Josiah Steinbrick is a composer and versatile instrumentalist who’s produced for Devendra Banhart and Cate Le Bon and recorded with White Fence and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as the director of his own transportive Banana collective, which put out its first release on Leaving in January. He’s also a deep collector of diverse (and sometimes mysterious) releases like these below, which together make their own unique map of the world. Steinbrick's new Meeting of Waters album is out Fri., Oct. 27, on Leaving. This interview by Chris Ziegler." /> THE INTERPRETER: JOSIAH STEINBRICK | L.A. RECORD

THE INTERPRETER: JOSIAH STEINBRICK

October 24th, 2017 | Interviews


photography by stefano galli

Josiah Steinbrick is a composer and versatile instrumentalist who’s produced for Devendra Banhart and Cate Le Bon and recorded with White Fence and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as the director of his own transportive Banana collective, which put out its first release on Leaving in January. He’s also a deep collector of diverse (and sometimes mysterious) releases like these below, which together make their own unique map of the world. Steinbrick’s new Meeting of Waters album is out Fri., Oct. 27, on Leaving. This interview by Chris Ziegler.

PIT PICCINELLI, FRED GALES, WALTER MAIOLI, AMAZONIA 6891 (SOUND REPORTERS, 1981)

“This is an area I’ve been exploring with my own music for a bit—it’s pseudo-ethno minimalism, described on the album as sounds from the jungle, natural objects, echoes and waves. It’s three Italian sound artists using field recordings and synthesziers to create their own Amazonian jungle trip. It’s not song music at all—it’s quite abstract, and it really creates this vivid place. I listen to it while running and it immediately always takes me on my own adventure.”

KEN MOORE, TO COME INTO BEING CS (ANVIL CREATIONS, 1981)

“Ken Moore is one of those American cassette culture sorta guys—he was releasing like five tapes a year for a couple years. I think he started in 1980 and had about seven years of home recording for these things. They’re all over the place compositionally, and this one I love because of the synth stuff: there’s Arp and Moog, acoustic piano, modified percussion, bells and triangles and cymbals. It’s a fantastic mixture of avant-garde modern classical and weird synthesizer music. He has literally dozens of releases. They’re elusive but very cool.”

FREDERIC RZEWSKI, ATTICA / COMING TOGETHER / LES MOUTONS DE PANURGE (OPUS ONE, 1977)

“I’m a massive fan and I think this is his masterpiece. He has some of the best players in the business: Alvin Curran, Jon Gibson. ‘Coming Together’ takes up an entire side of the album. I love this record, and none of this has been re-released! Ensemble-wise, this was super-influential—it changed the way I think about ensemble music. I used that for Banana. The concept is … ‘Coming Together’ and ‘Attica’ are readings of prison letters from Attica—the main one in ‘Coming Together’ is from the inmate who actually started the riots and died in a riot six months before this was released. It features this pulsing track—maybe a bit of a Moondog vibe? Imagine a Moondog piece, but very theatrical, too. The reader is an actor and at times you wish someone else had done it—but then at other times you’re like, ‘Nope—it’s perfect.’ I used to listen to this on runs a lot. I remember running through Austin, Texas, once and having a near-religious experience—just feeling the pulse and the intensity of the music. It’s a super hypnotic piece.”

SHINING LOTUS, MOUNTAIN MAGIC CS (SHINING LOTUS PRODUCTIONS, 1986)

“I got turned on to this by Matthewdavid—he had it on at his house and I was like, ‘What is this?!’ ‘Oh, it’s super deep—I found it at the Glendale Goodwill.’ I think it was a life-changing album for him. It really put him deeper into the modern new age world he’s curating and creating. So I of couse have been on the lookout for anything this guy’s done. I’ve found three so far: this, Ocean Moods 2 and Forest Walk. This is a pastoral syntheszier music—much more of an anthropological feel than a cosmic feel. A very naturalist vibe. Just classic private strange American music.”

LARRY POLANSKY, WORKS FOR PERFORMERS AND LIVE INTERACTIVE COMPUTER CS (FROG PEAK, 1986)

[excerpt not found online—ed.]

“Larry Polansky was a big part of that Mills College scene—I think his wife or girlfriend is Jody Diamond, who designed these tapes and who was very involved in the Berkeley gamelan world. Both contributed a lot to the world of art music. I don’t know where to start on how great this is! There’s loads of computer music, free jazz, a lot of Fluxus artists involved, this fantastic computer piece that breaks into Hebrew that Jody sings … Phil Niblock recorded some of it in New York in 1988, some pieces have Anthony Braxton on sax, there’s a lot with Daniel Goode … it’s one of those tip-of-the-iceberg things.”

TODD BARTON AND URSULA K. LE GUIN, MUSIC AND POETRY OF THE KESH CS (VALLEY, 1985)

“This tape came as a promo with the first printing of the book Always Coming Home. The book features a people known as the Kesh, and this is the music and poetry of the Kesh, composed by Todd Barton. Barton is an Oregon guy who made really great records and did a lot of play and book soundtrack. I feel his back catalog should be explored very heavily soon—everything I have by him is great and he worked very prolifically. This is great made-up folk in a made-up language—again in a pastoral minimalist theme, a mixture of pastoral and modern classical. That can be touched upon by German synth artists or British artists—it’s kind of a universal thing.”

