Monday, July 4, 2011

Interview with Paul Nielsen of Tympanik Audio

Hey Paul... I've been following the output of your label since the very beginning. You kicked off the sound of Tympanik Audio with the Emerging Organisms in December of 2007. Two years later, in 2009, Headphone Commute featured a label profile of Tympanik. Another two years have passed by... How would you say the sound of Tympanik Audio has evolved over these years?
Evolution has always seemed to be a natural state for Tympanik. The concept of the label hasn’t changed much over the past couple years but that’s not to say that it hasn’t evolved – it seems to be constantly morphing and emerging. Tympanik began as an experiment to demonstrate that the many genres of  electronic music could come together, integrate, and ultimately co-exist effectively under one imprint. I like to think we continue to adhere to this model.

What about the label itself? Have you lost or found a new set of helping hands in its day-to-day operations? Has the support staff grown or merely held on to a few dedicated friends?
I’ve always handled all the day-to-day operations of the label and although it seems overwhelming at times, I actually prefer it this way – it’s just easier to maintain control. I do have a lot of support through our artists, graphic designers, audio engineers, and the like, all of whom this label would not function fully without, so I’m certainly grateful for that. Tympanik mainly operates on a network of very creative, selfless human beings who share my passion for delivering exceptional music to as many ears as possible – all around good people who believe in the original concepts and vision of the label as a whole. We are a family and we all work together towards a common goal, which is the fuel that essentially keeps Tympanik alive.

Are you happy with its current stylistic sound, direction and overall scene appeal? Is there a particular aesthetic that you wish to continue to develop or steer clear of?
I always disliked Tympanik being categorized as a certain type of genre label – that’s not our goal. Tympanik is about melding many styles of electronic music and slicing them up into meaty, cerebral aural concoctions that can be digested and enjoyed based on their own individual merits. Being a label that releases a fairly diverse style of music, it seems difficult for some listeners who only pledge allegiance to certain genre camps, to lock into our intended concept, especially if they have only bothered themselves with one or two of our releases. In my mind, each of our releases has their own unique sound and personality.

What can you tell us about the economics of running a label with such a dedicated schedule of physical releases? You managed to put out over 50 albums, and still going. How has the market place been treating you?
It’s been a struggle since the start. In the first couple years, I put a lot of my own money into the label as well as borrowing money and accepting contributions from family and friends to keep things going. These days, the label seems to be sustaining itself just enough to continue releasing music and that was my objective all along. Money really doesn’t hold any appeal for me personally, I’m merely concerned about making enough to keep the label moving forward and I’m very grateful that we have managed to do that so far. The support from everyone all around since the early days still blows my mind and it’s because of this support that we still exist today. The loyalty of our listeners, especially the ones that still buy our releases on CD, is what really keeps this label afloat. Our artists aren’t too concerned about making a fortune from their work; most understand that we are always working on a tight budget and they forgo any assurance of fame and riches. We all help each other for the good of the family and that bond ultimately allows us to continue to bring new sounds to our listeners. Tympanik is perpetuating these days and I have everyone who has ever ordered a CD from us to thank for that – thank you!

Regretfully, the Greek label, Spectraliquid, managed to stay in business for only a few years. How has its demise influenced your approach to managing Tympanik if at all?
Spectraliquid and Tympanik initiated around the same time. After Kostas and I got to know each other through releasing Subheim’s ‘Approach’ album, we often compared notes during those years as fellow label-owners. I loved what Spectraliquid was doing and supported them as they did Tympanik because we truly admired each other’s output. It’s not the first time I’ve seen an exceptional label fall, and Spectraliquid was certainly an exceptional label. I’ve seen it too many times over the years and it’s always poignant. Sometimes such labels burn bright, but half as long as they deserve, yet generally leave
behind a notable body of work in their wake. Their impact on music seems to stir and resonate for years afterwards. Tympanik was originally inspired by such labels as Schematic, n5MD, Component, Pendragon, Merck, Neo Ouija, Skam, Hymen, M-tronic, Xynthetic, Pitchcadet, and Toytronic, yet I can only hope we leave such a lasting legacy when we finally do fade away.

