May 14,2021

Episode 8

From eerie indigenous sounds out of Costa Rica to an imaginary trip through Sicily

Picture by Marta Witkowska
artwork: Sigil by Stuart Graham
Picture by Marta Witkowska

In the eighth episode of TSIR – an adventurous and inspiring global journey for music lovers, we explore indigenous sounds out of Costa Rica and enjoy the musical development of a German multi-instrumentalist after his inspiring trip to India. We also take an imaginary trip through classical music on Sicily, discover breathtaking Tuvan overtone singing from Siberia and are curious how Amazigh music from the Anti-Atlas mountains in Morocco sounds.

Featured Artist: sunnk

The Irish electronic music producer and sound designer sunnk is the featured artist of this months episode. On his fantastic new album "Weaving Ritual" you can find a unique combination of razor-sharp electronic sound design, contemporary glitch beat structures and melancholic sounding piano melodies.

The whole album is really special for me. Sunnk´s complex soundworld offers new perspectives with each listen; you develop further details, clicks, noises, layers the more you enter sunnks soundworld.

We had the pleasure to interview sunnk and ask him some interesting questions about creating his new album, hyper-glitch as a genre, the glitch-cool collective and many others?

We love your album „Weaving Ritual“ for its fresh, new sound aesthetics and outstanding sound design. Can you tell us how the album came together? It feels like a continuous piece of art?

Hello! I am very glad you like it! Weaving Ritual actually started out as a single track of around six minutes' length, but more and more ideas began to cascade every time I sat down for a final mixing session. It's a living, breathing example of the concept of feature creep. When I realised it was quickly outgrowing the confines of a single track, I wanted it to remain as a singular listening experience from start to finish. Can these thirty minutes of music hold a listener's attention the entire way through? This was a fundamental tenet during the entire creation process across theme, music production, and art production. The best way to focus on this was to imagine it as being played in a live setting as a single show. I split it into separate tracks for ease of listening because no matter how cool and unorthodox it may be to have a half-hour-long electronic music track, it's undeniably a total pain to have to skip to your favourite part for repeated listens.

 The idea of developing the music as a singular “live set” developed further into creating a meditative or ritualistic experience intended to invoke a certain result which was the original concept behind the original track: a chaos magick ritual which, if successful, would strengthen or repair a bond between two entities, be it between lovers, physical desires such as financial gain, or even strengthening bonds of knowledge in order to better grasp new or difficult concepts. The end is open to interpretation. The music and artwork explore the means.

 It's strange, because at first I think I only found the occult themes to be an aesthetic choice and tied in really nicely with one of the earliest primary goals of sunnk as a project – blending the aesthetics of glitch-based music with black metal (something I think I have had only varying results with so far) – but as time went on and the release grew, I think I began to take it more seriously, especially when I noticed how so many of the themes and ideas I was researching would kind of fall into place and match my original concept. There were a lot of strange coincidences. The artist who created the seal for the artwork, Stuart Graham, encountered many of these too. It was all very exciting! The original aim of the ritual was to tap into and even manipulate the idea of synchronicity and here we were already experiencing it.

 I think the further you dive into these concepts, the more connections you will make, so despite all the signs of the ritual falling into place, there was a more pragmatic and very loud part of my brain reminding me that this is all just for aesthetics and the seemingly causal links were meaningless coincidence. Every ritual, no matter how seriously undertaken, has varying degrees of theatrics, and it was pretty fun to explore those boundaries. I still don't know how seriously I take chaos magick right now, but it left an impression for sure, and it is definitely something I will revisit.

 On the technical side of things, I used a lot of resampling and granular synthesis techniques. I'm an audio designer by trade so I have a huge sample library of home recordings to pull from. I also come from a tracker background so when Woulg showed me a technique to sort of emulate a tracker layout in Ableton, I think it almost exclusively shaped how I approach the creation process and the sound of the output. The original six-minute track was the first piece I ever created using just Ableton! Keeping in mind the singular listening experience, I used a repeating piano motif to reiterate that the entire release is a single piece of music. Resampling was a huge, huge part of achieving a consistent sound and it also lets you break things in really interesting ways.

Artwork: Sigil by Stuart Graham 

You are part of the „Hyper-Glitch“ genre which was invented by Mille Plateaux a while ago. How do you see the genre, artists, concepts behind this sound ?

I think this is a bit of a misunderstanding. The Mille Plateaux series is a project curated by Woulg to show everyone what we're doing and to introduce the world to the concept of hyperglitch and how it is defined. It was really great to work with a venerable label that has been such a powerhouse of releases in glitch music back in the 90s and to be part of their revival was a honour. After the first three releases in the series, we moved to Detroit Underground, another label in which hyperglitch has its roots – Vaetxh's Libet Tones is constantly referenced by artists involved in the community – as we wanted the series to be about the “genre” itself rather than about which label we are releasing on or even which names are creating the art.

