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Further adventures in sound

Aes Dana and Cygna performing at Ħagar Qim last year. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi. Inset: Aes Dana

Aes Dana and Cygna performing at Ħagar Qim last year. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi. Inset: Aes Dana

“With Pollen, I followed my musical quest, that is, painting cinematic, hypnotic and deep soundscapes.”“With Pollen, I followed my musical quest, that is, painting cinematic, hypnotic and deep soundscapes.”

His music has been described as otherworldly, darkly seductive, luminous and uplifting. He is one of the most respected artists in the world of electronica, particularly in ambient circles, where he has etched out a sound and style all his very own.

He is Vincent Villuis, better known as the DJ, composer and sound designer Aes Dana. If the name sounds familiar, its because less than a year ago he was in Malta performing alongside Malta’s own sound artist of international repute Mario Sammut (aka Cygna) at Ħagar Qim. Smitten by the location’s unique allure, Aes Dana says he is eager to return to the island and be inspired all over again by its ancient sites.

But before that happens there are many other matters to attend to, such as several works in progress to complete, remixes for other artists to be finalised, designing album artwork, and of course, a touring schedule in support of his December 2012 album Pollen, which has seen him perform in various countries these past couple of months.

Aes Dana, as you might gather, is busy; if he’s not out and about gathering field recordings, and looking for new spaces to drape his creative sound designs around, he’s either in the studio working his magic or performing in some country or other.

Fortunately, he managed to find time to answer a few questions ahead of his upcoming Ultimae Records night at Camden Town’s famed Inspiral Lounge this Friday, which will also feature Cygna.

I love to travel and record the atmospheres around me with my digital recorder

First of all, a word about your 2012 performance alongside Cygna in Malta. How would you describe the experience of playing at a unique site like Ħagar Qim?

This meeting with Cygna touched me deeply. We’ve been meaning to create something together and work on a specific project like Oracle. I enjoyed visiting the island, recording its atmospheres and letting myself be inspired by this ancient site; performing on stage was the cherry on the cake.

I truly hope we will be able to organise new events at this site in the near future. In my opinion, we opened doors for new possibilities. These old temples bring a new dimension both for us as performers and for the audience, and provide a perfect setting for art exhibitions.

Our type of music fits perfectly with the rich and deep patrimony of Malta and I feel it gives an ultramodern mental picture.

Besides working on Pollen, what have you been up to this past year?

I played a few select gigs, but not as many as in previous years because it was important to me to make time and focus on my compositions. I mostly worked on mastering all the Ultimae Records releases and albums from other labels.

I’m starting to make a name for myself in this field and I’m getting to work on some really interesting projects. I’ve also created artworks for our record covers and worked with our web developer on the design of a new version of our website.

How much do your surroundings impact on your performance when you are playing live?

I always prepare my sets in relation to the venue, type of audience and time of performance. Basically I condition myself depending on the type of venue I perform at; club gigs always end up very different to those in an auditorium or at an open-air festival.

I could play the same tracks from one gig to the other, but I won’t play them in the same order, I will remix some of the tracks, insert new effects. This way, each live gig is a new experience.

Are there any particular surroundings you prefer when composing your music?

The type of settings I like the most are art installations… land art, because I like the idea of investing in a space and creating a sonic immersion. I love to travel and record the atmospheres around me with my digital recorder.

Often, when I’m at airports in transit, I find new melodies and songs. I also use a lot of field recordings in my creation. I have a huge dedicated hard drive with tons of sounds recorded around the globe.

Pollen presents a wider blend of styles – from the overwhelming ambience of Low Tide Explorations and the pulsating rhythms of Borderline and A Carmine Day to the sweeping trance of Tree. Some and the crossover beats that emerge during Conditioned. What was the main concept behind the album and its title and the way these relate to the music featured within?

With Pollen, I followed my musical quest, that is, painting cinematic, hypnotic and deep soundscapes. I consider the genre I compose as a melting pot of various influences, using feelings from intelligent dance music, ambient, trance, even classical influences.

For this album, I decided to work more on the contrasts in the flow of writing. My personal challenge was to find and build the coherent links between these various dry and blur grains and contradictory groovy energies without creating messy songs. I added deep techno excursions, dubstep, liquid drum and bass and novo dub.

After Pollen, I feel more comfortable with new kinds of music fusion. The title comes from the concept of a bee collecting various essences, mini-worlds and diffusing these sonic particles through music.

Pollen has been described as your most powerful album to date. How different in concept, texture and production is it from Perimeters, which after all was also regarded as a potent album when it was released? What were the main inspirations behind Pollen’s content?

Indeed, Pollen has received a great response from fans and critics. I’m honoured to be able to provide dreams and deep emotions to a new audience without compromising myself.

This album was a long and intense process for me. I didn’t want to rush it. My main inspiration here came from my travels. It took much time to record various places and then return to the studio to select the best field recordings to work with.

I initially composed more songs, of which I erased five, while the rest will be revisited later this year. In terms of production, I worked more on the opposite grains and used my field recordings differently, restructuring them to be converted into groove layers. In a way, Pollen is the logical sequel to Perimeters but with more maturity.

Now that the album is out, and you obviously have related touring commitments, what other projects do you have in mind for 2013?

I’ve played some gigs in Israel, Athens and St Petersburg with more dates to follow in London, Florence, Moscow and Budapest. I started remixes of the tracks on Pollen and almost finished the new mastering of my old album Aftermath – Archives of Peace, which will be released this month.

I’m also mastering Solar Fields’ upcoming album and working on its cover, and preparing three live recordings of Circular, Hol Baumann and Scann-Tec, which took place last spring for an upcoming digital release.

In March, I’m planning on composing new songs and will start a collaborative album with Cygna as well as organise events in Malta with him, ideally at one of your ancient temples.

www.ultimae.com

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