Single #2! “IM U” by Beacon is out today, listen and watch the video by our very own Charles Bergquist.
Beacon 2016 North America Winter Tour
02.04 Chicago, IL SCHUBAS
02.05 Detroit, MI Majestic Cafe
02.06 Toronto, ON The Drake Hotel
02.10 Allston, MA Great Scott
02.11 New York, NY The Bowery Ballroom
02.12 Philadelphia, PA Boot & Saddle
02.13 Washington, DC Songbyrd Music House & Record Cafe
02.16 Atlanta, GA Aisle 5
02.17 New Orleans, LA Hi-Ho Lounge
02.18 Houston, TX Rudyard’s British Pub
02.19 Austin, TX Parish Austin
02.22 El Paso, TX The Lowbrow Palace
02.23 Phoenix, AZ Valley Bar
02.24 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
02.25 Los Angeles, CA Club Bahia
02.26 San Francisco, CA Noise Pop
02.27 Portland, OR Mississippi Studios
02.28 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge
03.01 Boise, ID Reef Boise
03.02 Salt Lake City, UT Kilby Court
03.03 Denver, CO Lost Lake
03.04 Wichita, KS Barleycorn’s
03.05 St. Louis, MO 2720 Cherokee
Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett are unstoppable. The New York artists, collectively known as Beacon, have been on a productive hot streak since 2012, and their efforts continue to pay off. “When we weren’t writing,” Mullarney starts, “we hit the road and didn’t really look back. We toured the US five times since The Ways We Separate came out, building this project the old-fashioned way.” And Beacon’s natural, time-tested process has brought us Escapements, their sophomore album for Ghostly. “We went into this feeling liberated,” continues the singer/producer, and Gossett seems to echo his thought: “This record is in part our attempt to formulate what Beacon is going to look and sound like going forward.”
Escapements is about time, to put it simply, and all of the baggage it brings. The title is taken from clock mechanics; escapements are timekeeping regulators designed to transfer energy at a constant pace. “I was attracted to this concept because of the entropy it implies,” Mullarney explains. “Friction and changes in amplitude over time mean every escapement, no matter how well crafted, will lose its accuracy and effectively slow down time via its own decay.” This theme is delicately explored through Beacon’s music and lyrics, engaging ideas of pain and loss with a surreal palette. Whereas the duo’s debut was more streamlined and defined, Escapements thrives on an amorphous, free-flowing nature.
More than just a central concept, time manifests itself in these 11 songs quite literally, too. Take opener “IM U”, a slow-swelling cut of electronic pop that has knocked around in Beacon’s arsenal since the beginning. As Gossett puts it, “In its final form, ‘IM U’ is a track that has the history of the project embedded into it, an old idea filtered through years of growing interests and experience as songwriters.” His idea is reflected by the remarkable cover photo, a single shot taken by Caleb Charland in darkness for eight hours. “The arc of the star trails show the rotation of the earth,” Gossett points out. “I can’t imagine a better representation of time, process, and discovery. It’s how we wanted Escapements to sound.”
After the initial demos were written, Escapements was refined and recorded over the course of nine months at Beacon’s Brooklyn home studio and Gary’s Electric, where it was mixed by Al Carlson. Tycho drummer Rory O’Connor was brought in to perform, unleashing new energy onto the Beacon sound and helping expand it to unheard places. Which is another notable theme on the album. “I hope this record proves our restlessness and shows that we really aren’t content to have only one approach to creating music,” says Mullarney. “Every part of our process is linked to discovery.” And that meant trying out studio tricks and recording techniques on the fly, getting lost in the process until they came out the other side. Like on “Cure”, Escapements’ frenetic, breakbeat-inspired penultimate track. Mullarney explains: “There’s a moment where I was simply playing chords on the studio Wurlitzer and singing while the mic recorded the room. The idea was to escape the produced electronic music, just for a moment, and capture the energy in the room.”
Suffice it to say that Escapements tackles the difficulties of a sophomore album by ignoring their existence altogether—this is a record truly free of constraint and expectations. But because it’s still a Beacon album, the duo’s identity continues to shine through. Mullarney’s voice sounds full and confident, even as it floats weightlessly over limber dancefloor constructions in songs like “Backbone” and “Better or Worse”. It’s a precise balance, and yet feels wholly organic. “When you don’t give yourself a specific place to land you never really miss,” Gossett adds. “We just tried to trust ourselves and not put limitations on what this record was supposed to be. In that sense, it’s exactly the record we were meant to make.”
I was first introduced to Whitestone via my involvement with Italian electronic musician and producer Indian Wells’ sophomore release, Pause, for whom I did the album art for. Whitestone had contacted his label, Bad Panda Records, expressing interest about collaborating in creating an “interactive experience” for the release as part of a new platform they were developing. Naturally, as a designer (and musician myself) I was intrigued, specially after watching the video above, so I asked Roey Tsemah, founder and creative director of Whitestone, if I could pick his brain for a bit:
ISO50: What is Whitestone exactly, and who is behind it?
Roey: Good question, Whitestone is a platform for interactive music. It is a place for artists and fans who want more than just pressing play.
I am a musician, and as most musicians I’m also one of those die-hard music fans who still buy vinyl. About 4 years ago I set myself a goal to take album artwork to the next level, help artists make use of the browser as means of expression and create music for the internet.
I’m always comparing it to MTV. MTV created a place for artists to release music for TV and by doing that they inspired a different kind of creation. Conceptual artists like Peter Gabriel used the medium creatively and made history with videoclips like Sledge Hammer. We would like to do the same with interactive music.
At the moment we are a team of 4 people and we want to keep the platform independent so artists like us can gain the most off of it. We are raising funds on Kickstarter to help us build the platform and community. We hope that artists and fans who read this will help us bring Whitestone to life.
