Music in a time of Global Crisis #2 – Anne Sulikowski

This may only be the second instalment of the series, but the response so far has been very positive. I can’t stress enough the severity of the situation, the importance of taking social distancing seriously, and the sincere gratitude we owe to the front-line workers who are putting themselves at risk for our health and safety.

Anne Sulikowski first appeared on RTR back in July 2018 with her album ‘Driveway Stars’, under the name Building Castles Out Of Matchsticks. It became the first album on RTR to sell out completely during pre-orders, and opened up the label to a wider audience in Canada and the USA. Her musical explorations combine guitar, synthesizer, and vocals processed through and ever-changing array of effects pedals. In addition to creating evolving sonic landscapes, Anne demos a lot of pedals from manufacturers around the world, making unique and informative videos along the way. Anne will be appearing again on RTR (more on this soon!), but for now, let’s open up a conversation with Anne on music making in a time of global crisis.

In this feature, Anne discusses being a front-line nurse amidst the chaos of the current global situation, shares what album she has on heavy rotation at the moment, the supportive nature of the ambient music community, and the importance of staying positive.

Anne Sulikowski creating an ethereal drone using bowed guitar and an assortment of pedals

How have the widespread lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 crisis affected your music making?

For most musicians the lockdown has, to say the least, been difficult. Time is not an issue for some; however, anxiety seems to be an obstacle experienced by many. I am no exception. I am not isolating or staying home as I am a front-line nurse and I do not have the option. Not only is time an issue for me currently (we have no time off and have to work full time hours and overtime) but so is anxiety. The anxiety is heavy these days. It’s like my whole life is currently on hold, with no hope of any kind of normal coming back to me soon. I have not been sleeping and I feel exhausted. To balance a career in healthcare and in music under normal circumstances is a struggle, but these days it is becoming unbearable. The anxiety of the virus is intense, and so is the lack of time to do music, which is really what my mental health needs right now.

What music, new or old, have you been listening to lately, and have your listening habits changed as a result of the current situation?

Lately I have been listening to a lot of Broadcast. ‘The Noise Made by People’ (2000, Warp) has been on heavy rotation these days.

Broadcast – ‘Echoes Answer’ (2000, Warp)

Consequence of Sound reported the worst week of album sales since the 1960s (28th March 2020). Do you think the coronavirus outbreak will have a lasting negative effect on the music industry?

I have had quite the opposite experience. My Bandcamp has never been more active. I have sold more music this past month then I normally do within 6 months. It’s really been humbling, and I feel more supported than ever before by the ambient music community. They know I’m on the front lines and it is wonderful to feel appreciated. I do not rely on live performances so that has not affected me. As for the pedal demos, the mail keeps on bringing in wonderful gadgets for me to demo. I for one am thankful for that little bit of normal in my life.

Anne’s demo for The Wardenclyffe by Hungry Robot Pedals

With more musicians live streaming from their homes than ever before, do you think this trend will continue once things improve?

I am hoping that it does. Live streaming makes performances possible for everyone. To attend and to perform. Not everyone can get time off or afford to tour.

What do you think we as music makers can be doing to create positivity right now?

Taking care of ourselves and each other is really the most positive thing we can be doing these days. If music comes out of this mess, even better.


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