Monday, August 6, 2012

A moment with Magdalena Solis

My husband was the one who turned me onto Magdalena Solis, a band that immediately pressed all the right buttons for me. Their music is almost bacchanalian—a soundscape of textures interspersed with samples from films.

As an author, I’ve found their music highly inspirational in creating the right kind of mood in which I can create. I love the almost alien wildness and unpredictability. So, of course, it stands to reason that I had to hunt them down and drag them into the spotlight here on my blog.

So, who's in the band, where are they based and what motivates them? The duo are Wim Lankriet and his partner Marie Beaunom, and Lankriet happily answered a bunch of my questions. As for how the band originated, Lankriet says: “Magdalena Solis is based in Brussels, Belgium. We're a male/female duo, me and my girlfriend. I was writing little screenplays when we met, and she's a professional video editor. We're both movie freaks, so from one thing came another. Early works were mere visual experiments. When we created some sounds for those we quickly got an offer to release the music. We were surprised and flattered... it wasn't really our plan.

“Ever since the project has grown, notably after the first full album Hesperia that was released last year. But we still do it just for fun and intend to keep it that way. We're motivated by creating the ultimate sonic and visual trip, something incredible. Slowly we work and progress to achieve our vision. That's what keeps us going, the dream, the vision, and the pleasure of doing it. It's like a drug. We work for ourselves and do as we please. Public attention and reviews, we had never expected that, but it has become important to us. Well, just the idea--we create things that make people soar, that they thoroughly enjoy, that makes us feel good.”

At a quick glance, Magdalena Solis’s latest video, some might see similarities with the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and perhaps a nod toward Kenneth Anger's film works. Lankriet confirms: “Indeed both Anger and Jodorowsky, along with 1960s B-movies, have been major influences for the Hesperia album visuals. However, we have been craving new horizons for a couple of months now. After some doubts and discussions we decided to do the Crown your whores and burn your kings clip as the climax of this first period. At the same time for us it marks the end of an era. For some time now Tarkovsky and the Czech 1960/70s new wave films  have been fascinating new favourites. Also Pasolini remains important to us, more than ever.

“Future visuals will be less lush and extravagant. Our fascination for deviant and subversive art has not faded, and this will remain present in future work, but the style will change. To put it simple, we feel it is time for us to grow up.”

With regard to musical influences, as well as writing and production processes and how the two work together, Lankriet says: “We listen to many different genres, and music from different eras. What inspires us most is simply music with brilliant melodies. That is what matters and that is also what we miss in many contemporary things, because it is too experimental. Experiments and seeking new horizons is important, but mere experiments are just a fad and rather boring to listen to, it's only half of the work really. For us the ideal music is always a combination of both experiments and great melodies. So that's how we create: switching constantly between these two poles, when the experiments begin to bore us we move on to pure melodies and vice versa.

“Classical music is also very important to us, in particular Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. I find it interesting to study and play their music because these three form a revolutionary cycle that was the birth of modern music—and at that time there was no equipment for experiments, they only had dissonant notes and harmonies. Popol Vuh is also important to us; he drew from a vast array of influences but he was a most fascinating connection between rock and classical music, without falling into symphonic rock bullshit. Another peculiar and authentic 1970s project we listened to a lot these last few months is Flamen Dialis. It's full of interesting experiments, mixed with brilliant and eternal melodies. His only album Symptome Dei I find a total masterpiece, and still incredibly underestimated.

“Our past recordings to me, it was perhaps the result of too many influences, just a bit too many. Our work also remains a struggle between the current zeitgeist and our more ‘classical’ attitude and influences. Our project is still very young, and within the modern music world we often feel like Voltaire's IngĂ©nu. How that novel ended I forgot.”

But Magdalena Solis not only reflects its cinematic influences in its music videos, but draws them into the music too. In Lady of the Wild Things there are a good few sound clips from assorted films.  

To this, Lankriet adds: “There are quite a lot of audio samples on the Lady of the Wild Things EP. The track The Pigs Monastery has mostly audio from Ken Russell's The Devils; both the "christ crucified..." monologue and the "you filthy whore" screaming at the end are from The Devils. There is a bit from Jodorowsky's El Topo in it too, the preacher and crowd yelling and chanting, before the guitar and drums fall in. Count your blessings and Pink Sock Parade both have audio that was taken from lesbian porn clips. The voice in the first part of Zero Point Energy is PT Barnum. People have asked me sometimes where the fairy vocals in the second part of Jinxed come from, but that is actually me singing with a pitch effect that makes me sound like a child.

“On Hesperia we used maybe less significant samples, there they blend more with the instruments in general. But they remain present and important. We continue to use sound samples while composing/improvising. We often create strange background noises ourselves, by putting loads of effects on instruments. During my teens I saw a documentary about George Martin that blew my mind and he is still a big example. Guitars plus synths plus effects plus sound samples, these together are to us some sort of huge supernatural organ, a fairytale instrument that sucks up all the sounds of the world.”


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