Curated by Andreas Nilsson, the opening weekend will host performances by Gideonsson/Londré together with Mio Lindman’s ‘Activity,’ a “never-ending performance” by Kaspars Groševs and Beier’s ‘The Complete Works’ performed by Leena Gustavson.
Coming to light via his Arcadia mix and subsequent LP, A Goal is an Image, both on label Halcyon Veil, the music of Will Ballantyne juxtaposes acoustic motifs with synthetic sound design. It’s the subconscious product of being inspired by the music he listened to growing up, combined with the natural outcome of using iPhone and YouTube field recordings as source material. “I tend to gravitate towards the feeling of electronic interference or distortion acting as a kind of bed for a more true, acoustic motif to play on top of”, says the Vancouver-based producer who goes by the alias City.
A lot of City’s inspiration comes from what he perceives as a diaristic approach: “samples, melodies, song titles, progressions, etc., are things that have been bouncing around my head for years and it’s a conscious process to incorporate them into my music so that I can try to present something that’s honest and fleshed out.” It’s an approach he finds in the work of artist Jaakko Pallasvuo – whose artwork accompanied Arcadia – and its principles continued to be referenced in A Goal is an Image. “It’s important to me to portray this beautiful naturalistic picture that also resonates with my personal experiences. Textually, the song titles contribute to a narrative alongside my other tracklists and releases that’s better left unsaid.”
While his music has been described as taking ‘styles foreign to the putative club experience’, City affirms that this isn’t deliberate. “I think in a way it’s kinda disrespectful to try to mess with what people get out of clubs”, he says. “I really haven’t spent a lot of time in clubs or club culture so I wouldn’t feel right attempting to mess with that mold.” Instead, City’s music revolves around what he calls ‘anxious momentum’, “this feeling of overwhelming inevitability, something inescapable and crushing.”
City will be playing at the upcoming Progress Bar club night in Amsterdam on December 2. With a stacked line-up of artists, including GAIKA, 808INK, Kojey Radical, S4U, Gage, Madam X and Covco presenting an explosive history of the future, plus a talk by political commentator and Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani about Fully Automated Luxury Communism, the night offers a glimpse at divergent futures of reigning chaos and post-capitalist utopia. Before his performance at Progress Bar, we spoke to the artist about juxtaposing sounds, his musical and artistic influences, and his approach to composition as a scrapbook of personal experiences.
Listen to City’s mix for AQNB below, featuring re-purposed audio scraps, as well as tracks from an upcoming solo EP and collaborations with i.o and v1984.
** I’m interested in the counterbalance between acoustic motifs and synthetic sound design that can be found in your music. Is there a deliberate negotiation of the two?
Will Ballantyne: It’s not a deliberate juxtaposition. I do love that sound, though, like an amplified acoustic guitar over the top of screeching electronics or whatever. A lot of the acoustic stuff is inspired by the music I listened to growing up, and then the sound-design elements are what producing in Ableton and using iPhone or YouTube field recordings as sample sources naturally lends itself to. I tend to gravitate towards the feeling of electronic interference or distortion acting as a kind of bed for a more true, acoustic motif to play on top of.
** The artwork for your Arcadia mix came courtesy of Jaakko Pallasvuo. How did your music and Jaakko’s artwork respond to each other?
WB: Jaakko posted it on one of his blogs a few years ago and I just had it sitting on my hard drive for a long time. I was super lucky getting that to be the artwork for the mix because I love that piece so much. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen harder for an artist’s body of work than I did for Jaakko’s. I discovered him after that Amnesia Scanner release where he did the poem, and the more I dug into his writing and comics and sculptures the more obsessed I got. His stuff is so beautiful and honest and sincere and delicate, I was extremely happy that he agreed to let me use that specific piece for the cover of Arcadia.
I take a lot of inspiration from what I perceive as a diaristic approach in Jaakko’s work. A lot of my samples, melodies, song titles, progressions, etc., are things that have been bouncing around my head for years and it’s a conscious process to incorporate them into my music so that I can try to present something that’s honest and fleshed out.
