Orange Crate Art: Psychedelia and melodic noise from Sweden
Orange Crate Art is the musical project of Toby, from Malmö, Sweden. he has produced some quality ‘Hallucinatory music since 1995’.
He just released his new LP, Astral Lullabies on the Threshold, which he was very kind to us the Premiere. Thanks Toby.
And he was even kinder in giving us a glance in his music and himself in the following interview.
His music work to date is as follows:
2019: Astral Lullabies on the Threshold, LP; Song for Celluloid Babylon: The Visionary Photographs of William Mortensen in the Silent Film Era (Original Soundtrack), Single
2018: Microscopic Liquid Subway to Oblivion , LP; Inside Out: The Art of Susan Te Kahurangi King (Original Soundtrack), LP;
2017: Quantum Distortion in Empty Space, LP; The Exegesis of Matt Marello (Original Soundtrack), LP; Circular Rays of Infinity Cells, EP
2016: Extraordinary Gradations of Mauve, LP; In a Sea of Crystal Radiance, EP; The Tibetan Year of the Dead, EP
2015: oca EP, 2015; ehs EP #1; Italian futurism, LP; ehs EP #2; ehs EP #3; ehs EP #4; Exploding head syndrome, LP
What is your music about?
Nothing in particular. It's more a state of... being in between states. Like hypnagogia. Trance-like and somewhere else, but with a physical presence. Even though the songs might have choruses and verses and vocals etc. Not comparing OCA to painters like Heron or Rothko, but.
I see quite a similarity between what I do and abstract impressionism, or painters like the above. What I put into the music is usually very to the point but the actual output, the expression, tends to come out as kind of blurry, see-through, or geometrical shapes in layers with blurred outlines. So what's it all about, when you sort it out... Alfie?
Once something is released, I have no say, but hopefully, the music can draw the listeners into a rewarding musical experience that they can define for themselves.
What are your goals as an artist artistically/commercially?
I don't really have any commercial goals. It's not a career. It's not an intentional anti-approach, I just don't think like that. I would love if the income from OCA could pay the rent and food, but I don't see it coming. Once something is recorded, I'm already working on the next thing. It's always about the next record. I'm making soundtracks for my friend and director Brian Chidester in New York, and ultimately, I'd like to make a living out of making music for film and television, but... I don't dream about it.
Since everything I do is DIY and on a small budget, I have gone the digital release route, but the plan is still to release/reissue everything on vinyl. These days, I'm more open to releasing music on other labels. I'm going to give Somewhere Cold something, for example, and that will probably come out on CD too.
I have a huge backlog of unreleased albums and EP dating back to 1995s. Most of these recordings will come out one day, so one of the rules I try to follow is to finish old stuff before recording new material. On the other hand, I really love the immediacy of recording something today and releasing it tomorrow. The "OCA" and "Tibetan Year of the Dead" EPs were recorded and released within the space of a few weeks.
The album I'm finishing right now is fairly new, recorded right after the Matt Marello documentary soundtrack in August/September 2017. The idea was to make a more song-based version of the soundtrack. It evolved into a gentle folk-psych collection of songs. Mantras and cosmic lullabies. The vocals are always record last, and I didn't get around to record them until February/March this year. I'd say the record is a bit more accessible . Less noise, more focused.
Who would you want as a dream producer, and why?
I have never thought of anybody else producing my music, so not really sure. It'd would have been interesting to have worked with Gary Usher around the time of his first Sagitarrius album and The Byrds' "Notorious..." album. His productions are so experimental and crisp sounding.
On a similar but different sounding note, Curt Boettcher. He'd put his usual Ballroom cast of vocalists on my tracks, which would've been lovely. Have you heard the Bobby Jameson record Curt produced in 1967? Those background harmonies by him, Michelle O'Malley and others..! And his work with tape delay, reverse reverb, Chamberlin, oboe and tremolo guitar on a lot of his backing tracks... he's a huge influence on OCA. I have a song called "In the Direction of the Non-Believer" which is sonically sort of a mix of a 1997-era Kevin Shields-remix and the album Curt did with Tommy Roe. A bit of Arthur Lee in the middle-eight but the rest of the music was kind of like that Tommy Roe album, with Boettcher-ish backwards tambourine and more.
