Tiny vinyl crackles are quietly put to sleep by a music box lullaby. The simplistic nature of I Swear By All The Flowers urges against dismissing the album too quickly. And so I dig. Bottle Imp is an independent label specializing in genres like glitch, breakcore, ethereal and darkwave. Its four first official releases are from a single artist, plus a recent addition to its roster, BLÆRG. That first, prominent name, is Life Toward Twilight, a Detroit based solo dark ambient and post-industrial project of Daniel Tuttle. Tuttle is the man behind the label as well, which features an archive of previous net releases available as a free download. But the record that I’m listening to is far from any of the above mentioned genres. It’s ambient atmospheres, dirty hisses, and analog noises as if they were recorded from… ah, yes! All of the sounds indeed were recorded from antique sources, like grandfather clocks, music boxes, old factories, steam trains, and yes, even wax cylinder recordings! I am a proud owner of a Victrola myself, which I occasionally wind up to marvel at its analog technology of sound magnification. An entire album made of such bits and pieces, with an old detuned piano, is a truly haunting experience. A meditative echo of the past. Voices of a forgotten era recorded by the magnetic fields of earth. This is an experimental album you’ll play over and over, and then talk to your friends about. Reminded me of The Refractors, Elegi, and Deaf Center.
First of all, what gave you the idea of creating such an album?
Honestly, it was the next natural step for me in my music evolution. I consider myself an ambient artist, and my usual goal is to create a certain vibe and mood. I do not fully subscribe to Eno’s idea that ambient music should not be distracting in anyway. I like to tell stories, and I do that by adding stuff to the foreground of the music, though in very subtle ways. Most of my work in the past is narration to a story I have in my head. I still feel my music works as ambient music, though. I had been dwelling on this idea of making music that is intentionally low fidelity that creates an antique and rusty atmosphere. I love deep drones, but I wanted to move away from that and try something very different. My story is old, and I wanted the music to sound appropriately aged. The rule I set for myself in this recording is that I could only use sound sources that either were from the late Victorian era, or could have existed at the time. Then I mixed them using the same sort of production techniques I used for my older albums. Even the melodies are intentionally detuned and decrepit.
Tell us about the main character of the story within the music.
My protagonist is the ghost of an old man that died in autumn of the year 1908. The music largely represents this man’s memories, starting from his youth and moving all the way to his deathbed. The music is a reflection on his life, loves lost, long travels and sad nostalgia. I imagined it narrated like a fuzzy dream sequence, with no good order or rhythm. When building the album, each track represented an individual experience or memory, with some repeating themes. I usually do not tell the actual story, preferring the music to do that job for me.
Do you really own an wax cylinder phonograph? I’m a geek when it comes to antique technology.
I own a single wax cylinder, but no phonograph. I would love to own one though! I am fascinated by antique sound equipment, as well. When I was putting together the idea for this album, I contemplated a hundred different ways to go about the production. What I really wanted to do was record the whole thing on a wax cylinder phonograph, and then re-record it digitally for production. However, the technical and financial hurdles would have slowed down the production on the album significantly, possibly for years. I decided to recreate it the best way I could with the tools I have, which is ultimately how I get everything done. All of the static is from some very nice wax cylinder recordings. A lot of the background vocal snippets are from home recordings done on wax cylinders.