Speaking of our Greek friends... Kostas K's managed to migrate over to Ad Noiseam (which I know you're a fan of), yet you'll always be credited as a starting point for his Subheim project. And I would say that Tympanik is more than just a platform for up-and- coming musicians. What are your thoughts on discovering a newly unheard talent?
It seemed that Subheim and Tympanik were both finding their way at the same time and by chance we happen to congregate and ultimately form a lasting friendship. ‘Approach’ turned out to be a milestone release for Tympanik, but at the time, it was just another young label signing a new talent. I like  presenting new artists to our listeners – there’s a lot of undiscovered musicians out there that deserve to be heard and if I can help a few of them develop and expand their listener base through Tympanik, I am certainly happy to do so.

What are some of the most interesting relationships (human or otherwise) that have been born as a result of running Tympanik Audio?
Almost everyone I have worked with since Tympanik’s inception has proved to be an exceptional human being. These are people that I have come to know very well and respect dearly, both on a professional and personal level. I’ve been involved in various electronic music scenes for a long time and through the label I have had the privilege of getting to know and work with artists and label owners that I’ve admired, much more closely now than I did before as a music fan. Someone once referred to my laptop as “my other girlfriend” and that really stuck with me. My computer and I have a love/hate relationship: it’s my savior and my nemesis at all times. Tympanik takes up an enormous amount of my time and a lot of my personal relationships have suffered because of this thing I have created and obsessed about over the past few years. Running a label means being capable of living under a mountain of never-ending details and still attempting to maintain a personal life, yet you’re destined to fail at any given moment at either one of these things if the balance isn’t just right.

Would you say that you have accomplished your goals? Surpassed your own expectations? Or do you still have a few mountains to climb?
I don’t want to discount what has been accomplished so far, but I do feel like we still have to prove ourselves to the uninitiated, but that’s just a part of the whole process of progress. I always have a plethora of projects and ideas on my mind, there’s just not enough time or resources to make them all materialize and I’ve come to accept that. I’m probably the most critical of Tympanik out of anyone. I’m really happy with what the label and our artists have accomplished so far but to me, there’s always room for improvement. I have made a lot of mistakes over the years, but I suppose that’s just how I learn and grow alongside this thing I have created. Tympanik has surpassed my expectations for sure; I never thought we’d make it this far but I’m really pleased that we have.

[ - s n i p - ]

Read the entire interview on Headphone Commute

Sound Bytes : Tympanik Audio Special

If you have been following Headphone Commute's Podcast you would have witnessed two amazing mixes, back to back, by one of our favorite artists - Access To Arasaka. In the two-part podcast series, AtA showcased some of his influences and favorite tracks through Re:pose and In:spire, the latter of which featured some great sounds from Tympanik Audio - a Chicago based glitch, dark IDM, and post-industrial label that we have been following since its birth, in 2007, with the Emerging Organisms compilation. Since then, Paul Nielsen, the founder Tympanik, has introduced us to some amazing artists, like Subheim, Integral, StendeckAccess To Arasaka and many, many others. I think it's fair to say that we have heard every single release, out of over 50, from Tympanik, and as many releases have appeared on our numerous Best Of lists throughout the years. Today, we are excited to kick off a two-part Sound Bytes feature, covering our latest favorite releases from the label, beginning (although in alphabetical order, but nevertheless appropriate) with Access To Arasaka's latest...

Access To Arasaka - void();
If you're an avid follower of these pages, the alias of Rob Lioy, Access To Arasaka should be already familiar to you. Last year, this Rochester, New York based producer got picked up by Tympanik and Spectraliquid to bring us some of the finest, detailed, and crisp IDM to date. Access to Arasaka easily fits among the releases by Hecq, Gridlock, Kattoo, Architect and all of our favorite dark and experimental artists - it's almost as if Tympanik snatched Lioy from beneath the tight hold of Hymen's artist roster - and we applaud this mighty score. AtA's music is at once ethereal and technoid, glitching and cutting up the beats across a full atmospheric spectrum of imaginary places, with micro-programmed and delicate effects in all the right places. Following on the heels of Oppidan (2009), this new full length album, is a lot more fluid in structure, bending and folding the proteins of digital organisms through compiled code of neural networks. Inspired by the history and future of system hacking, the titles of the tracks, stripped from a networking I/O library written in C, feature data structures and function calls responsible for low level communications, running an algorithm of asynchronous transmission of information from Rob's brain to yours. I continue to enjoy this album over and over! Highly recommended!

