Beige is the duo of Liam Kramer-White and Stella Silbert. They made an improvised, abstract and minimal tape together.
How did you got to know each other?
Liam Kramer-White: We met in a class at Hampshire College on “musicking”. Initially we started playing in a rock band together but I sort of lost steam on the rock scene, and playing the same songs at every gig. I wanted to do something which was conducive to more sonic exploration and different ways of being/relating than what was happening at rock shows at the time. We started using synths more and practicing improvisation, and recording, and Beige came out of that.
Stella Silbert: Similarly for me, our rock band started to feel very goal-oriented after around a year of activity, and our practices were moving farther away from the things about playing that excite me: experimentation, intense focus… I think we initially started improvising together as a way of having fun, since our other band wasn’t really hitting that button anymore.
For how long have you been making music together?
Liam: Like 3 years now?
Stella: Yeah… the first time we ever hung out we made music, which was January 2016, so like 3 ½ years.
What kind of gear did you use to make this album?
Stella: I used a Casio CZ-101 synth with a looper pedal.
Liam: I used a Microkorg, Kaossilator Pro, digital delay, looper and a mixing board. Sometimes I would steal Stella’s sounds and route them to the delay and looper.
Where did you make the album?
Stella: Mostly in our dorm rooms at Hampshire College! We just recorded our improvisations directly into a DAW via a mixing board and audio interface.
Which music influenced you to make your own music? Because it reminds me of Call Back The Giants, Tarp and XX Committee.
Stella: We’ve definitely been compared to Tarp before and have shared a bill with them, I see the similarities (we even share the Casio-Korg arrangement), but as far as I know we were both unaware of them until after recording the Beige tape. Some of the music that I found particularly influential while recording the tracks on this tape was: Mark Templeton, Huerco S, Gas, Actress, Dean Blunt and related projects, Laurel Halo, Jake Meginsky, Omar Souleyman, and, in a general sense, dub and experimental techno. Some more canonical stuff too, like Terry Riley and Pauline Oliveros. Friends of ours, particularly my friend Alex Freundlich who has made music under a variety of names (most recently Song Hope Spring Book) was also a big influence. Alex also did the album art for the Beige tape. I also started playing in the Javanese gamelan ensemble at Smith College around that time, and was surely influenced by that repertoire.
But I’d say the former influences came into play more strongly once Liam and I had already developed a particular sound and vocabulary, those artists became influential once I noticed similarities between their work and what we were already doing. I don’t think we started out trying to emulate any particular sound… our sound and technique came more out of exploration of our instruments and the combination of them.
I haven’t heard of Call Back the Giants or XX Committee, I’m excited to check em out!
Liam: While we were recording I was really interested in Pauline Oliveros, Maggi Payne, and Maryanne Amacher. The way that they use timbre, time, and psychoacoustics I still find fascinating. I had been really interested in ecological art too and was doing a lot of critical listening and reading of works and texts by Hildegard Westerkamp, Barry Truax and other soundscape composers. I was also listening to footwork, Dj Rashad and Jlin mostly. A visit to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s dream house in New York and seeing Jason Lescalleet perform live also were important sound experiences for me.
I am listening to the groups you mentioned, I hear the similarities for sure. Tarp was the only group I was aware of before this interview. I remember seeing them play for the first time and thinking “Oh yeah! This is a lot like what we have been doing. Cool!”.
What I enjoy about this album is that you take your time. There seems to be a lot of space in the music. A conscious idea?
Liam: Thanks! It’s hard to say whether this was a conscious thing or not. We definitely did a lot of talking about these recordings after making them, and there is always some sort of sound/music oriented dialogue running between the two of us, but I don’t remember either of us explicitly saying much about what we would do before hand. I think it was more of a subconscious thing, something that we were naturally gravitating towards.
Stella: I’d say the same, and also that we weren’t necessarily as conscious of time when we made this album as we are now. The improvisations were recorded over roughly a year-long period of time, and I’m not sure at what point we decided that we wanted to make a tape. But I think the fact that we weren’t necessarily playing with an audience/listeners in mind led to a certain extension/indulgence in moments that we liked, with the understanding that they would naturally change and morph into something else if we let them play out. That said, the only real edits we made on this album were fading out or cutting off sections that went too long or went in a direction we didn’t like.
Did you have certain goals, a certain sound in mind before you start recording, or is it all improv, started from scratch?
Liam: All these sessions are improvised. I think our main goal with these sessions was just to learn about playing together and to learn how to improvise with these instruments. We weren’t super proscriptive in what it would be but I think we both share a lot of interests going into it that helped us develop a vocabulary to use as we continued to record.
Why did you want to make an album which is almost a full C90 tape long?
Liam: When we first started recording I’m not sure we had it in mind to make a tape. But a year or so later we had accumulated enough material that we wanted to share.
Is this Beige tape your only album?
Stella: So far, yes. We have a goal of making another album this summer, but it will probably be pretty different! We’re both a little tired of the instruments we used on this album, so we’ve been extending them, using new instruments, including some homemade ones, and trying to work with more composed forms/improvising through editing rather than solely recording live improvisations.
Liam: Since recording the Beige tape we’ve both been working on some other projects individually. Stella gave an incredible concert of original works this spring (documentation here) and I put out a digital release of my own (available here).
– Joeri Bruyninckx