Balmorhea – The Monday Is OK Mix (Ostraca, Music From The Vessel)
“Historically, ostraca refers to fragments broken off from a piece of pottery and used as a writing or illustrative surface. The music in this mix represents a cross section of a larger whole; a small piece of shell fitting into some ethereal, conscious body. The vessel here being the proverbial amalgam of emotion, memory, dream and artistic inspiration that amasses into the subconscious. This 85 minutes of audio is an array of genres and eras that represent a shard of the wider inspirations during the ideation and writing stages of the new Balmorhea album Pendant World.” Michael A. Muller
Texan ensemble Balmorhea released their new album, “Pendant World,” on 16th June. Out through Deutsche Grammophon their slow-burning ambient Americana is imbued with rich textures. The album showcases collaborations between founders Rob Lowe and Michael A. Muller, along with guest artists including violinist/vocalist Aisha Burns and cellist Clarice Jensen. We asked Michael Muller to put us together a Monday Is OK mixtape and answer some questions…
Anyone that picks Aphex Twin’s On EP as the first electronic album that made them feel anything is ok by us.
Please introduce yourself…
Who are you:
Michael A. Muller, co-founder of Balmorhea
Where are you:
In my studio space (Elyria Sound) in Los Angeles.
What are you:
I’m a listener first. Every idea for an eventual piece of music I/we create stems from the rudimentary exercise in listening. Only by first interpreting our surroundings can we internalize and be inspired to voice, compose, arrange, record and eventually release a piece of music.
Tell us about the Monday mixtape you’ve put together for us.
If it were to be drawn what would it look like?
A landscape drawn from memory.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?
Through decent headphones in a quiet setting.
What should we be wearing?
Anything that can allow full range of motion in your limbs.
Where was it recorded?
Collated from my digital music library on my 2012 iMac.
Are you on the same wavelength as the boomtown rats or do you actually like Mondays?
Mondays are great.
Early, overt electronic music that helped form the larger picture for me include: Aphex Twin – ‘…I Care Because You Do’, Oval – ‘94diskont’, Björk – ‘Homogenic’, Accelera Deck – ‘Conviction & Crack’, Tortoise – ‘TNT’, Windy & Carl – ‘Consciousness’, and Bowery Electric – ‘Beat’.
Who would you say are your biggest influences and what are you hoping to achieve with your music?
The biggest influences could be anything that prompts alternate views, takes or perceptions of what the standard operating procedure may be. Artists in any medium who juxtapose colors, voices or tones previously not combined or turn an accepted methodology on its head are invaluable.
What were your original aspirations as musicians and how do you think you’re shaping up?
Early on, I was simply trying to mimic the sounds of the music I resonated with. I think I’m still trying to do this in some roundabout way. Art imitates and begets art. The depth of joy in creation of “new” art lies in altering the hue, focus and elevation therein yielding new forms and patterns. These combinations are endless.
Some self help questions for a Monday:
Am I excited to dive into the challenges that I have lined up for the week?
I require a clear list and angle of attack, or I get overwhelmed trying to do too many things at once. I prefer to have things laid out, commit to a plan, and move through tasks one-by-one.
Am I looking forward to engaging with the people i am meeting or working with?
I am energized, refreshed and inspired by interfacing with humans. Hopefully there is something new to be learned from anyone, however pleasant or unpleasant they may be.
Am I going to my dream job?
Am I being compensated fairly for the value I bring to my job?
Such a subjective thing, isn’t it? How can an exact value be placed on something so intangible and nebulous?
Do I feel energised, rested, and confident?
Always the first and third. The middle one ebbs and flows.
Your doctor says you need more exercise….what do you take up for exercise?
Walking, stretching, and more walking.
What was the first electronic record you heard and how did it make you feel?
The Aphex Twin EP ‘On’. It was 1994 I think and I was on holiday with my parents in Hawaii and found the CD in a used record shop. Having that music soundtrack the lush hills and tropical beaches somehow worked. That still remains a visceral memory to me.
How does your brain work when making music? How does it work when you aren’t?
At best, it’s the falling into the zen state, or what I refer to as the ‘lower river;’ a place where time, self and sense of space is lost. That’s where I tend to find the best ideas.
What were the first and last records you bought?
First: Iron Maiden – ‘Powerslave’, Last: Saint-Säens/Franck – ‘Concerto No. 2 / Symphonic Variations’ performed by Artur Rubinstein (1958 RCA Living Stereo, 1994 Classic Records re-issue)
What are you obsessed with at the moment?
Walking 10,000 steps a day
Anything else we need to discuss?
Richard Strauss – Zwei Gesänge, Op. 34, 1
Oliver Coates – Caregiver Pt. 4 (Spirit)
Richard Wagner – Tristan und Isolde (Prelude to Act III)
Paul Desmond – Soon
Maurice Ravel – Rhapsodie Espagnole (Prelude a la Nuit)
Gustaf Ljunngren & Skúli Sverisson – Vi Overlever
Maria w Horn – Fall of O’Dea
Miles Davis Quintet – It Never Entered My Mind
Alva Noto – Xerrox Kirlian
Modest Mussorgsky – Il Vecchio Castello
Branko Mataja – Sreo Sam Te
Arvo Pärt – Summa
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – Lush Life
Tidiane Thiam – Minuit
Daniel Lanois – My First Love
Boxhead Ensemble – Homage To The Tren Brothers
Colin Vallon – Sisyphe