interview – mister lies

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

despite – or perhaps in spite of – a string of well-received releases in the first half of the decade, nick zanca hit the pause button on his mister lies project around the end of 2014. after five years in the wilderness, zanca returns to the moniker this week with a self-titled, self-released album.

mister lies is a fairly brief endeavor; its ten songs clock in at around a half-hour and are best digested all at once, preferably without interruption. anchoring the release is “the commuter,” a track whose titular subject would be the ideal consumer of this body of work: perhaps not someone inbound, about to start their day, but someone outbound, retreating to solitude and stillness.

we caught up with zanca in the weeks leading up to his return to discuss his new album, how his collaborative work with quiet friend has influenced his solo output, and the quest to search for influences outside of the realm of music. check out the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, below.

it’s been nearly five years since you released the last mister lies album. what caused you to step away from the project, and what led you back?

stepping away was necessary. i was halfway through my freshman year of college when i put out the first EP on bandcamp and at that age insecurities were still deep and blind spots were still wide. i had learned ableton by looking over friends’ shoulders and stumbled upon my sound almost by accident.

the response to that early material was overwhelming. in a matter of weeks, opportunities presented themselves that usually take years for artists to reach – nearly every weekend in the coming semesters were spent flying out to play shows. as excited and grateful as i was, it was as if i had acquired an audience before a sense of self. 

eventually i would drop out of school to tour after my sophomore year, usually with other young producers who had experienced the same kind of rapid rise in that same strange internet microcosm of “chill”-adjacent electronic music. the absurdity of our individual situations and the privilege of sharing music with strangers was a source of solidarity, but the performance anxiety always persisted. i was quietly struggling to embrace being queer and neurodivergent in a scene that thrives on hedonist aesthetics, male gaze imagery and smartphone solipsism. it was often a musical neverland – unless an audience is on your side, it refuses to grow up. there were a lot of personal and professional endings. i rode the wave as far as i could, but i began to feel like i was wearing a mask. it took effort to take it off, deflate the ego and let life happen.

giving myself room to be human was probably a good start – i finished my degree, fell in love, got closer to family – but developing a intense relationship to listening outside the context of product was what got me back on my feet creatively. starting quiet friend and shifting focus to something rooted in a group effort rewired my brain. it was something i didn’t know how to do for a while. i’ve also worked as a music supervisor for hospitality venues for a few years now, and the site-specificity of sound has become something i engage with daily.

shortly after the quiet friend record came out and we were playing shows around new york, i was sifting through old hard drives and was blown away by the amount of sketches i was sitting on. i started there and recorded alone at home with what free time i had on the weekends. at first it felt like putting on an old shirt that no longer fit, but eventually the fabric stretched out, i followed the ideas that came, and a year later i had a record. 

in the interim, you’ve kept busy with quiet friend. how does your compositional approach differ (if at all) when working independently as opposed to collaboratively?

the two ways of working seem to inform and complement each other, especially now that i’ve found a balance of both. in a group context, you’re mostly letting the ideas of others in, and i was really hungry for that at the time. i tend to internalize a lot when working alone, but with others i found what i eventually recognized to be personal strengths to reinforce themselves and echo – thick textures, bricolage, a sense of place. it’s a great way to get your writers block unstuck and i’d recommend it to anyone struggling with a solo practice – you discover what it actually is you bring to the table and then are able to take that home with you and truly utilize it.

this record i made on my own couldn’t have happened without that experience. steven and i are just getting started, but i’m proud of that record we made and the strange extended family we’ve developed in the process of getting the band off the ground. i’m excited for that music to reach more ears. 

this new album has a fair amount of found sounds and electroacoustic elements – it’s very soundscape-y, for lack of a better term. who or what were some touchstones when you were writing these songs?

i have a tendency to get wrapped up in musical influence, and this time around i did my best to avoid relying on that in favor of inspiration pulled from other disciplines. in general though, i think one of the major differences between then and now is that my taste has started to embrace the longform and lean toward slowness and meditative commitment.

clarice lispector’s writing and chantal akerman’s films encourage those who consume them to have patience for a slower and fluid pace, borderline glacial, and the end result is something so human that accentuates the everyday. my record is the durational opposite – it’s over and done in thirty minutes – but it aims to capture the present and recreate the surrounding world in the same way. 

of course, i am easily impacted by what i hear and can’t ignore that. field recordings and found sounds have been an important part of my practice from the beginning, but i think this record is the first time that they are being treated as the central focus – the environments have become the soloists.  luc ferrarialvin curran and hiroshi yoshimura are all composers in touch with their respective atmospheres and that aspect of their work has had a profound effect on me.

people have always described what i do as “cinematic”. i guess i went into this one with that in mind. 

this album is self-titled; how much of a conscious decision was that?

totally intentional. it feels like the closest thing to pressing the project’s reset button. i see this work as a summation of everything i’ve explored sonically for far, so self-titling simply felt like the move.

listening to mister lies from start to finish in one sitting is optimal, but you’ve decided to share “the commuter” ahead of its release as a preview of things to come. what does that particular song represent to you, and how does it fit into the album overall?

