CLAY WILSON 'SKANDHA EP' [THE BUNKER NEW YORK] SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
A1. Clay Wilson - Skandha
A2. Clay Wilson - Cataleptic
B1. Clay Wilson - Feres
B2. Clay Wilson - Pict
The stage is set from minute one on Clay Wilson's new 4-track EP, "Skandha," his second release for The Bunker New York. The eponymous first track begins with a familiar techno throb, but is quickly overcome by a blooming swirl of coruscating synthesizer pulses that seem to gather inside the listener's head, a phenomenon Wilson seems particularly interested in: "I've never been into really straightforward club techno that works in
neat 8- and 16-bar sequences," he says. "I'm always looking for things that have forward momentum, ways to escape that 'block-y,' downbeat-centric feeling that you find in so much contemporary techno. For me, it's the drone—what's going on in the background—that serves to hold my interest."
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the record's second track, "Cataleptic." The meat of the track is its tightly-wound techno core built from insistent, hypnotic percussion, but it's what's happening in the background that keeps you coming back for more: The sound of a babbling brook and a plaintive, meandering bird call ("the only actual recorded animal sounds on the record," notes Wilson) gently give way to the tintinnabulation
of a distant bell, whose meditative timbre brings to mind a Tibetan singing bowl. It turns out that the naturalistic, organic sounds in many of Wilson's tracks are often just that: "I make field recordings all the time, actually—on my phone," he says. "I've found field recordings have been a great way to pull things along, never repeating themselves, but also never being so upfront as to draw your attention away from the synths and drums."
That's a key point, and make no mistake—for all the flora and fauna lurking in the background of Wilson's productions, they're designed for the dance floor through and through. "Feres," the EP's third track, slows down the pace a little bit, keeping time with a static kick-hat pattern while chunky, stepped percussion laid on top makes the track feel remarkably dynamic. The final cut, "Pict," seems to slowly unfurl like flowers at dawn,
while a ghostly vocal sample (or merely something approaching it) repeats itself underneath it all.
While at times the drawn-out shimmering tones in Wilson's work may recall modern minimalism, "getting into techno, and more specifically techno production, was kind of a way for me to get away from [formal, classical musical] training," he recalls. "I had been headed down an open-minded, anything-goes path with a compositionally-geared approach, and … all those paths led to techno." And for that, we're glad.
August 8th at The Bunker New York LTD Trans Pecos, Ridgewood, New York
October at The Great American Techno Festival Denver, CO
Clay Wilson’s life story is, for the most part, a mystery. Little is known about the 26-year-old producer, who began turning heads with mesmerizing tracks from his home base in Brooklyn last year. The deeply psychedelic groove of Clay’s debut release for Brooklyn's Styles Upon Styles’ Bangers and Ash series immediately caught our attention.
Before Wilson started making techno, he studied improvisation at music school in upstate New York. Wilson played bass, studying with noted jazz musicians who had worked with Ornette Coleman, Alice Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, and many artists who recorded for the ECM label. He counts Coleman, Coltrane, and Art Ensemble of Chicago among his major inspirations. You can sense the subtle traces of Wilson’s avant-garde jazz training in his techno. You can hear the shifting layers of intriguing textures in the music, his deep understanding of the low end, of arranging and composition, of form. “Understanding the foundation of form has allowed me to not worry so much about putting loops into a full ‘song’, which seems to be a common thing with electronic music,” he says. “I think the textures kind of come from trying to get away from standard musical ideas.”
While nerding out over our mutual love of fine craft beers and deep techno, we asked Wilson to create some music for our (then hypothetical) new label, and he obliged, in spades. Wilson was already a big fan of The Bunker, and a regular at our parties. He had already started making music before experiencing The Bunker, but the sound of the party inspired him massively, and helped him to refine his own aesthetic. He was deeply moved by Bunker sets by Voices From The Lake, Demdike Stare, Peter Van Hoesen, the Interdimensional Transmissions crew, Bee Mask, Atom™, Tobias, and many more.
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