MUSIC DEFIES POWER
– the dizzying array of electronic and digital manipulations collide in the music of Oliver Coates.
Interview with Oliver Coates by Sandra S. Borch
“The sound of the cello” begins Oliver Coates, explaining the route taken him on his musical journey which has ted him almost everywhere on the planet. Since his early love for the classical instrument his skills has evolved beyond the the sound of the cello and he has arranged a musical taste of minimalist dance tunes. “Playing and practicing every day, and listening to music every day. “ says Coates. “Being playful, experimenting with cello but also just practising music really hard, electronics, beats, editing sounds and patterns until they start to flow.” That’s the short and simple recipe on Coates’s love affair with music.
“Musicians I’ve never met – Shostakovich and Aphex Twin – kept me hooked when I was young” he adds. It may be an odd combination of musical inspirations, but come to think of the mixture of the Russian composer Shostakovich and his ambivalent tonality combined with Aphex Twin it ends up being quite suitable in the dizzying array of electronic and digital manipulations.
The genre mixture is also present when you take a closer look at the names he previously done collaborations with that lists Jonny Greenwood, Actress, DOOM, Massive Attack, reworks music by Squarepusher and Boards of Canada and besides this he was the backbone of the latest Radiohead album “A Moon Shaped Pool”. Meanwhile Coates recently made two major commissions premiere for Borealis Festival and Cryptic he still finds energy to start new things “I’m making more electronic dance music now” and adds “but I’m also working on new projects with Laurie Spiegel and John Luther Adams.
Coates makes his own experiments and giving shape to multiple songs “each piece seems to tell you when the form is starting to take shape. Sometimes you have to wait for six months before it tells you.” explains Coates and continues: “I like sounds which are raw and not too sophisticated, maybe like early rave music or Sacred Harp American singing
– but most of all I love sound reflections, like the natural reverberation of birds singing in a forest, and the way the sounds are filtered by materials, time and space.
The weightlessness is enhanced by Coates’s euphoric richness in both harmony and melody. It can flourishes into beautiful dialogues and drone out to melodic tone. “It speaks to the ineffable – it defies power. No one can own music’s meaning. People use it to gain identity and to belong but listening to music can throw off ego, it can help lose a sense of self,” Coates explains. “I think both are important – cultural roots, storytelling, sounds which are native to you give you a sense of belonging in the world. Challenging your preconceptions about music helps you grow and experience new psychologies and subtle intricacies of character in other people.” Coates ability to creates ambient and colorful music designed for the dancefloor as well as for the comfortable listening pleasure has provided him with a mindset where music is its own master with no rules and no strings attached.
“Music appears to obey its own internal rules.
In this way it is already indirectly critical of society, without needing to be overtly political. Anything where the rules come from inside rather than being imposed from without by external forces feels like an aspirational bubble,” says Coates, “It seems to speak of a utopia, or an escape fantasy.” Because of this perspective explains Coates liberal approaches to produce music. “On the other hand it is made entirely from social materials – people, money, instruments, time and place, socio-economic and cultural heritage,” says Coates.
Coates concludes “It is “double-headed” – it comes from a society with all its beautiful cracks and flaws but it speaks to an abstract internal logic which is beautiful because
music resists relevance and politics.