ASIPV003 is just around the corner, marking the label's first artist release. A big moment for us, and one that we've chosen two very special producers for.
Uwe Zahn aka Arovane and Hior Chronik will present their album, In-between to the world this summer, so I decided to dig a little deeper into the story behind the duo, the album and the production process. You'll also find a couple of preview tracks from the album below...
ASIP: Hello Uwe, Hior. Where are you guys right now?
Uwe: I'm living in Zossen, a small city near Berlin. I decided to move away from Berlin at the end of 2013 to re-assemble my studio in a quiet, green environment. I'm currently working on a few different projects including an album collaboration with Porya Hatami, an electroacoustic piece for TXT Recordings and an album for Andrea Parker's Touchin' Bass label.
Hior: I don't have a base right now and I really enjoy it. I'm currently in Athens but I don't know for how long. I'm working on my next project with Noemi Bolojan called Yellow Leaves and I'll start preparing my next show in Athens where I'll be playing as support for Ben Frost (23rd) May.
ASIP: Uwe, you're well known by many on ASIP, but Hior, some people reading may be new to you - can you give us a bit of background on yourself?
Hior: Sure! I started experimenting with music about eight years ago. I wanted to discover things for myself not only as a listener, but as a maker. I never thought about it as a career, but the last 4 years of releases have come and gone, along with live shows and collaborations with artists I could've never imagined at first. Nowadays I survive by music and it's one of my biggest directions in life. I don't know about the future but I care about sharing my musical experiences along the way.
ASIP: How would you describe your style and approach to the music you've been producing?
Hior: I'm not very good at describing music, but I'd say I belong in the world of ambient and acoustic, new classical style. I always build my sounds around specific pictures or memories - our life is fractal and I believe music gives us the best description.
ASIP: Uwe, we last spoke in 2013, around the time of your release Ve Palor, on n5MD. What have you been up to since?
Uwe: I've finished a couple of projects since that release; a sound pack for Ableton which was very interesting; it's called Spectral Textures and is made-up of field recordings and synthesized spectral sounds. I've also created a bunch of loops for Twisted Tools' Ultraloop Ensemble, a sample library for Soundmorph called Doom Drones and a sample pack for Zero-g.
ASIP: How did this type of work come about? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Uwe: It's something I've always done actually - sounds define my musical work. The border between music production and sound design is blurring in my opinion. Designing sounds is my daily business and it pays the bills to sell sounds and instruments to these Library's.
I'm always in constant contact with people in the sound design domain and some of them ask me to design for a specific task or purpose. I talked to Christian from Ableton about the idea of building instruments based on field recordings and Spectral Sounds and Spectral Textures was born out of that.
ASIP: How did you guys come together for the new album, 'In-between'?
Uwe: Hior stayed in Berlin at the end of 2013 and we met for some music sessions, improvising on sounds in my studio. It was a relaxed and inspiring atmosphere, so we decided to meet more often. We ended up finishing a really nice track and so the logical decision for us was to create an entire album.
Hior: It was entirely unexpected and I never imagined I'd make an album with Arovane, but after our first song we decided to make many more after. I'll never forget the feeling listening back to our work, watching the foggy atmosphere together with Uwe.
ASIP: How long did it take to record the entire album?
Uwe: It started at my studio, and took a few months to finish. Hior traveled back to Greece during the winter of 2013/14 and so we swapped projects online. I sent Hior sounds to work on and he sent me back the project he would work on. He came up with the idea to integrate acoustic instruments which is where we invited Aaron Martin to play cello.
Hior: We followed each other's movements only by heart, and the music dictated the logic. When I returned back to Athens I included more acoustic sounds, including my own,
combining them with Uwe's progress.
ASIP: Can you describe the process behind recording the album whilst you were in the studio together?
Uwe: We both love to improvise and the whole album was based on improvisations. I'm more into keyboard playing than Hior, so I played all the melodic tracks. I purchased Ableton's push around that time and Hior played with the hardware controller. We both continued to work on the mix after the recording sessions, taking parts out of the arrangement or inserting new field recordings. I programmed lots of sounds on Native Instruments' Absynth for the project, using found sounds, and field recordings played back with the Granular Oscillators. This helped achieve a very special sound, combining the best of both worlds.
ASIP: Was every track improvised? Did you set a vision for any of the tracks?
Hior: The vision was for the whole album and not for any individual track. It was mostly improvisation but in a very specific direction, with ambient music as the goal.
Each track is different- a different kind of story.
Uwe: The musical direction of the tracks were characterized by our mood. All decisions happened during the sessions. It was a kind of silent communication between Hior and me.
ASIP: Did you both have a specific style in mind when you set out to make the album? Was it always meant to be an ambient album?
Hior: Yes we knew which direction to follow. When we started to experiment with sounds we said to each other, "lets make some beautiful ambient music".
Uwe: It was a blank sheet of paper at the beginning. The idea to produce an ambient album grew with the many sessions we had. We both love all kinds of ambient music. During the brakes of the recording sessions, we made field recordings to integrate into the music. You can hear sounds recorded in the backyard to enhance the musical expression.
ASIP: What gear did you use to produce the album? Any new techniques or equipment?
Uwe: We used hardware and software to create the album. Our DAW of choice was Ableton Live because it enabled us to swap projects, sounds and musical ideas. Hior and I are quite experienced with Live so we could develop our ideas pretty quickly. I also used the access Virus Indigo2 and the Virus TI for improvising some of the melodic parts, combined with software instruments like Absynth, Ableton's Sampler and the Granulator. We integrated field recordings spontaneously, like backyard sounds when we opened the windows, or granulated sounds of found objects.
