Let’s talk about language.
Unless you’re living in an underground bomb shelter with Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek, you know that it’s the weapon of choice these days. This is not to say, of course, that this has not always been the case. The power of language dates back to its ancient origins. Language was, for instance, a precursor to the ceaseless violence of the Crusades.
Today though, it’s a bit more translucent and fleeting — especially in the context of everyday life. With the advent of modern technology, we’re all (sometimes unwitting) rhetoricians. Just the way we say or write something could have severe, unintended consequences for an impressionable person thousands of miles away from where we sit staring at a tiny screen while waiting for a train. Or the timing of a seemingly thoughtless post on Twitter or Facebook could paint an unwanted, misrepresentative public portrait of us for years to come.
We know each other in two different planes — the physical and the digital. The way we seem in person is sometimes vastly different than the way we seem on a screen.
This is a sociological issue that any capable member of modern society could easily drone on about for hundreds of pages if given the opportunity. That being said, I’ll wrap up this incredibly long-winded introduction by saying that these days we all communicate more and trust each other less. This conundrum cultivates a nameless paranoia in a great number of us.
What a challenging theme to explore with abstract music. Who would even dare attempt to begin?
Marcus Maurice, known to their growing number of national/international fans as More Eaze, has recently taken the opportunity to try with a 30 minute experimental electronic album entitled “a l4ngu4g3” (available on cassette via the Lincoln, Nebraska label Tymbal Tapes).
Side A consists of a singular 14 minute track called “All 4 U” — which begins with an outdoor field recording mixed with intimate whispers exchanged by (I only assume) lovers/partners. The words are soon looped, re-pitched, and layered over a bed of warm synth pads that float through the air like cigarette smoke in the dark. Eventually, the synths disappear and are replaced — rather eerily — by other random sounds (cartridges being loaded, MIDI recordings of dogs barking, clicks and clacks, etc). All the while, the looped whispering continues and the context of the words evolves.
Side B consists of 4 much shorter tracks. A similar atmosphere is achieved with these pieces, but the mood is somewhat lighter and more whimsical. For instance, in the jumbled composition entitled “Pardon” a sample of an opera singer chimes in sporadically amidst a delicate bombardment of synthetic blips and bleeps. And, farther beneath these sounds, an anonymous audience drones on much the same as the whispers do in the opening track on Side A. However, in this instance the dialogue is incomprehensible.
Ultimately, Maurice has produced what I feel is an audible portrait of the modern mind. Our conscious thoughts are saturated, daily, in countless forms of sensory overload. A considerable portion of this excess consists mainly of language — the internal thoughts of other people, specifically (all laid forth via tweets and posts). This reality has become a collective schizophrenia of sorts. The only relief to be found lies in the unlikely possibility of complete disconnection. Ditch your cell phone. Sell your computer. Sit in a room with the lights off and just breathe.
But then what?
Anyway, I knew — before I even began to write this — that I didn’t want to simply review “a l4ngu4g3” and leave it at that. No, I also wanted to ask Maurice a number of questions via email and hopefully achieve some insight into their process, their history, and their overall philosophy regarding experimental music in 2018. Sometimes an album as inventive and memorable as “a l4ngu4g3” demands such further inquiry.
Here we go:
1. Tell me about yourself — as much as you want to reveal. What’s your musical history?
I have been playing music since I was about 13 and grew up playing all sorts of folk and pop music in Texas. I played with a bunch of bands growing up and continue to do so now. I was also involved in many classical music ensembles in school and alternately played violin/saxophone in band and orchestra. Throughout my life, I have always written my own music in one form or another. I was very lucky that there were several people in San Antonio/Austin when I was in high school and college who were bringing really amazing experimental improvisers and composers like Alan Licht, Toshimaru Nakamura, and Sarah Hennies to town at a time when this music was really uncommon in Texas and especially in that city. I fell in love with this world and went on to study composition in college and later earned an MFA in composition from Cal Arts. I have always maintained a huge love of pop and currently perform as a member of Single Lash and the Octopus Project
2. As far as More Eaze, what’s your general musical process? What equipment do you use? I know you use a modular setup mixed with acoustic instruments — but I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to the compositional aspect.
The process and tools really differ a lot from track to track! I do have a modular setup but that equipment has really only been used on my recordings since late 2016-17. I particularly love granular synthesis and use a mutable instruments clouds module quite often in my music. The make noise phonegene is also a really important tool for me and it has been a huge part of my music recently. There are a lot of heavily processed stock midi sounds too that come from a wide combination of equipment. I will also often use guitar, violin, and other instruments that are sometimes presented naturally or often very looped/processed and resampled. I process my voice with the modular setup, a tc-helion autotune pedal, and/or DAW plugins too. On the Tymbal release, there is a real grab bag of stuff used: digitakt running lots of samples, analog synths, modular stuff, voice, actual violin/viola, electribe, etc…
My composition process really varies. With some of the more song based material I will often actually write things on a guitar or keyboard first and then start to pull the structure apart as the track is recorded. Conversely, I often will create patches or sample banks and start improvising and/or setting up parameters that are somewhat generative and then edit those results into material. I often connect disparate ideas through some small musical element or detail whether it be pitch, timbre, rhythm, etc…
Typically I have different concepts in mind when I’m writing or recording even if they’re vague ideas. It’s kind of hard to explain? Often, the form or narrative of a record or song doesn’t become fully apparent to me until I’ve worked on it pretty heavily. As silly as it sounds I often just try to recreate how something makes me feel which I think is probably what a lot of composers are ultimately trying to do too haha.
3. Going off of that, how do your live performances differ from your recordings? Do you attempt to recreate certain sounds/passages from your albums? Or, do you strive to create a new atmosphere with each performance?
