Quantum Natives present Brood Ma, Dane Law, Yearning Kru + others at ICA, Aug 20


Quantum Natives present a night of live audio-visual performances at London’s ICA on August 20.

Part of #In_formationICA, the evening will feature Brood Ma, Dane Law, Terribilis, Recsund, Oxhy, and Yearning Kru.

London/URL-based label Quantum Natives, who recently premiered Xquisite Nihil’s new compilation ‘seize the means of production’ on AQNB June 5, are a ‘geographically-scattered media collective’ who explore online production and community and work with video game technology and software-based design. 

In the run up to the event, QN will also host Brood Ma and Yearning Kru at Liverpool’s Rat Alley on August 18 and Terribilis will perform as part of UNITI‘s event ‘Reclaiming the Void‘ featuring Lsdxoxo and Bonaventure at London’s Five Miles on August 19.

Visit the FB event page for details.**

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Make it odder. Workshops + performances in experimental music patterns with EAVI at ICA, Aug 6

3 August 2017

Embodied AudioVisual Interaction Group (EAVI) and Adam Parkinson (aka Dane Law) are presenting an all day and night sound event at London’s ICA on August 6. 

Part of #In_formationICA, EAVI will hold three workshops during the day working with ‘experimental music patterns.’ The collective locates “audiovisual performance within spaces of collaboration and sensory connectivity,” and will also feature an introduction to the TidalCycles language with Algorave Noise UnitVoice Odder Workshop and Ewa Justka’s Acid Orchestra and Tape Loop Workshop with Howlround’s Tape Orchestra

The evening will present live performances featuring music made during the workshops, as well as live acts from Howlround, Calum Gunn, Ewa Justka and and DJ sets from Chloe Alice Frieda and CXLO

Visit the ICA website for details.**

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A sonar-social architecture + synchronicity: join Young Girl Reading Group 144 at ICA, Jul 21

20 July 2017

The Young Girl Reading Group 144 at London’s ICA is taking place on July 21.

The collaborative project has been running since 2013 by Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, with this iteration part of #In_formationICA, a hashtag that explores commoning and collectivity. This reading will look at an extract from Folding Beijing written by Chinese science fiction writer Hao Jingfang.

YGRG defines itself as a “sonar-social architecture of shared curiosity and synchronicity” who aim to create a “rhizomatic network of voices, suggestions and references,” and “composed not only of particles and molecules that circulate within, but prefaces, dedications, citations, appendices, illustrations, references, notes, diagrams and thoughts which travel in reverse.”

Performers for this event include Dorota Gawęda, Eglė Kulbokaitė, Safiya LaGillé, Ellenx Tellnobody, Catherine Prieto Österberg and Ari King.

Visit the FB event page for details.**


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Something forever slipping between your fingers + the imaginary of individuality in How are you still clean at ICA, May 25

24 May 2017

The How are you still clean evening of poetic readings and live performances at London’s ICA will take place on May 25.

Curated by ICA Student Forum members Madeleine Stack, Giada Marson and Marcel Darienzo, the evening will feature Jay Bernard, Tai Shani, Jesse Darling, Mariana Echeverri + Madeleine Stack, Sophie Robinson and Taylor le Melle.

An evening that asks “how does language penetrate? How are we made dirty? Do we wish to be clean?” the participants will explore contagion and the fear of infiltration against the backdrop of an ‘imaginary of individuality’ that we are whole, stand alone beings, without slippage or leak. Focusing on the moments that are constantly “slipping between your fingers,” the curators have put together a night that aims to expose, transmit and permeate through boundaries.

Visit the FB event page for details.**

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“Keeping it liquid”: patten talk perpetual beta + deep feels ahead of their Live AV event at ICA on Apr 29

25 April 2017

“We’re always reconfiguring, testing and pushing forward constantly. Perpetual beta” explain patten who describe their project as ‘morphing’ and ‘open.’ For almost a decade, musicians, artists, AV technicians and filmmakers have been coming in and out, creating a fluid network that is constantly forming and re-forming. As a unit, their backgrounds are varied in location and skill, with disciplines spanning music, visual art, history, design and film among others. patten is currently Franco-British duo D and A, who chat to us via email ahead of their Live AudioVisual event at London’s ICA on April 29.  

