Bored Of Canada: Ex-Terrestrial Talks

On IDM, Trip Hop and meme culture.

Bored Of Canada: Ex-Terrestrial Talks

On IDM, Trip Hop and meme culture.

Next week marks the release of a new album from Canadian producer Adam Feingold - a name with which some of you may be familiar. However, it was unknown to myself that this was in fact the man behind a string of releases for Naff, 1080p, Magicwire, Temple and Pacific Rhythm as well. Ex-Terrestrial was an alias first introduced in 2016 and since then it has become the prominent outlet for Adam to release his music beneath. Having previously released music with the likes of Apron and L.P.C - his new direction has seen him focus on the slightly more abstract and experimental, weaving between strands of outsider house, IDM, ambient and beyond. 

Naff is in fact a record label which he runs alongside Priori, an imprint which has moved from strength to strength since fruition acting as an outlet for a collective string of releases for close friends and local producers. It is here in which Adam has chosen to debut his own album, 'Gamma Infolded'. 

The release is a sprawling disarray of wonky glitches, broken machines and abstract patterns. IDM at its finest which draws upon a collective assortment of influences which span from the days of trip hop through to modern day futuristic gabber inspired sound design. 

Adam talks candidly about his inspirations and the motive behind the release, an adventurous LP which places him in new territory with prompt assertion. 

So, describe the rationale behind the new album? Was there a concept or reference point?

"It started on a long drive through Belgian countryside when I was accompanying a friend on an errand. He only had a cd player in the car and one of the albums we listened to on repeat was  DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, which I had actually never heard before. It impacted me on several levels. For one thing, the tone of the album resonated with how I was feeling at the time. And technically it was very impressive. It managed to use rap tropes in a completely new way, re-contextualizing and innovating the genre. And it really told a story. There's a lot there musically as well. It's got psych-rock, shoegaze, hardcore, drum'n bass, rap, illbient, and of course trip-hop. I realized trip-hop was a meeting point for all these genres that formed my own musical lineage, and to hear it brought together in a technically and conceptually nuanced way was impressive. So I decided to make my own version of a trip-hop album. I also thought this was a funny thing to do, since trip-hop is almost a bad word now, despite the fact that people I know are slowly coming around to it. So it was the starting point for a new direction, the results of which you will hear on this album. It's obviously far from a conventional trip-hop record, that was just the initial seed I needed to get going. It took me a while to figure out how to actually communicate everything I was thinking about at the time, from a technical standpoint. I pushed myself to find new sounds and new ways of chopping and sampling, which resulted in a completely new pallet. It's very different from what I've done before, which is the point. It's an honest snapshot of a particular moment, and I'm happy with the result."

How has your music changed - previously you operated as Adam Feingold, why the switch?

"The early Adam Feingold stuff lives in a very specific world. It was my first release before I really discovered my path. But it's still part of the larger trajectory. The ex terrestrial project came about in parallel to the Adam Feingold stuff, but eventually the latter overtook the former and now I'm here. Eventually I will reclaim my name but it will be in a different context. Ex-terrestrial is about evolution, disembodiment, dream states and the inner world. That's what I've been exploring these past few years through that project, and it's been very gratifying personally and creatively."

The record label has amassed a prominent reputation, was there ever a goal in mind for the imprint?

"Thanks for saying that, and shout out to my partner in NAFF Francis Latreille aka Priori. He's my brother, a brilliant artist and incredible human. We lived together for a brief time a few years ago and we just started sharing music. He would be in the back working on his stuff, and I'd be in my room doing my stuff. It was a very inspiring time. The first few NAFF releases were made during that period, so it became obvious that we had something good on our hands, and we had this shared desire to start our own imprint and just do everything ourselves. So initially it was just a restlessness to get all this stuff out there and move on, because we were both working on so much stuff, and still are. It started as a platform for ourselves and some close friends, but I think now it's expanded a lot. There's a lot we want to do, and I think the broad scope of our interests will be reflected in the years to come." 

Bored Of Canada, are you and why?

"Not at all, I love Canada and I feel very fortunate to live there. It's basically a joke, but also an homage to a group that's been a huge inspiration to me and many others inspired by that ch/ill sound. They are one of the architects for sure, true visionaries. If you listen back to the mix they recently did for NTS, you'll hear how deep they still are. It also relates in some sense to what I was trying to do sonically with the album." 

What’s more important - music or memes?

"That's an interesting question. A good meme functions in similar ways to a good pop song. it's easily digestible, immediately understood, and easy to replicate. The form is as important as the content because it has to be short and catchy in order to really work. But memes, I think, far surpass the song today in their capacity to mobilize people to think, act, and change. A lot of memes are benign of course, but memes are fundamentally built to carry real meaning. There's a level of irony and humour that acts as a trojan horse for something deeper.  I read an article that discusses how authors of memes can share very real feelings or political views at a safe distance, without submitting to vulnerability. The level of irony actually frees people to express themselves more authentically, more sincerely. So it's a really cool communicative device I think, and super entertaining of course. It's a very dense packet of information, and  the relationship to word and image is sophisticated. 

