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Face the Musician: EFFI BRIEST’s Rhizomes

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Face the Musician is based on the idea that discussion of an album shouldn’t end with its review, because there’s always more to say. So we invite the musician back — not to critique the review, but to talk about their work with the review as a conversation piece.

Face the Musician: EFFI BRIEST’s Rhizomes

  • Read Ben Donnelly’s review of EFFI BRIEST’s Rhizomes

    Dusted: What kind of geometry was Rhizomes built on? Did you approach it like a puzzle?

    Corinne Jones: The rhizomatic construct is the appropriate model. It really is a metaphor for the way we work together. It’s the philosophy put into practice by way of music. Mixing was sort of a puzzle, but the end result has more than one answer or sum.

    Dusted: So what is the philosophy? And when you transferred it from model to practice, how was it affected?

    Jones: I know that sounds like a bold statement, but by using the rhizome philosophy, all I mean to do is make something seemingly elusive accessible by example. This wasn’t a conscious way to approach song writing, it’s something that occurred to me later. And lately, it’s been brought to my attention that the way we work together is rare within bands and that I should try to talk about that more.

    Dusted: Dusted’s review calls your music “Arab-esque.” Would that description be more or less accurate without the dash in the middle of the word?

    Jones: Arabesque in a sense of pattern? I’m not really sure how that applies to us but there has been an influence of Middle Eastern music. It’s really interesting to me how much Middle Eastern music is part of Western music at the moment. I liken it to reggae’s impact on British bands in the 1970s. That may be incorrect, but there’s something there. It’s political and it’s interesting.

    Dusted: I think the reviewer meant Arabesque in the sense of being geometrically complex, rather than being middle eastern in influence. But it’s interesting that you answered the question through the second meaning instead. What are the politics, in your mind, of this current pattern of musical influence? And what specifically are you influenced by?

    Jones:Arabesque patterns are amazing. I love the micro / macro sense of order. If there’s anyway our music touches that well, cool. It’s hard to draw out the political parallels because what’s happening now in North Africa and the Middle East is on a global scale and the economics are quite different. But what I’m trying to put a finger on is the desire people have to identify with, or construct identity through music that is "charged" and that is where I see the strains of influence. On a whole, I think the influence present in Rhizomes owes more to the middle eastern sounds rooted in 60’s psych.

    Dusted: A few weeks ago in this space, Dan Bejar (Destroyer) said that "I sense it’s particularly important in this day and age to look at what’s going on with this ’listening closely’ business... or it’s almost complete absence..." The review suggests that Rhizomes is precisely the kind of work that demands people listen closely. Was that gesture deliberate? Does indie rock indeed suffer from a very short attention span?

    Jones: Well, I think our songs can be kind of intricate, but it’s important that the overall feel is right because that’s the first layer you get a sense of. The parts you might miss at first, the other layers, are there, but not to make things busy or complex — just whatever is essential to keep things interesting. I’m slow to realize that this is not the way a lot of music is made, so I can’t say it was a deliberate way to get people to listen more closely. I’m guessing the indie attention span question is part of a larger cultural conundrum.

    Dusted: The review says that the bass is the "only constant." To my ears the weight of the percussion is maybe an even stronger signature. Is there some single element that you try to keep consistent in every song, or that ends up being consistent anyway?

    Jones: It’s true that at first listen some of the songs may come across as more of an interlocking displacement of sounds rather than more conventional song structures, but every part really has it’s place. We spent a lot of energy mixing the record to get that balance right. When we’re writing, the bass and drums hold down the song in a conventional sense. Once a structure is there, we make decisions like “it would sound more interesting if the drums drop out here,” for example. So yeah, the bass is a constant. Elizabeth [Hart] does an amazing job, which allows me more leeway with the drums, like in “Cousins” when the drums go into 5/5 time and everyone else stays in 4/4 with the bass. Also, Sara [Shaw]’s guitar lines hold it all together more than you might think — listen again!

    By Ben Tausig

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