Hior: As I said before, I work mainly in Ableton. I used some VST and plugins and my little Kaos pad - simple but in a complicated way.
Uwe: I remember one time Hior really wanted to create a more rhythmical track and the Akai MPC was the perfect instrument for it, so I threw in a bunch of drum and percussion sounds, which didn't really fit with the rest of the tracks on the album, so we reduced the sounds again and again to end up with a more minimal clicks'n cut track.
ASIP: Hior, how was it working with Uwe and all his gear? How does it compare to your normal set-up?
Hior: At first I was amazed (and jealous!) I felt like a kid in a playground. But I also felt a little lost because I normally work in a very simple way. We didn't speak to each other during the entire recording process. Nothing at all. Only at the end when Uwe pressed the "stop recording" button, we would start to share our feelings by words. I really hope to do it all again.
ASIP: Did you play on anything new? What's Uwe's best piece of equipment?
Hior: Uwe has so much and I felt a little lost. If I had the time to experiment with everything one day that would be awesome. So I only ended up playing with his Virus synth and Push. That was enough for me.
ASIP: Uwe, what do you think is your most prized piece of equipment in the studio?
Uwe: It's hard to say because any instrument or software in my studio fulfils a certain purpose. I like my hardware synth's most. It's a pleasure to touch and tweak sounds on hardware. The Waldorf synth's are very well designed (by Axel Hartmann/Design Box) and produce sounds with a very specific character. The 'Q' is my synth' of choice regarding ease of operation. The Clavia Nord Modular G2 is no.1 regarding flexibility when programming sounds.
ASIP: Uwe, In-between is probably your first dedicated foray into ambient music - a departure for some from your more recognized style. Was it always something you wanted to do?
Uwe: I'm very into ambient music and I think there's a huge comeback for it in the last few years. Ambient music was always a part of my music and my tracks - if you listen to my music on my previous albums, Atol Scrap, Tides or Lilies for example. I always wanted to record a decidedly ambient album and I found a congenial partner in Hior to do that. It's definitely a new facet in my musical work beside my love for electroacoustic and acousmatic music.
ASIP: Aaron Martin features on Cello on the track ‘Past Creates The Future’, how did this partnership come about?
Uwe: Hior suggested we integrate acoustic elements into our tracks. I remember that Aaron asked Hior to play over a track we were working on after Hior traveled back to Greece - right Hior? It was a very nice idea to involve Aaron in our project - I love the sound of a Cello and it blends nicely into that specific track.
Hior: Yeah…. I used his cello stems for our track because it was a perfect fit. Aaron is one of the guys I collaborate with for many of my solo works and I really admire his style.
ASIP: How did you come to choose the album title ‘In-between’? Was there a specific influence behind it?
Uwe: Personally it was a time I was 'in-between', back in 2013. I planned to move out from Berlin, I quit my part-time job in Berlin and committed as a freelance musician and sound designer. It was a significant period of change in my life and I felt 'in-between'.
Hior: Yes, it was Uwe's idea and I liked it because it also means many things for me. It represents everything that happened between Uwe and I since we first met 13 years ago - I was in-between Athens and Berlin all of these years.
Whilst I was with Uwe in Berlin I was inspired; the atmosphere, my friends, my life there. I've been going to Berlin for ten years now, so I'm a part of this city. Whilst we were recording, Berlin was on my mind and in my heart. When I came back to Athens, things changed a bit. I missed Berlin.
Outside of my life in Greece, I think Poland will be my next destination, just a few hours away from Berlin so that makes me happy. Traveling and love are the only things I really care about, and therefore it's a big influence on my music.
ASIP: How did you survive together in the studio? Any significant memories?
Uwe: We had plenty of breaks during the sessions, listening to the music we'd recorded so far, drinking coffee and Hior, smoking a cigarette. This continual deep listening was a very important process for the album - It was a kind of musical meditation for us. We had a lot of fun during the recording sessions, playing with sounds to push our musical ideas in different directions.
Hior: I was in the mood to smoke a lot of cigarettes because I was really enjoying the moment. But Uwe only permitted me to smoke outside on the balcony, so I didn't smoke that much. And big thanks to him really, otherwise I would've smoked like crazy!
ASIP: How did you celebrate finishing the album?
Uwe: In my opinion there wasn't a concrete finish because we continued to work on new tracks. Hior came up with new ideas, and I'm working continuously on new music. We were happy with where we got to and decided to finish and look for a home for the album. Also, we couldn't celebrate that much because Hior was in Greece and I was busy with the move to Zossen. I promised Hior a Tomato Soup when he visits me next in Zossen!
ASIP: Home-made or Heinz Tomato soup? And please tell me you have Garlic Bread on the side?!
Uwe: Uwe's own Tomato soup, not Heinz! Home made with the best Tomatoes and ingredients! And yes, Garlic bread if that's what Hior wants!
Hior: Home made is always the best! I'm a garlic freak and as a Greek, I use garlic in pretty-much everything I make! I think we will celebrate finishing the album next time we meet in a few months time.
ASIP: Here's an idea, can we please live-stream the next studio soup session?
Hior: I love this concept. We'll name a track Tomato Soup in the future!
Uwe: Nice idea! But I'll need Hior's support to prepare plenty of Tomato Soup for the listeners!
ASIP: Not sure I can finish on tomato soup (!) so one last question: who would be your dream partner in the studio next time?
Uwe: Hard to say, so many brilliant artists out there. Let me think... David Sylvian would be one of my fave' artists I would like to work with - his album, Uncommon Deities blew me away.
Hior: So many indeed - difficult to say only one name. But the first name that comes out of my mind, would be Ben Frost…