Living in lockdown whereas caring for somebody with dementia “isn’t identical to Groundhog Day”, chuckles Rian Treanor, “it’s like Groundhog Second.” The soft-spoken digital music producer has spent a yr indoors with three generations of his household – together with his producer and sound-artist dad, Mark Fell, and his grandmother, Doreen, who’s has late-stage Alzheimer’s. It’s actually a change of scene for the producer of considered one of 2020’s most audacious and frenzied dance albums, File Below UK Metaplasm.
As an alternative of the pointillist rave and singeli – a high-speed Tanzanian fashion – that influenced that file, the Treanor-Fell family playlist is geared in the direction of Doreen’s favourites, notably dub reggae and Hawaiian-style steel guitar. “When she listens to that she’s utterly in the zone, she astrally initiatives into it,” marvels Treanor. Music has a highly effective impact on brains broken by dementia, unlocking reminiscences and opening up non-verbal channels of communication, so that they tried Doreen on a piano subsequent, figuring out that she’d grown up with one. When the keys proved too sophisticated, Fell designed a set of blocks for her to make use of, described by Treanor as “squares with little notches minimize out that create totally different chord shapes”.
Her lo-fi instruments are miniature symbols of father and son’s personal musical pursuits, which might appear egg-headed on the web page – algorithmic techniques impressed by neural networks and minimalist artwork – however ship outcomes which might be extremely accessible. “How are you going to condense one thing complicated into a quite simple interface?” as Treanor places it. “If a participant could be working two easy sliders and popping out with actually loopy patterns, that’s sensible – that’s what I’m excited by.”
Whereas Fell’s CV ranges from the ice-cold minimalism of his 00s duo SND to gamelan installations with digital pioneer Laurie Spiegel, Treanor’s initiatives have their sights set on the dancefloor – or not less than thereabouts. Obstacles Shattering, his new EP, dials down the absurdist humour of tracks like his Whigfield-sampling Saturday Night time whereas nonetheless testing the outer limits of danceability, incorporating the hypnotic figures of Ugandan Acholi music, a sound that Treanor found on a life-changing journey to Africa in 2018. Listening to him speak about his different initiatives, although, one will get the impression he’d slightly be wherever else than a pitch-dark membership.
Earlier than lockdown he was busy working music-making workshops, together with with 100-year-old care dwelling residents in Paris: “I don’t assume they even knew what an iPod was – they have been older than digital music itself!” He additionally labored with 10-year-olds in Rotherham, who have been prepared guinea pigs for a collaborative software program idea Treanor in-built the programming language Max/MSP – he requested them to file sounds at dwelling and organize them collectively in a sequencer. “I even put a chat window in in order that we might talk, however they ended up utilizing that greater than really making music,” he laughs, “so I needed to delete it.”
When the pandemic wiped his diary and introduced him again to the household dwelling in Rotherham, Treanor began working extra intently along with his dad, fascinated by methods to placed on a digital efficiency. There needed to be one thing extra thrilling than a bog-standard livestream, with the viewers “simply washing pots whereas a stream retains crashing in the background”. The results of their analysis, unveiled throughout final month’s on-line music pageant CTM, was Symmetry for 5, a cacophonous collaboration with three underground luminaries positioned round the world: guitarist Jim O’Rourke, techno-punk performer Petronn Sphene and metallophone improviser Limpe Fuchs.
The customized software program setup permits musicians to ping tiny chunks of digital info to one another as an alternative of streaming audio forwards and backwards. The patterns of information they ship – which may very well be a string of binary numbers like 101000, or a single worth like 0.75 – management all types of musical parameters, together with rhythm, pitch, and dynamics. As a result of this info requires so little bandwidth, the latency – the hole between sending and receiving info – is decreased to virtually nothing, which is essential for stay performances the place musicians are continuously reacting to one another.
Treanor is baffled there aren’t extra instruments like this for world musical collaboration, which have been so badly wanted throughout the pandemic. “Take into consideration [online] gaming – taking pictures one another in actual time, a million bullets a second. That’s far more complicated than what we’re doing! Why does that not exist in music?” Perhaps there’s an excessive amount of narcissism certain up in being an artist, he wonders – a power-mad obsession with “projecting this God’s-eye view on to what we create”.
One precept that unites Treanor and Fell’s work is an try to dissolve the distinction between composer, performer and viewers. “Think about going to a membership and also you’re really on the drum machine that’s enjoying – I’d utterly love that,” Treanor says. In the radically decentralised membership evening of his goals, all these old style hierarchies would turn out to be redundant, “which I believe is a sensible factor.”
The top of his unusual artist’s residency is now in sight; the vaccine is rolling out. He admits it’s been a surprisingly helpful expertise for the complete family, not least Doreen. “If we weren’t on this pandemic it could most likely be too tough for my grandad, and he or she most likely wouldn’t be right here, to be sincere. In a method this has been a actually good factor for her. I’ll simply put that Hawaiian music on and he or she’ll dance the complete time.”