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Daniel Lopatin & Tim Hecker

Dan Lopatin and Tim Hecker have spent years warping the grids between pop, ambient and composition. As they combine forces for one terrific album, we find out how they charted the subconscious fears and desires of a zither

The latest release from the Software Studios imprint is 'Instrumental Tourist', the collaborative LP of Brooklyn's Daniel Lopatin, (who, as Oneohtrix Point Never, has done more to make free synth jams about memory and Chris De Burgh among the most interesting sounds of now) and the Polaris Award-winning Tim Hecker, whose respective experiments have routinely teased at the boundaries of electronic music and the capacity for compositions to grow from decidedly non or anti-formalist beginnings.  After being long-time fans of each others solo work, 'Instrumental Tourist' sees Hecker and Lopatin come together to not only explore the capacity for their music to find a common ground in a collaborative project and to push one another in the studio setting, but also to probe at the potential for ambient and drone music to delve deeper into new, unfamiliar sonic realms. 

DazedDigital: What inspired you to work on a collaborative album together?

Oneohtrix Point Never: I approached Tim about collaborating with me for a series of 12"s that C. Spencer Yeh and I wanted to release on Software - bringing together electronic music producers working in a more or less improvisatory manner in the studio. The idea was partially inspired by my interest in Teo Macero and his sessions with Miles Davis' varying groups in the late '60s and early '70s. There is a dynamic between open ended jams and the logic of tape editing that I find really stimulating. I thought that Tim and I would be great in terms of both utilizing the studio as an instrument, but I also just had a hunch that we'd compliment each other well; like in a rhythm section, or the ways directors and DPs work together. Contrasting styles and struggles can often lead to fresh work and having admired Tim's solo stuff, I thought it was worth a shot.

Tim Hecker: I was deeply into Daniel's last record Replica when he suggested the project. I thought it made sense on a bunch of levels. Instead of doing a collaboration which brings together the 'inert' digital composer with a 'lively' or 'physical' instrumentalist to spray fresh life on the mouse clicking tedium, I thought some other route was better and this project made sense. Anyways, the point of a collaborative effort shouldn't be visualizing a clear path in advance. I wasn't sure how it would work out, and was interested in how it might take shape - which was part of the pleasure. 

DD: Your LPs are stylized regarding around "digital garbage", and the ambiguous evocations of drone and ambient music.  How do you feel your respective aesthetics married on the LP?

Oneohtrix Point Never: I think we both do a fair amount of melodic manipulation.  There are some procedural things we do with garbage that lead to sounds suggesting classical forms, and upon discovering some of the specifics oh how that works respectively, we were able to work out a shared language.

Tim Hecker: From way too high of a vantage point it could be argued that we occupy similar terrain of music, but I think we both agree there's significant variance in terms of our interests and approaches in composing sound. I honestly wasn't interested in 'marrying' our aesthetics in a kind of linear additive sense, but rather evaporating the self into a project that is more than just you. 

DD: Did you begin the project with a particular conceptual direction in mind as a duo?

Oneohtrix Point Never: I'm not sure how it emerged, but we pretty quickly got into this idea that we could paint an extended portrait of a sonic world that is filled with stock musical motifs and sounds in there most vulnerable states. Like the subconscious fears and desires of a zither - what might that look like? There was a lot of conversation like that. But what you're hearing are very loose portrayals of that idea. It's more an anchor to stimulate, but then we really do end up just jamming off of each other in a way that isn't conceptually didactic.

Tim Hecker: We didn't cut a path in advance. It sort of took shape very quickly in a non-contrived, almost unconscious level through joking around and talking in the studio. It may not seem apparent from the music but our studio time was filled with laughs and rapid-fire banter that kind of helped to morph the approach as things continued over a couple of days. 

DD: Technically, how did you approach the recording process? You're both known to process samples of acoustic instruments and analogue synths in your productions, so how did you work out enough of a variation between the two of you to feel you had technically distinct inputs into the sound of the project?

Tim Hecker: I didn't care for delineating any sort of distinct input. I enjoy dissolving myself into an ether of Daniel's solo lines. For example, mixing or adding reverb to one of Daniel's phrases for me constitutes creative input that is better than being sonically represented in an obvious way.  I'm still obsessed with the effect of electronic instruments being re-amplified in real space and capturing those environments. We used a lot of room microphones that gave a greater depth to things. 

DD: The album is presented as largely improvisational, with a sort of free-jazz spirit to it.  How do you feel you worked towards more structured elements over a prolonged period of time with this ethos in mind?

Oneohtrix Point Never: It's less about free-jazz and more about an open, improvisatory approach and deep listening. You can easily link that to all sorts of 20th century musical practices. There's no need to compromise because there's no hardcore parameters set until we're dealing with edits or having some macro level discussion about which tunes work and which don't. There's formal aspects to both of our styles but I wouldn't say there is a formal aspect to this project. We usually agree on what sounds good, and when we don't its easy - we just ice it and move forward.