“I WAS INVITED TO PLAY A ONE hour
live set on the Star’s End radio show on
WXPN, and I asked Tim to sit in with me,”
says German Touch Guitar player Markus
Reuter. “We had no idea this would turn into
an album, but right after the broadcast we
knew we had created something special and
took it from there.” Where he and American
guitarist Tim Motzer took it was to a
stunning ambient/experimental disc titled
Descending [1k], which also features impressionistic
alto flute work by Theo Travis, BJ
Cole’s atmospheric pedal-steel playing, subtle
grooves and electronics from Pat Mastelotto,
and bits of cymbals and other metal objects
played by Doug Hirlinger. The music that
began as a live duo improvisation took its
final form via a transcontinental collaborative
process that spanned multiple studios
in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany.
How were the original tracks recorded?
Reuter: Tim plugged his guitar and
pedalboard directly into my laptop looping
setup, along with my Touch Guitars U8, so
there were two input sources. We tracked
to Ableton Live, running two Circular Labs
Mobius looping plug-ins for the automated
cross-feedback between delays that created
the core of the record’s sound. Each repeat of
a phrase was altered sonically using reverb,
delay, pitch shifting, chorusing, half-time
and double-time conversion, reverse playback,
or combinations thereof—and the
phrases recurred unpredictably in an often
musically surprising fashion.
Were the improvisations structured?
Reuter: We experimented with things
like playing E Lydian over a C drone and
Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition,
or interjecting pitch-selection rules
as we went along.
Motzer: For example, Markus might
call out a particular scale or something
like, “descend chromatically.”
after the initial recording?
picked our favorite
bits and framed
them out, beginning with the section that
became the title track. After that, we exchanged
multitracks between Germany and the U.S.
via Dropbox and did some overdubbing. An
example would be my glitch guitar parts
on “Emanuella,” done by plugging a Godin
directly into the double-looper and processing
the results with Mdsp Livecut.
Reuter: I worked in iZotope RX and
Tim used Apple Logic. We also exchanged
lots of stereo files during the mixing stage.
The other contributors were also in disparate
locations. How did that work?
Motzer: Theo added his parts in London,
and BJ added his at another London studio.
Afterwards, I felt that the album needed
some electronic rhythms to help it percolate
a bit, so we contacted Pat, who recorded
his parts in Texas. In each case we sent
them stereo guide mixes with the correct
start points to play along with, and then
imported their files into Logic. After that, I
still felt the music could use some cymbals,
and I recorded Doug’s parts at my studio.
Did everything come together as you’d hoped?
Reuter: Although we added overdubs,
I think we still managed to retain the vibe
of the original recordings. It’s a perfect
meeting point of determination and freedom:
technology and humanity, concept and
chaos, playing and programming.
Motzer: It was a great experience working
with Markus and sharing sonic densities
with a few of my favorite musicians,
and I’m proud of the results. Film music
supervisors should call us pronto!