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New York-based producer ADR, who also works as one half of the duo Gatekeeper, has shared a collage-based new video for “Every Node,” off his recently released LP Throat. The self-produced clip evokes the experience of scrolling through a Google image search for “mouth,” and builds on conceptual questions explored on the new album about the relationship between mediated communication and the voice. Every sound on Throat is a vocal sample of some kind; “Every Node” finds ADR using the technique to produce something that’s equal parts funny, gorgeous, and uncanny.
He spoke to THUMP about the how he arrived at the album’s concept, the way stock sounds became members of the record’s virtual band, and the innovative production styles of unknown YouTube users in an interview conducted via email.
THUMP: Throat seems to play with the relationship between materiality (the voice) and meaning (ideas and emotions). The malleability of this relationship is arguably pretty important in our “post-truth” moment, particularly in how it can be disrupted or disjointed insidious intentions. How would you characterize the way you approached the vocal samples here?
ADR: Yes exactly…while the distance between our ideas and our means of communicating them has never been shorter, it is consequently so short that no conclusions exist.
A musics’ linguistic and syntactical comprehensibility isn’t significant in the clickbait era. The affect of a melody made from a digitally-processed string of unrelated syllables has the ability to reduce centuries of language into binary noise. The axis between word and sound is a space rich with opportunity, blurring legibility for the sake of freeing form.
While this is a compelling facet of today’s music, the same phenomenon elsewhere creates dangerous geopolitical distortions. By valuing moments over stories, we get the visceral thrill of experience with no understanding of context. We find the information we need to fight white supremacy alongside baby monkey gifs and conspiracy theories. All contributions are chucked into the void, with spare means to distinguish anything from anything else.
This equal-opportunity relationship to quick and often illegible information has an inevitably accelerationist effect on art making. I think my approach to vocal sampling on this record was largely guided by that.
How did you arrive at the voice as a subject of exploration for this record? Was it a gradual process or was it more of an epiphany?
Last winter I discovered some software designed for producers trying to create the Skrillex/Bieber vocal chop effect that took over the airwaves in 2015. Realizing how flexible these tools are, I began to visualize a world entirely built from processed vocal sounds, unleashing the vibrancy and expressive power of the voice for every instrument in the mix. Many of the voices come from stock production libraries, where ideas and emotions exist like presets, ready to stand in for any kind of emotional expression. These stems ended up working nicely when treated like members of the band, processed to each contribute something small and personal to the greater whole.
What kinds of research did you find yourself doing for Throat?
I become obsessed with the way vocal music has functioned historically, through chanting and prayer, and the neurochemical responses the brain has to the collective experience of singing together. I came across some amazing ethnomusicological recordings archiving polyphonic and polyrhythmic vocal chanting styles from around the world…and I wondered about the process of transference from a pure physical action to a considered digital facsimile, what would be retained and/or lost? What could be found?
I also studied contemporary pop music, and specifically acapella covers of pop songs on YouTube, which is a surprising place to find some groundbreaking vocal production techniques. These YouTubers who decide to sing every instrumental part of a Top 40 banger really know how to make the voice fill every frequency, and mimic just about every timbre imaginable. Although the affect here might be way too far on the thespian spectrum for most tastemakers, lol.
How do the explorations on the LP relate to what you were doing with Deceptionista last year? Would you say there’s a clear recurring theme in all the different projects you’ve undertaken?
Our collective experience in the ultra-present is always in the foreground of my thought process, so I feel like the links between my projects tend to be more theoretical than musical. Musical styles to me are like porous containers which can sift through difficult ideas and make them friendlier to different folks, based on their individual entrance narratives. This means that the music frame must be always changing if the message is to reach its maximum velocity. We must be fearless in asking questions about how technology is remapping our modes of communication and restructuring the greater value of meaning itself…we must identify when it is working to connect us, and when it is dangerously dividing us apart.