Evan Caminiti’s a busy guy. Having already released the Painted Caves tape on Dust Editions, the Portraits collaboration with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Night Dust under his own name, last month saw the release of Dreamless Sleep, his second solo album of the year. Recently I spoke to Evan about how he juggles so many different projects, the creative process, his ongoing collaboration with the film maker Paul Clipson and how his studies in ethnomusicology have influenced the music he makes.
Hi Evan. Dreamless Sleep is great, as always. How do you move on from one album to the next?
Thanks. I just follow the muse. New techniques, instruments, whatever is inspiring at the moment.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
Currently, I’m really focusing on sound design with my new semi-modular Doepfer synth set-up. It’s really inspiring to essentially have a clean slate whenever you approach it. It leads to a really unique human-machine dialogue I’ve never experienced before.
You’re incredibly prolific. How many records have you released this year? Four? Including the Portraits shindig and the Painted Caves solo tape… how do you find time to fit it all in?
Well, it’s what I do. There is so much other material I’ve recorded that probably won’t ever be released – I’m always working on something. It’s strange to think that the Portraits record came out this year, it feels like that was ages ago. In the case of Night Dust, Painted Caves, and Dreamless Sleep, I began work on all those records back in 2010. They all evolved on their own over a period of time.
Is it ever difficult to keep them ‘separate’ in order to make sure they maintain an identity of their own? I never hear a record of yours and think it sounds the same as another one, for instance.
There is a point where it all makes sense. A song has a life of it’s own and the way the pieces relate to each other is intuitive.
I read that it took you a while to get what you were after with Dreamless Sleep. How did it evolve between when you first recorded it at the end of
2011 and when you ‘revisited’ it earlier this year?
The original recordings featured some lengthy improvisations in addition to the shorter tracks. I pulled some of my favourite moments out of those. I wasn’t able to work on the record for while, due to touring, travelling and not having a home base for almost a year. I wanted to get different things out of it when it went back to it after that time so I did a lot of editing.
Track titles like ‘Bright Midnight’, ‘Fading Dawn’ and ‘Becoming Pure Light’ all evoke vivid images. What comes first, the title or the music?
The music is always first and the title is just based on an impression given by the music.
To me Dreamless Sleep is quite a passive record. I suppose the title sums it up – it sounds comfortable and content. It might be the most relaxed thing I’ve heard from you…
I don’t find it to be passive, there is a lot of tension at play from my perspective. I’m interested in this balance, which I find hard to describe without just putting in terms of light and dark. It’s that constant push and pull between the forces. Most definitely not content, but in constant motion. To me, the record has a feeling of this illusion of serenity but lurking within it is something ominous and malevolent.
Did you set out with an aim to create those layers of tension, or is that something that begins to emerge as you work?
I would say that it mainly emerges from the work, as different parts interact. A lot of the time I work with sound in a way that has more in common with musique concrète than anything else. If guitar feedback works with a synth drone in a magical way, then I embrace it. I find you can come across the most interesting moments by allowing the sound to unfold naturally rather than having a rigorous structure. For this record, I chopped up bits of sounds like amp hiss and other so-called ‘non-musical’ sounds and turned them into rhythmic elements. Some of the percussion on ‘Absteigend’ is derived from a vocal sample that was heavily processed. So process is really important, just exploring for hours [and] trying new things. Not knowing where you’re going to end up – that’s what makes music exciting to me.
The idea of emotion in drone music is something that fascinates me. I’ve discussed it with musicians before but I’d be interested to get your take on it. So many people I know fail to acknowledge that emotions can come into what they essentially see as being layered noise, but I get the impression emotion is a massive part of what you create…
Yeah, I definitely approach music making from a place of emotion and intuition. This is opposed to an academic or heavily conceptual approach that emphasizes technical aspects or process over an end result with emotional resonance. Not to say these things can’t coexist! I identify more with a “folk” approach to music making rather than an academic one. I enjoy listening to music on both ends of that spectrum. It seems ridiculous to say that emotions can’t be derived from layered noise. Drone music
engages your brain in different ways than other types of music. That being said, I wouldn’t call what I do drone music. It has drone elements but there is a lot more going on. Anyway, I think it all comes down to what the listener wants to get out of a piece of music. We all hear the same song differently based on our past, education, preferences, current state of mind…
Does your background in ethnomusicology feed into the music you make at all? (I’ve considered ethnomusicology myself, by the way, but can’t afford to go back to university. Should I save my ass off?)
The influence has probably stayed with me in a subconscious way but it used to be more of a conscious influence. It really opened my horizons to the various roles of music in cultures far different than ours and challenged my ideas of dissonance, harmony, rhythm….I don’t know if it’s worth saving up for in your case, I honestly don’t know a great deal about the field as it wasn’t my main focus. The main reason I enjoyed it was Hafez Modirzadeh, my professor. He had a unique approach to music. He played the saxophone, mainly in a free jazz context and was full of passion and ideas equally. With ethnomusicology, you have to watch out for old texts with a hierarchical view of music where western symphonic music is viewed to have greater value than something rooted in “folk” tradition. You have to be willing to approach various traditions on their own terms.
You work with Paul Clipson a lot. He made the video for ‘Absteigend’ and you’ve played live to his visuals. Have you ever thought about teaming up for a feature length film? I think you could make an awesome movie score…
Working with Paul is great. He is probably the most focused and dedicated artist I know, constantly honing his craft, always raising the bar and trying new things while staying true to his vision. I don’t think his work would really apply to a feature length film, but scoring a film is at the top of my list. Barn Owl composed scores for several films by Wilhelm Sasnal, and it was a wonderful experience making music for visuals that are already complete. That isn’t how other audio/visual collaborations have happened in the past and presented a new challenge. I think there is a lot more to be explored there.
Has anything struck you musically lately that’s blown your mind? What or who should we be checking out at Foxy D?
Akos Rozmann’s “12 stationer VI” has been on pretty heavy rotation. I believe he described his music as a battle between dark and light, so I knew i’d love it before I even heard it, hah. That tension, balance…it’s deeply psychedelic music in the truest sense. Egisto Macchi is another new discovery for me. Both “Futurissimo” and “Voix”. You can hear that he shared some influences with Morricone, but he’s way more electronic and out there in most cases. Rhythm and Sound has been on constant rotation too.
Finally, I promised my pal Crawford I’d mention your upcoming date at his GOLDRUSH festival in Denver. Barn Owl is on the bill with Former Selves, Panabrite, Ttotals, Outlands and more. I know he’s stoked to have you guys playing. Looking forward to it?
Absolutely. Never been to Colorado before so it will be a first. Much to look forward to. Also excited about some solo dates in New York in October and Barn Owl touring Spain, Portugal, and France after that. Been isolated at home working on recordings for awhile so it’s going to be great to get back out there.
Dreamless Sleep is out now on Thrill Jockey
Photographs by Jim Haynes (top) and Paul Ruben Mundthal.