Oct. 04--Call it a sea change.
Three years ago, longtime friends Joel C Bennett and Nathan Stock were making waves with their band Mainsail. The group's self-titled debut CD was a surf-rock tribute to local waters, from C-Street to the Channel Islands.
As time flew by, however, they found themselves plunging deeper and deeper into the world of electronic and experimental music. So they ditched their guitars and their melodies and dove head first into an ocean of very, very different possibilities.
The result is a new band, Black Sails, and a new album, "Fathoms," that was recorded in Ventura and released in July. It's available on iTunes, Amazon and other online retailers. Visit http://www.blacksailsmusic.com for more information.
"Fathoms," according to Bennett, is an electronic album "conceptualized as an audio deep-sea dive." The nine songs are mostly instrumentals, with occasional voices floating in and out of the mix. The tracks incorporate "field recordings of ocean noise, mysterious beeps, arpegiators, synths, and vintage drum machines." The set begins at "100 ftm" (ftm is the abbreviation for fathom), descends to "6000 ftm" and rises to the "Surface" by the final track.
The duo recently collaborated with SoCal musician Victory (aka Robert Fleming) to remix a song off "Fathoms." The result, "500 ftm (All You Want)," is available at http://tinyurl.com/p3hqn5l.
Bennett came up for air long enough to answer a few questions about the album.
What inspired the concept of an "audio deep-sea dive"?
I moved to California several years back and developed a bit of an unhealthy obsession with the ocean. The Discovery Channel can steal my whole day away if I come across a deep-sea documentary. Have you seen the old '70s film strip movie they show at the Channel Islands National Park? Amazing.
I wanted to do something cinematic; something that had a story without lyrics. I'm a big fan of records like Brian Eno's "Music for Airports" and Kraftwerk's "Autobahn." I wanted to emulate how specifically and thematically they are written. The ocean was a good place to start, and felt right.
There's a voice -- in French? -- that weaves in and out. Who is that? What's being said?
I can't really reveal who is speaking or all the passages, but yes they are French. One is a quote from Jacques Cousteau: "From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to Earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free."
Did you try writing lyrics for any of these, or did you always conceptualize an all-instrumental record?
After years of doing rock bands, I really needed a break from writing melodies and lyrics. Doing this was freeing and exciting versus what had become frustrating. This one was going to be all texture and rhythm. No lyrics. No guitars.
What kind of vintage drum machines did you use?
Tons of different stuff. All the old Rolands make an appearance (606, 707, 808). There are also Akai MPCs, cheesy digital kits, etc.
Some of the rhythmic stuff isn't even drums at all. My friend Nathan sent me about 100 sound samples that I chopped, pitch-shifted and wove into songs and rhythms. They were great little bits that inspired and defined much of the album's texture.
Where'd you get the ocean field recordings?
A few places. We went out to Oxnard shores with Nathan's tiny Roland stereo recorder and recorded waves, drainage pipes and seagulls. Ironically, that is where we first learned to surf about 8 years ago. I've also done some recording out at C-Street but I don't remember if it made it into the album.
Do either of you guys dive?
Have you ever seen a picture of the Goblin shark? No way I'm going down there. Nathan snorkels.
Did the tracks get harder to create the "deeper" they got?
Actually, the opposite. I find it easy to write ballads, slow stuff, and sad songs. I guess I'm just a sad bastard. The optimistic major-key club stuff is hard to get right without sounding like a total doofus.
What comes after "Fathoms"? "Light Years"?
Some exciting things are around the corner. We are also working on video accompaniments for portions of the album along with putting together a live show which will be much more dance-oriented.
I can't give you all my secrets, but I have started the next phase in what I see as several albums. Lets just say I've been drinking a lot of Tiki drinks of late.
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