quiet friend – quiet friend

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa – 

“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: quiet friend.

Dissecting a moniker can often prove frivolous, but occasionally the exercise warrants undertaking.  take quiet friend: an adjective and a noun paired together, perhaps an offhand expression used to identify someone in conversation.  perhaps this person has a closely-guarded exterior, but beneath the surface lies a compelling narrative, and the implied friendship makes said narrative that much more intimate and forthcoming.

this carefully-constructed hypothetical of a quiet friend is purposefully analogous to quiet friend the band, and by extension, their self-titled debut album.  though the ensemble features a cast of nearly a dozen core members and contributors, quiet friend succeeds in feeling like a singular, fully-realized character; the nine tracks that populate their full-length are defined by lyrics both vulnerable and tender that are often wrapped up in disarming moments of wittiness and winking absurdities.  combined with an affinity for early ambient music and saturated, majestic 1980s pop that emanates from project leaders steven rogers and nick zanca, quiet friend checks all the boxes for an audiophile in search of nocturnal mood music.

quiet friend

opening track “bath” feels like taking one in the literal sense – resonant, brassy textures slowly submerge the listener into the central tenets of the album’s soundscapes.  vestiges of this introduction can certainly be felt in “safe” and “breathplay,” a pair of pop pillars that prop up the album’s front half, but its direct descendants are tracks like “basements” and the sprawling centerpiece “name all the animals,” cinematic, orchestral turns at which quiet friend equally excels.  subsequent instrumentals “thorn from paw” and “seance” feel less like interludes and more like grounding forces, reaffirming quiet friend’s sonic identity throughout.

the lushness that pervades quiet friend cannot be underscored enough.  chalk it up to zanca and fellow producer alex thompson, who tinkered with arrangements for over two years and enlisted a host of contributors for auxiliary parts, vocal harmonies, and counter-melodic textures, intricate cogs integral to a machine committed to exploring the vast depths of its sonic palette.

this fastidiousness pays off in spades, particularly throughout the album’s back half.  quiet friend are confident enough to let standout cut “playgrounds” marinate in a metronomic dance beat and an alarm-like synth lead for over a minute, laying down a persistent framework into which subsequent textures meld seamlessly.  ditto for the finale, “avalanche,” whose murky ambiance percolates for nearly half the track’s duration before secondary elements commandeer the vessel and push blown-out synth lines to their limits.  taken as a whole, quiet friend’s debut is a remarkable, cohesive construction that abandons any semblance of pretense in favor of an honest overarching artistic statement.

quiet friend is out now via elestial sound; listen to the album in full below. 

quiet friend – “breathplay”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa –

quiet friend’s self-titled debut has been simmering for some time now.  nick zanca and steven rogers began working on the tracks that populate the nine-song effort in 2014, working in close concert with producer alex thompson to sculpt a vast high-fidelity soundscape with the utmost care.

after allowing lead single “safe” to soak in for a couple of months, zanca and rogers recently released a follow-up, “breathplay.”  the track turns again and again on the curiosity that accompanies its main hook, “where has your body been?”, with zanca describing “breathplay” to gold flake paint as “a meditation on queer hookup culture and all of its idiosyncrasies.”  sonically, “breathplay” is a treasure trove of percolating synths that occasionally cede territory to a cascading guitar motif, all of which are softly enveloped by melancholic string pads.

as if the aforementioned wasn’t enough of a privilege to digest, “breathplay” also comes with an accompanying music video directed by austin johnson, a breathtaking visual representation of the project’s aesthetic.  quiet friend arrives march 9th via elestial sound.  listen in on “breathplay” below.

most anticipated albums of 2018

featured image courtesy of minimally minimal –

as 2017 draws to a close, we naturally shift our focus to 2018 and the bevy of albums slated to be released throughout the year.  admittedly, the following list largely focuses on albums due out in the first quarter, with a couple of pipe dreams sprinkled in.  for those still trying to soak up as much of 2017 as possible, check out our favorite releases of the year here.  for those looking to forge ahead, read on.  links to pre-order are embedded if available.

rhyerhye – blood (february 2nd || loma vista)

three strong singles have thus far precluded rhye’s long-awaited sophomore full-length.  after returning this summer with “please,” rhye closed out 2017 with the supple one-two punch of “taste” and “count to five.”  if the samplings and album art are any indication, mike milosh’s work remains as intimate and sensual as ever.

