Interview: Five Minutes with Piksel
Meet Piksel, a classically trained musician who has ventured into ambient & acoustic soundscapes with her newly released EP, Some Silver Burns. The piece reflects and compares algorithms in man-made & natural forms. This is explored through the use of field recordings of the city and nature, as well as recordings of acoustic instruments – such as violin and piano. Outside of her Piksel project, Ieva Vaiti works as a composer for various platforms – including film, dance & installations.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
My mum is a pianist, so naturally, I was exposed to a lot of music; theatre, classical and so on. During holidays and after school, I would spend a lot of time in rehearsals and I loved the atmosphere. I don’t really know a world without music or art, it’s just part of everyday life. But more specifically to answer the question – why arts – in my opinion – it’s a source of expression and escapism that is satisfying for both – the audience and maker.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
Usually the idea – I think the sound comes naturally – it’s your personality, whilst the idea is interchangeable, depending on what you are working on. I usually have a sound world in mind before starting a project, but the idea is what makes the project flow. I guess you can’t have one without the other.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes – the upcoming EP – Some Silver Burns is actually a soundtrack taken from a multimedia dance collaboration I co-run – called Syntrex. It was premiered at The Place, London as part of Resolution Festival – but I thought the soundtrack worked well on its own too, so decided to release it. I think music is quite an abstract art – whilst dance and animation are visual and can translate narrative and emotion to the next level. So it’s been really special working with people of such high calibre – Magnus Westwell (choreographer) and Amy Dang (animator).
What’s on your current playlist?
I actually DO have a playlist of all things I’m currently listening to on Spotify. I listen to a real variation of things – from dance to ambient and in-between, including Anne Muller, Jamie xx, Floating Points, Four Tet, Mica Levi…
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I think it really depends on what kind of crowd it is! If people are sitting down or listening intently on a weeknight, I’d probably say a couple of things about the music and generally do more live improv on the violin. But if it’s a dancing crowd I’d probably just let the music speak. I think it’s nice to have an adaptive set – it gives more flexibility.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I try to keep the process fresh and interesting every time – so it does change…but generally, I love to play around with field recordings, samples – make little loops and destroy them with effects or take one sound and make dozens of others…playing around with weird rhythms and vocal pitch-shifting is also fun.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
I would usually start with gathering the sound world for an idea or brief – and I would start with whatever feels more natural on the day – such as loop recording on the violin to get a melody and then harmony to fit around it, to fiddling with one sound or building a drum kit in a sampler. Once I sit down to do something, I don’t want to leave, so I usually do the most important bits in one sitting.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
The first time I saw Nosaj Thing & Daito Manabe collaboration – Eclipse blue and Amon Tobin’s – ISAM – was when I decided yep – there’s no going back – I have to do this!
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
All my gear of course!
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Been loving Ecker & Meulyzer recently who blend acoustic classical sounds with hard-hitting electronics.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Watching other artists make music, performing or just sitting down and listening to a great record. I also find the process behind visual artists’ work really helpful and translatable to music.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I tend to jump between Ableton and Logic – for some reason, I can’t make one software home. If I want to be more in control and have a very specific idea or sound – I will go to Logic. If I’m feeling more playful – I’ll go to Ableton and experiment with lots of techniques in the Session View and improvise a lot more. I do have some favourite plugins that I rely on and I love playing around on my ROLI block – especially when I’m on the go. I’m definitely more a software kid, but I am on the lookout for synths & other tools to keep things fresh!
Any side projects you’re working on?
You know what, I’m usually working on a hundred things at a time, but for the first time – I’m only focusing on making new material and it’s been really great! I recently did a collaboration with Malthus and worked on a couple of films/series. I’m looking forward to the next Syntrex collaboration (a multimedia dance collective I co-run!).
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I hope so! Every time I listen to an old piece of my work I’m always surprised at how my approach has changed. I’m definitely a ‘learner’ type, which is fine in music – because there’s never too many things to know!
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
I have an EP coming out on May 29th and then another release in the summer which I’m yet to officially announce. The next steps are definitely uncertain with the lockdown and all, but I’m looking forward to new collaborations & performances!
Famous last words?