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Alex Roth: 8 "RZZ1" References

"When George asked me if I’d like to come up with a list of eight tracks on a theme of my choice, it made sense to tie the selections in with something I’ve been immersed in recently: the debut track from my trio with Wacław Zimpel and Hubert Zemler [released today here]. I chose the tracks and sent them over with the working title “8 references for the new Roth / Zimpel / Zemler track”. George asked me why I’d called them “references” rather than “influences”, and I think the difference between the two is interesting enough to discuss here briefly.

To my mind, at least in this context, "influence" implies a sense of unilateral linearity which reduces the complexity of the creative process as I experience it: X influenced Y, end of story. “Reference”, on the other hand, seems to allow a multidimensionality that gets closer to describing how I feel about the osmotic relationships between my work and that of others. I’m not so lofty as to deny that I’ve been influenced by other people’s work; of course I have. Indeed, some of the tracks I’ve chosen here factored in to the creative process quite early on and can properly be said to have influenced certain decisions, even if that only became clear after the fact. But others only bubbled up into my consciousness after “RZZ1” had been finished – as reference tracks during mastering, for example, or when I was trying to situate the piece artistically in order to send it to people who might be interested in writing about it or playing it on the radio. In this context, I equate the myriad connections between pieces of music to those between organisms within an ecology: permeable, multifaceted, in constant flux.

And so, to mark the release of “RZZ1”, here are eight pieces that have served as reference points at various stages of our journey so far – whether that be imagining the kind of music we might make together before we first met, discussing personal favourites in rehearsals, or checking my mix against tracks that explore similar sonic spaces." Alex Roth

1. Yossele Rosenblatt - “Adonai Zochoronu” (“The Lord Remembers Us”)

"My favourite recording by one of the all-time greatest cantors. The reference is that I hear something cantorial in Wacław’s sound and his approach to melody – a seeking quality that elicits a powerful emotional response."

2. James Holden & Wacław Zimpel - “Tuesday”

"This track from Wacław’s collaborative EP with producer/synthesist James Holden is a great setting for his soaring alto clarinet, with beautifully interwoven guitar lines from Jakub Ziołek."

3. Opla - “Kosma”

“I love this experimental take on the “oberek” – one of Poland’s five national folk dances (the name derives from the Polish for “to spin”). Hubert and guitarist Piotr Bukowski explore a space between trance-like groove and improvisational freedom – something we often gravitate towards in our trio too."

4. Sunn O))) - “Frost (C)"

"I could live inside this sound. I’d been listening to this record a lot around the time I recorded my part for what would become “RZZ1”. With retrospect, it’s a pretty overt reference but in the moment of creation you’re not always conscious of where ideas are coming from. Wacław’s and Hubert’s contributions would ultimately take our track in a different direction, but this album is definitely a part of its DNA."

5. Tigue - “Quilts”

"Rhythm becomes melody in this Brooklyn-based percussion trio, as lengthy forms are demarcated by intensity shifts in their hypnotic grooves. I hear a similarly compositional approach in Hubert’s playing (check out the band Zebry a Mit’s take on Lithuanian Sutartinės, for example), which I think is informed by his experience of performing music by composers like Lucia Dlugoszewski and Per Nørgård."

6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - “Fam/Famine”

"20-odd years ago, in HMV on Oxford Street, a mysterious, black cardboard CD case embossed with gold Hebrew writing caught my eye. I asked the shop assistant if I could take a quick listen and he gave me a Discman and a pair of headphones (those were the days!). Two minutes later, having been transfixed by the opening string drones and mournful harmonies of “Moya”, I was handing over my cash and walking out the door with Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, a record that still holds a special place in my heart. The track I’ve chosen here is from a more recent GY!BE album, Luciferian Towers, which I was listening to a lot when first trying to imagine the music I wanted to make with Wacław and Hubert. I think that comes across in the slow builds of our music and the cathartic intensity we’re striving to achieve."

7. Éliane Radigue - “Occam Ocean II”

"Wacław, Hubert and I are all deeply interested in how extended musical forms can engender transcendental experiences, and Éliane Radigue is a pioneer in the field. This remarkable, monolithic piece seems almost to have come into existence without human mediation, such is its majestic power. Paradoxically, Radigue’s compositional process involves becoming intimately familiar with individual performers’ instrumental idiosyncrasies. Each piece is then conceived specifically for that musician and transmitted orally in such a way that it can’t be replicated by anyone else. The specificity of this approach overlaps with improvisational practices, wherein the players’ unique musical personalities are a fundamental part of the music too."

8. The Necks - “Aether”

"The masters of long-form improv. I’ve probably heard The Necks live more than any other band. It’s different every time, but it’s also somehow the same. Their mesmeric sets are musical expressions of Heraclitus’s proverb, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

“RZZ1” by Roth / Zimpel / Zemler is released today and available here.

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