Rudolf Bardot – Inneren Frieden

Pan dimensional kosmische bliss from Rudolf Bardot. Inneren Frieden is a one hour extract taken from the four hour ‘Children of the Stars’ meditation cycle. As the guru Bardot puts it “The music is intended as a celestial handrail to ascend the cosmic staircase”. Highly recommended for astral headphone travelers everywhere.

 

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The Shaw Institute – Synthesizer Studies: Module One

Module One is the first in the series of synthesizer studies from The Shaw Institute. Each of the ten tracks were composed using only one synthesizer to explore what the Institute calls ‘Machine Entropy’. These aged machines produce fascinating sounds on their natural journey towards a state of decay. Each piece has a drifting quality, as if slowly floating to the edge of the sound horizon and out of view. Extend your sonic telescopes to their full capacity to catch a final glimpse before these fleeting tones disappear in the folds of perception.

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Plateau 25 – Luminous Impressions

Steep yourself for one hour in the kaleidoscopic sonic pool of Plateau 25. This is music for full immersion. An auditory cure for cultural malaise. Best suited for dreamers and wanderers.

 

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Where Do You Call Home: An Interview With Ohama (pt.2)

Polyphasic Canadian Avant-Synth Archive Series

Here is Part 2 of our interview with Tona Ohama, continued from last week.

 

 

I understand that you were musically inactive for a long time, what inspired you to start producing music again?

I didn’t plan to stop producing music. It was exactly like “Time” by Pink Floyd, where “one day you find 10 years have got behind you.” Life happened. Similarly, I didn’t plan to start again. The inspiration to write and record again was no single thing. It took a large number of unrelated yet important events to get me to the point of producing music again. I won’t go into all of that, but what I will say is this: after I compiled the Ohama Box Set and released it in 2006, I was certain I would never make music again. I thought I was done, but I was wrong.

The very impressive Ohama Box (18 CDs & 2 DVDs) comes loaded with extras including photos, home videos, music from friends, interviews and even pieces of your synthesizers. Spending time with the Ohama Box feels like a very intimate experience, and one gets a sense of knowing many different aspects of your life, and it seems that Tona Walt Ohama the person as opposed to Ohama the musician comes more into focus. Spending time with so many memories while compiling the Ohama Box, especially after having taken a long break from your music must have been a very intense experience. How did you find the process of making the Box?

As my “musical inactivity” period began to turn into years, I started thinking about documenting my music career. I thought maybe I should put the vinyl into a digital format, wrap it all up and move on.That thought had been in the back of my mind for a good 10 years prior to the box set’s release, but I just wasn’t getting around to it.

The impetus to move forward came when I did an interview on Veronica Vasicka’s “Minimal Wave” program at East Village Radio in New York City. I actually hadn’t listened to my own music for many, many years so I was quite surprised to find out that other people were doing just that.

The process of making the box set was very easy, low key and no pressure. It was fun. Once the word went out, things that I had no memory of began showing up – videos, recordings, photographs.

As you noticed, I didn’t create the box as an “Ohama” music project exactly, it’s more of a general memory box. Everyone who was in my life at the time was asked to put something into the box so sometimes the connection between them and “Ohama” isn’t obvious to the outsider. For example, on the DVD there is a short movie of a model train, apparently meaningless. But if you know that this train was a gift I had given Johannes when we went to a model train show with Dania during the production of the box set, and further that it was the first time in 20 years (since the “LOLA” album recordings) that the three of us had gotten together, then it becomes a significant music memory. That’s why it’s hidden on the box.

There are many hidden things in the box set if you’re the type to explore, but I guess I’m the only one who knows what they all mean. This is also why the Ohama Box Set will never be sold as a download or re-released in another form. I got permission to include all these things for a limited 500 unit run, but it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to secure the rights for another type of release.

 

I have to ask, why did you decide to break apart your synthesizers and include the pieces as artifacts with the Ohama Box?

Short answer – you can’t download a piece of a synthesizer.

Long answer – any artist who records for a long time begins to accumulate paraphernalia associated with their music career. Yes, I wanted the box sets to be very unique and personal, but I also wanted to get rid of all the material things associated with “Ohama”. I had stuff that I didn’t really want to throw out, but at the same time I didn’t want to be trapped into having to care for them for the rest of my life.

The solution – disperse it all out into the world to people who would take care of it for me.

The end result – some of the boxes were bundled with some very rare materials, certainly more rare and meaningful to me than a piece of mass-produced synthesizer. Things like original lyric sheets, studio track sheets, a one-of-a-kind laminated back-stage pass, real tickets to one of my shows, original photo negatives or the actual color-key or test pressing from the album making process.

What equipment are you using these days to make music? Are you interested in ever using analog gear again?

The old analog gear is interesting, but that’s not where my head is at. I’m not nostalgic that way, and those machines have many limitations. You can call them “classic” “vintage” or “obsolete”. They are all of that and more. In the future, I might consider a new analog synth but right now I use is a MacBook Pro, an M-Audio MIDI keyboard controller, Native Instruments Battery and MOTU Digital Performer software. I’ve used Performer software since 1985, version 1.0 and it is my favorite sequencer.

I’m not interested in collecting every synth ever made, virtual or not. I like to pick one and then learn it really well. My favorite virtual synth is “Modulo”.

Next, I’d like to learn “Massive”, as I’ve tried the demo and think it’s a wonderful piece of gear, but at this time it uses too much computing power for my needs. I’d rather be able to run 50 instances of Modulo simultaneously than 5 instances of Massive.