For me, hyperglitch isn't so much a musical or visual genre as a philosophy and approach to technique. During the growth of the community surrounding the Woulg Discord server and subsequently the glitch[dot]cool server, it became apparent that many of us held a similar mindset with how we approach creativity, even across separate disciplines. Commonly shared ideas were the attraction to the glitch aesthetic, rejection of “industry standard” concepts and limitations, and I guess a laissez-faire attitude towards the results of generative and reiterative production techniques. If it looks/sounds good, it is good.

 My interpretation is that there is a kind of a checklist of aesthetic, technique, mindset, theme, etc. and once an artist or artwork has ticked some percentage of these, it can be considered hyperglitch. Like you could make ambient music with a broken mic or paint an oil painting to look glitched and both of these examples and more are acceptable. Make eurotrance with databent samples. Take a photo of broken glass with a circuitbent camera. It all works; it's pan-genre and pan-medium.

 I don't actually think many of our individual ideas are original, more so the way in which we have assembled them. You can trace a lot of this back through the explosion of digital glitch art of the last ten years or so, into some of the more abstract IDM works from the 90s and even further back into early electroacoustic experiments and musique concrete, but I think arguably one of the most important delineations is the prefix “hyper” and its meaning deeper and more connected rather than faster or more intense. An example of this would be how much of the sound art preceding hyperglitch was focusing on the medium as the artform or as the justification for the art. I feel like much of popular electronic music, even in experimental scenes, finds its fundamental drive from more emotional places rather than from the sheer experimentation found in earlier “glitch” music (read: electroacoustic, musique concrete, sound art, etc.), apparent in primary concepts like location, politics, art movement, etc. I like to think hyperglitch is helping bridge the gap between these alternative ways of approaching music.

 This is just my interpretation of what we're doing though. If you asked someone else the same question you might get a different answer, and that's part of the beauty of it. It still leaves a lot of space for individual interpretation and input. In short, Bob Ross' concept of “happy accidents” is probably the quickest and most approachable way to explain my understanding of hyperglitch.

sunnk logo

You are also part of the Glitch.Cool collective. Can you share some thoughts with us, what this collective stands for, what is the objective?

Glitch[dot]cool began as a small group of regulars on Woulg's old Discord server when we realised we all shared the above ideas. I think we initially got together to create the first Glitch With Friends sample pack, and things exploded from there. The response to the pack was incredible and since then we've gone on to release music together, create many other resources such as tutorials, start a label, help build an incredible Discord community, had our first “live” show on Twitch during the pandemic, and created a website which we aim to have as a hub for digital art, music, hyperglitch, and much more.

 One of the initial reasons we banded together was the idea of resource sharing. Our internal members cover a wide variety of skills so for example, if I needed some a/v visuals, I could reach out to Seskamol. If I needed tech help on a website, I could approach oddlogic. If someone needed sound design for an a/v piece, they could ask me, and so on. Another of our core ideas is adhering to open-source principles. We want anybody to be able to enjoy our content; so far everything has been released for free. We hope to continue doing things this way.

 We were initially a small, closed group but I think the biggest step for us was opening our Discord publicly last year. The community that has grown there constantly blows me away with the amount of talent and incredible art pouring from it. It's very humbling to be surrounded by so many great artists. We work very hard to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere and it's really gratifying when people tell us we're doing it right. There's a link to join the Discord on our website so please drop in and say hi!

 One goal that's been brewing in my head this year has been the idea of taking down some of the boundaries that I perceive separate the art world from the music production world. My introduction to the academic art machine has only been recent and it's been a lot of fun to join in, but the more I learn about it the more I realise how alienated it is from the electronic music production community almost as a whole. For example, how many bedroom IDM or psytrance or jungle producers do you know who have applied for funding for gear or tours? I would bet nowhere near close to the number of painters, sculptors, digital artists, etc. I think new media and the increased ease of access to the audiovisual world through apps like Touchdesigner or Aleph is helping bridge these worlds, but more can definitely be done.

 Tbh, maybe I'm not completely accurate in my perception of this disparity and it's not something we've officially talked about as a group, but it is something I want to explore further. We recently got approved for a very exciting upcoming event which I think could improve this situation in many ways. We're aiming at a September or October timeframe so keep an eye on our socials during summer for official announcements. It's our biggest project by far and I'm really excited about it.

