Interview with Bersarin Quartett
QCR: Hello Thomas, thanks very much for providing such a superb mix and agreeing to answer a few questions for us. For those unlucky people who are unfamiliar with your work please give us a short history of your journey through music and how you would describe what it is you create.
BQ: Thanks a lot for your kind words. I´m very happy you like the mix and my music. I created the "Bersarin Quartett"-project around 10 years ago to have a personal playground for my idea to make „fictional film scores for imaginary movies“.
I really love to combine electronic music with authentic orchestral elements. You can create a massive emotional impact with all these natural strings and analog instruments — so I sampled and archived lots of single chords and cut notes from classical recordings, manipulated and combined them in order to hopefully create something new and interesting for a vague but emotional nearly perfect plot in your head. Besides, I´m really into designing sounds and shaping acoustic environments in general. So everything taking its course ... time goes by ... and now we have 4 albums. ;)
QCR: You have given us a truly fantastic mix - where did you record it and what would you like people to know about it.
BQ: I recorded this mix in my studio. I collected lots of tracks of artists I really like at the moment and sorted them by keys. I have always had in mind that these are all tracks I really want to play and introduce them to some friends. I haven't had any clue what the genre of this mix will be about ... At the end I noticed that this mix includes lots of beatless ambient- and soundscape-tracks. So here we are: Still in love for what we call ambient music!
For example Hildur Guðnadóttir – she does an amazing job for the "Chernobyl"-Soundtrack. (Definitely my tip of this year: the HBO mini-series itself and the stunning soundscapes on top.) Besides that I noticed a real treasure in Ryuichi Sakamoto’s "Warp"-mix, its called "And Still They Move" by Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld. At the moment I´m playing the computer game "Fallout 4" intensively for the second time – so a sound snippet of this atmospheric open-world game shall not be missing. Of course, I really love to present to you some new "Bersarin Quartett"-tracks from the forthcoming new album as well. So I put three new tracks into this mix – hopefully, you will enjoy them ...
QCR: Take us on a tour of your studio - what are your go-to bits of hard/software.
BQ: I´m making music with software everybody uses. Usual suspects like the VST-Synths of Native Instruments (Battery, Kontakt, Reaktor, Absynth), Arturia, Steinberg (Cubase/Wavelab), Ableton, Reason, Bitwig ... and so on. If you are really into intense nerdy tech talk I really want to recommend to you a "Headphone Commute"-interview called "In The Studio With ... " I did some months ago ... (Thanks a lot Mike, it was a pleasure!) https://headphonecommute.com/2019/04/01/in-the-studio-with-bersarin-quartett/
QCR: Visiting your website recently I was gripped by dread as nightmarishly dark, grainy footage of cityscapes was soundtracked by minimal soundscapes. Needless to say, we are all very excited about your fourth album out this month on the always amazing Denovali - what can we expect from it?
BQ: Great to hear that there is a joyful anticipation – this is really motivating, thanks a lot for this! Yes, the new album will not be called "4" or "IV" because I really want to underline some sort of evolution and progression of my project. If the first three albums have some sort of "film-noir"-nostalgia-melancholy in it, the perspective of the fourth album should be more towards the future — but not without its melancholy elements of course. There are more experimental electronic elements in it, I guess — beside the analog sound aesthetics you can expect.
QCR: Your self-titled debut came out in 2008, I can actually remember the day I first heard it. A friend gave it to me with two other albums; Genus by Talbot & Deru and Night Falls by Hecq. Those two lp’s, along with your debut had more of a formative effect on my musical journey than any other albums I can think of. What was the scene like back then & how do you view this album when you listen back to it over a decade on from its creation?