‘Psi’ album artwork. Courtesy patten.

The now South East London-based group, who recently released their third album Ψ (psi) via Warp Records (2016), are preparing for their largest headlining event in London to date, which brings together films, DJ sets, live electronic music and art installations featuring Mark Leckey, Oliver LaricMuntean/Rosenblum, Tom Lea of Local Actionrkss and Filter Dread among others. Co-hosted with Soundcrash, the evening is organised by patten’s side project collective 555-5555, self described as a space to “create design, installation, sound, clothing, artwork… kind of anything we want both for patten and for other people,” with projects including long form videos, art direction, graphics and countless collaborations with many different artists.  

“With production on the live set we’re always deep in learning, modifying and hacking bits of software and equipment to make the things we want” they say when I ask them about their process. The varied and community-oriented approach to making is evident in their sound; a multidirectional world that feels both slightly familiar yet entirely new. Pop, club, rave and industrial textures are folded into their high tech performances, creating a platform where we can experience being in our bodies. In a discussion that moves between mathematics of nature  and shaking things up internally, to their current and upcoming projects with NTS and Kaleidoscope, the duo talk to to us about the experiences and influences that get channeled through their work.

** Is your music made to be experienced in person? Whats the relationship (or disconnect) between your live practice and your studio practice?

patten: Live is definitely a big part of it for us. We test a lot of things out on stage at clubs and festivals and let that feed back into what we do in the studio. It’s a place where we can make a really multi-sensory thing happen, using lighting, sound and video all at the same time. You can make something very powerful happen like that. We’ve both had really mind-blowing experiences out at clubs or gigs in the past – like at that 3am stage where everyone is loose and things can get very synaesthesic. Those sorts of moments have really inspired what we do live and on our records.

** The last gig I saw of yours at Corsica Studios, you were behind a sheet that was reflecting light beams, creating a completely immersive experience. I was really feeling. Can you talk a bit about feeling and altered states? 

p: You were at that! Perfect. Yeah, that’s so important to us, that thing of feeling. Making sound and images that can trigger deep feels and emotions. It can be heavily trippy when everything just connects and you’re lost in the middle of it all.  Altered states aren’t just escapist though. It seems like a really important part of finding new ways of looking at things that can go on to change your regular, everyday life. If we’re all going to fix the mess things are in out there, we desperately need new ideas – and having your mind violently change angles is a massive part of making that happen. We all need shaking up on an internal level.

Courtesy patten. Photo: Lucie Rox

** I noticed at the live event you were both wearing black and almost became invisible figures on the stage. 

p: That’s true. We kind of put ourselves there as an equal element to the whole stage setup, so the focus shifts between us performing, video, lighting, smoke and the other parts. Different things come forward and fall back depending on what’s going on.  So we’re not stuck with us at the centre the whole time. We’re into breaking down the clear stage and audience split so the music and images can pour right out into the space. That part is always developing. Finding ways to reach out as directly as we can.

** The music has quite a fractal nature about it, moving between, through and under genres, going somewhere deeper and deeper. Do you have an interest in this sort of shape? Or the relationship between shape and sound?

p: Yes definitely – the parts where divisions melt down between things like images and sound or between different genres – that’s really a big draw for us.  Things like the collage we’ve used in a lot of the album cover artwork are all focused on that.  That sort of rewiring and short-circuiting between things.  Fractals are weird because they’re kind of like the OG algorithms.  Totally pure and mathematical and at the same time the building blocks of so much nature. Equations that turn into visual art. Mathematical nature patterns. Then there’s the infinity side of fractals, it spins us out.