** Are there other artists you’d like to join forces with at some point?
WB: I deeply admire Lane Stewart and Collin Fletcher, so I was extremely happy that they did the artwork and design for my Halcyon LP. In my circles, I’m a huge fan of everyone in the Immunity and s.M.i.L.e. crews. Awe Ix is also an icon. I love this artist called Kentree Speirs from Vancouver, I used to walk past one of his huge paintings hanging in the window of a gallery every day to work and it blew me away every time. David Rappeneau is someone else I’m constantly amazed by. Ville Caillo and Joey Holder are also high up on my list.
** What was the central theme of A Goal is an Image? How did it expand on the ideas you had previously explored?
WB: A huge musical theme for me is anxious momentum. I don’t quite know how to explain it but it’s what I’m always trying to capture; this feeling of a kind of overwhelming inevitability, something inescapable and crushing. That’s the guiding principle behind my live shows as well. The artwork refers to some of the diaristic principles in my work. The picture framed in the centre is a picture I took on my phone that Lane and Collin found on my Twitter or something, and then Lane printed it and framed it and shot it so that it became part of a whole larger piece. It’s important to me to portray this beautiful naturalistic picture that also resonates with my personal experiences. Textually, the song titles contribute to a narrative alongside my other tracklists and releases that’s better left unsaid.
** Regarding your diaristic approach, seeing as diaries are often private records, how do you feel about exposing yourself in this way? For example, are there ever anxieties around publicising your work?
WB: I don’t consider my work diaristic in the sense that I’m revealing a personal narrative. Perhaps scrapbooking is a better comparison than diary-keeping. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, I actually really want people to piece together the recurring or thematically linked elements, from titles to certain sounds or musical themes.
** Your music seems to be based around principles of texture and abstract ornaments as opposed to more traditional musical parameters. Can you tell us about your methods of composition?
WB: A lot of the texture comes from experimenting within Ableton with field recordings that I either make on my phone or I get from YouTube. A lot of the time the rhythmic pulse of a song comes from those experiments. Then I’ll build something up harmonically or melodically, and that’ll usually be something that I’ve been playing on the guitar for a long time. Then I just listen to the skeleton of the piece over and over and over again, while I walk around, while I do chores, etc., and slowly add or subtract parts as necessary and then hammer it into some sort of affective, climactic structure. As far as anything principled with regards to composition, I’m mostly just trying to make something affective and durational, like an isolated riff that each song builds to. Every sound and part of each of my tracks is goal-oriented – they all contribute to the climax and the overall propulsion.
** Boomkat describes A Goal is an Image as taking “styles foreign to the putative club experience.” Do you purposefully set out to unsettle people’s experience of the club?
WB: Not at all! I think in a way it’s kinda disrespectful to try to mess with what people get out of clubs. I really haven’t spent a lot of time in clubs or club culture so I wouldn’t feel right attempting to mess with that mold. That being said, it’s only through the live shows I’ve played that I’ve realized that my stuff doesn’t really work in a club context. I’ve been kicked off the stage before; I was booked to go on at peak time in a busy club and I had no idea my music wasn’t going to work there. It should’ve been obvious to me though!
** Your Only Borders mix is about to be released as part of Ascetic House’s next batch of cassettes. What can we expect?
WB: That mix is part of the same series as Simulation Mix, Arcadia, and Guts for Garters ‘17. Basically a mix of original pieces and sketches that functions as a larger piece in and of itself. There is a lot of crossover between those mixes and A Goal is an Image; a lot of songs appear in two or three of those projects. The tracklists are basically entirely fictional and don’t relate to the songs that are inside. But music-wise it’s material from about a year or two ago, some stuff that I wrote during the process of writing A Goal is an Image. There are some germinal pieces that’ll be released in a more fleshed out way in a collaborative LP with an incredibly inspiring musician named i.o, hopefully next year.