BQ: Great, I was in really good company in your record collection. :) I really like the artists you mentioned above as well. A Long time ago I met Marsen Jules (Martin Juhls) before I made my first album. He inspired me a lot to start my Bersarin Quartett-project in 2007. It was a time where the combination of classical music with electronic loop-based elements was still fresh and new. At the time I bought lots of records, listened to specific radio-shows and went to my favorite record shops ... times changed: Over a decade later we have mainly playlists, streams, clicks and likes ... If there was a "Golden Age" of special genres like neo-classical (you mentioned this as "a scene in 2008") or Trip Hop, Drum'n'Bass or IDM (in the mid 90ies), there is a "Platin Age Of Anything Goes" today with all these endless possibilities. It's very interesting that genres are more fluid these days in my opinion. The enormous quantity of releases produces some sort of over-complexity, this makes it difficult to build a long-term awareness and a passionate solid scene like in the past, I guess. But at the same time it's good to have this kind of digital revolution of course: there are no boundaries in tastes or styles anymore ... everything is available and the possibilities seem to be endless – in order to look at a wider picture: the music itself.
When I´m listening back to the first album, I´m very glad I have done it like it is – but today I'm more into further experiments in order to explore new sounds, structures and environments.
QCR: I read somewhere that the amazing artwork that emblazons the cover of your debut LP is purposefully uncredited as the nature of the work forced the artist to remain nameless for fear of retribution - is this true or just an urban legend?
BQ: The original artwork was from a Russian propaganda poster. I really tried hard to find out the copyright holder of this image – but it was impossible to find some further detailed information. So I asked a very talented Illustrator and friend of mine to redraw and copy this motive. He didn't want to take credits for his work, because as a pretty successful concept artist he normally prefers to draw his own unique creations and character designs. But feel free to take a look at his stunning portfolio. http://www.dahlslett.com/
QCR: I listed my favorite track from each of your three albums. I would love it if you could tell us a little bit about each track.
S/t - St Petersburg
II - Rot und Schwarz
III - Ist es das, was du willst
BQ: "St. Petersburg" and "Oktober" were the very first two tracks I've done under the name of the "Bersarin Quartett"-project. It was the first idea to use classical loops and play around with some electronic elements to keep it interesting. I can't really tell you where all the main original samples came from and how I processed them afterwards — there are too many different sample snippets in my mess of an audio-pool. I really still like the polyrhythmic minimal structures faded in — that's a bit surprising in this context, I guess.
"Rot und Schwarz" und "Ist es das, was du willst" — great to see, that your favorite tracks are not the typical ones. "Rot und Schwarz" is like a radio play (or a story via an audio book) with some twists and changes in its plot – unusual but I like these kind of surprises (in stories and art in general).
"Ist es das, was du willst" — I don´t know anybody who likes this track most from "III" -- congratulations! :) This track is a typically example how reduced and minimal I normally started a track (acoustic drums with some gaps of silence and some kind of awareness for all its elements) – after some time more and more elements come to it ... and it evolves to a giant wall of sound and somehow I'm losing control of everything for a short time. (And I love it as well.)
QCR: Your first album might be called I, your second & third are titled - II & III. Do you see them as a triptych or trilogy?
BQ: Not really content wise. But I think the first three albums have had the same approach for making this kind of music. After every album there was some progression though.
I think I wanted to underline this progression with a completely new name for the fourth album.
QCR: Your fourth LP deviates from this numerical titling, it is called Methoden und Machinen. What does this title allude to and does this LP differ a lot from the previous three albums
BQ: "Methoden und Maschinen" is for me the best expression for "The Future". This title contains so much questions, answers and challenges regarding all aspects of our social system we are all living in.
QCR: Bersarin Quartett isn’t the first moniker you have released under. Tell us a little bit about the music you make under other names.
BQ: Yes you will find many names if you look on Discogs for example. It's a bit confusing because these platforms have their own dynamics. "EINS_A" is my small graphic and audio design office. "esmogplayground" is my studio and my platform for all my experiments (events, projects, mixes) — All the other names you will find on Discogs are very old projects — and I really don't want to reopen these old chapters. It was a fun time ... let's move forward ... ;)
QCR: Has your Bersarin Quartett outlet become your main project or are other projects more active?
BQ: Yes, the "Bersarin Quartett" is my main artistic project. (but never say never if there will be new ideas or other concepts coming up in future.)
QCR: Tell us a little bit about the very exciting sounding (and looking) surround sound shows you have been playing in cinemas lately.
