James Beardmore has produced what may be the best Cares recording to date. Control Isn’t Real lands Nov. 8.
This one feels like a step forward for Cares. The sound is crisper, a bit bigger. What’s your take?
Thank you. I wanted to take the sound further by focusing on space and dynamics and I found myself seeing how far I could expand those aspects. I also wanted to inject more clarity. I would try things like using a more traditional song structure but slowing the tempo down and adding long pauses, or putting intense noise in the background while something much cleaner is happening in the foreground. This has definitely added scope to the sound. It turns out I’ve slowly gravitated from a very crunched, deliberately claustrophobic production approach to creating space before I collapse it.
The album notes describe a focus on “structural violence, trauma and connection.” Please tell us more.
I’ve been preoccupied with things that influence how people process reality. I feel a factor right now is structural violence, in the way that so many systems are traumatic to human life. It’s amplified by this infinite supply of information and connectedness.
Those things definitely filtered into this music but it’s less about being apocalyptic and more about processing that personally; also creating an environment that facilitates connection for some people in an uncomplicated way. Something people do to deal with uncertainty is they try and control things, no matter how small, as long as they’re in control of something. Or everything. If there’s any sort of statement in this work it’s that there’s more benefit in letting go of that.
Can you talk a bit about your process (generally, and specifically on this album)? Does working solo ever serve as a restriction?
My process is pretty chaotic. Over time I’ve learned to embrace that it’s the best way for me to work. I spend a lot of time generating ideas, remaking them and throwing them away until I start to see a theme emerging. Process/gear/composition approach is whatever makes sense at the time. I use a combination of hardware synthesizers, lots of soft synths, Max 7, samples, field recordings, various DAWs, whatever gets the job done. Whether it starts out as a live recording or a more meticulous composition, processing is a big part – that could be reamping or resampling, or rebuilding sounds out of other sounds.
This album is a collection of songs that has been developing since mid-2018 where I was trying out new ideas live. The more I’d play them I’d understand how the dynamics felt in a room and how that affected myself and the audience. I’d take these sketches and build them out in between performances.
Working solo can be hard because there’s more work to do for one person and less support. However, I’ve been in plenty of bands so I appreciate the luxury of being able to efficiently realize an idea myself. This year I’ve been collaborating with Will Bustin from IRN as Cares + WHQB and it’s been really rewarding. He’s a live drummer and percussionist so he adds a completely new aspect to this music, and I get the best of both worlds. We play as this weird two-piece “band” and do a lot of improvisation live, but I also go and do whatever I like solo too.
It’s interesting to me how many electronic artists have a history with punk music. How has that progression played out for you?
It’s certainly a common pattern. Not Dead Yet, a promoter bringing some of the most cutting edge acts in the world to Toronto started out as a punk festival and the shows they book run that whole spectrum these days. I feel like the egalitarian aspects of punk, as well as the pragmatic DIY approach all create a direct path toward experimentation. Electronics tend to be an attractive, open-ended way to create. Or maybe because punks aren’t usually trained enough to play jazz.
Tell us about No Exist.
No Exist is a collective originally started in Montreal by Così e Così and Ylang Ylang. It’s a group of artists around the world, also an annual two-day music festival. It’s been a radio show, it’s also a label. The central idea is to bring together DIY, outsider and diverse music and performance from a variety of perspectives. Artists involved beyond the founders include Okay Vivian from Ankara, Valeda from Montreal, Brigitte Bardon’t from Toronto, Désiré from Paris, myself and many others. They put out a compilation album this year that gives a nice snapshot of the sounds and ideas involved. I got involved through meeting both Così e Così and Ylang Ylang and playing their festival. I really appreciate how everyone supports each other.