Last month, when Sydney composer Brendon John Warner released his debut album La Fonte, we were blown away by his seamless blend of genres.
So fresh off the album’s release, we caught up with the artist himself for a track-by-track run down.
Fresh off the release of his debut album La Fonte, Sydney-based composer Brendon John Warner gives us a track-by-track run down.
The record as a whole was inspired by our reverence for polar regions, and glaciers, in particular, set against the shame of political stagnation on the issue and population growth destroying such beautiful monuments.
It’s not hard to extrapolate out this same theme across many of the world’s natural environments, though arctic degradation particularly struck a chord with me after visiting Rob Roy glacier in New Zealand last year. The record moves from reverence to alarm as you listen. The pace of, and instrumentation in, each track follows this theme.
The first track Édifier explores the process of building glaciers over the passage of time. Remnants of a distant ice-age, layer upon layer accumulating over thousands of years, the interweaving melody lines and textural piano sought to convey the incremental and imperceptible building of giants.
I was also inspired by the works of John Luther Adams, whose compositions often explore natural themes sounding organic and imprecise, and used a modular synth to generate randomly timed harmonically consonant notes that eventually became the basis for viola and violin parts on the track.
Sentinelles carries in it some of my favourite music on the record and the melodies in it were inspired by a painting my wife had bought home from Alaska 5 or so years ago. The painting is limited to varying shades of blue, black and white, composed in thick textural brush-strokes and portrays the mouth of a mountain valley, flanked by silhouettes of large spruce and cedar, above which towers three mountain peaks.
The name Sentinelles is a representation of the guardianship rendered by glaciers and their surrounds to human populations right throughout pre-history, and the kind of sad irony now that we inadvertently set fire to our one-time protectors. The main themes in the music are contrasting texture and space, melodic minimalism expanding slowly into large, tangible melody lines, and production that moves from focus on obvious coarseness toward a sense of reverberant ephemerality.
La jeunesse relative
The third track, La jeunesse relative, or relative youth, was the last to be written and takes much of its musical content from the song that follows it, états, being reworked and time stretched in a Studer A820 tape recorder. This slow, minimalist and childlike character of the melody is a statement about our own young childlike approach toward such a big issue as man-made climate change. The track features just one melodic idea explored on a Fender Rhodes, a Wurlitzer and a lovely, old upright piano.
États (or states) features a sonic pallet that moves from drone, with down-pitched pianos and synths pushed through a Leslie speaker, to lo-fi electronic, with stuttering stretched piano, Rhodes and resampled intimate jazz-percussion, back to drone, and finally to a post-rock kind of climax, with reverberant toms, rhythmic synth lines (a throw-back to my adoration of Mogwai!) and a punctuating guitar part that sneaks up throughout.
The track’s grinding drones were designed to represent a kind of slow discourse between giants, in the way that a glacier carving out a valley might communicate, the lo-fi electronic parts a simple image of their aesthetic beauty, and finally a drone that whimpers to nothing ahead of the slightly melancholic overture to our current state – reverence and destruction.
Now we’ve reached the title track La Fonte which is rooted entirely in the theme of man-made climate change. The instrumentation has now moved completely away from acoustic and organic and toward electronics and synthesis. The idea came about by playing around again with my modular synth, this time sequencing the verse beat which took on a feeling of lethargic alarm, and set the tone for the rest of the track.
I set the key and wrote the chorus piano chords and descending bridge, adding later the gradual tempo increases and opening up the envelopes and filters on the arpeggiated synths that build the ramp to the climax of the record, an urgent, unspoken call to action.
La Fonte is available now. Listen above.