 

When we met, you mentioned that you are mostly listening to live recordings of 70’s prog and rock bands these days; what is it about these recordings that appeals more to you than the studio recordings by these same bands?

I actually love studio recordings more than live recordings. In fact, I believe the “studio album” is the most important document a musician can create. But it is true, I’m listening to lots of live albums from the 70s right now. My favorite thing at the moment is the long self-indulgent guitar solo, although I’m big on live drummers too.

DIY, punk rock and garage bands were great, and freed us all to make recordings regardless of how well or poorly we played, but I’ve recently rediscovered an interest in musicians who could actually play, and play well. Live recordings are documents of what they could actually do, in real time without overdubs. What thrills me the most is when a musician is technically strong, and then transcends technique and lets loose in a concert setting and gets to that magic place of a great and unrepeatable performance.

I was inspired to try and recreate that live feel on my song “Earth”. My intention was to capture the feel of a live rock band on stage, maybe a progressive rock band who were almost improvising. However I wanted to use a sound palette of mono synths and electronic drums and emphasize the unique qualities of the synth world rather than simply imitate a rock band. I am very proud of that song, as the feel is very close to what I originally envisioned. The drums have a more live feel, they’re a little sloppy and the tempo randomly increases. The main synthesizer solo was improvised in a single take, and drew on all my skills that are unique to me as a synth player – some skills that I feel are lost or neglected such as pitch bending, portamento, using a modulation wheel, and actually playing the keys on the keyboard instead of manipulating a software program to trigger the notes. The song is not for everyone, but I consider the synth work on “Earth” to be my greatest work to date as an artist. It is to me what “Rhapsody in Blue” is to Gershwin, what “Bohemian Rhapsody” is to Queen. Not that I’m comparing myself to Gershwin or Queen, but you know what I’m trying to say. This is my “epic” piece…so far.

So. If you listen to only one Ohama song in your life, I’d like it to be “Earth”. This is the sort of electronic music I personally want to hear at this moment, something containing the long self-indulgent synth solo.

 

You also told me about an experience you had recently where you listened to an album that you had loved as a teenager, but hadn’t listened to since. You recommended trying it, likening the experience to a good drug high. Why do you think this has such a powerful effect?

Music is unlike anything else in the world. For example, you can taste a piece of food today, the same thing you had 20 years ago, and yes, it is the same food, but it is not the exact same piece of food. You can travel to a place from your childhood and you’re in the same location but it is no longer the same place. But it is sometimes possible to experience the exact same recording 20 years later, and it enters your ears pretty directly to the brain, thus, it’s fairly independent of environment or age or the weather or your location on the planet. If you know the recording very well, but enough time has passed that you have forgotten its existence something special in the brain chemistry is triggered. What I am describing is not nostalgia nor is it a feeling like reminiscing. I’ve experienced those things too, and this is something else.

You must find a recording you knew intimately, something you listened to intently dozens of times when you were a teenager, around 13 or 14 years of age ideally, and then it must also be something you have never heard since. I’m experiencing these albums after a 35 year wait, but maybe it doesn’t have to be that long. Maybe 10 years would work, I don’t know. I do know that it must be an album that hasn’t been used in a TV show or movie, not played at clubs or on classic rock radio or in an elevator. It must therefore be an obscure, unpopular, uncommercial or relatively unsuccessful album. This really limits the number of albums most people have available to them, but the power comes from having it erased from your conscious memory.

The first album that gave me this experience was “Thick As A Brick” by Jethro Tull. I’ve searched out many others since then, most recently I found “On The Road” by Traffic. Luckily, I listened to a lot of music in my early teens and then moved on, so there is a good supply available to me. If you’re like me, and music is very important in your life, this is a drug, and like many drugs, the effect diminishes with repetition. I’d estimate the effect is half as strong on the second listen and gone by the third so please, if you try this, don’t waste your first re-listen! It will never happen again.

 

Do you enjoy working on music alone, or are you interested in the results of collaboration? Is there any particular artist that you would like to work with one day?

On the last album “Earth History Multiambient” there were many guest artists: Broken Paws, Smoth, Nebulous, Christopher Nash, Alanna Clarke, Russ McGee, Def Method, Mia Blackwell. Most of these collaborations were done by sharing files over the internet. Very few people have everbeen inside my private studio. In other words, I enjoy collaborating while working alone, what I call “independent collaboration”. I do not enjoy sitting down with a group of musicians and jamming.

Is there an artist I’d like to work with? The album notes of “Earth History Multiambient” say “If you play a synthesizer and you wish to be on the next ‘Ohama’ album contact me please”, so the next artist I work with might be you.

 

What can we look forward to in the future from Ohama?

I am just finishing (in collaboration with Calgary’s Fat Pat) half the soundtrack to the movie “PULL”, directed by Mark Allard, produced by Strong Paradox. The other half was scored by Calgarian John Furey. I’d like to publicly thank the producers of the film, as I’ve never had an experience like it before. On this project, we musicians were given a degree of creative freedom that I never imagined possible. How much creative freedom? Complete. Unlimited. Unrestricted.

We were allowed to do whatever we wanted to do. The film makers, in a brave and bold jump off the cliff into the abyss are trusting the universe to PULL everyone together in the creative process to create something. Yet again another example of “collaborating while working alone”. I’m grateful to have been a part of this one and am looking forward to watching it at the 2012 Cannes International Film Festival.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me and also thank you for taking the time to read this interview. Peace, and I mean that….

- Tona Ohama Sept 2011


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