It’s no secret that the joy of much electronic music resides in its unpredictability. It’s there in the overtones and harmonics that arise from a looped and layered arpeggio or the clicks and whirrs of static from an unplugged lead – built in redundancy that allows for unparalleled creative possibilities.
Barcelona’s bRUNA and Wooky are two electronic musicians working at this particular coal face, mining analogue synths for little nuggets of unpredictability that open up new worlds of emotion from within the cold precision of electronics.
While both of them have been active as solo artists for many years, their work has taken a collaborative turn of late, both with their work for Lapsus (a label, radio show and annual festival based in Barcelona), and with the release of ‘Archives’, a joint LP of ambient arpeggios, choral synths and blasts of white noise, that purposefully blurs the line between the synthetic and the organic.
Live, ‘Archives’ takes on a new dimension, thanks to the live input of Alba G. Corral, a visual artist who works with code to generate moving images. With all three artists working together on stage, the work raises important themes the nature of live collaboration in a world defined by digital space. As well as being a stunning live experience, all of this makes the show a natural fit for Sónar’s programme for We are Europe – itself concerened with fostering new connections between disciplines. With their performance at Insomnia festival in Tromso coming up at the end of the month, we caught up with bRUNA and Wooky (real names Carles and Albert) to delve into the ‘Archives’ and to find out their thoughts on networks, nature and the hyperreal.
You’ve both been active in Barcelona’s music scene for a long time, but this is the first time you’ve worked together on a record. How did it come about?
We’ve been working together on Lapsus for years, but we never thought about making a record together until one day we were on a train and we noticed that we were both looking at the same website for second hand synths. So we started talking about our influences – Tomita, Hammer, Eno, Vangelis, Jarre, Gottsching, Aphex, Oneohtrix… – and the project grew from there. Each of us went away to work on their own tracks and when we got back together we were amazed at how similiar they were. We actually only worked on one of the tracks together, the last track on Archives, that we played as an encore at the Sónar show
It seems to me that the central theme of ‘Archives’ is the conflict between the organic and the synthetic. Is this something you’re interested in and why?
Totally. We’re fascinated by the contrasts between warmth and detatchment, between electronic abstraction and human emotion. Most of all we’re concerned with exploring the limits of technology when it comes to expressing emotions. With Archives we wanted to revisit not just our influences, but the technology that made those works possible, and see what we could do with it. So in the studio we used everything from analog synths from the 70’s and 80’s through to revox reel to reel tape decks, cd burners, and both analog and digital mixers.
Lapsus has created a real community around experimental electronic music. In this digital age, are human ties and networks still important.
In a time as dehumanized and apathetic as the one we’re living through, we believe that human ties are more important than ever. Lapsus wouldn’t be what it is without the audience it has, and we wouldn’t be what we are without them.
The live version of ‘Archives’ features the artist Alba G.Corral. How does her work fit with the overall theme of the project?
Alba’s role in the performance is to translate what we’re doing on a musical level into images. What’s special about her work as a video artist is that her pieces are generative – she ‘paints’ digital canvases of abstract beauty in real time.
It also adds an element of improvisation into the mix, how important is this to your shows?
This is kind of the crux of the issue when it comes to live electronica: you’re playing with pre-recorded elements, but in real time. There’s always space for improvisation in our live shows, and not just in Alba’s contribution. By using different set ups, you can add a ‘risk factor’ which makes every concert unpredictable, exciting and unique.
Your next show will be at Insomnia (Tromso) which forms part of the We Are Europe project. All the festivals have a strong multidisciplinary element. What do you enjoy about playing this type of event?
We like festivals that have a clear identity and purpose, and that often comes through including extra-musical activities. For example, seeing an artist and then attending a talk by them creates a more complete understanding of their work and that performance in the same way that a video art installation can open you up to new sounds and stimulations. That said, we don’t like it when festivals just add things in without having any concept behind it. We’re not fans of ‘theme parks’.
Finally, will there be music after The Singularity? Do you think an AI could be as creative as a human?
Of course there will be, especially live music. Live music is already the only form music to have survived the collapse of the record industry, so it will always be around. Seeing your favourite artist playing in front of you is an experience that even the best AI could replicate.
Perhaps live music is what will keep the Singularity from happening then! Thanks guys.
bRUNA & Wooky will perform ‘Archives’ at Insomnia Festival on Fri 27th October, presented by Sónar as part of We Are Europe.