- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Alex Albrecht
Following the duo’s contribution to the Patterns of Perception mix series last year, Alex Albrecht brings the pair’s sound to Berlin for a solo live set at our June 29 party. Here, Alex fills us in about their work as a duo, the direction of their label Analogue Attic Recordings, and producing music that’s rooted in a specific time and place.
How would you describe the concept behind Albrecht La’Brooy?
The concept is, at least with a live show, that we wanted to create something improvised and on the fly. Something that is a snapshot in time and won’t be heard again. We really like this idea because we have taken that influence from jazz and that follows through into the music we make together.
On top of that, I guess there’s a lot of things like field recordings that we feel feed into that sense of place that’s rooted in a moment in time. Our live stuff is very similar but for our releases we will add an extra layer of richness to it after the recording session. A lot of the time we just go off however we feel. At the end of the day, we’re often just communicating when we play, and saying ‘oh do you want to do a nice pad here or do you want to put in a little melody line’. That’s the way we operate.
What are your backgrounds as musicians? How did you two start collaborating?
Sean studied jazz at Monash University so he has his bachelor of music. Myself, I’ve just been producing music since I was very young and also DJing. I have been playing mostly piano my whole life, it was only five or six years ago now that I wanted to have some more formal jazz training and met up with Sean to do that. I called the Monash jazz school and asked if I could get teaching from the head of jazz. He ended up recommending Sean.
Much of your influence comes from nature with field recordings and conceptual inspiration drawn from a particular place. Is this a natural byproduct of being from a country like Australia? Or does it come from somewhere else?
I’m not sure actually. We really like exploring more natural places and taking field recordings in them. The idea of the field recordings was a result of trying to forge a sound that is not rooted in other cultures or countries. As much as we love all these other genres and things like that, we also really love and respect what they’re trying to do. For example, you might listen to a Moodymann record and think ‘I might never have been to Detroit itself but I feel like that’s the encapsulation of what it would be like to be there’. We wanted to do the same for Australian sounds.
Are there other artists in the local electronic music scene who are also trying to forge this specifically Australian sound?
I think that inadvertently a lot of artists in Australia are doing that. We always come back to people like Sleep D (Corey and Maryos) who are very good friends of ours and we’ve played with them a lot. They definitely have ‘a sound’ that is recognisable as soon as you put on one of their tracks. For that reason, they’re definitely forging their own path in Australian music.
I’ve heard your label Analogue Attic described as ‘championing the gentler side of electronic music in Australia’. Is that how you see yourselves?
Yeah I think so. It’s definitely part of the label ethos and definitely something we want to champion. There are a few pillars that the label is built on. One is that it’s all Australian artists and all Australian music. Another is that it follows a narrative and we want to release even EPs as something that you listen to from start to finish, something that can be enjoyed both in the home and also potentially in a club or another environment. We wanted to fit somewhere in that realm, just because those are the kinds of records we listen to ourselves. We really love putting a record on and seeing how someone has come up with the entire story or concept behind it.
Are there artists you can name as having inspired you in this same way, in terms of developing a narrative structure over the course of an album?
Some records that we often go back to are things like Pat Metheny’s As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Also something like The Future Sounds of London and Biosphere. That was one of the biggest inspirations for my music as well because it features so heavily on the field recordings. It builds and changes throughout this structure. We also really like the idea of having tracks that morph into one another, like records that The KLF put out. Or Moodymann again with albums like Black Mahogany. You feel like you’re listening to one piece of music, rather than individual tracks. We really connect with that idea.
Apart from field recordings, how do you make sure the actual music reflects the place or the feeling you get from a place? Do you have an example of how you do this?
I think that’s just more about the feeling and inspiration, and the improvisational aspect comes into it too. I actually remember the first record we ever did which was Good Morning Passengers, the record based on the train journey from Richmond Station to the Dandenong Ranges. We knocked out the last three tracks extremely easily and we managed to nail the feeling of those places. But when we got to Richmond Station, which was more urbanised, we took so many takes to try and figure out a sound that represents what that is and how musically we could articulate that. Maybe that’s also a testament to how we find working with remote or rural areas easier than working with more urban ones. The hustle and bustle of Richmond station and the trains and people working everywhere were hard to capture without being too blatant with industrial sound or syncopation or that sort of thing. We didn’t want to be obvious with what we were doing. We wanted to complement the sounds in the same way.
