Szun Waves Interview \\ “We let the music be in charge”

20th May 2019

Szun Waves released one of the most under-the-radar albums of 2018 with ‘New Hymn To Freedom’. 

The trio’s second album weaved its thread through left-field electronica, ambient and Jazz, completely unrestrained. Remarkably, for its courageous ambition and beautiful form, the album is a collection of six improvised pieces. Despite being the project of just three musicians – Luke Abbot, Jack Wyllie (Portico Quartet) and Laurence Pike (PVT), the album is vast, expansive and completely bewitching. 

Szun Waves have a highly-anticipated performance coming up on Wednesday 29 May – with support from Kayla Painter and Supreme Standards DJs – at Five Miles near Seven Sisters. Time Out described the venue’s Alcons Audio sound system as making you “feel like the music is inside you“. 

Ahead of the event, Luke Abbott talks to Supreme Standards about Szun Waves’ “ritualistic activities” and their musical language. 

\\ ‘New Hymn to Freedom’ is an improvised record; in that scenario, how do you prepare for time in the studio in order to deliver on the day?

You kind of just turn up to the studio and try and have fun.  I think that the best music is made when allow yourself to be consumed by the activity of making it, so that’s what we do I suppose, we try and let the music be in charge.  The preparation is everything we’ve lived up until that point, all the learning of music we’ve done and everything else in our lives, you bring it all with you. It isn’t an academic exercise, it’s a ritualistic activity.

\\ I can sense an element of terror and drama amongst the cosmos in tracks such as ‘Constellation’. It’s very visual. Do you create music with visual references at all?

I know what you mean about it being visual; when music is working best I think it does conjure images in the mind.  But I don’t think we really have a visual reference when we’re making things, we do have ideas or feelings we work around and we’re all interested in the psychedelic and mystical dimensions of what we’re exploring. 

\\ What does Szun Waves allow you to do creatively that you haven’t exercised in other projects as much?

Playing with other people is what it’s all about, the shared conversation between a group of musicians… it’s sometimes difficult to find a situation like that coming from a predominately electronic discipline, so for me it’s an opportunity to further explore my practice of using computers and electronics in the context of improvised free form music-making.  It’s a fruitful situation for us and I think we’ve all used Szun Waves as a way of developing as individual musicians. 

\\ Szun Waves will be playing Five Miles which is a well known club space; tell us about the relationship you guys feel between jazz and electronic music, when it comes to what settings feel right for you?

I suppose that ‘jazz’ and ‘electronic’ are two of the broadest musical descriptors, and there’s a huge amount of things that fall into both of those categories that we are a million miles away from.  As for making them relate, it’s not so much about trying to smash two estranged ideas together, it’s more about trying to develop a musical language between us a group.  We just like to play together, and we’ve developed some different modes of performance now, so it’s starting to feel like it makes sense.  But we tend to go through these long periods where we don’t see each other, so whenever we find ourselves back together things have always changed somehow.

\\ Are you guys creating music together at the moment? Tell us a bit about where you’re all at creatively right now.

We recorded some new ideas when we toured last year, but we haven’t really been in the same place all at the same time since then.  We all live in different places, so it’s rare that we get together.  And we all have other projects we’re involved in. Larry’s [Laurence Pike] just released a new solo album ‘Holy Spring’ which is incredible, Jack’s working on the new Portico Quartet record, and I’m working on a few different production projects and I’ve also started making new solo work recently. 

Get tickets for Szun Waves and Kayla Painter at Five Miles on 29 May

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