Artists working on the fringes of ambient, noise and experimental music can often be confined to reductive descriptors by journalists, labels and events, grouping artists together in a manner that is neither beneficial to those individuals or the listener. It’s the sort of mindset that puts Alessandro Cortini on the same plane as Psychic TV because of some vague industrial connection, or, more recently, Elysia Crampton in the same conversation as Croatian Amor because of some algorithmic shortcomings. Philadelphia’s David Sutton, previously known as Current Amnesia and now going under the LXV pseudonym, has largely been able to avoid that contextual pitfall, releasing a series of albums, cassettes and mixes through labels like Umor Rex, Sacred Phrases and Anòmia that fit into a deep tradition of consciousness exploring electronic music that matches sonorous elements and abrasion with a deft, assured touch.
Having come to “young adulthood in the height of the american noise scene,” Sutton has also worked with the groups Ladderwoe and Car Commercials making “demented, improvised freakdom and occasional glimpses of fake rock,” but it’s his recent work as LXV that has piqued our interest and made him something of a cult favorite. Many will have been introduced to Sutton through Sirens, a collaborative album with Montreal’s Kara-lis Coverdale, and will have continued on to a mix for Creamcake and a series of one-off, almost hymnal tracks, leading up to 2016’s Clear, his most recent full-length project. Speaking to us over email, Sutton says that he’s been reading a number of philosophical texts, as well as some contemporary fiction, poetry, sci-fi and “too much news,” and it’s clear that Sutton has a flair for marrying classical and post-modern elements, a union personified in the text he writes and “reads” through a computer generated voice program in his mix work.
In our email exchange with David, we delved further into that marriage, inquiring about his use of acoustic and electronic sounds in quick succession, as well as how he’s managed to mine creativity amid the current political climate and how consciousness is realized in a physical studio studio setting. Sutton also mentioned that a follow-up to 2015’s Sirens is on the way and why he enjoys the process of making mixes so much. His Astral Plane mix begins with a digitized voice intoning stream-of-consciousness statements about American wildlife, sovereignty and displacement and more before leaping into a series of compositions by everyone from Mark Fell and Rene Hell to Vangelis and Alvin Lucier. It’s a deeply unsettling collection, reverberating with a nervous energy that is briefly placated by Groove Armada’s “At The River”, a track that arrives halfway through the mix and takes on a carnivalesque air in the midst of the clicks, drones and disorienting vocals that make up the rest of the selection. The mix is titled “Loss Function”, a fittingly analytic title to a composition that intentional skirt’s any sort of traditional groove or progression. Hit the jump for the full interview and a track list and download the “Loss Function” here.
Hi David, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?
Hello, I am doing well. answering from my bedroom in Philadelphia.
For new listeners, can you outline the progression of your various projects? You’ve worked under your own name, as well as Current Amnesia, LXV, Ladderwoe and Car Commercials.
I came to young adulthood in the height of the american noise scene, got to see a ton of amazing, weirdo sets in decrepit basements. Current Amnesia was my solo output for a while. Ladderwoe and Car Commercials were some duos working in demented, improvised freakdom and occasional glimpses of fake rock.
I first came across your work via Sirens, a collaborative project with Kara-lis Coverdale. Tell us about the origins of that project. I believe I read that you two met on Soundcloud, yeah?
Yes, we met on soundcloud and started chatting about processes and ideas and exchanging files. The whole thing picked up pretty quickly I remember. Its always exciting to collaborate with Kara, we have very different approaches which turns out some interesting results, I think, it opens new avenues for us both. We are currently finishing up our second collaboration which I am pretty excited about.
In an interview with TOP last year, you spoke about how you don’t need much outside inspiration to get creative because consciousness is such a “strange thing” to begin with. How do you actively mine your consciousness while in the studio?
My intention wasn’t necessarily that I do not draw much outside influence but more that the project itself is sort of a personal mythology- the symbolic artifact of the exploration of my own consciousness; in part it is the material watermark for thoughts and conceptions of immaterial things. The “studio practice” for me is really more of a physical realization, sort of corralling the exercises that lead to the generation of concepts and symbols, and the self critique of this exploration and its meaning.
Tell us a bit about the spoken bits/text in the mix. Did you write them or are they sourced from elsewhere?
I did write them. It is a really fun part of making mixes, is including these abstract narratives or themes based in text. I would say these bits are about the wrestling of the right and left hemispheres of the brain and the consequential breaking down of modalities of neuro-linguistic programming and the subsequent paranoia and apprehension in the lapse between the two.
What have you been reading lately?
Lately I have been jumping around a bunch. Trying to wrap my head around “The Nag Hammadi Library”, the philosophy and implications of the texts and their place in the western esoteric tradition as well as theology. “Altai Himalaya” by Nicholas Roerich. “On Eastern Crossroads” by Helena Roerich. “Cat Town” by Sakutaro Hagiwara. I listened to “The Transmigration of Timothy Archer” by Philip K. Dick on audio-book at work today, that is a favorite. Also recently “Chronic City” by Jonathan Lethem was really fun. I guess too much news stuff too.
The press around Clear pointed to the album being about “amazement, confrontation, and fear of a new reality,” a concept that feels even more poignant today. How has your creative process been effected, if at all, by the political climate in the US?
My life has definitely been effected. I’m not sure about my creative process really, I have been working similarly through the year. My music is abstractly political sometimes, but not directly effective in that way. I think if anything it is a statement about the sovereignty of consciousness and how it is persecuted and barred by certain ideologies society holds as universal truths. The current climate is a very confusing one and it seems more and more we are in need of reexamining and re-configuring social psychological structures that keep us revolving in certain patterns.
The mix pings pretty rapidly between acoustic and electronic sounds, as well as mellow and intense sounds. Is there an abiding concept and/or narrative to the progression and arrangements?
As mentioned before- there is that symbolic wrestling between the rational five sense reality and the intuitive deeper mind, so to speak. I also love unpredictability in music, I think that is what I try to keep all cylinders turning on. Its of course playful and a bit loony, but I think listeners deserve to have conventions challenged and an opportunity for opening new pathways.
Coming Home Text- LXV
Drawing Dirt- Loren Chasse
Dietro La Maschera I- Giusto Pio
On About Text- LXV
Data Screen- Hitoshi Sakimoto
Raffles in Rio- Mark Isham
One Foot Text- LXV
DRIFT I- INTERNET CLUB
Part I: The Occulation of 3C 273: 5- Mark Fell
Keep it Moving Text- LXV
At The River- Groove Armada
Oxford Meter End- Rene Hell
Untitled- Zbigniew Karkowski
Still Lives 7: Bread Knife- Alvin Lucier
Fround- Takagi Masakatsu
Sirens’ Worshipping- Vangelis
Soaring In Stasis- Kyle Landstra
The Common Loon- Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Fractured Moments Text- LXV
Kész az egész- Mihály Víg