 

Hovvdy Cranberryhovvdy – cranberry (february 9th || double double whammy)

austin duo hovvdy released one of 2016’s most enduring – and endearing – albums in taster.  cranberry, their first since signing to the venerable double double whammy, seems poised to flesh out the warm, lived-in aura that permeates their disarmingly honest work.  case in point: lead single “petal” drips with nostalgia, its assured pace gently giving way to tender falsetto.

 

quiet friendquiet friend – quiet friend (march 9th || elestial sound)

after years of releasing music by himself under the moniker mister lies, nick zanca has shifted into collaborative mode to build quiet friend with steven rogers.  the duo, along with a rotating cast of other contributors, sculpt an audiophile’s dreamscape; lead single “safe” is a whirlwind, but is also just a hint of what quiet friend have in store throughout their self-titled debut.

– other notable releases – 

a grave with no name – passover (january 19th || forged artifacts)

nadine – oh my (january 26th || father/daughter)

triathalon – online (february 16th || broken circles)

s. carey – hundred acres (february 23rd || jagjaguwar)

lucy dacus – historian (march 2nd || matador)

half waif – lavender (tbd || cascine)

helena deland – tba (tbd || luminelle)

ness nite – dream girl (tbd || pow recordings)

pat moon – tba (tbd || track & field)

yours are the only ears – tba (tbd || team love)

 

interview – quiet friend

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa –

A smattering of what’s to come from quiet friend in early 2018 arrived last month in the form of “safe,” a swirling piece of high-fidelity pop majesty.  project leaders nick zanca and steven rogers have imbued their forthcoming self-titled debut with a devotional equal parts pop and ambient, an end result that leans heavily on texture, atmosphere, and the implications that accompany both.

as the days grow shorter and the temperatures colder, ambient music can provide a unique respite, one that feels forever wed to winter months.  zanca, a longtime purveyor of – and architect within – the genre, recently compiled an hour-long mix for the dimestore, focusing on works from ambient forbears of the 1970s and 1980s.  it’s a sparse, affecting compilation best consumed through headphones, preferably in solitude.

accompanying the mix is a short but incredibly insightful conversation with zanca, throughout which he explores his relationship with specific pieces, how reactions to the current political climate are embodied within the genre, and an overall archeological pursuit of ambient music.  the transcript follows the mix, below, and has been slightly edited for clarity.  click play and immerse yourself.

influences like prefab sprout and the blue nile are proudly worn, but how do other offerings on this mix fit within the construction of quiet friend?  have any of these artists – or perhaps their corresponding tracks – directly influenced this project?

as long as steven and i have been working together, atmosphere has been at the epicenter of what we do.  with this record, it’s gotten to the point where atmosphere and texture dictate virtually every other aspect of the music, down to contributors, arrangements, choice of instrumentation (oberheim synths, delay systems, zithers, harmoniums, the string section) – a majority of the lyrics acknowledge space, even.  regardless of who joins us moving forward, or whether our music gets lighter or darker from here, we’re always going to have a paw in the “ambient” pool.  i suppose this mix acted as an exercise in showcasing that angle of our project.

other than the obvious u.k. sophisti-pop influence, i personally became very invested during this album’s production in the discovery of 1970s and 1980s ambient/minimalist music from japan and italy – both of which are represented somewhat here in this mix.  both of those countries in particular are sonic goldmines as far as that kind of music is concerned.  i’m not sure which record it was that opened the can of worms – i could name the work of hiroshi yoshimura, luciano cilio or midori takada as starting points – but once i began the journey, my boyfriend has a real hard time getting me off soulseek or discogs.  since then, i’ve been fully committed to the almost archaeological pursuit of discovering older, underheard music in the hopes that at least one of these records can find a new audience.  it’s also my hope that quiet friend could act as a similar vehicle for musical discovery.

the original release dates of these tracks range from the mid-1970s to the late-1980s; what about this period of time, specifically within the realm of ambient music’s evolution, speaks to you in particular?

