Lapalux (Credit: Ozge Cone)
Stuart Howard on hardware, production, and consciousness...

Club culture has always obsessed over the interaction between sound and the body.

Lapalux takes this one step further. New album 'Ruinism' - out now on Brainfeeder - picks apart the nature of consciousness, building on the hynagogic reflexes of previous album 'Lustmore' to craft something remarkable.

Embracing transition, the producer explores matters of life and death, allowing this to spark a series of shifts - some subtle, some remarkable - in the way he constructs his own music.

Clash caught up with Lapalux to find out more.

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How did this theme of consciousness come to inhabit the album?

The previous record - ‘Lustmore’ - was about the idea of consciousness between waking life and sleeping. ‘Ruinism’ is a more about the focus of life and death. The idea of that really sparked out of a theatrical performance art-piece I did called ‘Depart’, which was set in a graveyard. I composed all the music for it, and ‘Ruinism’ came from that, really. The idea of where we go when we die, and that play between consciousness and unconsciousness. I guess that’s the main inspiration and where I started working fully on the record like a year and a half, two years ago.

How do those philosophical concerns manifest themselves in the music?

I think really working on the score, I kind of re-edited it, and worked towards making ‘Ruinism’. It’s the first record that I’ve just fully done hardware – keyboards, drum machines, bits of modular, stuff like that… I would jam for a while, record it, and then break it down and edit it in software on the computer. After the fact. And that degrading or ruining the sound perpetuated the idea of this afterlife, or some sort of weird place in consciousness, I guess.

Are these improvised jams? Or is this record more tightly structured than that?

I was sitting there, playing on the equipment, and then I’d take those and edit little bits and parts and pieces. I found the restrictions of music hardware to be very freeing, to get away from the computer was really nice. But then, the heavily edited parts of it were… production wise focussing on getting each sound mixed right, playing sounds off one another, making sure it all melts together was a very structured process, a very time-consuming process. Some of the tracks on the record took two, three, even four months to complete, in some instances.

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Making sure it all melts together was a very structured process...

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Did your approach necessitate the kit you acquired? Or did the equipment help guide the approach of the record?

I would say getting a new bit of gear – whether it be new or old – if you get something new there’s this enthusiasm again, there’s this spark of creativity that comes from using that gear. There’s certain constraints with using hardware, specifically old hardware like Korg Poly 6 that is throughout the record. There’s a lot of constraints. You can only get a certain amount of sounds out of that synth, and to have that raw sound is a really nice thing. It’s hard to emulate that with software.

My Korg probably breaks down every month or so, it goes out of tune, something blows on it, one of the knobs won’t work. With that, there comes this constraint that is nice to work under, to be honest. I like working with more constraint now because working with software is endless. I still find myself going down the wormhole of using software to just go crazy.

A lot of the stuff that I record doesn’t come just straight out, as it would if I recorded using a Poly 6 straight off the bat. I like the constraints that hardware sometimes gives you, and then I like expanding that and going down the software wormhole after the fact.

Was there a moment when these complex themes and approaches began to coalesce?

I think early on, actually, when I started working on ‘Beta Demon’ - that was one of the first tracks that I actually started working on. And the fullness of that song, and the vast editing that I’d done on that song really… that was the trigger moment for me to knuckle down, get my head down and focus on making the record really eclectic and using a varied palette of sounds. A live vocal, strings, as well as hardware instruments, effects units, guitar, tape machines… I really just wanted to go all out, basically.

I thought, looking back on older records, now I think maybe there could be more than I had done, maybe. But obviously, at that time – especially ‘Lustmore’, ‘Lost Hour Sheet’ - they’re of a time that I was still maturing, and still am maturing, my art form. So I guess, working on ‘Data Demon’ was one of the first tracks that I started for the record, and I really thought that set the bar for the rest of the album to be something that I was really going to focus on for two years and really try to nail it this time.

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She has this sort of emptiness to her voice which I really wanted to try and encapsulate...

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There are guest artists on here, how did you begin to incorporate outside voices on such an intricate project?

Well, particularly working with JFDR… my manager actually sent some of her bits and pieces to me, just to see what I thought about it, and I was like wow, yeah, this is amazing! A while back. And then I hit him up and said ‘yeah, she’d be great to work on this project’. On two or three songs.

The reasoning behind me picking her is that she’s Icelandic and she has this sort of emptiness to her voice which I really wanted to try and encapsulate. Especially ‘Flickering’ on the album, it’s a very sparse, tape loop song, it’s a very simple song but there’s an emptiness that really suited that.

And with the other tracks that she’s on there’s this sparse emptiness that I really wanted to work with. But then working with Talvi, as well, and Louisa, it was just basically I’d been a fan of both of their stuff for ages, and I just decided to hit them up because I thought they’d work really well. Especially Louisa, as well, with her sultry… It’s another empty-sounding vocal she has, a very heartfelt poetic voice, and I wanted to harness that and put that on the record, too.

Was that sparseness something you were aiming to achieve from the beginning?

Definitely. I think I’m more focussed nowadays… there’s still a maximalist side to my approach in music, but more and more I find nowadays that simplicity can work really well as a device in things. Especially after something so full on. I like that divide between something full on like ‘Petty Passion’ - the second half of that song is just full on, drums, distorted… but then, half-way through the record you have this mellowed out, very simple, minimalist idea… and I love that play.

Recently I’ve really got into that juxtaposition between the two ideas, a very minimal idea but then with a full on maximalist side to it to balance it out. I’ve been focussing on that approach in songwriting.

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I fully trust her eye for seeing my music for what it is...

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Who inspires you from a minimalist perspective? Is it from electronic work, or more inclined towards modern classical?

I’ve definitely been listening to a lot more techy, techno, house vibes… but I would say mainly it’s to do with listening to a lot of classical music. Especially choral classical music – as well as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Gorecki, Penderecki… people of that ilk. And blending those two ideas, of the very harsh, techno sound but then with a flowing classical idea to them as well.

Marielle Tepper comes on board as creative director, which is an interesting move.

Well we worked together on the last record, visually. And with this one, it seemed like the right thing to do as well. I know her very well, she’s a very close friend of mine, and I fully trust her eye for seeing my music for what it is. And her ideas, her visual ideas are very strong, and she sees things almost instantaneously - she hears something as a visual thing.

I like to think I’m very much that sort of way as well, so we kind of bounce ideas of each other in that respect. And getting her on board to do the ‘Data Demon’ video was great as well. It kind of all fit into this concept – the whole record, the packaging, the video, and everything else. Every other visual aspect of it as well.

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I’d love to just bring my whole studio but that’s not an option.

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Given the complex nature of the recording how will this album translate as a live experience?

I’m basically working on what I’m going to be able to do live, and what I can travel around with. I recently got into modular stuff, so I want to incorporate that, as well, into the live show. I want to bring a drum machine along with me live, as well as a little Korg to do bits and pieces live. There’s a new visual show as well that we’re trying to put together now as well. There’s a lot of exciting things at the moment.

Constraints of what I can actually travel with are being really annoying at the moment! I’d love to just bring my whole studio but that’s not an option. I’m trying to break down everything into a live environment.

Over the years I’ve been changing, doing things differently, just to make it a fun experience for me, as well as the crowd. So it involves a lot more experimentation, really. Drum machines, sampling on the fly, it’s quite fun to do and play around with adding little bits and pieces of songs and manipulating them on the fly. So I’ve been having fun trying to do that at the moment.

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'Ruinism' is out now on Brainfeeder - order LINK.

For tickets to the latest Lapalux shows click HERE.

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