When MTV actually played music videos
Roey Tsemah’s Sketchbook
ISO50: What inspired you start a platform like this?
Roey: Artists like Bjork, Radiohead and Arcade Fire, who have made interactive apps and videos before. I just want to see more artists make stuff like this. Also, I think interactive experiences are a great way to add value to music online. Fans want to support artists but at the moment the only reward artists give them are MP3 downloads… Personally I don’t have anything to do with MP3s, they just take up space on my drive. I think there are better ways to reward supporting fans.
ISO50: How will people collect this new form of “interactive album art”?
Roey: Members accounts (both fans and artists) are built out of two main components – The Timeline and the Library. The Timeline (pictured above) is similar to other social networks, while the Library (pictured below) works similarly to Pinterest. Both fans and artist can add albums, mixtape, interactive experiences etc to their library, regardless of where they are online. Other fans can then follow them based on their curation. The whole idea is inspired by the way we used to discover music before streaming – we used to check our friends music collections, go through their CDs, bootlegs and mixtapes – our music collection says a lot about us and I believe it’s the best way to discover music.
Whitestone doesn’t distinct artists from fans in that sense, all artists I know are first of all music fans. At the moment there is no place we can explore, for instance, The Gaslamp Killer’s music collection, imagine how cool that would be…
Music fans (me included) spend hours, days and nights learning everything about albums we love, many of us contribute our knowledge on music forums and Facebook groups. Whitestone has a ranking system to reward such fans, encouraging them to participate and share their knowledge. The higher fans are ranked among the community they become influential and the platform rewards them with badges and coins to buy content on the platform. Also,they get the attention of their favourite artists who can then reward them with merch, gig tickets etc.
ISO50: What artists, both musicians and visual, would you like to see adopt your platform?
Roey: The general rule is everyone who gets inspired by the medium, the internet, the screen, code and data. Artists who see the possibilities in creative code, generative art etc. I love what Random Studio are doing and also Resn. They create rad interactive experiences. Musicians like Flying Lotus of course, Cold Cut and any Ninja Tune artists. Warp also, but that’s just because I’m into this kind of music at the moment. I also think it may benefit many ambient and minimal techno artists like Claudio PRC, for example
ISO50: So you’re a designer as well, what would you say is your favorite album cover and why?
Roey: Ow… there are so many… I love Ghostpoet’sSome Say I So I Say Light, the newFKA Twigs and Currents by Tame Impala (which I think would make for a sick interactive experience). Everything Bjork makes. Same with Radiohead (I love the process they go through with their longtime collaborator Stanley Donwood) Flying Lotus, Moderat, there are many, many more. I guess I can’t really name a favorite because I love different kinds of stuff. I think what attracts me most is the process and how the result reflects on the music.
Tame Impala – Currents (Design by Robert Beatty)
ISO50: Where do you see Whitestone in the future?
Roey: Basically I want Whitestone to be a hub for true music fans and artists online. A place where they can connect and support each other. A place not owned by a huge corporation but a small independent group of artists. I truly believe that together we can pull this off, I hope the readers will join us and help make it happen. We made a special website to honor all our backers, it’s an interactive credits page where every backer becomes part of a “Stone” -The bigger the stone is, the stronger we become as a community, the closer we get to our goal.
If you wish to support Whitestone, visit their Kickstarter campaign and pledge to get one of these amazing art/research books designed by Roey himself, among other rewards:
Big room British producer shares his 2nd single “Crystallise (feat. Lawrence Hart)” from his upcoming LP Fading Love on Domino Records.
I am always impressed by George’s very direct basslines, they always work soo well on the dancefloor and have this dryness to them that make them sound classic or like you’ve heard something similar to it in the past. Here he doesn’t have that it, its a rolling arp, a lot less heavy and more ethereal. Still gorgeous, the man has an ear for tasteful dance music, I hope he never goes anymore big room than this though.
Looking forward to renting this on Vimeo, even though its a tad bit long for a tour feature, i’m excited to see such a young label take on a doc this early in their creation.
In June 2012, four core acts from the house music label 100% Silk embarked on a lengthy group tour through Europe, UK and beyond. SILK is a chronicle of that experience with highly visual dance sequences featuring the L.A. Contemporary Dance Company.
Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting is a video series dedicated to the ‘analysis of film form’. His episode on Nicolas Winding Refn’s use of the quadrant system in Drive was the first video that drew me in. Each episode does a great job breaking down and explaining the little details that are sometimes overlooked. It reminds me of the first time I discovered the hidden arrow and spoon within the FedEx logo. When you finally realize it’s there, you appreciate the art behind what we see in front of us that much more.
But it was an episode on Japanese film director and animator Satoshi Kon that got me really stoked. This was my first introduction to the world of Kon and his signature editing style. Inspired by George Roy’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Kon’s use of matching scene transitions has also inspired other filmmakers and their films – Inception and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are two examples that immediately come to mind.
Before passing in 2010, Kon left us with one last gem – Ohayo. His final piece covers something we deal with every day; the dreaded morning wake up routine – illustrated in the most beautiful of ways.
Bored with your current Netflix subscription and tired of trying to find something you actually want to watch? Look no further because the Outliers Vol. 1 film has been fully released into the wild. A few years ago, a group of amazing creatives along with myself traveled to Iceland to create a beautiful documentary about Iceland. We teamed with musicians like Shigeto, Loscil, Eskmo, Son Lux, Heathered Pearls and Ryuichi Sakamoto to help us create a visual and sonic piece of art.
Head on over to the Outliers Vol. 1 website to watch the movie in its entirety in HD to bring some inspiration to your weekend.
And if you helped support this project on Kickstarter: THANK YOU!