Brooklyn based Ital, doesn’t sacrifice dance vibes for heady experimentation – the two exist in a compelling, if tension-filled harmony in his music. Performing a 2 hour, all live set, he's at EXTRA_VISIONS 2 during MUTEK_IMG, November 22 at Phi Centre.
Robyn Fadden - November 19, 2013
Ital doesn’t sacrifice dance vibes for heady experimentation – the two exist in a compelling, if tension-filled harmony in his music. Brooklyn-based Daniel Martin-McCormick, whose last two albums as Ital – Hive Mind and Dream On, both released in 2012 on British label Planet Mu – saw him touring with the likes of Laurel Halo and playing Sonar, comes to Montreal for Mutek_IMG’s EXTRA_VISIONS 2 - November 22 at the Phi Centre. While his music has been called many things, most recently underground house, Martin-McCormick finds himself uninterested in defining himself and far more into in searching out certain sounds, assembling them in unexpected ways, and keeping people dancing.
You’ve been in rock, hardcore and punk bands, including Mi Ami and Black Eyes, and have been making somewhat difficult-to-classify electronic music for a few years – what do you think about where you fit in in this vast, hyphenated world of music genres?
As long as there’s been music, there’s been a never-ending conversation of hyper-classification. I’ve never known it not to be the case, but I don’t worry about it. You just have to follow your instinct. All the best music deals with fairly simple concepts of texture, melody, what happens when you combine A and B. I’m thinking about a band like My Bloody Valentine and how their music has never become outdated because what they’re exploring is elemental. In about a year or three, I think something like outsider-house will fully pass because it’s so context based, but the best artists who are currently lumped into that, will I’m sure, be making amazing music because their music isn’t about context, it’s about elemental properties rather than reference-making. As fun as that can be when it’s happening, it’s only going to last if you’re making amazing music with it.
How did you transition from making music with rock bands to making solo electronic dance music?
I was into dance music for a long time before I started making it. It started off pretty simply in that at the time, around 2005, I was listening to nothing but dance music and some noise and 20th-century classical composition. Later, I made some tracks but was so busy playing in bands, that I didn’t do anything with them. A few years went by and I still wanted to make dance music and I knew some people who were putting out records, the Future Times guys, for instance – I thought if they’re doing it, why not do it too. About six months after making those new tracks and only sending them to a few friends, Amanda Brown [of label Not Not Fun ] came to me with the idea of starting an offshoot avant-garde electronic dance music label, 100% Silk. In 2011, I sent her what became the first 12 inch and thought no one would care about it. At this point, I’ve been into dance music about as long as I’ve into rock music.
What does electronic music let you explore that you can’t always get into with a band?
With most bands, you deal with essentially the same criteria across the board: lugging your amps, practicing your songs, playing your songs, and people come to shows, watch the band and see how the sounds are being made. That can be great, but the trade-off is a smaller sound palette and coordinating with a few people to work out the arrangement of the music. Whereas with Ital, it’s just me with my entire musical universe in one box. But it’s a whole emotional and sonic palette that seems more to my taste. And because it’s solo music, it can be really deep in that you have the opportunity to invest your whole self in any song you make. Bands are amazing, but I just felt this was where my heart was.
How do you approach performing a live set like the one you’ll be playing at Mutek_IMG?
I often travel with visual artist Aurora Halal, who does a lot of video work with me, including live video feedback where she’s processing a camera feed from the stage with some pre-prepared footage, so I’m curious to see what the MUTEK_IMG visual set-up will be like. Sometimes a live PA set can feel too “artist as performance” – I just want people to have a good time, whether they’re into dancing or looking at the gear. I see why people gear-spot at shows – it’s about understanding the language and it’s exciting to see how the music is happening. Even if I bring out all my gear – which I’m doing for this show, of course – not everyone will necessarily have the same awareness of what’s going on. So it’s kind of like coming from behind this black curtain, across a void: I’m saying “Trust me, I’m doing something here that is meant for you at this moment,” and hoping that the energy translates.
When making music, especially music that uses samples and found sounds, how influenced are you by popular culture, what you’re listening to, where you’re living or traveling to?
I’m always open to hearing new music and I feel like we live in a time where there are a lot of amazing musicians — I feel like I could name a hundred off the top of my head, but there’s still a high bar for me when it comes to influence. When I first started getting into dance music in my early 20s, my experience was of going to stores in San Francisco and only being able to find minimal stuff from Germany and a little bit of DFA disco-house and UK early dubstep. So I went searching for music I didn’t even know the name of, I was just looking for a sound. Now it’s like I live with this overabundance of music – and maybe it was always there but I didn’t know it. Electronic music, dance music, avant-garde, and the intersections between them all, with classic artists and new artists doing fascinating, iconoclastic experimental stuff – it’s inspiring to be a part of that. But what directly influences me is seeing someone absolutely destroy live. It’s not that I’m interested in copying the music, but it’s exciting, it makes me think about what’s possible.
EXTRA_VISIONS 2 Friday, November 22