** Where do you think genre is right now?

p: In a lot of ways it’s disappearing – like in how people find and listen to stuff, it’s all more open than ever.  The distance between pop and kind of more underground forms of music is getting smaller too.  Everyone’s flipping things in their own way and we don’t think people are thinking genre so much now. It’s more just like “is this thing hitting me somehow or not?” Producers are drawing from all over too. A distorted old sample, a random iPhone recording, a new software patch, a glitched out YouTube video. It feels really exciting in that way. We do a 555-5555 radio show on NTS where we play entirely new music after doing a call out for tracks. So the shows are 100% new and a lot of unreleased music. We get stuff from all over the world, from Brooklyn, to Hong Kong to Moscow and you can feel genre boundaries melting along with the geographical ones. We ran some 555-5555 club nights a few years back at Powerlunches when it was still there and the vibe was similar with that. Keeping it liquid as possible.

Courtesy patten. Photo: Lucie Rox

** Who are some of your biggest influences? 

p: We’re influenced by so many things like film, books, art, architecture. So we’ll be thinking as much about the narrative of a sci-fi film as much as we would a new piece of studio equipment, or how an Instagram clip of a sunset relates to something we just read in the news. Global politics is just off the charts right now. It’s impossible not to be strongly affected and to see that in what’s happening through patten and 555-5555.  All of those things kind of channel through into what we do in our music and images. It feels important to use these platforms to talk about all of this.  In September we’ll be helping out on this new course on film, design and propaganda run by Juha van’t Zelfde in Amsterdam.  It’s called Shadow Channel.  This relates a lot to that.  We’re always drawn to things out there that seem to open up doors to new ways of thinking and doing things. You should check out all the stuff we’ve put out on our Kaleidoscope imprint. 

There’s a lot planned with that for this year.  A few weeks back we dropped the debut EP by someone based in Berlin who we’ve known for ages now recording under The Newcomer.  We have this series called Aether Editions where it’s out on all digital platforms with a special edition on the Kaleidoscope Bandcamp.  The special edition has extra tracks, samples, images, text and video that come as part of the download.  There’s a massive untapped potential for what can be done with digital releases and the plan is to dive really deep into that over the coming releases with the imprint.

** Do your albums have concepts or themes? And can you tell us the meaning behind the Psi symbol for the new album? 

p: We definitely have themes that run through everything as well as specifics for different albums.  We chose the Psi symbol for the 3rd album because it has such an open set of meanings.  Like this one single sign that can mean so many different things, from Neptune to the paranormal.  It’s that open boundary thing we were talking about before. More than ever it feels like we need spaces where we can let our minds stay open. Open minds and new ideas as an anti to the closed minds and old ideas we see destroying the world around us at every level.**

patten will be performing and headlining the ‘LIVE AV’ event at London’s ICA on Apr 29, 2017.

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The White Pube are reprising Zayn Malik Zindabad at the ICA, Jan 7

4 January 2017

The White Pube is presenting Zayn Malik Zindabad at London’s ICA on January 7.

After the success of the first screening of the same name at London’s Lewisham Arthouse in August, the art criticism website and research project is back for round two, and comes with the following statement:

“The White Pube is tired of white ppl, white walls, and white wine. So for one night only, we are hosting brown ppl, white walls and chai. Come and view work by brown artists in a real vacuum, where brown-ness is banal, where you can O.O the art without the white-iarchy lookin over ur shoulder, askin if they can eat ur Other.”

Part of the ICA’s  Artists’ Film Club, London-based Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente of The White Pube will present a screening featuring a line-up of short films by artists from “South Asia and its diaspora,” including Somnath BhattSabella D’Souza, Raju Rage and Himali Singh Soin among others. 

The event also runs alongside the ICA’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 exhibition, which features Muhammad’s video Digjihad (2015) until January 22.

Visit the ICA event page for more details.**

Zarina Muhammad, ‘Digjihad’ (2015). HD Video. Screenshot. Courtesy the artist + ICA, London.
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Amnesia Scanner are performing ICA with support from coucou chloé

13 December 2016

Amnesia Scanner will be performing live at London’s ICA on December 14.

Now signed to London’s Young Turks label, the Berlin-based electronic duo will present a new immersive installation, bringing together both visual and audio elements, potentially of a similar ilk to their ongoing Lexachast live collaboration with PAN‘s Bill Kouligas and artist Harm van den Dorpel. London-based French producer coucou chloé will open with a live performance.