On the other hand, music is really good at reflecting the social/cultural moment. When I look at what's resonating these days, from the re-emergence of rave culture to trap music, I see a culture looking to escape, which makes total sense given how fucked up, desperate and insane everything feels. I don't really see music being used to spark conversations or new ways of thinking, by and large. I get the feeling music is being consumed more passively now than before, but it's still magic at the end of the day. There's no better sensation than being in the presence of sounds that connect with you, even if those evoke negative or heavy feelings. That's catharsis. Music is a highly reflective medium that has the potential to make you turn inward, and that is crucial in my opinion. I would pick music over memes any day, but its pretty clear that for a lot of people, memes are a more energizing and connective force than music at the moment." 

Coming back to the topic of Trip Hop - why do you feel that the genre has lost a degree of credibility given that there was some excellent music made during this period? Do you feel the narrative behind the genre is deemed ‘uncool’?

"I think some ideas age better than others, and some movements age better than others. It's a simple case of time and distance.  Like a lot of movements, Trip-Hop is a culmination of some underground actors inhabiting smaller scenes. They were experimenting with similar ideas, like using distortion and dissonance, wonky beats and darker samples and sometimes rapping on top. In my opinion the most exciting stuff came from New York, where you had El-P and Company Flow and that Definitive Jux crew; you had Spectre and his Wordsound label; you had Sensational with his twisted, smoked out cosmoid flow, and you DJ Spooky and DJ Olive. This was a specific pocket of the larger movement, which some people call illbient. Then you see people getting into it in the UK and integrating it into the IDM movement, Ragga, DnB, and all this really interesting stuff happened. But there's also some cheesy tropes that people find off-putting, and that comes more from the commercialization of that whole movement known as Trip-Hop. The artwork, the turntable-ism, the vague association to Nu Metal, the Goatees. You come across some pretty funny stuff in the record shops. Hazy street images with graffiti style text and some janky drawing of an MC in baggy pants. But for some people that was real and that meant something, so I'm not knocking the history, just sort of pointing out how I think it's been interpolated since its inception. I haven't heard a lot of people drawing inspiration from that moment (though there are a few) so that’s another indication of where it stands now. I do see a lot of graphic designers getting into this late 90s text style that is definitely reminiscent of the trip-hop/nu metal era though. Oddly enough, a lot of people in my immediate circle have started mentioning trip-hop, so there seems to be larger move in that direction. To me it makes sense, we live in illbient times."

There’s prominent nods towards the stranger side of IDM throughout the album, even through the naming of the album and in the contextual presentation - was this conscious or accidental?

"It’s not really a nod. I’d say i’m working in parallel to that tradition/discipline. I've learned from some IDM associated artists, and I feel aligned with their vision. It's not a matter of emulation though, more so a sense of kinship. People can arrive at the same idea or conclusion without ever speaking, and this communication transcends time. I've arrived at certain ideas that align with some IDM principals without ever directly being informed by a particular artist. It's just a matter of connecting certain dots between different musical elements. For example, if you like rap then you probably like breaks, and if you like breaks then you can go down a multi-dimensional path. I think just growing up when I grew up, listening to Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, loads of rap, and later getting into My Bloody Valentine, 80's weirdo shit, techno etc.--it lead me somewhere, guiding my intuitions and forming my sensibilities as an artist. In this way I've brushed up against IDM for sure. Of course I’ve studied the genre, along with others. What I’ve really taken from that world is the sense of humour employed by artists like Atom Heart, and the general embrace of new technologies as a driving force for creativity. Honestly I don't really listen to IDM stuff these days. I've found my own sound. No one sounds like me and I don't sound like anyone else. I listen to a lot of different music, and I think that is reflected in what I make." 

As far as the name goes, Gamma Infolded is the feeling of the record. It's partially about destruction and implosion. I don’t associate it at all to any genre or movement. 

"The album artwork is absurd of course, and I just think it’s funny. If you know me you know it’s in line with my dark sense of humour. But it does reflect how I was feeling when making this record. I was feeling trapped. So it’s cheeky but also very real haha. And as I mentioned before, i associate humour with some IDM related artists. But lots of musicians have employed absurdity and humour in their practice. Zappa, Nilsson, Ween, Kool Keith, lil B, Aphex Twin, Yello, Cleaners from Venus, to name a few. So again, it's not a reference to any one thing at all. I think the artwork looks fresh and interesting, and feels honest. Shout out to Kane Ocean for capturing that moment, and Jesse Osborne Lanthier for the artwork. Both are incredible artists in their respective fields. TIP!"

You mention making music low key at home in your bedroom, is this still the same case and does your own creative process follow the same approach?

"Every record I’ve done including this one has been in some home studio situation. Luckily Francis has mixed most of the recent ones so they still sound great. He’s a proper scientist with deeply cultivated intuition. Now I have a little studio situation which is cool because I can be loud. The approach is always the same: one part skill, two parts self-doubt. That’s the golden ratio." 

Who did you look to locally and more widely when it comes to inspiration?

"I’m continually inspired by Francis, by my Temple crew, Planet Euphorique, Isla, Fati et al. So much good and forward-thinking music happening in Montreal, and it all ties-in together I think. I also did a bit of research into millennial glitch. My Bloody Valentine has been a big one too. And a lot of current underground rap, particularly the Dump Gawd crew. There’s so much though, too much to mention."


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