Xqui is an emerging ambient/experimental artist who has just released his debut album ‘Dragon’. Already compared to the likes of Brian Eno, Clint Mansell and Basinski, Dragon is made up of manipulated sounds fed through phone apps and programmes to create breath-taking soundscapes and backdrops. We have asked Xqui to talk us through the concept and inspirations behind each track on the album.
“My musical taste has always been pretty varied but, ambient music came to me quite late, maybe only over the last three or four years to be honest. At first, I was relatively dismissive of it but slowly my appreciation seemed to grow, firstly via the predictable influence of the likes of Eno but slowly moving on to John Hassell and Laraaji in more recent times. It has become a genre that I have taken quite a liking to and has opened doors to a fascinating world of not only ambient but also drone and experimental noise.
The noise aspect was quite a revelation and I was particularly intrigued by the likes of Chow Mwng and Cahn Ingold Prelog who argue the definition of music as a whole in that all sound is effectively music. Our brains seem to define music independently and filter out what it considers to be irrelevant and it was that side that appealed to me. Who is to say that the sound of motorway traffic or a crowded café can’t be interpret as music? Those two artists thought nothing of recording a busy office, a supermarket check-out or a drive-through carwash and in my opinion the results are absolutely incredible. I thought that I would explore the world of field recordings and, once I had the idea to put the sounds through various phone apps and then start to play with them afterwards. I found that the results were far better than I had imagined and the process of turning organic sounds into something more tangible began.
It can be quite an unpredictable process. Some sounds work, and others just don’t, and it is that that makes the project even more intriguing. After a while, I realised sounds that would work and others that wouldn’t. Some sounds, no matter how much I have played with them haven’t sounded right to date, but I am building quite a catalogue of sounds that may become useful in the future. The idea behind Dragon was to put together a collective of different sounds, music and noise, in the same way that record companies put out sampler albums of their artists. I wanted to showcase the differing sides to Xqui – ambient, noise and experimental – and use it as a platform to introduce people to what they could expect. The album was actually completed before the release of the Britannia and Kindness EPs and the reception to those EPs was quite humbling.
The first track on the album, I, was the last track to be finished. I’d already completed the album and decided on the running order and, the plan was for I to be part of a future release. It features sampled wind chimes and included the voices of several friends with their attempts to guess the pronunciation of Xqui. The background sound is a slowed down version of me pronouncing the name, which incidentally is ‘ZeeKee’, and my voice is also faintly heard at the end. The remaining voices include my wife, daughter and Sheer Zed (who has remixed Spark for a future remix EP) amongst others. It was Simon from Radio Europa who suggested it would make a brilliant opening to the album and he was quite right.
Through the various EP and album reviews to date I have purposely kept things very low-key and secretive. There is no PR preamble and I am limiting info to that shared via Twitter. I like the instantaneous side of Twitter and it allows me to continue to be anonymous for the time being. Photos and track links are all I feel I need at the moment. This simplicity also extends to song titles where they are all one single word, usually derived from the sound source, it serves to continue intrigue but also helps me remember where the original sound came from!
Second track Bun was an experiment of sorts. I set my mobile phone recording and put it in my pocket whilst I walked outside and through the house. Afterwards I added around five or six applications of echo. It brought the whole thing to life making it sound nightmarish like something out of a horror film, the voices of my young son and myself reverberating excessively towards the end. It sets the scene for the rest of the album in my opinion.
Spark was recorded on a children’s playground. I started the track at regular speed with some reverb and then slowed it down to make it drag and added some extra effects. It was one of the first tracks made for the album and one which has received a lot of positive praise. Third track eDial is the sound of the old dial-up internet fed through a hexafluoride treater and slowed down 700x, again it creates an eerie result. There is a certain amount of unpredictability about how some noises will turn out and quite a lot is trial and error although, I have noticed that I’ve developed an ear as to which natural sounds may work.
There are a couple of tracks on there which are sampled and re-assembled from phone apps which themselves provide mangled effects so it’s a double whammy! There’s also a recording of a car journey made whilst the device was on the dashboard, the sound of an electric kettle and a running tap. When I was a teenager I made an album in my bedroom which never saw the light of day, but two tracks stuck in my mind, Convicta and Mehtna, which were recorded off the tv and bizarrely from another cassette tape which had become untangled and I put back together again backwards! I decided to revisit these tracks for Dragon and was able to re-source the recordings for me to play with.
I have a few projects which should see the light of day over the next few months. One is the Breaking EP which will be released via Vulpiano Records on 14 July for NetLabel Day and the other is a remix EP which will hopefully contain five album tracks which have been remixed by five guests including Sheer Zed and Equinox, the later of whom I have also worked with on their new album. Before all that I have the Nocturne EP which will be officially relsased on Bandcamp on 22 June. Three of the tracks follow a more ambient route and it contains some stuff that I think is maybe my best to date, once again it is available on a name-your-price basis which means you can nab it for free if you like.”
For updates and news items you can Xqui on Twitter as @XquiMusic and the full discography is available on Bandcamp here – https://xqui.bandcamp.com/