Sonya Waters - whose musical career spans from the 80s punk of the Instigators through to Morricone-esque White Swan Black Swan - has just released a set of ambient recordings. These combine "loops, synths, pianos, phonetic poetry, and wind turbine field recordings".
The project is released on Friday 5th of March (US time, so 6th in NZ) on cassette and via Bandcamp, via Cudighi Records - based in Los Angeles and run by Ben Van Howe. He is a different person to me (Ben Howe). This is not made up.
Sonya answered a few questions about the recording below.
Where and how did you record this album?
I recorded and mixed this album in my home studio over 2020. It was part of a Sonic Art Project at NZSM. Somehow it grew and grew and became an album. It originally started with some field recordings of wind turbines. There are a lot of turbines all around the Wellington region. I particularly like the Turbine Fields at Makara where I recorded a wonderfully creaky, rusty, groaning sound along with other delicious resonances. I used that quite a lot on the album along with a kid's voice. The kid was up at the Brooklyn turbine. He was so excited about the big structure and couldn't stop shouting. Initially I was annoyed that he was ruining my field recordings but then I just included him along with the sounds of planes flying overhead and bees buzzing.
When I got the turbine sounds home I combined them with loops on the Moog Grandmother and Mother32 semi-modular synths, playing everything live in the room through my amp before committing it all to the DAW. Once I'd given up the idea they had to synch in time it started to sound poly-rhythmic and interesting to me. I'd been mucking around on the synths trying to get away from song structures and was wondering what I would discover. I still couldn't resist singing some poppy melodies here and there and adding a few piano loops. The most difficult thing was keeping it minimal and spacious.
Who is releasing it? How did this come about?
I was having morning tea with Michael Upton (Jet Jaguar) and he suggested some ambient labels I could release on. I really liked the look and sound of Cudighi Records. It's a small LA label run by a guy called Ben Van Howe. Surprisingly the same name as Ben Howe from Flying Nun! I didn't let that put me off though ;-) I decided it was a good omen. Ben Van Howe has been really easy and fun to work with. He suggested asking other artists to do remixes of the pieces. After reading Viv Albertine's book I was practising her year of saying yes, so I had to go ahead and accept the idea. (Incidentally thats how I ended up accepting an invitation from Andrew Boak for The Instigators to play at Punk It Up.)
The Wellington remixes for Sheltering Ranges were done by Jet Jaguar, Ludus and Dugal McKinnon. The international artists are from various places around the world. Laura Luna Castillo is a Puebla Mexico based sound artist. Rami Moscovich is a Tel Aviv based musician and producer, and Maryana Klochko is a Ukrainian folk singer. So even though the world has been in lockdown it felt like we were still working on a project together. Thomas Voyce helped tie it all together with careful mastering.
What are ‘The Sheltering Ranges? What style of music is it?
The Sheltering Ranges is an ambient album about Wellington's weather. Wellington is impacted by many different elements like the breeze coming across the Cook Straight from the South Island. The ranges around help protect the city from more severe winds. Even though Wellington is considered the windiest major city in the world, imagine what it would be like if those ranges didn't exist!
The artwork is a watercolour by Jacqui Cotter. Jacqui paints NZ places of magnificence. Stephen McCarthy was kind enough to lend a hand with the artwork layout. I didn't realise the amount of work required to create a cassette cover and all the other bits and pieces needed for Spotify etc when I asked for the favour. I owe him big time. The album is available on-line on bandcamp and on cassette. The cassettes will arrive in NZ next month. Release shows are coming up. Stay tuned.