After a six-year hiatus electronica and IDM veterans ISAN are back with a brand new album on Morr Music. Was it worth the wait? We certainly think so. Read what our Fabrizio Cacciamali had to say about it after immersing himself in the delicate sounds. We also managed to get ISAN to provide us with just a few Bits & Pieces about their life and let us premiere their quirky new video for the album’s title track. Read what they had to say and check out the new album if you haven’t yet.
The first album you bought?
Antony :: ‘Replicas’ by Tubeway Army. I’d heard “Are Friends Electric” on the radio when I was on a caravan holiday with my parents – that lead synth line completely stopped me in my tracks, made me feel funny inside. I went home from the holiday and built a Lego synthesizer and pretended to play along with it when I heard the song on the radio. I finally got the LP months later, and at some point listening to that track I could hear what sounds like someone humming along to the synth line in the middle of the record – thought I’d been standing too close to the record player and it had somehow recorded me humming along. Have a listen…is it just me?
Robin :: Depends how cool I want to be. The first record I owned was the soundtrack to the film of ‘Watership Down’ – there was a radio adaptation of the book on over the weekend actually, and it made me want to go back and reread it, though I doubt I will, a bit too harrowing. The first record I bought with my own money was ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ by Adam and the Ants. I can still sing pretty much every song from memory, as well as all the b-sides from the singles.
The last album you were addicted to?
Antony :: It’s not an album…it’s an EP ok? It’s called ‘Somewhere Along The Line’ by a London-based artist called Segilola (Jolaosho) – reminds me of the best of Herbert, like “Around The House” he did with Dani Siciliano (which is also perennial favourite). She’s got a beautiful voice, and the production is lovely with lots of random and found sounds. The title track though is what really gives me goosebumps – the backbone is a recording of a horse clippity-clopping in a beautifully syncopated rhythm along an urban street, and Segilola’s lyrics and vocal and some gorgeous, haunting clarinet…it’s just pure magic. [Segilola – Somewhere Along The Line]
Robin :: ‘From the Ming Oracle‘ by Louise Landes Levi. It’s an album of music played on the sarangi (a bowed harp) and trombone. One long piece on each side, slow and meditative, it never fails to transport me somewhere else. It didn’t come with a download code either so I’m forced to dig out the vinyl every time I want to listen, which somehow adds to its value.
A movie you can always watch?
Antony :: ‘Blade Runner’. The director’s cut without the Hollywood ending, obviously! I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it, there’s always something new to see – and the central conundrum can never be resolved. I’ve always loved the novels and short stories of Philip K. Dick, and the film is Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer at their best, even if the film is a bit of a departure from the original ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’.
Robin :: I’d have chosen ‘Blade Runner’ too, so Antony’s forced me to think about the other end of the spectrum…I really love the work of Mike Leigh, and I’ll choose ‘Happy Go Lucky’. It got some criticism when it came out, I think people were disappointed that it was so upbeat, and Sally Hawkins wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it, and her portrayal of Poppy is a joy to watch. At his best Mike Leigh contemplates the most mundane aspects of life in a way that enables the viewer to see the power and beauty in the simplest of things, and he does that here in absolute spades. Most of his films are a bit darker than this, so it’s nice to come away from one not feeling like you’ve been emotionally kicked down the stairs.
A book you couldn’t stop reading?
Antony :: ‘Excession’ by Iain M. Banks. I love Iain Banks’ “regular” novels but his sci-fi books under his M. moniker, particularly ‘The Culture stories’, are favourites that I can return to again and again. ‘Excession’, though, is a bit special. The cast of characters consists of about 50 artificial intelligence “Minds” inhabiting all-powerful spaceships, all with oblique names such as “Anticipation Of A New Lover’s Arrival” or “Serious Callers Only” – there are so many of them it’s hard to keep track, and the plot is pretty convoluted, so you kind of need to keep notes on who is doing what against who! On two different occasions I’ve reached the end of the book and gone straight back to read through again…
Robin :: ‘Behindlings’ by Nicola Barker. Essentially the tale of Wesley, a feral misanthrope, his travels around Canvey Island and his impact on the lives of those he meets and his followers, the Behindlings of the title. Wesley is a character both appealing and reprehensible, in previous Barker short stories he both liberated eels from a London Pie & Mash shop and fed two of his fingers to an eagle owl. He’s a kind of urban wildlife terrorist, he replaces broken shoelaces with leaves from a yucca plant and, in a particularly disturbing scene, strangles and roasts a heron, serving it up a the oddest dinner party ever. Setting the whole thing on Canvey Island, close to where I used to live in Essex gives it a particularly surreal edge, and it’s not the easiest of books, but I defy anyone not to enjoy the scene where Wesley makes “ant lemonade” by shaking a handful of angry, formic acid squirting ants in a flask containing water and two slices of lemon retrieved from a bin and filtering the resultant liquid through a dirty handkerchief.
The weirdest thing that has ever happened to you on stage or in the studio?
Antony :: We once played a show in Lisbon, and after we’d finished we walked off the stage to what we thought was the backstage door, only to find that we were inside a tiny broom cupboard full of mops and bleach and floor polish! After a few moments wondering how we were going to get ourselves out of this embarrassing situation, thankfully the audience were clapping for more so we were able to go out and play a couple more songs…this time leaving the stage through the audience, just to be sure!
Robin :: We had an interesting week in Brazil, working in collaboration with a guitarist, video artists and an opera singer. We were performing material that we’d “composed” during the few days prior to the show and we didn’t have the clearest idea of how it would work…the singer packed up her gear and left during the show and a giant (by British standards anyhow) butterfly flapped slowly above the audience throughout. Antony didn’t see the butterfly but I swear it was real!
A favorite piece of equipment?
Antony :: I would say it’s my Yamaha CS-5 because I’ve had it forever, and it’s completely dependable…used it on so many tracks. But these days I’m really enjoying the Volca Sample and Keys because they are so immediate and fun to play with, both in the studio and for live too.
Robin :: Roland RS-09 string synth. Sounds nothing like a string section, of course, but has a beautifully fizzy richness which never fails me. It’s a bit crackly and wobbly these days but for the time being at least I can embrace that.
A description of your music you’ll never forget?
Antony :: “A display of slippery bravura” from the NME reviewing our first single ‘Damil 85’. I’ve never been sure if that was meant to be positive…though I suspect not!
Robin :: Our first ever release, ‘Eusa’s Head’ was described as “a serene floater recalling Fripp/Eno gear” which made me very happy. We were so thrilled to get any kind of review, having a kind one was a double bonus.