“the commuter” was the first of the batch to feel complete and was also the first indication of the record’s site-specific direction. it’s less of a single and more of an excerpt i was itching to share. of all the tracks on the record, i think it feels the most similar in spirit to the music i made when I was younger, but also works as an introduction to the sonic territory i’ve been interested in occupying lately.

when making records in the past, i would close myself off somewhere and create situations for myself that were unhealthily hermetic – i would let nothing else in but the music. the results produced intense work but the process was not always productive.

this time around, i’ve introduced more balance to my life. anything that i treated as a distraction before – be it the daily routine or the world outside my window – has become a compositional device and fuel for the record. in this case, it’s the introspection and claustrophobia on my way to and from work. 

mister lies is out this friday, august 2nd. read an essay zanca wrote about his album, alongside a full stream, over at talkhouse.

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molly drag – “out like a light”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

molly drag, the performing moniker of montreal’s michael charles hansford, embodies a homespun aesthetic, tinged with folk tendencies and saturated with collages of ambiance.

hansford is readying his latest release, touchstone; at the helm is its lead single, “out like a light,” a glacial centerpiece populated by meandering guitar arpeggios and the hushed echo of a lead vocal. adding to its intimacy is an accompanying music video, with arresting animations compiled by elijah zimmerman.

touchstone is out october 4th via egghunt records. watch the music video for “out like a light” below.

teen daze – “spring”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

jamison isaak has spent the past decade recording music, sometimes under the moniker teen daze, sometimes not. his various releases have in turn been dance-oriented, drone-based, or pop-leaning, but the common thread has been the inherent introspectiveness each album or extended play elicits as a whole.

isaak released material under his own name for the first time just last year, turning in a pair of meditative EPs grounded in piano and pedal steel treatments before returning his attention to teen daze with “hidden worlds” in the waning hours of 2018.

with the release of “spring” late last week, the latest incarnation of isaak’s flagship project has come into sharper focus; a worn-in, descending guitar loop is parked in the foreground as complementary elements develop methodically around it, its vernal bloom a snapshot of the purposefulness long woven through teen daze’s output.

“spring” is out now ahead of bioluminescence, due april 26th via isaak’s own label, FLORA. take a listen below.

danielle fricke – body

– featured images courtesy of sophie harris-taylor –

“album of the fortnight” is an occasional feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: the new extended play from danielle fricke.

Danielle fricke has been hibernating for the better part of three years.  the london, ontario, musician released her hypnotic full-length, moon, at the tail-end of 2015, its dozen tracks blurring the lines between glacial ambience and plaintive singer-songwriter stylings while precluding the lengthy silence that would follow.

last week, fricke quietly released BODY, a six-song collection of new material that functions as a cursory addendum to its predecessor with plenty of wonderful nuances to unpack.  the extended play’s front half is a familiar palette, its slowly-evolving soundscapes providing the foundation for fricke’s haunting vocal exercises.  “intro” is a sustained prelude, its twilight field recordings melding into intimate, ambient chamber music.  the strings’ hesitation becomes more pronounced as the track reaches its conclusion, anticipating the blizzard of white noise that blankets “everything,” fricke’s voice finally emerging from the fray and embarking on a tenuous expedition with a small group of synthesizers in tow.

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at the approximate center of BODY lies “enough,” a quintessential danielle fricke offering that is also the extended play’s lone moment of sustained clarity.  nearly seven minutes long, “enough” finds fricke’s voice unobstructed as she makes her plea against a backdrop of guitar arpeggios, a pairing that was her hallmark across moon.  squalls of distortion percolate to the surface in the song’s final minutes, aiding fricke in her farewell as she journeys on to the collection’s last three tracks.

“cold, blue, even” and “SRGNG” are such marked sonic departures for fricke, each in their own singular way.  the former is through-composed, picking up on the vestiges of “enough” and enduring two minutes of subterranean synth quakes before discovering a piano chord progression replete with wordless vocal motifs; the latter is a glitchy choral exercise, pitch-shifted vocal loops stuttering and restarting while low reeds pulse in the background.  taken together with the extended play’s brief coda, the final ten minutes of BODY go a long way to cement fricke’s experimental bona fides and to reward active listeners with layer upon layer of nuance.

just six songs in length, devotees of fricke’s signature brand of hushed, exploratory world-building would be remiss to hope that BODY is anything but a stop-gap, and that more music is on the way.  in the meantime, stream the extended play in its entirety – preferably with headphones – below.

stadiums & shrines – dreams

– featured image courtesy of victoria masters – 

“album of the fortnight” is an occasional feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: a compilation curated by stadiums & shrines.

