neve’s latest album, ‘Isadora’ (RTR045), was released earlier this week. Originally the first album planned 2022, the album was brought forward due to a scheduling change. There is a sense of serendipity that came with this shift in time, as the album compliments the slowly shifting seasons; gradual changes, chance encounters, and melancholy combine with a great feeling of comfort. neve’s compositional process involves improvisation, loops, and analogue mediums to capture fleeting moments of performance and imperfection.
In this instalment of The Maker, neve discusses deep listening, an ever-changing approach to making new music, and the stylistic benefits of releasing music on cassette. neve also provides some excellent listening recommendations, both recent recent releases and those significant to the genre.
How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?
I could mention various concerts, records, or memories, but I really think that it’s listening to the surroundings while spending time in the Pyrenées mountains when I was a child: listening and feeling the space and the landscape, the subtle wind, rivers, everything which cycles and drifts and that you don’t remark at first. Some years later, a close friend used to run a radio show called Le bruit du son, and he was deeply involved with electronic music, ambient, drone and experimental. I listened to it for years and it really opened my musical mind to longer and more minimal forms of music and the various processes to create it.
What inspires you to create a new body of work?
I don’t like musical routines, so I’m always experimenting different ways of creating, processing and recording sounds. I can say it’s never a melody. It’s often a process, like layering sounds on a looper, patching FX pedals, creating a tape loop, or feeding a space echo into another… Quite often, I like to use the end of a track as the beginning of a new one: I either keep a sound, a short loop, settings I made on an old synth or an effect chain, and start something new with it. Most tracks come from improvisation, channelling the unexpected, keeping the accidents: creating a frame for things to happen, hearing it “live its own life”, and then see how things go if we make it shift or drift.
How do you approach working on a new release?
I work by sessions: sometimes, I don’t record anything for weeks, and sometimes I record several hours of material in a couple of days. Then, I listen, cut, erase, select… and “bury” the result for some weeks until I can work on it again with fresh ears and a different perspective. Later, I try to gather tracks in order to make a cohesive whole, depending on the medium used for the release and its duration. I wish the listener will want to listen to the whole record (and not stream one single track in a playlist).
Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?
It’s very hard to tell; there had been so many amazing music released during the last year (and I don’t even talk about reissues or recent discoveries of older music). So, just to name a few:
I really like the music of Sofie Birch, and during lockdown she released a couple of live video streams which I enjoyed. The last record I bought is Mathias Puech’s ‘A Geography of Absence’ (which is as good as his previous one, ‘Alpestres’). I also came back to Jon Hassel & Brian Eno’s ‘Possible Musics’ which I still find interesting today, as well as Pauline Oliveros’s music.
As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?
It’s a small, affordable physical object. It’s much cheaper than vinyl, and you can have a nice artwork as well as liner notes. It’s also nice as an artist to use the medium and its limitations as a creative challenge: the tape features two sides, and each side needs to the of the same length as the other. You have to take that into consideration when composing and making the album playlist. Also, of course, cassette tape is quite lo-fi, and its inherent hiss can blend nicely with the kind of music I make.