Some questions for Ray Creature!

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Ray Creature is a band that I thoroughly admire since hearing their first release “Don’t Stop Talking EP” which was recently put out on NO! Record Label. Both of them are Americans and I first thought they were a band, but they’re actually a duo. This duo is compromised of Jon Erich Booth and Natascha Buehnerkemper, having been Jon’s solo-project at first it transformed into a duo. Which is both surprising, since most of their sound is so underrated and explicitly great that I actually wouldn’t have thought that it would’ve not been a band, but hey, here they are. Right after their first release they actually had another one which is getting put out by Sister Cylinder, a full-length S/T debut album. I wanted to clear out some things that I wanted to have answered, so I put out a series of questions which they answered. JEB stands for Jon Erich Booth and NB stands for Natascha Buehnerkemper. Enjoy it. You might also enjoy the freely downloadable track “White Suits” – taken from their S/T debut.

It’s interesting to note that you’re a duo. I would’ve expected it to be a whole band, considering the variety in your sound. Why are you a duo and not a whole band?

JEB: – That’s an effect of layering instrumentation. We take ideas from No Wave and other minimal aesthetics, but our music is in no way minimal. If a song calls for more instrumentation, we add it. Natascha and I have similar ideas about music, and we’ve found ways to reproduce the songs live, so adding more musicians seems unnecessary at this point. Anyway, it’s hard to find people who won’t dilute ideas with compromises or conflicting theories about how the music should work.

NB: – Ray Creature actually started out as Jon’s solo project, and I joined in August of last year. My addition brought along with it the possibility to add even more dimension, both live and recorded. When we play live, there’s so much going on in the backing tracks, having just two of us brings a minimal element to the live shows that is counter to the complexity of the music, which I think makes it more exciting. On another note, being a duo as opposed to a whole band gives us a lot more flexibility regarding touring and shows. Less scheduling bullshit to deal with.

You started out with three demo-tracks and later on you were picked up by NO! Record Label, or how did it go by? What went into recording “Don’t Stop Talking”?

JEB: – When we played a show with Dry Socket, Dylan Ettinger couldn’t make it so Joseph McGlone, the founder of NO!, filled in on synth. After the show he expressed interest in putting out a cassette tape. We had already been producing the self-titled LP with Scott Ferguson of Sister Cylinder Records, so we took an extended version of the opening track, “Don’t Stop Talking,” and three other tracks that didn’t make it on the record and packaged them together as the “Don’t Stop Talking” EP.

“Don’t Stop Talking” is our modest attempt at an austere funk track. Like most of our songs it started with drum machine and bass. The interplay of the guitar, my and Natascha’s vocals, and the lead synth followed from an attempt to keep an unvarying bass line interesting over the course of several minutes.

NB: – I view the “Don’t Stop Talking” EP as a companion release to our LP. It seems that it might be confusing to have two separate releases coming out at the same time on different formats, but in my mind the cassette release was perfectly timed. Even though some of the songs didn’t make it onto the LP, I think they’re really great, and they fit well with the LP aesthetically. It’s possible that we could end up going in a slightly different direction with our future releases, so it’s exciting that all the songs from this songwriting phase were able to make it onto some physical format at once.

Why did you decide to go with such a varied sound, was it the result of experimentation during a long period?

JEB: – I try not to over-determine the music with genre requirements or restrictions. Each song points in its own direction and writes itself to some degree. That’s to say, a set of elements in a song will suggest further styles of instrumentation, which lead to unexpected sounds and song structures. This can create weird stylistic juxtapositions, but it also sets up dramatic transitions within songs, which I think is one of our strengths. For better or worse, that’s the only way I’ve been successful at songwriting while keeping myself interested. There are enough people writing minimal, genre consistent electronic music —I don’t see myself contributing much of interest to that.

NB: – It actually opens us up to being flexible for different shows. Depending on the bands with which we’re playing, we might decide to play our more poppy, dancy tunes. Or we might decide that it’s more appropriate to go a more abrasive, dark route. Since our songs tend to go in a few different directions, it really opens us up to being able to play with lots of different types of bands.

You’re going to have a self-titled debut album out in June with another label called Sister Cylinder. I also noted that you’ve gotten mastering help from Mahern Audio. Have you been mastering your releases on your own before this, or what? How did it feel to have your debut mastered there?

