“… these sounds can accompany you if you’ll allow them in. they’ll comfort you, remind you…”
andrew lagowski is a rare human being in my life. i have had the immense pleasure of following his work for three decades and am forever grateful to have played a very small part in the sharing and promoting of his music. since i and jules formulated the empty quarter we have remained in constant touch. i owe him a great deal for his enthusiasm of my own creative work and at times without his (and a few other’s) spur i mostly definitely would have given up the ghost long ago into a mere sedentary existence of personal listening without response. this cathartic exercise of expression is indeed a must, as i have discovered with purpose since falling into depression. andrew himself, is the most gracious man who deserves so much more than the cursory glances he is so often afforded. it beggars belief why his vast output of electronic music is not spoken of in the same glow-world terms as those artists on warp or mute records we all know and love. anyone venturing to lagowski.com can bear witness to the immeasurable golden sounds he has made over a vast spectrum of electronic worlds; techno, electronica, ambient… multi-voiced inter-stellar activity is all there, at a click. so, click.
whilst you all navigate to his site, i figure we are due a catch-up. the release of an immense eight-cd box set under his s.e.t.i. guise (and yes, he was the originator) seems the inevitable point of shared departure and rather than trying to review sleep environments for interplanetary travel the personal nature of these recordings deserve exploring in depth. to be honest with you, i felt it would be hard just writing a descriptive piece anyway. here is a vast arena of sound which requires time. the collected pieces evolve with each listen and in turn develop and alter within individual changes of mood and settings. the resulting aural illustrations are limitless and thus, a quick headphone jostle with notepad in hand would not do this work justice! so, pass the custard creams volume two…
sleep environments… seems a highly ambitious project to undertake in the current climate of low record sales, was this intended as a multi-volume set from inception under your s.e.t.i. guise? “it was always intended as a multi-volume set from the start - basically, the idea was to have something that you could play all night while you were sleeping. the label suggested cd's as punters like to have something more physical than a usb stick or memory card, which were my initial thoughts as modes of audio transport. good thing is, if you buy the cd box set, you also get the download codes for uncompressed files too.” i can’t say i’ve fallen into comatose yet (and i would possibly be embarrassed to admit!), but have experienced the work (or at least parts of the work in sessions) as primary listening and background. the effect on mood is noticeable. i’ve yet to spare an entire day, or night back-to-back listening to each individual cd, perhaps that would lead to whole other conscious state? or sleep!
could you take us through the process of its creation and ongoing narrative throughout recording? “the idea is pretty simple and it's rooted in two areas. almost 10 years ago i was offered the chance to do an installation under the railway arches of london bridge station. for which i planned an environment covering multiple rooms and corridors, with live audio visual events laser-triggered by visitors. it would have a continuous bed of audio and light with various events interspersed as above. that location closed down before I had the chance to do the work, but the idea of an environment stuck in my head.
“i wanted to make something that people could use as a kind of meditative or sleep aid. the listener is a traveller (not necessarily travelling physically), drifting in and out of sleep. i spent around three years making tracks towards that aim and then culled those which were too loud or intrusive and arranged the rest into what you hear today. the sound sources were various - small noise synths, soft synths, real world sounds, all mixed through multiple effects - real and software based.” have you received feedback from patient tests? “some people have told me that they use it as a background for work… others while having a nap... i hope others will try my original intention, which was to play the entire series while they have their main sleep. i also hope others will try playing cd's and tracks simultaneously.”
did you record this with loki-found in mind and has the label had any input into its completion? “i asked them first if they'd be interested in releasing such an idea and they said yes but warned me that i might never complete it.” clearly they don’t know you as well as they should! “they were very patient and told me to take my time, so that the result didn't sound like i'd cut any corners, which of course i didn't. loki also said cd's would be the best medium as people like that physical item.’ bravo to them! long may label’s like loki-found exist.
on face value the sheer scale, hours of recordings over eight cd’s could be quite daunting. do you have concerns the listener isn’t going to ‘get’ the idea or are you happy for the set to be a very personal illusory experience? “it's primarily a toolbox for sleep and meditative experiments, but i look forward to reports of how people have used it!’ typical andrew, understating a major creative achievement.
could you envisage playing parts, or even all of the set live? “i could never do it all live as it would just be playing back digital files. i have used some of the source sounds in live s.e.t.i. performances, such as those in wuppertal for phobos festivals https://youtu.be/G1zZfSEC7sI and paris https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-h2pGlrVjg .”
moving thoughts beyond sleep environments… lagowski’s vaults overflow with a vast wealth of still relevant electronic material. all ripe for new exposure. has the interest in back catalogue material for reissue been a spur to relive and refresh? “well, it's been great to get some recognition for stuff i recorded 25+ years ago. there's still mileage in 90's dance electronica, for some reason - in fact it's resurfaced, as all of the re-issues testify. i can't produce a piano-happy-dancey tune to save my life, so i'll never be 'current' in that respect.”
have the vast changes within the music ‘industry’ changed the way you record and create, or held you back? “i still create the way i've always done, because it's the stuff i want to hear. i don't generally create on-demand though, which was what might have happened back in the 90's. the means of distribution has changed obviously, but that's enabled me to reach more people in some ways i.e. bandcamp etc.”
you’ve worked for decades within the many genres of electronic music. has your focus changed in creating material as lagowski and offshoots? “well, i ditched the legion moniker and ideas quite a while ago - that kind of dark ambient/misery/goth thing has had its day, despite what half the internet tells you! i felt that there were too many people doing this kind of work, and I wanted to focus down on lagowski beat-driven work and refine my s.e.t.i. stuff too.”
i’m guessing, despite the massive commitment sleep environments… entailed that you have new projects on the go? “yes, am working on a new lagowski album secrets of numbers and s.e.t.i. computer music project - i plan to explore other avenues, such as computer music in a more traditional sense. there's also some exciting live news coming in a few months!” bookmark that site now fellow-travellers…
as someone who has lived with sleep environments… for a few weeks now, dipping in and out with fleeting glances and longer, more defined listening the only quality comparison i can really muster is cypher 7’s decoder. that single cd from the mid-nineties would often take me places beyond normality and as andrew suggests with his own project was used as a tool, or stimulus to create. many hours were spent putting together music from the empty quarter with that cd and i can only imagine how much further it could have gone with the impetus of s.e.t.i.’s open-box vehicle.
watch the skies and the wired science. unlike t.e.q., andrew lagowski will prove immortal. listen.
sleep environments for interplanetary travel 8cd box set is available now