‘World’, featuring soprano Viktoriia Vitrenko on additional vocals, from the album Interspaces. The main vocal is by Taina Grohmann, quite heavily timestretched here, and it’s an outtake from my debut album Shimmer & Bloom (2011). The video consists of photographs taken by me in Tokyo, Marrakesh, Fes, Cotonou, Agouegan and Helsinki.
What makes this track really special to me is that it became, unintentionally, a condensation of my most cherished musical awakenings: from Can to Fela Kuti, Bernard Parmegiani to Steve Reich, Brian Eno to Björk, Jon Hassell to Pan Sonic, etc. to etc., it seems to have distilled ingredients from all these influences into its own kind of worldly essence. Especially four pivotal discoveries come to mind: ‘Boat-Woman-Song’ by Holger Czukay and Rolf Dammers (from their 1969 album Canaxis), ‘Come Out’ by Steve Reich (1966; it was preceded by a similar tape piece It’s Gonna Rain but Come Out was my first encounter with Reich), ‘Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics’ by Jon Hassell / Brian Eno (1980), and ‘Kokoku’ by Laurie Anderson (from her 1984 album Mister Heartbreak).
It’s also fascinating to notice that we indeed seem to be occupied by the same few ideas throughout our lives, exploring and cultivating them as we go along: when visiting Finland this summer and listening through my old tape archive (what’s left of it anyway: I have foolishly discarded most of my early demo cassettes), I was amused to realise that several of the tracks I’d made 30 years ago bore a distant similarity to pieces like World. While obviously exuding more naivety and my attempt to follow the musical trends of the time (like Balearic and ambient house), their shortcomings hinted at a desire to break free and create stylistically something more diverse and global; I was a teenager dreaming of a better world as well as exploring more of this world. And a couple of those pieces actually got played on the Finnish national radio (Radiomafia) where the presenters described them as “very interesting and original” at the time: the memory of having such an experimental mainstream radio culture now feels like a dream from a fictitious world, with any differing colour and sparkle (and any sign of a more complex and potential world) having been quashed decades ago by the monotonous industry playlists of hyper-consumerism.
But despite late capitalism’s best efforts, life continues to flourish and diversify – like in the basement rehearsal space of the Cité international artist residency, where I was fortunate to encounter the Ukrainian soprano, conductor and artistic director Viktoriia Vitrenko. When we were later recording her vocals and I sat there listening to her experiment (“the voice transports you: our small studio space turns into a concert hall, then into an Afromontane forest between a desert and an ocean, before returning, via the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the Jonquet district of Cotonou, to a wooden cabin by a lake, with the stars just appearing in the late summer sky and the moonlight traversing the water’s still surface”), I felt a new musical awakening, a possible music waiting to be unearthed beyond the albums of mine we were working on – except this time, instead of records and radio waves I was in the same room where the music was coming into being. To experience such an unguarded moment of openness and play, when things break free and your preconceived ideas fail and become receptive to the environment – a molar world becoming molecular, a difference in the atmosphere becoming sensible yet still indeterminable – is what philosopher Gilles Deleuze might have described as being “present at the dawn of the world”.