What is a music blog, anyways?  caught up in a seemingly endless stream of press releases and promotional blasts, sites might adopt a reverse-chronological feed, posting multiple items per day; others may adhere more towards a one-a-day policy (hello); still others may publish more intermittently.  regardless of frequency, this small community is passionate about the craft, making a strong case that discovery and curation by human beings can be much more intimate and impactful than the work done by algorithms.

since 2011, the new york-based stadiums & shrines has drifted away from the daily grind of release cycles in favor of an excellent radio show and multimedia collaborations with beloved musicians.  the result of the latter is dreams, a sprawling compilation powered by visual artist nathaniel whitcomb’s collages and contributions from more than twenty artists.  a project that’s equally auditory, visual, and tactile, the physical release of dreams comes with a gatefold book containing “handmade collages and written vignettes — creative exchanges between musicians and … stadium & shrines,” says the site’s dave sutton in an interview with goldflakepaint.

those collages, assembled from a 1950s book on tourism, each contain images from a specific landmass – usually a country, sometimes a province or a state.  after assembly, sets of collages were delivered to specific artists; the “dreams” were the sonic interpretations that were returned, with sutton and matthew sage then adding a written narrative to the audio-visual product.

s&s dreams

many of the resulting songs can certainly be classified as ambient, but perhaps exploratory is a more thematic adjective; indeed, a handful of contributors selected their collages based on places they were visiting or would travel to soon.  wisps of maria usbeck’s tropical buoyancy swirl around the digital bonus track “mexico,” while the pastoral strains of mutual benefit are very much present in his ruminative “bali.”  while quibbling about genre could certainly occur, it’s clear that dreams did not mandate the sacrifice of an artist’s identity for the sake of a predetermined, prescribed aesthetic.  calling cards at times juxtapose or complement their counterparts, providing the compilation with a lush, three-dimensional palette.

tracks that subsequently appeared on an artist’s own project – teen daze’s “alaska” opens his 2013 full-length glacier, while ricky eat acid’s “algeria” is housed within a longer composition on three love songs – feel re-contextualized and reinvigorated here, a testament to stadiums & shrines’ dedication to sequencing.  of course, dreams also boasts stunning pieces that are brand-new to its release, like yumi zouma’s french excursion and the spanish getaway taken by julie byrne and eric littman.  julia lucille’s “norway” in particular stands out, the inherent and effective sparseness of her arrangements lending itself well to a frosty, nordic REM cycle.

like any seminal compilation, the effects of dreams can be felt in myriad ways.  the physical version of the album is bookended by sea oleena and gem club, two artists whose signals have gone dim over the past few years; hearing “portugal” and “england’s countryside,” respectively, feels akin to the familiarity and comfort that washes over when running into a long-lost friend.  on a larger scale, dreams is an affirmation of the outsized power of human relationships and collaborations, proof that enduring and endearing projects can be cultivated at comparatively glacial speeds.  the change of pace is refreshing.

dreams is out today via the fine folks at cascine.  spend some time with the album in full, streaming below.

premiere – pat moon

– featured images courtesy of the artist –

perhaps you’ve come across accolades for pat moon on this website before; if so, allow us to indulge a bit.  2016’s don’t hide from the light is a timeless debut, eight songs of spectral, ambient pop that provide a window into kate davis’ synth-driven aural dreamscape.  the portland-based musician announced a follow-up album, romantic era, earlier this spring, a highly-anticipated release that will arrive may 18th.

in contrast to the murky, haunting lead single “medieval spells” lies a more crystalline offering from romantic era, “spiraling.”  crystalline is, of course, a relative term; in the realm of pat moon, vocals will always stack to the stratosphere, a hazy choir that smears into similar synth timbres.

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“spiraling,” with its shuffling percussion and glassy arpeggiations, is quintessential pat moon, the project in its finest form.  the track’s back half unravels ever so slightly and slowly, embodying its title while peeling back outer layers to expose an even more pensive core.  “spiraling” premieres today, right here on the dimestore.  get lost in the excellent new track below.

bing & ruth – “quebec (climber)”

– featured image courtesy of tonje thilesen – 

since 2012, the new york-based website stadiums & shrines has been quietly and carefully commissioning an ongoing sequence of songs collectively titled dreams: an invitation for artists to evaluate black-and-white collages of 1950s tourism photographs and interpret them in their aural likeness.  after accumulating over three hours of dreams over the course of six years, stadiums & shrines has made a capsule of twenty tracks, to be released as a double album alongside a multimedia booklet this june via cascine.

