Five Queries With… 002: Andrew Lang

We recently started a post series called Five Queries With… new for 2017. It’s quite simple, we’ll catch up with an artist, label or friend on what they’ve been up to and their thoughts on a few random questions and post it up. It’s a sort of mini interview and we’ll be sure to cover wide musical ground over the course of the series.
Some posts will just be an interview, others will also feature previews of forthcoming projects and in this case, there may also be a mix put together by the person involved.

So next up, we welcome Australian pianist and artist Andrew Lang, whose recent album ‘Burnt Shades’ sold out in no time at all on Whitelabrecs. Andrew has put together a show for us, kicking off with a Field Recording he made before traversing choral, chamber, modern classical music, moving on to Ambient territory, some indie rock and even some light experimental pop moments. Click the image above or HERE to visit the mix page on Mixcloud and why not read through the interview below as you listen?

IC: You’ve provided us with a guest mix which reveals a pretty diverse taste in music – could you talk us through a few of the selections?
AL: Sure! As a general rule my music taste is pretty diverse; I don’t actually listen to a huge amount of classical music since I find that listening to too much of it can make my own music more derivative. Or, at the very least, I start getting really critical of it. So I listen to a lot of other genres – recently I’ve gotten really into emo/indie rock stuff, but I love everything from jazz and drone to shoegazey pop and Taylor Swift. I find inspiration in pretty much everything I listen to in some way or another, so my mix reflects that I think. A lot of the songs on this mix are artists I’ve discovered in the past year, or were from some of my favourite releases of 2016. Tilman Robinson’s Deer Heart and Dead Light’s self-titled record are two particular favourites from last year.
As well as that there’s a few “forever favourites” that I had to include because why not. Some of these include Music for Twin Peaks by Stars of the Lid, The Beatitudes by Vladimir Martynov, and Lately by Memoryhouse which also samples a track from the score to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (my favourite film).
I’m also at work on some new projects, so the first track is from a planned sound art project, and the last one is planned as the final track on the new album I’m working on at the moment.

IC: What would be three of your all-time favourite records and why?
AL: Trying to answer this is essentially a “what hour of the week is it?” kind of question. So, at 10pm on this particular Tuesday, I’d have to say these three have stuck with me for the longest:
Nils Frahm – Felt
Do you ever have those albums that you’ve listened to a hundred times, and then you’re in a particular frame of mind and suddenly you’ve noticed an element in the song that you’d never noticed before? This is me with this entire album. It’s so perfectly & subtly composed, recorded, and mixed. In terms of recording at the very least this was the inspiration behind Burnt Shades. I try not to emulate his recording or compositional styles too much, but considering how distinct a sound the record is it’s hard not to go for something similar at times.
The Antlers – Hospice
A concept album about the relationship between a hospital worker and a terminally ill patient, that doubles as a semi-autobiographical story of the lead singer’s emotionally abusive relationship. It’s such a beautifully layered record, filled with despair and longing and everything that makes good music great. I constantly come back to this one and I’m surprised every time – the band have done amazing things since but Hospice is still their masterpiece in my opinion.
Kings of Convenience – Riot on an Empty Street
Kings of Convenience are That Band for me. One that I’ve listened to since before I can even really remember, where through all of the other musical obsessions I’ve had over the years this band has remained the one constant that I can return to time and time again. Every listen feels like I’m hearing them for the first time, yet at the same time like I’ve heard them a thousand times before. Most of us have one or two of these I think.
It’s hard to choose just one of KoC’s albums for inclusion since all of them are uniquely brilliant, but Riot stands as one of the most perfect albums in the universe in my opinion. Pretty much every song sounds like an instant classic, and I still get chills with Feist’s transcendent guest appearances. I struggle so much to put into words why I adore everything this band has released, and why this album in particular is my favourite – just go listen to it and you’ll understand.

