Track By Track: Gilded
From industrial workshops and rhythmic minimalism to field recordings and meditation balls, experimental artists MATT ROSNER and ADAM TRAINER take us through ‘Terrane’, the debut album for their collaborative duo Gilded.
Terrane began its life as a 50-minute piano improvisation. We had access to an amazing Fazioli grand piano, so we had our friends Crispin and Jules set up their portable studio at the house where the piano lives, on the third floor of a home overlooking the Perth city skyline. It was Adam who played the piano, and he was basically just left to it – everyone else left the room and returned with lunch when he was done. ‘Velar’ was the original opening movement of that improvisation, and it was also the first track we put overdubs to, so it sits nicely as the first track. In some ways it’s Gilded trying to find our own sound. We knew we wanted to take a different direction to our solo works, so we decided to challenge ourselves and use instruments rather than processing, but it was still important that the tracks had room for textures to develop. ‘Velar’ is arguably one of the sparsest tracks on the record, so it’s a good way to immerse the listener in the sound world we’re trying to create.
‘String and Stone’
‘String and Stone’ is intended as a counterpoint to the more spacious pieces on Terrane. After we came away with the original piano recording that forms the backbone of many of the tracks on the album, we realised that we needed some dynamic to the album. We realised that we could inject more structure with pieces that took the drone and repetition that we’re both familiar with, but worked through it in a more rhythmic fashion. We started with some simple patterns and then layered different instruments to create a dynamic rhythmic piece that was originally inspired by the New York Downtown scene, particularly Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, but which ended up to us more akin to the sound of an outfit like Radian. ‘String and Stone’ is the most “cut-up” piece on the record, because we compiled it almost the way dance-music producers do, by taking short takes – a single note, strum or drum hit – and layering and repeating them. What we ended up with might not sound like dance music, but it has a similar dynamic due to the process that spawned it.
A lot of the textural elements on Terrane come from field recordings. Apart from the initial piano recordings, the record was made in the front room of Matt’s house at Myalup Beach, about an hour south of Perth. When not recording the instrumental takes, we spent time recording sounds from the surrounding area using portable equipment. We weren’t only focusing on natural sounds, though, so for ‘Dew Cloud’ we recorded in a large industrial workshop. It has a cavernous reverb with lots of metallic surfaces, so the sound in there really moves around a lot. There is also a lot of equipment that can be used to make interesting percussive noises. For ‘Dew Cloud’ we close-mic’ed an old steel cutting machine and ran a set of lifting chains along the concrete floor and across a rusted metal plate. It was a lot of fun, and there’s a real sense of play and possibility when you’re unleashed upon a huge warehouse space with all these amazing tools and pieces of junk strewn around. In some ways the metallic sounds from these field recordings offer a connection between the ambient drones that can be found elsewhere on the record and the more repetitive rhythmic pieces we created later.
Being able to record Terrane in an isolated home studio allows certain creative freedoms that you wouldn’t normally have in a professional studio. It affords time and space to set up the right conditions for tracks like ‘Road Movie’ to be formed from musical improvisation. It’s a little different to the rest of the record, as the guitar takes the lead with banjo, bass and mandolin providing support. The background textures come from meditation balls – they have yin-yang symbols on them and the object of meditation is to move them around whilst making as little sound as possible. But of course that doesn’t make for a very interesting recording. It’s always fun to discover new sounds in found objects. Perhaps it’s the way it forms itself via a structure-less beginning into a somewhat menacing, plodding rhythm, but the track ended up with a cinematic feel and it reminds us of driving in the dying evening light with a desert mountain in the distance. To us it’s really reminiscent of the work of Montreal-based post-rock collective Set Fire to Flames.
