Now that the label is back up and running with physical releases again, it’s time to draw the blog attention back towards the regular Maker and Listener features. Jeff Brown’s album, ‘Forgive the Trespass’ (RTR025), was the first album to restart the label since the last tape release out way back in December 2020, coming out alongside zakè & Jordan Christoff’s split album, ‘Apotheosis’ (RTR026). Jeff will be familiar to readers having recently appeared as part of the Music in a time of Global Crisis feature back in April. Based in Seattle, WA, Jeff explores ambient and drone with an emphasis on epic long-form pieces, creating hazy journeys, drawing on themes of memory, photography, film and literature.
In this feature, Jeff talks about his early explorations of ambient and experimental music, creating music as a form of catharsis and storytelling, the benefits of releasing new music on cassette, and shares a great selection of listening recommendations.
How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?
I grew up loving soundtracks and scores but as a little kid I knew nothing of those genres, so I would say subconsciously sometime in the mid 80s. Around 94 or 95 I got really into Robert Fripp, so that’s when I knowingly was into it. Lots of Bill Laswell stuff on Sub Harmonic or Strata, Buckethead and his Death Cube K project; the album of nylon acoustic he did, ‘Colma’, is can’t miss. Around that same timeframe Bruce Licher’s Independent Project Records was putting out all types of drone. His band Scenic sent me down that rabbit-hole.
What inspires you to create a new body of work?
All types of things. Personal stuff in my life, old memories, atmospheres in films, sentences or phrases in a book, photographs or paintings. I keep things pretty vague but the music I hope conveys my intentions. I use my music as an outlet or catharsis for bottled up stuff. I’m not exactly an open book, so I lean on my music but again I tend be nonspecific with the inspiration so these may mean something completely different to listeners.
How do you approach working on a new release?
Often, I will have a sound or idea in my head and work to get it recorded. Other times I just hit record and do instant compositions, building a main theme or structure and going back to add layers to compliment it. I have lingering images or places in my head that I set music to, like scoring for a film perhaps.
Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?
The split tape of Vicky Mettler (Keeavil) and Lake Mary was great and hopefully on everyone’s playlists. Goldenrod’s ‘Mothra Island’ is some serious electronic weirdness and a project that should be on the radar. Greg Weber (New Motion) is a local musician and collaborator of mine, we have a guitar synth duo and he is quietly putting out wonderful music. Rosemary Loves A Blackberry’s ‘Wait A Minute’ is an inspiring concept not unlike The Resident’s ‘Commercial Album’: one minute pieces of various styles that I would classify as dark synth pop. Especially from my drone or ambient soundscape perspective, getting a message across in one minute is intriguing and inspiring.
As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?
The cost makes it easier for labels and fans, but I also grew up with cassettes, never really abandoning the format in my recording or listening habits. It’s also quite good for making loops with, and the little spools of tape are a nice thing to watch spin. The intentional distortion or warbling of a worn or damaged tape can be extremely useful when creating as well.