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  • Zilka Grogan

A chat with Abby Echiverri



Since her debut release on the Bunker New York in 2018, Abby Echiverri's sound has taken a more ethereal and otherworldly turn. It is the sound captured on her EP Deformation, out on Patterns of Perception this month. In this Q&A, the Brooklyn-based producer shares insights into her creative process for crafting the release. Along the way, we explore her tendency towards the unfamiliar and some of her unique inspirations, from physics simulations to pop music.

 


Deformation is out on vinyl and digitally on June 21. Pre-order your copy now.


Tell us a bit about this release: when and how did you make the tracks for Deformation?

The opening track is based on music I wrote for a video stream in 2021, and completed with the rest of the tracks in the fall of 2022. I had one track that I played in a live set and I really wanted to finish it. I had the basic drum pattern and I had the midi information saved. So it was a good starting point, to feel that I could finish something that I already had faith in. That was the first track called Voxel and it did inform the rest of how the tracks came to be, but I always know that I want to have a variation of BPMs in every release.


Do you have an intention or picture in your mind when you start on a new track, or is it a more organic process for you?


It stems from being inspired by the sounds that I'm hearing and then it organically moves towards a certain mood. So there's not a ton of intention about the direction in the beginning. A lot of times the intention comes from the drum programming. I'll start with the sequencer melody and then the drum programming will kind of tell me, ‘I want this to be more of the dance track’ or ‘I want this to be more of the ambient track’. It's an improvisational start.



You’ve also mentioned that physics simulations inspired this release. Can you say a bit more about that?


At the time my partner was working with physics simulations which are quite mesmerising to watch and that influenced the mood of the music. Over the pandemic, I was working a lot with him learning about video game design, and getting really inspired by geometry and 3D modeling. I would have dreams about it and I think it was seeping into my subconscious. Also just from playing a lot of video games, which have such ethereal and ambient and interesting textures to the soundtracks.

This is an overarching theme to my music that I think I've been influenced by since the pandemic: exploring sounds that while I'm making them, I can also visually imagine physics simulations.

How do you see that as connected to your music?


They're always moving and evolving and that's very much how my music is written, where there's a ton of modulation. There’s a lot of pitch, rhythm, and filter modulation in my productions, and I think that's kind of how physics simulations look, especially those emulating liquid or gasses. So I think that's kind of a sound that I've adopted from the visual aspect into the audio aspect.



Do you think it was specifically during COVID that you got interested in this and the music went in this direction? Was it connected to this time as well?


I think so, yeah. A lot of people's music became very introspective and less about what people would imagine would blow up a dance floor. And that was great for me because I've always made very melodic music. With all of the extra time, I didn't want to sink into a creative depression and so I was teaching myself a lot of this visual coding to kind of pass the time. Then it just became such a big part of my creative process.



The resulting record is both cohesive and diverse, combining psychedelic energy with moments that feel delicate and deep, underpinned by a positive, hopeful mood. Do you agree with this description of the sound? What words come to mind for you when describing the record?


I think it’s interesting that many people point out that my music is positive or hopeful! It’s not a conscious decision - deep down I’m pretty cynical. I do lean towards drum programming that has more groove and shuffle than typical 4/4 techno. And I love diminished chords or progressions that ask a question. I think this translates to techno that is not very oppressive, but rather has a lot of freedom. Some words that come to mind are exploratory, playful, intricate, three-dimensional and ethereal.

To me, it's music to soundtrack exploring a new place. I think that's something I always imagine and that also comes from playing video games: it’s an otherworldly kind of soundtrack.

One word that our designer Ray, who created the artwork for the EP, said he wanted to capture in his design was ‘cosmic’. Would you agree?


Yeah, for sure. I love that term. And colourful, which I think the artwork also reflected. Actually, I thought that design really looks like my Soundcloud banner, which is from a lifetime ago. I did more VJing back then and that image is from a chemical’s crystallization under a high-power microscope. There are two ways to look at it: you could see cosmic as we usually see it, as looking into outer space. But then there's also this entirely different world when you look at things under a microscope. I like the idea of cosmic exploration in either direction. To be able to extract yourself from your current perspective is always important.


Is that an important part of what you're trying to achieve with your music?


Yeah, I think it's definitely escapist. I feel that the most powerful moments on the dance floor, or perhaps just during deep listening, are when you can completely escape the room. As someone who grew up in the suburbs of middle America, musical escapism has always been important to me. I would say my goal is to be able to change perspectives or allow listeners to change the landscape in their mind.



You’re about to go on tour with LCD Soundsystem (as synth player in the band) so I'm curious to hear about the role that indie music has in your life. How do you split your time and attention between that and the electronic scene?


I really love it because I feel a slight artistic detachment. There are definitely creative things that I work on with the band, but since it's not my own, I come home from tour and then work on my own stuff and it feels refreshing to have a separation between my day job and passion project. I think it's healthy.


What's cool about the band is that the band is made of all heads. Everyone's into different obscure genres and everyone's a huge record digger. And I think it's interesting to apply that influence to writing pop music. I always strive to make things sound more like the ‘80s music that the band takes influence from. I think it's an interesting challenge too. I've always wanted to write pop music, which is a strange aspiration, but I think there's something to be said about writing music that a lot of people can enjoy but takes reference from these more obscure records. Writing good music and writing accessible music is a great skill to have.


Would you ever give it a go, writing pop music?


I don't know if I personally have the skills to write pop music, but it would be cool to be able to say I can. So yeah, I would love to. I would love to write something in a genre that I know nothing about.


You’ve mentioned that you are often particularly inspired by the unfamiliar. Where do you think that comes from?


When I was first starting out making techno music, I had a lot of hang ups because it's easy to compare yourself to all the artists that came before you. And for me, it’s extremely important to know music history and know who the founders are of every music movement that you love – and that's just a side effect of being a record digger. So when people are starting out and they're comparing themselves to these incredible musicians, it's really hard to get over that artistically and believe there's value to what you’re putting out.


So I think that when I write music, I try to sound a little bit different from my own influences. Whenever I hear a sound that actually sounds unique or a drum pattern that I can't really put my finger on, that is always really interesting to me.

I have less of an artistic hang-up about approaching things I don’t know. Part of that also comes from being trained classically and just having a lot of knowledge about theory and these preconceived notions of what chords sound good together, and what chords are cheesy. Getting over that self-questioning when you're writing music is really important.

I can see the piano behind you. Do you still play classical as well?


Not so much. I like to practice when I need a change of context. I love the challenge of telling myself I used to be able to do this and obsessively practicing something over and over again. And I think it's healthy to be able to hyperfocus on something new whenever I have writer’s block and just do something completely different.


 

Image credit: Joshua Chang


Deformation is out on vinyl and digitally on June 21. Pre-order your copy now.



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