Netherworld Q&A

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Alessandro. Your new album Algida Bellezza is a stunning piece of work which appears on the label you originally founded Glacial Movements. Can you recall the decision to name the imprint itself and why you choose that particular reference?

I would like first of all to thank you for this invitation and above all, thanks for the support that Magazine Sixty has always given to my label. I read your review of my album, and I must say that I am proud and obviously very happy that you enjoyed it so much. I made it with my  (icy) heart and I hope it can also reach the hearts of the public. Glacial Movements is the connection, both mental and physical that I decided to create between man, woman and the cold and uncontaminated nature. Snow, winter, ice and mountains are a refuge from everyday life, a place where you can reflect and rediscover your “inner center”. Unfortunately it’s also a very current and dramatic topic. Ideally, and with the help of the artists I work with, GM tries to restore this delicate balance. The music of my productions travels in the ether, and I would like it very much if the ice contained in the sounds can somehow restore the ice cap. It would be really fantastic!

The album was created by using a Roland VP9000 alongside various effects. What is it about the hardware that appealed to you so much you wanted to make an album with it? And can you tell us about some of the favourite affects you used to mould the sounds?

This tool has infinite potential. Besides being a sampler, it allows to adjust the pitch and time of the sound in real time and to associate it with an excellent level of effects. Three banks  effects can be activate or deactivate: different types of chorus, reverbs and a special effects section such as for example guitar and bass distortions, vocoders, delays, various types of noise, aged LP noises, radio effects and many more. Each effect has its own modifiable parameters which therefore completely distort the original sound. As if that were not enough, I connect the output of VP9000 to further effects of the Eventide series (Space and Time) that model the sound even more, making it  more abstract and undeciphered. I also love synths and in fact I have an Alesis ION and I also want to buy soon a new Waldorf.

The album was inspired by the arrival of your daughter. How did the emotional roller-coaster of fatherhood translate into creating the music?

The birth of my daughter was the most beautiful and intense emotion I have ever experienced. The first few days were obviously full of emotions. It is not possible to explain what the meaning of being a parent is. You just have to try it. After leaving the hospital we returned to home and in the evening I held my newborn baby in my arms. I felt a new energy inside me and the only way to be able to externalize it was to turn on my instruments and let my emotions go free. I composed all the loops and various sounds within a few nights. Everything happened very naturally, nothing was forced and the sounds seemed to come out of the speakers without my contribution. I was simply the link between emotions and instruments. My daughter has always been there, so this album is completely dedicated to her. Without her “Algida Bellezza” would never have been composed. I then put the following thought in this regard: perhaps a parallel exists between the beauty, innocence and fragility of a newborn baby girl and that of the flora and fauna present in the fragile Arctic ecosystems? My answer is found in the 45 minutes of the album.

Algida Bellezza features an amazing photograph by Carsten Egevang on the cover. Can you tell us about the plight of the sled dog and why the animal holds a special place in your heart?

Carsten is a truly unique and exceptional photographer. In his catalog there are some wonderful photos, but amonstg all, this photo has a very strong impact. It cannot leave you indifferent. The delicacy and naturalness of the sled dog that shakes off the snow perfectly represents the meaning of my album. The purity of the animal is enveloped by the purity of the snow which in turn can connect to the purity of a newborn child. There is a very strong bond between these images … everything has a meaning and finds the right place in my thoughts. There is also another very important aspect regarding the photo that was taken in Greenland wich holds the Arctic’s largest remaining sled dog population. Unfortunately this population is close to extinction and this phenomenon is irreversible. I would also like to add that the entire digipack design – done by Rutger / Machinefabriek is gorgeous. I always entrust him with the task of executing high-level graphic projects.

Did you find not using drums a liberating experience while making the album? Where you ever tempted?

If I have to compose a more intimate and deep album, then I can’t think of using defined rhythmic sequences (although I must say, that in the song “Somniosus microcephalus” there is a continuous percussion that I have manipulated and suffused properly). The only time I experienced the rhythmic parts was on “Zastrugi”, for the techno / dub Iceberg series of the label. This album is perhaps the best combination of abstract and dilated sounds with those typical of certain techno music.

How would you describe the experience of listening to the album to someone who might be used to a more traditional structure of music with melody and instrumentation?

Nice questions! For the poor man, it could be a negative experience, in the sense that what I do has no reference points or even a clear and foreground melody. From time to time in the first song of the album, you hear the sound of a piano entering and vanish, but it is treated by various types of effects, and it is also the only recognizable element of the whole work. It could be destabilizing but I’m sure that it doesn’t leave you indifferent. Anyone involved in composing this kind of soundscapes could seem like a non-musician. In part this is true and in fact I don’t feel like a musician, but a sculptor of sound. I believe that this characteristic is not very well understood by those who have a more classical and traditional approach.

Who are you most important influences outside of electronic music? Are there any painters, writers etc you particularly admire?

