This week on the HSR blog we delve into the wondrous musical and sonic mind of Scott Solter. Scott’s stunning album One River was re-released by Hidden Shoal in 2011 and ended up on a number of end of year best of lists and scooped some deservedly glowing reviews. Scott is of course also one half of the amazing Boxharp along with Wendy Allen and their band of merry contributors. And let’s not forget his work with Balustrade Ensemble and his ridiculously awesome list of production credits.
Hidden Shoal’s Cam Merton recently dropped five questions on Scott.
CM: How did One River come about? Your previous release under your own name, The Brief Light (Manifold Records, 2003), was markedly different in its pallet and aesthetic.
SS: The pieces began as improvisations with guitar and tape loops. There was no agenda at first. The Brief Light, on the other hand, was music that grew out of teaching myself how to record audio. I had collected a number of instruments over the years that I was too lazy to practice, but when I got the itch to learn record making I pulled out everything and started banging away.
CM: There is a level of compositional complexity at play in One River that may not be immediately apparent depending on your listening mode. Can you talk about this and perhaps expand on your compositional process for One River?
SS: Compositionally it was impulsive and improvised in its technique. I was looking at various images of water and wondered what sort of music they would make. Simple idea. Technically speaking I would build a melody slowly and continue adding harmony until it felt musical. From there it was about how shallow or deep, calm or volatile to take it. After each piece was constructed I’d look for more undercurrents using various tape machine playback speeds. Eventually all the machines were set in motion and mixed live.
CM: I believe that works such as One River require a special mode of listening to fully appreciate. Do you think that it’s important for music to ask something of the listener?
SS: Maybe the proper mode is really just giving space and time for listening. Hopefully the work is compelling enough to firstly draw someone’s attention. I do like a certain open landscape or emotional neutrality to exist in the music so as to offer a listener the chance to plug in their own narratives.
CM: You’ve produced, mixed, engineered for indie (I apologise for the term) artists like Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice, Superchunk, Pattern is Movement and Erik Friedlander to name but a few. What, if anything, do you take from this work into your solo work and also your work with Boxharp? Inversely what do your bring from your own work into these sessions?
SS: The methods of approach are always a work in progress. I like to bring as much of my sensibility to the event as I can but it depends on the variables of the project. On the surface, a lot of these records sound drastically different in tone. Some of them have allowed me to build from the ground up, giving me a great deal of creative license. Others have very limited schedules or resources, requiring me to hit the ground running. Maybe there’s a connection between them that sits deeper. I’m not sure. However, as I move forward in my work I do feel that certain methods have begun to thread themselves through all of the projects.
CM: What’s next for you in solo mode and also for Boxharp?
SS: Several records in the works… Grant Miller and I are close to finishing a new Balustrade Ensemble record that should be ready in soon. There’s also a collection of dark dubs I’m putting together with Rohner Segnitz that I’d like to see released. Boxharp has a great deal of material assembled and recorded that should result in a full length and some singles. There’s also a follow up to One River that should be finished in a few months.
I guess that’s it for now, thanks :^D
“Twins and Wives: a film for One River” by Mark Solter and Laura Solter (DVD release coming early 2012)