Evolve In That Setting: An Interview with Colin Blanton, Ant’lrd

Posted by on September 21, 2017

Ant'lrd [By Phil Warren]

As Ant’lrd, Colin Blanton records dreamy experimental music that’s surprisingly hard to pin down. Blurring the boundaries between otherworldly ambient, minimalistic drone, wide-eyed sound collages, and just about everything in between, each new work issued by Blanton uncovers yet another facet of his sonic palette. Largely released on a sprawling but tight-knit stable of strong labels, such as Whited Sepulchre, Digitalis, Watery Starve, Inner Islands, and his own co-run Baro imprint, the project recently issued Cherubian, its debut for Joe Bastardo’s Moss Archive imprint (down to only a few tape copies as of my writing).

Cherubian is something like Blanton’s 13th release, and shows the Portland, OR producer in his highest form. Playing out like a warm, dreary daydream, the tape offers a rich tapestry of ambient, glitch, loops, found sounds, samples, and anything else within reach at any given moment. Think Jan Jelinek or an amalgam of Pop Ambient’s dreamiest highlights, but loaded with shimmering, effects-laden ambiance somewhere between Windy & Carl and Color Wheel-era Growing.

We caught up with Blanton to talk about his earliest musical experiences, the process behind Cherubian, where he sits within Portland’s vibrant music scene, and his various extended stints in West Virginia, Birmingham, and Chicago.

When did you start noticing or listening to music?
I guess when I was probably around 4 or so. My folks were always playing music around the house and in the car. Stuff like the Clash, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Husker Dü, Tom Petty, and XTC. My parents took me to see The Band when we lived in West Virginia at this venue called Mountain Stage. That’s my first memory of a live experience. I somehow still have very hazy blips of that in my mind. My pops also took me to see the Goo Goo Dolls in ’95. That was the first time that I was in the front row at a concert. My ears were ringing all through school the next day. I had never experienced anything that loud before. It changed me haha.

When did you start making your own music?
I think I started jamming with folks when I was around 12, but just covering Rage Against the Machine very poorly. I don’t think I got serious about making music, and writing original stuff until I was 16 or so when I joined my first band in high school with my friends Milton and Turner. They took me under their wing and showed me all sorts of stuff that I had never heard before: Mogwai, Godspeed, Four Tet, Mission of Burma, etc. Super inspiring time that just made me wanna dive into making music. After that I played in a bunch of bands in Birmingham, and started touring around. The Ant’lrd stuff took shape in 2009.

How long have you been in Portland, OR? How did you become involved with the city’s music scene?
I’ve been here for a little over 2 years now. I got involved with the scene here through a show house called Human Flesh Body World. I was still living in Chicago at the time, and came out here to play a couple of shows, and they were really welcoming folks so we stayed in touch, and when I made the move out here they were kind enough to put me on some shows. I also found out about a monthly ambient/experimental series called Sanctuary Sunday that my friend, coco, runs & gave her a couple of my tapes. She was also kind enough to put me on a few of those bills.

Where do you fit into Portland’s music scene?
I feel like I’ve got my little cozy corner of the ambient/experimental scene here. I have a bunch of friends who are heavily active in the many different scenes here. I kind of just fit between the cracks.

When did you start working on this release?
I started working on Cherubian in the fall of 2015.

You seem to have incorporated more field recordings and other “non musical” elements. Did you approach ‘Cherubian’ differently than your past work?
Cherubian took a lot longer than normal, but it was intentional. I felt like with past recordings I would write it all and record it in a studio setting, and then play the material live. But through playing material live you start to evolve ideas, and come up with cool little improvisational things that didn’t make it onto the recordings. So for this one I decided that I would write a bit, play stuff live and evolve it in that setting, and then go back and record once I felt like I had fully explored an idea. Classic “rockist” style.

Ant'lrd [By Dash Lewis]

Are they all sounds from Portland? Barking, crosswalk commands, etc?
The crosswalk commands are definitely from Portland, but I think a lot of the recordings jump back and forth through time. I feel like some of them were from my trip to Norway in 2013, and then the very ending bit of “gentle lift” was from a day of hiking to the top of “The Chief” in Squamish, BC when Dash (Gardener), and I were on tour together a couple of summers ago.

You’ve put out music on split releases before. Do you ever collaborate with other artists on the material itself?
Yeah sometimes! I have a collaborative LP coming out on Uniform Group with Benoit Pioulard in the fall. I’m definitely feeling more in the collaborative spirit these days. Too much music isolation isn’t good for me. Electric Sound Bath and I have talked about passing some stuff back and forth as well. That would be awesome if it became a thing.

How did you become involved with Moss Archive, and decide to release this tape on the label?
Joe Bastardo emailed me after the split with Drawing Trees came out, and had some really kind things to say about it. Then somehow we started talking about video games, and both professed our love for Shenmue on Dreamcast. The rest is history. The decision to do Cherubian with Moss Archive was pretty natural. I sent it to Joe after it was finished, and had been sitting on the digi shelf for awhile. He loved it and offered to put it out. I had been wanting to work with Moss for awhile, so it was a pretty easy decision.

What’s the state of your label, Baro?
Kev and I have decided to put BARO on an indefinite hiatus. Being on opposite ends of the country has definitely been challenging, and with our jobs & other projects on his end and mine we just felt like we couldn’t dedicate the time and focus necessary to run the label how it needs to be done.

Are you touring or have planned live activity?
Joe (Bastian Void) and I are going to Japan in the fall for about 2 weeks. Other than that, keeping it pretty mellow show-wise. I’ve been working on some live drums + electronics material, but I’m taking my time on the construction of that stuff before I bust it out live.

Ant’lrd & Bastian Void Tour Dates
10.31 – Tokyo – 7th Floor w/ Foodman
11.01 – Tokyo – FORESTLIMIT w/ Foodman
11.02 – Tokyo – DUBLAB – Bar Bonobo w/ Pedro Vian
11.03 – Tokyo – WWW β w/ Unknown Me
11.05 – Kanazawa – KAPO w/ Asuna
11.08 – Kyoto – Urbanguild w/ Endurance
11.10 – Osaka – Takahiro Mukai, 7FO, Lady Mondegreen

[Header photo is courtesy of Phil Warren, second is via Dash Lewis.]