Chorusing discuss the inspirations behind new album ‘Half-Mirror’
North Carolina-based artist Matthew O'Connell calls the music he makes as Chorusing "confessional folk," but instead of acoustic instruments he uses synthesizers, including one he built named Balsam. (O'Connell used to work for Moog.) He uses guitars and other "organic" instruments too, but it's all filtered through analogue electronic equipment, including a vintage tape delay unit. It all gives Chorusing's debut, Half Mirror, a gorgeous, spacious, otherworldly feel. It's out today via Western Vinyl and you can listen to it below.
We asked Matthew to tell us a little about the inspirations behind Half Mirror and he returned with a list of five objects and five artists, including a book by The KLF's Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, an effects unit, albums by Young Widows and Rodeola, a bootleg of prank calls and more. Read his list, complete with commentary, below.
Chorusing - 5 Objects and 5 artists that influenced Half Mirror:
A Moog Delay Prototype
One of my tasks at Moog Music was to test vintage bucket brigade chips to use in their delay units. I would spend all day sitting in front of a spectrum analyzer, passing pink noise through them, seeing what came out on the other end. I still have a prototype delay from that era, which I used all over Half Mirror. It’s a special object to me, and it adds a nice analog haze to anything it touches.
A Hacked School Vending Machine
When we were kids, my brother Greg and I hacked a school vending machine to sell us bags of Funyuns for five cents a pop. (Unfortunately, we weren’t able to apply the hack to a more desirable snack. It only worked on the C4 Funyuns.)
I feel like that’s an apt metaphor for how I work as a home producer on a budget. I don’t have the fanciest mics or instruments, so I have to get creative. “I only have a nickel; can I do something interesting with it?”
The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) by Jimmy Cauty & Bill Drummond
[Editor's Note: After scoring a UK #1 in 1988 with "Doctorin' the Tardis" as The Timelords -- a song created specifically to game the system in a blatant attempt at topping the charts -- The KLF's Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond wrote a book on how they did it, and how others could too.]
Can a work be 100% satirical and 100% earnest at the same time? I think The Manual might fit the bill. I borrowed this “step-by-step guide to achieving a No. 1 single with no money or musical skills” from interlibrary loan as a light read, but it soon became an important lifestyle guide for me. Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:
“On entering a recording studio for the first time you will naturally be impressed with all the gear. Do not be intimidated - it is all there ready to work for you. There will be thousands of dials, knobs and faders at the engineer's finger tips and he will know what every one of them does. This might over awe you but just remember he was most probably reading in Studio Weekly, only moments before you walked in, about some new piece of studio hardware that's just come on the market and that every studio should now have if they are to stay in the race. That studio engineer is going to be worried that you will notice that they haven't already got it in this backwater of audio technology.”
“Spend Monday evening around at some mate’s house. See if he has any records worth borrowing. More importantly, tell him what you are up to and see if he has any great ideas worth using. It is a little known fact but when it comes to creative ideas the majority of people are creative geniuses.”
[While physical copies of The Manual are hard to find and expensive, the whole thing's online.]
A Burned CD of Longmont Potion Castle’s Prank Phone Calls
When we were teenagers, my friend Rose and I used to walk up and down Bardstown Road in Louisville flyering for our shows. At some point we decided it would be more fun to advertise for fake shows than real ones, so we started making flyers for absurdist lineups that we found hilarious (Eel Brain, Molecular Lionel, Turtle Pleasure). All the band names were lifted from a burned CD of prank calls we had by Longmont Potion Castle.
I think I’ll always be trying to tap into that spirit of uninhibited, manic creativity in my artistic pursuits. My favorite songs on Half Mirror were written in that headspace.
A Shared Toshiba Hard Drive
In college, I’d sometimes hang out at a shop called Monkey Drive Screenprinting where a lot of Louisville’s touring musicians worked. There was a hard drive full of music that people had collected on their tours or contributed to that shared repository. That hard drive opened up a wide world of music to me that I’d never heard before including a lot of old Louisville art rock that I still love: Slint, Rodan, Shipping News, Helgeson Story, Parlour, and a ripped .mp4 of Half-Cocked.
Joe O’Connell / Elephant Micah
Joe is my all-time favorite songwriter and musician. He’s also my brother and a longtime collaborator. Those facts might be related, but I often think they are not.
Evan Patterson / Young Widows
Evan’s band Young Widows represents an era of Louisville music that I’m really fond of. I’ve never belonged to a musical community that was as vibrant and full of life as Louisville’s punk scene in the late ‘00s.
Nona Marie Invie / IN // VIA
Nona Marie’s music is so immersive, I feel like I am entering a different world when I listen to it.
Kate Long / Rodeola
Kate is a great songwriter and a fellow Hoosier. She has a new record out called Arlene, which I highly recommend.
John Dawson / Thee Open Sex
John is a master of the wah pedal and a truly imaginative engineer and bandleader. His musical explorations are always inspiring.