Reedbeds – Swells on High + Interview
November 22, 2011
Reedbeds – Swells on High
2011 has been a huge year for Carter Mullin. He’s put out a slew of fantastic and warmly-received albums under his Reedbeds monicker and a handful of great releases on his label Calypso Hum, for which he also provides artwork. Now he is ending the year on a hugely positive note with the finest album of his career so far – the brooding and texturally fascinating Swells on High, just full of wholly immersive interlocking, meditative, looping guitar melodies. It’s his first release for Hooker Vision, a label that is no stranger to sweeping drone classics, and stands tall among the label’s best releases to date. In this interview, Carter discusses the making of Swells on High, his creative process, and the future for his music and his label. Click below to read on.
Reedbeds – “untitled [excerpt]”
When was Swells on High recorded? Was it conceived as a whole album or is it more a collection of recordings? Please explain some of the recording processes for the record.
Swells on High was recorded near the end of July within a day or so. I didn’t really intend to record an album until about halfway through; at first they were just improvisations that I wanted to hold on to. The only editing and production done was just EQ’ing and fade-ins and -outs, so I feel that the unplanned, one-take motif ties the tracks together and sets them apart from my material prior.
What were your influences for this record? It sound slightly darker and moodier than any of your previous releases.
My influences for the tape were largely Scott Johnson’s recordings as Thoughts on Air and Softlight Reveries as well as Grant Evans’ Nova Scotian Arms project, particularly his Sacred Drift release, among many other artists. To me, their influence is really apparent in the recordings, but without that inspiration ‘Swells on High’ wouldn’t have come about. The darker aura is absolutely deliberate: I’m not drawn to sunshine as much as I am to overcast and rain, and lately I’ve only felt compelled to listen to and record music either during dim weather, at night, or before sunrise. That scenery is meant to be channeled through the music, and it’s thrilling to hear that the mood was guided to someone else!
Does the title Swells on High relate specifically to the music? Where does that title come from?
I wanted the title to describe the progression, or at least what I would have liked to have the listener experience from these recordings. I had a frame of mind to bring the music to saturated, mid-range culminations– which is majorly what I’ve done in the past as well, but here I wanted to stress it. In that sense, I’m hopeful that the title stands free of deception.
Your music is often described in the context of “relaxing, early morning listening”. Is your music making process generally relaxed? Are you a morning person?
The process is conversely much more tense than what I produce. Being an untrained and inexperienced guitar player, I’m often shaky and weary of stumbling upon sour notes and accidents like that. I avoid writing ideas down or memorizing them because they’re bound to either sound completely different or fall apart on record. Finding time to record is impulsive, and rarely am I comfortable, though relieved and fulfilled afterward. I’m a morning person, but only so if outside is looking dreary or it’s from around 4-6 AM. Otherwise, the spirit of containment and warmth no longer appears within reach. If all goes my way, Reedbeds captures the essence of solitude, swigging coffee, and languor.
Can you shed some light on what might be coming down the pipelines for Reedbeds or the Calypso Hum label?
Sure thing! Calypso Hum is taking a quick break, which is usually inseparable from the release frequency, but the start of 2012 will see a 4-way split between myself, Floridian plunderphonics extraordinaire Royallen, the sultan of slow, DJ Ecto Cooler, and the finest proprietor of guitar-woven aural magic, Thoughts on Air. There are plenty more Reedbeds tapes to surface in the future as well, but when is yet to be determined.