“Information to follow.” This is all we can read on the Blackest Ever Black website about Marc Dall’s Dalhous project. The lack of information cannot be blamed on a lazy webmaster but rather on the fact that Marc prefers to keep things private and lets his music speak for himself. However, the Edinburgh-based artist has a lot say, since his third full-length album – and possibly the most personal one so far – entitled ‘The Composite Moods Collection Vol.1: House Number 44’ will be released today, 11 March on Blackest Ever Black. We managed to break the silence and asked Marc to talk a little bit about the album, which is the first part of a trilogy that roughly revolves around the idea of an individual suffering from mental disorder. Read on and get a taste of the new record as well!
It’s always been a little bit unclear: is Dalhous your own solo project or how does it work in the background? Considering the fact that your friend Alex is also involved in the technical parts…
It’s always been a solo project really. I write and mix all the music alone by myself. Alex provides technical expertise; he oversees and engineers anything that I do at the studio. He is also a big part of any live show.
‘The Composite Moods Collection Vol. 1: House Number 44’ is the first part of a trilogy?
Yeah, there will be three LPs in the trilogy. I am about two-thirds through mixing the second volume and have made a good start at putting aside ideas for the third and final volume.
This is your third full-length album, could you tell us about the creative process behind it?
‘House Number 44’ was created largely without any pre-conceptual musical ideas. I spent a long time just throwing everything I had against a wall. It usually takes a while to let the dust settle around recordings and to allow myself some time to figure out exactly what it is that I have been dwelling on. I liken the process to therapy: you spend a few months by yourself, gathering and soaking up experiences, generally living in the moment without a sense of self. When you go into therapy, emotions and actions are made visible. Things are brought to the surface, rationalised and given their oblique meaning.
It sounds like an enormous amount of ideas and material to work with… feels like the trilogy is not just a journey through sound but also a rather personal trip. What makes these albums different from each other, what stages do they/you go through?
The idea just kept growing and growing to the point where it needed a larger run time to explore and articulate the ideas to an extent that felt fullycommitted. A single LP wasn’t going to be able to give each perspective the time to fully reveal itself. The separated triptych-like structure seemed to be an inevitable choice in presenting these records.
It took a while into the recording process, but it eventually got to the point where everything started to come into focus. It became clear to me that the album is an outside look at an individual suffering from mental disorder. This is seen and processed through another individual who also lives in the house, remaining an isolated spectator in body and mind through choice and omission. ‘House Number 44’ is a record of that distant interaction, the relationship between what appears in this case to be an ‘artist’ like figure and his troubled ‘subject’.
The disembodied protagonist will change with each album in the release, which will have a direct effect on the sound of the music. I can say at this point that the second album will be from the ‘subject’s’ perspective and as a result, will be seemingly more unhinged and antagonistic in it’s own reverie.
You’ve always loved playing around with samples, you have this capability to shape all the minuscule details like clay. This time it feels like it’s even more elaborate than before.
I wanted to take self sampling a stage further, to explore the many ways the basic ingredients of a track could be presented and how drastic a shift in mood could be created. For example, ‘Ecstasy as a Mask or A Shield’ uses the same stems of music as ‘Conscience of Nerves’ and ‘Implicit Use Of Abstraction’. It feels very limiting imposing just one layout for any given track as the sounds offer so many different possibilities.
Keeping dynamics was very important. I was continually pulling things back from the edge, bringing sounds to a subliminal place that isn’t so up-front and dynamically two-dimensional. I wanted the sounds to have their own room to breathe.
“I hope to build a house with my films. Some of them are the cellar, some are the walls, and some are the windows. But I hope in time there will be a house.” – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Most of the tracks are quite short, feels like they’re just getting started right where they end.
It’s natural to think of these tracks as ambient music. Usually in this case you would leave things to meander on for a longer period of time but I felt it was important to pinpoint exact moments, suggesting an insight into something that is elusive and impenetrable, or a moment of unadulterated inspiration.
There are so many details and hidden layers but lots of space at the same time… feels like these sounds went through quite a bit of a metamorphosis!
I was interested in the smaller, quieter moments where sounds are barely breaking the surface. A lot of time was spent on crafting the textures and details to warrant a different perspective on the tracks through repeated listens. I find by destroying sounds, you can start again from a recycled, personalised material. There’s always the need to get rid of the sounds’ original form, it just feels uninspiring and familiar to me to let a sound or instrument keep its innate identity.
Could you tell us a bit about the technical background of this recycling/personalising process?
A lot of the pre-recorded sounds and arrangements were played back through amps and re-recorded in a specific space. We used different microphone placements to incorporate real spaces into the sounds of the music. We were also experimenting with using the piano as a place to project sounds into.
Then there’s the resampling aspect of all these elements taken individually or as a whole, which is a standard affair for anything I do in helping to generate lots of ideas.‘Methods of Élan’ was originally written in a different key as a faster piano piece, it wasn’t until resampling it and slowing it down that it found it’s footing.
Dalhous never really sounded like anything else, at least nothing from the contemporary music scene, be it electronic or anything else. It sounds vintage but fresh at the same time, faded, forgotten memories from a romanticized era. I don’t think this is just a technical statement or homage to the past but more of a personal metaphor.
I try to remove the music from obvious contemporary signifiers by setting things up in an alternative time frame, forming a type of anachronistic object. Not because I am trying to recreate an older style of music, but because I’m interested in hindsight and the power of that as a means of accessing and revealing hidden intentions. The present is illusory and always destined to be rethought, redeveloped and used again when pulled from later, so there are always recollections of thoughts and feelings, which are likely to be distorted and skewed, sometimes remolded through self-deception. I’m interested in how we hold ourselves together and what happens when there is a disturbance, something breaks off, becomes loose and gets tangled in the forward motion of the mind’s mechanics.
You can instantly recognize the ‘typical’ Dalhous sound on this record yet it’s totally different from anything you’ve done before. How did you experience this otherness while working on it?
None of the records are consciously made one way or the other, at least not in the beginning. They all come about by chance and take on a life of their own, in their own time. They bring about their own set of rules, with their own boundaries, that will communicate what they need and more importantly what they do not need. The challenge with this record washow to go about expressing the perspective of this individual, in particular how to condenseeverything into a typeof aural subjectivity. There needed to be a confusion of purpose, a moment-to-moment change in temperament in viewing themselves, the ‘subject’ and their surrounding context, all at the service of finding another’s truth.
I seem to develop a style of writing through a set of limited technical processes that help keep each record pared down to one intention. Too many options tend to stifle and reduce my productivity.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Anything can become a source of inspiration. Creativity for me is based on finding new perspectives. This doesn’t always come from anything artistic. You just have to keep the antenna open and be willing to receive ideas. Here are some films and music that had a notable effect on informing ‘House Number 44’.
Repulsion (1965) – David and Lisa (1962)
Wavelength (1967) – Crimes of the Future (1970)
Images (1972) – Solaris (1972) – The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – That Most Important Thing: Love (1975)
Daphne Oram – Terry Riley – Fabio Frizzi – Edgar Froese – Kerry Leimer
Delia Derbyshire – Brian Gascoigne – Eduard Artemyev – Jürgen Müller
Ed Tomney – Cluster – Mike Ratledge – Isao Tomita – Mark Isham
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