This also really varies. Almost every album I’ve made has one track that is essentially a live performance just because I often write things specifically to be played live. On “a l4ngu4g3” for example “all 4 u” and most of “zebra” are live tracks. Both of those tracks required a lot of leg work in terms of preparation and practice so that I could eventually trigger and edit each sound in real time. Sometimes, I will try to perform deconstructed/warped versions of tracks from the records but I am not always happy with those results. Last year, I was determined to come up with a completely new set for nearly every single performance I did. It was honestly kind of stupid and exhausting to do! Some of this material has made it onto forthcoming records but a lot of it has been scraped because it was really not particularly great (haha). I do really want every live set as more eaze to feel special. Personally, I don’t always enjoy performing as more eaze unless I can present something new or make the experience unique in some way. For this reason, I’ve recently started doing more improvised collaborations live which has been really challenging but also forced me to make decisions that I wouldn’t necessarily make playing solo.
4. You seem to be a very successful independent artist. You tour often, and you release a ton of material on various labels. How have you achieved a balance between your personal life and artistic life? Some struggle with this more than others, so I figured I’d ask.
I am often very tired because I try to do a lot both in my personal and artistic lives lol. I am very lucky in that I have a supportive partner who often encourages me to work on music and constantly supports my artistic endeavors. For years, I worked as a private music instructor and I had a very open/loose teaching schedule that allowed me plenty of time to compose and record. In the last two years, I’ve worked a 9-5 at a law office in Austin that gives me a significant amount of freedom in my personal life and genuinely supports my life outside of the job. I have a true compulsion to record and compose- being an artist in a fairly niche genre/community, there is never a particularly huge rush to finish something nor a limit to how many things I can do at one time. So, I work at my own pace which is alternately slow and fast but I try to constantly keep recording and working on new things. I do my best to spend some time either writing or just messing around with sound every day even if there’s no definite goal. I feel like I am always learning and constantly figuring out what I want something to be. (I should maybe note that I don’t tour a ton as more eaze but will often travel with the other groups I’m in!).
5. How many albums have you released as More Eaze? I currently only have 3 in my personal collection (firesid3 ch@t room, Yum, and a l4ngu4g3). How have your experiences with these labels of varying levels of success differed?
I actually have to count myself haha. Holy cow, counting splits/singles I have 24 more eaze releases!!! 18 albums without splits/singles. I feel so lucky because all of the labels I’ve worked with have been labels that I’ve been huge fans of. For example, Orange Milk’s discography had an extremely important impact on my life before I actually got to work with them and the same could be said about countless other labels I’ve had the fortune of working with. I am not super concerned with how successful a label is when I work with them-I only care that I like their work and feel a connection with what they’re doing. That being said, it is always exciting to see my music reach different people because of a label’s following. However, I should note that one of the most successful more eaze releases was also for one of the smallest labels I release for! So, it really just depends on who hears a record at any given time.
6. You have a label too don’t you? Tell me about it.
I do. I have a digital label called Hard Fun. Hard Fun was a label that I had planned to start when I was still in grad school but I only got around to doing so this year. I do not feel like I am super great at running a label haha. I am often disorganized and forget about the logistics of streaming platforms. It’s very much a work in progress but we’ve managed to accomplish a good bit so far! I have some friends who make some really amazing music and I want to help them release it, pay for digital distribution, and just generally help them get their releases heard by people that maybe wouldn’t hear them if it was just self-released. I also sincerely hope that Hard Fun maybe gives some artists a connection to other labels and folks I’ve worked with to do even bigger things. I love the music we’ve released and feel honored to have helped get it out to the world in any way. The whole goal of the label is to release work by artists big or small that are attempting to do something challenging yet fun & unpretentious in their field/genre (whether that be pop songs or crazy electro-acoustic music) .
7. What advice would you give to a talented but secluded/reticent artist who has yet to send their music out into the digital stratosphere?
Don’t be afraid! There are so many types of music out there that there’s certainly a home for your work. If you don’t know of other contemporary artists/labels working in your field do some research and listening. Don’t be afraid to reach out to artists or labels whose music you really like for advice or feedback. Try not to get discouraged or take it personally if your work doesn’t immediately get noticed or picked up-these things take a lot of time.
8. What’s next for More Eaze? What are you working on currently?
There are two releases that are done that will be out on Oxtail and Lillerne soon. I am so beyond stoked to be working with both of those labels! Lillerne was honestly one of the first tape labels I ever got into and I can’t begin to describe how much their catalog has influenced me. The new material is quite a bit different from what the last few releases have been like. I have been wanting to make more minimal music lately. The Oxtail tape is a collection of longer pieces that were recorded live over the last year and it’s full of pieces that work with a minimum of musical materials but change patterns and sounds constantly. The Lillerne tape is sort of a slow motion collage and sounds unfurl really patiently from track to track-it’s hard to describe but it is really different and I can’t wait for people to hear it. I’m working on more music in this vein too and am slowly completing what might be the longest more eaze release so far-it’s exciting. Some of the pieces on there feel barely there and I have been trying very hard to capture the quiet comforting solitude of working late at night. It’s sadder but simultaneously somehow happier and maybe even therapeutic (at least to me) in contrast to some of the more hyper edited more eaze recordings. I will also be recording an improvised trio with Dane Rousay, Ingebrit Haker-Flaten, and myself soon and I’m very stoked for that. We’ve only played together one other time but it was wild to make all these insane synth sounds with two of the best jazz musicians I know. Hopefully, that will turn out decent enough to see a release too. I am also working on a full length collab of bizarre yet pretty compositions with my friend Future Museums and that should be completed very soon.