JEB: – I recorded the self-titled LP and recorded and mastered the “Don’t Stop Talking” EP, but I’m an amateur engineer and a dilettante mastering engineer. Since I’m untrained I end up trying too hard in that area. I was exhausted with recording by the time we had the LP mastered by Mahern. I felt relieved to have songs taken out of my hands and began trying desperately and unsuccessfully to forget about them forever. I’m proud of them, but I’ve grown to hate them in some ways. They’re like time-sucking kids I was ready to kick out of the house. Any opinion I have about them is by now irrelevant.

Since you’re going to play a lot of shows in the near future, what are your experiences when playing live? In what way are you stoked for your future performances?

JEB: – We now know the songs well enough to occasionally forget we’re playing them, which is ideal. I like presenting the music at shows, but from the perspective of live performance, the idea is to let the songs go and be inside them rather than exert control over them. We’re touring with Bad Psychic, another electronic act from Bloomington, which is a pleasure because the music is great and the style works with ours. So I’ve been looking forward to every show.

NB: – We’re writing to you right now from Nashville, TN on our third day of a two-week tour. I think this is true of most bands, but people get the best idea of what we’re like from our live performances. We play pretty loudly with a lot of speakers and the live, often repetitive drum parts add an element of intensity that I think people find entertaining, even if they may not be digging what we’re actually playing. It’s always hugely rewarding to see people in the crowd looking pumped about what we’re doing, and it’s a huge payoff for all the hard work we put into this.

It’s nice to be having a freely downloadable track from you. Could you tell me something about it and also what’s in store for you in the coming months?

JEB: – “White Suits” is what passes for another Ray Creature dance track. There was some debate over whether or not to include it on the LP because of its length and atmosphere, but I think it ultimately worked. I tend to think of it as an alternate approach to ideas we were trying to get at with “Don’t Stop Talking.”

In the coming months we hope to start recording our second LP. The plan is to write more relentlessly aggressive songs and incorporate more of Natascha’s vocals alongside my own. Beyond that, we hope it will inspire some confused sexual feelings in people who thought they weren’t confused to begin with—the noblest ambition of rock music.

Down below you can find the track “White Suits” which is freely downloadable as a part of this questionnaire. Hope you enjoy it and do listen to their sound from their own Bandcamp, too, as a complement. If you want to buy it, you should check out Sister Cylinder.

NO! Spotlight: Dry Socket / Ray Creature! [Part II]

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I found a rather anonymous label which is situated in Terre Haute, Indiana. The American label that I found is called NO! Record Label and is hosting itself on Tumblr, giving off a rather secluded interior for me to find mysterious. All the better, because it leaves much to my own imagination. This mysterious label have released two releases before those that I am going to cover in this spotlight. One of the releases are of Drekka and Assimilation – a kind of live re-work of each others live performances – but also a late introductory for me to Michael Andersons brainchild Drekka. This was actually the first release to be put out on this label. The second release was a compilation featuring the artists Drekka, NOON, John Flannelly, Canid, Assimilation and Agakus. Featured musicians working in the Bloomington, Indiana area, described by the label: “a collection of tracks that represents the loose circle of musicians that play weird electronic music together in basements, coffee houses, and bars“. But the two releases that I’m going to cover here are Dry Socket and in the second part; Ray Creature. This is the last part and it features Erich Booth and Natascha Buehnerkemper, known as Ray Creature. Let’s see if you enjoy it.

a3748909156_10Ray Creature. The fourth release on NO! Record Label is “Don’t Stop Talking EP“, featuring four tracks. Lo and behold, what I find is one of the finest examples of what can be done with post-punk. Combining it with the wide-array of genres like dark wave, no-wave, synth-pop and a rather odd experimentalism is the way to go. The fact that Ray Creature is a duo is mind-boggling, because they sound like they’ve had a whole band and that they just quit after this EP due to the difficulty of conveying such a sound. Such a huge sound is being created by two people. A shady sound, with funky undertones of the baseline and the general feel of it is somewhere in between the bizarre and the ingenious. Unfortunately all the steam goes to the track “Don’t Stop Talking” which is probably the best track on the release. After the haziness of the minimal synth landscape, which suddenly just shifts into some kind of disco-vibe mess, featuring no-wave vocals and a general sense of disobedience. The modular synthesizers are working hard on delivering the undertones of electronica to such a harsh example of the successes this band has, with experimentalism. After the first track which could be regarded as setting the theme for the rest of the release, it just delves into some kind of weird example of how the electronica doesn’t really cope with the weirdness of the atmosphere. There’s such a messy landscape of sound that you don’t really know what to look for. Too much happening at the same time.

