Though the year is drawing to a close and Bulgaria has entered a second lockdown, we are as busy as ever. We had a new release, a distro update, and a special project we’ve worked on with FOCUS On Sound came to fruition.
Frisson Festival was a series of concerts, curated by Studio Ew and pretty much the first live music performance since the beginning of March. To commemorate this beautiful event we are releasing a live bootleg compilation with new and unreleased material from all Amek artists who played during the event. The tape also contains the second ever recording by Amek Drone Orchestra.
Find FRISSON MMXX tape (ltd. to 50) & digital here.
FOCUS On Sound is a new magazine by former Music Map writer Nicholas Burman. As the title of its current issue implies, it contains academic articles and artistic responses on the subject of sound. We were also invited to take a part in it, which we did by curating a DIY mixtape with unreleased songs by twelve of our friends including Zhe Pechorin, Evitceles, Cyberian, and many others.
We made things a bit more interesting, so we’ve left clues about the hidden link containing the songs of the mixtape in the text of our contribution. To make the entire thing more personalised we’ve decided to leave the arranging the tracklist, dubbing of the tape, making the artwork itself to the readers of the magazine. The link with the mixtape will be available only as long as the current issue is in circulation. So we urge you to dub your mixtape as soon as possible.
Last month we had the pleasure of talking with Christian Schiefner from the awesome French tape label Falt. Our conversation was published in Bulgarian by our friends at Lunatic.bg. Find our conversation in English below. The entire interview will be also published in Comfort Club #2, scheduled for Mid January 2021. We are one of the few distros in Europe that stock Falt releases, so if you are interested in any of its recent releases, drop us a line: amekcollective at gmail.
Christian also prepared a wild mix of Falt music. We aired it on ШУМНА НЕДЕЛЯ, our monthly residency at Kanal 103, Skopje. Listen to the recording here.
Every next tape might be the last - an interview with Christian Scheifner from Falt
Falt is a relatively new French label for noise compositions and concrete music that releases its music on tapes with A3 fold-around artworks. Together with music from his solo project Chemiefaserwerk, Christian Schiefner’s label has released music by Bruno Duplant, Leo Okagawa, claire rousay, and numerous other artists.
Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself and Falt? How did you start the label?What made you choose the name and the cassette tape as its medium?
Hi, thanks for having me, I am fine. The Falt origin story probably matches those of most DIY labels. I started Falt in 2016 because I had finished a couple of recordings, which I was kind of happy with and I wanted to release them. I had already released a couple of tapes both by myself and together with friends, so I knew how to do it. Since I had a shoebox with cassettes left, I started dubbing them and set up the Bandcamp page. At the same time, I started thinking about the cover of the releases, and since I only had the cassettes and no boxes or cases for them, I needed to come up with something which could be artwork and packaging at the same time. So, the A3 fold-around artwork was just the way to go. It was not intended as some kind of aesthetically ideal, it was just the most common idea.
All Falt releases are dubbed at home. The whole thing became a bit more elaborated over the last years, but it is still very simple. The German word falten means to fold in English, so as you can see, I am a very simple person - I like things that appear by themselves, haha; and the name works just great I think. I like that the word Falt is so short and handy, I also like the sound of the word and even the look of it, the simple look, all of it, it was just perfect and there were no second thoughts.
From its first release four years ago, Falt has kept a pretty singular and unique aesthetic – tapes with a simple sticker, wrapped in an A3 paper containing a collage artwork. Its super beautiful and fits the tactile music of the label incredibly well. What is the rationale behind this?
