‘Echo Chamber’ is out now.
Magnetic Ghost, the one man project from multi instrumentalist Andrew Larson, is a fascinating amalgamation. Adopting aspects from slowcore, shoegaze, psych, ambient, drone, and kraut rock, Larson has managed to craft a sound that is at once warm and inviting and also somewhat malevolent and insidious in approach.
This is a perfect environment to explore the dystopian themes of his work with latest single ‘Echo Chamber’ exploring ideas of totalitarianism and herd mentality. The track is also a bit of a departure from his previous work on his Loss Molecules album, released late last year. ‘Echo Chamber’ has a far more ambient bent than that release, and sees Larson exploring a more considered sound that is actually reminiscent of a religious hymn.
We spoke to Larson about his interest in dystopian themes, modern society, and his plans for his next album.
Grab Magnetic Ghost’s music on their official website.
Overblown: Your video for ‘Echo Chamber’ is intriguing. The contrasts of modern western society with totalitarian images are really striking. What inspired the video?
Magnetic Ghost: The song itself happened pretty spontaneously in terms of composition right after the US presidential election last year– that event confirming a lot of darker suspicions about events and the direction the world could be headed… Shortly after I organized a critical mass bicycle ride through Minneapolis to the Minnesota Governor’s mansion to urge resistance to the type of totalitarian ideas infecting our way of life in the USA and west.
As organizer, I was exposed, full force to the full wrath of trolls and the worst aspects of the opposing view. There were threats to my safety and the vast number of potential attendees as the protest grew legs, but at the same time, this was all existing on the internet, on Facebook, and what was hundreds if not thousands of angry people was in real life a few hundred peaceful people. But, both aspects, today, are real, in a sense. We live in physical spaces, obviously, but a great many of us are also living in a day to day, minute to minute inside of a screen, and it is a very different place there. That event was a mental schism for me, the dividing line between these two realities was really stark.
The Internet and technology and the flow of information can be very freeing and the connectivity it provides is amazing. But the downside is omnipresent too. If you look at totalitarian movements, the goal is always to turn atomized individuals into homogenous crowds that are easier to predict, influence, and control. It’s a different situation in the free world, obviously, but we’ve all sort of willingly given it all away– all these crumbs of data we leave, the sort of digital stains of existence– in a harmless sense it’s the Instagram sponsored ad that wants to sell me a plaid shirt that has a color scheme that is modelled after the cover of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. On the downside it’s Trump’s team using Cambridge Analytica to get inside the demographics and market your beliefs to you directly…
O: I find the title ‘Echo Chamber’ to be interesting. I feel that we often live in an echo chamber with nothing to challenge our preconceived notions. What do you think?
MG: Yes, it speaks to the experience of what I went through, but also what we all live in. The concept of the “echo chamber” itself is still pretty dangerous and easy to mistake… yes, we need to look critically at our own assumptions within the media / news niche we’ve each embedded ourselves in, but at the same time we have to avoid this notion that there isn’t Truth. Powerful interests want to erase truth and turn it into a series of equally relative possibilities… too many possibilities lead to paralysis for the individual, paralysis to political atrophy, atrophy to ease of control.
O: You released an album called Loss Molecules last November. Does ‘Echo Chamber’ continue the sound of that album?
MG: Loss Molecules is sort of a 6 song cycle that captured the moment it was recorded in, grounded in a sort of existential mood I was in. It was also sort of a reboot for me in music as I had taken a number of years away. It was kind of a purposeful effort to try to make a record that sounded like a huge 4 track tape machine, except made on a computer. Sort of hazy, like moments of Can’s Tago Mago or Flying Saucer Attack’s Further, but layering vocal stacks and trying to push some genre boundaries– can you combine a love for both Brian Wilson and Brian Eno into your compositions? Loss Molecules was my first solo effort where I was the entire band on record, which allowed for a lot of freedom and experimentation and the ability to arrange things exactly as I wanted them.
‘Echo Chamber’ is a bit of a different direction, still related but in a musical sense it plays off of listening to a fair amount of Terry Riley and Steve Reich at the time, stuff that informed Loss Molecules of course as well (along with a lot of other music) but I was interested in layering and texture in the way that as the composition continues the voices of the sort of dissonant choir move in and out of phase with each other and different textures come to the forefront as a result. And, I thought the music and lyrics worked well together; it’s like the musical equivalent of trying to represent a “post-truth” world— you are going to catch aspects of context and meaning, but everyone is going to hear it differently, and it moves in and out of focus.
O: There seems to be significant dystopian themes to your music. Would that be accurate? Are you interested in dystopian literature?
MG: Absolutely, and I don’t think we live in a world without hope by any means, but dystopian literature is a powerful tool, and looking to a 1984 or a Brave New World or considering new books like Omar El Akkad’s American War which is set in a late century, climate changed, war and unrest filled USA, are important lenses through which to view present reality.
Art and literature is in my mind not a set precept of what is going to happen– dystopias represent art of people seeing processes working in their daily life that lead them to concern. Art is how they process it into a narrative that they can use to spread their viewpoint
Music and art, for me, is always sort of a therapeutic place where I can go to work through what ails me in my mind, work through it, and process it. Frequently my music has something of a basis of “why do we do what we do?” aspect to it. Or “how does this work?”. Sometimes posing the question is just as important as answering it.
O: Will ‘Echo Chamber’ feature on an upcoming release, or is it a stand alone single?
MG: It was one of the first songs I finished as part of a greater session leading to the next record, but I thought it would make for a fine stand alone release; I’ll probably peel off another track in a few months as well. I think the next album is going to be called obliterated_pixelated and it’s about us and the internet in the broad sense, but also about how meaning can be unlinked from context, just like how looking at a one pixel out of thousands but you can’t grasp what it is until you have zoomed out.
O: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
MG: Periodically playing some live dates in the US and spending time finishing off the next record— hoping to have that ready to release in the first half of 2018 and I’d like to play shows to support it in Europe. Despite travelling there a number of times, I’ve never had the opportunity to play music in Europe, and I think it would be a great experience to do it— travel broadens the mind— I hope it works out.
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