Everyone should know by now that we love electronica, and the more experimental the better. Thankfully, when it comes to Londoner WILLIAM ARCANE, we are truly spoiled with his blend of ambient sounds and pop craftsmanship, and as we got to know during this brief chat with him, it’s all part of the day job… as is being well versed on the quirkier side of electronica. So let’s pitch up and educate our ears with his ‘Experimental Electronica’ playlist!
How did your relationship with electronic music begin? Have you always made music?
I have always played instruments from a very young age and made my poor parents broke as a kid from all the lessons in clarinet, violin, piano and guitar. I first got interested in electronic music however when I was about twelve or thirteen. My neighbour across the road from me got a pair of turntables and was learning to beat match break beat. I had a go at it and wasn’t very good back then, but I was really interested in the music and how it was made as a lot of it didn’t have any instruments. He showed me Ableton and then I was hooked.
We asked you to curate a playlist of your favourite “experimental electronica” tracks. Can you tell us a little about why you picked each track? Why is it important to you?
Ian William Craig – ‘Before Meaning Comes’
This man writes beautiful heartfelt music. The sound palette as well is really inspiring for me and always pushes me to be more thoughtful with my sound design. His voice is so powerful as well it rattles my bones!
Grouper – ‘Come Softly’
I love Liz so much and one day I hope to meet her. Her music is the most tender thing you will probably ever listen to. A lot of the time you just hear glimpses of the lyrics and they are so harrowing and so gorgeous at the same time. When I listen to her music I actually feel something and there is a lot to be said for that, as there’s a lot of heartless music out there these days.
Tim Hecker – ‘Black Refraction’
I feel like all of Tim’s work is very conceptual and thought out and the piano in this is like no other I have heard. I just love how he’s recorded it and processed it. It makes me just want to get back in the studio and keep improving more!
William Basinski – ‘dip 1.2’
Just the idea of experimenting with the medium you are creating music on really inspired me and made me want to buy a reel to reel. It’s a long recording but as the tape loop gradually plays, for every loop it goes around the machine it slightly degrades. This is due to the age of the tape. At the end, you are left with this beautiful broken ambient broadcast.
Björk – ‘Stonemilker’
Not sure if it counts as experimental electronic (it has electronic drums?) but I love how strong Björk’s song-writing is and how vulnerable she made herself on the whole album. It’s great as an artist when you see other artists laying it all bare for everyone to see.
Gangly – ‘Holy Grounds’
I keep coming back to this song, I love the feeling it evokes. The lyrics aren’t your typical subject matter as well (or maybe they are and it’s metaphorical?). Anyway, I’m really excited to see what she writes next.
FIS – ‘SeaPR’
This song scares the S*#T out of me. It’s the only song I have ever listened to where I had to turn it off the first time I listened to it out of sheer terror. I got so freaked out and closed my laptop. To be able to evoke that feeling through music is an incredible skill and pushes the boundaries of music and broadens my own creative thought processes.
Ben Frost – ‘Venter’
I love seeing artists who have created their own bubbles and creative spaces and Ben Frost is a prime example of that. It’s a slow builder and the high tinnitus sounds evoke a feeling of nostalgia for me for some reason, no idea why.
Arca – ‘Thievery’
The most sinister body popping tune I’ve ever heard. I love glimpsing into Arca’s world that he’s created for himself. His sound design belittles most other producers out there. The detail and automation of every sound and all the cared for subtle nuances are mind-boggling. I think he’s a genius personally and listening to him always makes me want to up my game!
Your recent single ‘Hourglass’ is evoking and somewhat melancholy. Could you tell us a little about what went into composing the track and what inspired it?
Ahh, that word melancholy is following me around, maybe I need to lighten up! This release felt quite fragmented in terms of the process. I cleared out of London for a while to a cottage in Wales to escape a post break up slump and have some space. I hadn’t left the city for a while and my brain gets a bit crowded and noisy if I’m not in a new environment or around nature for a while. I had been in the studio every day for what felt like years so a change of space and pace of life felt essential if I was going to get all these thoughts floating around in my head into songs. Also sometimes inspiration doesn’t come from going to the studio every day, you need new stimuli. I wrote the songs on this old rustic piano in this little cottage and didn’t over think them in terms of lyrics. It felt more like a documentation of my thoughts and how they were being spoken out in my head. Once I returned to London it took me a while to revisit them. Sometimes when I get close to finishing something I get quite anxious about it because I know it will go out to the world and everyone will tell you what they think about it and I’m quite sensitive about that a lot of the time. The songs were also written when I wasn’t in the best of places mentally so it was like digging up all these old feelings. I’d been obsessed with listening to a lot of tape loop artists such as William Basinski and Ian William Craig so I decided to re-record a lot of the sounds onto this old 1960s reel to reel that I had bought a while ago. Then I sat down for a few weeks and got them all arranged and mixed.
You have written and produced music for a number of artists including Nao, Rosie Lowe and Denai Moore. Their music differs quite a bit from your own; how do you approach collaborating with other artists successfully?
I love collaborating and have learnt so much from working with others. I think first and foremost the sessions are successful because you develop a special kind of connection with other musicians who are living the same lifestyle as you and have similar passions and aspirations. My favourite parts of sessions are often when you’ll just sit for an hour or two talking about your creative processes, how you mentally gear yourself up to things, and how you get inspired and get through the tougher times that music often presents to you. You have to be very open on a personal level first and then that transpires into a level of comfort when writing together. Getting into a small studio with someone and stepping onto the microphone and singing about personal issues is better when that someone isn’t a stranger!
Do you prefer creating your own music as opposed to collaborating with other artists?
I go through phases I think. I’ll have months of working with others and hardly looking at my own stuff but absolutely loving the freedom of creating something that’s not under my own name. Often it makes me think less which is really important when writing. With my own stuff, I go through phases of loving it obsessively and then absolutely hating everything that I make. Sometimes it’s torture!
Another of your songs, ‘Reflected’ saw you gain attention from Bonobo’s Essential Mix on BBC 1, Jamie XX and John Talabot. How does it feel to have your music be favourably recognised by your peers?
Yeah, it’s great to see the support from those lovely gentlemen. I’m just really grateful and have given them big hugs as a thank you for it ha!
You are about to release your new EP What can we expect from the release? Did you achieve any creative goals with the completion of the EP?
There is a beautiful video currently getting finished up by my good friend Peter Davies which I am really excited about as we shot it in some really stunning locations around the west coast of the UK. Also In the New Year, I’ll have a live show together and will be doing a select amount of shows for these songs. Creatively, I felt that this EP was the most honest thing I’ve ever written lyrically and now that it’s done I already know exactly what I’ll change in terms of composition and lyrics for the album. I also feel like this EP is my own little world, I didn’t try to fit into any genres and didn’t overthink what label it would be on like I have in the past. I just sat and caught on to the ideas that are floating around up there and honoured them. I also designed and made every single sound with analogue equipment and drum machines etc. rather than doing any sampling (Sound design is one of my favourite aspects of the creative process). It’s just nice to know that every single sound on that record is completely new and no one else has a copy of it.
William Arcane’s new EP Hourglass is released 29th November.