanet appeared at this year’s Intonal in a very good way: “We’ve been lucky to see many genre-defining artists perform at Intonal over the years but Arpanet is probably in a class of his own. Drexciya, Heinrich Mueller, Dopplereffekt, Der Zyklus, and just about every other classic Detroit/Electro constellation you can think of – Gerald Donald has been there. The name Arpanet encompasses both the ideas of electronic music created by synthesizers like the ARP and connectivity – the original ARPANET being one of the precursors to the internet as we know it. So all distinction aside, this is not really about Arpanet the artist. This is all about the connective aspect of creating and experiencing electronic music together. In this case, the very essence of electro.”
See you at next year’s event
And stay tuned for our exclusive interview with Charlotte Bendiks that will show up here at Stereoklang soon enough 🙂
More info here: http://www.intonalfestival.com/