Last month, Tri Angle Records-signed U.K. producer Vessel and Australian saxophonist and composer Immix shared the first taste of an unexpected collaboration: a sax-led composition with an ominous title—"What Hath God Wrought?"—and a deeply contemplative feel. It's taken from their Transition EP, out March 18 via Erased Tapes (pre-order it here), which was sparked into motion by a one-off live performance. Ahead of its release, the pensive pair has put together a FADER Mix that celebrates the versatility of the saxophone. As Vessel points out below, it's the instrument that's "closest to the human voice"—listen close for wails and wonderings, murmurs and memories, and a little peace to hide inside.
Where are you right now? Describe your surroundings.
IMMIX: I am in my home studio, which is up in the attic. The building itself is a bit rough around the edges, but the rent is cheap! I'm in quite a leafy part of Liverpool, and this room has a nice view of the tops of a few trees.
VESSEL: I'm at an airport, in a not very attractive waiting room about to head to Unsound Adelaide.
Tell us a bit about this mix—what do you imagine people doing while listening to it?
IMMIX: I really don't know! It's probably not a workout mix, but hopefully people are being surprised by some of the sounds they're hearing. The saxophone can produce a really wide range of sounds and colors that are not always exploited. Only two of the tracks feature sounds that aren't made by saxophones, so a lot of stuff that sounds like a synth, an organ, or a voice isn't what it seems. I wanted to give Seb some interesting sounds to play with, and I love the links he's found between the different tracks.
VESSEL: I didn't really consider what people might use the mix for. Although it probably doesn't count as easy listening, the music that Dan has chosen ranges from more measured, tonal excursions to avant-garde pieces that explore extended technique and unconventional structures, so between them all there's a rich snapshot of the spectrum of sounds that can be produced on the instrument. It's an excellent introduction to the expressive potential of the sax.
When and how did you both fall in love with the saxophone?
IMMIX: I started out on clarinet, but the saxophone seemed cooler for some reason so I made the switch when I started high school. Around the same time my dad started bringing home a lot of jazz albums so I was hearing a lot of music that featured the saxophone. It was a gradual thing though, I think it wasn't until I was about 16 or 17 that I really started to get into it as an instrument, probably because I wanted to differentiate myself from my friends who were playing guitars.
VESSEL: It has the power to create a unique atmosphere. I think that is partly due to its use in movies, and that spectrally it's the instrument closest to the human voice, but it's an instrument full of dramatic power. Its ability to shape sound means that it can express many subtle shades of emotion and animation very quickly, in a way that can feel uncannily human. It's the musical equivalent of a puppet.
How did this collaborative record come about, and what did it teach you?
IMMIX: The project started as a one-off live performance that was jointly commissioned by Syndrome, the Open Circuit Festival, Samizdat, and the ensemble that I lead, Immix. As with all of Immix's commissions, the idea was to bring together two composers who hadn't worked together before to collaborate and create something new for the ensemble to perform. Seb and I weren't aware of each other before this project, but I found working together really easy—I think that having a fairly clear concept helped to focus the collaboration a lot. I feel that Seb and I are attracted to similar kinds of sounds, but we have quite different methods of arriving at them, and seeing how other people make music is always fascinating, especially when their tools are different to your own.
VESSEL: It's been liberating to work with musicians from different disciplines. As Dan says, we have much in common musically, but our practices mean we approached the project from different directions. Obviously you end up assimilating lots of interesting things along the way.
Any plans to perform this live? How will you interpret it?
IMMIX: We’ve got a few performances coming up: London on March 29, Manchester on May 7, and Bristol on May 14. The live show features some incredible AV from Sam Wiehl, some of which features in the artwork for the album, which he also designed.
What's the last book you read that had a big impact on you and why?
IMMIX: There are a few contenders, but in terms of biggest impact I think Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. I'm not usually a fan of books like that, but I read it at a point when I was very seriously considering giving up on music. I don't think it's the perfect book, and I'm sure that part of it for me was that it was in the right place at the right time, but it really helped me to form healthier ideas about artistic growth and success.
VESSEL: I'm a rabid consumer when it comes to books and usually have several on the go at the same time. My approach to reading is quite Victorian, probably as a result of an uninspiring curriculum at school, and tend to read as much out of a sense of duty as of pleasure. Currently I'm swapping between The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin, Dante's Purgatory and The Life of a Stupid Man by Ryunoske Akutagawa.
What's your favorite dish to cook and how do you make it?
IMMIX: I really enjoy cooking, and I particularly love baking—I find it's a very good way to clear my mind. I've been making these a lot lately: spelt muffins with courgette, walnuts, and spices.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C
2. Mash one large, ripe banana. Mix in 3 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 75g melted butter and 2 tbsp of honey.
3. Add 210g wholemeal spelt flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb soda, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 tsp ground allspice. Mix together into a smooth batter.
4. Grate one medium courgette into the batter., add 150g chopped walnuts and mix.
5. Spoon into muffin tray and bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy with strong black coffee.
VESSEL: That's like asking what your favorite album is! I haven't been doing much cooking recently, I've been holed up writing music and being abstemious. Celery juice: breakfast, dinner, and lunch.
4 sticks celery
One lemon, unwaxed
One lump ginger
Blitz, and enjoy with a side of Ryvita.
00:00 - Hayden Chisholm - The Well-Tempered Sruti Box
04:33 - Battle Trance - Palace of Wind II
08:22 - Frank Gratkowski - Micaco
12:10 - John Butcher - A Short Time to Sing
13:27 - Ryan Muncy - Wicker Park (composed by Marcos Balter)
14:24 - Delta Saxophone Quartet - Alaric I or II (composed by Gavin Bryars)
15:44 - Anthony Braxton - Composition No. 77h
19:58 - Colin Stetson - Judges
21:57 - Travis Laplante - She Heals as She Harms
24:00 - Travis Laplante - Heart Protector