Thank you. I actually had no fixed idea what would come out of this whole thing. Once I had released the Chemiefaserwerk’s Collagen tape, I did not even know how to move on. Since I did not sell any of the tapes at first and nobody knew about Falt, I reached out to some review blogs and send them review copies. I never did any real label work before, even on such very small scale. Most of the tapes and CDrs my friends and I had released in the past always had a basic reason and place. Like, we played a concert, so we made a few copies of our recent recordings and gave them away to our friends or traded them with the other artists present. None of the noise tapes I did back in the day had much listening, I mean nothing is online even now, I don’t even like the results so much any more, it’s just boring noise, haha. It was a very important time though, because I learned a lot from it, not only for my own musical practice; the most important thing I learned might be that making music and releasing your music on your own is totally possible. I grew up with the idea that music and art in general is made by fancy and famous musicians and artists who appear on the TV and radio or whose works are in our schoolbooks and in museums; therefore, music is no practice for ordinary people, I did not even know that something like art schools existed. So, when I discovered the DIY punk scene once I moved to Berlin,I was shocked by all of the awesome stuff going on.
OK, back to Falt maybe. The label started kind of slow and I think today that this only shows how much I wasn’t sure about where this will lead. In the first two years there were just a few releases, 6 or 7 maybe. Once I got more confident I started sending out mails asking people if they would like to release something on Falt. I always liked the idea of having a poster-like artwork which would be in it’s whole beauty in front of the person while listening to the tape. Tapes are so small and usually their cases are small too; I think the most awesome thing about a vinyl LP is the cover, haha. Vinyl is great for that, you can hold the cover in front of your face and you disappear behind it! That’s it! And with the Falt covers you can do that too, just unfold it, put the tape on and look at it while listening. You can hide behind it for a little while…
Talking about the album art, can you tell us who makes it and what is the process behind it? Is it made in collaboration with the artists or it’s more of a separate thing?
All the covers are made by me, it’s simple cut and paste. I use scissors and glue, I have never properly learned how to use photoshop and I think I won’t ever do it. All covers are in real size - what you see and hold in your hands is a copy of the collage artwork I made; I really like that part about it. It is what it is, if there are flaws and drips of the glue you can see them. I am not a perfectionist, I sometimes let things be and tell myself that it all is part of the whole thing. They really look nice as posters too, I think. That is why I stopped putting up names and titles and such things on the covers. I used to do it for the first few releases, but stopped once I saw it as a flaw, something that disturbs the way I look at these artworks. Language should not interfere with these images. It makes the connection between the music and the cover more intimate for me. I don’t know why exactly or how to explain it. When you are young and you don’t have so many things, you like the most you know them. You don’t need to rely on having it all marked on the outside. That’s also why there are no more catalog numbers. I want every Falt release to be the first one, or the last one, or the one just in the middle. I mark on the sticker on the tape the name and title and in which year is was released, but the cover should stay unmarked.
Nearly all of the pictures you see on the covers are photographs taken by me in the last decade. When I still used to live in Berlin, I was quite frankly obsessed with taking pictures, I wanted to hold on to everything I saw; I have a small collection (we can also call it a bunch) of old half-broken 35mm cameras (which are in a box just next to my collection of old half-broken tape machines haha...) and I had at least one of them in every bag, rucksack or jacket I had at this time, always loaded with film. So today I have shoeboxes full of prints from these thousands of photographs I took at the time and I’m kind of cashing in on this work; having an enormous amount of material for the things I do today. I always asked myself what would I probably do with all these pictures and Falt gave me the answer, which is such a beautiful thing. Sometimes the artists send me pictures which I use for the cover artwork, like Jeph Jerman or Leo Okagawa did, but it is the exception and I intend to keep it that way.
Music-wise, though there are albums by a vast number of incredible artists ranging from your project Chemiefaserwerk, our friend Niels from Sequences, claire rousay and Ryoko Akama, to the noise legend Crank Sturgeon, there is something, a thread, that connects all of the releases. They all feel real and concrete, tactile as I said earlier. How do you choose the artists and music you release? Do you approach them or it’s the other way around? Do the releases start as ideas between you and the artists or are more or less already fleshed out projects? Also, what is your role in the process?
