Bristol producer Hyetal has enlisted the help of experimental singer-songwriter Gwylim Gold on three tracks off his second album, Modern Worship, which is coming out next month. The first track, ‘Northwest Passage’ has already been unveiled, featuring Gold’s ethereal vocal harmonies weightlessly levitating over Hyetal’s heavily percussive and propulsive beat. Here, the two go head to head to discuss sacred music, writing processes and sophomore-album progression – exchanging more words in this conversation than they have done so far in their collaborative relationship.
Hyetal: When did we start working on those tracks, about a year ago?
Gwylim Gold: Probably about a year ago, yeah…
Hyetal: I just saw a clip of you playing on some rooftop somewhere, and that was it – I wanted to give you a shout about working together. But it’s weird, like we were talking about it before, how you hadn’t really done any collaborations up until then?
GG: Yeah that’s true, actually – it’s usually just me doing my own thing. I guess previous to working with you I’d been doing a quite intricate project, spending lot of time working on the real, fine details. So when you got in touch it felt like a nice opportunity to do something that moved that over to you a bit – that side of it.
Hyetal: I think the timing was really good. I was definitely not looking for someone to just sing on a beat either – I wanted a vocalist who would actually contribute a part of the album. It’s great that the timing worked out so we could do those tracks together. I was doing another interview yesterday, and they were asking me about ‘Northwest Passage’ and how that came together. They said that your harmonies are the kind of harmonies you wouldn’t normally hear in electronic music…and I wasn’t very well equipped to provide an answer for that, really! So I was wondering what influenced that?
GG: I’ve always listened to a lot of choral music. I sometimes find that I try and do harmonies like D’Angelo and it comes out sounding more like some kind of Welsh male voice choir! But, joking aside, I felt like I wanted to do contribute something to the texture of it, you know what I mean? I felt like because the tracks have quite a lot happening already I had to think quite carefully about how I could make something that would contribute to the texture, that would still work.
Hyetal: It’s interesting how that all came together. The album title is Modern Worship – there wasn’t like a literal meaning to it, or whatever, but there was definitely some religious themes to it, so it’s interesting that you mention chorals. I mean, that was never discussed…
GG: Yeah, at the time we didn’t even know what the album would be called. I guess at the time I was just listening to quite a lot of religious and sacred music, so it was really coincidental.
Hyetal: But the tracks that we did together definitely have their own identities, I guess it just fits into the bigger framework of the album. And weirdly, somehow it made sense.
GG: I did feel like the three we did came together quite quickly, though? But I really enjoyed that way of working, where I contributed one aspect and then handed it over to you. I would say the mood of the record is definitely kind of like your thing, you know what I mean? But what we did fit really in as part of a whole.
Hyetal: It’s difficult to describe the kind of mood that we put together, I don’t think it’s overly bleak, but it’s not, like, fluorescent or too full-on either.
GG: I guess it’s sort of stark, yet not bleak. I think one thing I wanted to add was some sort of movement to it, you know? So it went from one place to another rather than having that one, consistent mood. I think maybe your first record was a bit more constant in that way?
Hyetal: Yeah definitely, that was the first album I made and I think I felt there were only a limited amount of things I could include on it in order for it to work. This one is way more varied, and I think it’s better because of that.
GG: It feels like sometimes in electronic music, or whatever, there’s a tendency that as people become more adept, their music can sometimes become more generic. With yours was it feels like it’s the other way, the second record sounds more distinct – was that something you were conscious of?
Hyetal: It wasn’t planned or anything, I think that’s just what happens. It might have something to do with what I was saying before – about approaching an album with a bit more experience. I’m interested in your background with electronic stuff?
It feels like sometimes in electronic music, or whatever, there’s a tendency that as people become more adept, their music can sometimes become more generic.
GG: It’s kind of a long story! I got back into it a lot more during the last thing I did, this piece called Tender Metal on the Bronze player. It put me back into that thing where you let the sonic ideas inform the songs, and I guess that actually made me feel more confident to approach your stuff, because previous to that I’d been a bit more rigid about the way songs were put together. It made sense to take the same approach with your stuff, taking certain elements and trying to rebuild a song around it and send it back to you… I don’t know if that really answers your questions about my background, though!
Hyetal: Sure! That was an interesting way of working for me, that kind of deconstructed approach. When we first started working together, I suppose I sent you something I thought was in the ballpark in terms of structure, and then when you asked for stems and changed things structurally, that in turn really changed my approach to the track. It’s an interesting way of writing.
GG: I wasn’t sure if you were going to be offended!
H: Haha, no not at all. I really wanted it to be a collaborative record.
GG: Yeah, we never discussed sounds or influences, or anything like that. It was just quite a natural combination of what we were both doing at the time.
Hyetal: There weren’t any reference points – or any spoken communication at all, really!
GG: We didn’t even speak to each other. Ha! Actually, one thing I wanted to ask you about your sound, is that it has a kind of cinematic quality to it, right? Like, some visual sense?
Hyetal: For sure. I’ve always been into a lot of soundtracks, and stuff like Tangerine Dream – The Sorcerer and Thief and so on…
GG: Have you ever considered making a film to accompany your whole record?
Hyetal: Ha, yeah that would be amazing! Like a feature-length…
GG: Could I make a cameo in it?
Hyetal: Yeah! Or we’d make one together. That would be cool.
Modern Worship is out on True Panther Sounds on June 3rd.
Photos by Stuart Griffiths