Ø+yn at home
The Middle East and The Top of a Rootless Tree
From an egg on the top of a mountain a centipede is born. Which, travels long distances through valleys, forests and deserts. On a good day he knits a coccoon and rests in it. From this structure small rats are born, which bring with them innumerable tiny instruments.
That’s how Ø+yn was born, in the centre of the city of Cordoba, buzzing quietly and making folk noise. After launching Ese juego que te hacía tan feliz (2005) (That game which made you so happy) and La canción del ciempiés (2007) (The song of the centipede), they made their third record: La copa de un árbol sin raíz (2009) (The top of a rootless tree).
In a homely conversation we enter the world of the animals which sing and dance around the fire.
How did Ø+yn begin?
Pablo: In 2006 Gustavo and I started playing, then Mavi joined and we played live for the first time. She’s stopped playing live with us, but she still records.
Gustavo: After that Cesar joined, who started as a “guest” and then became part of the band.
The first time I heard you play I couldn’t help but think about the Middle East. There’s something in your music which brings forth mantric sounds and the sense of a permanent trance.
Pablo: I’ve read some oriental things, the Hare Krishna interests me a lot. It relates to our music. For example I’ve read things by Paramahansa Yogananda who was a Hindhu yogi. Yogis are the people who reach a higher level of meditation than those who practice yoga.
Some of the instruments you use are very strange. What is that little guitar which has three strings and tuning keys on the neck?
Gustavo: It’s called an akonting. It’s an African instrument. Actually it’s a Cordobese version of that instrument, the African one is made of bamboo cane. This one’s made of gourd and nylon strings. Also it’s smaller.
The strange thing for me is that the neck is round. It’s really difficult for me to play it. The finger doesn’t press down on the string, but slides along it.
We try to squeeze the juice out of every instrument we play. I really like to know what the instrument can give me. That’s why we don’t just play one thing, but we try out different instruments
Pablo: I agree with Gustavo. Also, I like to study the scales of each instrument. I never finished studying music, at one point I started to search for a way to combine chords in such a way that it directs you towards one thing. I wasn’t looking to improvise, because I wanted to change the way I play. You reach a point where you’re doing the same progression more than twenty times. So I try out other ways of doing it. I play the progression backwards between notes, for example.
Gustavo: We’ve also got a Vietnamese harp. Also a Cordobese version.
La copa de un árbol sin raíz is a record which takes you all over the place, from improvisation, through the textures of tape and noises, to something completely composed, like the sounds of flutes or the trombone. The question is if it’s an improvised record or if it’s composed.
Gustavo: It’s a mixture. Because we compose the songs but we leave room for improvisation.
Pablo: The recordings on this album are from 2006.
Gustavo: We’ve been making this record for three or four years. Since about 2006. We’ve been mixing it for a long time.
Pablo: What happened is that for us it meant changing lots of things that had taken one form, and with these recordings we started to think about them in another.
Gustavo: That changed the form of all the songs. So we can’t say that they’re the same. We went back and recorded the same things a lot of times but in a different way.
Pablo: We started to search and investigate among so many things that it took us up until 2008 to be able to finish it. That’s when we said stop, that’s enough. This is where we are.
The particular sound that you get out of each instrument is really great, in the sense of concrete music, beyond electric amplification.
Gustavo: We like this a lot. Above playing the instrument like a concert musician, we like the instrument itself. Even just hitting it or whatever. We search for the particular sound of the instrument. That’s why we like to have a great variety of things and search for a texture. And that’s what we do when we play live. Everywhere we play we take loads of things with us.
What happens live is that this style of music, in a big space and without adecuate amplification, runs the risk of the sound being lost. For me it’s ideal for a small, intimate gig.
Gustavo: It’s true that a record is going to have a different effect on the people than what we do live. And for that reason it has a different structure. But in some form it’s similar.
When we play live we get together to improvise and we choose which parts we like, and with the things we don’t like we try to find a way around them.
Pablo: We look for a dialogue. Sometimes this dialogue doesn’t work. We like it when what we’re playing is difficult. But we also like it when what we’re playing is difficult for the audience to listen to, not that it’s deafening or physically damaging, but that it’s not easy and already digested. If at times it seems violent it’s because we try to connect with the people who are in front of us. There are people who allow themselves to be taken places; and there are people who think what we’re doing is bullshit.
It’s about creating an ambience and connections.
Gustavo: It’s pretty narrative. We want to narrate something. It seems that the necessity we have at the moment is to tell, to recount. So we get together and we tell each other things. And when we play we look around to see how that begins and how it ends.
This need to tell is related to a very poignant characteristic of this record, which has to do with the epic.
Gustavo: Yes, for me it has something epic in the sense of a story.
Pablo: Listening to the record again and again we realised that there is a search for the truth, the truth in everything.
The music on this record appears to me very nocturnal. And playing with the animals gives it the epic factor.
Gustavo: For me it has a lot to do with the oriental. With their music. With a state of being.
Pablo: It also has a lot of acoustic things, that’s why it could also be Medieval. More than anything else we make folk, noise and drone. Also improvisation, of course. What we like most is folk from Asia, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Indonesian Gamelan music.