The event is part of an ongoing programme selected by NTS Radio who are currently part of the ICA Music Associates. Set up to generate “collaborations with established and emerging record labels, artists and music organisations” it has also worked with Warp, Just Jam, and Factory Floor.

See the ICA website for details.**


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Wandering/Wilding: Blackness on the Internet (2016) Exhibition Photos

6 December 2016

The Wandering/Wilding: Blackness on the Internet group exhibition at London’s IMT Gallery opened on November 4 and is running until December 11. 

Curated by Legacy Russell, the show mobilises “an exploration of race via the material of the Internet” featuring work by niv Acosta, Hannah Black, Evan Ifekoya, E. Jane, Devin Kenny, Tabita Rezaire and Fannie Sosa

Moving beyond the installation at IMT,  the project organized a number of public programmes including the upcoming Culture Now: Evan in Conversation with Ain Bailey at the ICA on December 9.

A panel discussion of Technology Now: Blackness on the Internet at the ICA moderated by Russell in conversation with Rizvanna Bradley, Taylor Le Melle and Derica Shields was held on November 16 as well as niv Acosta’s Clapback performance at IMT on December 1.**

Fannie Sosa, 'I Need This In My Life' (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + IMT Gallery, London.
Fannie Sosa, ‘I Need This In My Life’ (2016). Installation view. Courtesy the artist + IMT Gallery, London.


Exhibition photos top right.

The Wandering/Wilding: Blackness on the Internet group exhibition is on at London’s IMT Gallery running from November 4 December 11, 2016. 

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Lawrence Lek + Kode9 @ ICA, Nov 19

17 November 2016

Lawrence Lek and Kode9 are presenting ‘The Nøtel’ at London’s ICA on November 19.

The London-based simulation artist, as well as producer and founder of London label Hyperdub have created an audio-visual show imagining a ‘post-scarcity’ world where the only thing in short supply is humans. The fully-automated, luxury hotel is inspired by themes of “full automation and post-work utopias set in the shadow of the existential threats posed by artificial intelligence.”

Guiding their audience through a first person/drone tour of the grand but empty spaces, the press trailer (see below) presents a bleak look at an uncomfortably possible future: “We built it all for nothing.”

See the ICA website for details.**

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Fatima Al Qadiri on #BlackLivesMatter @ ICA, Oct 28

27 October 2016

Fatima Al Qadiri is taking part in a one of a series of lunchtime conversations on #BlackLivesMatter at London’s ICA on October 28.

Presented as part of the Culture Now programme, the series “for the culturally curious” has invited New York-based artist, musician and composer to discuss the rise of #BlackLivesMatter with Christina Heatherton and Jordan T. Camp, who co-edited the book Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter. It maps what the press release calls “the rise of broken-windows policing and how this led to the current policing crisis,” while the event as whole comes in response to “a series of high-profile police killings of people of colour and centuries of racist brutality,” that gave rise to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that questions “the issue of policing and mass incarceration to the central political question of the age.”

See the ICA website for details.**


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Dani Leventhal screening + Q&A @ ICA, Oct 27

26 October 2016

Dani Leventhal is presenting a screening of new work, followed by a Q&A at London’s ICA on October 27.

Showing as part of the ICA’s Artists’ Film Club programme, the Columbus-based artist works in video, installation and drawing to explore the relationship between the personal and the political. She will partake in a Q&A, led by writer Mason Leaver-Yap, following a screening of new works-in-progress, ’17 New Dam Rd.’ (2012) and ‘Hard As Opal’ (2015) will screen

Across media, Leventhal works with collage, collecting and accumulating images, materials and footage to then creating montages that are subject to a rigorous editing process. The incongruous images result in personal exploration of the lived experience, “unearthing a curious beauty in the minutiae of everyday life.”

See the ICA website for details.**

Dani Leventhal + Jared Buckhiester, 'Hard As Opal', (2015). HD video. Courtesy the artist + ICA, London
Dani Leventhal + Jared Buckhiester, ‘Hard As Opal’, (2015). HD video. Courtesy the artist + ICA, London
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PAN x ICA + Afterparty @ ICA London, Oct 4

4 October 2016

ICA Live and PAN are presenting an audio-visual programme of lectures, live performances and screenings at the ICA on October 4.

Coinciding with Frieze 2016 and part of the week-long ICA Live programme, the evening includes talks, installations, screenings, and live performances from artists and ends with DJ sets in the ICA Bar hosted by Bala Club

This first of two consecutive nights curated by PAN features artists Aleksandra Domanović & M.E.S.H, Ville Haimala & Jenna Sutela, and delinear.info-founding PAN online collaborator, Harm van den Dorpel, as well as  HELM x Embassy for the Displaced. The DJ line up includes Venus X, Mechatok, mobilegirl, SKY H1, and Bala Club.

Multi-disciplinary label PAN has been building a network of international artists since 2008. It’s emphasis is on the “adaption to the rapidly changing cultural and material conditions of contemporary musicians and sound artists today”. 

See the FB event page for more details.**

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Frieze 2016 offsite + fringe events

3 October 2016

Frieze 2016 is on this week in London, opening October 6 and running to October 9. The event draws an international community of artist and exhibitors to its location in the centre of the city, but is also host to an exciting and diverse range of events offsite and on the fringe, including Miracle Marathon at Serpentine Galleries, Sunday Art Fair at Ambika P3, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House and more.

See below for our offsite and fringe recommendations, and here for the main event:


The ICA will be hosting a week of dance, performance, discussions and screenings, from October 3 to 8, with an accompanying program of DJs and other music guests including two after parties in collaboration with Berlin-based label PAN, one hosted by Bala Club on October 4, and another hosted by PAN on October 5. Artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas will be in conversation with professor Suhail Malik and writer Tirdad Zolghadr to speak about ‘Art Post Capitalism’ on the evening of October 6.

Lisa Radon will also launch her new book Wholeness Engine at Jupiter Woods, October 8.

An evening of performances at DRAF featuring Mary Hurrell, Goshka Macuga, Roman Ondak, Amalia Ulman, Mark Wallinger and a DJ set by Olof Dreijer (The Knife), October 6

Miracle Marathon at Serpentine Galleries, October 8 and 9

Sunday Art Fair, October 6 to 9

Frieze Art and Architecture Conference, October 4

Dream Fair London 2016: twelve participating galleries will host digital work by artists online, accessible to all with a computer or mobile. The site opens on October 4.

1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, October 6 to 9.

Donna Huanca performance at Zabludowicz Collection, October 7.

Pompe – a dionysian canal procession ending at St. Mary Magdalene Church, October 7

A glass is empty of everything but simple passage @ Seventeen gallery, readings by David Raymond Conroy, Caspar Heinemann and Rebecca Jagoe – Oct 8


