Art for art’s sake

Arswain is the pseudonym of composer/producer Freddy Avis, who is making a name for himself in the Los Angeles music scene. We had a nice chat with him about his approach to his latest album, Partitioning.

What makes Arswain (Los Angeles composer/producer Freddy Avis) special is the mixture of his caring spirit and musical ability that you can hear fueling his latest output: Partitioning. Now available on all music platforms, the album wrestles with issues of climate change but also balances this heavy issue with a dose of electronica and house music that gives it a unique narrative and musical nuance. The sonic identity makes your body pulsate and contemplate all at the same time.

Partitioning has an existential and reflective aspect to it as well, and you’ll surely need to listen to it a few times to discover all of the textures, sounds, and components that comprise its entirety. Alongside being the kind of fresh sound that will make driving around town a true adventure, it also feels like the kind of music that could work as underscore or music for anything from a nature documentary to a despotic futuristic SciFi film.

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First up, the album

Give us a short summary of your album and the sounds/genre we are hearing.

The simple way to put it is that Partitioning is an electronic concept album about reckoning with climate change. I wrote it as a response to what I perceived as our obsession with humanism and simultaneous estrangement from our own habitat. It’s a deeply personal record, and it draws on electronica, IDM, and house. A little bit of breakbeat in there.

We had your two singles on repeat – how did you decide to release these first and what went into them?

“Pleasure” was actually the last track I wrote for the album, so it sort of crystallized the tone and ideas that were developed over the course of writing the other tracks. I wrote it at a time when I was feeling incredibly ashamed of my western consumerist lifestyle – buying meaningless shit, driving a car, drinking bottled kombucha while the world barrels toward catastrophe. Simply put, the song is about guilt. “With Ease” shares a lot of the same themes as “Pleasure” – this sort of mindless, zombie-like consumption we all participate in on a daily basis. “With Ease” was about capturing that addiction.

The Great Derangement – tell us about this track and the title. Such a great one!

This track is named after the book of the same name by Amitav Ghosh, which pretty much changed my life and compelled me to write the album. In the book Ghosh investigates why there is so little art, music, fiction, film, etc made about climate change. After all, what could be more existential than the global calamity of our own making? My song “The Great Derangement” is about that awakening I had and the simultaneous feelings of clarity and exasperation that followed.

Features and collaborators

You feature some epic drumming from Jacob Lauing – describe his collaboration and work in the project.

Jacob and I go way, way back. We grew up together and played youth baseball, in rock bands, you name it. We have a lot in common but we’re also very different musicians. He has a robust alt-rock and metal background, so I when I told him I wanted him to play on “The Great Derangement,” I essentially just said “do your thing.” He got the part down in 3 takes.

What should we be listening for in this release?

One of my friends endearingly called this record a “space blizzard,” which I take as a high compliment! I focused a lot on texture for this album. Sure there are beats and synths, but there are a lot of natural field recordings, guitars, and vocal sampling to ground the music in “real world” sounds. For example, I recorded a river in the Sierra mountains, as well as the dishwasher in my old apartment.

The Future…

How will you change it up for future releases?

To my own surprise, I already have a follow-up EP pretty much locked and loaded. If I had to describe in a word, and it would it’s more “fun.”

Is the process different for scoring for visual media versus the Arswain project?

Absolutely, but the two really balance me out creatively. Writing for visual media is inherently constraining, which is part of its joy and intellectual challenge. It’s also a service that contributes to a larger whole, so you have to be willing to forfeit your personal tastes for the good of the project. Partitioning was such an elixir for me because I could just write what I felt without compromise. And then I was burned out on Partitioning and happy to return to the constraints of film scoring.

Who else are you keeping an eye on right now in the music scene?

I’ve been really into Anthony Baldino’s new album Twelve Twenty Two recently. I also finally took a deep dive into Tool’s catalog after they released their new record this past year. My upbringing is in rock music so I have to keep my rock ears fresh!

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For more Arswain goodness, check out these links: