[Playlist] Aera’s Sound Path
Aera first appeared on the electronic music map when he established his own Aleph Music label back in 2010.
Now, Aera brings his second album “The Sound Path,” telling a narrative of change – geographic or emotional – to Permanent Vacation; undoubtedly his most coherent and definitely most personal work to date.
Out on 6 April, we asked Aera to discuss his own sound path by way of sonic influences. In his own words he writes:
“These are some of the records I was listening to while creating “The Sound Path”. Some of them became direct influences, some probably only seeping in through the cracks. This music means a lot to me, an escape from a life turned upside down and the hope of healing for a world gone crazy.”
Clara Mondshine – Die Drachentrommler
Even though “Die Drachentrommler”, released on Klaus Schulze’s Innovate Communications label, is the obvious choice here, being a hit-record in a yet undiscovered parallel universe, every other track from her / his oeuvre is worth visiting. Time capsules from a past future which sound like nothing else, yet like everything I want music to be: Tribal yet futuristic, earthly but synthetic, trance-inducing and disruptive – and intricately simple.
Walter Bachauer, who is behind the alias, has been a fixture of the Berlin music scene in the 70ies and 80ies, right in that prism of minimal modern classic and the burgeoning electronic music scene later lumped together as Krautrock, until his untimely passing in 1989.
He organised the Metamusic festival, which had contributions from Terry Riley, Pauline Olivieros, Klaus Schulze and Harald Großkopf, the European premiere of Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” and (off course!) Tibetan chanting monks. Riley’s live-recording of “Descending Moonshine Dervishes” (a conscious pun?) is another favourite of mine.
As a journalist for legendary West-Berlin radio station RIAS 2, he also helped to spread this new and exciting music to everyone who wanted to receive it – even across the Berlin Wall, since waves travel freely, and don’t care for passports and politics.
Laurie Spiegel – East River Dawn
For me there is hardly a “classic” electronic composer who comes even close to the beauty and poetry of Laurie Spiegel’s music. Imagine that this has been composed writing complicated code on an ancient computer the size of a living room, yet still flows almost weightlessly like a gentle stream of water.
Born in Chicago in the 40ies, she later worked for the famous Bell Labs in the 1970ies, where she was among the first to use computers in music production. She also wrote her own music software and worked with computer graphics early on, carrying on the grand tradition of women pioneering in computer sciences.
One of her recordings was even famously part of the Voyager Golden Records, which were sent to space in an attempt to communicate with yet undiscovered alien lifeforms. I can’t think of a better metaphor to fit her music.
Paul Horn – Inside The Great Pyramid
There is a whole book to be written about the history of ancient acoustics, how humans created monolithic structures with unique sound abilities, surprising resonant frequencies, reverberating hollows and caves made for chanting, drums and mind altering ceremonies. Actually, that book has already been written, and it’s called Stone Age Soundtracks.
But why write a book when you can make a recording? This is just what Paul Horn set out to do in 1976. Inside the great pyramid, literally. I have never heard a more beautiful sounding reverb. Ever.
Eventide, go home.
Kuck Kuck Schallplatten, who were on the forefront of the emerging musical movement later called New Age, released “Inside The Great Pyramid” in 1976. Recorded in the King’s Chamber, it does indeed sound majestic, giving you a sense of “the structural perfection of its geometric dimensions”, in Paul Horn’s own words.
Paul Horn, born in New York City in 1930, started as a flustist and sometimes saxophone player in the late 50ies in Los Angeles, recording among greats such as Duke Ellington, Bill Evans / Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, even earning a Grammy in 1966. But being more and more troubled by drug abuse and his fears of being caught in a musical one-way street, he tried to find a way out.
So in 1969, he went to India, as you did back in those days, stayed with The Beatles at Maharishi Mahesh’s Ashram, discovered Yoga and meditation, became clean and one day decided to sneak into Taj Mahal after closing hours. There, he recorded himself playing the flute and chanting, letting the sound reverberate inside the murmur cathedral. Arguably, New Age Music was born that day, with everything that came in it’s wake. Thanks Paul!
King Tubby – Dub From The Roots
I could have probably chosen any of his myriads of tunes, but something about the intro just speaks to me, the way it sounds almost like something Raymond Scott could have come up with.
King Tubby was one Dub music creators, a musical as well as electronic genius. He first started out as an electrical engineer, fixing up sound systems for others in his workshop, went on to he create his own sound system, introduced reverb and delay into the equation, and came up with the Dub formula while working on instrumental versions in the studio.
But how can I talk about Dub without repeating what has already been said a thousand times, like a tape loop stuck in a vintage delay unit with the feedback turned up way too high? It’s part the DNA of modern music, from Hip Hop, to House and Techno and beyond. DJ and sound system culture. The studio as an instrument. The art of the remix. The emphasis on drums and bassline. Versions upon versions upon versions.
Chick Corea & Return To Forever – Crystal Silence
I love this period of Jazz, where a lot of the old guard was experimenting with new techniques and approaches in the studio, from Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” to Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters”, Lonnie Listen Smith’s “Astral Travelling”, Pharoah Sanders’ ”Thembi” or Joe Zawinul and Weather Report…and this track especially. The soundscapes Chick Corea creates with only his electric piano and some minimal effects are sublime.
I think this was actually one of the first records I ever sampled back in the 90ies. I came across it through my older brother’s record collection, who introduced me to a lot of incredible music early on. I still remember when he came back from a school trip to London with the first Jungle and Drum’n’bass records.
He also opened me up to a lot of great Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz, Funk and Disco music. And he let me use his turntables for my first humble attempts at Djing. Thank you brother!
