(Artist Spotlight/Interview) wndfrm
The work of my friend Tim Westcott, aka Portland’s wndfrm, has over the years found a foothold in the international electronic music community for the wide range of its styles and atmospheres, from deep-listening exploration akin to lowercase (see C60/tmkutekt, for Home Normal, one of my fave labels) to an idiosyncratic take on dub techno ( Formal Variant is crucial). The latest wndfrm release, for Yann Novak’s excellent Dragon’s Eye Recordings (check the new Marco Marzuoli, Geneva Skeen, and of course Novak himself), A Land of Falling Waters is an acousmatic mental journey through Cascadia’s moss-draped rainforests and fog-enshrouded beaches down to the micro-level of undergrowth and tidepools. It is most definitely worth your time, an essential sound art album for the year. Additionally, Tim has a DVD collaboration with visual artist Mark Henrickson out; it is entitled 1412
Tim had time to chat over email to promote the album, recently. I got to pick his brain for his thoughts on the act of listening, so I was naturally pretty happy…
On the release page, A Land of Falling Waters is called “a stereo iteration of a quadrophonic live-performance presented throughout the summer of 2016.” So, maybe tell me a little bit about how this work developed over time?
Like most of my projects, it came from aggregating various textures and elements into a framework that I could use in a performative context… I had a few shows lined up in the late spring/summer of 2016, and half of them were of an ambient nature.
I can’t say that I started out with the “Cascadian” thematic element…that emerged due to the nature of the source material… the quadrophonic aspect is simply a product of my desire to work with as much spatial depth as possible, in any given context.
In this work you capture a very organic sort of soundspace. Where were the field-recordings on the album taken? What sound source was maybe the most surprising or unusual?
To be honest, I don’t really want to give out much in the way of specifics… while I would probably say more in a personal context, I think with this type of work the act of perception is vital to the enjoyment of the piece… to influence the listener in a certain, concrete direction I think is possibly detracting from this experience. I truly enjoy reading reviews that credit this type of sound or another, especially when they are completely wrong! It’s so telling how much our past experiences influence how we perceive the world around us.
I will say there really are very few source elements; they are sourced from a couple of spots in the Pacific Northwest, and one urban locale in Montreal. The piano elements were recording during a tuning session for the last edition of the substrata festival in Seattle, in 2015. I just left my recorder in the room and walked out while the technician was working.
In fact, the piano recording proved to be the most surprising, for some reason I got some “surprise” tonal and harmonic elements from the reverb and notch filter chains I used.. very cool!
What kind of narrative or feeling did you want to convey on A Land of Falling Waters? How is it different from your work from the past?
It’s not so different, perhaps it is a bit more “static” and open than some of my other recorded work. It’s difficult for me to capture these things sometimes, to “finish”, as it were… everything is a work in progress, everything is bits of lego strewn about the floor, waiting to cohere. I think in the performance context, the live aspect, it’s much easier for me to sculpt sound in this manner… to take a snapshot of that process, this I find more demanding…
Honestly I couldn’t pin down any specific narrative… it is what you hear, incorporating your own perceptive bias, and emotional lean… my intent is simply to engage the ear, and hopefully to reward the act of sonic immersion and deep listening… I attempt to encourage these practices through detail and pacing.
What kind of musical influence would you say is happening here, among the more abstract elements?
A few years back I made a conscious choice to engage the world around me without wearing headphones all the time… I don’t have a car, and ride the bus/walk frequently. I think eschewing the “personal soundtrack” aspect of wandering about urban landscapes with music in ear has really helped my own attention span, as it pertains to sound.
I’m not sure if that answers your question, but I think it’s quite relevant..
Who are your favorite contemporary sound artists? Who would you say has influenced you?
Favourites? That’s a tough one… truly too numerous to list… my influences include 80s era new age, late 80s and early 90s hiphop, techno from Detroit and abroad, the whole early Warp Records/IDM scene, the minimalist and avant garde composers I’ve been exposed to, the junglist massive, the lowercase/early 12k scene, Touch Records, Raster Noton, crate digging in the ambient bin, etc….etc….
I have been truly encouraged and influenced by my friends in the local Portland scene… there is such a pool of talent here, it’s almost sickening.
You can buy A Land of Falling Waters here. Enjoy.