- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Grand River
Grand River, real name Aimée Portioli, is many things: composer, producer, DJ. The Dutch-Italian musician is just as likely to create music for film scores as for concert environments, with the common thread among her work being the creation of atmospheres that encourage deep listening.
Next Friday, she opens our first party of the year with a 1.5 hour set of ambient and experimental music. Here, she explains her approach for preparing for this special set that she describes as a hypnotic listening session. We encourage our attendees to arrive early to catch Grand River perform along with visual artist Marco C.
To get a taste of her sound before Friday, have a listen to the transcendent mix she put together for Blowing Up The Workshop:
Tell us about your upcoming set for Patterns of Perception. What can we expect?
I will play a 90-minute ambient/experimental DJ set, a journey that I like to call a hypnotic, mesmerizing listening session. There are many differences between a fully conscious brain and a hypnotized one. The proposed listening session, if listened to in silence and stillness, can bring the listener towards this state. It makes people more open-minded and malleable and allows them to believe things they otherwise wouldn’t consider. The set will start gently and I will introduce also some beats, but as the performance is not meant to rise towards something danceable it will bring the listening experience then again towards deeper beatless parts.
How do you prepare for this type of set? Is there something different about your approach compared to preparing for a techno set for example?
It depends on where I play and on the kind of venue. I would say, yes the approach is a bit different if compared to techno set preparation as I focus on the intention of the set. Usually, I start selecting the vinyls I intend to play and I will add some extra special tracks on a USB stick that are not available on vinyl. Even if often while I’m busy playing with vinyls I kind of forget the CDJ’s are also there so I don’t use them. But I will try this time as I found some incredible tracks that I would like to share.
Why explore ambient & experimental music in a traditionally club-focused atmosphere, what is the attraction for you?
Playing ambient or experimental music in a club has its pros and cons. Let’s say the pro is that it is incredibly challenging as a lot of listeners might be there to dance and that’s not what’s going to happen. So if you get to them and make them discover that it’s important to give yourself some time to relax, relief and have a proper listening and emotional experience it’s twice as rewarding. On the other hand, I don’t see this as a warm-up, as playing ambient/experimental music (both as a dj set or live performance) is my main core.
Can you shed a bit of light on your own background in this style of music: How did you discover it, and what continues to attract you to it?
I produce ambient and experimental music and listen to that daily too so I guess it’s a big part of my life, I don’t even remember how I discovered it. Just to give some examples, besides a lot of other genres, I was already listening to Meredith Monk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Laurie Spiegel and Pauline Oliveros 20 years ago.
Any suggestions for our audience on how they should approach your set for us?
I think they should come open-minded and with curiosity.
Which ambient or experimental artists have you had on high rotation lately, and why?
I recently bought Objekt’s Cocoon Crush, Dedekind Cut’s Tahoe which I really like. I’m also listening to Heinali, Jake Muir and J.A. Deane these days. Of course, there is a lot of ambient, experimental and electronic music that I listen to but would not integrate in a dj set as it just would not fit the story I want to tell, but that doesn’t mean I like it less.
Grand River plays at Patterns of Perception alongside Nuel, Hysteria and Steve Duncan next Friday, March 29. Doors open midnight.