Selected ambient words
"I wouldn't say Woob is ambient," says sonic soloist Paul Frankland. "There are ambient ingredients, but there are hip-hop beats in there as well. Some of them get up to 30bpm..."
Steady on. The debate about what is or isn't 'ambient' in Paul's book goes back to a conversation he had with Mixmaster Morris, in which the general consensus was that anything with beats was out. Morris first encountered the Woob wall (or rather soft verge) of sound last year. Given the ambient maestro's encouragement, we can't blame Paul for sharing his philosophy. Nor can we blame Nottingham label T:me Recording for signing Paul to their Em:t subsidiary and releasing Woob's eponymous debut CD. Beats or no beats, it's a fine piece of work.
So if we're all agreed that ambient is just one element within the overall sound, what does Paul do with it?
"Ambient is all about creating an atmosphere with sounds," he says. "If the sounds don't blend in with that atmosphere, the music becomes something else - and beats tend to change the mood completely.
"I wanted the album to graduate towards ambience as you go through it. It's nice to have a listening experience which kind of fades away into nothing, so that you don't know it's gone until it's gone. But it doesn't really matter what it's called, and I suppose if you throw the word 'ambient' around at least people have some idea of where it's coming from."
Where does it come from?
"I'm very inspired by film. The track 'Strange Air' is all made up of bits from a film soundtrack, combined with a sound from a well-known pop tune which I won't mention. I tape a lot of stuff off TV."
For this Paul makes full use of the stereo output of his Nicam VCR, through which tasty soundbites can be transferred to DAT.
"Speech can provide the mood and the title for a piece, but there are no 'messages'"
"What I do is flick through the channels, and if I hear something I'll stick the machine into record. It could be dialogue, or even just an ice cream van or something. I've got all these video tapes with loads of snippets from all over the place. Once the sounds are on DAT, I can use the DATs like sample CDs."
Never let it be said that channel-surfing is just for couch-potatoes. You have to be quick, though. Paul has missed a few choice clips by not grabbing the remote control in time. But even random trawling of the airwaves can net some inspirational passages.
"The dialogue on 'Strange Air' is from a horror film that I wasn't even watching. I just found it on the audio track later. At other times, I can be in another room, overhear a voice on the TV and rush through to grab it - like the woman talking on the full version of 'Odonna'. It was a very emotional bit of acting. Speech can provide the mood and the title for a piece, but there are no particular 'messages' as such."
Unusually, Paul avoids stuffing all these sources into a sampler. He prefers not to pre-ordain the mix by preparing all the components as sequencer parts.
"I spin things live. There are about 10 tracks of Cubase, for the instrument sounds, and then a few cassette players and DAT machines running alongside. It's quite easy to cue the tapes, and each sound is usually played only once. I knock things in and out with the mutes and faders all the time. You get much more of a spontaneous feel for the track, and you don't get sick of it by editing for days before you mix."
Paul is also one half of the duo Journeyman, once reviewed on the demo pages of MT and now with an album due out on Ninja. Live dates are planned at which Paul will demonstrate his unique approach - DJing his own found sounds, plucked from the aural ether for recycling. And with a degree in film-making already under his belt, it's odds-on that Paul will be generating his own soundtracks before too long. I, for one, will have the record and pause buttons poised for that.
On The Re:Mix CD:
34 Woob: Odonna
This disk has been archived in full and disk images and further downloads are available at Archive.org - Re:Mix #3.
Interview by Phil Ward
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