Two years after Occasus, Portland-based composer, sound artist and musician Keith Kenniff (Helios, Mint Julep) returns with the project Goldmund. The Time It Takes is out on October 16th. According to the press release, he manages to deepen the emotionality of his already affecting project, creating a space in which to unfold the sorrows of a troubling age and revel in the hope and beauty that follow thereafter. In this sense, The Time it Takes tackles grief head-on, unadorned by themes of escapism or pastorality, and marks another entry in an impressively consistent body of work.
Check the new excerpt “Day In, Day Out” and read our talk with the artist who details the new album, the artwork, his roots and much more below.
Let’s start from the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?
Being as I work from home, doing film scores, and don’t tour, the day-to-day hasn’t really changed too much, but overall I think there are many concerns artists have about the role of art in society. Personally, I find myself taking solace in returning to and finding new music and art to make sense of things, and my hope is that art will serve as refuge in these times to contextualize the seemingly unanswerable questions we all have.
“The Time It Takes” is your new album. What’s the story behind it?
Especially as I get older I think a lot about time – how fast or slow it moves, our place in it as a species and in our own generation. Time defines the development of relationships, a career, raising a family; the larger goals we all have, which time shapes and molds. I’m also interested in how it defines smaller chapters of a day or an hour in which many things can happen or shape things that come before it or after. I’m always aware of it.
The Loss and the dissipation of the memory of the thing lost are the main themes of the album. How much music helped you to manage certain emotions and to keep alive the memories?
I think music has a very definitive way of highlighting nostalgia and memories, I am always conscious of how music defines chapters of my life. I love how it can instantly transport you to a time and place, and I relish that moment where, even if it’s an album you’ve listened to a 100 times, there’s one moment where it may fully connect to you deeply in a way that you can never divorce it from the definition of that moment.
The Artwork is very intense. How did you choose it?
I took a very long time to search for the album and went through a lot of sources. I didn’t want to create something custom as I didn’t really have an idea of how I wanted the title to be represented (which I chose first). I came upon that image and it seemed to have the simplicity and the weight that I thought would reflect the music and the title’s meaning.
Considering your relationship with the instrument and your music, your different aliases, what is your way to give new shape to the sound over the years? And what is your idea of experimentation in art?
In regard to this project specifically, I have never set any rules other than it being piano-centric; however, in the past couple of releases I’ve been toying around with how the piano would compositionally helm the sound overall but tonally how it can be manipulated so that the timbre of the textures involved become as evocative as the notes. I think experimentation is fine, but I also think if it’s worth it to have focus if a chosen direction works, it’s fun to delve into a rigid set of rules and work to make it “new” within those parameters.
You are from Pennsylvania. I’m really interested in the connection between the places we live over the years, the territorial geography of our roots and the art. How do you feel these themes connect to your music and your way of thinking music? What are your favourite places which have inspired you the most?
My memory of Pennsylvania’s open spaces are always special to me, the smell of the farmland etc…it represents something soothing. I’ve lived in big cities too and other places in between. I think each place represents something intangible until you leave it and then you have the ability to look back and define what it is about it that made it special. That sort of romanticism can be corrosive to the actual feelings one may have had of that time while in it, but I think the pliability that nostalgia enforces on memory in that sense is pretty interesting to consider.
Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?
I like the band Ruby Haunt a lot, they’ve put out a lot of material in the last few years. The latest I Break Horses album, Warnings, is fantastic. There’s a great album by Andy Stavas called Duo that is a wonderful take on that whole “felted solo piano” vibe that’s been really popular – the performance, recording and composition is very thoughtful. My wife, Hollie Kenniff, just finished her second album as well which will be probably early next year, which I love listening to.