Monday, October 18, 2010

SHOW & BONK Artist Interview/Spotlight: THE SIGHT BELOW


Friday, October 22
Chop Suey
1325 E. Madison
(click HERE for more info!)

Show & Bonk Artist Spotlight: THE SIGHT BELOW

Growing up in the late 1980s provided my ears with a wide range of seemingly disparate genres. Hip-hop became a household name, hair metal hit its apex in popularity, electro-pop reached maturity, and Detroit techno was starting to emerge. But what made the most stirring impression upon me were the cathartic, atmospheric records made by 4AD stalwarts such as Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. The emotional response I had listening to This Mortal Coil’s cover of the Tim Buckley classic “Song To The Siren” was unlike anything I heard or experienced in my first eighteen years. The remarkable usage of space, reverb-drenched guitar, and haunting, otherworldly vocals was absolutely brilliant and hopelessly romantic in an almost gothic way. Similarly, The Cure’s “The Same Deep Water As You” from their landmark 1989 album Disintegration perfectly captured the wealth of emotions I experienced freshly graduated from high school, unsure of my next steps in life at the time. Bands and musicians from Slowdive’s shoegaze mastery to Jeff Buckley’s unparalleled amalgam of musical genres would continue this cathartic musical tradition through the 1990s and beyond. Today, The Sight Below has also embraced the emotional side of music that is certainly influenced by the past but expertly infuses current rhythms and technology into a unique sound all his own.

In just over two years, The Sight Below (aka Rafael Anton Irisarri) has released two critically-acclaimed full-length records on Ghostly International – Glider and It All Falls Apart, toured extensively around the world, and received an infamous stamp of approval from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. His unique combination of live visuals – using video of stark environments he regularly films himself filtered through startling filters and slow-motion settings – along with live Ableton beats accompanied with live guitar, liberally using a myriad of gorgeous effects and ebow string pickings, The Sight Below crafts a haunting and unforgettable live performance that conjures the same emotional response I had many moons ago.

I recently spoke with The Sight Below about his music and his many, many upcoming projects:

VERSE: When did you start composing and performing as a musician prior to The Sight Below?

THE SIGHT BELOW: I started composing music since I was young, but didn't release anything meaningful until 2007, when my 'Daydreaming' album came out on Miasmah. I'm kind of a late bloomer in almost every aspect of my life and take a long time to get things moving. Once that gate was opened however, it's been like a flood ever since. I've been published now in over a dozen labels around the world and performed live at countless events, all over Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

VERSE: When did you develop the concept of The Sight Below and what inspired you to pursue this type of musical & visual approach?

THE SIGHT BELOW: I started to create this music a little over 3 years ago. At the time I was frustrated by lots of things and used music as an outlet to express those emotions. Somehow it all grew very organically and started to shape into the concepts and ideas that became the first TSB album.

VERSE: The imagery that accompanies your live set is such a compelling facet of your live show, especially the short film based around your track “Further Away” filmed at Deception Pass and edited to give an almost early-20th century silent film essence both hallucinogenic and dream-like in its effectiveness.
The Sight Below – “Further Away”

Watching the film while listening to the track gave me serious chills. Do you film your own sequences? If so, what comes first: the images itself or the music? I could see you in the studio watching a film over and over again, building a soundtrack around it. Either way, the combination is unparalleled in its emotional response.

THE SIGHT BELOW: Thanks for saying that. I actually filmed all the footage on the “Further Away” video myself, using a really limited camera. I view the imagery as an extension of the music and viceversa. I the case of “Further Way”, I have already composed the music and recorded it. I pretty much create a patch I like, then record live me playing guitar and take it from there. It's all an emotional outlet for me. If I wasn't making music, I'd probably be locked up in a mental institution.

VERSE: You recently toured with Pantha du Prince and collaborated with a member of Slowdive, one of your biggest inspirations. Can you envision other collaborations, perhaps one that produces a record?

THE SIGHT BELOW: Yes, absolutely. At the moment, I'm working on two collaboration projects, one with Tiny Vipers and a second one with Benoit Pioulard & Tiny Vipers. I also have a collaboration in the works with Svarte Greiner. I'm also doing a remix for Pantha Du Prince soon, among other projects in the works. The days have only so many hours. I wish I could be making music 24/7, but this is of course not possible. One has to also sleep, eat and do other things that make life worthwhile and inspire to create more.

VERSE: You mentioned to me the other day that you’re busy mastering not one but two records. Are they both new Sight Below material?

THE SIGHT BELOW: No, they were not TSB material. I run a mastering studio and I was mastering a new album for Benoit Pioulard and working on a few other client projects. That said, I have plenty of TSB material, constantly reshaping it.

VERSE: Are you planning to debut new material at the Show And Bonk showcase?

THE SIGHT BELOW: Yes, I have prepared a new set with material I've been working on since before I went on tour with Pantha Du Prince. It's a bit more on the techno side of things, but still retains elements of the atmospherics. That said, my set is 100% improvised. In other words: no two sets are alike. I pretty much mix and remix everything every single time I perform live. I wouldn't do it any other way.

The Sight Below performs at the Show And Bonk showcase on Friday, October 22nd at Chop Suey (1325 E. Madison). Click HERE for advance tickets and HERE for additional Show And Bonk information.

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