Leah Kardos is an Australian born composer and musician which we introduced different times. Three years after Rococochet, she recently released a new EP. Bird Rip is out now via Bigo + Twigetti. According to the press release, It is all made from bits and pieces of Leah’s previous releases that have been reconstituted and repurposed to create new music (A copyright lawyers nightmare).
Today we have the pleasure to premiere a special live session which she recorded from her home. Watch it below and check our talk with her about the the new EP, her roots and much more.
Can you tell me about your new EP “Bird Rib”, and the process behind collecting your previous sketches and creating it?
It started with accidentally hearing some of my music playing backwards and at half speed on a ¼” tape machine. I was at work demonstrating to some students how to load tape on a Studer A80 and I had used one of my own old master reels – the students had loaded the tape the wrong way with the wrong setting, and I just really loved what I heard. It seemed so atmospheric and fragile, I quickly bounced it down to Pro Tools and thought to myself “I’ll make something with this one day…”. So that’s how it started, and I also had some left-over ideas from Rococochet, so the theme became about repurposing/reusing and coming at musical ideas from different angles – backwards, upside down, half and double speed.
You said “There are nods in here to 90s-era IDM and trip hop with which I have a strong connection”. What do you like the most of those movements?
Here is where I show everyone my age – I turned 41 recently, so these styles are a special kind of nostalgia for me. I was in music college in the late 90s and was a huge fan of Massive Attack, Portishead, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher at the time. This was the same time I was discovering music technology and my mind was exploding with those possibilities, I went from being a Debussy-obsessed classical piano major to spending my entire final year holed up in the studio studying Goldie’s Saturnz Return trying to figure out how to produce breakbeats. What still appeals to me about these styles is the focus on detail and texture, every sound has a grain to it, every musical element can have its own vivid character.
The artwork is beautiful. How did you choose it? How much important is the visual part for your work?
Many years ago, back when Tumblr blogs were popular, I had an account where I basically reposted art that felt ‘musical’ to me in a way, and I’d tag images with musical ideas that I would ’see’ – like #repetition, #colour, #structure, etc. (https://thisticklesleah.tumblr.com). I reblogged Maurizio’s Bird Rib images back in 2010 (you can find it about 10 pages into the blog). Fast forward 10 years when I realised how this EP would be structured, I wanted to find a good palindrome for a title and I was searching ‘Bird Rib’ to see if many other people had used it, that was when I rediscovered Maurizio’s art again and remembered loving all those years ago. I plucked up the courage to get in touch with him over email and luckily for me it all worked out. He’s a really lovely guy. And yes, visual connections are really important to me – after I got his permission to use the cover image, I found all of the other Bird Rib pieces he made in the set, and I ended up using one for each of the tracks on the EP as textural/atmospheric inspiration.
You are from Australia and you live in London. I’m very interested to the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art. How do you feel these theme connected to your music, your way to think music? What are your favorite places which inspired the most?
I’ve been living in the UK now for almost as long as lived in Australia, and even though I crave my Aussie home, when I’m there I crave my English one just as bad. When I have the Pacific Ocean, I pine for Victorian architecture and grey skies, and vice versa. The connection between Australia and the UK is a strange one – being a Commonwealth/colonised country, we get fed a lot of British culture in Australia through the education system, from TV, music and literature, the geographical names given by white settlers to the ancient landscape, to having Queen Elisabeth II as our head of state… growing up in that kind of environment, and especially studying music (starting with the European canon, but then The Stones, T-Rex, Bowie, Kate Bush, The Smiths, etc) made London a bit of a mythical place for me. Living here, and especially doing the work I do in London recording studios, I sometimes feel like I’m within touching distance of history (which for the little Aussie girl inside me is always really exciting). Inspirational places for me are the tropical rainforests at Mount Warning, near Murwillumbah, New South Wales where I grew up, Richmond Park in South West London in autumn, and any back garden that has a bird feeder.
How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?
One of the first things that happened was my main music computer completely died, about 4 days into the lockdown, and I obviously can’t go to Visconti Studio to work as I would usually. When I made those loop performances, I was really scratching around for equipment to use – my MacBook Air running a free trial of Ableton, a baby blanket to muffle by boyfriend’s piano, an inappropriate microphone… I’ve managed to make a few bits and pieces using my limited set up – a piano piece for Bigo & Twigetti’s Perceptions project, and an audio-visual collaboration for Studio ExPurgamento. Aside from this I’ve been learning to cope by being creative in other ways; I’ve been writing more, spending time in my garden, and lavishing a lot of attention on my elderly dog.
Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?
I really enjoyed Madeleine Cocolas’ Ithaca, which came out recently. Tigran Hamasyan just released Levitation 21, which has been liquifying my brain (in the best way). We’ve also had two releases from Squarepusher this year already, both of which I’ve really loved. Finally, one of my ex-students just released a great little EP called Swim under the name FIN/ÜIJ, some delicious shimmering synth pop.