The latest Lucinate album Big Noise was one of those gems to appear on the It Djents review list that instantly required more insight; A fresh, electronic, instrumental and jazzy endeavor with seemingly no back story. So what actually went into this great record, and who was the brains behind it? Turns out it’s the one-man project of Bram van der Hoeven, a Netherlands-based composer who takes DIY music making to a whole other level. And Bram kindly took the time to talk to It Djents about some of his processes and inspirations. So where to even start? Creating something as layered is jazz is pretty complicated, right?
‘I wouldn’t say jazz necessarily has many layers’ Bram tells us. ‘But I do tend to fill my songs to the brim with musical elements. The hardest part for me is to keep everything identifiable and to let all elements have a clear musical purpose. Having many layers can make music interesting and rewarding to listen to over and over, but it can also detract from parts that just want to shine.’
And shine it does. But as well as being a profoundly mesmerizing piece of work, it’s also a baffling exercise in musical microsurgery. Big Noise is in fact the intensive and smooth amalgamation of countless sounds from other existing records.
‘It’s 100% sampling’ explains Bram. ‘I did not record or perform anything myself and I haven’t used a single synthesizer. Sampling can be a lot like synthesis, it just depends on how far you want to take it. I love that heavily modified samples can still have this natural and dynamic texture to them. It can be very unpredictable.’
And as anyone who has undergone a similar musical endeavor will know, engineering new from old in this fashion is a lengthy, meticulous and often arduous process.
‘Most of it is trial and error. I always experiment. The final result is often completely different from how I began. I’ve learned to discard and modify anything that I don’t really like no matter how much time and effort I spent on it. I might lose an entire musical idea but gained valuable experience and had fun. It all starts with a certain feeling I have that I want to express. At the time of inspiration this is often still very abstract, and through music I try to make those feelings come to sound. I often make my tracks like a sort of natural environment in which the listener can take a stroll and freely observe. There’s not necessarily a main element that is supposed to draw the most attention. I do have a strong affinity with rhythm. I love making intricate and densely layered rhythm sections and have all kinds of ideas for unique rhythmic phrases and juxtapositions.’
‘At the moment a big part of my creative process involves sampling. I go to a used record store or browse the internet for interesting music before I start composing. I often go through dozens of records to find sounds just for one track. Sometimes I modify the samples to oblivion, other times I leave them pretty much as they are (and anything in between). It all depends on what the music asks for and what I want to do. As long as I feel like I’ve made a genuine creative effort and something of my own, I don’t mind. One of my favorite things to do is to make samples from different sources interact so it sounds like the samples were meant for each other, like harmonizing parts from different songs or making a single melody or chord progression with sounds from different songs. There are times that I know very clearly what I want to do, but I love to experiment and see where the creative flow takes me. Many of my favorite things happen organically. I think that’s when my subconscious takes over. It’s a meditative flow, I try to let the music come through me naturally.’
Big Noise is also a particular departure from previous Lucinate records – Circardium Rhythm, Skip and Metaphysical Modes – in that it heavily focuses on the hallmarks of jazz. Bram himself often describes it as a love letter to the genre.
‘I have been exposed to jazz from a young age” Bran tells us “In my birth home we had two large framed black and white posters of John Coltrane and Dexter Gordon in our hallway. Then when I was 9-years-old I wanted to play the alto saxophone in a local orchestra, probably not a coincidence!’
‘But it didn’t really trigger my love for music and jazz, until we got a new teacher. He was studying jazz at the conservatory and we immediately clicked on a musical level. Whereas previously I was just asked to study from a book, he encouraged me to try to improvise. I was the last student of the evening, so we would go on after the lesson and jam for half an hour. He introduced me to chord changes and how to improvise over them. He also made me tapes of John Coltrane‘s “A Love Supreme” and Sonny Rollins‘ “Saxophone Colossus”. I remember playing a jazz scale in band repetition, when everybody was warming up, and getting flabbergasted looks.’
‘But my real musical passion happened when I became a teenager. The raging hormones triggered a sense of rebellion and freedom, and music was the perfect expression of that: Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana… all that stuff. They didn’t have saxophone players though. My dad was a bassist and had self-made bass guitars hanging on the walls in our house, so I picked up the bass and it immediately clicked. I played in a lot of cool bands and jam sessions. I was playing for many hours every day. In this period I was especially infatuated with jazz fusion, and I had all the Weather Report albums on cd. I am a big fan of the work of Jaco Pastorius. The bass playing on his tune “Havona” is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.’
‘As my music taste evolved I was getting more and more into electronic music. At first I thought it was plastic and robotic… Not ‘real’. I remember a Squarepusher interview where Tom Jenkins said that when he started programming beats on a computer, he immediately noticed that there was something unique there. And that’s exactly what happened to me. The computer doesn’t substitute a human musician and human playing is not necessarily more ‘real’. They are just different forms of musical expression. What really triggered me in a big way was the work of Aphex Twin, because it was the first time I really heard the broad spectrum of sonic and rhythmical possibilities in electronic music. It was so exciting to hear all these wildly varying directions in his music. It was like sorcery. So I downloaded Fruity Loops and started experimenting. I became more and more passionate about it and ended up giving the bass a bit less attention. Then I decided to go on and study composition and music technology in college. At this point I just wanted to make crazy imaginative music and make good use of the possibilities of electronic music. Jazz was not a big part of it yet.’
‘As the years went by I gradually involved more samples from other music in my own, and I noticed I had a knack for it. It went from using a couple of samples to almost turning fully sample-based within a couple of years. I found a way to involve my time with jazz and bass playing with the electronic music I was making…’
And regarding the name ‘Lucinate’…
‘I was looking for a decent artist name for many years, went through tons of them. ‘Flocks’ (like birds), ‘Impulse Generator’ (found it in a book on electronic sound), ‘Lofiraym’ (go figure…), ‘Tooms‘ (yes, that X-Files monster from the “Squeeze” episode) and more, but they didn’t feel right. I wanted an artist name instead of my given name because it felt like more fun. Then I came up with ‘Lucinate’. Not sure how and when. It’s a made up word that’s based on ‘hallucinate’ but it means the opposite: When you hallucinate you are seeing new things that weren’t there before, when you lucinate you see new things that actually were there before. Whatever reality is, there’s so much of it that humans do not register. It can also simply mean something similar to ‘elucidate’.
As far as other influences go, Bram names us but a fraction: ‘Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius and Weather Report, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Miles Davis, Amon Tobin, Luke Vibert, DJ Shadow, J Dilla and The Avalanches. I guess the usual suspects. There are many more, but specifically for the music I make right now I’ve learned a lot by listening to their music.’
And as far as the future goes for this mighty endeavor, Bram isn’t certain, though hopefully, it will be a long one. As we speak, he is working on his first live set, a milestone which we will hopefully start to witness on a regular basis. ‘It feels like I’m just getting started. I want to keep developing my skills as there’s still so much to learn and explore. I just finished Big Noise and already I’m full of new ideas for the next project and I want to start performing. I’m thinking of incorporating more electronics and live playing in my next project. I would love to work with other people. Maybe even start a band some day.’
One way or another, Bram’s dedication to his craft can be summed with a simple response to a simple question: What does music mean to you personally?
Answer: ‘Everything… I do try to prioritize myself and other people above music, but I don’t always succeed.’
You can hear Big Noise and other Lucinate releases on Lucinate‘s Spotify and Soundcloud pages. You can hear other King Deluxe stuff on the King Deluxe Records Bandcamp page. For all other latest info, visit Lucinate‘s official Facebook page.