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MORPHEUS MUSIC INTERVIEW - NOVA

08.05.14 - on release of [ Passages ]

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[ PASSAGES ] - FRAMED BY NOVA - VARIOUS  ARTISTS [ PASSAGES ] - FRAMED BY NOVA - VARIOUS  ARTISTS [ PASSAGES ] - FRAMED BY NOVA - VARIOUS  ARTISTS [ PASSAGES ] - FRAMED BY NOVA - VARIOUS  ARTISTS

Q:   Would you mind telling us a bit about your background and how the new compilation Passages first come to you.
 

I was born and raised in Italy, in Rome to be precise, then I moved to a boring village by the Adriatic sea, on the east coast, to finish high school. Later I moved back to Rome for university. Music was just a beautiful thing I grew up with, my deepest passion since a tender age: radio zapping at night, being in several bands during my teen years, studio assistant (making excellent coffee) for an esteemed Italian sound engineer and producer (Shellac, June of 44, Uzeda to name but a few). Now I'm a music junkie based in London for almost seventeen years. And I love it, I guess I can't live anywhere else. Long ago, beginning of the millennium, I got a phone call from a very good friend of mine; he was organising a series of monthly parties in Rome and he needed some help finding dance music DJ's based in London. He was in need of an ambient eclectic DJ too for the chill-out room, so I proposed myself and my extended record collection. Two years after I got signed by Ultimae Records and for them I compiled Albedo in 2005, Imaginary Friends in 2009 and obviously Passages. The conceptualisation of the latter happened almost two years ago, when Vince (Vincent Villuis aka AES Dana and owner of Ultimae) asked me to start compiling a third compilation. As I was approaching my forth decade I thought it was right to focus more on a deeper, tighter and minimal sound direction, with the specific intent of exploring the possible inter-relationships between sounds and a receptive and psychological state in which an intense existential experience is made possible, like a rite of passage or experiencing the end of a very special relationship. When I had the ok from the label, I started to collect tracks, working alongside photographer and old time friend Giovanni Calemma for the images.

  Q:   As your third official Ultimae project of this nature - how would you say that Albedo and Imaginary Friends prepared the way?   While in Albedo I used a more classic yet cutting edge ambient psy-electronica sound, with Imaginary Friends I've collected tracks with a more electro acoustic aesthetic and elements in some of them, exploring how music, my poems and pictures in the booklet could work together. Passages definitely presents a more cohesive set of tracks than its predecessors, with a much more sophisticated, lush yet crispy, bassy and deep textural sound. This music reflects my listening habits of late in the realm of ambient electronica, and I just felt that perhaps I could create something pretty different. I think that’s what caused the biggest difference in sound between the first two compilations and the third. And it also shows I guess how my taste has evolved in collecting the right tracks for a certain project and how I differently deal with the artists involved.
   
             
Q:  How do you tend to approach the brief for an undertaking of this nature?   Compiling for Ultimae Records is a unique undertaking that makes special demands on the compiler. I was always aware of that since Albedo and I've tried to approach this new project with respect, humility and passion of course, as always. Since the very beginning I had definite ideas of what I wanted, but I was flexible enough to accept some new suggestions or change of direction from the label if needed. But eventually I stuck with the original plan. It didn't take much time for me to get in sync with the concept and to share my vision with the label. I guess that's what working as a team is about.

 

  Q:   How do you collect your material?  

Putting together Passages has been a fairly long process. It took me almost two years to choose twelve tracks from a pool of over two hundred and coordinating the musical journey with the original pictures. Usually once I have the concept and the right sound direction in mind I start to contact artists I really like and I ask them if they can send me a demo with unreleased compositions. Sometime if I'm lucky I can hear some great stuff already done on Soundcloud or other digital platforms. It could also happen that I ask the artists involved to change or to add some elements on their tracks for a better overall flow. And as you can imagine that's a very tricky part of this business because you can really touch artists' ego. I do love experiencing my music with my ipod walking in a park, getting around London on the top of a double-decker bus or sweating an hangover out at the gym. I also read a lot while listening to tons of music at home, possibly with some fine wine.

             
Q:  What do you look for or what attracts you usually in gathering potential pieces for inclusion?  