Ash Ferlito @ White Cubicle Toilet Gallery, Oct 6 – Oct 31

END-USER @ The RYDER Projects, Oct 6 – Nov 12

I, Cyborg @ Gazelli Art House, Oct 6- Nov 12

Tala Madani @ Pilar Corrias Gallery, Oct 4 – Nov 11

Metahaven @ Auto Italia, Oct 4 – Oct 30

Lanzarote @ Union Pacific, Oct 2 – Nov 5


Gina Folly @ Almanac, Oct 1 – Nov 5

Amalia Ulman @ Arcadia Missa, Sep 30 – Nov 5

Candice Lin @ Gasworks, Sep 21 – Dec 11

Mike Kelley @ Hauser & Wirth, Sep 23 – Nov 19

Aude Pariset @ Cell Project Space, Sep 22 – Nov 6

George Henry Longly @ Studio Leigh, Sep 22- Oct 29

Darja Bajagić @ Carlos/Ishikawa, Sep 21 – Oct 29

Joseph Buckley @ Public Exhibitions, Sep 29 – Oct 12

Augustas Serapinas @ Emalin, Sep 27 – Oct 29

Georgie Nettell @ Project Native Informant, Sep 28 – Oct 29

Moist Heat @ The White Building, Sep 29 – Oct 15

Lonesome Wife @ Seventeen, Sep 29 – Nov 5

Piotr Łakomy @ The Sunday Painter, Sep 30 – Nov 5

Streams of Warm Impermanence @ DRAF, Sep 15- Dec 10

Chooc Ly Tan @ StudioRCA Riverlight, Sep 14 – Nov 1

Josh Bitelli @ UNION Gallery, Sep 17 – Oct 22

Eva Fàbregas and Rachel Pimm @ Enclave Lab, Sep 29 – Oct 28

Andrew Gillespie, Andrew Lacon + Joanne Masding  @ IMT Gallery
, Sep 2 – Oct 16

Andy Holden + Steve Roggenbuck @ Rowing, Sept 2- Nov 5

Ivana Basic @ Annka Kultys Gallery, Sep 7 – Oct 8.**


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Technology Now: Sonic Feminisms Part II @ ICA, Sep 30

29 September 2016

The Technology Now: Sonic Feminisms Part II is on at London’s ICA on September 30.

The event, is part of ICA’s Technology Now series, is the second in a two-part series by Helen Hester that examines “gender, sonic media and the post-human.”

The evening, taking place at the ICA Theatre, will begin with a panel discussion exploring “the gender politics of voice and sound” and continue on after with performances, visuals and DJ sets.

Marcin Pietruszewski will perform (dia)grammatology of space (“a piece for human voice, synthetic speech and computer”) with Diann Bauer and Adda Kaleh, a music project by Alexandra Pirici and visuals by Ion Cotenescu,  Yoneda Lemma and Anna Mikkola. d-n-e’s performance features the voice of Amy Ireland and Katrina Burch among others.

See the ICA wesite for details.**


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K8 Hardy @ ICA, Sep 21

20 September 2016

K8 Hardy is presenting a screening of ‘Outfitumentary’ (2016), followed by a Q&A at the ICA on September 21.

The film, screening as part of the Artists’ Film Club programme, was produced by the New York-based artist over an eleven year period using a single low-quality mini-DV camera. Hardy documented her daily outfits, beginning in 2001, on video until the camera broke.  She filmed in ever-changing living spaces and art studios in New York. What emerges is “a record of the way a young, lesbian feminist dressed and styled in her ‘coming of age’ and an examination of coded fashion statements”.

The footage was recently edited down to 82-minutes of video. The artist considers the film to be a “document for posterity, an important record of the dress codes of a radical lesbian underground”.

Following the screening, there will be a Q&A via Skype.

See the ICA website for more details.**

K8 Hardy @ ICA, Sep 21

K8 Hardy, ‘Outfitumentary’ (2016), Film still. Courtesy the artist.

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Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair II @ ICA, Sep 10

9 September 2016

Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair II is taking place at London’s ICA on September 10.

Following on from the success of the inaugural Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair in 2015, this year brings over seventy UK and international independent artist self-publishers for the one-day fair. The second incarnation is bigger, features artist self-publishers only, and “continues to avoid the restrictions and market dominance of much contemporary arts culture”.

The publications are considered art works, however, affordable and available, with “the ideas, images and text produced and published by artists who understand the restrictions and freedoms of the printed page”.

Artists and publishers to look out for include Ami Clarke of Banner Repeater, Cesura//Acceso, Da Thirst, Dan Szor & Racheal Crowther, Ed Lehan & Lena Tutunjian, Hannah Sawtell, Laura Yuile, Owen Piper and more.

See the ASP website for details.**

Artist Self-Publishers' Fair II @ ICA, Sep 10


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An interview with Maxwell Sterling

18 August 2016

The original artwork accompanying Maxwell Sterling’s ‘Hollywood Medieval’ featured the British-born Los Angeles-based producer taking a selfie in the reflection of a window looking into the garish interior of a Psychic Store on Sunset Boulevard. It’s a picture that captures the sense of a space that the Manchester-born, Leeds-educated musician and composer does with sound. His first album, also called Hollywood Medieval and released on LA label Memory No. 36 Recordings, features seven songs inspired by and made up of layers —layers of iPhone recordings and analogue synthesisers, layers of simulated string sections and choral patches; car horns, bird song, traffic, an uncanny voice describing the theology of a New Age religion. Together they’re moulded into urgent and odd movements with titles like ‘Synthetic Beach’, ‘Funeral For A Building’ and ‘$50 Curse Removal’; songs for the Californian city made up of cascading melodies and vocal samples reminiscent of the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never or James Ferraro. In fact, after a stint as nanny to some children of the rich on Mulholland Drive and studying film scoring at UCLA extension, Sterling put his classical training in double-bass and composition to good use with cult-producer Ferraro’s ‘Burning Prius’ to a cello ensemble, first performed at LA’s Château Shatto.

