Archival interview with Vanessa Amara by DX

Vanessa Amara have a new LP out on Posh Isolation this month. I’ve been a long time fan of this Danish duo, and was rapt to read a recent in depth interview with Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen on Danish website Passive/Aggressive.

I spent a couple of months in Copenhagen in 2015. A great deal of this time was spent playing chess and backgammon with Birk, listening to Kanye West and drinking strong coffee, and having very long conversations about Thin Lizzy, art, music, literature, and the importance of physical labour. It was a great pleasure to revisit Birk’s voice and presence through the interview on Passive/Aggressive, and it prompted me to revisit Distort #43 and the following interview I conducted with Birk over email in 2014.

Vanessa Amara's debut tape features a consistent theme of ominous church organ augmented by tape loops and piano, or interrupted by percussive blasts like a desperate parishioner seeking midnight confession. On first hearing it, in the Winter of Copenhagen earlier this year, the drone of the organ resounded most prominently and the tape suggested some sense of stillness and contemplation. Listening to it on my return to Melbourne Summer, my brain affected by jetlag, self-abuse, and the sweltering heat of the loft I work in (which lacks both insulation and ventilation), I was beholden by the claustrophobic quality, the sizzling tape loops contributing to an atmosphere of imminent catastrophe. In the weeks since my return I have adjusted to the schizophrenic conditions of Melbourne weather, and to the dramatic ritual of this cassette, which is a highlight of the year so far.

I got in contact with Vanessa Amara to ask about the recording experience of Both Of Us:

"I recorded the music in the Winter of 2012-2013 with help from my closest friend in a small summer house by the sea, in the north of Sjælland, the same island as Copenhagen. I moved up there to record with a band I played in. We had all our recording gear in the house and stayed there until late spring, late April. I wrote the first and the final song the summer before, the middle one is a couple of years old. But we made a shorter and more percussive version of it.

“We asked the closest church with an organ if we could record in the church throughout the months we stayed there. The church was 30 km away, we had to bike their early in the morning and reached the church when it was still dark. Around the walls and the vault were old religious frescos of awkward figures and symbols. Drawn by different hands they had different lines, and reminded me of the tattoos on my friends' skin.

“The organ player in the church asked when we'd have to leave. We had no clue, so he explained us the different things one should go through closing the church. We stayed in the church the following day and night, until we had recorded what we needed, drank their holy wine, ate their dry crackers, biked back to the house, and the following months we made tape loops and recorded synth and guitar, closely following the season change, waking up with the birds, finding youth in the April sunsets glow."

Listen to Vanessa Amara here.
Read the interview on Passive/Aggressive here.

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