Neotropic : Absolute Elsewhere

'Absolute Elsewhere' is the "dark exotic new work" from British producer, vocalist and electronic artist Riz Maslen. Her music is a confluence of contrasting forms yet composed and mixed in a very fluid sense. The compositions contain cinematic elements, haunting voices, orchestral overtures, synthetic ambience and folksy lyrics which conjures dark and dreamy visuals. Welcome to minor paradise : A sea of 'highland' voices cascading a post-nuclear world, awash with choral ambience, nocturnal moods, stark beats, a sound somewhat mythologic and forlorn (or is that our imagination at play with the music?)  Riz Maslen's press note reads "Oscillating with ease between the intimate and the operatic, the earthly and the ethereal, former Ntone artist and FSOL collaborator Maslen has created an otherworldly song sequence intoning a graceful path through beguiling and disturbing territory". Release on Slowcraft Records, run and curated by James Murray, the label's website states "Slowcraft has been presenting carefully crafted deluxe editions for people who treasure beautiful audio artefacts since 2011". We spoke to Riz (Neotropic) recently, about her latest album The Absolute Elsewhere and her formation as an artist.

Tell us about your background? Your teens and formation as an artist?
I grew up in the countryside... West Country - a very small farming community. As I child I loved wide open spaces and would spend most of my summers helping out at the local farm with the harvest, along with lots of horse riding. I also played the recorder and flute and was involved with lots of classical events in Bath and Cheltenham. This is where I got my first taste of music. Both my parents loved music and it was always on during the weekends. Singer songwriters and heavy rock... I was always inspired by everything around me, and would spend most of my school day staring out the window day day dreaming, conjuring up imaginary lives and the people who lived in these worlds!

Your work with Future Sound Of London?
I moved to London in my early 20's and was keen to pursue my music after being in a few bands as a teenager it was time to find my way! I ended up working with a producer call Hamish MacDonald who had produced a number of successful hip hop artists. Firstly I just sang for him but I got bored of that really quickly and needed to be more involved in the production of the tracks. He basically showed me how to use the desk, sampler and some bits of outboard. The place where he had his studio was a warren of rehearsal rooms and other studios. Bands came and rehearsed and the studios had a number of electronic producers FSOL and 4 Hero. I bumped into Brian from FSOL and we got chatting and he mentioned he had done the track Stakker Humanoid and that he was now working with Garry Cobain on a new project called FSOL. They were looking for a vocalist and asked if I would be interested. It was when I started to work with them that I got to really see a different way of creating music, with sampling and programming! I was hooked and decided this is what I wanted to do.

Your music has cinematic influences. Tell us a bit more?
I have always been inspired by great moving pictures and the soundtracks that accompanied them. Ennio Morricone scored a lot of spaghetti westerns and for me these films, without the music, would not be the same. In Sci-fi for me, Blade Runner is fantastic, a visually inspiring film, but here too without Vangelis's music, would never have the same effect. The opening scene of Stanley Kubrik's 2001 is just spectacular, the music works in tandem with the grand visuals. I love the way music can change a whole scene, bringing a barrage of emotions to the viewer. 

You say "steeped in spiritualism and rituals" Tell us a bit more about this side of your music?
I am not a religious person, but feel music definitely has a spiritual effect. I have travelled a great deal and been exposed to many different cultures, music plays a huge part in rituals. I spent a month in Borneo during 2012 and was part of a death ritual which went on for days! the drumming and singing became almost trance like something I had never experienced before, you become one with this sonic funeral dance! Its the same in New Orleans death is about celebration and is always draped in music, as they send off their loved ones in style!

How do you perform music live? band? solo? your set up?
I have done both, in the beginning I would pretty much go out solo, laptop, keyboard. I am now playing with a live band which is a lot more fun, I like the sense of community when working with a band and we all feed into it. My current band are the most amazing musicians and I feel extremely blessed to be working with them. We love each other so much that we all play in each others bands. We have a much bigger set up live piano, violin, lap steel, analog synths and drums, trumpet and flute, pretty much anything goes!

Post Absolute Nowhere ... Your Future plans?
I released an album in August this year through Slowcraft records and have been supporting it with some live shows over the last few months. It would be great to take it round Europe or at least do some festivals next year if we can get them! Not always easy taking a full band on the road. I love gigging for me this is where the work really comes to life! I am working on a few other projects with Oliver Cherer, Jack Hayter and Darren Morris, we have an improv project called Non-Blank and we have been recreating live soundtracks to films: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Alice by Jan Svankmajer and The Great White Silence a film by Henry Ponting about Scott of the Antarctic. I am also very keen to get off the ground a project with a writer call Shaun Gardiner, the project is called Boy Zero.

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