As for current producers, it'd be interesting to see what somebody like Tim Hecker would do with an OCA record. It would end up radically different to everything I've done so far.
But generally, I will more than likely continue to produce my own stuff, but in the future, I'll probably hand the mastering over to a professional mastering engineer. And I'm always open to collaborations with other artists or musicians.
What are you trying to avoid as a band?
I don't think I'm trying to avoid anything. I just do it, like Nike footwear. I might not have their swoosh, though. Generally, I think it's better to try something than to avoid it.
Explain your songwriting process.
It used to be fairly traditional. Writing songs on the guitar and, later, the keyboard. These days, the process is more like people in electronica and film scoring: the writing and recording process is the same. One method I use a lot is to just press record and begin writing the song as it is being recorded. That's one reason why many of my songs change key so often... the songs just take off in their own directions.
I tend to mix a song right from the start, for every track I add, so it's continually molded into the final product. I usually mix into the two-bus, ie. I let EQ, compression, tape saturation etc colour the recording from the get go, rather than adding everything to the final mix. That essentially comes from the dance or electronic music world. Traditional rock engineers would probably disapprove. Again, it's maybe a bit like painting. I work really fast. Apart from the vocals, 90% of any released record is what was recorded in the first hour or two.
Why do you make the music you make? Is it in you? Is it your environment?
I have no idea why I make it. I just do it, and have done since I was a kid. It's an inner experience, but we're all connected to the cosmos.
Describe your palette of sound.
This is like the moment when John Lennon wanted a track to sound like an orange and George Martin was like "ok... I'll try to make it sound like an orange" :-) My bandmates would probably agree that I'm not that good at explaining what I want. I can be very precise for myself, but that's just the input into the music. Explaining the output to others is very hard, because everybody has their own idea of what X or Y is. Essentially, like any other artist, it's not my job to define what I do. It's up to the listener.
But from a more technical point of view, or in terms of arrangements, I have an anything goes attitude. I'll use whatever I have around me. Generally speaking, I do tend to come back to the same sets of arrangements. Usually one or two guitar, two bass guitars (one fuzz, one clean), organ and drums. I usually go for Vox or Fender Tweed amp tones, maybe a Mellotron, maybe a tack piano, sometimes brass, a lot of flute actually... for the soundtracks, it all depends on what the director wants and I try to translate it into music.
The guitars I use the most: a J Mascis Jazzmaster, a Squire Jaguar with Curtis Novak vintage pickups, one of those really cheap Danelectro guitars and a Danelectro electric 12-string guitar. I also have different acoustic guitars, and about one hundred effect pedals. Mostly fuzz and overdrive, but also several envelope filters, delays, tremolos, etc. I used to collect Devi Ever pedals and I use them a lot. Lately, I've come back to Boss pedals. Their overdrive pedals are so warm and musical.
If you could guest on someone else’s album , who would it be and why? What would you play?
I would probably play the guitar, my J Mascis Jazzmaster, which sounds three times as good as it costs. Can't actually think of a specific artist, sorry... maybe one of the newer London free jazz groups, or somebody who makes pure abstract or electronic music. Tim Hecker, hello? :-)
What musical skills would you like to acquire or get better at?
Playing in time :-)
Is there a band that if they didn’t exist you wouldn’t be making the music you make?
Sure. OCA would sound radically different without My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab, High Llamas, Mouse on Mars, and many others.
You’re from Sweden, what are the advantages and disavantages?
Of the country? Politically, I'm Old Labour, so I'm completely lost in today's landscape with morons on all sides of the political spectrum. The new left might have good intentions but the road leads directly to neo-liberalism. I guess living in this country has influenced me to check out of current times, musically. Being painfully aware of reality and choosing the inner, cosmic musical experience.
Musically, we've always been more international than local, attracting pockets of listeners all around the world. I love looking at the streaming statistics and see people from South America, Asia, the States, mainland Europe... it's like the Stereolab scene in the late '90s. Always international, with bands like Mouse on Mars in Germany, Tortoise in the States, Cornelius in Japan, and so on. I don't really see any particular advantages living here, as an artist. Being a 20 minute train ride away from Copenhagen makes a huge difference, though.