By: Anand Harsh
It’s supposed to be a joke, but what if it’s not.
When Evan Bartholomew released his first installment of a four-part series earlier this year, it didn’t quite seem like we were just biding time until The 4 Horsemen of the Electrocalypse were bound to show up on our doorstep. Now, I feel like I’m peeking out the window every few minutes to make sure I didn’t miss them.
The Bluetech EP White Horse, which came out in March of this year, opened up this tetralogy that was supposed to be Bartholomew’s satirical take on the end times. While it’s looking less and less cheeky, at least we’ve got a killer soundtrack playing us our like the chamber orchestra on the Titanic.
Our lastest chapter, Red Horse, which is officially out tomorrow (November 1), picks up where White Horse left off, very much anchored in the deep IDM and ambient electronica sphere in which Bartholomew has found his greatest success. The opener and title track plunges the listener headlong into the buzzing, beeping, and whirring gears and cogs of the classic Bluetech synth sound.
Pulling inspiration more from Kraftwerk, Human League, and Gary Numan than anything contemporary, songs like “Reign & Bone,” which underline Bartholomew’s penchant for retro flavors—he’s never been one to chase trends, and the middle of a sprawling double concept album would hardly be the place to start even if he were in the mood for banging trapstep. Let’s just say those odds are unlikely.
Fans of S U R V I V E’s creepy and nostalgic soundtrack for Stranger Things will be drawn to the EP’s closer, “A Blessed Release,” though there’s no doubt Bluetech was long finished with the cut before the faux cult classic rockted into the zeitgeist. Eerie ambient music is one of the hallmarks of Bartholomew’s sound, anyway.
Evan took some time to answer my doom and gloom queries. While this series found him using music to pull himself out of a dark place fraught with loss and introspection, he might actually have a sunnier outlook than I do about the whole thing.
Here we are, mere days away from hurtling headlong into the fiery abyss that is the most cartoonish presidential election in our country's existence—meanwhile, the brinksmanship happening in the background of our proxy war with Russia makes the threat of a nuclear holocaust more real than it's been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Is this the right time to be releasing a series of EP's based around the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse? Are you Nero fiddling as Rome goes up in flames?
I think now is the right time more than any time. I picked the name of the series with tongue firmly in cheek, though it's hard not to give in to fear and wonder about the very real possibilities of apocalyptic scenarios working themselves out. At this point in my life, I'd rather name something and look at it head on then pretend it's not happening.
Sonically, how does the Red Horseman differ from our first introduction to the series with the White Horseman? Did you put yourself into different mind frames when producing each of these different sections, or did you pick and choose from your greater body of work which completed songs fit better with each different installment?
Sonically I'd say the two EPs are pretty similar. They are all working up to a double album, so I don't want to stray too far from the concept as they all need to work together eventually. Definitely keeping a nod to electro and synthpop, but a lot of that is due to working with the same tools as last time, mainly analog and modular synths.
This collaboration with Justin Totemical appears to be equal parts visual and aural. You are a talented graphic artist and designer in your own right. Where is your creative heart these days? 50/50 music and art, or does the scale tip from day to day; hour to hour?
I have not had time to do any visual art in awhile, so for me creating something I am happy with according to some pretty exacting standards would take me a lot more time than it should. Justin works fast and basically knocks it out of the park everytime, hitting the reference points I gave him right off the bat, so I see no reason to work with anyone else or attempt to render something myself.
Let's pretend we all survive to witness the completion of the series. Do you think you will have officially cleansed yourself of the pain and loss that drove you towards this dark, if darkly funny, eschatological series? Will the slate be cleaned for the next phase in Bluetech's sound?
My hope is really that my music is always a reflection on both my personal life and current events. So as long as w're on this rocket ship made of dirt and water hurtling toward an uncertain future, an element of that is going to find it's way into my work. Sonically I will be trying some new ideas after this series is finished, mainly working with more songwriters and vocalists as well as fulfilling this nagging itch I've got to make some proper ambient music again. Whatever that looks like, Im not sure at this point, I just go with the flow and see what happens.
Catch Bluetech tonight, along with Kaya Project, at 333 Live in Los Angeles, California for a Halloween celebration featuring music that doesn’t suck. How novel.
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