Yen Towers – The world is in an economic condition, where everything is for sale and everything is justifiable (interview)
Af Simon Christensen
Yen Towers is the solo-output of Copenhagen-based guitarist and producer Simon Formann from Lower, Age Coin and cult band Girlseeker – all of them are (or were) revolving around the diy-venue Mayhem.
His recent 12-inch “Bidders Must Justify Their Price” is his most accomplished work yet (read our review here, in Danish). Actually it is his first vinyl release as Yen Towers, but the gritty techno-orientered sounds is a continuation of his work in Age Coin – and basically also from now defunct punkband Lower, where he was a co-producer and important part in constructing the soundscape in depth.
The sonic palett of Yen Towers is not the sound of instruments as we know them and hear them. Except for tiny hints of the drum machine most of the raw material is a vision of data streams and sterile assembly lines. Obviously “Bidders Must Justify Their Price” is a perspective on the expansion of digital economy systems, through the scope of minimalist techno and sonic arcitechture.
“One could describe Bidders as a Skype meeting between the global financial system and a field recordist. Naturally, the inhuman register of such a system finds its perfect analogue in the sheer silence of the digital economy — dark grids pumping 1s and 0s like blood,” he says.
P/A: Congratulations on your new EP. How did your approach change from Age Coin and your earlier Yen Towers sound?
SF: “Thank you! I don’t think it has been a conscious shift like that. The EP came together from a lot of different takes and edits, and over a long time too. It’s been two years since the last release. When it came down to the last stretch, it was most of all about gathering material and making it coherent. Lean, swung lo and rising high.
I’m trying to work faster now, since the learning curve is less steep than it was for me two years. We have a new Age Coin LP coming out this fall, and I have a Yen Towers mix cassette coming as well.”
What are the ideological implications of the “bidders”, “the market” and the digital economy that is described on “Bidders” – and how can we hear that on your release?
“Really the notion of the ‘bidders’, in this sense, stems from a document about the further facilitating and operation of the oil-industry and the oil wells of Kuwait, which were set on fire following the Iraqi retreat during the first Gulf war.
I really like the ambiguity of the phrase, as in: as long as you justify it, your bid could be whatever. It applies to both everyday bargaining, and to international big corps trading off the back of a war. It’s an economic condition, everything is for sale and everything is justifiable.”
Electronic music seems to be ever-evolving, exploding genres and being in a state of flux, how do you see that?
“You use the means available to you and try and push for something remotely new. Also, my generation came up with the Internet in full effect. You can become well acquainted with genre or a new piece of software in a few months, if you have the time, and use whatever you take away from that. And people are connecting across borders, which I think create very specialized, experimental forms and foras.”
How and when do you challenge the boundaries, the geography, of current electronic music styles?
“I don’t know if I do at all.”
How do you see the relation between functional club music with more experimental styles of noise, drone and sound art?
“I think there has always been a relation, and everything moves in tides. Electronic music was born out academia and experimentation, and in the past couple of years, there has been a lot of focus on the experiments that utilizes the tropes of ‘club’ music, either historical or temporary.”
How did you make this EP, and what tools and concepts did you use?
“I tried to make it as lean as possible, lots of space for the low-end. I used a lot of gear and did a lot of editing too. I’ve always had a MPC at the heart of my setup, so there’s a lot of that in there. Record, process, bounce and repeat. I like the texture that comes from using different source material, some recorded, some setup in the box, but doesn’t everyone?”
What did you learn and experience from playing guitar, synth and producing your own stuff, that you use now in Yen Towers?
“I definitely think about dynamics differently. When you play with other people and you play loud, you have to consider that. Dynamics, space, emotion and pragmatism are my key concerns. It has to be a good time too.
We finished the Age Coin record, after I finished the ‘Bidders…’, so in that instance I think it was more the other way around. I had some techniques that I found useful for Yen Towers, and we would take them into Age Coin-territory. But those projects always feeds heavily into each other, one way or the other.
The knowledge and mastery of associates, past and present, cannot be valued enough. If I have any question or doubt, I always have a place to turn.”
Info: Yen Towers “Bidders Must Justify Their Price” is out now at posh isolation and can be bought at a reasonable price. Yen Towers play Flux Festival 2016 (sold out), where you can also find the latest ZINE on new ideologies in electronic music.