A multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Principe’s solo project Port St. Willow is following up Brian Eno approved masterpiece Holiday from Tokyo’s flau (cuushe, Noah) and People Teeth this month. Inspired by the idea to capture the moments just after an idea is found, his new LP Syncope is build heavily on improvisation. By leaving everything unedited from the recording sessions, it enabled him to capture the unique tension and pure existence of sounds. Closer and closer you listen, you will be sure to discover little things breathing quietly from far away.
Lights and Music spoke to Principe to find out more about the album’s concept, reasons why he was drawn to improvisation and thoughts behind the album title. Make sure to check out the soundcloud widget that contains standout tracks from Syncope.
How would you describe your style of music in three words?
Melodic, rhythmic, drone.
When did you first decide to pursue in creating music?
I don’t think I ever really decided…it just seems to be the part of my life I keep coming back to no matter how things change. I’ve been playing in some form since I was a child.
What was your first song like?
A saxophone and trumpet duet. It was not very good.
How do you approach music now?
Around the time that I began Port St. Willow, music and noise became very visual for me. I was still interested in writing songs, but I also started to consider the environment in which the songs lived, how to create a path to feel connected to that space.
What was the thought process for the making of Syncope?
I wanted to capture the feeling of opening your eyes and finding that you’ve been severed from yourself, surrounded by the most indifferent and true black you’ve ever seen, and then, after you’ve learned to face that blankness, jumping into the coldest water you’ve ever known.
Syncope was built heavily on improvisation. What is it that attracts you about improvisation?
There is something about the exploring involved…a newness to everything and you have to be present. You become aware of what you’re doing because there’s some sort of danger in that moment…that it might fall apart. When I was working on Syncope I was really drawn to this headspace. There were many things in my life that were taking me away from being present, and working on this record was a way to reset that focus.
One of the focuses on the record is to capture the moments just after an idea is found. What have you learnt from making a record based on this concept?
It’s a very intensive process to work that way. Whether it’s with a band or alone, and I remember feeling completely empty after finishing those sessions.
I feel very connected to these recordings…little things. A drone or a small bell sound, they feel worn in and made in a way that I really love. The slight imperfections that you let stay there unedited because it makes it real to you. I think there’s more of that when you’re capturing the inspiration rather than the best take. It’s quite a hard thing to pin down, but I believe that’s what drew me towards it in the first place.
I am also a big fan of the later Talk Talk records (Spirit of Eden / Laughing Stock) and I drew inspiration from those sessions where they were chasing something very basic and pure, and collecting those sounds.
Can you elaborate on the album title, Syncope? Did this title come from a specific personal experience?
“Syncope” means to faint or suddenly lose consciousness. It both relates to the literal in that someone close to me collapsed and as a result began a very unexpected and difficult period of time, and in the metaphorical in how these things that come out of nowhere can drastically change our sense of reality, and the beauty that you can find in looking into that darkness and laughing.
How do you see the current Brooklyn music scene?
It’s a very hard place to sum up as one scene because there are so many of them. While living there, I’ve met musicians that I admire and believe in, but the lack of affordable space and time keeps many of them from being able to produce the art that I think they could. Some make it work, but others, like myself, only seem to end up writing when they are away from the city.
Lastly what is it that you are most excited about this year?
After many years of moving around, I will have my first home studio since I lived in Oregon back in 2011. Few things can make me as happy.