The homemade house explorer chats with his visual collaborator Aurora Halal, while we stream his brand new album exclusively
Daniel Martin-McCormick's latest project as Ital has had a whirlwind of a year. His debut LP on Planet Mu Hive Mind has been quickly followed up by the brand new Dream On, a synaesthetic exploration of bodily integration with technology that demonstrates not only the playful and inventive scope of his production, but also the burgeoning relationship between the various visual and sonic technologies that permeate modern electronic music. The experience of the physical body within digital realms in Dream On directly inspired the latest development in the Ital project – his brand new live A/V show. Designed by Brooklyn-based artist Aurora Halal, whose dreamy analogue visual style developed most recently through her video work for her progressive disco band Innergaze, the collaborative A/V show is currently on tour in Europe and has been met with enthusiastic reviews for its intense, reactive style.
To celebrate the collaboration, DazedDigital caught up with Aurora Halal and Ital to discuss the project and bring you an exclusive stream of the 'Dream On' LP.
DazedDigital: You have been touring together this month premiering Ital's new live A/V show – how has the response been?
Ital: The reception has been so awesome. It's funny because I can't actually see the visuals while I play, so I don't know what they look like night to night, but every seems super into them. Our shows at Rika and Unsound were really cool – I got to play with Hieroglyphic Being and jamming with him was pretty exhilarating.
Aurora Halal: People keep saying that the visuals look super cohesive with the music, but I'm actually kind of improvising to react to what Daniel is doing, so it's really not planned that way at all. I like that people feel it's a united experience though.
Your aesthetic seems to be centrally focused on the merging of visual technologies – analog and digital, synaesthetic use of colours and time delays, almost ‘retro-futuristic’ if you will – how do you feel your video direction has developed over time with this in mind?
Aurora Halal: My videos are dream sequences mostly. I reach for whatever mediums help me create that subjective trip feeling. I love using my analog setup (video mixers & other hardware) because it’s chaotic & fluid, creating unexpected almost subconscious flows of video that I can later edit & recombine w more care. The visuals for this A/V show are made up of live footage of him onstage, so its meant to draw you into the environment onstage. I'm jamming with a live camera so the results are dependent on what the lights are doing, how much fog is in the room, how distorted the track gets.
It's interesting to know that the A/V show changes every night and you improvise live together, yet the crowd has commented on its unity. Do you feel your work respectively and collaboratively lends to this well?
Ital: I know for me music always has very strong visual connotations, especially when I'm writing. I have dream-like flashes. It helps me organise my thoughts and identify what each part represents. I think it's united but also quite assaultive. I'm aware that I want to keep it kinda catchy so that people can dance, but the vibe is pretty overwhelming and punishing. A lot of the time people put together an A/V show with the mindset “oh, here's a nice set of colours to hide the fact that we're not doing anything visually exciting.” Aurora and I were careful to curate a really intense vibe. It's about the live experience rather than just projections.
How reactive is the improvisational aspect to the A/V show – do you feel you've committed yourselves to a project that's developed beyond your expectations?
Aurora: Oh, it's super reactive. I have a surveillance camera which I set up in front of the stage, and it's distorting the images to the bass through radio frequencies. That camera is slowing breaking with each show. The frequencies have become more and more insane to the point where I have no idea what it's going to do visually. It has a really raw, gnarly look to it. Then I have an analogue video mixer, a small monitor and a high definition camera that I'm creating live feedback with that I can manipulate. It's hard to describe exactly what I'm doing.... it's like waves of colour come over then filter out over clips of him which spiral into infinity.
The 'Dream On' LP is directly inspired by the experience of live shows and the energy of touring. How did this in turn affect how you play the new material out live?
Ital: It always takes a little while to break in a new project in a live setting. It's one thing to make a track and structure it half off your own intuition and half off listening to other people's music as well, and going out to see live shows and thinking “oh, this is where the kick drum should come in, and this is how I want the vibe to be”, but you're still in a super personal fantasy realm. It's cool to make really private dance music because it creates this liminal zone between being super engaged with the physicality and kinetic aspects of it, but you're also in a dream world. You're taking all these ideas that have thus far existed only in a super private zone, and seeing how they actually affect people in real time is strange. I was curious to see how far I could push myself and the program technically to see how alien I could get things to sound.
Considering your visual work for the tour and your productions, it feels as if your aesthetics have come together to convey the relationship between the body, technology and the potential loss of control that comes with it. How do you feel the physical body is explored in your work?
Ital: I knew I wanted to make something pretty disgusting and raw. I wanted it to sound gross. I want the audience to be excited by the show but also a little nauseated. I get a lot of inspiration from body horror and the cinema of David Cronenberg - stuff that touches on ones own revulsion with physical being. I think there's a special kind of web 2.0 manifestation of that with mediating yourself through digital realms, and I wonder how literally infected we are by it.
Aurora Halal: Generally my interests are more concerned with body pleasure than body horror. When I was watching the Beyonce video 'Baby Boy' and picking clips I wanted to use for 'Boi' I was drawn to the sexy close up shots. But as it gets processed over time it gets darker, the feedback at some point looks like flames and by the end it looks like she’s tied to the bed writhing, and there’s flashes where the shadows of her face, invertered and submered in feedback, looks like a skull, which happened by accident. That's kind of what Daniel's song made her do in away.
I'm intrigued by the Beyonce sample in the track and video respectively. What made you choose her and that track? Is there something self-consciously tongue-in-cheek about sampling major label pop records in this way?
Ital: I feel a lot of kinship with Aurora's ideas of sensuality and bodily pleasure. When I'm making tracks I'm not thinking like, “aw, this one is totally my paranoid commentary on post-modern culture”, or “yeah lets get Beyonce and nail her to the post-modern cross!” It's a lot more to do with making something that's pleasurable, that toys with pleasure and pain, which to me have a lot of obvious overlaps.
Aurora Halal: I think using Beyonce for 'Boi' really speaks to the themes as well, because to me both their tracks are about sexual obsession. From my perspective its so interesting how we fetishise celebrities and want to sleep with them even though we know well probably never meet them. That black water in the original video is about female sexuality for me. Part of sampling pop stars is that they come loaded with meaning. There's something communal to comment on or to participate in, but sometimes it's just that they're the most capable singers.