The Listener #8 – Julien Demoulin

RTR listeners may be familiar with Julien Demoulin; the Brussels-based electronic and experimental musician has previously appeared on the RTR Sampler Vol. 2 that kickstarted 2019 for the label. Julien self-released two brand new albums on tape earlier this month: ‘Revealed’ under his own name, and ‘Aphantasia’ under his new Pandorama project. ‘Revealed’ presents fourteen improvised synth performances taken from a larger collection (we hope to see more in the future!), and ‘Aphantasia’ sees Julien explore more melodic and beat-orientated territory that signal a departure from the more ambient work released under his own name.

This listener feature has been lined up for quite some time, and what better time to post than when the listener featured has just dropped brand new albums? In this feature, Julien reflects on discovering experimental music and the one album that will always be revisited. Julien also discusses his preferred listening environments and the intimacy of the cassette.

How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?

I don’t have an easy answer to this one… I remember buying ‘Goodbye 20thCentury’ by Sonic Youth & friends when it came out, because I liked SY and their experiments… I remember making some without having any real idea what I was doing… I remember a friend recommending ‘The Tired Sounds of…’ by Stars of the Lid to me some time after that. I remember listening to post-rock music in the early aughts and wishing tracks wouldn’t build up and explode. It was all a process that took some time, I suppose. Drugs helped, for sure.

What is the one album that you can play over and over without it getting old?

That would have to be ‘The Pearl’ by Harold Budd & Brian Eno

That one got a lot of play during pretty dark times in my life, but the place it conjures up is a very special one that I somehow always fondly go back to. Few albums made an impression on me the way this one did, and most importantly, felt like places I wanted to revisit over and over again, regardless of the context in which I first fell in love with them. Albums are often linked to a time and a place, well, this one has managed to transcend both so far. A few others have, of course, but this one is… just something else.

How do you seek out new music? Once you’ve found it, what is your perfect listening environment?

At this point I have a good idea what I’m into or what I want to hear more of; how I find it is always a mixture of chance, labels I follow, friends I talk to, or stuff I read online (or, if I’m lucky, in print media). I’ll download anything I want to listen to, as I loathe streaming, and buy physical versions of whatever hits the spot. 

I listen to a wide range of music, and the perfect listening conditions vary depending on what I’ll be listening to. For ambient / drone, I like to have a beer and do nothing else, but generally speaking, I find that the best way to listen to something is to do so while doing something that only requires part of my attention, like driving, or doing something repetitive, or folding laundry.

Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?

This is a tricky one. For some reason it always takes me a while to listen to / get into stuff; while most of what I listen to is recent music, a small portion was actually released in the past year. As a result, my favourite at any given point is not necessarily in that category. But I’ll stick with the rules and choose ‘Make A Wilderness’ by Jonny Nash: while I don’t listen to it very often by any means, it’s turned out to be one of those albums that reveals itself slowly and contains enough nuance to prove rewarding in time, revealing different facets and making different impressions depending on what the mood is when I put it on. So, yeah, I’d recommend it!

As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?

Many things! Right now, though, I think it is that it’s the easiest way for me to listen to music without a screen being involved. It’s cheap, too, so I’ll take more of a chance and buy things on a whim. I’d be lying if I said there was no nostalgia involved, namely remembering that time when I used to copy CD’s I couldn’t afford on blank tapes as a teen. I suppose that gives tapes an extra “intimate” flavour that I appreciate when trying to connect with music.

And of course, I really like the object itself.


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