“When you know all the sites so well, and you’re aware of all this culture, I think you just have this pull”, says Sterling, over tea with milk at London’s Wellcome Collection about the reasons he found himself ‘visa-hopping’ in the home of fame and fortune for the last four years. He began his career in music production with the “old-fashioned notation on manuscript paper” of his early music education in Northern England’s Leeds, then nannied, then studied some more, then worked writing scores for moving image —here, a collaborative soundtrack for a video work by artist Sam Kenswil, there, a small-budget feature starring thirty-something child Disney star Raven-Symoné.

Even as we speak about the differences between native ‘Angelenos’ and cultural tourists like himself, as well as his very Baudrillardian approach to music production, Sterling is between rehearsals for the first of two projects he’s been doing with his mum, post-punk artist and musician Linder Sterling, commissioned by lofty cultural institutions ICA and Southbank Centre. Sterling Elder is perhaps as well known for her work and association with bands like The Buzzcocks and The Smiths as her claim to being the first to wear a meat dress, well before Lady Gaga, which is perhaps an appropriate access point for the kind of space that Sterling Younger himself occupies as an artist. It’s one that’s suspended between any conventional notion of old and the new, high and low, specialised and amateur, together crystallised in Hollywood Medieval‘s soundscape for a place that can’t be described.

Image courtesy Maxwell Sterling.
Image courtesy Maxwell Sterling.

It’s funny that when you speak of the “dark underbelly of LA” you’re talking about well-to-do suburban families.

Maxwell Sterling: Yeah, well I guess whenever you’re dealing with those sorts of people, if you’re working for them… I was just living in their home, it was great. But mostly they’re really keen on taking the kids to these kinds of schools in far, far out Pasadena or Downtown, so I think through that you see some really interesting sights and it really highlights the massive gap between wealth and poverty. I think it’s only really in LA where you see such a radical change.

Do you think that’s where that sense of dread comes from, because that wealth disparity is really visible?

MS: That is a good point, yeah. But I think a lot of Angelenos are pretty unaware of it. I think, perhaps with my experience of being a foreigner, or being even a tourist at some points, you’re really aware of it.

Someone might not be aware of it but they’re drinking Kombucha every day…

MS: [laughs] It’s true, it’s true. I think that’s a real desperation, that I think you’re more aware of as an outsider, or as somebody who is not an Angeleno. I was always terrified, I had this stupid fear at the back of my head: ‘what happens if I run out of money’. That line between comfortable and uncomfortable, it’s very thin and I was always slightly fearful of that but I do think that’s something you’re more aware of as somebody who’s an outsider there.

LA is a really weird community where there are Angelenos that live there but there’s also sense, like in London, of just all these people that are checking through, or checking in, or checking out. It’s just quite a transitory place, really. It feels like there are roots there but also people often go there to figure out their own shit, and you’re never unaware of that. Or at least that’s how I felt when I was there, that there is that sense of desperation and a lot of the people I was around seemed very lost too. For me actually coming back to the UK for a while has been a very refreshing period of time, moving back from that overbearing desperation that you feel sometimes…

Maxwell Sterling + Nora Berman. Courtesy the artists..
Maxwell Sterling + Nora Berman. Courtesy the artists.

I’m going to go through your album song titles, I have a screenshot… ‘Hollywood Medieval’, ‘Feeling Without Meaning’, ‘Your Last Cadenza’, ‘$50 Curse Removal’… what does that last one mean? Is that referring to the Psychic stores?

MS: Yeah, pretty much. For me it was kind of poking fun at that New Age-y or psychic love affair…

Alongside capitalism.

