Tag Archives: Mica Levi

Experimental Label Slip Imprint Makes the Avant-Garde Fun

Slip Imprint

Experimental label Slip Imprint’s co-head Laurie Tompkins first started releasing music during his composition undergrad in Manchester, handmaking micro-runs of avant acoustic and electronic music on CD-R alongside fellow students, as Slip Discs. “Our first Slip Imprint release proper was Joe Snape’s Brittle Love, in 2015,” Tompkins says. “Up to that point I’d worked on Slip Discs from 2012 until 2015, but with a shift of gear in what we were all working on—plus, us all moving from Manchester to London and Berlin—it felt like the right time to drop the pun and push on.”

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Ten Records that Blur The Line Between Electronic and Classical Music

Murc of Wagner

Murcof x Vanessa Wagner by Pierre Emmanuel Rastoin.

Considering how closely aligned electronic and classical music have been for decades—from string-laden samples and Philip Glass-like synth grooves to questionable covers like Tiësto’s dopey trance anthem take on Samuel Barber—it should come as no surprise that line between the two has become blurred over time. In fact, it seems pointless to peg many of today’s artists to either.

“I have always been surprised to hear my albums classified as ‘ambient,'” says Polish composer Michał Jacaszek. “They may have ambient elements—like deep reverb or delayed textures—but I prefer an ‘electro-acoustic’ label.”

“I don’t think I’d ever classify my own music in any modern classical sense,” adds producer/12k founder Taylor Deupree. While he’s collaborated with the legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto several times (Disappearance, Perpetual), Deupree sees more parallels between traditional and progressive music forms in the work of his longtime labelmate, Kenneth Kirschner.

“Ken often uses the sounds of traditional classical music,” explains Deupree, “but with very modern and very minimalist compositions. I think that’s where the interest and strength lies in this type of music—where the inspiration comes from people like [Morton] Feldman and [John] Cage.”

That’s certainly been the case with a recent string of records from Mexican producer Murcof and pianist Vanessa Wagner. Last year’s Statea LP reinterpreted everything from John Adams to Aphex Twin, and this summer’s EP.02 pays tribute to Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, and Morton Feldman without tarring the originals in techno-fusion tropes.

“The piano is the starting point of our project,” explains Wagner. “It’s important that electronic effects do not swallow its sound, even if it is sometimes distorted. Similarly, it also seemed very important to stay true to the scores of composers that we interpret.”

The same can often be said for post-classical provocateurs like Alarm Will Sound, the chamber orchestra famous for flipping Aphex Twin on his already twisted head. The following feature isn’t about concert halls invading the club, however, or vice versa. This is closer to the middle ground where it’s never clear what’s being “played” and what’s being “produced.”

Here are 10 essential classically-inclined electronic albums.

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Album of the Day: Mica Levi and Oliver Coates, “Remain Calm”

The role of classical instruments in electronic music is shifting, and Mica Levi and Oliver Coates are at the forefront of that movement. For years now, the instrumentalists have explored a possible marriage between classical and new electronic forms, pushing deeper into unexplored territory with each release. Oliver’s Upstepping at times veered into cello-driven dance music, while Mica Levi’s Under The Skin soundtrack went the other way—into creepy, visceral and atmospheric territory. On their new collaborative album Remain Calm, Levi and Coates unite, and blend cellos with various electronic elements, samples and instrumentals, creating 13 nuanced snippets with their specific sound.

At times, Remain Calm nods to contemporary genres like grime, drone, and techno, but the musicians do a masterful job of blending the live instruments into the mix, weaving esoteric twists throughout the album. The cello is the project’s main focus, and on songs like “Pre-Barok,” “Dolphins Climb Onto Shore For The First Time,” and “New Wren Kitch,” the instrument feels especially warm, albeit portraying its different qualities in each of the tracks. The highlight is “Barok Main,” an abstract composition full of capricious melodic lines and fluctuating atmospheres. Moments of comfort are met with bone-chilling stillness. On Remain Calm, Levi and Coates manage to create their own world—modern, nostalgic, and overtly personal.

Adam Badí Donoval