Even though I know their ambitions have been great, they once again pick up where they left off the stream after “Success“, when we enter “Ripped Apart” – a totally energized maelstrom of the best synthesizers and up-tempo beat you could find. Cocky vocals at that, too. Don’t get me wrong, the concept of “Success” is good to begin with, but I just end up finding myself reminded about the melody – but in the way of that is the general anarchy that actually turns me away from that track to begin with. The last track seems to be a whole long intermezzo between catchy instrumentation, steady rhythms and a snare-sound that i find myself enjoying more than the general mood of the track at all. The vocals in this track is so good, but I don’t really enjoy the lyricism. Even though I have a lot of criticism to give, the general feel of the EP is great. It seems to be long in between when you hear about a sound that has taken off, then you listen to it and find out that it’s like something you’ve heard before – but not really in this format. They do a good job of pulling off the crossover between genres and fill it up with nice experimentalism. I must say that without the soothing but urgent vocals that Natascha deliver, this wouldn’t be as great of an experience as it really was. Enjoy it yourselves by streaming and listening to it here, down below.

NO! Spotlight: Dry Socket / Ray Creature! [Part I]

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I found a rather anonymous label which is situated in Terre Haute, Indiana. The American label that I found is called NO! Record Label and is hosting itself on Tumblr, giving off a rather secluded interior for me to find mysterious. All the better, because it leaves much to my own imagination. This mysterious label have released two releases before those that I am going to cover in this spotlight. One of the releases are of Drekka and Assimilation – a kind of live re-work of each others live performances – but also a late introductory for me to Michael Andersons brainchild Drekka. This was actually the first release to be put out on this label. The second release was a compilation featuring the artists Drekka, NOON, John Flannelly, Canid, Assimilation and Agakus. Featured musicians working in the Bloomington, Indiana area, described by the label: “a collection of tracks that represents the loose circle of musicians that play weird electronic music together in basements, coffee houses, and bars“. But the two releases that I’m going to cover here are Dry Socket and in the second part; Ray Creature. The aforementioned a collaboration between Michael Anderson and Dylan Ettinger. I hope you’ll enjoy this write-up.

a0823392091_10Dry Socket. Having recorded a demo back in 2011 that never got released, this release titled “Violator EP” is a re-worked version of that recording. What strikes me at first is that it sounds like some kind of lounge version of industrial, together with the experimental tendencies that a mixture of their spaced out sound together with Michael Andersons vocals. The rhythm is slow-paced and steady, serving as a point of reference when listening, as the synthesizer sounds morph into differentiating sounds all over the place at the same time. When still being caught adrift by the first track, it feels like a combination of the expertise that Dylan Ettinger showed on his split-release with Goldendust on DKA Records and the gruesome experimentalism with his ambient touches. Even though a lot of the ambient heard in Drekka cannot be heard here, it feels like when they’ve joined forces, nothing is impossible. But I must say that when the song is about to end in the last three to four minutes, the windy atmosphere of what Michael Anderson can and have produced makes a turn back into ambient territory. Flaunting the beauty that can be heard through both synthesizers and other instrumentation. Next up is a sense of immediate urgency with the other track, with the outdrawn and melodramatic synthesizers that take each of their turn to whip you into the wonderful atmosphere of the track. Giving it even more of the old-school industrial sound together with screeching and violent vocals that make turbulence a must. The different passages in this song makes it even less vague than the first one, albeit the organic sounds and the synthesizers bounce on each other in a fist full of fury, it is easy to feel when it turns into something else – changing the pathway of the song. But just before the song is about to end, in the three to four minutes as usual, things get out of hand and a stormier landscape of sound can be heard before it dies out completely. The limited cassette of fifty copies can be bought from NO! Record Label. You’re also able to stream the release in full down below.