This atmospheric album "Hunting for hills" is the culmination of fifteen years of musical experiments and long, inspiring trips in Asia.
Back in 2004, I found myself in a dusty garage shop full of musical instruments somewhere in Calcutta. I bought an Indian harmonium because I just loved that sound. It felt good and it felt like more. After many more travels, I ended up with an arsenal of quirky acoustic instruments each with their own story. Today, they have become a crucial part of the Suntapes sound and appear on a lot of tunes of my new album that will be released on June 7th.
One of my early tunes "Alone" combines the Phin (a three stringed lute from Thailand), Moroccan bass (Sintir) and lap steel guitar I found in Vietnam. The last one has a Fender sticker on it, so it's definitely good stuff :-). Here's how that sounds:
The tune "Guzheng" evolves around the Chinese harp called Guzheng (no kidding) as well as the Chinese ruan (like a big wooden banjo), the Indian harmonium and many more sounds. Check it out:
I tried all kinds of combinations of instruments and experimented with different effects and field recordings I have made. Of course I kept composing on the grand piano and synthesizers, so you'll be hearing a lot of that too.
More and more I have come to realize that the instrumental music I make are soundtracks for the places I travelled to. Tunes that remind me of vast foreign landscapes or people in traditional clothes chatting in dusty roads. Feels like some kind of sweet spot where music & traveling come together.
On June 7th 2018 I'm releasing the album "Hunting for hills" on all streaming platforms, online stores and also on CD and LP. Release show will be in Theater Tinnenpot.
Circus these days has become something totally different than most people think. Circus acts in Belgium are very disperse, modern and always a bit surreal. No wonder most of these companies play shows all over the world. In coöperation with Circuscentrum Vlaanderen we're creating videos to show what circus in Flanders is all about.
Cameraman Jakob Rosseel and I created 10 one-minute films that show each circus company in an outside setting somewhere in Flanders. Location hunting was an interesting part. We used deserted harbor areas, roundabouts, train tunnels, graveyards, strange houses, rooftops. In some cases the collective played a part of the act they are touring with. Sometimes it was just improvisation.
For every film I composed a custom soundtrack to go along with the vibe of the act.
I'm currently working on the live performance of different Suntapes tunes. Over the last year I've done different one-offs and improvisation sessions each time with different acoustic and analogue instruments. My ideal is to have all my instruments on stage and use them all to create a complete concert with soundscapes and melodies. Since it's hard to handle so many instruments on stage, I have to make a selection. So I'm going for piano, harmonium, Chinese lute, Thai pin, slide guitar, mellotron sounds, Hofner bass, Korg minilogue and possibly the Chinese guhzeng (harp). This should be quite enough to perform 10 to 12 songs. More or less the instruments on this picture:
Another crucial part of the performance from now on will be the visuals. I've done a few try-outs the last few months without visuals, but it's not the same. VJ Kasper Jordaens will use the imagery I've shot on different travels and process it live. The result should be a compelling audio-visual trip through different places in the world. After all a "one-man soundtrack orchestra" is nothing without the films the music is meant for.
Leeroy New is a renowned contemporary artist from Manilla in the Philippines. Kapow Movement invited him to Belgium. I was happy to do a very special performance with him and the filipino dancer Ea Torrado.
I played improvised music for a 30 minute dance performance. The act built up slowly with the attaching of the latex. I used my Chinese lute to build a first sound loop. After that I used the analog Korg Minilogue synthesizer to simulate the stretching of latex and to create some kind of weird dance vibe that Ea then moved to. A very hypnotic performance! It was great fun to do.
Check out a short video impression of the experience:
It seems some people have figured out life better than others. John struck me as somebody who found his perfect place in the world and his own way of living.
The sun was starting to set when me and my family took the long drive to John's ranch on the border of Nevada and California. We stopped in the small town of Cedarville to stock up on groceries for a few days. From there we drove through the rough landscape of Surprise valley. Nothing more than sand, stones and startled jack rabbits sprinting away. John’s long ranch is so remote, you have to be kind of a loner to live there. And so it seems.
The ranch is a collection of old houses, barns and cabins scattered over what can only be described as a green oasis in the middle of a desert. Surprise valley is surrounded by rather dry mountain ranges, but the climate is not as hot as the area around in Redding. The best thing is that the ranch sits on top of a natural spring. John makes great use of this spring water and even built a lovely swimming pool. Swimming in a oasis with view on the mountains. Just great! The fresh water was also the reason the native Indians used it in the early days. All kinds of plants and trees are growing which in turn attracts a large range of birds I had never seen before.
Somewhere in the nineteenth century a wealthy American family has bought the land and built the ranch for a whole family. All the different buildings had their own use, there even was a small school cabin were the children received education. John has re-arranged this wooden cabin for guests to stay over. That’s were we stayed. Our kids loved to sleep in the mezzanine area on top. We loved to wake up with endless views on surprise valley.
John has bought the run down ranch twenty years ago and has been refurbishing it on his own ever since. There's a lot of work to be done and it’s hard work. I have nothing but respect for the choice John has made. He managed to find a unique place and make it his own. When a local friend of him introduced him to Airbnb he opened up the ranch for Airbnb guests. It will probably not become a huge touristic success, actually I hope not because it would spoil the quirky character it has. Wefound our stay nothing less than amazing.
While I was there I did some filming and afterwards put a soundtrack on the film. I hope this shows the atmosphere.
I hooked up with Kasper from Kaosbeat to bring this video performance on #byob Ghent. The soundtracks to the images was played live with keyboard, slide guitar and my looping set up with Ableton. The live visual effects are done by Kasper. It was our first collaboration but definitely not our last. The whole evening was great fun for us. The public seemed to dig it since we won the public crowdfunding price that evening.
Check out one of the takes we recorded:
My view on the visuals:
During the exposition "Rauw" I played the live soundtrack for a short film. An experience for 2 people at a time. It's all very direct and raw, without any effects. I build up and break down different loops straight from the microphone into the headphones of the people watching. For this set I used my Thai Pin for different melodies, the Morrocan Gnawa with lovely bass sound and the slide guitar for the opening sound.
I probably played it about 80 times over the course of the 2 weekends. I recorded the last take and made a youtube film about it. Check it out:
"Rauw" is an exposition by Suntapes, sculptor Christoph Annys and photographer Kris Goubert.
Suntapes will set up a video installation. During the exposition, several videos will bring visitors to different places in the world. I want people to really get immersed in these places. Enjoy places with your eyes and ears. I have composed a soundtrack to go with each video.
As usual, I used exotic music instruments to record the compositions. Not too much editing, mixing and mastering. "Raw" is how we like it.
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Wumu is a tiny mountain village on a steep hillside in Yunnan, China. I've spent 3 weeks there so I had some time to film in the rugged area and the town. I edited this small film around a soundtrack tune I had already recorded before.