Nova Scotian Arms – Sacred Drift + Interview
March 4, 2011
Nova Scotian Arms – Sacred Drift
It’s no secret that I believe that Grant and Rachel Evans are doing some of the most exciting things in the music world right now. Hooker Vision, the label they run together, has put out many of my favorite tape and CD-R releases of the past few years and their collaborative musical project, Quiet Evenings, has resulted in nothing but sublime audio transcendence on every release. Grant’s solo project, Nova Scotian Arms, is currently on an especially wild streak of spectacular releases. Best of all is his newest one, Sacred Drift, a wholly immersive set of breathtaking tape-loop experimentation that ranks among the finest sets of music I have heard all year. I was fortunate enough to get to speak with Grant about this new album. Click on to read all about the new album, his new projects, and the upcoming NSA-vinyl release on Digitalis.
Sacred Drift is your first release on Sonic Meditations. How did this partnership come about? Did the established “sound” or “aesthetic” of the label affect the recording?
Sonic Meditations was one of my first introductions into the current cassette underground so I’ve always had a desire to release something on the label. I’ve been following Justin’s work as Expo ’70 for quite some time and have been following Sonic Meds since it first started up. I’m a huge fan of all the other bands on the label as well and have been fortunate enough to do a good bit of tape trading with some really talented musicians like David of Sounding the Deep and Andrew of Plante. Since we live in close proximity to Atlanta, we’ve been able to catch some tight Brainworlds shows (including one show that included Quiet Evenings on the bill) as well as work with Mason on his amazing tape for Hooker Vision. So obviously, I felt a sort of kinship to the whole crew from the start; a sense of like-minded individuals in search of the same transcendent state through similar approaches… I felt like Sacred Drift fit in with the sounds Justin likes to spotlight with Sonic Meds: oftentimes mysterious and vaguely spiritual. So I sent him the demos. A few months later, I played an all tape loop live show and had a new take on the direction of the album and eventually redid the B side entirely; doing away with all of the old loops except two or three and basically starting from scratch.
Talk a bit about the recording of the album – what instruments you used and how you got them to sound the way they do.
The songs are made entirely of tape loops that I made out of old cassettes. The loops are in three different lengths: standard 4.9 second loops, 7.8 second “Chandler” loops, and 9.3 second “Mobius” loops. I’ve used loops in all of my past recordings but I wanted to limit myself to just one sound source this time. The sounds recorded to the tapes were all made with guitar; that was another limitation I set on myself. I feel like the tape loops are representational of the flow or current of a body of water (hence the “Drift”.) Like a river or the ocean, the loops move in a highly predictable way, only occasionally displaying seemingly random anomalies, such as a pause or stutter in the playback or the wow and flutter caused by irregular tape movement.
Were there any specific artists or ideas that inspired the making of the record? Where did the title come from?
When working on tape loops, my main source of inspiration has always been William Basinski. Hearing his Disintegration Loops series was really one of those total eye-opening, life-altering experiences for my musical mind. I always try to make something beautiful sounding, in the same vein as him, but it never works out… Ha ha. The title, Sacred Drift, comes from, like I said, the sense of drift that comes from hearing a highly repetitive sound weave in and out of other similar, highly repetitive sounds. This feeling can often lead to a mystic or sacred experience under the correct circumstances…
With Nova Scotian Arms, you have experimented with several different types of music – from synth-centric ambient to guitar-driven noise. Where does Sacred Drift fit in among your different experimentations?
I try to vary my sound a bit from release to release. Sometimes more drastically than others… I began recording for Sacred Drift in June of 2010, a few months after having seen William Basinski perform at the Big Ears festival in Knoxville, TN. I’m from Tennessee and my aunt and uncle live in Knoxville still, so visiting my home state while getting to see a few of my musical idols (we also saw Terry Riley the same evening) all at the same time was a really positive experience for the direction of my music. When we came back home, we moved into a new house and Rachel started working on Seeping Through the Veil of the Unconscious and I started on what became a trilogy of albums. The trilogy includes Temporal Maneuvers (Ruralfaune Synth Series), Sun Flange (Digitalis Ltd) and Sacred Drift; each a simplified or paired down version of my previous musical formula (guitar/synth/tape loops.) What I mean by simplified is that each release in the trilogy utilized only one of the main sound sources I regularly include on releases, e.g. Temporal Maneuvers was all synth, Sun Flange, all guitar, and Sacred Drift, all tape loops. I’ve since then rejoined all of the elements in my solo work but I feel like this is a good place to mention the new project that Adam of Dry Valleys and the Sacred Phrases label and I are working on called Peyote Crystal. I’m on tape loops and I have no idea what kind of crazy shit Adam’s using but it’s really out there. It’s a new direction for both of us and we’re finishing up our first tape now.
This particular album is being released on both cassette and CD-R. Did you have a particular format in mind while recording it? Do you foresee a vinyl edition of any of your recordings in the near future?
I recorded it originally for tape release but was aware that if Justin picked it up, he’d probably do a CD-R version as well. So I had both formats in mind. I generally prefer to think about an album in terms of “sides” so I naturally gravitate to the cassette as opposed to the CD. As far as vinyl goes, I’m currently working on what will be my debut LP for Digitalis. It’s been kind of nerve-wracking trying to create music that I feel to be vinyl-worthy but that should be out sometime this year.