Be sure to check out Headphone Commute's review of Oppidan.
Read also Two and a Half Questions with Access To Arasaka.

Anklebiter - I Will Wait
In 2010, Portland based Tanner Volz joined the Tympanik family with his latest release, I Will Wait. With its impressive cinematic soundtrack quality (and I promise not to overuse 'cinematic' too much), the album tells a very personal and emotional story. Drawing on the themes of nostalgia, Volz takes listeners through minor harmonic progressions wrapped in intricate, warm and seasoned electronica. Although Anklebiter may be a relatively new project for Volz, he has been producing music, together with Laird Sheldahl and Rian Callahan, under the group's name ML, and the experience is clearly reflected in his production techniques. A little more withered, a little more laid back, and at the same time confident and mature, the sound of I Will Wait will impress followers of his work through past releases on Toast And Jam, Piehead, and yes, n5MD and its digital offshoot, En:peg. Ah, yes, perhaps the name dropping of the last label names will give you an idea of what's in store for you. I Will Wait is Volz's only second full length solo release, and it's already gaining recognition with remixes from Keef Baker, WNY, and subtractiveLAD. Fans of emotional electronica will enjoy...

Autoclav1.1 - All Standing Room In The Goodnight Saloon
Tony Young, recording as Autoclav1.1, has been a familiar name to followers of Tympanik Audio's catalog. Since his signing to the label back in 2008 with Love No Longer Lives Here, Young released a remix album, Broken Beats For Broken Hearts on Hive Records, and then a followup, Where Once Were Exit Wounds, back on Tympanik in 2009. This year he returns with his sixth full length album (third for the label), All Standing Room In The Goodnight Saloon, which is his most polished work to date. The signature piano melodies are blended with those tough, post-industrial electronic rhythms, synthetic orchestral passages, distorted guitar riffs, and a few occasional soul-wrenching vocals. Across eleven tracks, Young sifts through a variety of styles, blending cinematic passages with exploration of electronic / IDM / EBM sound, all while "battling with insomnia and thought processes within that..." Flipping through the latest promo photos of Autoclav1.1, I can see that Tony is an interesting character - someone I would definitely invite to my next Thanksgiving dinner. And if those pictures project his outer images, his music shows truly what lies within. Feed your insomnia...

C.H. District - Conclusion
For his fourth full length release, Mirosław Matyasik, recording under the alias C.H. District, blends intelligent electronic beats with solid dark electro and industrial rhythms. His previous album, Slides was released on the French M-Tronic label, five years ago, and now returning with Conclusion (on both, M-Tronic and Tympanik), Matyasik pulls out all the stops to create one of the most captivating albums. Seamlessly fitting for home listening and a club atmosphere, the album traverses synthetic lines, uplifting production, and dance oriented grooves. "The heavy, popping basslines and robotic creaks maneuver each track with thoughtful precision while crafty electro-styled overtones and moderately distorted synth pads create a perfect balance of energy, melody, and flow." Thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end, Matyasik's latest offering stands as one of my favorite releases from Tympanik, propelling the label to the top of the trend setters once again. Fans of Architect's sound will feel right at home, and one only hopes that Conclusion is not a final chapter in the works of C. H. District. Be sure to check out Matyasik's collaboration with Paweł Kmiecik on their project, Wieloryb and the latest self-released CDr, Empty (2010).

Dirk Geiger - Autumn Field
Any album that begins with rain and thunder grabs my attention from the start. Carefully placed piano phrases only hyper focus my interest further. And as suspected, after the very first track, I fall in love with Dirk Geiger's first album for Tympanik, Autumn Fields. Backed by detailed field recordings, each track glitches and clicks through warm electronic pads, washed out ambiance, and sharp IDM percussion. Tübingen (Germany) born Geiger creates a film score for chilly evening strolls, and early morning [headphone] commute, where the music leaks out of your headphones into the world, mixes in with the external sound, and seeps back into your ears again. Geiger is not a newcomer to the scene. In 2002 he formed his own label, Raumklang Music, releasing music under his own name (see Geiger's 2008 album, Dondukov 15), as well as albums from Kraftmaschine (an industrial group he formed a few years prior). On Autumn Fields, Geiger continues his explorations with fuzzy noise, experimental beats, and extensive field recordings, wrapping it all up into a neatly packaged listening experience. The album gets polished off with two remixes: from Svart1 and Access To Arasaka. Recommended!

