LOOR is the solo project of British musician Gwil Sainsbury, better known as Alt-J former bassist. He just released his first solo full-length. Waters is out now via AWAL. According to the press release, it is an animistic statement, a treatise on the mind, the body, and the confluent passageways that unite them.
“I think I’m pretty influenced by a lot of psychedelic music,” Gwil comments. “Whether that’s electronic or whether that’s in jazz. I wanted to be independent, and able to produce what I wanted to produce by myself. And to me, it’s very much about a relationship to nature.”
We had a talk with him about the new album, the psychedelic music, his roots and much more. Check the full streaming of Waters and read the full story below.
Let’s Start from your debut album “Waters”. How was born the idea of the album and what was the path of the creative process?
I had left alt-j and was finishing a masters. I was procrastinating writing my thesis and turned to Ableton for some kind of creative release. I didn’t intend to start making music- it just happened as a distraction from writing about French philosophers. I was experimenting with psychedelics at the time and I had made this collage image of these eels swimming out of the sea and flying towards the moon. Ive no idea why- but this image just spoke to me and I knew that it was the artwork for an album that I had to make. So the album image came first and I stuck it on the wall of my studio as a point to focus- then the album was created around this image.
You said you are influenced by psychedelic music. What do you like more of psychedelic sounds and what is the first image in mind when you think about it?
I came across a phrase I liked recently in a music article describing electronic music – neuron twisting. I like the image this phrase produces to describe the material sensation of listening to music that re-orientates your mind. For me, this always comes back to jazz and the disorientation and chaos that builds and dissipates into moments of re-orientation and wonder. New images emerge out of old ones, grammar and meaning are in flux- fluid and elastic. Images bifurcate and evolve- I think psychedelic music shares this sense of creation and destruction- the obsolescence of old ideas and logic and the growth of new ones.
The Artwork is amazing. How did you choose it?
Thanks! I mentioned previously I made the image of the eels and the moon before I made the album. Every time I was working on a track or structuring the album I came back to this image to remind myself of the seed that started the process. The original image was low-res- so when it came to finalising the album cover I worked with an artist group called Endless Studio in Leeds. They came up with a way of formatting it and making it come alive more.
You also worked with Mexican visual artist Salvador Herrera. How was born this collaboration?
Yes, Salvador is an incredible artist. I met him at an artists’ cooperative called Caraboo Projects in Bristol. I saw his drawings, which were inspired by experiences on Salvia Divinorum, and just couldn’t believe the level of detail and vibrancy of his work. I got talking to him and asked him to do a music video for me- and we have continued working together since.
You are from Cornwall and you live in Bristol, right? I’m very interested to the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art.
Yes, I grew up in Cornwall. I still feel very connected to those landscapes. When I was a teenager I spent most of my time surfing and hiking- I think those practices formed a strong bond with nature. For me, the landscapes are also entwined with the ambient works of Aphex Twin- I find it hard to look at a Cornish landscape and not have Rhubard playing in the back of my mind.
Now I live in Bristol, I still miss Cornwall but there is a real sense of aliveness here that mesmerises me. Growing up in Cornwall, I would travel to Bristol with friends to see bands. It’s always had this connection to music for me. You can see this musicality even in lockdown- right now, there are at least three sound systems playing out of people’s windows and someone playing electric guitar in their garden.
How do you feel these themes connected to your music, your way to think music? What are your favorite places which inspired the most?
I think my music is an attempt to tap into these transformative themes I’ve talked about in psychedelic music. The production process can be daunting- that’s why I tend to work with images as a starting point, like the album cover. More recently, I’ve enjoyed going out and taking video and then coming back to my studio editing the video and creating music for it. So, I would say images are the main theme of my practice that I use to inspire new music and are certainly rooted in my everyday experiences.
How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?
I think the main concern is that we are facing a transformative set of circumstances as a species. These circumstances will require radical social change to survive. The right will insist on an austere sense of nationalist survival and which will lead to new forms of fascism. The left needs to present a plan not just for survival but how to thrive as a species in these changing times. As horrifying as the current COVID situation is, it is only the first global test of our species’ ability to cooperate and share resources.
Artists and musicians can sometimes feel a bit redundant given our lack of key-worker skills, but we have a responsibility to use our cultural capital to amplify voices and confront fascism. That phrase on Woody Guthrie’s guitar ‘This machine kills fascists’ is always a nice reminder of our often forgotten power as musicians.
When this situation will end, I think you’ll go on tour. What kind of shows we can expect from you and what do you like the most when you play live shows compared to the studio sessions?
Last November I played my first show since leaving alt-j – I was very nervous about playing live again but it was such a rewarding experience. With electronic music there is so much room for improvising in a live setting and I will be playing live synths too- so that allows a kind of unhinged energy. I would say that my live shows are more clubby than my album and I will be working on some projected visuals to complement the music.
Ritual question. What are the best releases you recently appreciated?
Four Tet– Sixteen Oceans, Shabaka Hutchings and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History, Caribou– Suddenly.