Inner Surface Music‘s offerings to 2014 revealed a penchant for abstract electronics previously not seen in the label. Alongside releasing a skeletal techno four-tracker from Yves De Mey under his new Grey Branches alias, ISM also shed light on Brooklyn based Angus Tarnawsky. Compiled from tracks written over a three year period, Tarnawsky’s ‘Pitched’ EP proved him as an artist with little regard for conventional production methods, creating heavily-processed rhythmic experiments, reminiscent of some of Autechre’s darker, more stripped-back moments.
As Tarnawsky explained to us recently however, his process as a musician is a little more complex than that of your typical laptop producer. “I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember” he begins. “I studied improvisation at University and around 2006 I began to consistently apply effects such as delay and reverb to my acoustic drums in a more abstract capacity. After moving to NYC in 2010, many of my ideas began to be realised by purely electronic means, and much of this was linked to the modular synthesiser I began to assemble around that time. The concept of my current solo work is to merge the rhythmic sensibilities I have as a percussionist with the flexibility that studio tools can provide.”
Tarnawsky’s experience as a drummer is still something inherent to his work however, and his background as a live musician has left collaboration very much at the core of his interests. Whilst speaking about his assorted projects, the extent of Tarnawsky’s involvement with different groups and artists becomes rather impressive to say the least. “I always have several projects on the go and inevitably they all work together to allow the right ideas to be presented at the right time - it gives you a good sense of using restraint. At the moment, I have two improv groups with the drummer Brian Chase where I process his acoustic playing in a live setting. One is a duo and the other is a quartet with electronics-guru Jaie Gonzalez and bassist Richard Hoffman. I also have an internet sound-art project called ‘Artifacts’ with the great pianist Nathan Liow who is based in Melbourne and additionally, have been playing with another amazing pianist, Richard Bennett here in Brooklyn. We work on very minimal pieces that are inspired by our involvement with composing works for the contemporary dance community.”
Having been brought up in Melbourne Australia originally, Tarnawsky’s past five years have been spent in Brooklyn New York, a city which as he explains, has had quite a strong effect on his creative outlook. “NYC is an amazing place and I think anyone who has visited or lived here before knows what I’m talking about” he considers. “There’s a undeniable energy to the place. Australia also has a very dynamic culture and a great scene - Melbourne in particular - but you are rather isolated living there. For some that works fine but in my circumstance, I had the opportunity to move to NYC and join the band Apache Beat, who I played with for three years. Aside from the day-to-day inspiration of each city, a big impact of each location has to do with logistics. For example, my electronic focus began because I didn’t have a dedicated studio where I could play drums. Most people in Melbourne would go to a rehearsal studio but you’d have to take your gear and set it up every time then pack it down and take it home, load it up your stairs, etc. I would rehearse with my bands but couldn’t actually get any time to work on my electro-acoustic ideas in that environment. Melbourne is rather expensive and I couldn’t afford my own studio whilst living there. Arriving in NYC, I discovered that many people here rent dedicated spaces where they keep gear setup and so forth. Crazily, it’s actually cheaper than doing the same thing in Australia. I now have a studio in my basement that is soundproofed and I can play and record drums at anytime. This is reasonably common practice in the industrial parts of Brooklyn. Back in Australia, I really didn’t know anyone who had that luxury unless they lived somewhere further out of the city.”
With an album of new material currently in the works, Tarnawsky’s mix for us follows a migration common with his own tracks; melding fifty minutes of tough, modular techno with increasingly abstract, ambient leaning soundscapes.