Album Auto-nalysis is a regular Counterzine feature where we ask some of our favorite artists to breakdown their albums track-by-track, to provide further insight into the thoughts, feelings, and artistic processes that went into making them. For this edition, we asked Matt Ashton of London drone pop band The Leaf Library to detail their new album ‘About Minerals’.
1. “Weather Wires”
Matt Ashton: When we were first asked by Tiago from Inner Space Travels to do something for the label we were deep in the middle of mixing our next studio album . We were doing long evening sessions at Studio Klank in North London and there was a fair amount of sitting around, so I started playing about with a Moog synthesizer that Simon (Nelson – Leaf Library guitarist and mixing engineer) had there. There was no real plan of what to make – I just threw a load of ideas down over the course of several evenings, often with the sound of the next album drifting in through the headphones.
Several of those first explorations are layered together in this opening track, its reverb giving it a subdued but open feel, with things gradually appearing through mist – it felt like a perfect opener for the album. The title came from my son (who is six years old) mishearing the word reservoir, after I pointed one out on a train journey. The sample at the end is Arthur Miller talking at a symposium in 1953 about poetry and film. He has some pretty cosmic lines.
2. “About Minerals”
MA: This is another track made by piling up loops from different sessions and experiments, plus two field recordings. The first one you hear is the foghorn at Dungeness on the south coast of England. It’s a very bleak and beautiful shingle desert that sticks out into the channel and is famous for its nuclear power station and the fact that Derek Jarman spent his last years living there amongst the sea kale and stones. It’s a very atmospheric place.
The second is from Los Tilos forest in Gran Canaria that Lewis visited a while back. He layered up the sounds of birds and amphibians, waterfalls, creaking trees and footbridges into the loping, clicking rhythm track that carries the piece along.
When I first heard Melinda’s vocal for this one it really reminded me of Trish Keenan. Like Trish Melinda has a very easy way with a nice unadorned (and deceptively simple) melody.
3. “High Light”
MA: There are a few more field recordings dotted about the album that have been stretched and degraded beyond recognition. One of my favourite things to do is to take a few seconds of something really mundane (in this case a section of a train journey) and stretch it till it lasts an hour. I’ll then chop a few minutes out of that and layer them up.
Working on laptops so much I’m always desperate to get away from the grid, certainly for our more drone and experimental releases, and it’s exciting to discover serendipitous sounds and directions by throwing a load of things together. The title is another reference to Dungeness – the High Light is the name for one of the old lighthouses positioned there.
4. “Lichen and Moss”
MA: I was going for a real Biosphere feel on this one, hence the title (I felt like it could have been the name of a track off Substrata or Cirque). I think the sounds were originally made on a temporary plug in that I tried to use as much as possible before the licence ran out, before being put through several nice reverbs.
5. “Layers of Regret”
MA: The backing on this one, if sped up, would reveal itself to the be the synth line from my old band Saloon’s very obscure b-side Movimiento that I re-played on a the laptop. However, when stretched, chopped and layered up it became a really nice bed over which to play some wistful Warp synths and guitar. Kate’s wordless vocals were the last thing we recorded for the album, sung at Lewis’s Drone Lodge studio in Walthamstow in North East London. The title had been around for a while and I thought it was a nice, gently melodramatic addition to a rainy Tuesday afternoon of a track.
6. “Surface Decisions”
MA: This track is me getting wild with the guitar and ebow (along with loop and delay pedals possibly the greatest invention in the history of music). Melinda took some words I sent her and turned them into this lovely conversation, whilst Lewis had an equally wild time rattling some cymbals back in The Drone Lodge.
By the time we had got to the point of adding vocals to this one we knew it was going to be a proper album. What had started out as a long and drone-y EP now had a real structure and atmosphere to it, and finishing this track (and the next) really tied everything together.
7. “Beach Loom”
MA: This is Tiago from the label’s favourite track – I think it’s the one that sits best with the Inner Space Travels aesthetic. The provenance of most of this one is a bit of a mystery, but a very pleasant one – I could work it out if I wanted but it’s nice not knowing. The guitars for all the tracks were done on the same day, and there are a couple of other synth lines going on at different speeds. I tend to work very quickly (and haphazardly), and so I very quickly forget the often arbitrary steps I’ve gone through to reach something I’m happy with and interested in. The really key point is when it gets passed on, often to Lewis to completely re-interpret.
The title came very early on with this one, and the track was almost built around it. We try and do that a lot as it’s a great way of being led, and of not being too prescriptive about what a piece of music needs. I thought we had finished this one a while back, and was a little unsure of Lewis’s suggestion of adding violin to it. However, it so beautifully fried my mind when I heard it, and it’s now my favourite part of the whole album.
8. “An Edge, An Ending”
MA: This track is a bit of a mystery. From the start it became one of those pieces of music that gradually just appears before you. Lewis did a lot of the production work on this after I sent him some very minimal drones (he also wrote the vocal melody, which is a first for us). Kate’s wonderful interpretation of the melody and the words came very quickly, and it was all done before we really noticed.
The title is borrowed from a Lavinia Greenlaw poem (‘The Sea is an Edge and an Ending’), part of a series on her father’s dementia, whilst the lyrics were written in response to a photo by Chris Killip – ‘Simon being taken to sea for the first time since his father drowned’ – a practice in some fishing communities to stop people becoming scared of the water. It’s such a powerful and melancholy image and title, and it has a very weird effect on me every time I think about it.
I have also lost two relatives to dementia and, though obvious, the drowning analogy is still very strong. I wanted to try and tap into both of these wonderful and sublime pieces of art – that sort of quite banal, day after feeling. Life goes on, others are still living.
9. “Blue Green Sequence”
MA: This was, I think, the second track I started for the project. It’s a very simple synth drone and a field recording of my son and I on the beach at Deal, not far around the English coast from Dungeness. Finding this track gave the whole album its atmosphere and pointed the way towards the album title.
The day we were on the beach was a misty, still, sea green day and the idea of trying to capture that feeling and make a whole record out of it was very exciting. I know nothing about minerals or geology but standing on a shingle beach looking out to sea always gives me an incredibly strong feeling of the layers of rock beneath my feet, stretching out under the water. But also the conditions of the day – the mist and the stillness – made everything seem very small and microscopic. Listening to the album again now takes me straight back there.
10-12. “Mineral Bloom” (I-III)
MA: Whilst planning the release with the label we realized we could either repeat the album on the second side of the tape, or just make some more music. Each of these three tracks is based on a small element of one track from the main album, then stretched and looped. For Mineral Bloom II Lewis used Ableton to convert part of a track from the main album into a harmony, melody and rhythm MIDI sequence. The result is the program attempting to deal with all that information but failing in a very beautiful way.
You can purchase The Leaf Library’s ‘About Minerals’ here from their German label Inner Space Travels digital and cassette (cassettes are currently sold out but the label seems unopposed to future runs, so keep an eye out). Be sure to follow The Leaf Library on all of their social media to keep up-to-date with their work, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Bandcamp.