I think there’s no secret formula really as it's all depending on the quality of the tracks but yet it's all about knowing what works together and how to create a flow. Generally I like music 360 degrees as long as it's good for me to be collected and well produced to be played at gigs. Generally I like music that aesthetically says something, when it's heartfelt. I’m very interested in what composers, producers, bands, musicians convey to my imagination and feelings with their musical creations, no matter the genre or style.

  Q:   Ultimae always delivers music with a very contemporary sound and your compilations are at the forefront of that endeavor - what would you say most characterises the sound of 2014?   Good question. I'm not really into fancy names for music trends as nowadays they almost change on a weekly basis. But from what I'm hearing around the overall production values are much higher then previous years, maybe due to a more accessible technology (one can literally create a decent sounding track out of a smart phone), shared information like on-line tutorials and music production tips, and of course tons of free samples packs and plug-ins. But that's the point really, because there is a lot of well-produced music in any genre and style but sounding the same and with no soul whatsoever. From a DJ/compiler point of view this makes things pretty hard. The sound I'm after right now has to be deep, with big pulsating baselines and minimal drum patterns sculpted in high-tech, cold yet harmonic, almost industrial/techno atmospheres. I don't know if it characterises the sound of 2014 but definitely reflects my sonic spectrum within the ambient electronica realm right now.
             
 
 
 
Q:  Were there any interesting experiences that you had in 'framing' Passages?   Well, I guess the most interesting or somehow funny things happened when some artists (not obviously the ones included in the compilation) after reading the briefing about the concept have sent me wrong styles of music, like electro house, reggae, full-on drum and bass and even ritualistic music, like the one played in church. Nothing to do with ambient or electronica so I had to politely say no but I still listen to and sometimes even play them out.   Q:  As you now hear the music - are there any aspects that you hope the fans don't miss?
  The tracks on Passages were collected over a long period of time so there’s an explicit intention to give a "concept album" feel to it; then I sequenced the tracks in a way that ensured they worked with each other. I really wanted their stories to fit together as one long narrative, as a sequence with some logical flow. For me Passages is somehow my most cohesive compilation to date, and I realised that when I got the mastered file from Vince for me to check the mastering: it was a Saturday evening and I had to cross London by train to meet Magnus (Solar Fields) for a couple of beers before his gig. I listen carefully to the long one-track file and no interruptions with my headphones and trust me it sent me a shiver down my spine, even if I knew the tracks by heart.

 

             
Q:  What part do you have in preparation of the artwork and how are the images/design elements decided upon?   For Passages I really wanted music and images to go hand in hand, to have that same strong cohesive quality to come through in the pictures giving to the music a deeper meaning. So before even collecting the first track, I was looking for artists to check their works. There are plenty of photographers I know especially in London who’ve done and still do great things but everyone was lacking that depth and that connection with the sound concept I was after. Me and Giovanni Calemma have been friends for a while and at a dinner I talked to him about the compilation and the visual project connected to it and he agreed to show me some of his shots. I really liked what he showed me so the next step was to introduce him to the guys at Ultimae and they happily agreed to have him on board. Giovanni was tremendously helpful, sending me over nearly hundred original pieces. I can easily state that Passages is somehow a collaborative effort, even because we've been both through a rite of passage or strong change in our existences recently.   Q:   Can you tell us something about your current musical life and what is on the way for you?
  At the moment I'm putting together my agenda for the upcoming summer, so far I've got four, maybe five international music festivals to play around Europe where I can showcase the sound of Passages and other Ultimae panoramic treats. I also have few dates booked though Ultimae at Les Dominicains, a beautiful cultural centre in Alsace. Me and Giovanni Calemma are trying to put together a sort of Passages itinerant exhibition with his works and my music, this will happen around autumn 2014 starting from Naples. I'm also busy in the studio with Axiom Zero, a venture between me and Pippo De Palma, a very talented musician and good friend; a debut EP will be out soon. I will also be busy with some remix duties mainly for The Crystal Session and the mighty Italian dub band Almamegretta. Green Queen Music, a label run by my pals Dr Cat and Dj Pony, recently asked me to put together a more uptempo compilation, dub/electronica with world music elements.

Thanks to Massimo at Ultimae for allowing us that interview.

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