IC: You released your debut album ‘Burnt Shades’ on Whitelabrecs last year – how was this received and did you get any good reviews? We see that all copies have sold out – did you feel the release was a success?
AL: Burnt Shades got really good reception! I went into writing it with the aim of, “if I can get it released through a label l then I’ll be really happy, if it gets reviewed I’ll be even happier, and if I can play some shows in support of it then I’ll be ecstatic”. Check, check, and check!
Because I tend to focus on tiny details for so long, it becomes really difficult for me to see the bigger picture after a while. I spent a long time on what eventually became Burnt Shades, and after a while you start getting really nitpicky. I found myself asking things like “Does the song work better if I play an Eb or a Db here?”, “oh god, everyone’s going to notice I played that one note a quarter of a beat out of time!”, “is the EQing okay?” – you know, that kind of stuff. All of it’s important, of course, but it gets really hard to put everything into context after a while. So to actually put it out into the world and for people to hear it and like it and review it was really really exciting. Basically every review I got put a big dumb smile on my face for at least a week.
And probably more importantly, I’ve listened to it again in the last little while and I still like it. Often I listen to things a little while after I’ve written or released them and suddenly noticed all the flaws in what I was doing. But this one I can still appreciate, for the time being anyway – it’s not perfect, sure, but I’m still immensely pleased with it.

IC: The work in Burnt Shades was very much in the vain of modern classical piano music by artists such Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick. We understand that you’re keen to experiment beyond the piano – tell us what other methods of production you’ve got up your sleeve?
AL: With the two major releases I’ve done thus far (Strangers EP and Burnt Shades) I’ve tried to be constantly exploring new ideas and genres. With that in mind I’m starting to gravitate away from only piano solos – as much as I like them, I feel like I’ve explored what I’m able to do with only that one instrument for the time being, and I’m looking to explore more diverse sets of instruments.
So with that in mind I’ve been experimenting with writing for slightly larger ensembles. The stuff I’m writing at the moment is mostly duets for piano and cello – at least half of the record I’m working on at the moment is that. I’ve tried composing for strings in the past but the results have always been a bit flat, but this time I’m really happy with what I’m creating.
As well as that at the last few gigs I’ve played, I’ve been experimenting with processed piano. My setup is basically a keyboard passed through a laptop, which for the most part is just to make the keyboard sound decent since it’s a pretty cheap and nasty thing. Occasionally though I start looping it and putting it through filters and stuff, which creates these nice little ambient loops that I can play over the top of. Kind of like a synthesiser but more organic, I suppose. It works really nicely as a way of bridging between songs, too, especially in a live context. So I’ve started incorporating some of those more ambient ideas into my work as well – there’s a couple of times this processed piano appears on the album. In general I think I’m interested in seeing how I can expand my work to incorporate some more electronic work.

IC: What are you working on at the moment? Are there any plans for another release any time soon?
AL: I am indeed! As I said I’m in the final stages of writing a new album (though I still have to record most of it) – I can’t say too much about it yet, since I haven’t even come up with titles for most of the songs (I’m always pretty awful with song titles). But there’s actually very few piano solos on the album this time – as I said I’ve written a lot of pieces for cello and piano, along with some tuned percussion, bass synthesisers, and processed piano. I’m really excited to start recording it and releasing it – it feels like the most complete thing I’ve done to date, rather than just a collection of songs. I’ve dabbled in the past with motifs and so forth, but I’ve really gone all out this time in making it feel like a fully formed collection.
As well as that I’m working on a sound art project with a friend of mine that blends computer programming, sound art, and algorithmic composition. Basically the idea is to collect a huge sample of sound files from different sources (musical and non-musical), and put them through software that semi-randomly selects things to play over one another based on pitch, currently playing samples, etc. We’re trying to gather some interest for it at the moment, but since it’s enough work that it requires funding, it might be a way off yet. (Any art/installation curators out there, hit me up!) I’ve got a couple of other side projects in the mix that I can’t talk too much about yet since they’re still in their really early stages, but basically I have an EP of improvised pieces that I’m hoping to release for Piano Day, and a more folk-inspired release that’s slowly starting to come together. As always I like to have a few projects on the go that I can move between when I get bored of the others!

To listen to or download Andrew’s album ‘Burnt Shades’, click HERE or hit play below