With Greg Malcolm living in Baltimore, Maryland and Chad Mossholder 3000 miles away in Boulder, Colorado, it's understandable that Twine's electronic soundscapes are developed through the ether via file exchange. The two met in high school where their common musical tastes (Skinny Puppy, Sonic Youth, Fripp and Eno, Warp, Underground Resistance) led to initial music-making forays. After Twine emerged, initial releases appeared on Hefty and Komplott but the group's profile has increased dramatically in recent times with 2002's acclaimed Recorder and especially the Ghostly International release Twine which has garnered rapturous response. The reception's wholly deserved, as Malcolm and Mossholder are staking out a unique brand of electronica where traditional source materials are boldly fashioned into eerie, disturbing soundscapes. The recording's a dizzying amalgam of scanned telephone conversations, glitchy textures, processed guitars, and dream-like vocals. The mood's nocturnal and hallucinatory, with secure footing constantly undermined with tracks morphing like mutating organisms in mesmerizing yet emotionally gripping manner, especially when bewitched by the haunting vocals of Shelly Gracon and Alison Scola. While inspired by experimental icons like John Cage and Stockhausen and fellow electronic alchemists like Autechre, Twine's sound is uniquely its own, abstract, advanced, and entrancing but also eminently accessible and musical. The group's presently touring Europe, with Twine's performances enhanced by visuals from Phase4, and is scheduled to return stateside near the end of February for a Baltimore concert with Monolake. In spite of touring rigors and ample time pressures, Greg generously found time to answer a few questions:
One might have expected the new album to be released on BiP_HOp as a follow-up to Recorder. How did the move to Ghostly International come about?
Well, originally we had planned to follow up Recorder on BiP_HOp with a new release, but as time went on we sort of changed gears in our thinking. We knew we had a good professional and personal relationship with BiP_HOp and we knew BiP_HOp's distribution, personal, and promotional networks in Europe were very good, but at the same time we wanted to work with an American label as it was becoming pretty apparent that Twine's profile in Europe was much higher than back in the States. We still have a good relationship with BiP_HOp and are planning to release some DVD audio-video work with them in 2004. Ghostly International has been great to work with; the people that work there and the owner Sam Valenti IV are all very professional and highly motivated people with high-standards permeating the entire Ghostly International organization. Aside from that, I had been a really big fan of Ghostly for awhile. I was living in Cleveland then and Ghostly was fast becoming “The” label in the Midwest. I had met Sam at the IMMEDIA Festival at the University of Michigan in 2001 and from there we just stayed in touch. I did a remix for Tadd Mullinix's Panes album that was well received and then when Chad and I were getting the materials for the new album together we sent the rough to Sam and well…that's that.
Autechre obviously is an influence for you and other electronic artists, and one can discern some traces of their influence on Twine, specifically the pinging beats that appear on a couple of tracks. Yet the unique sound worlds you conjure on Twine clearly suggest that Autechre is only one of a vast array of influences and perhaps one that's becoming less prominent with each release. I'm curious about what musics (electronic and non-electronic) specifically influenced Twine?
This question really hits the nail on the head as far as influences goes. Chad and I were really big fans of Autechre from the mid-90's on and like a lot of people from that time period sought to pay homage to the duo by incorporating our take on their aesthetic into our music. As time went on and we were exposed to other kinds of music, electronic and otherwise, our influences changed even while our aesthetics evolved more slowly and deliberately. A lot of bedroom producers in the US around the mid-90's took on the early Warp artificial intelligence sound and aesthetics and used it as a kind of intellectual mooring for what would become an explosion of US electronic music from about the year 2000 on, and it's still going strong. Anyhow, to get back to the question, yes, Autechre is most definitely an influence on our music, but we are also listening to a lot of other stuff these days that has crept into the new album, specifically, a lot of soundtrack music. Howard Shore and Danny Elfman are two of our personal heroes, some alt country influences too, Gillian Welch is one of my faves, obviously a lot of epic rock. We've been Constellation fans for a while, GYBE, A Silver Mt Zion, Do Make Say Think, et cetera, some older ethereal stuff that we were into back in high-school and college, Cranes, Cocteau Twins, older Cure and Joy Division; I've really been enjoying Tim Hecker's work and also Mitchell Akiyama and Tony Boggs project, Desormais, and I loved Jan Jelinek's La Nouvelle Pauvreté.
Let's talk specifically about some of the tracks on Twine. What does ‘G_R_V' stand for and from where did the vocal line in ‘Asa Nisa Masa' originate? To what degree is ‘Piano' influenced by Terre Thaemlitz's music (if at all)?
‘G_R_V' was a working title that just sort of made its way onto the album, having to do with ‘guitar, rhythm, voices,' and ‘Asa Nisa Masa' comes from the Fellini movie 8 1/2; it's the magic phrase that if repeated over and over will bring the eyes in a portrait to life. The track was sort of a tongue in cheek thing, and we were curious to see if anyone would get it. Probably at some level ‘Piano' was influenced by Terre, as we have been fans for a while, but more directly it was influenced by the impressionist/romantic pianists of the late-19th and early-20th century by way of John Cage and David Tudor.
We knew that the album was stylistically different than its predecessor Recorder so, yes, we were curious and anxious a bit to see how fans and critics would react and have been pleasantly surprised to the degree that people have embraced it. Even a music scene as seemingly progressive as the electronic/IDM scene can be very reactionary at times, not wanting their artists to change, but we've always been about expanding. But it goes without saying that we also wanted to look beyond the more narrow confines of the IDM rulebook and reach out to other audiences as well and, gasp, maybe even some girls would like it.