Famine - Nature's Twin Tendencies
Entering the mysterious world of Famine, is like being welcomed into the depths of the unknown, where life, and ultimately death, fight over each other's turn to play with the spirit and the flesh. The weather is perfect - lush synthetic pads are cut through sharp, precision savvy glitch and triggered percussion; where IDM elements and metal breakcore create chaos, synthesized strings and chorus raise the listener's spirits from the fatigue of an ongoing noise onslaught. Nature's Twin Tendencies explores sonic landscapes oozing with slimy leeches and prickly porcupines, all trying to grab onto your skin, first for a local anesthesia with the melody, then for a deep bite with the beat. This is the sophomore release for Toronto based Famine on Tympanik Audio. "Distinctive, turbulent, and unwavering, each chapter of Nature's Twin Tendencies offers a diverse new tale full of compelling elements that will seize your senses and grasp your attention at every twist and turn." I definitely agree with that. For comparisons and recommendations, my mind travels to the early discovery of Hecq, Gridlock, and Venetian Snares whose intricate harmonic compositions are ripped through a torrent of DSP-heavy beats. Check out Famine's Every Mirror Turns Black out on Toronto's industrial label, Bugs Crawling Out Of People in 2008.

Tapage & Meander - Etched In Salt
The hypnotic beat and flowing melodies are just the beginnings of the foundation laid by Tijs Ham and Conrad Hoyer, collectively producing under their Tapage & Meander monikers. Their first work together was the Hydromedusa EP released by Meta0 in 2006. Celebrating Tympanik's 50th compact disc release, the album by the duo nicely wraps all the dark, cinematic, and surreal explorations of sound that Tympanik is known for. On Etched in Salt, the newly formed group explores vast soundscapes, rising from the blank canvas with mathematical precision, like distant mountains constantly warping in their occupied area of frequencies. Add to that electro driven sharp rhythms and IDM percussion, and the listening experience guides the explorer to climb higher, where the peaks hide in the clouds, and the sky becomes the inverted ocean. And all of a sudden you fall... up... "This fantastic pairing of two beautiful minds produces steady waves of beat-driven melodies captured in a net of heavy atmospheres and complex rhythms that mimic the power of the tides themselves." Truly inspiring work for all up and coming musicians interested in keeping with the experimental nature of music. Check out Tapage's previous releases on Tympanik: The Institute of Random Events (2008), Fallen Clouds (2009), and his very recent digital release, Seven out on Raumklang Music. Meander's previous work can be heard on his Dreaming In Reverse EP, out on Low Res Records.

Undermathic - 10:10pm
It feels a bit peculiar. Didn't I write about an album titled 10:10pm before? This feeling reminds me of that moment in the night, when you wake up at a seemingly random time, yet the alarm clock always beams in red, 10:10pm. Undermathic did in fact record the same titled album before he was signed to Tympanik, but it was a self-released album, at times lacking the self confidence and pride that an independent label can provide. From the composition and production perspective, the sophomore release by this Poland native Maciej Paszkiewicz, offers the listener a transparent view into the world of multiple dimensions and spectrum of sound. Complex textures and sonic treatments blanket the surface sprinkled with rhythm and intricate percussion, until the central theme seeps through and carries you away with its cinematic undertones, and you hear the seagulls by the beach, and forget that you are merely on a commuter train with a screaming baby in the seat behind you. With the album's "massive washes of ambiance and infection beatwork mixed with brooding melodies and heavy synth lines," the second album by Undermathic for the label is a lot more mature than his previous, Return To Childhood (2009). I will definitely continue keeping my eye on the music from Undermathic, as this artist continues to develop his inevitable brilliant future.