Monday, September 26, 2011

Futureproofing Vancouver: Bartel

Thus far the Futureproofing Vancouver series has focused mostly around what I'd suppose you would call "dance music," but there's no shortage of interesting ambient, experimental, and whatever music in this city as well.  Whether it's the Quiet City nights put on by Panospria head Constantine Katsiris (aka Scant.Intone) or any number of shows and concerts put on at semi-legal venues in run-down parts of town, there's no shortage of either soothing ambience or noise in Vancouver.  Bartel doesn't really fit into either of those categories, though I guess if you had to pick one he slots more in the ambient section: making gorgeous tracks that are somewhat beat-oriented, Bartel's sound is marked by its warm, tactile textures and organic soundscapes.  Incorporating guitar and other "real world" sounds, and a deeply complicated bed of ambient sound, he finds a way to suffuse electronic music with a distinct and tangible humanity it can so often lack.

With two EPs out on The Flashbulb's Alphabasic label, Bartel is currently working on a full-length album.  You can grab the beautiful track "Rain When You Look Down" at his bandcamp for free, and the incredible all-originals mix he's provided here is a masterful expansion on the themes presented in his already available music.  It's a work of art in itself, a 17-minute symphony for guitars, drums, and, uh, electronic noises.  It runs the gamut from peaceful to anxious to sandpapery and abrasive, and its breadth shows off a wide set of influences from post-rock to ambient to dubstep (check those growling basslines).  Over the course of those 17 minutes we're run through mournfully pacing guitar held up by a balefully ticking metronome and shimmering chimes -- think a more sanguine Four Tet.  The beat begins to fall away and the soundscape dissolves and shatters into shards of glimmering resonance, before re-collecting into a dazzling meteor shower of mechanical sounds.  Harris' attention to detail is simply astounding, as melodies snag, catch, and glitch, turning the decorous into grotesque disfigurations momentarily before allowing them to snap back into place milliseconds later.  It's that contrast between the ornamental and the harsh that makes Bartel's music so powerful: the uplifting moments are pockmarked with distortion and painful processing, and the darker moments are tinged with unnerving silence and dreadful pronouncements (both vocal and instrumental).  When I had the idea for this series, I envisioned a collection of really fuckin' formidable DJ mixes.  But what I got from Bartel was something even better, and I'll be honest: after hearing this mix for the first time, you can put me at the top of the waiting list for that forthcoming album.  This is music for late night streets, for the dark and wet forest, all that cheesy shit, but most importantly it's going to toy mercilessly with your emotions no matter where you listen to it.  Incredible stuff, I'll say no more.


BARTEL FutureProofingMix 2011 by BARTEL


RYCE: How long have you lived in Vancouver, and if you're not from here why did you relocate?

BARTEL: I've lived here for 3 years. I grew up In Atlanta, GA, but had been back and
forth here throughout my life. After a bit of time in Toronto, I followed my heart here. I consider it home now and wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I am able to work as a composer and sound designer here, and it's by the beach. Good people and great dope.

What do you like about Vancouver in terms of its community and music? 

I like that Vancouver has a small community in its general scope. It's easy to connect with the people doing what you like, and as far experimental electronic music goes, there is a healthy surplus of talent. Taste-wise, Vancouver is always really pushing forward and fresh. People move on quickly. The community is small and I love all the renegade parties everyone throws. Because it's so small, I only play here a few times a year. The city is close to Seattle, which makes flying around the US very affordable for shows.

How has it changed recently as you've been here?

In the last 3 years I caught the tail end of some great dubstep parties and a lot of the branch-offs. The electronic scene (to me) is currently bombarded with bass-heavy twisted creepy California shit and leftover aggro dubstep music. I like a lot of the sparse, clickity clacky brainfeeder-esque stuff, so it's good for me. Vancouver also has a good techno scene and books some great acts, which I like.

How long have you been making music as Bartel, and how would you describe the music? What's your goal?

The Bartel project started at the beginning of 2009. Bartel takes a cinematic approach to electronic music, incorporating lots of live instruments as well as field recordings. Hints of nostalgia, claustrophobia, and fleeting time haunt the music. I think the goal of BARTEL is to put out music that I feel is worth the listeners time and to continue to release music I believe in.. It's an outlet for all of my  sound design ideas and emotional cues.

Around the time of the first EP, I asked a friend and sound designer named Kevin Chamberlain to contribute to some elements and programming on some of the songs. At first his input was smaller - he generates most of the custom statics and bursts that are part of the music. Now it is practically half and half - a duo. He lives in Toronto and I send him ideas and he jams back.

What's your live set like? 

My live set is based on an Ableton format, with various controllers. I also use at least one keyboard live and a host of outboard effects. Another big focus is using the guitar, whether to play it traditionally or for the wealth of textures that it can generate. As time goes on, the live situation gets more and more organic to the point where I've developed a lot of the tracks that have morphed out of a live situation into full compositions. I recently did a small US tour and Kevin accompanied. He played a lot of bowed guitar and grinding moves with his gear that was great. Working back and forth off each other made the sets a lot of fun.

As far as tone, I try and tailor the set to the place and crowd. I usually play dance music related shows so I try to not stray too far off into a beatless world. Sometimes I play ambient sets or ambient guitar. It's all  about trying to match the night and place.

Do you think the amount of electronic producers doing live sets recently is a reaction to an overcrowded world of DJs, the inability to sell recorded music, or...?

I think it gets better as more producers play original music versus strictly being DJs. As far as a recent insurgence, I think it's just simply that the generation of kids that grew up with accessible music possibilities and and computers in their cribs are just getting old enough to get some perspective on the live situation. A lot of these dudes I look up online are teenagers or just into their 20s, which I think is great. Things are changing and we are coming up with new types of avenues to pull things off in a more live respect. Because music is no longer something that takes time and money to aquire as a listener, people's tastes and exposure happen so quickly, and people get new ideas. Not to mention being able to make it available to the world in half a second. It only makes sense that the "home-producer" category will keep growing. Playing a traditional instrument or a guitar isn't the only option a young person has when they are getting interested in new or popular music anymore. I don't care about any over-saturation of music 'cause good musical ideas are good musical ideas.

You're part of Alphabasic, could you explain a little about what that is and how you got involved?

Alphabasic is small boutique label run by Benn Jordan (The Flashbulb) that was originally launched to self release his own albums. I originally met Benn when we were working together on a sound design project, and I had always been an admirer of his music and programming. Originally the  BARTEL project was going to come out on a Toronto label, but Benn liked the tracks and offered to do a BARTEL release. Being associated with an American  label helps exposure and touring is easy as I am one person.  Chicago, Detroit, and the surrounding Midwest is an interesting place.

Any plans or aspirations to release on any other labels/mediums?

I am aiming to have a 12" BARTEL full-length out by the end of the year or the start of 2012. Another project I have -- a duo with a drummer called SLEEP LETTERS -- is having a 7" EP pressed right now. This will be on a label called Non-Participant records. I would love to put out some other releases on
different labels....

What are your immediate plans for the future, in terms of music?

Working on a few remixes right now for some local acts and other artists. Meanwhile I'm slaving pretty hard on the BARTEL full length and doing a lot of recording. As I mentioned earlier, I am also working on a duo project called Sleep Letters. Always doing shows.

Can you talk a little about the mix?

This mix showcases a handful of songs from the last few EPs, and contains new edits of most of the tracks. The first and last track are unreleased or I guess coming up off the full length. It's all original material and gives a good scope of the BARTEL sound.

No comments:

Post a Comment