Another beautiful question that would require a very long and detailed answer. Since I was a child, I have always been very attracted by mysteries and things that had no definite answer. During the course of my life I have had the opportunity to deepen my curiosity and to look for answers through the study of the ancient civilizations which have left a really impressive amount of informations. My approach to this methodology is not the scholastic and academic one, but rather that of an adventurer and revolutionary. I have a bookstore in which there are books on the Egyptians and their mysteries, the Sumerians, the ancient peoples of Central and South America. Books on Hermeticism and on Alchemy on Buddhism, Hinduism and Gnostic Christianity. Books on the various orders of chivalry, on the various mythologies of the whole world that all have the same matrix in common cannot be missing. For some years now I have been following Mauro Biglino’s books very closely, dealing with literary translations of the Old Testament. A new story about our origins is emerging from his works, which is also confirmed by biology, genetics by science in general. Besides him, I very willingly follow H.P. Lovecraft, Graham Hanchock, Robert Bauvall, Rene Guenon, Zecharia Sitchin, Gurdjeff and all those researchers and writers who go beyond the border. Who throw themselves into the abyss of the unknown in search of a glimmer of light.

The video for Orcinus orca was directed by Uršula Berlot & Sunčana Kuljiš Gaillot. What attracted you to their work and how would you describe the refection of the music created via moving images?

I met UrÅ¡ula and Sunčana because a few years ago because they made the presentation video for the “The Great Crater” by Scanner (album on GM). I really liked the organic nature of their video, and I wanted to repeat it also on “Orcinus orca”. They had a free hand on everything, and accepted my proposal with great enthusiasm. Based on my piece they have composed and made the video organic. I think it’s perfect, and that was exactly what I wanted to achieve. They are really very good and we will probably work again in the future.

And finally. Can you share with us any future plans for the label and yourself as an artist?

Absolutely. I have already planned the next two years of record releases. Towards the end of 2019 I will produce the second chapter of Machinefabriek “Stillness Soundtracks II” whose sounds accompanied the images of Esther Kokmeijer’s Antarctic travel / research. The package will contain a booklet full of wonderful images of Antarctica. Then it will be the turn of “Ten Times the World Lied” a new album by my friend and great artist Brock Van Wey / bvdub that – for the first time ever – will not contain any vocalization, but only ethereal and glacial sounds. The second collaboration between the Belgian artist Dirk Serries and the Japanese Chiehi Hatackeyama will then be produced. Both had made the beautiful and now sold out album “The storm of silence” years ago. Another great Japanese artist – Toshinori Kondo – together with Eraldo Bernocchi and myself, will be the protagonist of the “Palaoa” album which is now nearing completion. This is a very special album as the sound of his wonderful trumpet blends with the manipulated oceanic recordings from the Antarctic “Palaoa” base. It is the only hydroacoustic observatory in the immediate vicinity of the Antarctic continent. In the recordings are therefore present underwater animal sounds, the noise of ice blocks and Antarctic storms. Then there will be publications by Aria Rostami & Daniel Blomquist, Erik Levander, Serga Kasinec, Eliphas Vega and many others.

As for me personally finally, after several years of waiting, I realized my dream: to have a studio of my own where I can combine all my passions, music, record label, books and the whole collection of my CDs. On the walls of the studio I designed geometric peaks of snow-capped mountains to give them that glacial touch. I can’t really ask for much more than this!

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Eraldo Bernocchi Q&A

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Your latest album: Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It (RareNoise) provides the soundtrack for a new documentary on the American Artist Cy Twombly, called Cy Dear. Can you tell us about how you got involved in the project and about its origins?

I was contacted last year to compose the soundtrack of this documentary film, the first ever made about the contemporary art giant Cy Twombly. The production company and the director contacted RareNoise Records to ask if I would be interested in working on it. I loved the idea and also because the film is shot and written from a very intimate perspective. It’s biographical but at the same time really intimate – a trip back in time meeting the people he loved most or that were the most important for him and his art.

What does the artist’s work mean to you personally? Do you favourite piece of his work?

Twombly is a giant, one of those figures who is so emotionally charged that anything you look at of his is fantastic. I’ve got my favourites; one of these is the cover of the album. What I like about him is how he transmits strong emotions through his paintings and at the very same time keeps them simple and direct. Twombly is one of those artists whose work you stare at in awe and are mesmerised by. I find him hypnotically entangling.

The album was mainly created through the use of guitar and various effects. Can you give us an idea of how constructed one of the tracks from the album? And about the types of affects you used in that process?

It’s true. I mainly used guitars, treating them in order to achieve what I had in mind. I used a lot of pedals: mostly Strymon or Eventide reverbs and delays. Various types; tape, analog, modulated digital. I created drones and loops with guitar and on top of them I improvised with guitar or piano, often for hours, until I found the theme or the emotion I wanted. At this point I’d start from the beginning and construct the whole track, arranging it at a later stage. It’s a time consuming process but it’s the only one that works 100% with my brain. I need to improvise in order to find the right colours. Improvising is giving me the right emotion I need to carry on composing.

I worked entirely on Ableton Live as DAW. Live has a very handy function that records all midi actions even if you’re not recording, it does it in background.
To me this has been a key point, as I could improvise for ages knowing I could edit all my sessions of piano to edit at a later stage.

