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Essential interview with New York live trio N/UM

today05/01/2023 14

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The New York electronic live trio N/UM have come to be regarded modern pioneers of electronic live music with their fully improvised live sets, featuring classic analog electronic instruments combined with vocals, modular synths and guitar for a truly genre-bending experience.

Each performance or recording by N/UM is unique and improvised, with no pre-composed songs, no plan or structure agreed upon. The group unites three longtime friends who have always shared a deep passion for electronic music. They are five-time Grammy Award winning mastering engineer and producer Jeremy Loucas, guitarist Elias Meister of world-renowned rap group Residente, (Calle 13) and Danish multi instrumentalist and producer Emil Bovbjerg. We talked to them about techno, their highly acclaimed new album “Levers of History” and creativity in the studio.

Where does electronic music start for you and does it stop anywhere?

Electronic music has been sort of a playground for us to experiment with new sounds and new ways of playing, we spent years learning how to play the genre live. We are improvising constantly new ideas on the spot so it really is limitless for us. Fortunately we are three people and always try to surprise each other with new sounds. The great thing about electronic music is really that you can take any soundsource, be it an instrument, sample, digital/analog source… and then morph and expand it and fit it into or over a beat through the electronic setup.

Where would you classify your new album and with which idea did you go into the studio?

We started recording the album right after the lockdown, after being unable to play together for almost 1 year, we were extremely excited to play again to try out our new instruments. Stylistically we wanted to make music that had a minimalistic approach with just enough drive to be played on the dance floor, but could also be played in a more intimate setting. We usually don’t talk much about a concept before recording. Since we are improvising our emotions and mood of the day and the room will always lead us to a different interplay and attitude.

Live you are in close symbiosis as a trio – do you understand each other in the studio as well or do you also have creative differences of opinion?

We always function and operate as a trio, the same way if we make music during a live show or in the studio. The main difference is the context, if we play in a loud club with people screaming and dancing, or in an acoustically controlled environment where it is possible to pay attention to finer details in the sound. But that close symbiosis you mentioned is exactly what we chase after every time we play, because that’s how we create our music. Sometimes we hear things that we might not expect from each other or that surprise us, and it can be a different artistic choice that each of us individually might have taken. This element of surprise and friction and not being in total control, like you would if you are playing by yourself, is what creates the most interesting moments usually. The sum is bigger than its parts. It is important to embrace those moments and honor the music. We have been playing for over a decade now in different formations and close to 8 years as N/um. This extended depth of improvising together is a big part that enables us to play in this setting.

Techno is a universal language on the dance floor. What fascinates you so much about the music?

That Techno is a universal language, is exactly what has fascinated us throughout our journey! The energy you can find on a dance floor is quite unique to the style, being able to interact freely with the crowd and create our music in the moment is just pure magic. When you play as a musician on a dance floor so much energy is flowing between us and the crowd, similar to a rock or jazz trio.

What comes now after your album “Levers of History”?

More playing and dancing! We have a lot of music we recorded since the start of the pandemic that we will release over the next year or so. We are also starting to collaborate with some exciting artists to release on our label NineToFire in 2023. Musically and with our setup, we have some ideas we’d like to experiment with and explore. But most importantly we are looking forward to playing live… connecting and partying with people all over the world.

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