Snowy Mix For Synesthetic Commuters was made only recently, yet the weather has thrown so many curve balls at us that it’s hard to know if this mix will still feel appropriate. After the unseasonably warm weather that’s just blown through Montreal- the long hoped for sun’s rays dissipating the fog of winter depression- was replaced by another light blanket of snow, this mix seems to have all the more resonance as the cold rolls back in, the snows continue their gradual retreat. Perhaps this March was more like “in like a lamb”?
Curated by Zachary Corsa of the North Carolina husband and wife duo Lost Trail, this is a perfect mix for spacing out and relaxing, inside or out. Steeped in the landscapes of their home state, Lost Trail make evocative ambient drones using lo-fi and “obsolete” recording technologies. The new label they curate, Wood Thrush recordings, has just released a new tape compilation (full disclosure: it includes a track from yours truly), and the pair are set to tour the NOrtheast US and Canada.
I’d also like to plug that this mix served as the soundtrack to my reading of Briank K. Vaughan’s excellent return to comics, Saga #1. I suspect most of you may not be regular comics readers, but this new creator-owned work is sure to win over even the skeptics among you. In addition to writing big time mainstream superhero books like the X-Men, BKV is best known for his stellar series Y: The Last and Ex Machina, as well as the Iraqi war inspired graphic novel Pride of Baghdad and for being a writer on some of the best seasons of Lost. This literally stellar series takes place amidst an intergalactic war, but is really just about an average couple struggling to raise and protect their daughter. Zach’s mix set the tone perfectly, so if you trust me, do yourself a favor and check it out.
Now, on to some Q&A with Zachary Corsa.
So, tell us about this mix. How did you organize it, what were you thinking?
Zachary Corsa: So much of the ambient and experimental music I love is cold and gray to my synesthetic mind. I always envision something like driving down an interstate highway around dusk, through a dead forest in winter or surrounded by flat dead fields adrift with melting snow. Everything gray and carved in sharp, geometric lines, the man made melting seamlessly with the natural. I was trying to evoke that atmosphere with this mix; the haunting quality of that sort of scene. Some pieces just fit that world perfectly, and those are the type of pieces I gravitate towards.
Your work deals a lot with tape and creative use of media. How’d you produce this mix, any special tape edits or outboard tinkering?
I guess I kept it pretty simple and let the music speak for itself, to be honest. It wasn’t my own stuff, so I felt it a good idea to just let the music weave its own tapestry. The type of music I love has enough of those elements already, and if I started adding my own shades and colors, I’d get carried away completely.
What are you, and Lost Trail, up to?
Lost Trail is working on our first film, shot in simple digital, that expounds on the theme of a lot of our music, which is that space where the man-made environment and the wilds of nature interact in unexpected and beautiful ways. We’re aiming to capture a sense of that in North Carolina, which is a state where the past rests deeply in the bones of even the newest human landscapes. The past is like an ever-present echo here, one that never stops shifting and swelling. So then, of course, when shooting is done, we’re going to score the film, which is something we’ve never done before and are very excited about. We’ve wanted to tackle scoring for quite some time. Our music recording process is usually very improv and spontaneous and quick, so it will be quite a challenge to make something measured and paced and mapped out to be matched with visuals. The visual medium has always been a big part of our aesthetic, as we’re both artists in fields outside of music, as well, so it makes sense. Other than the film project, we’re coming out with a split C60 soon with our friend Marcus Eads, who runs Sunup Recordings in Minnesota and who has released our stuff before. That project will be released jointly on Sunup and our own little tape label, Wood Thrush Tapes. Outside of Lost Trail, I plan on keeping busy with putting tapes out for friends, producing a friend or two’s work, and focusing on my writing and my photography. Denny also is a painter, and has a full-time job in childcare, so we stay busy.
Do you feel like digital media have alienated outsider music communities (through over saturation, less need for physical, communal spaces), or helped them by making obscure material easier to access and making the community larger? How do mixes play into this (vs file sharing, which for me is very different)?
Personally, I’m an introverted person. I don’t really go to shows, and we aren’t part of any scene to speak of, even if such a thing did exist in North Carolina. I’ve never been a record store guy, either. There’s just as much love in discovering something in digital form for me, that I can relax privately with, with a nice pair of headphones. That’s how I prefer to experience music. I value the visual aspect of a physical package, but the convenience is really invaluable. Frankly, as a small-town eastern North Carolina kid, I wouldn’t have been turned onto most of this stuff without the internet, so I wouldn’t be making it by now, anyway. I do think it crowds the playing field and makes it harder to make a living off of this, but it was never easy to begin with, and certainly home recording software, while enabling a lot of shit musicians to crowd the field, also allows us to do what we do better. Classic double-edged sword. And as I said, living where I do in NC, there’s no music scene, least of all for ambient music, but I am part of a scene of people I’ve met online and touring, a constantly growing network across the country and the globe. Used to be, a scene was city-based, e.g. Seattle. Now, you can have a scene across all those boundaries, thanks to that technology. So it’s made the community larger, for me, a notorious shut-in who doesn’t go out of his way to meet people. As far as mixes go, it’s always been the same principle to me, from the mixtape up to the download, it’s eternal. We could get into a whole defense of filesharing, which I won’t do and which others have done more eloquently, but overall I think the internet has helped the music world, especially niche genres, more than its hurt it. I know for a fact I could not be doing this without the internet community, no way.
Anything else to add?
I don’t usually get political, but if anyone from North Carolina is reading, remember to vote NO on Amendment One in May. For the future of our state as a progressive beacon of the South, and for the future of our families and citizens. This is a major turning point in our history as a state, and it’s crucial that we move forwards, not backwards. So if anyone is on the fence, for any reason, consider the far-reaching repercussions of using a rights-granting document to violate the civil liberties of your neighbors, and please make the right decision, one that will reflect kindly on us in the history books. Let’s show the world that our state is welcoming and accepting, not bigoted. This is too important a moment to do the wrong thing.