It's exciting when you discover the music of an artist which you immediately fall in love with. On hearing 22 year old Nicholas Morera's (aka a.d.l.r) new album 'Foam on the Waves of Space Time', released early January on LA based experimental label NonProjects, I did just that. Pulling together elements from electronica, drone, ambient and jazz with self taught compositional techniques, Morera has carved out a unique experimental sound.
Hi Nicholas, can you tell us a little about how you came to be a musician, and your progression to making experimental music?
My father is a jazz saxophonist; he was doing session work in LA in the 70s and 80s. I started playing violin and saxophone in elementary school. I soon became an obsessive hip hop fan, started DJing in 6th grade, and fully immersed myself in the scratch/battle DJ scene happening at the time. My developing interest in digging for records (no doubt initially fueled by my father's 5,000+ collection) inevitably exposed me to a wide variety of different sounds and ideas, and it quickly became apparent that my tastes were decidedly left-field. The defining moment in all this must have been my father introducing me to the music of Anthony Braxton around 14: here was a master musician developing a system both deeply personal and rigorous, and subject solely to its own definitions. This was and continues to be an enormous model for me, and since then I've been interested in investigating without prejudice both sound and schemata, in all possible manifestations.
Can you give us a clue to decipher the meaning behind your moniker?
eagle / light
You cite Aphex Twin and Squarepusher are important influences in getting you into electronic music, do these artists, and Warp releases in general still impact on your sound?
I can't say that they do, although the resonances of early Aphex Twin still seem to seep in at times. What was important to me about these artists in particular and golden-era IDM in general was that they explored concepts of extreme musical virtuosity that are traditionally associated with a bodily tactility, a component all but lost with the medium of machines. This was a total mind-fuck to me at the time, and if anything still lingers, it's this concept of the intersection of the physical with the virtual.
Aside from the electronic influence, what else influences you?
Tapping the source. I'm a die-hard listener to all different kinds of music, but at the end of the day, raw creativity for me is nothing short of a shamanic act: a direct encounter with the Overmind. Ideas come from doing the work one sets out to do, and through the process, the Other breaks through.
You've taught yourself the compositional techniques of modern classical artists such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez. Can you describe these techniques, your interest in them, and how you apply them to your own work?
The compositional thought of serialism and the many off-shoots of the post-war avant-garde are predicated on the notion that traditional means of creating music have been exhausted. Much has been made of the taxonomically correct way of working with 12-tone rows, atonality, and that sort of thing, but for me, the excitement of this music is the dual concept of the parametric and the proportion. Serialism is fundamentally about breaking down all of the individual components of a piece into a scale of extremes and how these various parametric values proportionally relate to each other within a personally designed formal model. Contrary to the high modernist dogma, I believe this mode of thinking and its accompanying "toolbox" are not style-specific but rather readily applicable to any aesthetic position.
NonProjects seems like the perfect home for your music, can you tell us how you came to be signed with them?
I've been friends with Brian for many years now; we met through the scratch dj scene in LA. When he was starting the label a couple years ago he approached me about putting some music out.
There's an apparent synergy between each NonProjects artists experimental approach to music. Do you jam, share ideas and hang out with Asura, Ana Caravelle, and Anenon?
There's definitely a social component behind why I think there's that level of synchronicity. I met Ryan and Ana through Brian a couple years back, and it was quickly apparent that we all had shared concerns, interests, and backgrounds in various strains of contemporary music. I think it's fair to say there's a cross current of ideas that flows in our circle.
That being said, I think we all kind of do our own thing and have a wide range of projects and occupations that are singular and specific to us as individuals. I think the curatorial function of a label is important and has its place, but only so long as that branding doesn't take away from the presentation of the novel.
Is there any particular hardware or software that is core to your approach to making music and production?
Ableton Live is more or less at the core of my writing desk. The primal idea originates in a lot of different forms on a lot of different mediums: cassette tapes, graph paper, acoustic instruments, various software on the xp partition on my macbook, etc. This all then gets routed to Ableton one way or another, then further filtered.
How important is the process of making music to you, against the actual end result?
Process is very important to be. I wouldn't go so far as Boulez and proclaim that process is all there is, but it's certainly the prime impetus for doing what I do. My ideas on music rarely attempt to scetch out the end-result, but rather the potential interaction and proportioning of set materials. Beginning on a new piece of music, I first decide what are my materials and how these may be transformed parametrically. I tell myself, "I will work with these," and then begin. This comes back to what I was saying earlier about the encounter with the Other. Little things, unexplainable things, start to happen once one is immersed in the process. However, I find one first has to commit to the process and surrender their assumptions and prejudices in order for this dialogue to open up.
I'd like to warn that the primacy of process over product in my work shouldn't suggest anything random (something I've seen crop up in discussion of my music in the press). I have very little interest in either aleatoricism or just letting algorithms run their course. All grids of filtering are always subject to further sieves and active involvement.
'Foam on the Waves of Space-Time' is a reference to Gérard Grisey’s Le Temps et l’Écume, can you elaborate on this reference, and how it relates to the music?
The connection between the two is ambiguously conceptual rather than sharing any techniques or aesthetic principles. Le Temps et l’Écume (or, "Time and Foam"), like much of Grisey's work, is a study in the evolution of time. Grisey, along with Tristan Murail, is sort of the founding figure of spectral music, a mode of compositional thinking that was largely a reaction against the abstract schemata of serialism. While I think Grisey's work is one of the major musical contributions of the past century, I share very little by way of compositional methodology.
The two ideas of spectralism that I find most fascinating (and largely in opposition to serialism's parametrics and proportioning), are the ideas of timbre and time.
Spectral music, in its most orthodox forms, takes the harmonic overtone series as its generating material. The ordering of the partials (and their manipulation, via FM-theory and various other filtering processes), and their distribution across an ensemble (i.e. orchestration) are seen as one and the same. Timbre = Orchestration = Harmony. I very much like this idea of timbre being inseparable from harmony or sonority, and I think it's THE major consequent of the electronic medium.
As for time, Grisey's work has always been deeply involved in the perception of time, i.e. how we experience the passage of smooth and striated events. I view my sense of time as sort of this infinite grid in every direction, with the actual impulses on this scale being like an amorphous mass, flowing as it pleases, incapable of ever being "locked in" to the grid. Foam on the waves of space-time.
How long did the album take to create, start to finish?
I started work on the album in earnest around April of this year and finished around June or July, so about 2-3 months.
With the album due out early next year, are you planning on playing live dates to support it?
There's a few things planned in LA so far; twitter.com/adlrmusic is the place to stay informed on upcoming performances and projects.
Preview Nicholas' album