Many weekends, we would go to nearby Kiel or Hamburg to go digging and check out record shops, one of which was Container records on Reeperbahn. I was so intimidated and afraid of the red-light district (I can’t have been much older than 13 or 14) and always relieved when we would reach the shop and went upstairs to spend hours listening to so many great records.
A treasured memory and crucial for my musical development, since not only where Container Records among the first shops in Germany to import Techno and House from the US on a bigger scale, they also had all the magazines, like Groove or Raveline – remember, this was before the Internet, so it was hard to get any kind of information on this kind of music.
In a strange twist of fate, many years later I ended up wokring for Wordandound Distribution in Hamburg, which developed out of of Container Records.
Sensorama – Echtzeit
Around that same time in the mid 90ies, there was show on German music television called House Frau. Another early source of information and sounds, and a weekly highlight which I often had to record on VHS, since I wasn’t allowed to stay up for so long.
They had all the cool new electronic music videos and Interviews and Live DJ mixes from an endless list of guests…Laurent Garnier, Autechre, Juan Atkins, Wolfgang Voigt, Orbital, Sven Väth, Carl Craig…and of course they also had Roman Flügel and Jörn Elling Wuttke aka Sensorama (and there several other alias).
The video to Echtzeit has been etched into the back of my mind forever, it’s just perfect. And Roman Flügel, still after all these years, is one of my favourite DJs and Producers. He just can’t seem to do no wrong.
Fun Fact: Mate Galic, who moderated the show (yep, the one with the crazy hairdo), later helped to create Native Instruments, the Berlin based music software empire. Fun Fact #2: I worked at Native Instruments from 2011-2016. What a strange twist of fate again.
Antena – Camino Del Sol
In 2013, I took a little break from working full time and spent the Winter on the Canarian Island of La Gomera, a forgotten hippy-hideaway in the Atlantic.
I set up my studio in a little apartment in a valley overlooking the ocean and spent every day working on new music. It has been an incredibly creative time for me, having little to no distraction, being surround by beautiful nature and looking out over the waves, letting my mind wander…
It was also on La Gomera where I made the decision to open up to the world, finally sending out demos and see where that might lead me.
When it was time to leave the island, I had a playlist of maybe 40 to 50 tracks, which I gave to a handful of people. The first to write back where Âme and Dixon, who immediately signed “Freak Wave” for Innervisions. My old friends from Maeve released “You Know Juno”, and the Hivern Discs release from last year had a track from those sessions as well. There is some music from that time on my upcoming album, just a few sprinkles here and there.
There were a handful of records which I came back to time and time again while being castaway, including “Camino Del Sol” By Antena, originally released on Factory records sister label Les Disques Du Crépuscule in 1982.
I still listen to it at least once every few weeks. To me it’s just the perfect pop-record.
It’s sweet and light and melancholic, perfectly balanced by the 808 rhythm foundation and Martin Hayles minimalist production (he also worked on Orange Juice’ “Rip It Up”) Isabelle Antenas voice just kills me every time.
“Camino Del Sol” was also one of the first records Permanent Vacation put out more than 10 years ago, a reissue of the album + a remix 12″ by Joakim & Todd Terje. And now they will release my album…another twist of fate, I guess.
Visible Cloaks – Valve
I feel like I have to include as least one halfway contemporary piece of music and this should be it.
I think the moment I first listened to it can’t be more fitting: during my first tour of South-East-Asia, straight out of the club after an intense 5 hours set at Elevator, waiting in line for check-in at Shanghai Airport. Rarely have I felt so out of place, while with this music on my headphones, it all made perfect sense somehow.
Hyper modern and deeply rooted, glossy with a thick patina, alienating and inviting, focussed and completely overwhelming, strangely soothing yet eery at the same time. Just like Shanghai had been.
Cluster & Eno – Cluster & Eno
When talking about this record, it makes it really hard not to expect superlatives. Being hugely influenced by the German Krautrock sound of it’s time, Brian Eno was visiting Conny Plank’s studio in 1977, in between working on Bowie’s “Heroes” and his own “Before And After Science”. Here, he recorded with Roedelius and Moebius (aka Cluster), with Holger Czukay (Can) adding bass to some of the tracks.
A meeting of like-minded musicians, travelling along similar paths and sharing an intimate moment together. The result is so calm and focussed, almost perfectly restrained, it quickly makes you forget the all-star line-up and focus on the music instead.
Pastoral sketches of sound, subdued and hazy atmospheres, pulsating and looping melodies, gentle washes of piano, Enos trademark synthesizer treatments, intricate patterns without beginning or end. This music could go on forever. And it did, influencing Ambient music and foreshadowing even modern electronic styles by decades.
Arthur Russell – See Through (Walter Gibbons Mix)
Like most musicians I look up to, Russell was at home in many worlds, effectively creating his own world as he went along. A classically trained cello player who seamlessly bridged avant-garde experimentation and dance floor sensibilities. A singing voice so frail and so strong it almost seems as if you were in the same room with him. A sense of melody instantly recognisable and a sublime use of space and time – a world of echoes, indeed.
The remix comes courtesy of Walter Gibbons. If I could time travel to only one DJ in the history of dance music, it would probably be him. His technical skills and tribalistic, drum centred mixes are the stuff of legend, extending breaks forever with 2 copies of the same record, driving the crowd into a frenzy with his sense of suspense and release. He is responsible for the first commercially available 12″ single ever, and his remixes where perfect dance floor weapons, skeletal and dubby, stripped down to the bare essentials.
It makes me sad to think that Aids took both Russel and Gibbons from this planet way too early. Just the thought of how much more beauty they could have put into this world…
“The Sound Path” is available 6 April on Permanent Vacation