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INTERVIEW: Olivia Louvel
The Quietus , November 16th, 2015 16:50

We catch up with Olivia Louvel ahead of an upcoming date in Brighton this Friday

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Ahead of a date in Brighton this Friday which will see her headlining a bill of locally based talent, we catch up with the French-born, multi-talented Olivia Louvel for a quick chat about recent goings on, last year's Beauty Sleep album and her fascination with Mute mainstays Recoil.

What have you been up to this year?

Olivia Louvel: I'm currently preparing a show for SPECTRUM, at the Brighton Dome, which is on November 20. I will essentially be performing material from the new album, Beauty Sleep, plus a few tracks from Doll Divider too.

I'm currently developing another extensive musical project, which is perhaps going to be in two parts. It's inspired by the reign of Mary Queen of Scots Vs Elizabeth I and the 16th century battles at the Anglo-Scottish border. Fiona Brice (orchestral arrangements for Jarvis Cocker with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Grant, Placebo) recently recorded violins on some of the tracks to try new textures. What I can say is that there will be songs, and there will be battles.

Last month, I took part in a new venture, 'Mean Time', for which I composed a piece called '25 Minutes and 21 Seconds'. My piece was presented at Culture Night, in Dublin last month at the Institute of Design, as part of the Center for Creative Practices’ New Voices of Ireland group show. La Cosa Preziosa and fellow sound artist Rachel Ní Chuinn performed pieces by a selection of their favourite Irish and international female artists, with the intention of ‘clawing back’ 25 minutes and 21 seconds in honour of Irish revolutionary hero Countess Markievicz. I'm hoping there will be further development with that project.

Tell us about the record, and some of its musical and non-musical inspirations?

OL: I'm trying to recall the first track I did but I can't seem to remember the starting point. What I can say is that there are quite a lot of animals... birds, bats and foxes. And me inside, in the forest. I saw myself as some sort of bird-woman, a kind of cinematic heroine. Narrative is important for me; I need a story to wrap up my sounds. I either try to embody the story like I did for my Louise Brooks-based album, Lulu in Suspension, or I build my own narrative from my surroundings which was the method for Beauty Sleep.

For some reason, I felt I had to release a song format album following ō, music for haik which is based on a haiku by poet Basho, so much more electronica and ambient. I was living in the countryside of West Sussex at the time I composed the early versions of the songs featuring on this album, in a cottage with nothing around. A few people occasionally would appear from the field but a day could pass by without seeing anyone. I was raised in a city and would never ever have imagined living in the countryside. I tend to freak out when it's pitch dark and I'm in isolation but personal circumstances dictated that this should be my home for three years.

How did the remix from Simon Fisher Turner come about? Is he an artist you've admired for a while?

OL: I've known Simon for quite a while, I had seen his wonderful presentation of 'Blue' at the Serpentine gallery, performing with Black Sifichi. Simon also released on the same label as me in France, Optical Sound. How could I not be fascinated by Simon's life and his diverse glorious career? He's such a charming man too! The remix idea came from Simon who suggested it in his enigmatic way: "remix?" So I said: "I remix you or you remix me?" Then he said both! So a remix of his work may happen in the future, but for now his remix of my music exists, and this makes me happy.

And tell us about the Recoil films...

OL: Those films are very experimental. I call them that maybe to deflect from the fact that I don't particularly see myself as a filmmaker but I like toying with visuals very much. I was helped by David Ackroyd, a young cinematographer, and we filmed all the source material in one day. It was all pretty much improvised. The idea was for me to give a visual/online support to the project. Then I began the editing process.

#2 experiment : 'In My Shed' by Olivia Louvel from Cat Werk Imprint on Vimeo.

'In My Shed' is a Recoil remake I have produced using a loop of 'Stone' which was taken from Alan Wilder's second Recoil release on Mute, Hydrology. I discovered Recoil back in 2000 when I bought Liquid while I was still based in Paris; little did I know at the time I would a year later meet Alan and Paul Kendall (who mixed Beauty Sleep). Recoil's crafted tracks, great attention to detail and production, the cinematic aspect, all of that appealed to me. At the time my experience with making music was quite minimal, mini-disc vocal improvisations and no computer, oh dear...

A few years ago, in my isolated cottage, I kept playing 'Stone' again and again on my record deck and I began to hum along. The idea grew of trying to do something with it; at the time I wasn't really considering releasing it. I like the idea of sounds being transmitted, transferred and evolving. I began by making a loop out of 'Stone' with Ableton and slowly built my new piece around it then, as usual, I left it aside on a hard disc for a rest, working on other tracks and eventually when I came back to it, I played it to Alan who liked the direction and gave me the thumbs up to release it as part of the final album.

Olivia Louvel plays SPECTRUM at Brighton Dome this Friday (November 20). For tickets and more details, click here