Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Embers From the Underground #2: Building Castles Out of Matchsticks

Welcome to the second installment of EFTU; the bi-monthly spotlight that lands upon a particular SCQ-favourite artist and delves into their most recent work. This month’s artist, Building Castles Out of Matchsticks (nom de plume for Anne Sulikowski), first came to my attention via Chat Blanc Records’ Myspace, whereby her moving drone-pop compositions quickly reintroduced me to that detached excitement of listening to music through social media sites. Since falling for those select cuts – a few of which from Comme Un Reve, Dans La Nuit (review below) – I’ve begun wandering the breadth of Sulikowski’s concentrated discography with great enthusiasm, ditching Myspace streams for full-album immersions. And from the sounds of this interview, the journey is just getting underway.

Fresh from final exams and dazed with post-school possibilities, Building Castles Out of Matchsticks offered some time recently to discuss her art-centric universe, Comme Un Reve, Dans La Nuit and many future projects on the way. Without further ado...

SCQ: First thing’s first, Building Castles Out of Matchsticks is what you’ve described as a universe unto itself, with photography, intimate writings and a great deal of mystery filling the corners of your many sonic endeavors. Taking into consideration your school studies, your radio show (Bleeps and Hums) and maintaining a personal life, how have you kept this all-encompassing project so potent?

Anne Sulikowski: I’ve always had loads of energy. Not having television and not reading the newspaper for years has made my imagination go wild. It’s a strange sort of drive I have, to always take photos or record music. Although I know many people I spend a good deal of my time alone, and usually I either daydream or wander and then spend endless moments attempting to somehow put it all together... Like a recap. So I won’t forget, you know. And by alone I do not necessarily mean devoid of people. It’s more of a state of mind I guess, and It is these times that I record. A connection in the form of a distraction… I’m very much absorbed with life, and I think for hours relentlessly about it. It’s entertaining yet also quite melancholic. So this cycle of introspection is what really drives me to do everything creative, and I feel this need to like share it with anyone, someone. It’s almost like I feel it makes it more real somehow, the notion that someone else understands where I’ve been. Be it through a photo or a song lyric it is through this random connection that I feel less detached in the world. Being surrounded by others does not mean you have found many connections so this musical drive is what has kept me in touch with the reality of this world.

I have spent my last few years getting my degree in nursing, where I have focused on psychiatric care and surgical post-op care. It had taken up a great deal of my time, much more than I was prepared to give, but I have found my studies to be quite rewarding as a goal of mine is to use musical recording as psychotherapy for the treatment of chronic schizophrenia at the psychiatric hospital here in Hamilton Ontario. Caring for the very sick and mentally ill has made me more introspective than ever before, and I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to this experience. I do though, regret very much, all the time that has been stolen for me. I did manage to record quite a bit, Recorded a new EP and enough songs in the works for a new castles album, which I plan to release sometime late summer.

SCQ: How did you become involved with Chat Blanc records? And has joining that roster impacted how you record or regard your work?

Anne Sulikowski: I met Pascal in 2005 at a Below the Sea show in the wasteland of Hamilton. He was the drummer and I was recording the show off the soundboard for them. A friend of mine knew him and we were introduced and since then we have become very good friends. He asked me to do a release with his label and although it took me awhile to record the EP I was thrilled that he released it. I love his indie approach and his cute little CD packages…

I never let a label influence my work, I always just sort of record and then worry about release later. I do very much love DIY labels, indie approaches, interesting packages and artist centered labels.

SCQ: In an interview from last year, you mentioned that Secret Land found you ‘where you should be’. How has the passing of time affected that statement? And as a Polaroid snap-shot, where does this EP find you?

Anne Sulikowski: Nothing is constant for me. I always feel I am where I should be until another day has passed.

SCQ: Compared to the ominous weight that weaves through your past albums, Comme Un Reve, Dans La Nuit contains moments so clear-headed and spacious, they nearly sound unburdened (‘Sugar Bleeps’, for example). Was there any intention to lift the shroud of mystery surrounding Building Castles Out of Matchsticks on this release? Do you see this EP as a sonic departure?

Anne Sulikowski: Since chat blanc release mostly mini CD, I had to limit the sounds I selected for the release, which in all honesty I found most difficult to, since I usually have many pieces of music in the works at the same time. Sometimes I even forget things I’ve recorded and find them so gratefully at unexpected times.

I selected the songs more for meanings rather than flow, and chose the more stand-out bits. The vocals presented are at times more clear than usual, for me that is, but still I find are misread and misinterpreted. And by no way is that a bad thing, I take things and make them into something else all of the time, and that is really what it comes down to with music…personal interpretation, emotional recognition.

The song Like a dream in the night is actually a lyric from a song written in the 60s by Joe Brown. A few years ago I took the last car ride ever with my father from the hospital to my parents home. He passed away a few months later. When someone dies, it is strange the things you forget and what you remember. Those months were a blur for me. But I remember that song come on the radio and watching my father look out the window as it was playing. The sky was grey, everything seemed still.

Sugar Bleeps was recorded a couple of years ago. It was sequenced in a car in the sun close to a field. I have portable gear, and outdoor electronics is one of my favorite things ever. This track is light and less intense then my usual output, and its more about pausing than anything else.

But I will admit that I find myself smiling loads these days.

The rest of the album is scattered in emotional intensity, but still is rooted with so many questions and stories of false promises and being lost. Many nights of insomnia influenced most of these recordings. Falling over furniture is not a song about being drunk, although this is often an outcome of too many drinks and not enough lights on.

SCQ: It must be asked: what are you currently working on?

Anne Sulikowski: I am planning a new castles release this summer with new recordings and some recordings I have worked on the past year that were not finished because of school. I have worked with science north in the form of remixes, and we are planning on releasing a split this year. Also, splits with millimetrik, Love Puppets and absent without leave will be in the future. I’m really like all over split releases these days.

Besides that, now that I am finished school I plan to spend a lot more time wandering.

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