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anabasine: on interacting with ‘mind-rhythms’ through music

Written by

Leticia Trandafir
April 9th, 2018

The Montreal-based American artist Danji Buck-Moore is a wearer of many hats. He’s long been involved in both the band world—via his psych-pop trio Slight—and the electronic dance music scene as a DJ, producer and community organizer who goes by ‘anabasine.’

With over a decade of training and experience in classical music, jazz piano and organ, this McGill music major soon found himself adding synthesizers to his work with Slight.

Eventually this exploration lead him to drone music and later dance music, learning the ropes of both the creative and engineering sides of music production. His deep commitment to the community aspects of both scenes shines through his involvement in founding two mainstays of Montreal’s underground music scene: the loft space and venue called the plant and, the rave collective Lagom.

We spoke to him in advance of his performance for Practice—Never Apart’s sound meditation series—to find out more about the parallels he draws between drone and dance music.

How did you get into making drone music, and how does your dance music practice relation to it?

I put together my first drone sets when I was part of a small group that started hosting a series of events called Sleepover Drone Shows at a loft I helped found called the Plant. The first one of these in the spring of 2012 was a small and experimental affair; most of us organizing played sets as well. I didn’t really listen to much dance music at the time still. I got into techno and different styles of dance musics shortly thereafter. My workflow and hardware setups when producing and playing dance-oriented livesets come pretty directly from the effects chains and synth-setups I had started using for drone sets (with a few things tweaked, like an added MPC).

You formerly used the name ‘A Picturesque Venus Transit’ for your ambient and drone music, and ‘anabasine’ for your dance music productions and DJing. What pushed you to use ‘anabasine’ for drone this time?

We had a little tradition of making up names for our projects at Sleepover Drone shows for a while – a lot of them were repurposed titles of astronomical things from the incredible apod.nasa.gov site. Over time I started to add a more performative element to those sets, including wearing welding goggles and playing accordion; the vibe was born out of the depths of the night, sometimes playing long solos sets in the still of the dark night to a room full of only sleeping people. That was the setting and feeling for A Picturesque Venus Transit, that original celestial wonder.

Recently I’ve been making other ambient / drone-oriented sounds that feel like they are separate from the APVT project. For this set I’m working with a lot of the same gear as I do for dancefloor live sets as anabasine, so I’m using that name. APVT will stick around to crawl out of the spaceship for the right occasions when they come about.

What has your experience running and playing Sleepover Drones made you understand about drone music and its effects on minds and moods?

Imagine running a whole show with a steady lineup of performers changing every 30 minutes and all the technical requirements to get them wired up and set up to go on, but trying to organize all of it without disturbing a room full of sleeping people!

We learned a lot of practical things which we outlined in a document that we started sharing with performers, so we didn’t have to explain the same things over and over again. Things like: please no beats or loud sudden noises, people are actually sleeping, etc. Eventually it started getting shared around amongst other organizers (there have been spin-off events inspired by ours in Colorado, Detroit, Berlin, New York, and London now!). Shouts to all who helped curate those early drone days and are continuing it today—you know just who you are and what effect you’re having! <3

Musically, though, I realized after my first few sets that it was important for me to try to get away from being satisfied with pretty ambient drone clouds, that I wanted to have some melodic and harmonic structure in there. So I started using chords from songs I love, streeeeetching the harmonic rhythm of a pop song’s form out to 30 or 40 minutes. I remember once I did that with a song by My Bloody Valentine from their album MBV and it felt really good. Another time I did the Beach Boys. I found there was some structure underneath things that felt solid, on top of which I could improvise and ornament as I pleased.

More recently I’ve been getting into playing a lot more notes as well, letting a cascading wave of melodies interact with more stationary drones.

What are some of the parallels between drone music and dance music that you are exploring in your set?

I’m interested in the mindsets with which I approach these two venues as a listener: I think I bring a more concentrated focus on listening through my body to both dancefloors and drone shows than to, say, pop music, for the most part. The most intent music listening I ever do is when I’m really zoned-in dancing to music I love. And I think that zoned-in state on the dancefloor is actually quite similar to the zoned-out states we might find on the ‘dronefloor.’ Both activities are intensely dedicated listening environments that, through focus and attention in our bodies, allow us to transcend our bodies a little bit—or a lot!

You mention this idea of ‘mind-rhythm’ in your description for your Practice set. What do you understand by mind-rhythm, and what makes you interested in that idea?

I’m thinking about meditating and about the frequency at which your brain churns up new content for you to think about. There’s a rhythm to that, it might be stuttered and broken, have a fast or a slow tempo, and be further characterized in a number of different ways, but there’s some internal rhythm to your thoughts, to the instances of your mind reaching out to interact with your body.

Meditation practice is often in large part focussed on slowing this process down, eventually quieting the mind into ceasing these mental interjections into consciousness. Thinking of sound as the predominant technology-of-mind in a noise meditation session, I’m trying to interact with these mind rhythms through music, gently shaping them towards a quieter and slower pace by working with similar rhythms and contours in sound.

Are there particular sounds, frequencies, timbres, instruments that you think are best suited for modulating mind-rhythms?

I’m sure you’ll find a lifetime’s worth of internet behind that question, but I’m not working off of any particular esoteric playbook or set. Chant and sacred musics of many sorts are going after this as well, and sound meditation and sound healing have become pretty active fields.

I’m working with the synthesizers and effects I have already at my disposal, they may or may not be “the best,” I haven’t done that research per se, but I’m working off of trying to make sound-models for thought-patterns and rhythms; maybe if when we relax and let our minds be malleable, the content and contours of the sounds present in the room can set up a structure for our mind to comfortably drape itself over for a period of time.

What is your preferred gear setup for drone sets? Is there any overlap to when you play a dance music set?

Yeah right now there’s a huge overlap. I’m experimenting with using my MPC for the first time for this set, so it’s almost exactly the same setup as when I play dance live sets: my MPC, a few outboard synthesizers, effects pedals, and a mixer.

How do you prepare or gear up to an improvised drone set?

I try and chill out, and start slow. Sometimes it takes me a bit of time to feel like I know where to go, but I’ve learned that just enough sound and content is often more effective than adding lots of things before I know what direction I’m going. Relax and breathe, and change things slowly!

RSVP on Facebook for Practice #24 with anabasine. 

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