s&s victoria masters.jpg

– s & s curators dave sutton & nathaniel whitcomb (victoria masters) – 

the compilation’s second single, “quebec (climber),” comes from the minimalist-inclined, classical collective bing & ruth.  a six-minute wash of cascading acoustic pianos, haunting strings, and distant warbles of clarinet, “quebec (climber)” is the precise type of lush introspection stadiums & shrines has been known to hang its hat on for a decade now.  with an inherent momentum born from its seafaring inspiration, “quebec (climber)” is a welcome glimpse of things to come from stadiums & shrines’ twenty-song double-album.

dreams is out june 15th via cascine.  listen to bing & ruth’s wonderful “quebec (climber)” below.

premiere – walrus ghost & max frankl

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

max frankl and christian banks had a chance encounter a half-decade ago in new york, one that sowed the seeds for a collaborative project.  after admiring each other’s work from a distance, the zurich-based frankl and banks – who records under the moniker walrus ghost – have linked up for avenues and remembrances, a compact collection of eight songs due out april 13th via seattle’s hush hush records.

nestled at the tail end of the album is its penultimate cut, “downing still life.”  just over two minutes in length, the track captures a guitar loop in its final stages of tape degradation, a pronounced, unsteady warble permeating throughout its progression.  “downing still life” is simple in presentation yet leaves a wistful, long-lasting impression indicative of what the duo achieve across avenues and remembrances.

we’re thrilled and humbled to premiere “downing still life” here today on the dimestore.  take a few laps around the track below.

quiet friend – quiet friend

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa – 

“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: quiet friend.

Dissecting a moniker can often prove frivolous, but occasionally the exercise warrants undertaking.  take quiet friend: an adjective and a noun paired together, perhaps an offhand expression used to identify someone in conversation.  perhaps this person has a closely-guarded exterior, but beneath the surface lies a compelling narrative, and the implied friendship makes said narrative that much more intimate and forthcoming.

this carefully-constructed hypothetical of a quiet friend is purposefully analogous to quiet friend the band, and by extension, their self-titled debut album.  though the ensemble features a cast of nearly a dozen core members and contributors, quiet friend succeeds in feeling like a singular, fully-realized character; the nine tracks that populate their full-length are defined by lyrics both vulnerable and tender that are often wrapped up in disarming moments of wittiness and winking absurdities.  combined with an affinity for early ambient music and saturated, majestic 1980s pop that emanates from project leaders steven rogers and nick zanca, quiet friend checks all the boxes for an audiophile in search of nocturnal mood music.

quiet friend

opening track “bath” feels like taking one in the literal sense – resonant, brassy textures slowly submerge the listener into the central tenets of the album’s soundscapes.  vestiges of this introduction can certainly be felt in “safe” and “breathplay,” a pair of pop pillars that prop up the album’s front half, but its direct descendants are tracks like “basements” and the sprawling centerpiece “name all the animals,” cinematic, orchestral turns at which quiet friend equally excels.  subsequent instrumentals “thorn from paw” and “seance” feel less like interludes and more like grounding forces, reaffirming quiet friend’s sonic identity throughout.

the lushness that pervades quiet friend cannot be underscored enough.  chalk it up to zanca and fellow producer alex thompson, who tinkered with arrangements for over two years and enlisted a host of contributors for auxiliary parts, vocal harmonies, and counter-melodic textures, intricate cogs integral to a machine committed to exploring the vast depths of its sonic palette.

this fastidiousness pays off in spades, particularly throughout the album’s back half.  quiet friend are confident enough to let standout cut “playgrounds” marinate in a metronomic dance beat and an alarm-like synth lead for over a minute, laying down a persistent framework into which subsequent textures meld seamlessly.  ditto for the finale, “avalanche,” whose murky ambiance percolates for nearly half the track’s duration before secondary elements commandeer the vessel and push blown-out synth lines to their limits.  taken as a whole, quiet friend’s debut is a remarkable, cohesive construction that abandons any semblance of pretense in favor of an honest overarching artistic statement.

quiet friend is out now via elestial sound; listen to the album in full below. 

premiere – trevor ransom

– featured image courtesy of sarah grunder – 

seattle native trevor ransom returned home last year after voyages to rural england and sweden, pastoral impressions in tow.  the producer’s third extended play, aptly titled spring, is six tracks of panoramic bliss, an amalgam of acoustic timbres, delicate electronics, and weightless, wordless vocals.

closing number “vent” is a suite in miniature, with three distinct movements presented in succession.  in the first, frosty piano chords descend over a persistent drone and swelling string pads; this sputters off into a collection of found sounds, a babbling brook of percolating motion that embraces a distant wordless melody and bleeds into the finale, a gorgeous choir of clarity backed by acoustic guitars and a plaintive violin.

taken together, all of these components provide the perfect vessel in which to get lost, a true meditation on and reflection of the changing seasons.  spring is out february 23rd via the impeccably curated hush hush records.  listen to “vent,” premiering right here on the dimestore, below.