For example in “The space between us” I had this piano theme turning in my head. I created the backing drone with guitars, as well as most of the little melodies that you can hear here and there, I then played the theme and started to build a groovy part…so back to the drone, I muted the piano, finished constructing the groove and added the bass. Once I was happy with that I played again the piano improvising on the theme.

I then leave the “finished” track for days – not listening, not working on it. And after a good mental space I go back to it with fresh ears for the final touches.

Would you say that good music is more about Art or Emotion? Or both? What elements make a piece of music particularly special for you?

For me it is mostly about emotion, I crave to feel something when I listen to music. You can be the most skilled player in the world, you could play thousands of notes per second, know every single micro detail of theory, orchestration and whatnot, but in the end if what you play doesn’t transmits feelings I’m not into it. There are loads of people who aren’t interested in this side of thing and more in the technical one. The perfect piece of music for me is a combination of the two, 70% Emotion 30% Art. I want and need to dream, fly, cry, get angry, smash things, destroy speakers when it comes to music. I’m interested in falling, endlessly. As long as the emotions are there that’s for me. It’s not a general rule however, it depends from music genre to music genre.

Do you ever feel that instrumental music misses words? Or does it create more impact to leave that space for the listener’s imagination?

Sometimes it does. I tried my best to replace “possible” singers with piano and guitars. Impact is created by emotions and sound. In the end it doesn’t matter if there’s a voice or not, as long as the sound is wrapping up you and your heart. It’s obvious that having a singer is more direct but there’s been so many great tracks without vocals that it really not does matter on a personal taste level.

What is your favourite guitar? Do you own one?

I have owned many guitars over the years. It’s a fever all guitar players have. You buy and sell guitars searching for that perfect tone that is playing only inside your head. In the end I discovered two that I absolutely love.

A Gibson Les Paul standard from 1981 and a baritone Nude Guitar with aluminium neck.
Baritone guitars became my main tool since 12 years, I love the deepness of sound they have, the suspension of frequencies they create. Nude Guitars are hand made in Italy one by one. They sport an aluminium neck that resonates like a dream and are really versatile and also when I play heavier music. I could never give up to these two guitars, they’re my sound now.

The closing track from the album: Near By Distance is dedicated to Robert Miles. Can you tell us more about that?

Robert and I were friends. We actually got in touch a long time ago, I think it was around 1996.
That track has been the one that I composed for this soundtrack – I mean the piano theme. The rest came when I started to arrange it. The more and more I listened to it, it was distantly reminding me of Robert’s melodies so in the end I thought it would be nice to dedicate it to him. I’d love to play him this song, to know what he thinks, but sadly I can’t. It’s not an homage, just a way of remembering a friend and a great artist.

How long did it take to make the album? Do you ever feel hurried or rushed in creating music, or is it a more naturally evolving thing? And how would you describe your studio’s environment?

The composition stage didn’t take too long, as after about one week I was so emotionally involved that things started to flow.
The arrangement took longer. I’m a a “freak” when it comes to sound and mix. I spend weeks and weeks changing small details, sounds, effects, and inevitably once a mix is done once I listen to it I always find something I’m not happy with. At some point I need to give myself a deadline.
I never felt pressed or pushed on anything. The production and the director left me total freedom to do whatever I was feeling that I wanted to do. My studio is very simple since I left Italy and moved to London. I was forced to shrink my environment. It’s a normal room with a Mac, subwoofer, speakers, loads of pedals and synths here and there. Boxes of effects, small noise machines, guitars etc etc. nothing fancy. It’s more a mad scientist’s laboratory than a studio. When I need to record acoustic instruments I use external studios.

And finally. Can you tell about any forthcoming plans for promoting the soundtrack and what you have in store for 2019?

I’m starting to think how to bring on stage this album. 2019 is going to be quite busy. There’s a new Blackwood EP coming out – the third Equations of Eternity chapter with Bill Laswell, a duo with bass clarinet wizard Gareth Davis, one with Markus Reuter from Stickmen, one with Japanese electronic artist Ken Ikeda and one with electronic wonder Nadia Struiwich, soundtracks, music for adverts and the beginning of some projects that will be disclosed at the right time.


Eraldo Bernocchi – Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It – RareNoiseRecords

RareNoiseRecords co-founder, multi-instrumentalist and composer Eraldo Bernocchi has created a wonderfully evocative selection of music to accompany the new documentary on the life of celebrated American artist Cy Twombly: Cy Dear. It’s awash with rushes of delay and ambient reverberation which makes you feel a certain way. At times poignant, almost lost. At others warmer re-assuring reflecting life’s more gentle echoes. However, always pointedly meaningful. After all those haunting piano hits never fail but to probe inward. I guess what I love most is the sense that you don’t want it to end as each piece unfolds leading you casually astray in a sea of atmospherically charged emotion. We Had A Good Time, pulls at the heartstrings as it does the treated guitar and as much as anything else you will hear releases a yearning for more.

Release: November 30