Mary Ocher’s latest and much anticipated album The West Against the People will drop this Friday and it’s going to blow your mind! I feel really blessed to have gotten early access to it; I put it on one day and just listened. People like to talk about the ‚spiritual journey’ that music takes people on, but this album is over and beyond special.
Ocher uses her voice as an instrument in a way few musicians can; she opens herself up like a vessel and lets the majesty of her music and her words shine through. The album is a gift from the heavens! I asked her about her process in making it and how the album came about…
Where’d you get the inspiration for this album?
The newspapers, the election campaigns… you can’t quite escape it.
Right away, with the first song, Firstling II, I felt like the album kind of warming up for something—what is it exactly? And then there’s this kind of silence and it starts again with To the Light, this time with electronic beats sort of accompanying….your voice getting clearer…then the album takes on this kind of 1960s feel, but it also goes into something tantric… you feel this transition from spoken word into music. Any thoughts on this?
You write a piece and it takes a life of its own, I can’t really follow where it might lead others, nor would I want to limit their imagination, so I’d rather not comment on interpretations. With this particular album the subjects that I’d prefer to talk about are what’s going on around us right now – things that are covered in the essay I wrote about the album: http://www.maryocher.com/essay.html
I like the layers to the album—there’s so much going on at once, but it all comes at you as a united front. Like I just mentioned, there’s this very strong 1960s vibe to it, but I feel there is somehow –I’m not so sure how to formulate this—like, different political archetypes embedded in the music—like the chanting is sort of religious (not a certain religion, just the archetype of religion), the chanting also sometimes moves into this almost folk-chanting (I’ve been watching this Viking documentary and it reminds me of some of the chanting folk music I hear, for instance, in ‘Washed Up on Your Shores’), another strong archetype is seen through your spoken word element—there were a lot of short phrases that made me start thinking about the archetype of political rhetoric, like Plato or Aristotle teaching in ancient Greece or the chorus in Greek tragedies. Any thoughts on this?
Thank you! I suppose that recordings of the 1960s left the strongest mark on me, whether it’s a clear aesthetic influence, or more of a ghostly presence. The rawness of the elements, as well as the subjects and the protest forms that emerged out of that decade seem to be the sharpest and the most daring. The 1970s turned much darker (and are another very clear influence I believe), while the 1980s and 1990s have already softened up in both form and content, the political and the curiosity for creative exploration faded into conservativism that has never recovered that sense of wildness and inhibition.
That moment when Arms comes in on the album—it’s so magical and exciting, it made me realize how multifaceted that song was, because it sounds totally different than it did as a single….in the context of the album…it sounds so crystal, the way you work through these musical scales again and again, which, heard isolated, really aren’t that perfect… it made me think of some of the all-time beautiful songs, Heart of Glass, Teardrop from Massive attack, One too many mornings by the Chemical Brothers, 4 by Apex Twin—it made me stop and go listen to those songs again; and made me think about how some people say there’s a set way of making a good single, an alghorithm per se…
This is simply no algorithm at all; it’s played manually, and hence far from perfect. I’ve tried cleaning it up a little, and later again with the technicians, but it is certainly not perfect the way a computer would have made it. I don’t particularly like perfection, there’s something human in the imperfect. I think we are so used to things being perfect in contemporary recordings that our brains trick us to imagine patterns, while in this song there are actually several strange shifts that you would only notice if you reject the autopilot and try to just listen. You certainly wont notice them the first time around, it would perhaps just sound a little strange, but you wont quite know why.
(Here’s the video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwYY-PWkJXg
I think with the album, its funny how subtly the music genres change (often even within one song), you almost don’t even notice it. Musicians speak about their inspiration from different musical genres, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it come out so homogeneously. What kind of research and experimentation happened in creating the album?
Thank you! I like such a huge variety of music that genres have very little meaning, I find it a little difficult to follow where one ends and another begins… in a very broad generalization, at least when it comes to my own work. When I DJ, the sets tend to be extremely diverse; but as musical artists we are needlessly expected to stick to something that is easy to define. I was always far too interest in too many things to commit to one limited direction.
Later on in the album, songs like ‘The Endlessness’ and The Becoming come in, taking the listener straight back to spoken word. They sound almost like historical recordings of spoken word records from the 1950s and 60s. What made you take the album so far in this spoken word directions at this point, what role do they play in the whole album, and how do you get them to flow so well with the rest of it?
Intuitively, the positioning of the tracks is a result of trying, I didn’t really ask for anyone’s advice on their order, just spent a few days listening (eventually, out of about 24 tracks we could only fit 13 in the album– more tracks will gradually be revealed to holders of the special edition of the album). Words are of extreme importance, I feel terrible when the results are not precise and the right words have not been carefully chosen.
ALBUM OUT 10. MARCH 2017.
Mary Ocher — THE WEST AGAINST THE PEOPLE
featuring collaborations w/ the Felix Kubin + Die Toedliche Doris
European Release Tour
Images: Copyright + Courtesy of Mary Ocher + Tailored Communication.