Amsterdam-based Phil van Dulm and Alexander Bartels, better known as Wanderwelle brings you this week’s MNMT podcast, together with a brief interview. The duo has established themselves in recent time with their stellar productions. Most notably, their debut album on Silent Season Lost in a Sea Trees on Silent Season, as well as their new album Gathering of the Ancient Spirits has received a great deal of praise within the ambient and deep-techno scene. The latter draws influence from Paul Gaugin’s life during the years that he spent on Tahiti, which the duo tells more about in the interview MNMT conducted with them. The new LP was sold out within several hours, but there is already a repress scheduled on the 12th of November for anyone that didn’t get a chance to buy their copy
Let your mind drift away while listening to the organic, exquisite mix the duo has prepared for Monument.
1. Hi Phil and Alexander, thank you for agreeing to this interview and podcast. Let’s get right to it: What inspired you both to start to produce music initially and was ambient always the genre that you both were most attracted to within electronic music?
We became friends after a school trip to Kenya in 2009 where we discovered that we had quite a lot of mutual interests. We both had a love for electronic music already back then, although it was the quite shitty kind of electro house. After a while we got more techno orientated and at this point we decided to play around with some sounds. Nothing serious. Our musical interest became wider and deeper. That began mid 2015, a couple of months later Silent Season released our debut, Ocean Stories.
2. In an interview with the Berlin-based Patterns of Perception you mentioned that small details in your tracks are often inspired by interesting findings in stories or anecdotes. Could you give an example of this in regard to one of the tracks on your newly released album Gathering of the Ancient Spirits?
The Fire Dance is a track that is inspired by a painting called Upa Upa (The Fire Dance)by Paul Gauguin. He made this masterpiece in 1891 during his stay on the island of Tahiti. It depicts a column of leaping flames that illuminate the dancing natives in the middle of a nocturnal jungle. It’s an important moment in the albums alternative history where Gauguin finally finds mythical ancestors of gods and warriors which were thought to be forgotten for a long time. The track differs from the rest as it is darker and focusses more on percussion. We tried to make a sonic version of the ritualistic dance that Gauguin captured so nicely in his work. But instead of using recordings of a bonfire we used the sounds of smouldering embers as a reminder of the nocturnal ritual in the track after The Fire Dance. Every track is part of the bigger story we want to tell and details like this glues the album together. One of our jackets caught on fire during the recording process but it was all worth it.
3. In another interview, this time with Hypnus, you mentioned that you don’t think you would be able to work without some sort of inspiration or concept in mind. How does this process to come up with a concept for an album work for you together?
Concepts are important for us because it adds so much more to music. It transforms music into stories when done right. It makes the experience more layered and we hope people enjoy this and feel immersed in our sonic stories. Besides that, as field recordings play an important role we often need a concept to know what kind of recordings we have to make or use. We have some ideas in mind for other projects, so these are planned concepts, but sometimes we make some sounds that lead us to a concept which we can expand. It works quite organic for us.
4. Recently you played a 2,5 hour live set at the legendary Tresor. How did you think that went? Did you feel your music and the rather dark and raw ambiance of Tresor were a good match?
That was a truely amazing experience! It was the first time we performed in a club, so it was quite exciting. We played after Dasha Rush who created a lush atmosphere in the room already with her ambient set. We took it from there and eventually our live set became darker and less atmospheric. We transformed it to an set that suited the rawness of Tresor in the end. We got very nice reactions so probably it worked!
5. As improvisation is a big component in your live set, do you ever find yourself performing a live set in front of a crowd and spontaneously a track takes form that you record and would like to release?
We try to make recordings of all our live sets and indeed, sometimes then we have a feeling to work on some stuff to release it. Lots of the darker tracks we performed in Tresor are currently being worked on together with the guys from Bandhagen and some other, atmospheric ones we performed at Draaimolen will be made in something special for Silent Season!
6. How do you feel about the development of the Amsterdam scene for ambient and deep techno music? Could you name some artists that you feel are up and coming within this field?
There’s is a fruitful scene for ambient and more experimental techno due to Red Light Radio, De School and other likeminded projects such as Music from Memory and Izabel’s label Lullabies for Insomniacs. These institutions really are responsable for a very healthy vibe. It seems like there is a growing demand for more experimental music and layered techno instead of the boring Drumcode-like tracks. That’s a good thing.
7. Recently you played a live set at Draaimolen as a collaboration with visual artist Heleen Blanken. It seemed to be something special, as you were the only musical artist playing at that stage for the entire festival. Could you tell us a bit about the idea behind this?
Draaimolen was our first Dutch festival and we had an amazing time. The organisation was perfect and we don’t see that much of affection for the scene often. They really pulled of something very specials these last years. It’s a real shame it can’t continue on it’s original location due to bureaucratic nonsense. Heleen got her own area this year for her amazing audiovisual installation in the middle of the woods and she invited us to perform live next to The Chapel. It was a perfect location for our sounds. At the moment we have another collaboration with Heleen, this time in Amsterdam at Nieuw Dakota, a platform for contemporary art on the NDSM wharf. We made a soundscape inspired by the grating sounds of tectonic plates and sub-terrestrial crystals that accompanies Heleens beautiful sculptural installation; Urform. We’ll make our ADE debut there tomorrow (October 20th.)
8. What more can we expect from Wanderwelle in terms of releases and gigs in the future? Will you be focussing on playing live only, or also DJ from time to time?
A lot. We’re currently finishing a new album and working on two other albums simultaneously. On of these albums is a collaboration with Isorinne’s and Hypnobirds project Bandhagens Musikförening. It’s gonna be good. We’re looking forward to complete these projects as we have a lot of ideas in mind for new music. Another project that will see the light in 2019 is a two part EP collaboration with the guys from Primal Code. The first part is finished and will be released on one of our favourite labels…
We’re looking forward to our upcoming gigs as well. As mentioned before, we will make our our ADE debut tomorrow, our Red Light Radio debut next month and we have some other upcoming gigs which unfortunately we can’t tell anything about yet.
Two weeks ago we performed our techno live set, after a police raid in the club, for the first time. We loved the energy of it and the people of Madrid responded nice as well. So, we’ll play definitely more techno orientated live sets next to our ambient ones in the future. As there are a lot of genres we love, we’re sure there will be an occasional DJ set as well. We’ll see!
9. Tell us a bit about the ideas or concept you had in mind for the Monument mix that you have prepared for us.
The mix starts with a great ambient track by Jonny Nash, from his album on the label ‘Island of the Gods’. An intro to the melodic first part of the mix, the track immediately sets the mood. We collected some techno tracks for this mix that we really wanted to showcase. However, we didn’t want to start too early with that part so instead chose to tease the listener with some more ambiguous tribal tracks first. The ambient track by Vril that comes afterwards concludes the first part of the mix, after which dense, energetic rhythms start to come up. With some of our latest mixes we tried to keep the mood of the whole mix more or less the same while switching between genres. Our monument mix is more comparable to earlier mixes like our ‘campfire story’ for Silent Season.