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Antenes on making her own gear and more

Sustain-Release's Aurora Halal quizzes Antenes aka Lori Napoleon about making her own music gear

This September a new, experimental music festival, Sustain Release, comes to New York. Showcasing the cream of the crop in dance music alongside emerging artists about to break, we've got a seven-part special today going in deep with the creators – get up to speed here.

Spoken of in hushed tones in Brooklyn and a veteran of Mutual Dreaming, electronics artist Lori Napoleon has been DJing for over 10 years, speaking her own language of Drexciyan electro and metallic techno with an ear for melody and odd percussive syncopations. Under the alias Antenes, she's begun to release her music, with a track on L.I.E.S.' compilation Music For Shut Ins, and many more on their way.  She builds her own synthesizers and sequencers and teaches kids electronics. 

Aurora Halal: Tell us about your background in Chicago and the type of music experiences that got you started. Tell us about your biggest inspirations and where you are now with it.

Antenes: In the period just before my first exposure to techno,electro and house, I was getting my painting degree at the University of Illinois, listening to much industrial and ambient music, and learning how to play the hammered dulcimer because I was inspired by Dead Can Dance's use of one and I imagined I'd do some kind of Swans and DCD inspired solo act with my dulcimer hooked up to effects pedals as a side project to being a painter!  Sometime in the midst of that world, I met quite a few people in Urbana, Illinois who were DJs and I immediately fell in love with electro specifically.  Viewlexx and Clone were the first labels I started to follow and from the computer lab I would listen to I-F's Wdisko mixes online and cry with joy.

Chicago was a great resource because I'd study mixes and music that I heard on and the cybernetic broadcasting system forums and then try and find the records at places like Gramaphone and the now closed Weekend Records and Soap.  I have fond memories of singing songs I'd heard in mixes such as "Shari Vari" and "Spacer Woman" to Magas who owned Weekend Records for him to ID for me.  After graduating with a Fine Arts degree I moved to the Ukrainian Village, walking distance to the excellent Kstarke Records and many happy hours ensued.  Eventually (and sadly!) I sold the dulcimer to fund my new interest in owning turntables and collecting records... Its spirit lives on in my affinity towards metallic sounds that lie somewhere in between percussive and tonal though!  Chicago was a great place to explore and perform at, not to mention its proximity to Detroit.  I'm very grateful to have been able to spend so much time exploring dusty crates of techno, house, etc. and attending really special events such as Chicago's Summerdance where I could catch up on the house music I'd been too young to hear when it was new and Detroit's Backpack Music Festival where you'd enter by donating school supplies to local schools.  I could go on and on about the midwest.

Aurora Halal: You studied at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, what were you building, and what are your favorite projects now?

Antenes: At a point in my life I wanted to continue with my art-making practice, but I think the immersion in electronic music really affected the mediums I was interested in because instead of painting, I was much more excited to work with science-inspired art.  In Chicago I'd been playing with optics and holography in my apartment and teaching myself electronics... trying to make art that felt like techno made me feel - immersive, sensory, abstract textures overlapping each other.  This led me to NYU where I thought I could creative interactive work with sound and light that melded my interests.  At first I was creating installations that filled a room much like music does - complete immersion.  I build a series of antennas and receivers that transmitted sounds and voice through laser beams and LED lights.  Without the light-sensitive receiver, you would just see a room full of lights, but then with a solar cell attached to an earpiece, you could hear the sounds.   In my second year and following a trip to DEMF and Mutek, I was missing music a LOT and took a class at the Music Technology program down the street, "just for fun"  To summarize, I fell in love with the Buchla synthesizer there and drastically changed my courses from that point on.  I have such a fondness for the installations I made but my favorite project is the one I continue now!  Determined to re-create my own experiences of the Buchla for myself, my thesis project was to build a prototype modular system into telephone switchboards, an ongoing series that has no end in sight.  I'm dwarfed by a room of them as I sit here typing.

Aurora Halal: What's your performance philosophy? What's next for Antenes?

Antenes: At one point in Chicago I met a brilliant physicist who told me he saw artists and performers as "swing-makers."  You build a "swing" for people to get on, give them a push and then they can soar!  This sounds very romantic but I agree with it.  A performance can really be a story and a catalyst for others to unlock memories and gain clarity through movement. It's very meditative for me to perform as well!  Regarding what's next, Antenes  (a name inspired by my installation work with antennas) is one of a couple projects of varying genres that has me deeply ensconced in experimenting, recording and editing the audio excursions resultant from these hand built synthesizers.  Music-making is an interesting shift in focus as it feels like a merging of the deeply intuitive (to me) art of DJing and the technical, scientific aspects of instrument building and fitting a modular system together. 

Antenes plays on the Sustain-Release Main stage at 5am Saturday September 13