What would say is the ideal setting to listen to your music?
Just in the outdoors, I think. Wherever it is. Some of the best gigs we have played have been in picturesque outdoor environments. Probably one of the first shows we played outdoors was the Fairfield Amphitheatre, which is really beautiful. We played with Sleep D and then we made the record Live at the Fairfield Amphitheatre, which was recorded there. Since then we’ve been able to do some really amazing shows. One was at the Mornington Peninsula at this old abandoned fort that we were able to play inside of and look out on the ocean. Those are the shows that we like the most, where we can respond to the environment that we’re in without having to play our own field recordings. We’ll just use the ones that are around us.
So you take inspiration from the natural environment that you’re in at the time while you’re improvising? How do you train yourselves to do that?
It’s actually easier than a lot of the pre-recorded stuff that we have tried in the past. Sometimes we feel that we should go down the pre-recorded route to make it less risky but those are the ones that we’ve probably found more stressful and more difficult.
We’ve had a few shows that we used to play extremely regularly, as well as playing in the studio, but there were a few bars we used to play at every week or every second week for a long time, like three hour sets. It was nice to have that environment for rehearsal that was a little bit more higher stakes than just being in a studio. I think that did a lot for our craft.
How open do you find the Melbourne scene to your sound?
Very open. I think that we’re extremely lucky to have one of the most inclusive and tight knit music scenes, especially within our own little electronic music world. Most people within our little world know each other and very much respect each other, probably because there is so much talent. Pretty much every gig that you go to you will be seeing friends doing something really amazing and playing really good music.
It sounds like there’s a lot of great stuff coming out of Australia at the moment, but maybe we just don’t hear about it enough over here in Europe.
Yeah, there’s some really good stuff but I think you might not hear about it due to the touring aspect. That’s a really big issue. It’s hard for people to really recognise artists purely from releases that may go unnoticed. It is so far to get over here and hard to organise tours. You need to have people who have enough faith in your DJing or live availability to want to bring you out, and then you need to do enough shows to make it worthwhile. So it can be difficult to get a lot of our music over here but there are amazing artists over here now – people like Lewis Day, Mic Newman and Andy Hart. It’s really inspiring to see that happen and want to do it yourself.
What’s coming up next for Analogue Attic?
We have a couple of releases on the horizon. One of them is a debut record from Adam McCoy or Citizen Maze, which I’m really excited about. That’s probably going to be out mid-August. Following that, we are working towards doing a record with Thomas Gray and Liam Ebbs who are from Sydney, they release on a label called Black Wattle. Then we want to do a record ourselves on Analogue Attic, it feels like it’s been ages the two of us. So it would be really nice to sit down and potentially do an album.
How does your solo work compare to the Albrecht La’Brooy sound?
It’s quite similar but this particular project I’ve been working on (Melquiades) is probably more geared towards club shows. Sean and I often feel most comfortable playing in those outdoor, ambient or relaxed settings. For me personally, coming from a DJ background, I probably feel also comfortable in a club environment and I guess the sound reflects that.
Albrecht La’Brooy has also been strictly Australian and is a response to an Australian environment. For mine, I have been taking field recordings from around the world. For example, my latest release on Scissor & Thread was based on a trip to Greece. You will hear a lot of sounds from Greece and the music is based around that, rather than an Australian environment, which is a nice change. I’ve been talking to Francis Harris for a while and had sent him those tracks, so when he said he was going to put it out, it was really amazing. I’m now working towards releasing an album for them and will be touring the States in August.
Lastly, what can we expect from your set at Patterns of Perception?
I have been working quite a bit on the sounds that I want to incorporate. The really fun thing about the Patterns of Perception mix that we did was that we had this idea of Berlin and techno and those deep sounds in mind when we were making it. That was a really good inspiration and I want to explore that in the live set now and bring those sounds into it.
Catch Alex Albrecht at Patterns of Perception at OHM Berlin on Friday, June 29