HILDEGARD WESTERKAMP, FANTASIE FOR HORNS I AND II CS (INSIDE THE SOUNDSCAPE, 1986)

“Probably one of my favorite finds from last year—I found it through one of the guys who used to work at Other Music who has a great Instagram called @driftinglament. He’s got impeccable taste—he posts a lot of concrete poetry and actual poetry. He posted this and I tracked it down. It’s treated horns and nature recordings. On the inside it says: ‘Sound sources for this piece are taken from the acoustic environment … [including] factory and boat horns from Vancouver and the surrounding area, horns Canadians hear in daily life.’ One part was completed in 1978 as a composition in its own right, and then solo horn was added later to make a new piece. One is on one side, and one is on the other.”

NIGERIA YOUNG BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ISLAM, LED BY ALHAJI R. O. AKANBIE, IJO NYBROSIS LP (LANRE ADEPOJU, 197X)

[excerpt not found online—ed.]

“I found this at Record Recycler a long time ago—I found loads of weird shit at that shop! There is zero info on the internet about this record. It’s unGoogleable. But it’s great! All these people singing and the instrumentation is super minimal—metallic thumb piano and drums, really groovy. Like funky gospel music in the most minimal way. It’s not a field recording. The artwork is classic Nigerian high life style where every record looks like it’s gonna be the best record ever made—sometimes it’s just party music and that’s fine, but in this situation it was actually extremely fruitful! It sounds like M.I.A. in a way—really great and chant-y.”

EPLF MASS ORGANIZATION EUROPE, BOLOGNA 87 CS (UNKNOWN LABEL, 1987)

[excerpt not found online—ed.]

“This is from a big protest conference they had when Eritrea was fighting for its independence. I got this in a box of amazing Ethiopian and Eritrean tapes with loads of really great music and really strange stuff—kids records, strange folk, pop stuff and classic Ethiopian groups. But this tape might be the craziest of all. Out of all the tapes I got, this had the most uninteresting cover. Just a conference room. It looks like a lecture. Then a couple songs in there’s this ripping funk track! It’s got a groove I can’t explain—anything you’d ever wanna hear in African funk happens. My jaw dropped on the floor when I heard it. Great female vocals, call and answer vocals … I have no idea where the fuck you’d find this. You can’t Google anything. But it’s fucking great!”

VELJO TORMIS, TEEME MUUSIKAT II (MELODIA, 1977)

“Like the Estonian Carl Orff—it’s Estonian children’s classical. It’s an eight-part 7” series with basically the best Estonian composers working within this range—kind of sacred choral minimalist music in the vein of Arvo Pärt or Orff. I actually incorporated a section from one of the other releases in one of the Banana records—a clarinet melody that we improvised with.”

VARIOUS, NEW ARTIST CATALOG NO. 4 CS (TRA, 1983)

“The magazine is great—focused on fashion, painting, visual art and music—but it also comes with a tape with a bunch of artists on it. It has the only recording of Satoshi Ashikawa aside from his Still Wave release, which is one of Japan’s great minimal ambient records. He died a month before this was published—really young, he was 23 years old. He was working with Eno/Harold Budd soundscapes, and I think he’s the reason for a lot of the worship in Japan of that sort of thing. This contains the only piece he recorded otherwise—a home demo. This is all Japanese except for the random Wire side project P’o, which is from their record. Everything else is unreleased, and a few pieces are really great and two of them are absolutely fantastic and by artists who did nothing else ever. One was the photographer who had a lot to do with the art direction of this mag and the other I know nothing about—he was a performance artist who does a beautiful percussion piece that was part of his art show. If you can track this down, it’s well worth it. It’s a document of 1983 Japan—does it get any better?”

VARIOUS, MUSIQUE DU BURUNDI LP (OCORA, 1968)

“Absolutely beautiful, and probably mainly known as the source for the proto-sample on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Jungle Line.’ There’s also a vocal piece that incorporates some medieval vocal techniques—back and forth polyrhythms, really beautiful. For a field recording it sounds insane. Ocora is well-documented as being really ahead of the game with recording techniques and how they did field recordings. This record is by no means obscure, but it’s a very important record to me.”

LINO CAPRA VACCINA, ANTICO ADAGIO LP (Nö, 1978)

“This record means as much to me as Midori Takata’s Through the Looking Glass, which I didn’t pick just because it got a reissue recently so it’s very much on peoples’ radar. It was reissued with another record of outtakes that are so beautiful. It’s one of my favorite records: vibrophone, marimba, gong, a little violin and oboe … I can’t really describe it besides being absolutely perfect minimal percussion music.”

JOSIAH STEINBRICK’S MEETING OF WATERS IS OUT FRI., OCT. 27, ON LEAVING.