Interview: Matthew Hayes
New releases from Sydney's Ken Oath Records always pique interest in astute ears around the nation. The Aussie specific label is now firmly part of the furniture in the Australian electronic scene, their latest release, 'Elegant Universe' is their second ambient tape, following the release of 'Breathing Space' late last year. The ambient scene is quickly finding firm ground within the Ken Oath family and the celestial jazz infused 'Elegant Universe' is a thoughtful extension to the canon. Occupying a space between traditional electronic ambient and free-form jazz disciplines Matthew Hayes and Joel Trigg have crafted an album which as earnest as it is exquisite. It plays with space, stripped back enough to allow the notes to be contemplated and reflected upon but with enough expression through guitar and key duets to sustain your attention. Overall the album is a pensive exercise in the beauty of things which arise from restraint.
How'd you and Joel come together for this album?
We have known each other for a few years now and have played together in a number of different outfits. I had Joel in mind when I was writing the music for this record and was lucky enough to have him onboard from the early stages. Joel’s playing and arranging transformed the music from basic concepts into formed compositions.
Jazz is a pretty difficult term to navigate nowadays with almost any free-form music being attributed to the genre. That being said, the 'Elegant Universe' obviously takes a lot from jazz. When people ask, what do you define the music as and what else was an influence on the tape?
Deciding the genre can be difficult but I think it’s an important process when conceptualising a record before it has been created. For ‘Elegant Universe’ I had a crossroads between improvised music and ambient-electronic music in mind. The original compositions were very open and left a lot of room for us to improvise. The music resulted in an approach to improvising where attention to simple, spacious ideas could thrive.
Was there any thinking specifically behind releasing the music on tape and is there any plans for a vinyl pressing?
We were fortunate to have Ken Oath Records help us release the music out to the world. They had a previous ambient tape release called ’Breathing Space’ that featured a long list of beautiful producers and musicians. Releasing this music onto tape fits with the aesthetic of Ken Oath records and the aesthetic of the music!
The project is very pensive and relaxing, is this a reflection of yours (and Joel's) mindset at the time of making the music?
When we recorded the tunes we placed a strong emphasis on space and simple ideas. I think an attention to clear, strong motifs that last for long durations allows the listener to feel a sense of relaxation and pensiveness. I believe ambient music helps the listener to discover the beauty in the most simplistic sounds.
Globally jazz is enjoying some time in the spotlight, with acts like Kamasi Washington and some members of the UK jazz scene experiencing mainstream success. Where do you see the Australian jazz scene to be at and who are some of your favourite local artists from the scene?
I can’t speak for the rest of Australia but from my perspective, Melbourne’s jazz scene seems to be thriving. Take a regular Wednesday or Thursday night and you’ll have a number of world-class options to attend. Catch some Bebop at Uptown Jazz Cafe or jazz standards played by The Rookies down at Rooks Return (if you can fit in past the crowds!). Head to The Evelyn where Horatio Luna or Elle Shimada will make you dance with their club focused improvised music. Up north at The 303 you’ll be able to see local legends B For Chicken melting faces or tugging on your heart stings. In Brunswick hear Michelle Nicolle fronting a rotating lineup of amazing musicians or catch original music at the Jazz Lab. + many more!
A few songs you've had on rotation recently?
The title track off Bjorn Meyer’s ‘Provenance’
‘Early Summer’ from ‘Scenes of Scapes’ by Kenji Kihara. https://innerislands.bandcamp.com/album/scenes-of-scapes