Originally Published in September 2004
The Aural Organics of j.frede
By TJ NORRIS
In the last half dozen years j.frede (born James Frederick in New Mexico, circa 1975) has slowly emerged in the City of Angels as one of the world’s premiere young phonographers. His work embodies the presence of the ethereal in works that fluidly blend organic field recordings with bold digital technologies. Frede’s intuitive compositions source sounds from his immediate and distant axis having actively explored the subtle tones of field recordings in his compositions since his first European tour in 1998. In a constant process of discovering what he explains as “countless natural sonics” the environment often brings him all the acoustics he requires that do not exist in the synthetic or digital realm. He sees himself as an integral part of a burgeoning community of phonograhers that includes such other notable artists as Seth Nehil, Christopher DeLaurenti, MNortham, Dale Lloyd and Eric La Casa among many others. You can surf to http://www.phonography.org for the latest in who is currently channeling the elements. Labels like 12K, Accretions, and/OAR and Intransitive have supported the emergence of sounds bathed in the cryptic harmonies between nature and man. When I spoke with frede from his studio in Los Angeles he said “Recently I have been doing contact recordings of trees and plants for an upcoming event in LA that will focus on sounds from nature.” From bees and trees to flowers and showers, frede’s insistent passion for bringing aural harmony to spaces with more super highways and stripmalls than a bit of green may make him the Henry David Thoreau of his generation.
Most recently his work has become something of an excerpted, accented, and it might even be called post-self, collaborative work with UK’s Scanner (Robin Rimbaud). On ‘j.frede Rewrites Scanner’s Diary’ the latest recording which is now available on frede’s own Current Recordings (www.current-recordings.com) he takes on Scanner’s Y2K ‘Diary’ CD release, a live recording, as the source material for a completely re-scripted interpolation of the original, based on Rimbaud’s daily journal dated back to the Disco era (1976). This somewhat traditional process must certainly pose a challenge for an artist who seems to only be constantly traveling the globe. Frede says “I was visiting Robin in London at the end of 2001 and he gave me a copy of his ‘Diary’ CD and he explained about the accompanying tour and his personal discipline with his diaries. I loved the concept and the recordings that went along with this album so in 2003 as we were discussing collaborative projects we both felt this would be interesting and thought the title was rather funny….so it began.” As electronic music can often be interpreted as impersonal, frede’s use of such private and nuanced artifacts of memory truly counters the ultimate means to an end herein. As the recording plays, the pages of Rimbaud’s personal passages unfurl under the mysterious, stop-start harmonic convergence frede composes. “I began taking apart his live recordings from the CD, taking care to not mix the sources from track to track, out of my own neurotic conceptual nature, and create new tracks or in this instance “pages” from the recordings. The finished piece is a full length album that explores Scanner’s textures and sounds arranged in new compositions.” Quiet, dreamy isolation meets fragmented memory bits head on.
And Rimbaud is not frede’s only collaborator of late, he is what some may call a co-op artist, merging his mind and talent with many others who lay the land high and low including professional piano tuner David Nereson on frede’s recent “Unprepared Piano” release (Current Recordings), his noise work with a hardcore band named Deadlock Frequency, and other unreleased work projects with veteran sound artists Kim Cascone and Francisco Lopez. He shyly admits that there are other collaborative projects on the horizon that “i will keep quiet for now…” His collaborations grow from friendships and through various correspondence.
As a visual artist frede has developed a growing roster of ongoing installation pieces. With a small band of artists who work in this modality, his combination of sound with sculptural elements, video and other interactive technologies takes an avenue that enables the audience to have a more full experience of the sound center of the work. Each of his sound sculptures follow a strict conceptual format, that aligns to strict disciplines in his life and for years he was plain bored of simply performing live in the typical stereo PA construct, so he incorporated working with live quadraphonic performances that leant to the experience of site specific sound space. This, of course, set up a precedent for challenging the average audience’s attention span, and those who typically come out to a show for flashy bling-bling would be in for a completely different mind altering body numbing experience at the helm of frede’s craft. When asked if he could reflect on his process and discuss the temporary nature of creating work in a more physical context, effecting how the visuals or sound might come first he explained “Each installation varies – some are for single evening engagements some are long running exhibitions. I have found it easier for people to relate to my work through my installations than through my live performances – people have the option of understanding it at their own pace, and they are not forced in a seat for 20 minutes… so as much as I love performing live, i am very passionate about presenting installations.” His methodical approach is readily identified as he went further saying “My process….. well I have a book full of “future works” that I keep, when an idea or a concept comes to me I sketch down all of the info onto index cards then organize the ramblings and type them onto a “projects” template – then I print them out and file them into the future works book.”
From museums and planetariums to Nazi bunkers (Blockhaus in Nantes, France) and on the hull of a ship the live experience in frede’s world is more of a basic shifting of the alchemies of sacred turf. Performing live allows him the ability to really focus on the sounds available at the speed of real time. He releases binaural sounds captured in his travels throughout Europe and the United States into foreign and contained live spaces where the dynamics of the particular piece and the duration of the performance may vary depending on the performance environment. He weaves sound textures creating real-time spatial environments that move what you hear around the space manually or by sequencing the pans.
Get something on your chest! This Summer frede introduced a vibrant new series of t-shirts called “current.array” created to bring print designs from composers working in the field of microsound and lowercase music. The artists include Janek Schaefer (AudiOh!) who’s “12 Tone Turntable” is something of a dizzying vortex for turntablists with a passion for lock grooves and scratching, the contained dna of what could be the origination of tie-die in “Voice Print” by Steve Roden (Trente Oiseaux, Sirr) and John Hudak’s (Alluvial, Intransitive) swirly James Bond meets Vertigo-a-go-go.
In 2003 frede birthed the LA-based imprint Current Recordings, his second record label. Passion intact his penchant for producing work got him into curating sound festivals and events that initially helped launch his first record label, Ritual Document Release. The handprinted, handmade design and packaging is an fundamental part of the label, providing a more elegant, human touch to the standard jewel case packaging process. And the future is bright for Current, as they are currently putting together the Fall release from LA-based composer Kadet titled “Thin Air” as an enhanced CD with a 3D interactive application “Sensorium” created by Kadet and Reto Schmid. Other future releases include a 3″ CD from David Brady and a limited 7″ from Steve Roden. As artist, curator and label chief, frede is working harder than ever to establish new ways to morph art forms and genres melding the creative stylus, not slowing down for a nanosecond on his electronic freeway.