MS: Exactly, which is why so many young Californians are so, they might have their own private jet but they still want to make sure that they’re karmic-ally not in too much debt. So, to me, I was always fascinated by Koreatown and Los Feliz, where all these weird psychic stores were basically in people’s homes. That was part of it but it’s more of a humorous thing for me. I’m not an atheist myself, I’m actually quite interested in lots of different forms of spirituality but I was just really aware, in my time in LA, of just how gross it is. How people try to offset their way of living with some vague notion of spirituality to make sure they’re going to be okay.

Is there much of a concept underpinning ‘Hollywood Medieval’?

MS: I wanted to tell a very small story. There wasn’t a specific kind of character or anything but there was this very, with the whole album it deals with the artificial sounds and synthetic sounds of instruments and how far you can push those until they become neither the original, nor synthetic. It’s this weird uncomfortable hybrid, taking these found sounds, then cutting them up into very small pieces, then looping them, then building up on that until a point where you reach a certain level of tension that just releases.

This idea of hybrid music, Tim Hecker talks about it a little bit with his latest album  [Love Streams] as well. He also lives in LA as an expat.

MS: Yeah, yeah I know [laughs]. I’m a big fan of his work definitely… For me, I made a really conscious decision with this album to only use sampled instruments and two synths, this Roland Juno and a Yamaha DX7, two synths that are very rooted in a kind of ‘1983’ sound and these samples that I find incredibly sterile, very saccharine. I really wanted a very specific sound palette. I wanted to convey certain emotions and ideas that typically would be easier to do with live instruments but I just really wanted the challenge of making something that kind of has a sense of struggle.

This idea of the feedback loop between live and synthesised sounds reminds me of this Baudrillardian notion of simulacra, of a reproduction of a reproduction of a reproduction; the way an image decays. LA as a space is very much like that, where there is no such thing as an ‘original’ or a ‘real’ space in the city.

MS: That’s very true. I think music that I’m really interested in is getting that sense of decay but also that augmentation; what happens, what is added within that dialogue, as well as what’s lost. For me, I’ll always be more comfortable with acoustic instruments, so it’s just really being quiet limited with the sound. When you’re working on a feature film there’s a sense that you have to get as real as possible, a bit like PhotoShop retouching visually. There’s this idea of ‘what is real’ or ‘what sounds real?’ And often it’s something that’s actually completely hyped and extended. I just got kind of bored of that. So, for me with this album, it’s almost like trying to push it and make it a quite vulgar usage of the sounds.

Have you heard of Los Angeles Plays Itself? It’s basically a history of LA as seen through its own cinema. It’s like a fictional documentary of its own fiction in a sense and it’s a real head fuck, in terms of how Los Angeles is its imagined self.

MS: Yeah, for me it’s such a fascinating thing, you know. Also, over my time there —I have moved maybe three or four times —and you really get a sense of, as vast a city as it is, you’re always aware of these micro-almost-villages, so to speak. You’re really aware of those different cultures and different communities and I think it’s a kind of paradoxical thing where it’s one of the busiest, densely populated cities but you can feel so lonely there too. I really wanted to explore that in my work as well. But there is no true, authentic experience, I guess, wherever you are.

It’s like it’s own filter bubble or something. The first time I was there as an adult I hated it. I didn’t understand why anyone would like it but that’s because I was hanging out with people from the film industry, then I saw a side of it that I like.

MS: Yeah, for me, it’s hard to really get a sense of it or understand it. Well, I’ll never really understand it fully but it’s taken me at least four years to even get an idea of how to relax into it because I think you can’t really ever escape the pace of LA too. To me it felt like you’re treading water, everything felt like such an effort to do there. Part of that is just to do with the geography of the city and just getting around but you’re also aware that everything just happens at half-speed, which, the more you relax into it, it becomes easier to deal with. It’s a fascinating place and I’m sure when I go back there I will get to revisit it and it will be a new place again.**

LA-based producer Maxwell Sterling’s Hollywood Medieval was released via Memory No. 36 Recordings on August 8, 2016. 

Header image: Courtesy Maxwell Sterling.

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