By Vincent PollardBasing an album on a suite of "instruments of the world" presets isn't what you would expect from a collaboration between two of the best-known drone musicians in North America, but that's exactly what Montreal's Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin (more famously known as Oneohtrix Point Never) used as their starting point for their upcoming collaborative album, Instrumental Tourist.
By taking these synthetic MIDI presets, ranging from pan pipes and kotos to talking drums, that are typically isolated from their cultural context and turned into reductive clichés, Hecker and Lopatin's aim was to put those sounds from around the world back into a context that made them relevant again, or as Lopatin puts it "scrub away the cliché and see if they were salvageable."
This concept belies some of the subtle humour that can be seen in the work of both artists, layered under their often academic works.
"What's humorous about it to me, and what's very sad in a way, is when you look at the index within the program you get this illusionistic sense of the world from this list of instruments from completely varying places that have nothing to do with each other," Lopatin explains in an Exclaim! interview.
Although the concept behind the record carries a sense of humour, as well as a more intellectual bent, the album ultimately is foremost a collaboration between the two musicians, forming a halfway point between their two styles.
"The end result is divorced from any idea or concept," says Lopatin. "I think it's just a record that sounds like us musically, so it's not necessarily that it relies on this codified formal procedure."
Intended as the first release in Lopatin's SSTUDIOS, or Software Studios Series, the NYC musician initially contacted Hecker as a fan.
"I don't think we had any real previous conversation," Lopatin says. "But we'd both been working on a track for the Philip Glass remix record so we had a few chuckles about that."
The pair came together for a three-day session to try out some ideas and then edit down the best parts. "We told our engineer to cut us off after about 20 minutes or 30 minutes max," explains Lopatin. "We don't wanna be like Can and jam for like three hours."
The idea for the series came about as a result of Lopatin having access to the Mexican Summer studios in Brooklyn, the facilities he used for 2011's Replica, the last Oneohtrix Point Never record.
"What I wanted to do was get guys in there to improvise and not really have things plotted out or do it the linear way," says Lopatin. "But more or less just jam, à la Teo Macero and [Miles Davis's] In a Silent Way. Not totally improvised but it has that spirit in mind."
Hecker and Lopatin recently played some of the material live at a couple of dates, and Lopatin says he is open to the idea of playing the album live in more places. However, he is also busy working on a new Oneohtrix Point Never album, set for a summer 2013 release, as well as finding new artists to collaborate with for the SSTUDIOS project.
"I don't know what the next one is gonna be," says Lopatin, "although I'd really like it to involve Eli Keszler. We're trying to sort that out."
For now, Instrumental Tourist arrives November 20 via Software.