Text by CLOT Magazine
Our end-of-October Mixtape comes from Bedroom community’s Heliocrysum. With a name that evokes the Latin for sunflower but also a healing tincture, the LA-based composer/sound designer duo have just recently presented their visceral, deep and exploratory debut album We Become Mist. Reminiscence of their name too, their sound blends overlaid orchestration and distorted lightness, simplicity washed with emotional intensity, the remembered dreams of far-off, science-fictive discoveries.
Heliochrysum is Michael Deragon and Daniel Lea in which collaboration becomes a sculpted journey into new aural and imaginative cosmology. We Become Mist uses analogue and digital processes to mine the depths of industrial and science fictional, psychedelic soundscapes, often cinematic in tone and texture. The album has been mixed by minimal ambient beast Ben Frost and mastered by Valgeir Sigurdsson.
Another element was thrown in within the melding of the analogue and digital: the album is tinged with psilocybin technology. As a listener, you can hear as you move through a psychedelic passage, like out of a state of lockdown into one of alien otherworldliness. Something that also seems to be tingeing the electronic music scenes throughout, especially on the American west coast.
For this mix, the duo has selected a series of tracks filled with the atmospheres and textures they love and are inspired by and truly find moving: there is something like an angelic quality or a spiritual depth to each of the tracks we are always searching for. Heliochrysum for us is about layers, simple melodies and atmospheres moving towards an immersive experience that take the listener and us somewhere new, unknown and challenging. We also included some things we have made as Heliochrysum as well as other projects that we have been a part of because for us they are all one world and part of this journey.
A blissful trip of warm sounds to replenish readers with autumnal feelings.
What was the creative process like for the production of your new album? What were you sonically and conceptually (if so) exploring with it? Also, you mention Psilocybin technology. What do you refer to with it, apart from the more obvious introspection/mental travel aspect?
Our creative process was all about collaborating on making unique sounds, atmospheres, and textures and seeing what those experiments revealed. We would talk about what sounds we liked and how a certain process was interesting or moving us.
One of us might create a melody or a beat, and then we would share that and take parts of it and add other elements and the tracks were born from there. Conceptually, we both wanted to make visual and immersive music that created a story or a journey for the listener to launch into.
The Psilocybin technologies were used at times in relation to our review process of certain moments during the production as we would analyse each track and each sound to see what the pieces were revealing to us and what was or wasn’t part of the world we were after.
We Become Mist overlays analogue sound sources, digital processing and visual, sound design; what were the main challenges for this production?
Our biggest challenge was that we had never collaborated before this record. We shared records we had made and records we loved, but we were just two new friends talking for a while about music and films mostly. When we eventually started to craft this record, our idea was to try to make three tracks and see what happened from there. It took us some experimenting to find our workflow.
We would write a lot of layers of atmospheres and melodies. We collected many ideas that we changed a lot, looking for something to jump out at us, and when it did, we learned to follow the music to let it show us the journey. Once we begin, we just kept making new tracks, and an album quickly came to light. It was a great learning experience.
The album was mixed by Ben Frost; how was the experience of working with him? How did he complement your work?
Working with Ben was a great experience. Daniel has worked with Ben on many different projects through the years. Ben highlighted such great elements that brought new colours to each track. We had gone over the album so many times; having someone like Ben willing to come at it with his unique style and sound was a huge blessing for us.
We just let Ben go where he instinctually thought the tracks were meant to go. It was a pretty clean and easy experience, and he really brought some great light to our tracks. He also helped the album soften a bit from all the ideas we collected. He brought the more ambient elements out and heightened some of the underlying textures.
What are your main inspirations for your productions these days?
We both have recently got into some new synths (Korg/Moog/Strega) and outboard gear that always brings a new pallet to any work. We both use electronics but love analogue gear and using everything from pedals to new and old outboard EQs, Compressors and old rack reverbs to craft our sounds. It’s always a great exploration with new gear.
We are always pushing the gear to its limits so it behaves in unique ways that may not be what they were intended to do. Also, we are wildly into layering many sounds and blending them to create unique rhythms and melodic moments. We love combining many different elements to create one voice or line.
What is your relationship with technology nowadays; how do you use it for your practice? And how do you cope with technology (screen/digital) overload?
We use technology as the basis for our recording process, as just about every does these days. It is a blessing in terms of editing and working as much as we like, as we both have studios, but as far as our music goes, it’s really using analogue gear that brings our sound alive.
Regarding screen time and phone issues etc., we really try to put our phones in a drawer when we work and try to make our collaboration time the focus. So much is coming at all of us with phones and screens all the time, and it’s just not a healthy way of living or working. Technology doesn’t pause, and our spirits need that more now than ever. So we spend a lot of time out in nature and the ocean. Technology is a great tool but not a great way of life.