When it all started, let’s say from 2016 until 2018 half of the releases on Falt came from people I approached; the other half was made by friends of mine to whom I just said “Hey, I have this thing here going now and it might be good so if you have something and want to be part of it, just send me the files.” Falt is a very small label with 30 copies per release, so it is not at all something big, but still it is something that people appreciate judging from some reactions and the fact that I can get rid of the tapes, haha. Today I might get a lot more demo submissions than ever, sure. And there are so many great things amongst them, but it is impossible to release them all; even if I would have the time and the resources needed, it would be too much, because then I would release 5 tapes a month for the next 5 years. I am running Falt from my bedroom while working a regular job and having a family and making music on my own and also being a person in this world, haha with all the fatigue thats come with that; so there is a very tiny window for all this and I try to make the most out of it. A go ahead in small steps and it definitely makes me happy to run Falt, I consider it the best of a hobby one can have!
Recently Falt released an incredible batch of seven new tapes which is undoubtedly an incredible feat. How long was it in the making and was it difficult to manage everything? Was the batch planned to be that big or it just happened so because of the Coronavirus lockdown?
The lockdown in spring totally messed up all the plans I had; not only for Falt. I told people that we have to wait a little bit because the print shop where I print the covers was closed and also it was very complicated to send out orders and all. So when things re-opened I thought I will just release this huge batch to get things going again. It is really not my intention to keep the artists waiting for to long. It is sure true that 2020 has been a quite different year; right now we are in a second lockdown and I just decided to let things be good for the rest of the year. The lockdown tis time is more of a soft one, with some businesses open, so I still send out orders and try to prepare the new artworks and all but take things slowly.
Your label has a very minimal Internet presence, keeping a rudimentary Bandcamp page, a minimalistic Twitter account that is used for the promotion of other labels as much as for Falt’s releases, and a simple newsletter. However, most of the releases sell out very quickly, proving that incessant Internet promotion is not necessary for the spread of good music. What is your stance on the use of social media for the promotion / self-promotion of experimental music? What about the seemingly ceaseless video streams in the past few months during the lockdown?
Falt is a label which runs mostly on Bandcamp, it’s my main operating system, we could say, and I am very lucky when it comes to promotion, because it mostly works out for itself. The artists usually have the networks and get the word out about the new releases and I only just send the newsletter for each new batch. There is also bandcamp sending out notifications about the new releases automatically.
I rarely get orders from distros, but sometimes I do and I am happy to provide wholesale prices for the limited stock I have left. I am really happy with what bandcamp provides for such tiny labels like Falt, it is a great service which does not cost to much in my opinion. People might not agree, but for me as a tiny user this is ok for now. I think sharing the music is most important and for me it is obligatory to spread the art with the lowest barrier possible, and that for me is name your price downloads starting at 0. Twitter is good for promotion sure, but too time-consuming, I mean I have the twitter app on my phone and once I open it I find myself totally suck into it. I am in no way anti-internet or social networks, I just don’t use them so much. I would say that raising children is time-consuming, or going to work everyday is time-consuming or making music with a 40 year old tape deck is time-consuming, but non of this time is wasted, it has good outcome. So time-consuming is not bad, I like to give away my time and I even do it for free as I do with Falt, but the thing is, different from doing all the other mentioned things, once I close the Twitter app I feel nothing, except that my eyes are itchy. I will keep having the Falt account though because it is a good way to communicate and promote the new releases or to keep up a bit with review and such stuff.
What are your future plans for Falt? Are there any new releases in the pipeline you can share with us?
There are a lot of wonderful tapes in preparation for 2021, which like it has ever been need to remain in the mist of mystery… haha, sorry. But I want to talk about this: From time to time there are people asking me about the covers, like if I can send them a few covers, just the covers, so they can put them up on the wall, I mean they are posters and I actually could do it, even if the tape is sold out, because I would just take out the original collage artwork of the folder and go to the print shop and make a print and I actually did it a few times and it gave me the idea to make a small handmade book or something like a ring binder with some selected artworks and call it the Faltcatalogue or so and release a super limited edition of it, so that people who are interested in the artworks have something they can look at, haha. I will see what comes out of this idea, I have actually made a dummy and keep looking at it and asking myself if this is something worth the try.