Ricardo Donoso Talks
Although Ricardo Donoso’s ‘Assimilating the Shadow’ features excerpts from ‘Jungian’ psychoanalysis lectures and deals in the kind of gradually evolving, transcendently dark synth-permutations that only reveal their absorbing nature after a few listens, it seems apparent, somewhat encouragingly, that he’s content to leave any interpretation open-ended, dependant on the variegated attachment audiences might hold, rather than fabricating a contrived, intellectual meaning, as revealed in the questions we posited him here.
Ricardo also took us through some of his early musical beginnings, offered some insight into what it’s like working with a label as consistent and prolific as Digitalis, explained why morning-disorientation is such a special state to draw from, and reflected on the connection between his commissioned visual accompaniment work and his solo material.
And because Ricardo and Digitalis are such true gents they’ve also given us a premiere of his new downtempo edit of 'Equivalance of the Thirteen', one of the highlights of his latest LP. This edit features Lucas Lejeune on violin/viola and Ryan McGuire on double bass. Have a listen at the bottom of the page. You can also check out some videos for the cuts from 'Assimilating the Shadow' Ricardo has recently released, dotted throughout the interview. Enjoy!
I understand you’re from Rio but are now based in Boston, what kind of music did these places expose you to and what impact do you think this exposure had in each case?
I was exposed to quite a bit. I remember being really drawn into bossa-nova as a small kid, just from my parents listening habits. Something simultaneously melancholic yet hopeful about that music, which I became very attached to. When I was in my early to late teens and really starting to study the drums seriously, I played ‘caixa’ or snare drum in a samba school. This was an amazing experience and really exposed me to rhythm on another level which has informed my work since.
Boston has exposed me to a pool of amazing musicians, in many different fields. Classical, Jazz, electronic, ect. Something I didn’t really have access to in Rio. It’s been a great place to learn and collaborate.
I was also interested specifically in where ‘Assimilating the Shadow’ was recorded, and how you think that place and the mood or approach it conjured, effected how the album turned out sonically?
Interesting question; my last album ‘progress chance’ was recorded in a make shift basement studio I rented for a while during a time of transition, during the usual harsh winters we see in Boston. It was freezing down there, the unit had no heat so it was typical for me to play keys, or program with gloves on – case in point it was uncomfortable. “Shadow’ was recorded in my new studio, which is actually very comfortable – I think these things play a significant role in the end result and direct parallels can be made between the environment, state of mind and the music.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you approached production whilst making the album; how you built on and formulated your ideas?
I had most of the parameters set before I started recording, both musically and thematically. I knew I wanted vocal samples to provide some narrative, longer song forms with clearly defined sections and repetition, juxtapositions of rhythms even the instruments I was going to use for the recording, some of which were on loan. From there things just began taking shape very naturally. You start making connections between the different tracks and how they relate to each other and the ideas of the album as a whole which in turn influenced me in writing newer tracks in certain ways to make sure it also fit. I knew in the beginning that I wanted the record to feel like a concise whole, I really wanted to make something that was interconnected throughout.
Your music is often designated as ‘Morning Music’ (in many of the reviews I’ve read concerning your work), what do you think it is about your music that brings up this ascription, and what do you think it is about this time that makes it worthy of exploring in your work? Can you trace a specific instance or time which is particularly evocative?
There was something about the morning hours of an outdoor party that really appealed to me. Guards were down, drugs wearing off, there was an acute sense of connection and to me an overwhelming sense of gratitude. This is what I’m trying to tap into ten years later.
There’s a few profound dialogues that surface throughout the course of the album (mentions of ‘existential reality’, ‘otherness’ and the like) can you tell us where those quotes come from and how you think what they say relates to ‘Assimilating the Shadow’?
The samples are from old Jungian psychoanalysis lectures, discussions and workshops a friend of mine in the field gave me. The album is about integration and the samples represent very specific ideas for me, I tried to leave them a little ambiguous however to leave room for interpretation. At the end of the day making the record has served its function for me, hopefully it will serve a function for someone else who has their own interpretations.
The quotations are certainly much more profound than your standard dance music discourse. It’s also matched by quite a spacey, transcendent sound that’s a lot deeper, slower and more repetitious in the way it evolves than a lot of music that would be considered similar – is this out of any grievance with the current nature of dance music generally?
No not at all – I just make music that I want to hear, after all I am the one building and listening to it over and over again to get it where I want. It’s a transformative process for me so hopefully that comes out – again, when I was making the record it served a very specific function and need, now that the record is out it will have a life of its own and do it’s own thing and hopefully serve a function for other people.
How long have you been aware of Digitalis? How did ‘Assimilating the Shadow’ end up as one of its releases and can you tell us why you think they were a suitable label for this particular release?
I’ve been working with Digitalis since 2010 when they put out my first release, and I was a fan of the label years before that – we’ve built a strong relationship since and they are really supportive of my work. They take immense risks, they’ve been around for quite a while and know what they are doing. When I approached them to do ‘shadow’ I knew it was going to be a huge financial investment, and they were totally on board and were keen to see it get done.
I’ve heard that you compose music for film and television. Did you have any visual accompaniments in mind whilst you were producing ‘Assimilating the Shadow’? I’ve heard a lot of electronic music producers in particular say they make ‘music for an imaginary film’, do you find this to be the case with your solo work, even though you have been commissioned for film/television music in the past?
Not really, no. I love writing music for film/TV because you have to create an emotion or reaction, not in an artificial way, but you have to steer the viewer into feeling, reacting or understanding something. It’s the same for my solo music, I’m trying to express and instil a certain feeling.
Tell us a little about this new remix you’ve done for us.
Just tried to have some fun with it and do something different, an exercise really. I wanted to explore marrying these electronic elements with some acoustic instruments like strings and percussion as there is nothing like this on the record, but still remain true to the groove.
Congratulations on the album Ricardo and thanks again for the interview – as well as the remix! All the best.
THANKS SO MUCH!