For saxophonist and producer Laura Misch, the regimented, sound-panelled box of the recording studio was beginning to feel claustrophobic. On debut album ‘Sample The Sky’ she broke out – literally. Armed with a preamp, looper, delay pedal and zoom on a ‘pedal belt’, she was able to play and record tracks outside. “The concept was Lara Croft, but she has a zoom instead of a gun!” Laura grins through the screen of our video call. .
Her saxophone days began as a small-scale rebellion against the structure of her violin lessons, which her Dad, brother and sister also played. Her guiding influence, naturally, was Lisa Simpson. “At the time there wasn’t the Nubya Garcias or the Cassie Kinoshis,” she explains. “We’re in such an exciting time for female saxophonists, but back then [Lisa] was the only saxophonist I really identified with.”
‘Sample The Sky’ is built upon field recordings taken from parks in and around London. Laura variously captured the texture of wind through branches, the rhythm of running streams and – on album opener ‘Hide To Seek’ – the inside of a tree trunk. It was her friend, audio artist James Bulley, who sent her the geophone sample that shudders into life at the beginning of the track. “It just gives me this tingle,” Laura says. “It has a randomisation to it percussively, which I find really organic.”
The record’s genesis lay in those field recordings, in sounds that humans have been hearing and responding to for millennia. Its inspiration also came from the melting colours of the sky and seeing natural landscapes so awe-inspiring that you’re compelled to take a photo and share it with a friend. “It’s a tapestry, this global blanket we’re all wrapped in,” Laura muses. “Watching sunsets and sunrises has been something I find deeply comforting, especially in a world that can feel, with the light and the electricity, like it never stops.”
For all its bathing in nature and tapping into trees’ internal monologues, ‘Sample The Sky’ isn’t inaccessibly abstract. It fits comfortably among left-field pop, hoovering up several years’ worth of influences – from the improvised wonder of Alabaster DePlume, to the hard-earned technique of Shabaka Hutchings or playfulness of Caroline Polachek. A fascination with Berlin’s experimental underground even led to a brief determination to produce beatless reverb sax, though she later changed her mind.
With her long-awaited debut out in the world, Laura is already eager to explore new ground. “So much has shifted since I made it, which was almost a year ago now,” she says. “Life has moved on, and it’s quite painful to still be waiting!”
‘Sample The Sky’ is out now.
Words: Caitlin Chatterton
Photography: William Darby