Glitch Sound Design Techniques - Tutorial by sunnk on

Your music has a very cinematic feeling to me. When I listen to the album it sounds like that there must be a sort of film alongside it? It provokes various emotional aspects through the melancholy, the harshness, the diverse atmospheres, the solitude feeling at times…. and due to the sound itself it would fit perfectly into a futuristic kind of hyperreal sci-fi surrounding. Do you see a visual side to your art and if so, what would you imagine it will look like?

That's really cool to hear, thank you! Visuals are an integral part of sunnk. The intention was always for it to be an audiovisual project, even if I wasn’t sure at the beginning how that would manifest. I originally intended to work with visual artists because I hadn’t much experience with creating art outside of audio, but the aforementioned ease of access to the a/v world means I've been able to explore it myself, which has been a lot of fun.

 For Weaving Ritual specifically, I was lucky enough to have worked with Stuart Graham for the artwork. He did an incredible job with the seal design and added a lot to the whole concept of the release. Stu based the seal on the layout of the Star of Babalon, as the Star has plenty of themes which line up with the concepts behind the music. The individual sigils were created using a variety of techniques, again incorporating the music’s themes but also some of the technical aspects such as the numbers in the time signatures and scales. Initial visual influence came from alchemical artworks, etchings, grimoires, etc.

 The idea of the album being a single piece of music kept bringing us back to thinking of it as a live show and a lot of early ideas were based on that. We consistently found one another on the same wavelength with the direction we wanted to go. Some of the ambitious early ideas incorporated setups of CRT monitors displaying different sigils in order to marry the occult and digital aesthetics, and multisensory experiences incorporating light, aroma, and space.

 I'd like to think any implication of a cinematic experience again comes from how it was created as a singular piece with performance in mind. It's a flattering thing to hear, so thanks again!

sunnk visuals

Additionally, I was wondering how a live concert of the latest record will look like? Do you cooperate with visual artists already?

I would absolutely love to perform Weaving Ritual live as intended at some point. I toyed with the idea of doing a stream, but I think, for this release in particular, something important would be lost. I really would like to bring in those multisensory elements if possible, and they would obviously be lost when just watching the show on a stream. It’s all very ambitious and a potential silly amount of work but it’s a good goal to keep in mind.

I actually had my first “live” show as sunnk as part of glitch[dot]fest back in October, glitch[dot]cool’s first live event. We held a live stream over a weekend and it went really well. I just recorded myself playing a set in my bedroom with some audioreactive visuals projected on the wall next to me. The visuals were mapped to a controller so I could manage certain parameters and how the music affected everything. It went pretty well apart from when I tripped over a pile of books or something in front of the camera.

We will definitely be doing a follow up event later this year and I have some fun ideas on how to really take advantage of the medium of a live stream show. The streaming format opens up a lot of room for interesting performance that you couldn’t really experience on a stage and I’m anxious to play with that a little more. To get some sort of idea of what I mean, check out Clipping’s excellent live stream gig from earlier this year. I think they did a fantastic job of really exploiting the unique aspects and confines of the format.

the touchdesigner output of sunnk live a/v performance for glitch.fest 2020

Can you share with us three artists / albums that you listen to or that have inspired you lately?

Only three!  I will cheat on this question and count the glitch[dot]cool crew as one group of artists. Everyone there is producing such high quality and forward-thinking music, both internally and in the community. I’m also very exciting for the rest of the Hyperglitch series. I’ve heard some of the yet-to-be-released stuff and I can guarantee that it’s all mindblowing.

 One of my all-time biggest influences is Deathspell Omega, in terms of the technicality behind the music and the themes behind their lyrics. They’ve brought me to some pretty strange places, and I don’t necessarily buy everything they shill, but I enjoy their music a lot and the rabbit hole behind their message is endlessly fascinating. They’ve introduced me to some incredible writers and thinkers.

 As a contrast, I also really enjoy the Skyrim soundtrack. Some of my favourite music from all time is on there. I have a playlist where I’ve removed all of the battle music and spooky ambience, leaving just the orchestral ambient pieces. I bliss out to that on a regular basis. The 40-minute-long track on the last disc is one of my most played songs ever on! (Yes, I still use

 I guess this isn’t the most accurate answer to the question because these are more like long standing influences to me and sunnk rather than new artists or music I’ve found inspiring more recently. Lately, I have been enjoying a few artists like sv1, Obsequies, S280F, and a few others who I’ve sort of privately attributed to a similar movement which incorporates glitch elements, rich sound design, really bright melodies, alongside a matching visual aesthetic of generative breeder-looking art. I don’t even know if any of these artists are connected outside of the mental group I’ve placed them in for myself, but there are definitely similarities in the work they’re producing and it’s all very new to me and very exciting. I’ll stop here though, because otherwise I could drone on about music recommendations all day.

 Thanks a lot sunnk for taking your time!  Thank you very much, have a lovely day!