Recorded at the legendary Underground Resistance studios in Detroit, La Fraîcheur’s debut album is a call to arms for progress. We asked her to talk us through how she made it.
“The album and its title are a reflection on how expressing and verbalising the idea of (and hope for) movement and progress can actually participate in its manifestation.” As concepts go, the mission statement behind La Fraîcheur’s debut album is bold. The Parisian-raised, Berlin-based artist explains that Self-Fulfilling Prophecy addresses the idea that believing in social change helps to bring it about, “viewing it as something that will indeed happen eventually”.
“I was interested in exploring the ways in which progress happens,” she continues. “Whether we are talking about intimate issues like overcoming grief, or social, political, economical, spiritual issues that bind us a society but require individual action first… Music is of help in that process, whether to heal the soul on a personal level or inspire radical consciousness collectively.”
The album was produced partly in Detroit during a 2017 artist residency at Underground Resistance’s studios, then completed in the artist’s Berlin home studio before being mixed and mastered by Sound Provider‘s Leonard de Leonard.
We asked her to talk us through the making of the album, track by track.
‘Renegade’ is a slow 90bpm track meant as trippy space ‘road trip’, inspired by French duo Zombie Zombie’s eerie and cinematic album A Land For Renegades and the androgynous animé figure Albator, who I was obsessed with as a queer kid.
It’s possibly the simplest track of the album in terms of layering and sonic elements and it was exclusively created with the sounds of my Korg Minilogue, which is truly my main partner in the studio and especially for this album. I am in love with this synth as its versatility offers everything from basslines to melodic leads, pads to sound design and it can really hold a track from start to finish.
The inspiration for ‘Tirana’ was the ravy vibe of a party I danced at in a former factory in Valparaiso – one of the first places I ever played in Chile that is of significance for me. Since I was on tour without gear at hand, I started this track with sounds from Ableton, just so I could get some of the ideas down, coming back tired from the rave in the early morning. I reworked them in the studio later. I also used one of my favorite tricks in this track, which is to take a complex percussion sample and turn it into MIDI and then work on a melody from the random notes that come up.
The inspiration for this track comes from an interview between Angela Davis and Amy Goodman for Democracy Now that elaborates on intersectionality, which is to me the most relevant, powerful and contemporary way of adressing discrimination policies and fighting them.
As for most of my vocal use, it’s usually a YouTube video that I rip and try to work with. Which, to be honest, is often very frustrating and limiting in terms of quality of the soundbites, but as the message is at the centre of it all for me, I quickly learned to let go of nit-picking. The core is the message; the rest is just a tool created around it to make the message be heard.
‘Gone’ is a track recorded in one intense live session and barely reworked afterwards. I had just learned of the death of someone in my family and was so overwhelmed with feelings, I had to get them out of my system so I plugged in my Minilogue and started playing with it, recording improvisations live as audio without keeping any MIDI or saving any sound settings. I wasn’t thinking of the track as a final product or the album or anything like that at the time. I just needed to get things off my chest, so I pressed record, improvised, went on to the next sound, pressed record, improvised and so on until I had my track. When I was done, I was drained and exhausted. I could finally breathe again. The track stayed exactly that way: raw, heavy, messy, honest. All the sounds of that track are lost now, never saved in my synth parameters.
Morgan, La Nuit
‘Morgan, La Nuit’ is the counterpoint to ‘Gone’. It’s meant as a lullaby to help me sleep when I was dealing with grief. This melody is the first I ever unconsciously came up with when I bought my kalimba. I remember very well playing it in the subway in Berlin coming back home from the store. Since that moment, every time I had my kalimba in hands, it seemed like I could not play any other melody than this one. It was so soothing, from the delicate sound of the kalimba to the ‘automatic pilot’ kind of effect, with my brain off. I recorded the kalimba with a DIY contact mic at night in my bedroom in Detroit so I wouldn’t wake anyone up making music so late. I added some mouth-made beats from a WhatsApp audio message in the background and some pads and sound design from my beloved Minilogue.
The New Is Not Born Yet
‘The New Is Not Born Yet’ is built around the bassline, which comes from my Vermona Mono Lancet, and the samples of Italian political researcher and activist Lorenzo Marsili interviewed by journalist Sonali Kolhatkar in reaction to the Hamburg G20 summit 2017.
Every time I start a track with a message I hate myself for it as I know there is at least 30 hours of work on the vocals only. Between listening to hour-long speeches several times to identify the parts I want to use, cutting it all into tiny pieces, the Tetris mind fuck of reassembling everything while trying to keep a narrative that makes sense even though the original speaker didn’t build their discourse like that, making the grammar work despite the cuts, eliminating verbal tics and breathing, treating the voice… it’s a long, arduous process. But as long as the message gets to be heard, it’s worth it.
‘Eaux Troubles’ is meant as a slow, emotional burner for the ketaminated dancers of the dark Berlin clubs. I am always amazed how those creatures manage to keep dancing while barely keeping their balance or being able to hold their heads. I wanted to create a track that carries enough drive through the bassline and double kick to keep them going, but also had a freeform evolution without a recognisable melody or hook, something that could mirror the floating of their world and unique sense of time that comes with it. This track is to me another great example of the versatility of the Korg Minilogue as everything in it apart from the drums came out of that synth. Most of the percussion sounds of the album are either field recorded or from Leonard de Leonard’s packs that he creates with his impressive analogue and modular synth collection.
Limb By Limb
The inspiration for this track comes from a dialogue between scholars Sara M Acevedo and Dr Alka Arora, deconstructing the idea of the ‘natural’ in relations to race, body, gender, sexuality, religion and capitalism.
Because it was a conversation instead of a speech or an interview, and because I wanted to keep a lot of the content in a possibly overwhelming flux of informations, I decided to build the narrative around that hook – “We’re here today to talk about…” – in order to structure the rhythm of the speech, but also because that sentence held in it something so important and vital to communities that are discriminated against, whether for their gender or colour: stepping out of invisibility, reclaiming space to be and space to verbalise ourselves.
It’s filled with what is possibly my favourite type of sounds coming from the Minilogue: those ethereal, fidgety, intergalactic, atmospheric sounds I usually use as added sound design but that are, in this case, at the centre of the track, creating an envelopping blanket of sounds
‘Plant 21’ is titled after the abandoned factory where I field-recorded all the sounds of the track, which was just a couple of blocks away from the UR headquarters where I was living and working in the studio. I built a few DIY contact mics before leaving for Detroit, which I would stick to pipes, barrels, metallic pillars, fences, foam boards, windows, cisterns and other asbestos-filled remains and record the sound of it when banged with a drumstick, another rock or piece of glass. Apart from the bassline (which is from my Vermona Lancet), every sound in the track is from that location.
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