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Monday, August 25, 2008

Slicnaton Bridges the Electro-Jazz-Classical Gap

Slicnaton recently released the new album "Trio Slicnaton", a compilation of material from four performances in early 2008 (Meredith College, The Royal Bean Coffee House, Badgerhaus Pi Party, Train Tracks Studios). Trio Slicnaton is the trio incarnation of experimental work of Nicholas Slaton (basses and electronics), Mietek Glinkowski (violin and vitar), and Julian Sparacino (clarinets and flute).
Self-described as "ambient drone noise sound", the album is also offered for licensing use in film, TV, radio, games, and other media. I would say a lot of it is great suspense film material, though some parts, such as the more peaceful, layered, flute-heavy track "nightlife", provide a more easy-going texture.
What makes the Slicnaton sound stand out is that it mixes more traditional classical instruments with heavy electronic processing and industrial sounds.

I had a chance to speak with executive producer Nicholas Slaton to get his perspective on the music.

D: I see you are doing more performances lately.

N: Yes, we are starting to do more shows and trying to promote some of the music with performances. It's definitely a change from when we started. The original catalog was compositionally electronic, needing a computer to create the music, but in order to connect with an audience you have to perform live to let people know what you are trying to do is real and not just inside a computer.
I have a lot of experience with jazz since attending NC Central for jazz performance, where I started to focus on acoustic upright, working with a bow. Through that experience, instilled with jazz history and performance practice, I got a lot of gigs in town, playing jazz or pickup gigs in the area for about 7 years. It was really exciting playing with a lot of different people, being in a lot of different playing situations. This led me to form Slicnaton.

Electronic music offers a different set of compositional aspects, a lot being improvisation anyway, combining with sampling, looping, and effects brings a new element into the music, after coming from a compositional perspective. This allows me to think about electronic sounds in a more musical way, how I can use elecronic equipment to convey an idea as opposed to just dealing with what comes out.

D: How would you describe your music?

N: My music is electro-acoustic improvisation with the goal of the realization of a composition at the end of each performance. So when we improv, we try to do it compositionally. We interact with each other in a way,and try to use ideas to communicate a song on the fly, in the way of free jazz, also mixed with live electronics. What comes out is sometimes drone, sometimes ambient, sometimes noise, sometimes sound art, so those are sort of the basic tenets of a Slicnaton show. Within that we try to find unique personalities.

The first Slicnaton album included Mahlon Hoard, a unique sax player with a personal style, and "Trio slicnaton" is the second release. I recorded a solo EP and also have an album with drummer Ian Davis.

D: So what are your influences?

N: For this music I think John Cage, Stockhausen, also people like Evan Parker, groups that sound similar like Super Silent (not really an influence, but the same genre), 21st century electronic music, and electronic music from the 60's and 70's mixed with free improv and a little modern classical touches thrown in.

D: How much is improvised and how much worked out beforehand?

N: There's a line between composition and improv that gets blurred. I would say 50% is complete improv, and the other 50% is songs I've written used as a basis for group improvisation. "storch" and "nightlife" are melodies I wrote with the intention of sampling live and looping with effects. Once we have a drone established, we move on to the next section, another suggested melody for improv use, or a series of notes, to maybe violin and bass clarinet written out, though played independently, as beginning points for improv. Once the improv has fulfilled its course you come back to a melody or initial fragments of it to resolve the ideas. I really like that format--melodically speaking it's open, not rhythmic, not pulse based, the melody is open to interpretation by the performer, who can take it wherever he wants to go, since noise and sound are all part of the mix, but we all try to keep it in a way that's beautiful and palatable to the listener and ourselves.

D: Have you had any success licensing your work?

N: We have not licensed anything yet, but I'm really interested in working with production people and media companies. The idea behind Slicnaton Publishing is to approach film, television, and new media. As a financial decision, in the music industry you have to be aware that people aren't buying the way they used to, but the TV and movie industry is still booming. If I want to make the music it has to pay for itself. That's why the goal is TV and movies. I would like to write original new material for each specific project. The music I make with others is so people can hear what we do, and that stuff is available, but more than anything I like to work on new projects. I want to collaborate with others, bring it back to the days when movies were special to listen to. In a way, if I want something better to watch and listen to, I also have a responsibility to put out my best effort to create that.

D: What equipment does Slicnaton use for electronic sounds?

N: What I bring to the gigs:
Beringer 4-channel mixer, UB-1202
Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man delay pedal
Then I do some "no-input" mixing with all the circuit enclosed. I can get sound from signals that are generated.
TR1000, a digital music study recorder for transcribing horn lines and stuff, from early days of that type of equipment, so it doesn't work very well. It has its own sounds, and can also slow down and speed up without changing pitch.
Akai MPC2000-XL sampler. Basically I use all that, and plug it into itself. For my solo playing thats how I create. With others, I set up a nice large diaphragm condenser mic and use that to sample the band live.

D: Do you have upcoming performances scheduled?

N: The next show of Trio Slicnaton is the Ava Gardner Film Fest in Smithfield (September 27th). I'm pretty pumped about putting the trio on stage as we don't have a lot of opportunity to do that--it's a lot easier solo. We also have a confirmed date in NYC, an art gallery opening October 18th. We'll put a couple shows around that on the way up there. The group is starting to play more, since up until now all of it has been studio based. Now it's picking up momentum.

D: Thanks for your insights Nick. Slaton has performed with a large number of area musicians, both as an electronic musician and a bassist. You can visit the Slicnaton website for more information on recordings and upcoming performances.

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