[Gravity Halo :: 2010]
Free Download + Interview
Brooklyn, NY based electronic musician / photographer Nate Dorr a.k.a. Rock Hyrax (formerly known as Mercurial) has just come back from a long hiatus and he's bearing gifts. Dissolute Lichens, his new 7-track EP available for free download from the Gravity Halo Collective, explores mysterious ambient territory full of glitchy breakbeats, resonant synths, and curious field recordings, resulting in a quality IDM release driven by wandering melodies and layered rhythms.
I first heard Rock Hyrax on the excellent Broken Pieces compilation which was recently put out by Gravity Halo. His 2 tracks stood out immediately, especially "Sickbot" (listen below), so I was delighted to hear that he was coming out with his own release soon after. (I highly recommend downloading Broken Pieces in addition to the new EP.)
Rock Hyrax - Sickbot (from Broken Pieces Compilation by Gravity Halo)
The Dissolute Lichens journey begins optimistically with fun toy keyboards and plucky bass guitar over a stuttery D'n'B beat in "Flutter & Disintigrate" and then moves into a selected ambient works -meets- Plaid tune titled "Ossuary", complete with haunting vocal samples, electronic piano and complex drum cutups. The echoey melody and drum beat style in "Brunching At The Edge of Time" makes me want to describe it as "tiptoe breaks"... listen to it and you'll know what I mean. There is a really cool sound in "Lost Horizon" that makes me think of a clay flower pot being thrown onto the ground which breaks it open, spilling out a bunch of rocks and dirt clods. "Being In A Person's Shoes" is a :48 second twinkly d.i.y. synth pop interlude that is pleasant but always feels out of place. (In the interview below, Rock Hyrax tells us the story behind this little piece.) The album quickly gets back on trail with more dark ambient electronica and eventually comes to its destination with "The Quizzing Sphynx", an eerie Dead Cities style track with some really cool drum work.
01. Flutter and Disintegrate
03. Brunching At The Edge Of Time
04. Lost Horizon
05. Being In A Person's Shoes (with Chie Mori)
06. We Will Slam Them With Our Wings
07. The Quizzing Sphinx
Download Rock Hyrax - Dissolute Lichens :: .ZIP of .MP3s | Label Page
Nine Questions for Rock Hyrax - Interview
RkHx: Nearly a decade ago, a bunch of expatriated mp3.com musicians ended up hanging around an offshoot electronic music message board, among them Gravity Halo spearheader Chris Oldaker (Cats on Earth, moto-slave), Deceptikon (of Merck Records, RIP, now still going strong elsewhere), Captain Ahab (taking his virtuousicly gonzo "ravesploitation" to europe soon, I hear), Sendy (still cranking out amazing drum 'n' bass via Gravity Halo), and myself. Eventually we went our separate ways, until Gravity Halo sprang up to pull us back together again, I suppose.
Bc: How do you feel your local surroundings influence your music?
RkHx: I've lived in Brooklyn for the past six years, and both the place and the era have meant being immersed constantly in great live punk/noise/diy madness (which I've been photographing and writing about since 2007 or so), but less so the really production-heavy IDM scene, which slowed down when a lot of the smaller labels died off between 2004 and 2006. I mean, old Planet-mu/Sublight drill'n'bass-er Datach'i apparently lives here, but I've never heard of him playing live here, and he hasn't released anything in a couple years. Tigerbeat6/Tomlab multi-instrumentalist Nathan Michel lives in Brooklyn but as far as in know has restricted his music-making to being a drummer in folk rock group (disclaimer: who are totally decent, but the man has so many other skills). It seems like everyone's been somewhat dormant, the IDM explosion of the turn of the century has definitely died away. But, as I said, other directions in music have been terribly exciting, and these impulses are hardly mutually exclusive of course. But I suppose this is probably part of a longer rant.
As far as my own music (realizing I have totally sidestepped the question), I was barely making the stuff in favor of writing about other peoples', which was certainly an effect of being so surrounded by music here.
Bc: Why the hiatus and what drove you to start making and releasing stuff again?
RkHx: The time/place context described above was probably involved, as I was thinking about noise/rock/punk more than straight electronics. But more than that, my laptop was terrible at sound. My keyboards crackled when I plugged them in, even the speakers buzzed. Everything I was trying sounded awful and I barely finished anything for 5 years. And so I let photography sweep in and take over my life, which I can't say I have any regrets about. More recently: better laptop and better software. And just realizing that I needed to keep writing music, along with whatever else I'm working on. Getting prodded by friends for EPs, film soundtracks, pop production -- this has also given me motivation.
RkHx: After being essentially invisible since 2005, it really seemed time for a clean break. The Rock Hyrax is closest extant relative of modern elephant in the animal kingdom, yet they're weird unassuming rodent-ish creatures that can stick to vertical rock faces with their footpads. I really just fell into the name years ago because it sounded right, and sheer laziness prevented me from thinking of anything better when time came to record again.
Bc: What are your top 2 pieces of hardware or software?
RkHx: Soundforge is the number one. For years I did all my editing and sequencing as just straight wave-to-wave chopping and mixing, exclusively in Soundforge. It's not the most efficient way to work, I admit, but it allows a certain freedom, to just be up to your elbows in raw sound without any complicated arranging framework to get in the way. I'm sure if I hadn't essentially self-taught, I would not have ended up working in so clumsy a manner, but I don't really regret it either. Nowadays, I do sequence in Ableton, but all my drum chopping and arrangement (as well as a lot of glitch effects) have to be straight soundforge.
Bc: "Being In A Person's Shoes" is quite a departure from the other tracks on the EP. Who is Chie Mori and how did you come about using her vocals in this track?
RkHx: Chie is a filmmaker friend who writes these simple, perfect little songs and really needs someone to arrange them. I wanted to, but when she recorded 17 songs in a single day and handed them over to me, I was so overwhelmed that I only really made headway on about 4 of them. This one was most finished, and I suppose serves as a kind of palate-cleanser before We Will Slam Them With Our Wings.
Bc: What artists or albums are really inspiring you right now?
RkHx: I just learned of / can't stop listening to Felix Kubin and Gangpol Und Mit. (Who suggests that, looking globally, there's still plenty of fantastically weird electronic sound being produced.)
your blog, which kind of reflect an exploratory feel I also get from your music. Are you studying photography?
RkHx: I've taken a few classes, but the photography is more or less a self-taught, all-consuming hobby. The great thing about photography is that you can have your camera on you at all times, so you're always working on it. And it pulls out into the world in a way that writing music does not (unless you're in a touring band of course). Right now, I'm years deep into examining the semi-urban post-human landscapes of places like parts of Jamaica Bay and the Meadowlands of New Jersey. If you want a cohesive thread here, perhaps it is architectural glitch (collapsing buildings, abandoned neighborhoods) versus musical? It's not something I've thought much about, I just know what sorts of landscapes move me in some way.
Bc: Now that the EP is out, what's next?
RkHx: Well, I just stayed up all night animating little flickering designs for an art show/installation/party. That'll be done tomorrow, and after that I've got a bunch photography work to do, some stop-motion to set to music, and some kind of live video-projection project I've just been invited into and need to learn for the end of the month.
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