Tristan de Liège and Benjamin Hill have been making music together for more than a dozen years. “[N]ot always consistently or very seriously,” as de Liège puts it. Still, the partnership has persisted. Not even distance (or for that matter, a dance-rock phase) could keep them from working together. Originally from Oklahoma City, the two now call Los Angeles and Detroit home.
“Ben and I haven’t lived in the same place for some years now,” says de Liège. “So when we get together we have to make the most of that time.”
Their latest is an 11-track self-titled electronic work on Loci Records. In a genre better known for production value than actual musicianship, this album stands apart. Thoma applies a relatively traditional, almost jazz-oriented sensibility to these songs. Side by side with the electronics, you’ll find bass clarinet, tenor sax, upright bass and cello, even if they’re made to sound like something else.
“The album is electronic in the sense that everything is heavily processed electronically/running through lots of effects etc.,” says de Liège. “Our laptops are a huge part of what’s happening here in terms of the sound. But ‘electronic’ has such a broad meaning nowadays that it’s a harder category to define. We definitely wanted this (and our past material) to feel really organic and warm and imperfect, but still driven by programmed beats.”
“Secluded Excluded” and “Flow” are two fine examples of this traditional approach to song playing. But those aren’t the only highlights. “Weightless” is a more straightforward electronic piece. Not quite ambient, it builds to a gorgeous, multi-layered crescendo.
The album closes with “A Sense of Triumph,” fittingly.
“We’re happy with what we achieved,” says de Liège. “Though I think in the future we want to explore a more digital and synthesized sound.” Thoma plans to record new material in Detroit this summer. There also have an EP in the can that’s due out later this year.