Image courtesy of New Music Circle
Next Friday, New Music Circle brings Eric Lanham and Chris Bush—otherwise known as the experimental electronic duo, Caboladies—to White Flag Projects, along with video artist Robert Beatty. Rather that throw a cascade of adjectives your way in an attempt to define or describe their somehwat undefiniable and indescribable sound (with the exception of those two adjectives), we'll instead suggest the aposteriori approach, and point you toward some links, including this live clip, this not-live clip of Lanham's solo work, the Caboladies page at Mimaroglu Music, and these three clips of Beatty's work (that's one, two, and three).
Next week's show will feature solo sets by Lanham and Bush, as well as a set by Caboladies proper, all in tandem with Beatty's video projections. NMC has also added a little pre-flourish: Beatty will join St. Louis' own Darin Gray at Apop Records for a free live show the evening prior (Here's the Facebook event link for that).
Lanham and Bush graciously took time out to answer some questions for us by email in advance of their WFP show, talking about their side projects, their philosphies as musicians, and how their improvisational performances unfold.
What might people hear from Caboladies at White Flag?
Chris Bush: For the performance at White Flag, we are planning on two separate solo performances before an intermission, which will be followed by an extended group piece. It’s a format that, for a number of reasons, we often utilize. Each of us comes at composition and improvisation from a different angle, with different sound sets, equipment, etc…When we play together, there can be a lot going on at once. By introducing each of our approaches or tendencies separately, I think it better equips the audience to consider the dialog that’s taking place. Not to mention the fact that it gives us a chance to present a greater variety of material.
What have the band’s past collaborative efforts with Robert Beatty been like?
Eric Lanham: Our working relationship with Robert has been amazing… we went on our first tour with him, he released our first CD-R on his label Mountaain, and we’ve played together countless times in varying formations. More recently, Robert and I worked together on an installation entitled “Intercepted Ruins” based on Robert’s design for my most recent record. The symbols of the cover were fabricated into strange forms… furniture, holograms, mobiles and lenticular prints and I developed some new sounds that mimic and expand on the themes from The Sincere Interruption. We’ve also done other audio-visual live performances recently, so that vocabulary is pretty familiar to us now.
Because this show is a special thing for New Music Circle, rather than a traditional tour off an album, how are you approaching what you’ll play?
EL: In general, we've never replicated anything we've recorded in a live environment to my memory. Chris and I have lived in different cities since fall of 2010, so there is very little in the vault at this point. That being said, we've done a number of commissioned events, so it is a format we are familiar with, and one that I think suits our style. When playing an event like this, we'll always have a certain number ideas or themes we want to address, and the performance ends up being one possible way of expressing them. From our point of view , there will be lots of uncertainty and randomness, but the fun and challenge in performing music like this is when you stray into unfamiliar terrain, and have to wrangle everything back into line or just let in unravel into something entirely new and unexpected.
In an interview with The Fine Art of Destroying Everything, you guys described your work as improvisational, intuitive and psychedelic , though it was more of a not-classifying it as new age (though maybe “nu-new age”). Two years later, has anything changed in terms of how you would describe your process (including your recording process, or your sound?)
CB: We have always utilized a more improvisational and intuitive approach to live performances. In a majority of circumstances, we employ premeditated sketches, frameworks, etc., as jump-off points, the end result of which aims at a kinetic interaction with the audience. In that regard, I think our music aligns itself with most other music. The more difficult question might come from the term “psychedelic.” It’s a broad term that carries with it a lot of connotations. In the sense that it connotes a re-assessment of something that has been experienced before, I think it’s a very useful concept. Otherwise, I've always been pretty hesitant about placing spiritual tags on electronic music. I’d much rather approach the sounds at face value.
EL: Our process as a group has pretty much been obliterated in the past couple years, but I can answer this from my own perspective. One major change in my musical life in the last two years has been an across the board upgrade in the quality of materials I work with; from actual studio monitors rather than a stereo receiver, to using more high-end equipment rather than intro consumer-grade gear. With that change has come an increase in technical knowledge that has allowed me to really reign in the sounds I work with, and sculpt things on a smaller level, and it is more challenging to work with that precision. As far as the approach goes, music for me is still about keeping myself entertained and trying new ideas, both of which can lead to a lot of failure. I imagine I will always work mostly in a live hardware realm; it seems to be the only way I can really unpack any of the ideas I have.
It’s been about a year since the release of Renewable Destination. What are you working on now in terms of recordings? Is there a release imminent, or new material you’re working on that you would like to talk about?
EL: We'd like to build our next release out of the material that will arise because of our performance at NMC. While I think we're both a bit unsure what the future of Caboladies actually is; in my mind it will most be based around live performance.
Ditto touring—it sounds like you guys went on tour last year on that record, and I was curious how the shows change as you travel from place to place, how the setting or the crowd impacts the show (it seems like it would, since the music is, as you describe it, intuitive and improvisational).
EL: Every show for us is always so different, and the crowd often has a lot to do with it. Sometimes, if we're in a basement, and you can feel that we're just not the right fit it always makes me approach things a bit more antagonistically...like I'll just push it even further out and really give you nothing to hold on to. I find I usually play my most bizarre or challenging sets when I'm playing at a bar or with some pop band where no matter how good your set is, you're not really going to win anyone over. It can be a challenge playing this kind of music in the U.S. sometimes. That being said, there are places like Boston, or honestly St. Louis, where the crowd is engaged and thoughtful and really has the tools to grapple with what you're presenting and that is so rewarding.
CB: That’s exactly how it goes. I think flexibility in format can be really advantageous in that regard. Some of the more exciting shows end up being the ones where some sort of uncontrollable circumstance presents itself and has to be dealt with… whether it be a tortured PA system, an odd booking, etc… Whatever the circumstances may be, I think the more interesting approach is to highlight the absurdity of the situation and work around it, rather than ignore it and proceed as if it wasn't there.
Are there tracks to listen to in particular in anticipation of the White Flag show? Including, possibly, work from other artists?
EL: We both really like to draw from all eras of electronic music. I like to mine a lot of the ideas from the turn-of-the-century digital styles, individuals like Markus Popp or Jan St. Werner, and reframe them. Chris digs into a lot of library music and those ideas definitely infect his approach, and for both of us the music of GRM will always play a massive part in what we do and in particular Francois Bayle and Bernard Parmegiani.
Anything else that is important for people to know about what you guys d o as Caboladies? Including side projects or other things that are important to know about you as musicians?
EL: My first record under my name was released earlier this year on Spectrum Spools called The Sincere Interruption, and I am currently working my next record. I also perform as Carl Calm, which is a more techno-oriented project, and the next release will be a remix of a Jeanne Vomit-Terror (Trevor Tremaine and Robert Beatty of Hair Police) track called "Seat of Same." That will be released on Acoustic Division with another remix by Mike Simonetti.
CB: I’ve got an ongoing recording project called Flower Man. The most recent work that’s been released is a one-sided 10” vinyl EP called Inversion Fortuite. A major theft last year seriously delayed the next LP, which will be titled Breslin. Hopefully it will be completed sometime soon.
New Music Circle Presents: Caboladies, January 18th, 7:30 p.m. at White Flag Projects (4568 Manchester). Admission is $20, $10 students.