BQ: Since 2017 I'm very interested in 7.1 surround sound recordings. So I rearranged and remixed a new Bersarin Quartett-surround-setup in order to perform listening concerts in complete darkness with an 8 channel sound system. During this set there was enough space for some live-performances for a guitarist and me on keys.
It was really fun to do these kinds of concerts. We have had the chance to present this concept already in Moscow, Dresden, Berlin, Bielefeld, Landau, Wroclaw and Tolmin — and maybe more shows will follow.
QCR: Where do you see the future of sound systems and performances heading? What, in your opinion, is the ideal way to listen to your music?
BQ: It´s a bit strange that stereo systems in 2019 are still common sense in most concert- and club-venues – especially in electronic music where you usually want to create artificial soundscapes. The best environment for listening-only concerts - especially for electronic music - could be actually the modern big movie theatres. They have already a great multichannel soundsystem (like Dolby atmos with up to 64 speaker channels) with a huge dynamic powerful sound range. The room acoustics in a movie theatre are extremely dry – perfect for listening to all the details from all directions ... and the seats are comfortable. Perfect! Unfortunately big movie theatres are mostly interested in showing blockbuster movies. We noticed that it's pretty hard to convince cinema promoters that listening concerts (without any movie action) are a very good idea ... but we will still stick to it!
QCR: I was lucky enough to see a rare performance of yours back in 2012 at the (now legendary) Denovali Swingfest held in Essen. You performed with a live drummer, what can people expect from your upcoming performance at the Funkhaus in Berlin. Will it feature this same surround sound.
BQ: After the surround sound excursions I have found three lovely mates in Münster to realize a new live-concept: to rearrange my computer-made music for bass, guitar, drums and keys only. No prepared surround sound backing tracks. Finally, there will be a stage with 4 human beings without any complex computer recordings or sequencers. (This is a bit crazy if you remember this all starts as a computer music project.) I really love this idea to present the music of the Bersarin Quartett stripped down this time in a most authentic, transparent, "honest" and "vulnerable" way as possible. Let’s find out if this will work out on the 23rd of November at Funkhaus Berlin.
QCR: How do you feel about Saal 1 (the room where you will perform as part of the Denovali Label Night in Berlin Nov 23rd)
BQ: In January this year I was there the first time. I visited the concert of "Bohren & Der Club of Gore" and it was amazing indeed – the venue, the room, the sound and the music. I guess it will be an intense experience especially with our new "pure-analog-live-set". I would love that we would play in the middle of the room surrounded by the audience. (But I don't know if this will be possible ... we will see.) We are really looking forward to it.
QCR: What is on the horizon for you. - more shows? Another album? I would love to see more remixes from you - one of my all-time favorite pieces of music is your rework of Bitcrush’s ‘Posts’.
BQ: Yes, I guess there will be more shows in 2020. Unfortunately, we all aren't fulltime-musicians, so we have to see what’s possible for us. In January we are playing in London at the Jazz Café and in February in Germany at the "Pianeo Festival" in Schöppingen. We are looking forward to what comes next ...
Thanks a lot for your great feedback regarding the bitcrush remix. Over the last years I really wanted to focus on my new album, the surround sound concept and at the moment the "unplugged" live-set. But you are totally right ... remixes are always a good idea. (ok not always, but very often ... !) ;)
QCR: Your mix will, I am sure, lead listeners down many rabbit holes. Aside from the artists, you featured, what other musicians are you listening to a lot these days, any recommendations?
BQ: I just saw "The Joker" at the movies (did I already mentioned that I really love Hildur Guðnadóttirs work? – The sound, the atmosphere, the depth in this movie ,,, so intense!). As I mentioned before my mix turned out quite beatless and ambient-ish. Beside that I really like beats (mostly broken) and rhythmical structures (mostly challenging) as well — check out the music of "Ghost Warrior", "Grischa Lichtenberger" (new album coming soon!), "Emptyset", "Demdike Stare", "Skee Mask", „Akkord“, "Chevel", "Mad Zach", "Hapa", "CharlesTheFirst" ... for me this is all interesting sound design stuff and a huge inspiration (even if you can't hear it in my music.) ;)