it’s difficult to pin down what exactly draws me to that era in particular – i guess part of it has to do with the fact that digital music technology was still so nascent at the time and that creative possibilities in the studio seemed so boundless then.  there’s also the diy aspect too – in most cases, these artists were privately pressing their albums and operating completely outside conventional channels of marketing and distribution.  home recording had just become normalized and people could explore similar sonic terrain to brian eno, steve reich, and labels like ecm with very limited resources.  there’s something very punk to me about that kind of ethic.

i was texting an old friend from college earlier this week who observed how huge of a year this was for ambient music – both new and old – and how much of that was a response to political unrest.  i don’t think that’s wrong.  as it is, so much of the history of this genre has borrowed cues from disparate heritages – indian raga, indonesian gamelan, african percussion, gregorian chant, american primitive guitar.  listening to the way artists fuse these influences today in the face of an administration that has so clearly threatened multiculturalism seems to me not only like the strongest way to heal right now, but also functions as a wholly valid form of antifascist protest.

are there a couple of songs on this mix that you hold especially close, and, if so, would you be willing to elaborate as to why?

i could go on at length about any of these records, but i’m going to focus on three near-and-dears that deserve far more credit.

a track from venetian musician gigi masin’s album wind opens up the mix.  this is a deep, minimal and icy album that was somewhat of a crate digger’s holy grail for many years – it was only ever sold at shows and many of the original copies were destroyed in a flood.  it was finally reissued a few years ago and since then he’s been enjoying a bit of a comeback, both as a solo artist and with a new band called gaussian curve.  the sound palette here – a lone korg poly-800 synth, a piano, a tenor sax, and a trumpet – is chillingly sparse but still manages to sound gigantic.  i’ve spent a few winters watching the snow fall to this record.

i also included a cut from neighborhoods, the lone album of portland-based musician ernest hood.  this record largely revolves around communal field recordings taken around the oregon suburbs where he grew up, which were then placed amongst washes of zither and synth.  it’s a hauntingly gorgeous example of the power of the private press and proof that one can evoke nostalgia without venturing into overly sentimental territory.

nuno canavarro’s plux quba is a record from portugal that is incredibly difficult to pin down and even more impossible to write about – i discovered it through jim o’rourke who reissued it about a decade after its initial release in 1988.  canavarro managed to build an entire world here with just a primitive 8-bit sampler and a outdated fostex 8-track tape machine.  that this music predates oneohtrix point never, fennesz, or ricky eat acid by almost two decades is kind of baffling to me – it speaks its own language and exists outside of time.  i dream of making records that have that kind of effect on people.

quiet friend is a collaborative, pop-leaning project, but you’ve been making ambient music on your own for quite awhile now.  how does your immersion in more abstract sound design influence your headspace in a pop setting?

that’s a very good question and one that i’m not sure i’ve totally figured out the answer to yet.  i think about it all the time though.  i will say that i’ve become able to stop myself from overthinking about certain pop conventions when we’ve allowed the atmosphere of the music to take the wheel.  the beds of texture these songs sit in almost become a vehicle for storytelling or a context for the melodies.  with a song like “safe,” the drone section at the end is meant to add a ruminative quality that is only just beginning to be hinted at by the lyrics.  we’re trying to create music that doesn’t reveal itself right away, that rewards repeat listens – never the same river twice.

quiet friend’s self-titled debut album is out march 9th via elestial sound.  revisit the project’s first single, “safe,” here.

quiet friend – “safe”

– featured image courtesy of daniel dorsa –

folks who have perused the dimestore for a few years may recognize nick zanca from his output as mister lies, and those same folks may have noticed that zanca has been relatively quiet as of late.  a blurry picture has now come into focus, as zanca has announced a new collaborative project with steven rogers and producer alex thompson called quiet friend.

while the ensemble isn’t slated to release an album until early next year, zanca and company recently teased a sampling of things to come with “safe.”  the track’s towering majesty is immediate, its opening synth stabs foreshadowing the cacophonous hook zanca eventually unleashes.  and while most of “safe” unfolds as a cathartic release, the song’s coda shows how zanca and rogers can harness the vapors of a spent emotion and channel it into a wash of ambient respite.

quiet friend, the band’s self-titled debut, will arrive march 9th via elestial sound.  for the time being, delve into “safe,” streaming below.