Again this track was inspired by the Phillip Glass and Steve Reich brand of rhythmic minimalism. Listening back, it’s hard to believe that this piece started as a piano improvisation, as it sounds quite structured, and one might think we spent a lot of time editing and sequencing to arrive at a track like ‘Tyne’. But in fact the parts in this piece were all recorded as single takes because the piano track was recorded that way and doesn’t have a perfect metronomic beat. Because it’s not cut up and sequenced into a steady rhythm, we had to teach ourselves to follow the ebb and flow of the original piano piece, which was a little challenging but ultimately rewarding. For that reason the piece has a really interesting dynamic – there’s an odd sense of unease to it because it’s not quite perfect. As the piano speeds up and slows down, the rest of the instrumentation has to allow for those changes in pace, and it almost falls apart as a result. It’s that tension and the idea of the rhythms being slightly out of phase that reminds us most of the Reichian minimalism that we were aiming for.
Terrane contains a lot of bowed string parts. These parts were created by close-mic’ing an acoustic guitar and then bowing it with an old violin bow that belonged to Matt’s grandfather. The bow is battered and worn, which adds a nice rough edge to the sound of the strings vibrating. The piano on this track is actually from the end of the original version of ‘Velar’. We liked it but it didn’t fit on the end of the original track, so we drenched it in reverb to wash it out and added some other textural elements to it. The background texture comes from a Rolf Julius picture disc, which was lying around in a stack of vinyl LPs. The resulting track is a nice little interlude to break up the album.
The title of this track probably references the state of our recording space. When we get consumed in the recording process, it’s usual to find an array of instruments, cables and microphones littered across the room. It can get a little chaotic, particularly as the room also functions as a living space. The best thing about having all the gear set up in one space is that it allows for experimentation. Mixing this track was a process of reduction. Initially there were numerous layers and the track was dense, but we pared things back to make more space for the sounds to move in. While we were recording this track, we were joking that it was our pop single, so it’s fitting that this was released as a teaser for the album. It’s probably the most straight-ahead, traditionally arranged piece on the album, and the use of melodica has always made it very reminiscent to us of the early work of múm. If you listen carefully, towards the end you can hear one of the only instances of vocals on the record. But they’re mixed very low, almost to give a subliminal climax.
The title of this track draws reference from the field recording that runs through the piece. We recorded it high up in the rafters of the warehouse and captured the sound of the room expanding as the hot sun was beating down. It must have been close to 40 degrees close to the roof sheets – hence the sound activity, which adds a nice percussive element to this track. We echoed that with the screeching cymbals, which was achieved by running a nail over it. The lyrics and vocals came about whilst we were cooking dinner and listening back to the day’s recording. We had been at a farm which sits on a hill overlooking a farming area, so the lyrics are somewhat influenced by the processes that are involved in taking something from the earth and moving them through a series of networks before it ends up as something with a use – something with a purpose. From memory this was also the day that Radiohead’s The King of Limbs was released, so we had been listening to that as well. Whether it’s evident here or not, Thom Yorke’s vocal style has always been an influence on Adam’s own vocal style. It’s a nice change to have vocals in this piece. Gilded certainly has a more “songs”-based approach to experimental music than the material that either of us has created in our solo work, and having lyrics lends a sense of narrative to ‘Expand/Contract’.
Terrane was made across two summers. Circumstances meant that we didn’t work on the record during the colder months. As a result Terrane feels like a “summer” record to us – it’s bright and warm. The season and also the recording process played a major role in the formation of Terrane. The field recordings in the last part of this track remind us of a late summer afternoon, the sea breeze howling in from the Indian Ocean and buffeting the shrubs and trees in the dunes. The crackling of dried branches and twigs underfoot. Birds are out feasting on the moths and other bugs that appear with the twilight. We are sitting inside, surrounded by instruments and recording gear, hoping to capture the moment. At one point there’s a field recording that sounds almost liquid – like something being submerged in a body of water – but it’s in fact just the rustling of grass. Something amazing happened there – something otherworldly, and we were able to capture it. Those are the moments we live for, and hopefully that otherworldliness translates for the listener too.
‘Terrane’ is out now on Hidden Shoal.
Sat Oct 20 – The Street Theatre, Canberra, SA
Sun Oct 21 – Gasometer, Melbourne, VIC
Fri Oct 26 – 107 Projects, Sydney, NSW
Sat Oct 27 – Powerhouse, Brisbane, QLD