Rasmus Juncker: How floating tanks and mental cesura lead to an experimental dream world
Danish musician, sound composer and DJ Rasmus Juncker has just released his atmospheric and elaborate album Ophold via Francis Harris’ label Kingdoms!
With a background in studying jazz drumming and playing improvised music within the jazz domain for many years, the Copenhagen-based artist developed a remarkable vanguard 6-tracker. He brought many different musicians with various backgrounds to his studio and left the process as well as the final result completely open. Ophold contains a plurality of sounds, ethereal and blissful as well as grainy and unearthly, drone textures, rhythmic excursions and pulsing modular passages. With connecting the dots between ambient, leftfield electronica and modern classical, Juncker is definitely a promising artist to add to your radar.
The album name Ophold means cesura in English. Your main approach for the album was lowering your guards and let improvisation taking over, bowdlerising yourself and trying to reach a blank slate state of mind. Was it hard to abandon control over the musical process at first?
It took a lot of courage to realise that I needed to lose control in order to regain it. I have struggled with the creative process for a while before realising this. I needed to find a cesura and I discovered it in a floating tank. Moreover, the term cesura has a double meaning. Both as a musical term describing a silent pause in which there is no metrical time and as a philosophical idea of experiencing this in your own mind. When I found the connection between philosophy and music, the creative process began to flourish.
How did lying in a floating tank affect your thoughts about the album?
I went to the tank a couple of times without any real effect. It was actually not a pleasant experience since the salt was really hurting everywhere and it was nearly impossible to relax. After a couple of visits, I became used to the feeling and got much deeper down in my experience. The first time I experienced the sensory deprivation without sound, light or sense of touch, I immediately woke up and wanted to do music. It really inspired me to erase my idea of music composition and production in order to work on new methods in my studio.
What were the influences of the musicians you worked with and why did you particularly choose those who are featured?
I chose a quite diverse group of musicians to work with. I wanted to gather musicians with different backgrounds in classical, jazz and electronic field in order to combine them. I have heard the string quartet Halvcirkel play an improvised concert in a public swimming pool for instance and invited them to the studio some months later. They are doing some wonderful and original recordings of modern composers such as Arvo Pärt, Terry Riley and Philip Glass which I highly recommend checking out. On guitar, I worked with Rasmus Oppenhagen Krogh who is a long-time friend of mine. We used to play jazz music together and Rasmus has an absolutely mesmerizing tone on his instrument and we ended up investigating various possibilities. A lot of the crackle, droning and resonating sounds resulted from that. On synthesizers, I invited Sebastian Garst Kropp with whom I used to play with in another project. He brought a wide selection of amazing synths to my studio and from the first patch we did, I knew that we were on to something. We had a couple of great days experimenting and I borrowed his synths for another few weeks to continue working with them. Sebastian used to work with a similar approach with his band Mana Pool, playing improvised and experimental electronic music. On double bass, I asked Vincent Ruiz to join me because I heard his minimalism in the trio Plaistow. I picked the song ‘Eksotisk Tirsdag’ and he seriously played some of the most beautiful stuff from the very first take. Funnily, I randomly recorded his warm up routine before, which then ended up becoming the drone layers behind the drums in ‘Havekunst’ as well.
Could you describe your studio setup and how your recording process happened?
My studio consists of three rooms. I used two of the rooms as recording rooms for strings, drums, guitar and double bass while having a separate control room. I have set up various types of microphones in different experimental settings before the musicians came in. Besides recording the instruments, I also recorded the rooms background noises such as the ventilation as an ambient layer. I used omni-directional DPA microphones which recorded the room when the strings played and at a certain moment, the ventilation stopped. There was some kind of pressure release which resulted in a sudden extreme bass sound in my recording. I decided to use it. Additonally, the guitar pedal board had a loose jack connection and I played around with it, giving some new textures to the track ‘Cyklus’. After the recording process, I re-arranged the parts and started to compose. I then used them as a new audio frame for the next musician until I finally recorded percussions and additional synthesizers myself. Andreas Pallisgaard was responsible for the mixing process and we worked with the same approach. His unconventional mixing techniques with distortion, tape modulation and deep understanding of the music gave the finishing touch.
The album contains many layers and different textures but they all have a certain softness in common without seeming to feel brittle. Do you sometimes have the feeling to do the complete opposite?
Yes, I do but it seems that the process of this album which contained the sensory deprivation tanks, the anechoic chamber I have visited, the musicians and their improvisations has lead to a sound which is rather quiet. It also came from my intention to create a sonic field of machines and acoustics instruments growing together. I noticed that it is quite common to start an improvisation slowly and then let it grow into faster and noisier textures. It is rare to hear improvised music and especially more popular music starting from a complete noisy chaos and then going the other way. Could be an interesting approach, though.
I finished the album in April 2017 and played it to a couple of friends. Many told me that I should try to find an international label but it was quite difficult to get in touch with anyone. I spent some months not really knowing what to do with it before my friend Jenny Rossander (also known as Lydmor) mailed me. She was into the record and sent it to her label hfn Music in Germany by herself which is working together with Francis. A couple of months later, I received a mail from him in which he told me that he wanted to release it. I had not known them beforehand since the label has freshly startet but after listening to their first two releases there was absolutely no doubt that working together felt like a perfect idea.
Lastly, what will the near future bring? Is there anything you are looking forward to?
This record was done as a collaborative and experimental approach which is nearly impossible to realize live. My next project is focusing on new live-oriented music created from my own setup of synthesizers and percussion. I have always loved playing live shows so I will definitely aim into that direction soon. It will hopefully lead to new music and a coherent release in the future as well.
Rasmus Juncker – Ophold (Kingdoms)
VÖ: 08. June 2018; 12″, digital
Interview: Tim Schulze
Text: Tim Schulze
Photo: Neal McQueen