** Are there any other particular trajectories you’d like to explore with your music in the future?
WB: I’m currently working on a live show with a lot of new material that’ll have me playing guitar for the duration. Conceptually, I’m not exploring new ground but I do feel like I’m honing my approach to my sound, and being able to control it a bit more finely. Anything that allows me to play at high volume out of huge speakers.**
City – Guts for Garters ‘17
No Highway Too Long
A.po.lo.gy (with i.o)
I can’t recognize this
Faith (with i.o)
One day at a time
Fleeting Approximations of Parallel Phrases (with v1984)
The installation was accompanied by a press release drawing on the lyrics from the song ‘Human Fly’ by 70s band The Cramps, including “garbage brain /That’s drivin’ me insane,” as well as the show’s stylised webspeak reference to Rappaccini’s Daughter. In the 19th century short story — written by American novelist and dark romantic Nathaniel Hawthorne —the beautiful daughter of a reclusive scientist becomes resistant to the poisonous plants of her father’s making only to become poisonous herself. The purple and millennial pink junkspace of works strewn across the exhibition creates its own garden of contemporary hazards one can’t live without.**
Designed as a hotel room, the screening brought together an international range of artists under the curatorial premise “governed by both post-truth politics and sharing economy, the new urgencies of migration and resettlement as well as the changing concepts of citizenship and nationality and related to it new forms of anxieties restructuring our lives.”
The first part of the exhibition took place on board the M/S Mariella cruise ship in March of this year, travelling from Stockholm to Helsinki. The forty-hour journey gave artists the time and space to explore “the feeling of being at sea, being on board, being trapped or being free” and the work is now being shown with Eriksson’s private collection in her apartment.
How to be being is part of larger series of shows of the same name on studio practice, which opened January 12 and is also running until April 8. In addition, Clarke is also exhibiting solo show This Happened To Me, which also opens on February 23 and runs to April 8.
The exhibition promises to showcase “a polyphony of voices in poetry and visual arts whose common mode of expression is a first-person narrative and a confessional character of statements, while self-representation in language becomes a discursive practice of reflection and questioning and struggle for the artist’s subjectivity.”
Curated by Paris-based collective The Community, the exhibition is a mix of sculpture, print, drawing clothes and audio exploring the individual’s ability to make and is structured through Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. The epic poem starts from a paradise lost and through different metamorphoses ends up in an era in which despair and darkness reign with never-ending speculations about the future. The artworks in the exhibition address at the same time symbols of security and continuous threat, and get intertwined in the layout of the space, while mythologies join the contemporary discourse in its scenario.**
The show was centred around a text in the press release that looked at Memory through the body of a retired old man, finding peace among chaos:
“His loved ones have passed away and he spends his days organizing his belongings over and over, recreating the memories of his younger hippie days. Main interests include medievalism, skin care, jewelry, listening to trance compilations, meditation, botanics.”**
As part of this year’s 3hd Festival programme, AQNB and Video in Common (ViC) are presenting screening, performance and discussion event, ‘Staying Present’ at Berlin’s Vierte Welt on October 12.
In referring to the title of this year’s festival topic ‘There is nothing left but the future?’ AQNB focuses on the question mark, interrogating what we actually mean by ‘the future’ and whether the past has a role in determining it: What do we gain from thinking about the future in terms of the past? And is the very notion of the future itself little more than an ideological and conceptual fallacy?
The event is inspired by Marta Minujin, Allan Kaprow and Wolf Vostell’s 1966 staged international project “Three Countries Happening”, which took place in New York, Berlin, and Buenos Aires where some of the happenings occurred concurrently and were aired on channel 13 in Buenos Aires. The press release states, “To celebrate this post-digital condition that has changed the way art is practiced, we will stage simultaneous screenings in New York, Beijing, and Berlin, bringing together artists living in the these art metropolises”.
The event is meant to also address how the internet has changed and expanded studio practice into the realm of social media.
Showing their work for the first time in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Finnish artists explore ideas of “queerness, nonlinear time, and climate change anxiety” with a show named after the Simon & Garfunkel album and song of the same name. That’s except that the trio reimagine the 60s singer-songwriters as time-travelling protagonists who “navigate past, present, and future post-human landscapes”.
On display will be a sculptural installation featuring painting, costumes, and props, as well as new material filmed in Finland and its northernmost, underpopulated Lapland region at the border of Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Baltic Sea.