“There is something very exciting about creating something on the spot and committing to the music every time.” Audiences who attended New York trio N/UM‘s live show at House of Yes in Brooklyn can attest to this. And lucky for the rest of us; on December 8 we’ll get a glimpse of what went down at that day party when N/UM releases their EP YES. Comprised of 4 originals, YES was recorded live in a single take at House of Yes. The live electronic act demonstrates their expansive creativity, utilizing classic instruments like the 808, 909, SH-101, Mono/Poly and more within the context of free improvisation to produce something that is completely original. We had the opportunity to catch up with this dynamic trio, before YES hits online stores.
You all come from very different musical backgrounds. How did you meet, and how did N/UM first come to be?
We met through different projects while at college over 10 years ago. We all had an interest in synthesizers and electronic music that kept growing and led us to realize that we wanted to play this kind of music. And rather than just working on tracks individually as producers, we had what felt like a very natural intuition to expand a bit on that creative process and use our experience with free improvisation in this style. A lot of producers obviously improvise routinely as part of the writing process in a studio setting, but hardly ever in public. We started using connected analog circuits and other instruments in improvisation starting in late 2013. It took us about a year to figure out our system of connecting the instruments in the best ways, troubleshooting, getting used to the setup and also making it really work musically.
A lot of producers obviously improvise routinely as part of the writing process in a studio setting, but hardly ever in public.
On the topic of improvisation — what lead you to approach dance music in this way?
There is something very exciting about creating something on the spot and committing to the music every time. The natural character of the music when you don’t have time to over-think anything is very appealing to us. It’s been only a few decades that music has been pieced together with computers as it generally is today, pasting hundreds of samples together. Electronic music as we know it today had just barely begun sprouting when that mode of production swept through the industry, so the practice of playing the music live and improvising live never became widespread until very recently, or at least it was barely noticed for many years. Of course we have deep respect for the way that the electronic scene did evolve and the culture that, to a very large degree, was built on the dynamic of DJs playing records in clubs and producing them behind closed doors. We are just trying to bring a more immediate, unscrutinized quality back in the mix and sort of make the point that “why not?”.
Your upcoming YES EP was recorded in a single take in front of a live audience at the House of Yes in Brooklyn, NY. Tell us about that experience.
It was a day party when the club was still very new. For us it’s always special and inspiring to play for people who enjoy the music. The place has a very open and positive atmosphere which definitely influenced our playing. It is one of the ideas of improvised playing that the surroundings can and will influence our music and vice versa.
There is something very exciting about creating something on the spot and committing to the music every time.
The name N/UM is associated with supernatural healing and ritualistic dancing. Tell us more about the name. Are you yourselves spiritual, and if so how does this translate into your music?
There’s always something spiritual when you’re free to express yourself and improvise. Music is fundamentally a spiritual tool. Looking into the name N/um we realized that there is a surprisingly strong and seemingly direct connection between modern club and dance culture and what anthropologists and archeologists have revealed in the nature and purpose of the dancing and healing rituals of ancient tribes.
Who would you each name as a major influence on your personal musical tastes?
Elias: Coltrane, Bach and Bill Frisell
Jeremy: Early field recordings, Ravel
Emil: Miles Davis, Pink Floyd and the Perlon family
On that note, was there any sort of manipulation or editing in post-production?
We don’t go in and manipulate or edit individual tracks. We listen to the whole recording and pick out the parts that we like. It’s more of an extraction than an editing process. We use the mix that we did live and master the stereo track from there.
We are big fans of you guys here north of the border – any touring plans in the works?
There are Canadian dates in the works for early 2018, but that is all we can say for now 😉